Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Beef and Pumpkin Pasta Bake (gluten free)

The time has come for comfort foods. I'm craving soups and hearty one pot dishes a lot these days. This afternoon as I sat down to figure out what I was going to make for dinner, I had no particular ideas in mind, other than something quick and comforting and satisfying... a pasta bake idea started to percolate. Digging around in the fridge and pantry, I started pulling out ingredients, hoping to make some sort of sense of them all.

This is what came of it. It actually reminded me a lot of the Hamburger Helper's of my childhood past. A dish so great, everyone gobbled it up in a hurry. My almost two year old kept asking for, "Mooaaar" with his cute sign language hand motions.

I love that it has pumpkin in it, helping us to savor the flavors of fall. But yet it does not have an overtly "pumpkin" taste. Rather it just adds some rich creaminess and color, and is also a great way to add extra nutrients and "sneak" in veggies that kids don't really know are in there. (This is a handy tool these days as my youngest child refuses to eat vegetables... a constant source of frustration for me!) Hopefully soon he will learn to love his vegetables as his older brother does, and in the meantime, recipes like this one are lifesavers for mom's with a child like mine.

Beef and Pumpkin Pasta Bake

8 oz. brown rice penne
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 medium onion
5 cloves garlic
1 pound grass fed ground beef
1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 cup pumpkin puree
5 oz. cream cheese
1 teaspoon dried thyme
salt, pepper
3/4 cup shredded mozzarella or cheddar cheese

Cook penne in a pot of gentle boiling water for 8-10 minutes. Drain.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and coat a 9x13 inch pan lightly with coconut oil cooking spray.

Meanwhile, heat coconut oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Chop onion and garlic and add to pan. Cook for 3-4 minutes, until translucent. Add beef and crumble as you cook until beef is browned. Add tomatoes, pumpkin, cream cheese, thyme, salt, and pepper. Stir and cook until cream cheese is melted. Add cooked penne and stir.

Pour into prepared pan. Top with shredded cheese. Bake for 10 minutes, until cheese in melted.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Pumpkin Bread (gluten, sugar, and dairy free)

We are overloaded with pumpkins right now: some from our CSA and some from the pumpkin patch. It seems we just couldn't resist stocking up on these lovely vegetables. Last week, I roasted a pumpkin and had the puree sitting in the fridge, waiting to be baked into something delicious.

I began scouring the internet for a gluten free pumpkin bread recipe but was unable to find one that fit the criteria of my gluten free pantry staples. I was also shocked at how much sugar the recipes I found called for: 1- 2 cups in some cases for one loaf of bread! Yikes! Needless to say, I was anxious to try my hand at my own recipe, one using a lot less sweetener (and a sugar free one at that) as well as incorporating some extra protein in for this pregnant body.

In this recipe, I state using a pumpkin puree, but to be honest, my pumpkin wasn't completely pureed... I actually used the flesh of the cooked pumpkin in the consistency it was when I scooped it out of the shell- a bit chunky. I thought at first that maybe this would impact the taste, but not at all. In fact, it gave the bread an almost rustic feel, where I noted a few chunks of cooked pumpkin in each slice. So wether you used pumpkin puree (from a can or fresh) or cooked pumpkin right out of the shell, either way will deliver a wonderfully moist pumpkin bread.

Pumpkin Bread (gluten, sugar, and dairy free)

Dry ingredients:
1 cup Bob's Red Mill GF All Purpose Baking Flour (or use 3/4 cup brown rice or sorghum flour + 1/4 cup arrowroot or tapioca powder)
1/2 cup almond flour
3/4 cup Xylosweet (xylitol) + 1/2 teaspoon powdered stevia
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (or 1 teaspoon each cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves)
pinch salt

Wet ingredients:
2 eggs
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
1/4 cup water
1 cup pumpkin puree (either fresh or canned)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray a bread loaf pan (I used an 8x8 size) with coconut spray.

In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients and stir to combine. In a separate bowl, whisk eggs, then add EVOO, water, and pumpkin and whisk again until fully incorporated. Add wet ingredients to dry and stir a few times until batter is completely mixed.

Pour into prepared baking pan and bake for 60-65 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool in pan on a wire rack for 20-30 minutes before removing and slicing.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Chocolate Chia Pudding

I've been craving protein a lot lately. I think this is common with pregnancy, as I'm also told that protein is super important during pregnancy in general. I've had to get creative with my protein sources lately, as my appetite has been a little unpredictable. This pudding is packed with protein sources, thanks to the chia seeds, kefir, and almond butter. It's highly nutritious, has no added sugar, and fills you up for hours.

Chia seeds are so unique. I discovered them in my raw food days and have been a fan ever since. They are full of Omega-3's, protein, and fiber- for a triple packed nutritious punch. They also help stabilize blood sugar levels and are naturally gluten free. They can be used in all sorts of ways, such as add-ins for granola or smoothies, toppings for salads or soups, or my favorite way shown in this recipe: to make pudding. This tiny seed, when added to liquids and let set for several hours, becomes gel-like and thickens the liquid like crazy.

And so my craving for protein has led me to experimenting with this pudding for over a week now, each time experimenting with different proportions to get it "just right." Today I landed on it. I hope you enjoy this as much as I do. (Please note: you will probably want to double this recipe so that you have lots of pudding left over for quick breakfasts or snacks. It will keep for at least three days in the fridge.)

Chocolate Chia Pudding

1/4 cup chia seeds
1/4 cup plain kefir or yogurt
1 banana
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons almond butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
10 drops liquid stevia
1/2 cup ice cubes
1 cup water

Place all ingredients in the order listed into Vitamix or high powered blender. Blend on high for about 30 seconds. Enjoy right away or refrigerate for several hours or overnight to allow the chia seeds to expand and become gluey, making the pudding really thick.

Speaking of pregnancy, I'm almost into my 32nd week now, and starting to feel that "bigness" that comes with the third trimester. And we are still waiting to move into our new house, so Lord help me that I don't have to have my home birth at my parent's house!

Monday, October 3, 2011

Cinnamon Caramel Apple Dip

New addiction alert!!! Raw caramel apple dip for all of those wonderfully tart and sweet apples in season right now. Funny thing is, the ingredients in this recipe resemble nothing of the typical caramel dip you find in stores, which are full of sugar and nothing else (and often times it's not even real sugar). This recipe, however, is actually good for you. Who knew that you could eat your caramel apple dip and get your protein too? Well, this is proof that you can (thanks to my friend the cashew).

I found this recipe on one of my favorite blogger's site, The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen. Ali posted it about a year ago, and I've been waiting in anticipation for apple season this year to make it. It is divine, to say the least. Creamy, smooth, sweet... the apple's perfect dipping companion. I changed Ali's recipe up slightly: adding cinnamon, decreasing the amount of maple syrup and adding in a few drops of liquid stevia instead. I also found that I need to use the date soaking water to get this dip to the perfect creamy consistency.

My favorite way to inhale (I mean... enjoy this) is with sliced, raw apples, but it is also delicious as a dip for crackers, pears, or carrots, or as a spread for bread or icing for cinnamon roles. Or maybe you'll just want to eat it plain, right from the spoon!

Just to let you know how good it is, I've already made five batches of this in two weeks. :)

Cinnamon Caramel Apple Dip

1 cup raw cashews
1 cup dates
2-3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
5 drops liquid stevia
pinch salt

Soak cashews in water for 2-3 hours. Soak dates separately in about 1 cup of water for 2- 3 hours (save date soaking water).

Drain cashews and put in a Vitamix or high powered blender. Remove dates from soaking water and add to cashews, along with remaining ingredients. Turn blender on low speed and slowly increase speed as ingredients come together to form a smooth consistency, adding a few tablespoons of date soaking water at a time to keep mixture flowing smoothly. Once it is flowing, run the Vitamix on high for 10 or so seconds.