Fall Grilling

Despite my lack of enthusiasm for the changing season, I enjoyed my evening grilling experience. It just felt different now that it’s Fall. The sun was shining but not in a hot summery way. There was a slight breeze but it was calm. And my girls were in and out taking their art time outside. Early Fall grilling is refreshing.

Isabelle lost another tooth this week (that makes 7!). Her missing tooth has led to a lot of conversations about eating corn on the cob and the difficulties involved with that. Cob corn, as Lexi calls it, is a favorite which is why they were talking about it. Little did they know I had bought some corn on the cob to grill this weekend. So we had the opportunity to see how Isabelle managed (read: corn all over her face).

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In addition to corn on the cob, I grilled green beans (I’m obsessed!) and veggie burgers. We had our burgers on lettuce with some Korean cucumbers (they are fermented instead of pickled) and tomatoes.

For dessert I grilled some sweet potatoes and then mashed them up to make this sweet potato and apple nut crumble. A great Fall dessert!

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The dish boasts sweet potato, apples, walnuts, and plenty of cinnamon.

Today has changed my mind about the new season. Maybe Fall won’t be so bad.

Rainy Days and Cookies

Something about very rainy days makes me want to bake cookies. This is a problem since I live in the Pacific Northwest where we get a lot of rainy days. My cookie baking urge hits often but the family never seems to mind. My freezer, however, is filled with random amounts of frozen cookie dough from past batches. When it’s rainy and the baking urge hits I don’t want to pull cookies out of the freezer to cook. I want to mix up the dough and form them into little balls and then bake, no shortcuts! I should clarify that for the most part those frozen cookie dough pieces do eventually get eaten.

Since the first day of Falll we’ve been getting some considerable rainy periods and I’ve been itching to make some cookies. I knew just the cookie I was going to make. When Isabelle bought school lunch on Tuesday her menu said she would get a Ranger Cookie with her meal. Curious, since I’d never had a Ranger Cookie, I asked her about it on our walk home. She told me that it was a pretty regular cookie with cinnamon. Hmmm…that didn’t sound very ranger like to me. So this whole scene unfolded with me looking up Ranger Cookie recipes and images and showing them to her to see if that is what she ate. Brian thought I was crazy as I showed her image after image but I was just so curious about them and wanted to know what it was like. She assured me, as I was listing off the typical Ranger Cookie ingredients, that none of those things were in her cookie. What?! Eventually, we concluded (through more research and image searching) that what she ate must have been a snickerdoodle. Well, she’s never had a snickerdoodle either so it was not a cookie she could identify. Now, she can (maybe?).

So if you’ve never had a Ranger Cookie either let me give you the highlights. Ranger Cookies have all the makings of your basic cookie recipe with the addition of oats, shredded coconut, and crispy rice cereal. Those are the key ingredients I found in my searching. Some people add chocolate chips, some nuts but they all had the oats, coconut, and crispy rice cereal.

Now for my version. Even though none of us has eaten a regular Ranger Cookie I was not going to make a sugary and flour filled cookie just for the sake of trying them. We could get the idea of a Ranger Cookie even if it is gluten-free and honey sweetened. I adapted my favorite trail mix cookie recipe to substitute some of the nut and seed ingredients with the must have Ranger Cookie ingredients and added chocolate chips because you just can’t go wrong with that.

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Ranger Cookies are good! They are a perfect match for my family since they love oats, coconut, and crispy rice cereal (and chocolate chips, but that probably doesn’t need to be specified). And I got to make the mysterious Ranger Cookies and fulfill my rainy day baking urge. Based on the family’s response to the cookies, the Ranger Cookie dough in the freezer will likely get used sooner rather than later, no worries there.

What’s for Lunch – School Lunchbox Edition

At the start of school Brian and I decided that one day a month Isabelle could buy lunch at school. We wanted to let her have the experience and once a month seems sufficient but not overly so. We looked at the menu for the month and she chose which day she would like to buy school lunch. Her choice for the month of September came this week. She chose beef taco salad as the one. As you can imagine she was ecstatic when the day came. So cute with her little baggy full of money and filled with excitement that morning. After school she gave me the rundown of what lunch was like. It was not what she expected. Since she choose beef taco salad she expected to be getting a salad with beef flavored like tacos. Instead she got a pile of chips “with hardly any lettuce” and beef and cheese on top. Don’t get me wrong she still ate it and thought it was good but it was not the salad she hoped for. Now, we know for next time. =)

Her brought from home lunches recently have consisted of the following:

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Turkey and mozzarella lettuce sandwiches, cauliflower, and peaches.

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Pickles and olives, bean and lentil mixed veggie salad, and apple slices.

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Green bean spaghetti, watermelon, walnut trail mix (with candy corn pieces!).

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Yellow lentils and millet (warmed), salad, and a banana.

Since these are all prepped and in the fridge a few at a time it’s fun to see what she feels like for lunch on any given day. I’m always surprised by her choices.

I must say I’d love it if my lunch choices were so put together. If I got to grab a hand-made with love lunch each day from the fridge I’d be pretty happy. Especially, compared to the rushed chopping and throwing together that usually happens to my daily lunch salad. Although, I am pretty lucky that I eat lunch at home with my best Lexi each day so there is that. And her lunches usually mirror Izzy’s lunch so hers are not as rushed to put together.

Side note: Isabelle has told me she gets to explain her lunch to the kids seated around her since most of the kids are used to seeing sandwiches and lunchables. So far, she doesn’t seem too concerned that her lunch is very different because she loves them. How do I keep her my confidant and well-adjusted six-year-old?! Not looking forward to when other people’s opinions affect her.

First Day of Fall

Today is the day. The girls have been watching the calendar and waiting for the arrival of fall. I’m not sure why, I’m still not ready for summer to be over! But alas, fall has arrived and it did so with the typical rain. In my attempt to hang onto summer for as long as possible I have held off on making any sort of pumpkin flavored dishes until the actual start of fall.

To celebrate the arrival of the new season I made the girls pumpkin pancakes for breakfast. Not just pumpkin flavored pancakes, pumpkin shaped as well (or roughly pumpkin shaped, ha!). I used this almond flour pumpkin pancake recipe to keep them grain-free.

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We’ve changed our breakfast routine around here because of school and preschool schedules. The girls come downstairs when they wake up and serve themselves small 1/2 cup bowls of cereal. Then later in the morning I’d make the three of us an actual breakfast around nine or so and then we wouldn’t have anything more until lunchtime at noon. This worked well for our family since the three of us would be home all together in the morning and allowed us time to sit down together to start the day. Also, since we’d had a substantial breakfast at 9 am there was no need for additional snacking until lunch time. Now that we are on the go in the mornings between getting Isabelle to school and then Lexi to preschool all during our usual breakfast time we’ve had to adjust. We totally don’t have it figured out yet and are making little tweaks to make breakfast work for us. At first we were letting Isabelle have additional cereal and the fruit we normally would have at 9 with her cereal. But then Lexi started school and the schedule changed again. Giving them even more cereal in the morning was not the solution. At least not one that I felt good about. I’d like them to not eat the cereal at all but it is something they enjoy since they get to do it all themselves (they grab their small containers, cereal bowls, spoons, and small containers with milk in them and pour everything into the bowl).

Numerous times last year I’d ask Isabelle if I could make her an actual breakfast instead of having cereal and the answer was always no. They love the independence. So we compromised. They get a small bowl of cereal on school mornings and then I make them a small breakfast with some fruit next to it that they eat shortly after cereal. All this means I have to adjust my own breakfast ritual to accommodate theirs. Now I’m attempting to eat my substantial breakfast bright and early instead of at the later 9 am. Which is hard for me! I’m hungry in the morning but prefer a small holdover snack of fruit until a little later on. It’s all an adjustment.

To keep the fall theme going I made the girls caramel apple bites for snack. Now that Isabelle is not getting a snack provided by someone else (and filled with sugar and grains) at school we can have the occasional after school treat (wish I could say the same about Lexi). For the past few years now I’ve made this caramel recipe for our fall apples. The caramel is made of heavy cream and honey. Yep, that’s basically it! Obviously since it’s made of honey and cream the taste is more honey like than sugar syrup like but it does set up and get firm like the standard caramel recipes. I just love that this recipe is so simple and made with stuff you would regularly find in my house.

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Caramel apples aren’t complete without the fun little add-on toppers. I used some chopped peanuts and mini chocolate chips, coconut, M&Ms, and peanut butter M&Ms (because those were my favorite to get at the Fair). My attempt to make these more bite size than whole apple wasn’t a complete win since I chopped the apples into thirds and attempted to dip them this way. They dipped ok but the caramel doesn’t stick to the inside of the apple as well as to the peel while they are setting. So we used a spoon to scoop up the remaining caramel to eat with our apples bites or just eat on its own (yep that also happened).

Happy Fall!

 

 

Double Dinner Bowls

I’ve got some dinner winners! Both are vegetable bowls with very distinct flavor differences. Veggie bowls are just so good and the easiest way to pack a variety of vegetables into dinner. And did I mention they are easy? Yes, yes I did. Brian is out of town for work this week which means I’m less inspired to make complicated dinners that the kids won’t appreciate any more than a simple dinner. At least if both Brian and I are eating dinner we can really appreciate all the work that goes into a more complicated dinner. The girls will either like or dislike no matter how much time I’ve spent making an awesome dinner.

Dinner number 1 is yellow pea dahl. This is one I’ve tried on the girls before and not had great reviews from them. This time around I didn’t add any of the Indian style spices but did a little maple syrup to sweeten the dahl slightly (well for them, mine was filled with all the spices: cumin, turmeric, curry powder, chili powder, etc.). These kinds of dishes are among my favorite. The flavors and the yellow peas are just a great combo.

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I served the dahl with millet and mixed veggies. This time around the yellow pea dahl was well received by the kiddos.

Dinner number 2 is broccoli noodle bowl with homemade teriyaki sauce. Isabelle said, “I feel like we’ve had this before.” Yep! It is one of my newer go-to recipes. The combination of the broccoli and the homemade teriyaki sauce is something I find myself craving frequently, not to mention the carrot “noodles”. I’m a huge huge broccoli addict. Raw, steamed, stir-fried, roasted I love it all the ways. In fact, I just realized since I’ve had a steady supply of fresh broccoli for a few weeks now I’ve eaten broccoli almost daily. Sometimes I have to remind myself to eat something besides broccoli since it’s what’s for dinner later!

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For the girls I do add a small amount of Korean sweet potato noodles to make this an actual noodle bowl for them. For me I, as usual, serve it all over a bed of greens with more teriyaki sauce. There is also some onion, garlic, edamame ,and celery cooked with the broccoli in the teriyaki sauce. Love that I get to eat this for breakfast! Broccoli for breakfast, way to start the day!

Back to School Celebration, Round 2?!

Lexi started pre-k today. She has been very excited to head back to school and patiently waited her turn as she counts down the days and continuously asks when she gets to go. Since we had a special family dinner and dessert last week to kick off back to school, Brian and I decided we would go out to dinner the night of Lexi’s first day of school (also we had a Groupon that was going to expire soon!) to make that day special for her too. We had planned this out weeks ago. Our celebration last week was not intended for just Isabelle but for everyone as a kick off to the school season. Lexi didn’t see it that way I guess. Wouldn’t you know the day before Lexi starts school she provides me with her special dinner and dessert requests for her first day back to school. This was all completely unprompted.

She said she would like lasagna and ice cream cake. Funny enough for dinner that very night I had originally planned on making eggplant and zucchini lasagna but then decided it was too much work and was going to simplify dinner. After she informed she would like lasagna I figured I’d just go for it and we’d have the lasagna a night early and keep our original plan to have dinner out. That meant we had to tell her about our surprise dinner plans for the following night. That girl loves going out to eat so she was not disappointed about having lasagna a day early.

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The eggplant zucchini lasagna is based of this recipe. The eggplant and zucchini is roasted beforehand and then I covered them with, basically, a black bean hummus and some homemade spaghetti sauce with added lentils. For the girls I added a small amount of mozzarella to at least make it seem somewhat lasagna like in honor of Lexi. What better to eat with lasagna than side salads!

Now that we had our lasagna bases covered, Lexi was concerned with her special dessert. She had very specific ideas of what this ice cream cake would entail. I, however, could not fathom making another cake even if it was ice cream cake. I hadn’t planned on making any sort of dessert after a dinner out. But I took her request to heart (after all, it is her first day of school and she does get short-changed a lot being the youngest) and made homemade strawberry ice cream and chocolate chunk cookies. Then I sandwiched the delicious ice cream into the cookies to make chocolate chunk cookie strawberry ice cream sandwiches.

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As yummy as these were I almost didn’t get away with it! Lexi was excited about cookies and ice cream but bummed that there was no cake. We talked it over and she decided that the cookies and ice cream were acceptable. Thank goodness! It’s not as if I didn’t feed her cake just the day before. I’m helping a friend make a cake for a wedding reception so I had to try out a coconut cake recipe. Cake experimentation equals taste testing for the family. Turns out coconut cake is pretty darn good. I tested out this recipe, in mini cake tins. We decided that the cake with a little coconut flakes mixed into the batter yields lighter fluffier cake (in case you ever make a coconut cake) so this is the version I’ll be making for the large cake.

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The frosting was a light and fluffy and coconut flavored and topped with toasted unsweetened shredded coconut. I’m not typically a fan of coconut but the lightness of this had me wanting to keep taste testing (if only I wouldn’t have a headache later).

All said and done Lexi enjoyed her first day back to school and her special dinner and dessert, even if it was slightly different from she had asked for. Plus, as a consolation I will be making more cake in just a couple of days for the actual reception so she will have plenty of taste testing, beater eating opportunities.

Beet Salad and Burgers

I’ve gotten the girls hooked on beets. They will eat them raw or cooked. The other night I steamed them slightly and put them in salads with roasted almonds and kale. For dressing we used a slightly sweet cinnamon apple dressing. Mmmm! The tartness from the kale and the flavor of the beets married so well with the dressing. We also used the last bit of black bean spaghetti and pasta sauce.

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That night we got to go see Lexi’s pre-k class so this dinner had to come together very quickly. It’s hard to not give into the temptation to just eat out on a night like that. In the long run, though, it’s faster and better to just bite the bullet and pull some home cooking together.

I did some super grilling over the weekend. We had all sorts of veggies that I wanted to grill: green beans, chard, and a variety of summer squash. Little Miss Lex was excited about the prospect of grilling and asked for burgers. Personally, I didn’t care about the burgers but she was really excited so I figured making a few turkey burgers for her would be worth it. Yep! She loved it! And we all loved the grilled veggies! I put mine in a bowl with a little Dijon mustard and olive oil and was just as happy with only veggies as Lexi was about her burgers.

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While I was grilling I made an additional dinner of tofujitas. I grilled the peppers and onions with some yellow squash. The tofu was grilled covered in salsa with added cumin and chilli powder. The next day I was so thankful I had grilled dinner and have very little prep to do. I was exhausted from getting ready for the week! Shopping and making lunches for Isabelle and figuring out school snacks for the week, etc.

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Tofujitas are so satisfying. We topped them with green olives, radishes, a little bit of cheese, and jalapeño. Like I said I was worn out from the day and could barely put in the effort to steam some corn and peas as a side dish.

This week is making me nervous since I’m already so tired and it has barely started! There is a lot to do this week! Hoping my hard work early in the week will pay great dividends at the end of the week. Happy Monday!

Football Food

Football season has officially begun (Go Seahawks!). Football season equals football food. And football food is man food, so not health food. Bummer, I’ve forgotten how football season takes over my kitchen as well. Eventually it seems like we are just trying to recover from one game day to the next. However, our football eats are far better than what it could be. Hummus is a must which means there are plenty of dipping veggies, chips and salsa usually make an appearance, and we rotate through some other food items: nachos, chili, hot dogs, etc.

Tonight’s kickoff game was a big deal. Super bowl champion Seahawks versus my dad’s favorite team, the Packers. We invited my dad over to watch the game and have dinner. Some football food was warranted. My family missed chili when we didn’t have any camping so we decided the football game was a perfect excuse to have chili and baked potatoes. In honor of football I didn’t amp up the health factor in this chili. I left it pretty regular (shhhh, there was a little flax in there!) and even added in a little ground turkey. Normally, I throw all sorts of greens into the chili and make it meat free.

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We up the yum factor by topping the chili with a little cheese, crushed tortilla chips, and plain yogurt. Lexi has declared chili as her favorite food so she was excited for this dinner all day. And despite the fact that she snacked on a ton of stuff at the start of the game she polished off her bowl of chili.

Even though everyone was full from the early game spread and the chili, we ate a little bit of leftover piecaken. I don’t know if it was just me or I didn’t remember how good it was last night but I felt like it was even better tonight. The flavors came through even more, something to keep in mind for next time.

Tonight was a great start to the football season! A good game, good company, and good food. I am happy, though, that tomorrow I will be serving a big salad to everyone. =)

 

 

First Day of School Celebration

We’ve started a back to school tradition at our house a few years ago. On the first day back to school we make a special dinner and dessert of the girl’s choosing and give them little gifts to celebrate. Dinner was an easy pick for them: spaghetti with noodles. I’m not sure what the spaghetti kick is about recently but I feel like it’s made a frequent appearance on the menu. I also love that they specified noodles. We had some black bean spaghetti in the pantry so I happily obliged. Like the mung bean fettucine, the noodles were made of just black beans and water, grain-free spaghetti! Dessert was more of a challenge. They couldn’t agree. Izzy wanted pie, Lexi wanted cake. Neither was budging on this one. So, we put our hands together. Pie, good; cake, good. Let’s put them together!

Now, this is not at all my idea. The piecaken has been making its round on the internet for a while. Basically, you take a pie and bake it inside a cake so that you have what appears to be a cake on the outside but it is stuffed with pie! Mind blowing, right? When I did some searching for the piecaken I couldn’t find anything that was refined sugar-free and not filled with regular flour. Maybe people who don’t eat sugar or flour don’t make piecakens. But I do! Can you imagine what would happen to my family if I had made the regular piecaken?! I mean it’s pie inside a cake! If that doesn’t sound like tummyaches I don’t know what does.

I let the girls choose the flavors of each element. So we have apple pie:

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I can’t say this is grain-free because the crust has oat flour in it. The crust is made primarily of oat flour and walnuts. And the crumble is my standard crisp topping made with peanuts, walnuts, honey, and coconut oil.

The cake is chocolate cake. I used the recipe from the Wheat Belly cookbook. The cake is made of almond flour, coconut flour, and flaxseeds. No grains there! Honey is the sweetener in this cake. It’s the same recipe as I used for my birthday cake except that it’s chocolate.

Once you have baked the pie you put down a little cake mix and slap that pie right on top.

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Then, you top the pie with the rest of the cake mix so that the cake bakes around the pie.

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This baby was heavy! Each time I picked it up I was shocked by how heavy it was. Due to the density of the piecaken I used a whipped cream frosting to add some lightness.

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And the verdict of our gluten-free, refined sugar-free piecaken:

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So good! The apple pie kind of melts into the cake to create a moist delicious filling. And we all really liked the chocolate cake itself. The frosting was perfect, light and airy. Our better-for-you version of the piecaken was a success. And we have a lot leftover; small pieces are all you can handle.

This post really wasn’t supposed to be a step by step for piecaken but I was so excited about how it turned out especially after not being able to find much out on the internet for a healthier version. It can be done, my friends. And it can be done well!

Before we ate piecaken I did make spaghetti out of the black bean noodles and I made some zucchini noodles. Due to the special occasion I homemade the spaghetti sauce. The recipe was from the Oh She Glows cookbook and is a mushroom spaghetti sauce. That cookbook does not let me down and the sauce came out fabulous. I love pesto so I made a small batch of pesto to go on top of the red sauce (dairy-free by subbing out the cheese for salt and a little nutritional yeast).

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Spaghetti and side salads, a match made in heaven! Another back to school celebration night in the books. As you can guess, the star of the celebration was the piecaken. Good thing for leftovers!