Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Pumpkin Pie Wontons (Not GF)

I have been playing this game with gluten lately.  I can explain though!  Around 4 months ago, I changed doctors.  My previous GI doctor, who had diagnosed me with esinophilic gastroparesis and whom I had been with for 4 years moved to Flordia to start her own practice.  I was devistated, because she was such as great doctor.  She would answer emails when I was in pain at any point during the week, call on Sundays, have me come in without charging me, awesome.  Plus she was at a research hospital.  When she left, I tried another doctor at the same hosptial but he just wanted to do expensive tests and treatment without listening to me.  So I changed to a research hosptial.  There, the doctor told me that he didn't think I had gastroparesis and the tests he ordered showed that he was correct.  My stomach empties slower but empties none the less.  So now I have functional dyspepsia, basically pain in my stomach.  Some meds to deal with chronic pain and all of a sudden 5 years of chronic pain around food stopped.  Amazing.  Started eating everything again, meat and gluten.  This recipe was made when I was in my "I'm eating everything" stage. However, I found that meat was still hard to digest.  I was in a lot of pain when I tried to eat mild chicken wings and a hamburger.  I then started eating gluten almost every day.  I didn't get the sinus headaches intitaly, so I kept going.  It just made life easier.   Then after around 3 weeks the low grade sinus congestion started again later followed by body aches.  Going back GF the second time around is harder the second time around, and I have been having more cravings, but I am trying to go back to GF vegetarian.

I wanted to try something different with pumpkin pie.  I absolutely love it but wanted something different (plus I really don't like baking for some reason).  I've had a can of pumpkin in my cabinet for a year, and saw a recipe for a savory pumpkin wonton, so I thought to try it with pumpkin pie.  I was able to freeze half of the wontons and used them at a later date when I had people over.  Its a fun recipe to try (if you can eat gluten)

Mix pumpkin, maple syrup, brown sugar, and pumpkin pie spice in a bowl.  

Place one Tbs of pumpkin pie mix in center.  

Moisten the edges with water and fold in half.  Press edges to seal.   

Pumpkin Pie Wontons

1 28 oz can of pumpkin
6 Tbs maple syrup
9 Tbs brown sugar
3 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 packet of wonton wrappers
Cinnamon and white sugar for dusting

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Mix pumpkin, maple syrup, brown sugar, and pumpkin pie spice in a bowl.  Place one Tbs of pumpkin pie mix in center.  Moisten the edges with water and fold in half.  Press edges to seal.   If you would like to freeze them, place them on foil or wax paper and put them in the freezer.  Once frozen, then you can put them together in a bag.

Put the filled wontons on a ungreased baking sheet.  Lightly spray them with cooking spray and then sprinkle white sugar and cinnamon on top of each.  Bake until golden, around 16 minutes.  Turn over, and cook for another 2 minutes.  When done, put on a cooking rack to cool.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Vanilla Butternut Squash Risotto

Isn't waiting so much fun?  Last school year I completed the National Board Certification for Teachers process.  Portfolio with essays, videos, achievements and a test.  All of it was finished by April 10.  Since then I have been waiting for the results.  Last week, I got an email that the results would be in November 18th and was soo excited.  That day I got to work, opened the website with my adrenaline rushing, to find that the server had shut down.  From 8 - 12 my friend and I must have hit the refresh button 100 times or more trying to see if the scores were posted.  Then I got an email saying wait until 4:00 pm.  Since then, every 4 - 5 hours, there is an update on the site saying that Pearson (why do they have their hands in everything?) is still working on bringing the site on line.  Argg!!!  For me, the process was not that hard, which surprised the other NBCT at my school since they all took classes to help prepare.  However, I have been in school for at least 10 years now, writing and reflecting on my teaching, so this was nothing different.  However, I am worried because I have heard that grading is very subjective, and I just don't know how I could have done any better?  Retaking a section of the portfolio or the test costs around $300 so I really need to pass the first time.

In the midst of waiting, comes Thanksgiving.  I have been so busy preparing professional development sessions for work, organizing our school wide data management tool, and getting ready to teach my students I haven't really had any time to find and rehearse any new recipes.  For the side dish, it is a toss up between my sweet potato risotto, which everyone liked last year, and this dish.  For my vegetarian mom I am going to make toasted quinoa with blistered tomatoes, spinach and walnuts because she can't eat white rice because of osteoporosis.  Then, I'm making a new cranberry sauce recipe.  At first I was going to make Spiced Tea Cranberries but as my mom pointed out, some people really hate tea.  So, I am going to go instead with Maple Orange Cranberry Sauce.   

When we went to Michigan over Labor Day, we stopped at a few different farmers markets and found butternut squash super cheap!  Its so nice how squash lasts and last week I finally used it to make a butternut squash risotto.  I wanted to make it differently than my sweet potato risotto, so I found this unique recipe from Giada De Laurentiis.  

To cut and dice a butternut squash, first cut off the top and bottom of the squash.  Then cut in half.  I found it easiest to cut off the peel, even though some people say you could use a peeler (hasn't worked for me yet).

Vanilla Butternut Squash Risotto
Adapted from Food Network

4+ cups of vegetable broth
1 vanilla bean
1 small butternut squash peeled and cubed
1 Tbs olive oil
1 medium onion finely chopped
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup white wine
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup parmesan cheese (optional)

In a pot, warm the broth on medium heat.  Cut the vanilla bean in half lengthwise.  Scrape out the seeds and add them and the bean to the broth.  When it begins to simmer, turn heat to low.   Add butternut squash and continue to cook for around 5 minutes until soft.  Using a slotted spoon, take the butternut squash out and put to the side.  Continue to simmer broth on low.  

In another pot, heat olive oil on medium.  Add onion and saute until translucent.  Stir in rice and stir constantly for 1 minute. Add in white wine and stir until soaked in. Then add in 1/2 cup of broth.  Cook and stir until liquid is absorbed.  Continue adding in broth 1/2 cup at a time, when the rice has soaked in the previous additions, and stop when the rice is just tender. You may have to add more broth to the pot.  Take out the vanilla bean and take off of stove.  Add in butternut squash and salt and pepper to taste.  Add parmesan if you would like and serve! 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Sweet Potato Spoon Bread

Even with this holiday season being so full of things to do (work, grad school, and now my new video game Skyrim) I have been trying out recipes for Thanksgiving.  We go to my aunt's home each Thanksgiving so I do not have to cook dinner but I like bringing over different side dishes.  Last year with my sweet potato risotto I was able to get people who had never liked sweet potatoes to try them, and like them.  I wanted to do something different for this year, so this is one of the recipes that I chose.

This is a time intensive recipe.  I don't know if my oven is getting hot enough (got to get it checked) but I started this recipe when I got home from work and it wasn't done by 8 pm.  By that time I was sooo hungry.  I thought it was a decent side dish, but a bit bland.  Others in the house thought it was great.  I think I just like more complex flavors in a dish.  Enjoy! (And yes, its gluten free!)

Sweet Potato Spoon Bread

4 Tbs of butter
1 lb of sweet potatoes, roasted and mashed
1 Tbs of fresh thyme
1 Tbs of fresh rosemary
2 Tbs brown sugar
2 tsp coarse sea salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 cup finely ground cornmeal
4 eggs, separated
2 tsp baking soda

After roasting sweet potatoes, reduce oven temp to 350 degrees.  In a pot, combine milk, rosemary and thyme, sugar, salt and pepper on medium heat.  Let boil.  Then slowly whisk cornmeal into milk mixture.  Keep stirring until the mixture is thick and pulls away from sides of pot.  Take it off heat and put in a large bowl.  Let cool for 3 minutes.  Add potatoes, egg yolks, 3 Tbs of butter, baking powder and stir to mix together ingredients.

In another large bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixture until soft peaks form.  Fold the whites into the potato mixture, so you can see white swirls.  Put the final mixture in a dish that has been greased with the remaining 1 Tbs of butter.

Bake for 35 to 20 minutes until the internal temperature is 165 F.  If you would like a little browning on the top, you may have to put under hot broiler for 2 minutes.  Edges will be firm but the inside will be a little soft.  Take out of oven and let sit for 10 minutes.  Best when served warm.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Quinoa and Black Bean Tacos

There must be something in the water, a full moon, something.  My students have gone absolutely nuts this week and I have had a headache for 3 days straight!  See, my problem in creating engaging blog posts is I can't really discuss the biggest part of my life.  I cant tell you about my students, what they do in class, my successes (and failures) because of confidentiality.   However, if there are any other teachers out there I'd like to know if your students have lost their minds too :)  I don't know what it can be.  Halloween was last week and we made it through the day after with little incident.  Daylight savings was this last weekend but they got an extra hour of sleep so it shouldn't be that.  Maybe its the weather.  However Monday it was 60 degrees.  I don't know.... at least we have Thursday off.  Thank goodness!

I made this recipe on Sunday.  I wanted to continue to use items that I have stocked up in my cabinets and get a little more room (and save some money while doing so).  I saw black beans and began trynig to build from there.  When I saw this recipe, it fit well with my current stock of items.  All I had to buy was tortillas, cilantro, and a pepper.

To make this dish, I first decided to toast the quinoa.  From somone who has eaten a lot of quinoa before discovering toasted quinoa, take the extra time and do it.  It gives you a nutty flavor and stronger texture. To toast quinoa, first rinse it in a fine mesh strainer.  Then shake to remove as much water as possible.  Heat 1 Tbs in a pot over medium heat.  Add the quinoa and stir until light brown.  This takes around 10 minutes.

If you want to use one pot, then pour the quinoa into a bowl while you cook the vegetables.  Otherwise, you can start the vegetables in another pot.  Put 1 Tbs of vegetable oil in a pot and heat over medium heat.  Add onion and pepper.  Saute until vegetables begins to soften, around 5 min.

Combine vegetable mix with quinoa, cumin, and Sazon in a pot.  Stir for 30 seconds.  Combine tomatoes with water to make a total of 1 1/2 cups of liquid.  Then add liquid to pot.  Bring to a boil, cover, then let simmer for around 14 minutes until quinoa is tender.

Add black beans and cilantro.  Cook uncovered until liquid is fully absorbed, around 3 minutes.  Take off of heat and mix in the lime juice.  You can serve it on its own or wrap in warm corn tortillas.

Quinoa and Black Bean Tacos
Adapted from Epicurious

2 Tbs vegetable oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 cup of quinoa
2 tsp of ground cumin
2 packages of Sazon con culantro y achiote
7 oz can of salsa mexicana (I used Embasa)
1 15 oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup of chopped cilantro
Juice from 1/2 of a lime
Corn tortillas optional

Rinse quinoa for 1 minutes in a fine mesh strainer and shake, removing as much water as possible.  Put 1 Tbs of oil into large skillet.  Add the quinoa and stir over medium heat until light brown.  This takes around 10 minutes.  If you want to use one pot, then pour the quinoa into a bowl while you cook the vegetables.  Otherwise, you can start the vegetables in another pot.  Put 1 Tbs of vegetable oil in a pot and heat over medium heat.  Add onion and pepper.  Saute until vegetables begins to soften, around 5 min.  Combine vegetable mix with quinoa, cumin, and Sazon in a pot.  Stir for 30 seconds.  Combine tomatoes with water to make a total of 1 1/2 cups of liquid.  Then add liquid to pot.  Bring to a boil, cover, then let simmer for around 14 minutes until quinoa is tender. bAdd black beans and cilantro.  Cook uncovered until liquid is fully absorbed, around 3 minutes.  Take off of heat and mix in the lime juice.  You can serve it on its own or wrap in warm corn tortillas.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


As someone who is GF I am always looking for quick ways to make bread-like things.  To be honest, I really don't have the attention span to measure all of the types of flour, wait for yeast to rise, and to make bread.  This recipe looked like a fun way to make something with a bread-like texture and to use the vegetarian refried beans from Amy's that I love.  It also gave me a chance to use the masa that I have had up in my cabinet for almost a year (my classes have eliminated the time for me to try to make tamales for the first time).

adapted from Vegetarian Times

4 cups masa harina
3 cups of warm water
3 Tbs of ground cumin
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 cup of refried beans
8 tsp vegetable oil

Combine masa, cumin, baking poder, and salt.  Stir in 3 cups of warm water to form soft dough.  You can add more water if needed.  Cover, and let stand for 30 minutes.  Put wax paper onto a baking sheet.  Roll dough into 16 balls.  Made indentation in the centers of each.  Put 1 Tbs of beans in each.  Fold edges over fillings and roll into balls again.  Press down into 4 inch disks.  Heat 2 tsp of oil in skillet on medium-high.  Add 4 pupusas at a time to skillet and cook for 5 - 6 minutes, turning over once.  Garnish with salsa, guacamole, etc and enjoy!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Chickpea Pulao

I originally made this Pakistani recipe as a main dish but it turned out a bit bland.  I think making this the side dish to a type of curry or meat dish would make it much more interesting.   It is a great way to use kitchen staples such as a can of chickpeas, a bag of rice, and a few onions.

Chickpea Pulao
Adapted from Curry Cuisine

3 cups of basmati rice
2 Tbs olive oil
1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 Tbs of fresh ginger, cut into slivers
3 cinnamon sticks
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp cumin seeds
3 black cardamom pods
salt to taste
14 oz of canned chickpeas, drained
1 large onion, thinly sliced

Wash rice then let soak in bowl covered with cold water for 1 hr.  Drain.

Heat the 1 Tbs of oil in a pan, add the onion, and cook until brown.  Add ginger, spice, and salt and stir for 1 minute.  Add 3 cups of water and bring to a boil.  Add rice and chickpeas.  Cover the pan, reduce heat, and simmer for around 15 minutes until the rice is around 90% cooked.

Get a thick dishcloth wet with water.  Take off the lid of the pan.  Cover with the cloth, then put the lid back on tightly and set the pan over very low heat.  Cook for another 25 - 30 min.

Heat the other Tbs of oil in a large pan, add the onion, and cook until dark golden brown.  Put the onion on top of the rice and chickpea mixture.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Panang Cucumber Curry

This has been such a hard two weeks.  Two weeks ago my cat Crookers had to be put to sleep.  Then last Sunday my youngest cat, Little Kitty started getting sick.  It began with her throwing up and I took her into the animal hospital because it wouldn't stop.  Then she got a very bad respiratory infection last Wed and stopped eating and drinking.  Thursday I went to 5 different stores buying things to try to get her to eat and drink.  I turned the bathroom into a sauna a few times a day to make her feel better.  It has been nuts.  I guess that this is what it is like to have a sick child, I am just looking forward to getting her back to normal.  She is starting to eat and drink again, luckily, and hopefully the infection will go away in a day or two.  

One of my favorite recipes is my stir-fried cucumbers and I wanted to try to make another cucumber recipe where the cucumbers were cooked because I have a hard time digesting raw cucumbers.  This recipe looked interesting but a bit scary-- curry and cucumbers?  However, the two unlikely ingredients work together well and it definitely makes a meal that you haven't had before!

Panang Cucumber Curry
Adapted from Vegetarian Times

I Tbs of olive oil
1 4 oz can panang curry paste (I couldn't find any, so I used red curry paste instead)
1 13 oz can of light coconut milk 
1 1/2 tsp grated lime zest
2 tsp soy sauce
1 large english cucumber, seeded, peeled and cut into small cubes
1 red pepper cut into strips
1 small onion
1/3 cup of thai basil leaves
1 container of tofu
2 tsp lime juice

Wrap the tofu in a few paper towels.  Put on a plate and put a plate on top of it to press.  Wait 30 minutes then pat dry.  Cut into cubes.

Put oil in pan and heat on medium-low.  Add curry paste and cook for 4 minutes, stirring often, until it gets fragrant.  Add coconut milk, lime zest, and soy sauce.  Simmer for 5 minutes until it begins to thicken.  

Add cucumber, pepper and onion.  Cook 10 - 12 minutes until cucumbers are crisp tender.  Add in basil and tofu and then cook for around 4 more minutes.  Add lime juice and serve.  

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Thai Basil Eggplant with Tofu

Since I have been home from my vacation in New Orleans, I have been craving vegetables.  However, since I am still having a hard time coping with the death of Crookers, I am just not up to cooking.   Therefore my lunches consist of black bean veggie burgers (soo good for being pre-made) and eggs and rice for dinner.  Sad, but thats all I can manage right now.  I know he was just a pet, but his death left a hole in our home.   There is no one walking around meowing, sleeping next to me when my husband works late at work, or trying to steal the turkey out of my husband's sandwich while he is eating it.  My other cat, Little Kitty, has been sick too.  Last night when I opened up a can of food, she took a sniff and then walked into the other room and threw up.  Since it was the same exact thing that Crookers did the day he died and she had never done it before, I became convinced that she was going to die too.  Totally irrational, especially since it was 11pm and I had to be up at 6am, but I really lost it.  This morning I woke up at 4 am and she wouldn't eat.  6 am and she finished off a handful of treats.  Thank goodness.  I think the next few weeks are going to be touchy but hopefully I can move past this.

This recipe idea came from one of my favorite take out foods.  Whenever I go to my mom's house she orders tofu and eggplant for me.  I went through different recipes and this is the closest I could find to the takeout dish.  Well, if I can't cook right now, at least I can look at good meals!

Thai Basil Eggplant with Tofu
Adapted from Epicurious

4 asian eggplants or 2 Italian eggplants
3 Tbs oyster sauce
3 tsp sugar
3 tsp sesame oil
1 Tbs olive oil
1 container with tofu
2 tsp garlic minced
1 red bell pepper
1/4 cup green onions chopped
Handful of thai basil

Set the oven for 400 degrees.  Press the tofu by wrapping it in a few paper towels, putting on a plate, and putting another plate on the top.  Let it sit for 30 min.  Then blot off moisture with another paper towel and cut into 1 inch cubes or strips.  Toss with 1 Tbs olive oil and put in oven.   Cook for 30 minutes until browning, flipping halfway through.

In a bowl, mix oyster sauce, sugar, and sesame oil and put to the side.  Put the olive oil in a large pan and heat over medium-high heat.   Add garlic and saute for 1 minute.  Add bell pepper and eggplant and stir fry for 10 - 15 minutes until soft.  Add oyster sauce and stir.  Then add tofu and green onions.  Take off heat, add thai basil, and serve.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Toasted Quinoa with Spinach, Blistered Tomatoes, and Walnuts

One of my new favorite things to do to remember vacations, other than take pictures and video, is buying cookbooks.  I try to find older cookbooks written by locals that may have more authentic recipes.  In New Orleans I was on the lookout but most of the cookbooks were from current chefs (yes, we went to Emeril's restaurant NOLA) or were written for tourists.  We were walking in New Orleans when we came upon a sign for a National Park.  I've been to many National Parks but all of them have been in wide open spaces, not in the middle of the city.  We went into the Jean Laffite National Historical Park, which was a small  courtyard and museum.  In the museum I found Talk About Good a cookbook from 1967 written by the Junior League of Lafayette Louisiana.  It is real cajun cooking from the 60s.  I don't know if I will make any of the savory recipes.  I am not a fan of cream, a lot of oil, grease or butter, or cheese and most of the recipes have these.  However, I think I could try to convert the sweet recipes to gluten free so I could use it.  Reading it is just as much fun as cooking for it, so it was a good buy!

One grain that the book definitely does not have in it is quinoa.  In my home, I use wild rice and/or quinoa as much as my go to basmati, jasmine, or long grain rice.   However, I have never toasted it before.  It adds an additional flavor profile.  Yes, this dish also includes blistered tomatoes.  It may seem like blistered tomato overload, but I made this dish around a month ago and it was the inspiration for my previous dish.

Toasted Quinoa with Spinach, Blistered Tomatoes, and Walnuts

1 1/2 cups quinoa
3 Cups of vegetable broth
2 Tbs olive oil
3 garlic cloves minced
1 tsp coarse salt
1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes
1 bag of baby spinach
1/2 cup walnut pieces
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/4 cup torn basil leaves

Rinse quinoa for 1 minutes in a fine mesh strainer and shake, removing as much water as possible.  Put 1 Tbs of oil into large skillet.  Add the quinoa and stir over medium heat until light brown.  This takes around 10 minutes.  Add garlic and cook for 30 seconds.  Then add 3 cups of vegetable broth and bring to a boil.  Cook, covered, over medium low heat until the water is absorbed and quinoa is cooked, approximately 20 min.  

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in small skillet over medium high heat.  Add whole tomatoes and agitate them by shaking skillet back and forth for around 5 minutes.  You will se the tomatoes begin to blister and pick up some color.  Put to the side

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Lay walnut pieces on baking sheet and roast for 5 - 10 minutes until they start to brown.  Put to the side.  

Put spinach in the quinoa and cook over medium heat until wilted, around 3 minutes.  Add tomatoes, walnuts, cheese, basil and fluff to combine.  

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Blistered Tomatoes with Creamy Polenta

I am reeling from the death of one of my cats.  He got sick over the weekend while I was in New Orleans.   My brother in law took him to the animal hospital, who said it was just his hyperthyroidism, and gave him two shots.  He seemed just fine when we got back home.  He gave us two happy days and then Wed was in so much pain that we had to put him down.  Crookers was a extremely smart cat and was like a puppy in a cat's body.  He was an alley cat when we had gotten him and was called Crookie (or Crookers) because he had a crooked neck from a previous incident.  They estimated that he was 3 years old when we got him but with the symptoms that he had 7 years later we think that he was older when we got him.  I had gone through putting a cat down before, 2 years ago, but this one was very sudden and unexpected.  I miss him a lot and the house is so quiet now.   Little kitty has spent the last two days sleeping all day in my bed and Epona keeps looking for him and hiding under the table.
Crookers the night before he passed.  

I will write more about my New Orleans Trip some other time, but I am glad to be back home where I can be a gluten free vegetarian.  Both seemed almost impossible (vegetarian more than GF) in New Orleans.  My first meal home, especially dealing with the death of Crookers, was easy and comforting.

Blistered Tomatoes with Creamy Polenta

2 cups of cherry tomatoes
3 cloves of garlic minced
5 cups of vegetable broth
1 cup fine ground cornmeal
2 Tbs olive oil
Handful of torn Italian basil
Salt and pepper to taste

Boil the vegetable broth in a pot.  Sprinkle in the cornmeal, whisk constantly.  Lower heat to medium and continue to stir every few minutes until thickened.  This can take 20 - 40 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.

While polenta is cooking, heat olive oil in a large pan on high.  Add garlic and stir for 30 minutes.  Add whole tomatoes and agitate them by shaking skillet back an forth for around 5 minutes.  You will see the tomatoes begin to blister and pick up some color.  Turn off heat, mix in torn basil and salt and pepper to taste.  Serve on top of polenta and add parmesan cheese.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

GF Pasta Puttanesca

It has been a long week since I have been super sick. It started off as a head cold, which I got after taking my cat to the vet.  I knew something was off with my cat Crookers but it turns out that he has some weird eye condition that the vet has no clue about and hyperthyroidism.  It was such a stressful experience that my sinuses filled up right when we went out the door.  Then I worked all week and the cold went to my chest.   Luckily I got antibiotics on Friday, so I should be healthy soon.  Hopefully, because we will be going to New Orleans!

One of my favorite summer dishes, which can be made any time with canned goods, is Pasta Puttanesca.  I have fond memories of being a child and having my dad serve this dish out of a big bowl that looks like a watermelon in the summer.  I picked out all of the olives (and still pick out some every now and then) but always loved it warm or cold.  Back then the noodles were not GF but using GF noodles still works out well in this dish.  

Pasta Puttanesca

1 lb of pasta (can be GF)
3 Tbs of olive oil
6 cloves of garlic chopped
28 oz can of whole plum tomatoes chopped (or you can buy them chopped ahead of time)
1 cup of pitted chopped black olives
8 Tbs of capers
Chopped parsley to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the pasta according to directions.  Heat the olive oil in a pan on medium.  Add garlic and cook gently until they are almost melted.  Stir in tomatoes with juice, olives and capers.  Cook on medium heat for 5 minutes and season with salt and pepper.  Then mix sauce, pasta, and parsley and serve.  

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Saffron Rice with Curried Apricot Dressing

I miss posting my recipes.  Since April I have been enrolled in the American College of Education, a online masters degree program for instructional leadership.  There has been a lot said about online colleges, but I have to tell you that comparing my masters or Phd classes at UIC to this program, this is a lot more work.  Each week I have a paper (last week 17 pgs this week 13), 2 quizzes, 1 test, 3 discussion posts averaging 1 page each and around 75 pages to read.  Totally overwhelmed.  Plus I am doing my internship as a school administrator, working and coaching Special Olympics soccer.  My brain is about to explode and I spent 7 hours working on stuff for work today and needed a break.  Something that wasn't related to education.

This summer I didn't do much cooking.  I have been so wrapped up in this program that there really was not any time for it.  I was also dealing with switching doctors for my gastroparesis.  The best thing happened though, turns out that I do not have GP and am now on a medicine that is making my symptoms so much better.  I even ate ribs the other day without being in extreme pain for 2 days.  Woo hoo!   That does not mean that I am leaving vegetarianism behind.  Going back to meat, I find that eating well-made vegetarian meals is more flavorful.  However, now I will be able to have much more options when eating out (especially on vacation which was soooo hard for the past 4 years)

This has been my favorite recipe that I have made since April.  It is also a perfect fit for fall.  It has pine nuts and sweet potatoes but the apricot dressing gives it a great tartness.  The dressing also works awesome on salads.  

Saffron Rice With Curried Apricot Dressing
Adapted from Color Me Vegan 

Ingredients for Rice
3 Tbs olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic
1 tsp ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups uncooked basmati rice
1/2 tsp saffron steeped in 1/4 cup warm water
3 1/2 cups vegetable stock
2 cups of cubed roasted sweet potatoes
1 tart apple, diced and tossed with lemon juice
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 toasted pine nuts

Ingredients for Apricot Dressing
1/4 cup apricot preserves
1/3 cup rice vinegar
1 Tbs curry powder
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup oil
Salt to taste

In a saucepan, add 1 Tbs olive oil and saute the onions and garlic until softened.  Then add the cumin, pepper, and salt.  Saute for 1 min.  Add the rice and stir constantly for 2 min.  Add saffron in water and vegetable stock.  Bring to boil, cover, turn heat to low and simmer for 40 - 25 min until rice is cooked.  Toss peeled cubed sweet potatoes with 2 Tbs olive oil and roast on baking sheet at 450 degrees until slightly browned (around 30 min).  Also toast pine nuts.  

When rice is cooked, put in a bowl and add sweet potatoes, apples, scallions and pine nuts.  

To make dressing, combine all the ingredients in a blender and blend until emulsified.  Add more spices to taste if you feel it is needed.  Combine most of the dressing with the rice and taste.  If you think it needs more dressing, add more.  Serve and enjoy!

Saturday, June 11, 2011


Unfortunately I started working on my second masters a few months ago and haven't been able to post any recipes.  When summer comes, I will have a chance to post a few.

On a side note, PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE check out the following organization:

We Grow Dreams

I just met one of the founders of this program in one of my courses and her organization is truly amazing.  If you live near West Chicago, please buy your plants, vegetables, or herbs from their establishment! If not, please donate.  Even if it is a dollar or two, it will make a huge difference in the lives of people with disabilities!

From their Website:   A dream in the minds of a small group of parents and the determination to make the dream a reality are behind the We Grow Dreams Greenhouse & Garden Center in West Chicago, IL. This dream is being fulfilled by providing job training and employment opportunities for people with disabilities. The founders recognized the lack of employment opportunities for people with disabilities, and came together to creatively address this need. A greenhouse was identified as a labor-intensive business, something necessary for a dynamic job 
vocational training ground. Individuals with disabilities were envisioned working with 
volunteers and greenhouse employees,learning the business and developing a variety 
of work skills. This vision became the support model for the venture. The individuals 
with disabilities that receive vocational training are referred to as Team Members at the greenhouse.   To date, there are 60 Team Members and their families participating in the 
program from Cook, DeKalb, DuPage, Kane and Will counties.  The program has been extremely well received in the community.  The We Grow Dreams Greenhouse & Garden Center is a year-round business supplying a wide variety of premium quality plants and gardening accessories.  Products are available to the public for retail sale and for wholesale distribution. 
The We Grow Dreams Greenhouse & Garden Center
 employs a full-time professional greenhouse staff, critical to producing high quality plants and vegetables. The staff includes a Grower, General Manager, Assistant Manager and production personnel.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Stir-fried Cucumbers

So today I began my outdoor spring cleaning... putting away the shovels in the common areas, vacuuming the stairs, washing the floors, hooking up the hoses, sweeping outside, raking dead leaves, fertilizing the grass and planting grass seed... Wouldn't you think, since I live in a three flat, that someone else would help? Or at least say thank you?  Nope.  This is why I dislike the city (or at least living the same building as other people).  I do not get paid for taking care of the grounds outside of my building or the common areas.  I am not the building manager.  I am the person that gets annoyed when things start to look dirty or worn down, when there is trash sitting around the building, when the grass starts getting really tall, etc and am the only one who takes care of it.   I rake, sweep, mop, mow, paint, etc and the people downstairs cant even say thank you.  They own this place too, don't they want to protect their investment?  Then I start feeling awkward because they come in and out with their friends (they are my age) and just stare at me while I am cutting the grass or trying to keep up the place.  I am the one that feels like a dork while they do nothing... what's the problem here?

This dish is one of my favorite.  My dad has been making it since I was in high school and usually it has finely diced chicken in it, but for my new diet I have to go with just cucumbers.   Cucumbers are not the first thing you think of when talking about stir fry but they turn out very tender.  This dish works out really well for those of us who love cucumbers but cant digest them raw.   Since my husband was having dinner with me and wanted some meat (but I wanted my cucumbers meat free) I marinated some chicken breast in char siu and grilled it on my grill pan.  Meat as a side order, I've come a long way since October!

Stir-fried Cucumbers

2 large cucumbers (I use seedless)
2 tsp salt
10 cloves of garlic chopped coarsely
2 dried hot red pepper
4 Tbs of soy sauce
1 Tbs sherry
2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp sugar
1 Tbs of peanut oil
3 scallions chopped

Peel the cucumbers, seed them if they have seeds, and cut into 1/2 inch cubes.  Put the cucumbers in a bowl, sprinkle with salt and toss.  Set aside for 30 minutes.  After 30 minutes, pour the cucumbers into a colander.  Quickly wash with fresh water then use your hands to squeeze out as much liquid as possible.

Heat up your oil in a wok.  I do not have one, so I use a large pan.  Add in the garlic and stir fry for around 15 seconds.  Add the hot red peppers and stir fry for 15 more seconds.  Add the cucumbers and stir fry for 1 1/2 - 2 minutes.  Mix the soy sauce, sesame seed oil, sesame oil, sherry, and sugar together in another bowl.  Pour onto the cucumbers and cook for another 1 - 2 minutes stirring occasionally.   Remove before the cucumbers become mushy and mix in scallions.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Tilapia with Citrus Sauce

Spring break, I am soooo ready for it!  Our spring break is really late this year or at least it feels like it.  I am tired, worn out, etc... it doesn't effect what I do in the classroom but two more days and I am out!  Plus, with our new year long schedule we have two weeks off.  It is a blessing right now but I would prefer to have my long summer back (and not have work on my birthday-this year was the first time in 29 years that I had to be in school on my birthday).

I am again on my quest to try to like fish.  I don't know if it is really working.  This is a tasty dish and my husband really enjoyed it, I just cant get used to the texture and fish taste.  I did a bit better cooking it this time though, and it didn't break into a million little pieces.  Maybe before I make the next fish dish I will actually do some research on how to cook it correctly.   I used steamed broccoli and a wild rice/amaranth/quinoa mix for the sides.  

Tilapia with Citrus Sauce

2 Tbs flour (I used GF flour)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lb of tilapia
2 Tbs of olive oil
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1 lemon, juiced and zested
1/2 tsp grated fresh ginger

On a plate, mix the flour and salt and pepper.  Dredge the fish in the flour.  In a large skillet on medium, add the oil.  When hot, add the fish and cook for 2 - 3 minutes per side until golden and cooked through.  Remove and put on a plate, do not clean the skillet yet!

For the sauce, mix the orange juice, 2 Tbs of lemon juice and the ginger in the skillet.  Turn the heat up to high and simmer for 1 to 3 minutes until thickened, stirring occasionally.  Add lemon zest and more lemon juice if you want (I added it all).  Then put the fish back into the skillet with the sauce and cook for 1 - 2 minutes more until heated.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Lemon Risotto and Artichoke Risotto

I'm still killing myself here.  I spent 4 hours at the library last night grading papers and inputting grades and I still have to do my IEP report cards.  The same night most of the teachers I work with went to one of our administrator's house for a jewelry party.  Although I did not want to go I get frustrated because I do not understand when they get all of their work done.  I realize that many people just make up things or do not put in a lot of effort, I just can't do that.  So I guess that is why I spend so much time working on work...

Risotto is definitely one of my favorite dishes, especially after I became gluten free.  It is so versatile.  I have made two different versions in the past two months and they are both great dishes.  However, I wish someone would teach me to cook risotto quickly.  In all of the recipes it says that it should only take 35 minutes.  However, I cook it exactly as they say and it always takes an hour or more!

Lemon Risotto 
Adapted to Lemon Risotto


2 cups of arborio rice
6 cups of chicken broth or water if you are vegetarian
1 1/2 Tbs olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 Tbs of lemon juice
4 tsp of finely grated lemon peel
2 Tbs of freshly chopped basil
salt and pepper
Parmesan cheese (if you want vegan, it still tastes good without)

Place the broth or water in a pan and bring to a boil.  Then reduce the heat and let simmer.  In a large saucepan heat the olive oil on medium heat.  Add the onion and saute until translucent.  Then add arborio rice and stir for 1 minute.  Add the white wine and stir until it evaporates.   Add 1 1/2 cups of the hot broth and simmer till it is absorbed.  Stir frequently.  Then add the broth 1/2 cup at a time, waiting until it is absorbed before adding another, stirring frequently.  The rice is done when it is creamy and tender around 35 minutes.  Stir in lemon juice, lemon peel, basil, and Parmesan cheese.  1 cup of cheese is recommended, I like doing it to taste. Add more lemon juice or lemon peel if you like it really lemony.  Then add salt and pepper to taste.      

Artichoke Risotto

6 cups of vegetable broth
2 cups of arborio rice 
1 Tbs of olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup of dry white wine
1 15 oz can of artichoke hearts
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tbs fresh thyme, chopped
Grated Parmesan cheese (if you are vegan, you can go without the Parmesan cheese) 
salt and pepper to taste

For the artichokes:  Drain the can of artichoke hearts and chop coarsely. Add a Tbs of olive oil in a pan on medium heat.  Add artichokes and garlic and saute for 2 to 3 minutes.  Take off heat.  

For the risotto:  Place the broth or water in a pan and bring to a boil.  Then reduce the heat and let simmer.  In a large saucepan heat the olive oil on medium heat.  Add the onion and saute until translucent.  Then add arborio rice and stir for 1 minute.  Add the white wine and stir until it evaporates.   Add 1 1/2 cups of the hot broth and simmer till it is absorbed.  Stir frequently.  Then add the broth 1/2 cup at a time, waiting until it is absorbed before adding another, stirring frequently.  The rice is done when it is creamy and tender around 35 minutes.  Add the artichokes, thyme, and Parmesan cheese.  Its recommended to add 1 cup.  Add the salt and pepper to taste.    

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

GF Dream Oatmeal Cookies

I'm back!  Well, kinda.  I'm done with my National Board portfolio which I sent in last Thursday.  I have to say the whole process was a bit unnerving.  It is not like writing essays for graduate school.  There you know the professor, how they grade, what they want, etc.  Here they gave you rubrics but I have heard that the grading process is very arbitrary and people pass or fail randomly.  Then there is the whole packing the essays process which is much more an exercise on if you can follow directions than anything else.  There is even an envelope where you put the checklist that you filled out all of the checklists.  I was literally shaking packing it up because I was so worried that I'd make a mistake and then have to pay $300 to take the essay over just because I didn't paperclip the right way.  I heard that if you take the class (apparently I am "hardcore" because I didn't) they don't let you pack it up yourself.  You have to go in and 3 supervisors have to watch and sign off that you did it correctly.

So the National Board portfolio is done but now I have the test on the 4th which I supposedly should study for... however I know special education like the back of my hand so will take a quick look at the examples and go from there.  If this whole National Board process wasn't enough I have/had three full IEPs this week and it takes me 3 - 4 hours to finish each (depending on whether or not I am sitting in front of the TV while doing it).  Plus this weekend I have to input grades for 60 report cards which I haven't done in a month and have to do IEP report cards.  I don't know why I am writing more after doing all of this but I feel like my life has to get back to normal.  I have not cooked a real dish in three weeks, have gorged myself on bottles of Mountain Dew and bags of Carmel Bugles (oh man, sooooo good!  Found at Walgreens and now can't go into Walgreens because I don't have the self control to resist), and have eaten salads, eggs, and rice in different combinations for weeks.  I just want to be back to normal but I am super, super, super stressed and burnt out.

What is the best way to deal with such stress?  Eating gluten free cookies!  These are the absolutely best oatmeal cookies ever, that is why I call them my dream oatmeal cookies.  However, they aren't mine... they are actually my mom's.  She made these cookies for me (3 doz worth) during this crazy time.  I took some to work with me and everyone raved about them (4 people at my school are gluten free).   My mom even made me an "instant mix" bag with all of the ingredients mixed together so I can add the liquids and cook and be done with it.  Since then my dad has been sending loaves of GF challah bread which is insanely good so my parents are keeping me stocked in baked goods.  THANK YOU!

GF Dream Oatmeal Cookies


2 cups of flour mix (2 parts brown rice flour, 2/3 part potato starch, 1/3 part tapioca flour)
2 cups GF rolled oats
1 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 xanthan gum
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 large eggs
1 Tbs vanilla extract
1 cup unsalted butter
1 cup raisins

Preheat oven 350 degrees.  Place foil on cookie sheet and lightly grease.  Mix together butter and sugars in a large bowl until light and creamy with a electric mixer.  Then add the eggs and vanilla and mix until smooth.  Add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger and beat until a smooth dough forms.  Then mix in oats and raisins.

Drop in large tsp of  dough onto cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes.   This recipe makes 60 cookies!  You can freeze unbaked dough.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

I'm still here!

I am not going to be able to post for the next few weeks.  My National Board project is due at the end of March and I am completely overwhelmed with work to do for it and for my job.  I just spent 4 hours at the library writing and editing after a day of teaching where I was called a few choice names in Spanish (which they thought I didn't know) and broke up a fight... I'm exhausted and running to my comfort dish--fried eggs, soy sauce, and sesame oil with rice (or in this case quinoa, amaranth and wild rice).  I have so many great recipes including citrus tilapia, butternut squash cranberry rice, turkey nachos for dinner, and the most amazing GF oatmeal cookies so please check in periodically and when I start writing again you will know I'm done with my project!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Thai Spicy Eggplant

I have to say that there is power in vitamins.  With gastroparesis comes gastritis and heartburn medicines such as Prevacid, Omeprazole, and Ranidine.  I have done the full gambit and have been on them for continuously three years.  Lately I have been really negative... every time someone asked me "how are you?" I couldn't say anything positive.  Work hasn't been effected, you can't be negative around my students, but everything else has been.  Then two days ago I took medicine and wasnt able to sleep all night.  You really can't work at my job without sleep so I drank a bottle of 5 hour energy.  It didnt give me more energy but it really improved my mood.  Suddenly I didn't have anything bad to say, it was great.  I looked up proton pump inhibitors and and vitamin B and found that they lead to to vitamin B deficiency.  For the last few days I have been taking large amounts of vitamin B12 and have been feeling so much better, its great!  If you have GP and have been struggling with your mood, check it out.

Back to recipes and food.  I think eggplants have been one of my main ingredients this winter.  I have made many dishes with them because they are so versatile.  This recipe is great because it allowed me to use the rest of my thai basil cubes that I froze in the fall.  Then there was a great recipe in this month's Bon Appetit that had me use the rest of my chives while combining them with potatoes, butter and grated lemon peel yesterday.  I only have a few more cubes of oregano pesto then I am ready for the fresh herbs in spring!  

Thai Spicy Eggplant

2 Tbs of oil
1 tsp of crushed red pepper
2 large eggplants, cut into bite size chunks
1 medium onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tbs of nam pla
3 Tbs of soy sauce
2 Tbs of dark brown sugar
3 Tbs of chopped fresh thai basil
1 tsp of sesame oil

Heat a skillet over high heat and add oil, crushed red pepper flakes and saute for 10 to 15 seconds.  Add eggplant and stir fry 2 - 3 minutes.  Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic and stir fry for another 3 minutes.  Add the soy sauce and nam pla.  Then sprinkle the sugar and toss for 2 minutes.  Take the pan off the heat and toss with basil and sesame oil.  Serve over jasmine rice.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

GF Veggie Burgers

So, as I said in my last post I had friends over for the Silva UFC fight the day before the Super Bowl. When I was putting everything together I thought briefly of a post that I saw on Photograzing a few days earlier. It was an Oreo cooked inside a chocolate chip cookie. Even though I couldn't eat it (yes, I cheated by trying one...and paid for it) and didn't actually read the recipe, I called up my husband who was in the grocery store and asked him to bring home a bag of Oreos (please someone, take them from my house! They are torturing me in the cabinet) and two rolls of chocolate chip cookies. Here are the results:

Moral of the story is, read the recipe first. However, one of my friends did call me a day or two later and said that I ruined his life, because these cookies were so wonderful and he was trying to not to eat sweets! I wasn't going to post this, but I saw the cookies on SeriousEats today and laughed when I actually read the recipe and found out why my short cut didn't work.

I wish I could say this next recipe was a total hit. I have been looking for a gluten free veggie burger recipe for summer and this was my first attempt. The burger itself tastes good. However, they fall apart easily. I do not know where this recipe is from, I have had it on my to do list for a while-sorry!

Do you have a good gluten free recipe for veggie burgers? Please, let me know. (Oh, by the way the bun is not gluten free... this was my husband's burger)

GF Veggie Burgers

2 Tbs olive oil
1 cup of thinly chopped onions
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup of grated carrots
1 1/2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp of ground smoked cumin
2 15oz cans of kidney beans
2 Tbs of Dijon mustard
2 Tbs of soy sauce
2 Tbs of ketchup
1 1/2 cups rolled oats
salt and ground pepper

Saute the onions and garlic in oil until soft. Add the carrots, chili powder, and cumin and cook on low heat for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, mash the beans with a potato masher. Add mustard, soy sauce, ketchup and onion-carrot mixture. Mix in the oats and add salt and pepper to taste.

Moisten your hands and mold the mixture into 3 -4 inch patties. Use a non-stick skillet or lightly oil one and cookie the patties on medium-low heat for 5 to 8 minutes on each side.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Jerk Pulled Pork With Caribbean Rice and Beans

Its been a long week. I had to do my National Board videos this week and everything went wrong... camera ran out of battery even when I recharged it all night, students were sick, the video didn't go long enough, etc. Then I got sick. Arrggg. Since its been a crazy week I haven't cooked that much, which has made me feel even worse because my husband doesn't cook and is very quick to suggest eating out. I hate eating out and it makes me feel disgusting for days afterwards but as we speak he's out getting a salad for me from Subway from across the street. I wanted sushi, he wanted convenience, so that's what we are getting because he is the one running out for it.

Last week, before the Super Bowl, we had people over for the Silva UFC fight. My husband texted everyone that we were having "light appetizers" but in our house that means there is a lot of food! Everyone knows us for having tons of food when they come over, so I couldn't disappoint. Here are two easy and very tasty dishes. I made these two dishes, along with some other Caribbean ones, when we had our parents over after we eloped and told them that we got married so they are near and dear to my heart. Since we were having people over I didn't get to take great pictures (they were all guys and I didn't want to have to explain why I was taking pictures of food) but you cant go wrong with the recipes.

Slower Cooker Jerk Pulled Pork

1 1/2 to 2 pound boneless pork shoulder roast (or 3 - 4 pound if you are using one with bone, which we prefer)
3 Tbs of Jamaican jerk seasoning
1 cup of water
2 large onions, sliced (optional)
1 Tbs of lime juice

Rub jerk seasoning evenly over roast. Place meat into slow cooker. Pour water into slow cooker. If you want to have soft onions to put onto your sandwiches put the sliced onions in the slow cooker before the pork. Cook on low heat for 8 to 10 hours or high heat for 4 to 5 hours.

After cooked, remove meat from slow cooker and shred it. Skim the fat from the juices and add enough to moisten the meat. Stir in the lime juice to the meat. Place on to rolls for sandwiches or use on its own.

Caribbean Rice and Beans
Adapted from Bon Appetit

1 15oz can of black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 of a large red onion (thinly sliced)
4 Tbs of balsamic vinegar

1 tbs of olive oil
1 white onion, finely chopped
4 large garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup of Arborio rice
3 1/2 cups of chicken broth (or vegetable broth to make it vegetarian)
1/2 cup of white wine
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp of turmeric
1/4 tsp of cayenne pepper

Place the beans, onions, and vinegar in a bowl and let sit for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally. Use salt and pepper to season or, if you have dry jerk seasoning left from the pork, use a little to season the beans.

While beans are sitting, begin the rice. Heat the oil in a saucepan over high heat. Add onion and garlic and saute until translucent (5 min). Add rice and stir for 1 minute. Then add white wine and stir until absorbed. Add broth, bay leaves, turmeric and cayenne pepper and stir well. Bring mixture to a boil. Then reduce the heat to medium and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally for around 25 minutes until rice is tender and creamy. Season with salt and pepper. Place rice on platter. Drain the bean mixture if there is any vinegar left and then place on top of the rice.