“Grilled” Veggie Sandwich

Grilled Veggie Sandwich

The kitchen in my apartment is somewhat small.  This kitchen has much more counter space than the last kitchen I had but I still do not seem to have enough room.  I moved the microwave to the garage to help with counter space and I still feel like there is nowhere to put anything! (However, after starting to house hunt I am much more appreciative of my kitchen after seeing some others!! yikes!)  The laundry room is off of the kitchen as is the back bedroom so there are people constantly going in and out.

Normally, this would just be annoying but during those hot summer days in a poorly ventilated kitchen with only a small window that is not big enough to fit a fan it can be down right frustrating to work over a hot stove…. so I spent much of my time this summer cooking outside on the grill ( I even made homemade pizza on the grill)!  This sandwich was super easy on the grill and we had it almost every week for our meatless meal.

My hubby and I were thinking about this sandwich the other day and decided to make it but winter weather isn’t great for grilling.   I tried my hand at doing it in the oven and I think it turned out pretty well!

“Grilled” Veggie Sandwich

Preheat oven to 450ºF

  • 1 small yellow squash, sliced
  • 1 Zucchini, sliced
  • 2 Onions, sliced
  • 2 Portobello mushrooms, sliced
  • handful of fresh Organic Baby Spinach
  • 4 0z Mozzarella
  • 1 Focaccia (or Ciabatta) Loaf, cut horizontally

Dressing

  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped (I grate mine on a cheese grater)
  • Juice of half a lemon

Mix the mayonnaise, lemon juice and garlic together for the dressing.

On a baking sheet lined with foil, spread all the veggies except the spinach out in an flat layer.  Lightly coat them with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Roast 15-20 minutes or until soft and starting to get a nice color.

Roasting veggies

Once they are done it is time to build the sandwich!  On a separate baking sheet lay the two halves of bread next to each other.  If you are using the dressing spread it across the bread, then top with the veggies evenly on each piece of bread, including the spinach.  Grate the mozzarella evenly over the top of the veggies.  Broil until the cheese is melted and getting bubbly.  Carefully put the two pieces of bread together and cut.

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Grrrr-nola

A post to get back into the swing of things.  The Holidays are time consuming!

I love granola but I don’t love the extra sugar that comes with it and sometimes a mountain full of fat is included to make that crispy texture.  If you find a good brand in the store then you are paying for it!  It is so simple to make and you can add and subtract what you want.   I’ve experimented with different granola recipes but I discovered loooow and sloow is the best way.  Low heat and for a long time gives nicely toasted but not over powering taste and a great texture.

There are many way to make granola but I like a little splash of honey instead of agave or maple syrup but you can always substitute for taste (I am not a huge fan of agave nectar but you can do that as well but I suggest researching it before you do).

Granola:

  • 3 cups Rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup Wheat Germ
  • 1 cup slivered almonds
  • 1 cups cashews, lightly chopped
  • 1/2 cup pepitas
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup Honey, depending on preference  (clover honey would be good, we get ours locally and it is a light honey)
  • 3/4 tablespoons sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted, optional

Preheat oven to 250°F

In a large bowl combine the oats, wheat germ, and nuts.  Add the honey and sea salt (also the coconut oil if using).  Combine to the best of your ability.  Pour mixture onto a large parchment lined pan to create a nice even layer.  Or use two smaller pans.  Put in the oven for 1 hr 30 mins stirring every 30 mins to create a loose and nicely colored granola.

granolaYou can mix in any nuts that you like or even raisins at the end!

Turkey Soup

It is certainly a belated post but I made turkey soup with leftovers from Thanksgiving!  My computer has been on the fritz, randomly shutting down, freezing, etc so I haven’t had much time on the internet, hopefully I can get this posted.

 

For Thanksgiving we had a free range turkey from a local grower.   Turkeys have many of the same issues that chickens do when they are massed produced.  They are not raised to be a chicken they are raised to be food and are treated as such.  They are genetically modified to produce the meat that most people prefer, the breast meat.  This makes them top heavy and harder for the bird to be mobile.  According to Take Part over 46 Million factory raised Turkeys are eaten on Thanksgiving… Here is an overview. http://www.takepart.com/photos/thanksgiving-turkey-shocking-facts/turkeys-on-turkeys-on-turkeys

My mom called the free range bird an “alien” haha.   Honestly, it wasn’t what I had expected.  The legs and chest cavity were elongated, so much so that it didn’t all fit in a Turkey Bag.  It turned out pretty good with plenty of leftovers!  There was a leftover veggie tray so I made soup 🙂

 

Turkey Soup

  • Shredded leftover turkey;  approx. 3 cups
  • 32 oz to 50 oz chicken broth; depending on how much broth you prefer
  • 4 carrots, chopped. If organic you can leave the skin on
  • 1/2 Cup chopped broccoli
  • 1/2 cup chopped cauliflower
  • Handful of chives, chopped
  • Half a bunch of parsley, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped

 

The turkey leftovers were pretty cold from being in the fridge so as best I could I put them in a pot of water and boiled them for 10 minutes, then I shredded the turkey.  Be careful some tiny bones can make it into the turkey, not fun to eat!  Put the carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower in a pot with a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil on medium heat and cook until softened, about 10 minutes.  Add the chives, parsley, and garlic  ( I grated my garlic with a cheese grater because I hate chopping it.  It is quicker and you don’t get accidental chunks) for about 1 minute until fragrant.  Add broth and shredded turkey.  Continue to simmer on medium for about 10-15 minutes.

We are still doing grain free when possible but you can add egg noodles and make it turkey noodle soup.  Celery would be a nice touch, but this was  completely a leftover meal and we did not have leftover celery… still pretty tasty.

 

Turkey Soup

Turkey Soup

Shepard’s Pie

I was attempting to make a quick run through the grocery store today after work.  I had my list, I knew where everything was I wanted,  and I was just about done when I went to get the butter. I have improved my shopping skills and do not trust titles like “All Natural” , sure you are buddy, or “as much fiber as a bowl of oatmeal”, I’ll eat the oatmeal instead, thank you.  There are some things that are just not in my mind to be suspicious about yet, like butter.  Butter. Margarine sure, but what could be in butter?

Like everyone else,  I do not want to spend all my money on eating healthy so I try and buy organic where I need to and save money on other things where I can.  I’ll admit I’ve been buying the cheap store brand butter because I didn’t think anything of it.  On my quick run through the grocery store today I was caught off guard when I couldn’t locate my normal unsalted butter due to a package change.  My normal white box with blue lettering is now a blue box with yellow lettering and this change gave me the extra 30 seconds to look at it and notice the ingredients: Cream Pasteurized,  Natural Flavors.  Natural flavors raised a red flag and I let out a groan in the middle of the dairy section along with a very audible “it’s butter!” to which I got a weird look from the stock boy. Natural flavors are labeled as a controversial ingredient but it is essentially a nice word to cover up chemical additives in your food.  So, needless to say I now have a healthy skepticism for every food and ended up paying the extra dollar for butter without natural flavors added.

Now on to the Shepard’s pie:

Shepard’s Pie

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 1-2 cups vegetables – chopped carrots,  peas
  • 1 1/2 – 2 lbs organic potatoes (3 big ones)
  • 3 tablespoons of butter
  • 1/2 cup beef broth
  • Celtic Sea Salt, or regular sea salt
  • Pepper
  • 1 1/2 – 2 tablespoons Herbes de Provence (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons of sour cream (optional)
  • 1/4 cup half and half (optional)
  • Cheddar cheese (optional)

Preheat oven to 400ºF

Quarter the potatoes and boil them in salt water until fork tender, around 20 minutes.  I used 3 medium white potatoes and 1 large sweet potato since it was on hand.  You can peel them if you wish, I didn’t for convenience and I like the skins.

While the potatoes are boiling chop the onion and carrots.  In a large frying pan melt the butter and on medium high heat saute the veggies.   After 10 mins or when the they are tender add in any other veggies, i.e. peas or corn.

Add the ground beef to the veggies and cook until longer pink.  Add salt and pepper to taste. Add Herbes de Provence or you could just do rosemary if you have that on hand.  I am just a fan of savory and rosemary together.  Add beef broth, simmer on medium low heat for about 10 mins.  Add more beef broth if needed to keep moist.

Drain the potatoes when tender.  Mash potatoes in a bowl with an electric mixer or in a stand mixer.  Add the sour cream and half and half, you can use any type of milk I had extra half and half  (You can substitute 4 tbsp of butter instead).  Mix until smooth.

Using a 9 x 13 baking dish, pour the beef and veggies on the bottom.  Top with the mashed potatoes and bake at 400ºF for 30 mins.  Around the 20 minute mark top with grated cheddar if desired.

I love Shepard’s Pie because it is versatile   You can add different types of vegetables if you want or use sweet potatoes which gives it a great fall color.  I have added parsnips into the mashed potatoes before!  It is easy to cut back on the fat if you want a lighter dish but we were looking for something hearty on a cold fall day!

Enjoy 🙂

Turtle Cookies and a Benefit

Baking regular cookies on a grain free diet =  cruel and unusual punishment. I will admit I did have a few cookies!

My Hubby’s uncle was diagnosed with Stage IV Lung cancer late last year and this past weekend there was a benefit for him and his family.  I was volunteered to bake which was fine by me!  I made 2 Mile High Peanut Butter Pies, Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Cookies, and a new recipe Turtle Cookies.  Trying a new recipe for a benefit is a little insane but I didn’t even think about it until after I bought the ingredients.  I had to wrap them up so my husband would stop eating them so I think they were a success along with the benefit which raised more money than was hoped for!! woot!

Turtle Cookies

  • 4 oz bittersweet baking chocolate
  • 6 oz semisweet baking chocolate
  • 1/2 cup (8 Tbsp) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 1/2 cups pure cane sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 cup milk chocolate chips
  • 1 cup cut up caramels
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped

Melt butter and chocolate in the microwave (or if you are like us and do not have a  microwave, then use double boiler) until smooth.

Combine the flour, salt, and baking powder in a separate bowl.

Using a stand mixer with a whisk attachment beat the eggs and sugar on medium speed for 5 minutes.

Add the chocolate to the eggs and sugar.

Add the flour to the mixture until just combined.

Mix in 1/2 cup chocolate chips, 1/2 cup pecans  and 1/2 cup cut cup caramels (the smaller the better).

Refrigerate the mixture for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350°F

Once they are refrigerated, drop ice cream scoop size dough balls onto parchment lined baking sheets.  Make sure to have plenty of space between them otherwise it will become one giant cookie.  I did 6 cookies per large sheet.

Bake for 6 minutes.  Remove the cookies and top with the remaining chocolate chips, pecans, and caramel pieces.

Bake for 6-8 more minutes, until they do not look giggly in the center.

Allow to cool on pan for a few minutes then remove and allow to cool on a wire rack.

 

Homemade Ranch Dressing

     Finding dressing in the store that isn’t loaded with chemical preservatives is difficult nowadays.  Most of them have EDTA added to them to preserve freshness.   It is a widely used preservative that can even be found in baby foods. You know what also has EDTA in it?  If you have ever had your blood drawn the vacutainer tubes that they collect your blood in are loaded with anticoagulants, including EDTA!   I’m still looking into the difference in its functionality between ingested and vacutainers but still, the fact it is in something that we use to prevent blood from clotting and we are ingesting it has always freaked me out. Additional information on EDTA .

     Even the organic dressings are not always the best option as some are full of evaporated cane juice, aka sugar.  My taste buds must be changing because the store-bought brands seem very bitter to me now.  My husband is a big lover of Ranch dressing so I have experimented with different homemade ranch dressings and this is what I came up with. 

Homemade Ranch Dressing

  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/4-1 cup buttermilk, depending on desired thickness (or plain milk with 1 tbsp of lemon juice added to it)
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 2 tbsp dried dill
  • 2 tbsp dried parsley (try half cilantro for an added kick)
  • 1 tbsp chives, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to your preference

If you have fresh herbs on hand they will taste even better you just may have to use slightly more to get the same taste (i.e. 3-4 tbsp fresh parsley).  This is easily adapted to taste so add more or less of what you like!  I am not a fan of mayo so I use yogurt but you could swap that. 

Pumpkin Whoppie Pies and Pumpkin Bread

I usually have pumpkin puree on hand because I have found that not only is it delicious, it is great for dogs.  Over the summer our Blue heeler, Jax, decided it was a GREAT idea to get into the cat litter while I was in the other room.  He was very proud of himself until 12 hours later when he got incredibly sick. I don’t think the poor boy has ever been that sick before.  We tried to wait it out hoping he would get better quickly but he would seem better and then go back to being sick the next day.  I was planning on calling the vet in the morning when I remembered that pumpkin was soothing on doggie stomachs so I figured it was worth a shot.  Both of our dogs gobbled it right up, which was great since we couldn’t get Jax to eat very much at the time.  After that he was back to his old energetic self!  At least he is smart enough not to get back into the cat litter, nope he’s moved up in the world, on to cat food!

Like everyone else when the weather starts turning chilly and you can see the leaves changing colors you start to think fall and fall foods.  I was in the mood to bake something and I came across this Pumpkin Whoppie Pie recipe months ago and it sounded like a great idea now that it’s starting to feel like fall.  I found the recipe on the Deliciously Organic website http://deliciouslyorganic.net/pumpkin-whoopie-pies-with-maple-cream-cheese-frosting/ .  I have been waiting to make this because I couldn’t find maple sugar but when we made a trip to Pumpkinville in Ellicotville, NY a few weeks ago I hit up their maple stands.  Boy, maple sugar is expensive!  I bought the smallest one they had and it was still $5.  In this recipe, I used 1/4 cup maple sugar and 1/4 cup brown sugar plus I added about 2 tablespoons of real maple syrup in at the end to get the consistency I wanted.  They turned out well!  It was my first time using Sucanat and it wasn’t what I was expecting.  I have read about it and it is made directly from the sugar cane by crushing it.  It is then heated and paddled to create the Sucanat.  Since it still contains the natural molasses it is apparently a good brown sugar replacement.  I suppose, that is why I was expecting it to smell sweet like brown sugar.  I don’t think it smells sweet at all and it is made of rather large granules instead of the fine sugar I’m used to.

Granule Size

The size of the granules

Finished product

After the dogs got a spoonful of puree I still had some leftovers so I made pumpkin bread!

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp cloves
  • 1 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 cup hot water

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Beat together the oil  and honey then beat in the eggs.  Mix in the spices followed by the whole wheat pastry flour, until just combined.  To help the baking soda work mix it in the warm water first then add it into the mixture.  Pour into a greased and floured 9×5 loaf pan.  Bake for an hour or until when you dip a toothpick in the center it comes out clean.  Allow to cool for 5 minutes before removing it from the loaf pan to cool for another 30 minutes prior to cutting.

My aid in the kitchen, Kodiak.