Saturday, October 29, 2016

"Baby Cake"

For Breck's First Birthday, I wanted to find a recipe for a cake that had nutritious ingredients, no refined sugar, and that tasted great.  I scoured the internet for a recipe that I might fit and finally landed on this one (which that blogger adapted from this recipe).  I modified it slightly to make it gluten free!

I have made this recipe (sans frosting) 6 times since Breck's birthday because he loves it and WE love it!  It's a snack I feel good about serving to him, and I feel good about eating myself.  The birthday cake version inludes the cake recipe, frosting, and halved blueberries for the "one" on top.  But when I'm making it for every day eating, I just make the cake, minus the frosting!  Sometimes I add blueberries to the batter itself, which is also delicious.  The way Breck likes it most is straight from the freezer.  I cut the cake into small slivers and freeze it so that I can grab a chunk that he can hold and suck on and then eat.  It's great for teething babies who need something cold to soothe their mouths!  If you don't want to freeze it, it's also great refrigerated for up to a week.

I have only ever made this recipe using 2- 9 inch round cake pans, but I am sure you could adapt it to a 13x9 pan (and add some cooking time), or 2- 8 inch square pans.

I apologize for not having any pictures!  I have pictures of Breck with the cake that you can check out if you're friends with me on facebook, but I forgot to take any of just the cake itself!

Without further ado...

Baby's First Cake (barely adapted from FitMamaRealFood)

5 ripe bananas
1/2 c unsweetened applesauce- sit out for a bit so it's not cold!
3 T coconut oil, melted
3 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 c gluten free flour (I have used Bob's Red Mill All Purpose Baking Flour and Namaste Foods flour with success)
3/4 c oat flour
1 tsp cinnamon

8 oz cream cheese (I used full fat)
1/2 c apple butter
2 tsp vanilla
1 T maple syrup (optional- I liked it because it made the frosting a little less tangy)

halved blueberries to make the "one" on top if you're making a first birthday cake

Grease 2-9 inch round cake pans with coconut oil, then cut out parchment paper circles to fit the bottom of the pans and put the parchment in.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Mix bananas, applesauce, and melted coconut oil, and vanilla with hand blender til smooth (a few banana chunks are ok).  Add baking soda, gluten free flour, oat flour, and cinnamon and blend again til smooth.  Pour batter into pans, splitting it evenly between the pans the best you can!  At this point you can add fruit to the batter if you'd like!  (I have been adding frozen blueberries- just note that this will add some baking time).  Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the cake is no longer jiggly in the middle.

If you are NOT making a layer cake and do NOT want frosting, just let the cake cool and then cut into pieces.  If you are going to store it in the fridge, cut pieces as big as you want.  If you are freezing it, cut it into slivers of whatever size your baby can handle!

If you are making the layer cake and/or frosting your cake, continue reading!  To make the frosting, make sure your cream cheese is at room temperature.  With a hand mixer, blend it with the apple butter, vanilla, and maple syrup.  Mine was a little chunky but tasted delicious and Breck did not care one bit!  Supposedly using room temperature cream cheese helps with this problem but it didn't for me this time.

Let the cakes cool in the pans.  If you are making a layer cake, use a bowl of whatever size you'd like as a "cookie cutter" to cut out 3 circles for the layers.  Place the first layer on a flat surface lined with a piece of parchment paper that is bigger than the cake itself (this allows for easy transfer once you want to serve it to your baby).  You will have pieces leftover after cutting the circles- just break up the rest of the cake and refrigerate or freeze the scraps!  I ended up using letter cookie cutters to cut out the first initial of Breck's baby friends' names so that they could enjoy their own cake at the party!  Then I froze the remaining pieces.

Frost the first layer, place the second layer on top, frost that, place the third layer on top, and frost the whole thing, including the sides.  Decorate with halved blueberries in the shape of a "1."

I hope your little one enjoys it as much as mine did!

*This post is dedicated to my friend Megan, who let me bake the cake for Breck's party (along with a variety of other baked goods) in her oven because mine stopped working 2 days before his party!  Her son and Breck taste tested the cake fresh from the oven and both of them gobbled it up!

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

My "Go-To" Quick Meals!

Many of my recipes on this blog are for big batch dishes- recipes that I make at the beginning of the week and then we eat leftovers of throughout the week.  We love cooking like this because it makes packing lunches super easy and allows for quick dinner options!

But more often than not, for at LEAST one meal a day, I make one of these quick meals: Egg and Veggie Hash, or Loaded Salads, or Fried Rice.  Typically the Egg and Veggie Hash would be breakfast, Loaded Salad would be a lunch option, and the Fried Rice might be dinner.  There are practically limitless variations of each of these meals, and each one takes less than 10 minutes to assemble or cook!

The "recipes" below are for a single serving, but you could certainly double them for two people, or double them and save the leftovers for the next day!  "Formulas" like this (that give a rough guideline but can be customized to your preferences and what's in your fridge) are always very helpful to me, so I hope that by posting this I help somebody else out there!  Maybe reading this will spark a meal idea for you.  Maybe next time you're looking in the fridge wondering what to eat/what sounds good, one of these ideas will pop into your head!  Maybe you'll try one of my favorite hash, salad, or fried rice combos.  Or MAYBE you have some favorite combos of your own already, in which case I would LOVE it if you shared them in the comments! 

Use whatever ingredients you have on hand and that sounds good.  Think creatively!  Or find a tried and true favorite and just make that all the time (which is what I sometimes do for weeks at a time!).  Whatever suits you!  When I started making meals like these, I didn't go to the store and buy ingredients specifically for these meals, I just used whatever we had in the fridge, which was based on what looked good at the store, what was in season, what was on sale, or what Rem requested!  But once I discovered some combos I loved, I started making sure that my mainstays were always on my grocery list.

Experiment and figure out what tastes good to you and fills you up.  And enjoy every last bite!  

Egg and Veggie Hash

1. Prepare a NON-STICK skillet with about 1 tsp olive oil or vegetable oil, then start adding the goodies:
2. Saute 2-4 servings veggies (fresh OR frozen) of choice until veggies are cooked to your liking. *If using frozen veggies, I usually add about 1/4 c of water or broth to help steam them.
3. As they cook, season with salt, pepper, garlic powder.
4, Add eggs (I use 2) and scramble the whole mixture, stirring, scraping and flipping til the eggs are done.
5. Eat! (add salsa or other condiment of choice)
*sometimes I add leftover potato or sweet potato, grated raw potato (if using, saute this first along with veggies), or frozen hash browns (if using, brown in coconut oil/olive oil/butter before adding veggies).

Loaded Salad

Start with a LARGE bowl (or tupperware container, if you're packing a lunch!):
+ greens (ex. romaine, spinach, arugula, spring mix) OR zucchini noodles
+ 2-4 servings chopped raw veggies (ex. carrots, celery, peppers, cucumbers, red onion, zucchini noodles, mushrooms, green onion, snap peas, cabbage)
+ protein source (ex. I use 4-5 oz. leftover chicken, beef, pork, salmon, tuna, hard boiled eggs)
+ fat/dressing (ex. avocado, goat cheese, balsamic dressing, lemon/lime juice, salsa, hummus, homemade bbq sauce, homemade ketchup, homemade peanut sauce)
+ flavor/texture addition (ex. corn, roasted red peppers, banana peppers, jarred jalapenos or olives, raisins/craisins, diced dates, diced apple, crushed tortilla chips, roasted brussels sprouts/sweet potato/green beans/spaghetti squash/literally any vegetable..,, fresh herbs like cilantro or basil, chickpeas, black beans)

*Tip: I love the crunch of romaine in salads!  I like to buy whole heads of romaine and cut it myself- so much tastier and cheaper.  I actually cut it unwashed by slicing once vertically, then chopping it horizontally into 1/4-1/2 inch "strips."  Then I put it in a strainer which is inside another solid bowl to soak the lettuce, then I rinse it.  It takes very little time once you've done it once or twice!

Fried Rice

1. Prepare a NON-STICK skillet with about 1 tsp olive oil or vegetable oil, then start adding the goodies:
2. Saute 2-4 servings veggies (fresh OR frozen) of choice (1-2 c of veg) plus leftover rice (1/2-1 c rice) until veggies are cooked to your liking and rice is heated through. *If using frozen veggies, I usually add about 1/4 c of water or broth to help steam them.
3. Add coconut aminos teriyaki sauce and/or sriracha, plus salt, pepper, and garlic powder and saute 1 min more.
4. Add eggs (I use 2) and scramble the whole mixture, stirring, scraping and flipping til the eggs are done.
5. Eat! (add more coconut aminos or sriracha if you like)

Favorite Egg and Veggie Hashes:

frozen stir fry veggies (broccoli, pea pods, green beans, peppers, water chestnuts, mushrooms)
salt, pepper, garlic powder
2 eggs

grated potato
green onion, peppers, mushrooms
salt, pepper, garlic powder
2 eggs
paleo ketchup (*I like the one from It Starts With Food)

zucchini/squash, pea pods, green onion
sat, pepper, garlic powder
2 eggs

Favorite Loaded Salads:

raw red onion, mushrooms
balsamic dressing (equal parts balsamic and olive oil, plus a splash of orange juice, mustard powder, salt and pepper OR just plain balsamic vinegar)
diced apple

diced carrots, pea pods, and peppers
chicken or tuna
salsa and hummus

white balsamic vinegar or champagne vinegar
corn, pine nuts, dates, goat cheese

spinach/romaine mix
peppers, tomato, cucumber
leftover ground beef seasoned with salt, pepper, and garlic
avocado, lime juice, salt and pepper

peppers, mushrooms
ground beef
salsa, avocado
roasted spaghetti squash

red onion
balsamic vinegar
goat cheese, roasted green beans

Favorite Fried Rice:

broccoli slaw, red onion, peas, *diced pineapple (so good...), fresh cilantro
coconut aminos, salt, pepper, garlic
2 eggs
more coconut aminos, sriracha

Monday, October 10, 2016

Chicken Tortilla Soup

I think the best recipes I've ever created come from requests from Rem.  I am always asking him what sounds good to make because I work better within constraints- an ingredients, a cuisine, or even better, a specific dish.  This time he said Chicken Tortilla Soup sounded good, so I commenced my research and ended up with this warming, satisfying, perfect-for-fall soup.  

Chicken Tortilla Soup 

4 large chicken breasts
sprinkled with olive oil, cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, salt, and pepper
2 T olive oil
2 small red onions, chopped small
1/2 green pepper, diced small
1/2 red pepper, diced small
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp chili powder 
about 1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
3 cloves garlic (*I used freeze dried garlic that I buy at Kroger in the produce section- my favorite because I HATE cutting garlic.  I just estimate 3 cloves)
4 c (1 carton) chicken broth (*I used Simple Truth Organic broth, regular salted variety)
4 c water
28 oz. crushed tomatoes (*I used pomi brand in the carton)
1 small can green chiles
2 c frozen corn
15 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
2/3 c maseca (corn flour- *also bought at Kroger) 
+ enough milk or water to create a paste of sorts (you are going to drop this into the soup like dumplings)
1/4 c chopped cilantro
1/2 c sour cream (optional, but delicious- you could use cream, milk, or plain yogurt instead, the idea is to add some creaminess)
juice of 1 lime

Bake chicken in an oiled glass dish at 400 degrees for 45 minutes (that's what worked well in my oven), OR prepare chicken however you normally do!  Another option is to use rotisserie chicken or leftover chicken.  If you are baking the chicken, let it cool for a few minutes when done, then chop into bite-sized pieces.

In a large dutch oven or stock pot, saute onions and peppers in olive oil.  After about 5 minutes, add spices EXCEPT garlic and saute until the veggies smell great and getting soft (10 minutes or so).  Add garlic and saute 3 minutes more.  Next add broth, water, tomatoes, chiles, corn, beans, and the chopped chicken.  Bring the mixture to a boil, then turn down to a simmer.  At this point, stir together the maseca and water/milk by putting the maseca in a bowl, making a well, and then stirring while you add the water/milk until a thick paste forms and all of the flour is incorporated with the liquid.  Then drop by very small spoonfuls into the hot soup.  This will create dumplings of sorts!  Stir the dumplings around in the soup.  Simmer the soup for 20 min-1 hour.  The longer the simmer, the deeper the flavor, but ours was really delicious after only 20 minutes or so.  Once you've decided you're done simmering, take the soup off the heat and stir in the cilantro, sour cream, and lime juice.  Enjoy!  

Monday, October 3, 2016

Apple Butter Oat Bake

I think this might be the beginning of the more regular posts from me!  I am finding that I have so many new recipes that I want to share with the world, and I finally decided to just make some time to write a post today!  If anyone reading this has any recipes they're looking for, PLEASE let me know because I have a quite a backlog of recipes that I could post!  

Today's recipe is one that I made last week and plan to make again today because it was REALLY GOOD!  We go through phases of being very into oat bakes around here, and right now we are "into" them.  Such a delicious, quick snack or breakfast!  This latest rendition is really hitting the spot right now.  It's very firm- you could cut it into thick, soft bars if you wanted.  I like it cold, chopped/mashed up with almond milk poured over top.  Rem likes it heated up then topped with yogurt!  Either way, if you love oats and are looked for a way to change things up, TRY THIS!  

Apple Butter Oat Bake

1 cup apple butter, no sugar added (You can find this at many Farmer's Markets/Farm stores this time of year- we got ours at Lynd's Farm Market in Pataskala.  You could also make your own- I want to try this recipe soon!)
1 c whole, grass grazed milk (any type of milk would probably work)
2 eggs
3 cups old fashioned oats
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 large apple, diced
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg (optional)
1/4 tsp cardamom (optional)
1-2 T coconut sugar (could also use brown sugar)
1/4 c chopped pecans (or walnuts or sliced almonds)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease 8x11 in pan with coconut oil. (*an 8x8 or 13x9 pan would also work- just keep an eye on it and bake longer in the smaller pan, shorter in the larger pan).  Whisk together apple butter, milk, and eggs.  Stir in oats, baking powder, salt, apple, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardmom.  Pour into greased pan, then sprinkle coconut sugar and pecans on top.  Bake 30-35 minutes or until it no longer jiggles.  Let cool, cover, and refrigerate for up to a week (if it lasts that long).