Saturday, September 25, 2010

Weeknight Chicken Dinner

In my life, the eternal question has turned out to be "What's for dinner?"  Getting dinner on the table night after night without boring everyone to tears can be quite a challenge, so for busy days when I don't feel like thinking too hard, I keep a bag of boneless skinless chicken breasts in the freezer.  They cook quickly and can be dressed up in countless ways, which makes them a perfect weeknight meal.  This flavorful recipe utilizes ingredients I always have on hand, including the perennial herbs in my garden.  Add some rice or potatoes, sauteed spinach or a salad, and, "Dinner's ready!"

Chicken with Lemon, Garlic, and Herbs

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Juice + zest of 1 lemon (here is my favorite zesting tool)
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme
Kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Place the chicken breasts in a shallow baking dish.  Whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest,  garlic, rosemary and thyme and pour over chicken; turn to coat.  Season generously with salt and pepper.  Cover dish and refrigerate at least 30 minutes and up to several hours.

Remove chicken from marinade; discard marinade.  Preheat grill to medium-high heat, or oven to 375.  Grill or bake chicken until it reaches an internal temperature of 165, turning halfway through cooking.  Time will vary depending on thickness of chicken and cooking method used.  Our smallish chicken breasts took about 15 minutes on the grill.  Serve immediately.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Dairy-Free, Soy-Free "Cream Cheese" Frosting

When Britni sent me the carrot cake recipe I was eager to make it right away, but what was I going to frost it with?  An internet search for dairy-free cream cheese frosting turned up dozens of recipes using soy-based cream cheese alternatives, but there was nothing out there that I could use.  So I turned to my trusty copy of Go Dairy Free, which has a recipe for a cashew-based cream cheese spread.  Using that as a starting point, I came up with this recipe, which I must say I am quite proud of.  It is creamy, tangy, and rich and it complements the cake beautifully.  It would also be an excellent accompaniment to cinnamon rolls.

Dairy-Free, Soy-Free "Cream Cheese" Frosting

1 cup raw cashew pieces
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp coconut oil
3 Tbsp hot water
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup regular coconut milk
1 tsp vanilla bean paste or vanilla extract
5-6 cups powdered sugar

In food processor, process cashew pieces until finely powdered and beginning to clump.  Add coconut oil, lemon juice, hot water, and salt; process until smooth.  Transfer mixture to blender and add coconut milk.  Blend until as smooth as possible, about 5 minutes, stopping occasionally to scrape down sides of blender with spatula.  Pour into container, cover, and refrigerate overnight to allow flavors to blend.

Place the cashew mixture in bowl of standing mixer.  Using the whisk attachment, add vanilla and beat at medium speed while gradually adding the powdered sugar.  Five cups of sugar will yield a softer frosting perfect for cinnamon rolls; the full 6 cups will give a stiffer frosting that will hold its shape on top of a cake.  When all sugar is incorporated, beat at high speed 1 minute.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Best Ever Carrot Cake

It has been an interesting few weeks around here.  After 3 strict weeks of the elimination diet, then lots of indulgences when some dear friends visited last weekend, it seemed apparent that Warren's symptoms and my diet may not be correlated after all (well, except for broccoli, which  I think I shall survive without).  I even added eggs and nuts back into my diet with no ill effects.  So yesterday morning, just before breakfast, I told my husband I was quitting the elimination diet.  I poured myself a bowl of homemade dairy-free granola with nuts and sat down to a delicious, guilt-free breakfast.

I was well over halfway through the bowl when it happened.

The scary dairy nightmare was coming true.  My mouthful of granola was doused in real, creamy, from-a-cow milk.  In my early morning, overloaded mommy fog, I had gone on auto-pilot and reached for the gallon of dairy milk instead of the carton of rice milk.  I paused, swallowed, and briefly considered calling CPS on myself.  And then a sense of peace came over me.  I laughed.  "I think he's going to be ok," I thought to myself.

It is well over 36 hours later and Warren is perfect.  No crying spells, no upset tummy.   He is sleeping peacefully right now and I am really not sure what to think.  I'm not reaching for that carton of Haagen-Dazs quite yet, but the worst certainly seems to be over.  I am relieved and grateful.

In celebration of the end of the elimination diet, here is one of the first recipes I made when I started the dairy-free, soy-free diet.  I had been waiting for a special occasion to share this one, and I think this is it!

I have always been fond of carrot cake, but I had no idea it could be a transcendent experience until I had a slice at Selland's Market in Sacramento, where my friend Britni was the pastry chef.  Since carrot cake is naturally dairy free, she graciously shared the recipe with me, and I made just a few tweaks so that it makes a bit more sense for a home cook.  Plus, I managed to create a dairy-free, soy-free "cream cheese" frosting that is surprisingly cream cheesy.  Even Justin, my alternative food skeptic, gobbled it up.  Of course, if your diet allows, use your favorite cream cheese frosting recipe.

Britni's Best Ever Carrot Cake

1 1/2 cups canola oil
2 1/3 cups sugar
5 eggs
2 1/3 cups all-purpose flour (I used 2 cups a.p. flour + 1/3 cup whole wheat flour)
1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
4 cups shredded peeled carrots (from about 1 1/4 lb. carrots)
1 20 oz. can crushed pineapple, well drained (place in sieve and press out liquids with back of spoon)
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat oven to 325.  Grease 3 - 8 " cake pans.  Line bottoms with rounds of parchment or waxed paper.   Grease the paper, then flour the pans, shaking to coat evenly and tapping out excess.  Set aside.

In bowl of standing mixer, beat together the canola oil and sugar.  Add the eggs and beat at high speed for 3 minutes.  In a separate bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Add to egg mixture and beat at low speed until just incorporated.  Add the carrots, pineapple, walnuts and vanilla, then blend until batter is uniformly mixed.

Pour into prepared pans and bake 40-50 minutes, until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.  Cool in pans until cool enough to handle, then invert onto wire racks and remove paper to cool completely.  Frost with "cream cheese" frosting.

Check back tomorrow for the frosting recipes!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Elimination Diet Gravy

If, like me, you are following the Dr. Sears regimen and living off of turkey and potatoes, then some good old-fashioned gravy is exactly what you need to stave off starvation and culinary boredom.  Yes, you can make a pretty decent gravy with just the ingredients from the list.  First, take yourself down to the health food store and get some rice flour from the bulk bins.  Then, roast your turkey (or if you're lucky like me, let your wonderful mother-in-law smoke one for you) and save all the drippings.   I got enough gravy from this recipe to last me a few days, and I especially liked it poured over turkey and rice.  Time to sauce it up!

Elimination Diet Turkey Gravy

All fat and drippings from a roasted turkey
Rice flour, as needed
Rice milk, as needed
Salt & pepper to taste

1.  Put your pan drippings in a clear container and refrigerate until the fat is clearly separated at the top.

2.  Set a small saucepan over medium heat.  Skim the turkey fat from the drippings put it in the pan, stirring until smooth.  Add rice flour, 1 Tbsp at a time, and stir with a whisk until it has a pasty consistency.

3.  While whisking, slowly pour in all of the remaining turkey juices.  Bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring constantly.

4.  Add rice milk to get your desired thickness and taste.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

5.  Pour it all over your plate.  Enjoy eating a meal that actually has some flavor.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Exciting News!

A few of my recipes have been included in Smart School Time Recipes, a new e-cookbook now available for free download here.   I am so excited to have been a part of this project.  Many thanks to Alisa Fleming of Go Dairy Free for putting it all together!  The cookbook includes many easy, healthy recipes for the lunch box and meals at home for the busy back to school season.  It is also available for Kindle.  I hope you enjoy!