Kitchen Experiments – Granola in a Crockpot

I am all about having the right tools in the kitchen to make life easier. When I counsel people on how to improve their diets a common complaint is “I just don’t have time to cook good meals!” My first response to this is: “what kind of tools do you have in your kitchen?” This makes all the difference in the world! I do not think that I could cook without my pressure cooker, rice cooker and crock pot. OK, I could, but it would take me a lot longer.

A few years ago I really wanted to use my crock pot more so I bought several cookbooks. Who knew you could make so many things using a crock pot. I was thinking soups, stews, meats, but granola?  I never would have thought!  Well, if you think that you do not have time to make homemade granola because you don’t have time to stand around the kitchen waiting to turn the granola every few minutes so it won’t burn – pull out your crock pot and give this a try!

It was so easy.  If you have a favorite granola recipe or something sitting on the back burner waiting for you to have time, pull it out and let’s get cooking!  Basically what I did was put my dry ingredients in a large bowl.  I used gluten-free oats, pumpkin seeds, coconut, black currants, and maple sugar.  The recipe also called for milk powder but since I can’t have milk products yet, I used brown rice protein powder instead to give it an extra boost.  The next step was to turn the crock pot on high and melt/heat the liquids for 30 minutes.  I did not have that much time so I decided to heat the liquids on the stove in a small pot.  I used agave syrup and 1/2 cup of oil, instead of 1 cup and used 1/2 cup of applesauce as well. Once it was heated through, I poured the liquids over the dry and mixed it until everything was coated.

granola

I did preheat the crock pot while I was preparing the ingredients.  I had it on high for maybe 15 minutes.  It seemed pretty hot when I added the oat mixture.  Here comes the easy part.  I cooked it on high for 1 1/2 hours with the lid off, stirring once every 30 minutes.  After the hour and a half, I turned the crock pot to low, placed the lid on it, and left it for 3 hours.  The recipe had said 4 hours but when I came home after 3, it seemed pretty well cooked.  I removed the lid for another 1/2 hour to cook off some of the moisture and then it was done!

cooked granolaI allowed it to cool and then placed it in an airtight container.  The next morning I had delicious granola with oat milk for breakfast!  Boy, that was easy!

Spring Time Recipes for the Wood Element

Spring is a time of growth, when the shoots that have been sleeping all winter, begin to awaken. In order for those shoots to survive, they must have within them the ability to bend and stay supple. Any rigidity in the plant will cause the new growth to break off and die. The wood element gives us the flexibility in life to grow, but if we hold on too tightly and become rigid, nothing happens. The liver and the gallbladder are the organs associated with the wood element. We must feed them the right food in order for them to stay in balance. In winter, our food was heavy and warm, in spring we begin to lighten up, and may even fast on occasion to get rid of the excess baggage of winter.

The color of wood is green as I mentioned earlier, the odor is rancid, the sound is shouting, the emotion is anger and the taste or flavor is sour. You may notice in spring, the tendency towards irritation in yourself or in others. Choosing the appropriate foods can help to lighten your moods. There still tends to be a chill in the air during this time of year and it is therefore still appropriate to eat mainly cooked foods. The heavy oils and nuts of winter are replaced with spring greens, sprouts and fresh herbs and spices. Quickly sautéing food or lightly steaming is the preferred method of cooking. Below you will find some recipes to help smooth the liver and aid in your personal spring growth.

Grilled Asparagus and Shitake over Pasta

*Depending on the variety, asparagus can be slightly warming in nature, with a bitter and mildly pungent flavor. It can help to reduce phlegm and mucus, which are often side effects of spring allergies. Shitake mushrooms strengthen, detoxify and restore. Another great addition to the diet if prone to allergies. The addition of the vinegar helps to energize liver meridian and aids in digestion.

1 1/2 Tbs. sesame oil
1 Tbs. fresh ginger
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper
3 cloves garlic
1 1/2-c. shitake mushrooms
1/4 c. rice vinegar
1/4 c. tamari
1/4 c. parsley
1/4 c. pineapple juice
1 1/2 Tbs. maple syrup
1 pound asparagus spears
4 cups cooked pasta

     Heat oil in non-stick skillet. Add ginger, pepper, and garlic. Cook 1 minute. Add mushrooms and cook for two minutes. Add vinegar, tamari, parsley, juice and maple syrup. Cook for 5 minutes and remove from heat.  Soak the asparagus in mushroom-vinegar for 5-10 minutes. Grill (or broil) the asparagus for 3 minutes. Place on pasta and top off with sauce.

Hummus

*Everyone has his or her own version of hummus. I like mine with lots of lemon and just a tad of garlic. Lemon is perfect for spring – with its sour flavor and acidic nature – it helps to support liver function. Parsley can also help to support the gallbladder by preventing gallstones.

2 c. chick peas
1-2 Tbs. tahini
1/2 tsp. salt
1/3 c. freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1-2 cloves garlic
1 tsp. olive oil
1/4 c. fresh parsley
1/4 c. cooking liquid from beans or water to desired consistency

     Place cooked chickpeas in food processor or blender with tahini, salt, lemon, garlic, and olive oil; blend until smooth. Add cooking liquid from beans or a little water to get desired consistency. It will store well in the refrigerator for at least one week.

Carrot Salad

*This salad is great as a starter to a meal. The carrots help to smooth the liver and the green apple aids in the cleansing of the liver and gallbladder and can help to soften gallstones.

1 clove garlic, minced                                     3 Tbs. minced fresh parsley
1/8 tsp. pepper                                                 3 large carrots, coarsely shredded
1 Tbs. lemon juice                                           2 Tbs. olive oil
1 green apple, chopped                                   1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard to dressing

     Combine dressing ingredients.  Add parsley and carrots. Mix well.

Detox Lemonade

*If you are feeling a little congested from the heavy winter foods, try a simple fast or add this detoxifying lemonade into your diet. Remember to lighten up on your foods at the same time for a more beneficial cleanse.

1 lemon, juiced
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 tsp. maple syrup or small amount of stevia
8 oz. water

            Mix above ingredients together and drink. Use as few or as many glasses per day as you want. Recommended dosage: one glass before each meal.

 

Kitchen Experiments – No Bake Nut Butter Cookies

So I was thinking one day about cookies.  What kind of cookie could I make on day 3 of my rotation diet when there are no eggs and the grain is millet?  Sometimes this Alcat diet presents some very critical problems!  Well, somehow I remembered that I had a recipe somewhere for some no-bake cookies, so I decided to take a look.

The recipe looked interesting but of course I could not have all of the ingredients that it called for so it was time to experiment.  Basically the no bake recipe included peanut butter, sugar and oats mixed together and then rolled into balls.  So, what could I do if I had millet instead of oats?

chocolate ballsI decided that I needed to have a nut butter cookie that included chocolate, so my first attempt was peanut butter, agave syrup, cocoa, puffed millet and shredded coconut.  They were very good but the texture was a little strange with the puffed millet.  I liked them but I forgot to write down how I made them.  Well, time for another try.

The coconut in the recipe inspired me to have a nut-butter cookie with cocoa and coconut.  This was a winner!

nut ballsPeanut butter was good, but I recently was able to add back in pistachios and cashews – so I pulled out the Vitamix and made some cashew-pistachio butter.  Yummy!  That is a good combination! I decided that the texture of the millet was too weird and instead just used the coconut.  I rolled them into balls and then rolled them in extra coconut.  You have got to try these.  They are so simple, but they are delicious! Here is the recipe:

2/3 c. nut butter

1/2 c. agave syrup

1/2 c. cocoa

1/2 c. coconut + extra for coating the outside of the balls

I mixed the nut butter with the syrup first, then added the cocoa and mixed it thoroughly.  I then added the coconut.  Roll them into balls and then roll the balls in the extra coconut.  Done!  Takes about 10 minutes and it makes about 25 balls depending on how large you make them.

Try them!  Use any nut butter you have on hand and substitute any liquid sugar you like, maple, brown rice, or even barley syrup.  Roll away and you will not be sorry!  A healthy snack to have at anytime!

Love is in the …

Fruit?  It is today!

heart

Have you ever used a dehydrator?  I had not either until recently.  I cannot say that I am hooked on dehydrating, but I am hooked on apple chips.  This lovely apple chip just came out of the dehydrator last evening.  Why am I hooked?  Well, personally I love dried fruit – practically any dried fruit!  Apples are so easy to make and within 12 hours of cutting them up, you have apple chips.  They are crunchy and sweet and a favorite snack.  My next batch I want to add cinnamon … I think that will be just delicious!

If you don’t have a dehydrator, you can do them in your oven.  Here’s how: Line a baking sheet with parchment and place slices of fruit on the sheet, making sure the pieces of fruit aren’t touching each other. Place trays of fruit into the oven and turn on the oven to 90°F to 150°F. Then just sit back and wait, as it will take many hours for the fruit to dry. Resist all urges to turn up the heat—you don’t want to cook the fruit, just dehydrate it.

Try it with all your fruit!  I bought some dried pineapple at Trader Joe’s and it was chewy and sweet.  I can’t wait to give it a try.  Stay tuned – I will let you know how it turns out!

Kitchen Experiment – Brown Rice Crispy Treats

When I went to school for my masters in nutrition at Bastyr University in Seattle, Washington, I had a great teacher for the class “Cooking with Whole Foods.” It was probably my favorite class out of all the classes that I took because we actually cooked in the class.  It was in this class that I finally learned how to hold a knife to chop vegetables.  It is also where I first had the inspiration to try new recipes and to makeup new ones based on the food I found in the kitchen.  Cynthia Lair was the teacher and when we graduated she published her first cookbook called “Feeding the Whole Family.”  This was and still is one of my most used cookbooks on the shelf.  What I love about this cookbook is that all of the recipes are simple but delicious.

One of these recipes is just what I was looking for when I had a hankering for something sweet. It is not always easy to use an existing recipe because of the limitations of our current rotation diet which is based upon the ALCAT results from our food intolerance testing.  Luckily, I remembered this recipe from Cynthia Lair’s cookbook and couldn’t wait to adapt it to my needs.

rice crispy treats

Brown Rice Crispy Treats.  This is the healthy version of rice crispy treats made without the marshmallows and refined sugar and instead uses brown rice syrup, nut butter and a little oil.  You can add what you like to the recipe to suit your needs and taste.  For my recipe, I substituted sunflower oil for the sesame oil, I used hazelnut and sunflower seed butter that I made in my Vitamix and added sunflower seeds, raisins and cranberries.  These treats are just sweet enough and really hit the spot.

Check out the recipe at the link above and if you are looking for a great cookbook, check out “Feeding the Whole Family” by Cynthia Lair!

Kitchen Experiments – Stuffed Zucchini

It was millet day again on the Alcat Rotation Diet and I was once again trying to find something new to make.  Millet day also includes zucchini, butternut squash and cannelini beans.  I thought about what I could do differently and then I remembered seeing a recipe in a magazine once of stuffed zucchini made with the whole scooped out zucchini instead of the typical halved and scooped out zucchini.  I thought I should give it a try.

For ease sake, I cut the zucchini into 3 pieces and then used a melon baller to scoop out the flesh.  I put the zucchini in a pan with some coconut oil and cooked it over medium heat.  I added some thyme and some frozen butternut squash cubes and let it cook until the zucchini was soft.  I added the cannelini beans at the end and also cooked leftover millet.  Basically, I made a stuffing using the vegetables and millet.

I placed the zucchini open side up in an 8″x8″ pan that I sprayed with oil. I stuffed the zucchini with the millet stuffing mixture and covered the pan with foil.  I baked it in the oven at 375°F for 30 minutes.

stuffed zucchini I was pleasantly surprised to find that this was a very tasty dish and that it froze really well.  I just had leftovers last night for dinner and it was just as good the second time around.  I will be putting this on the menu for this summer when I have an abundance of zucchini growing in my garden!

Eat well!

Kitchen Experiments – Millet Roti

I have been sitting on this recipe for about 3 months, afraid to try it because it just looked like it would take a long time to make.  Then a lovely lady named Nafisa came to the office and we got talking about my restricted menu since starting the Alcat diet and how we are always looking for new recipes to try with the grains that we can eat, like millet.  She said that as part of her diet, she makes a millet flat bread every week for her husband and she would be happy to teach me.  Her idea reminded me that I had this recipe for a millet flatbread tucked away waiting to be made. She inspired me to pull out the recipe again and take a look!

Well, she was right!  It was really not that complicated, though it is time-consuming!  Basically you take millet flour, or in my case fresh ground millet, and you place it in boiling water for just 2 minutes and then let it sit.  After it sits, you mix the millet and the water to form a soft dough.  It really is surprising how easily it pulls together into a soft ball.  After allowing it to cool, you take it and form it into balls.

roti ballsThe recipe suggested that you roll the balls between the sheets of a cut plastic bag but I used a bottom sheet of wax paper and a small rolling-pin and rolled them flat.  It was pretty simple.

rolled rotiTo cook the roti, I used a cast iron skillet sprayed lightly with olive oil.  I wish that I would have had something bigger so that I could have done more than 1 roti at a time because it did take a long time to cook them individually.  Now, I have made pita before so I was familiar with the cooking technique, but if this is your first time trying a flat bread, don’t be discouraged; it really is an art to get them to puff. Most of mine did not fully puff though I did get a few.

puffed rotiThe cookbook Flatbreads and Flavors describes the technique really well in their pita bread recipe.  This is a beautiful cookbook for anyone interested in making some fabulous breads!

  flatbreads-flavors-jeffrey-alford-hardcover-cover-art

Basically the technique is all in the flipping!  Flipping early and often in the beginning for some reason allows the bread to puff.  Well, puffed or not, the roti was delicious.  I slathered mine with ghee and ate it hot out of the pan.

I hope you won’t be intimidated like me and not try this roti millet flatbbread because it was well worth the effort!  And it froze beautifully so you might as well make a double batch!

Click here for the recipe!

Kitchen Experiments – Easter Bread

Well, it was a busy weekend of cooking and preparing some of the Italian traditional foods that we eat every Easter. It has been my “job” the last several years to make Easter Bread. The traditional recipe uses lots of eggs and candied fruit but most of the family does not like the candied versions so this year I made it using white raisins and dried cranberries. It took forever to rise! You make the bread first and let it rise without fruit. That took about 3 hours. Then you punch it down and knead in the fruit and let it rise again. That took about another 3 hours! Then I punched it down again and placed it in the well-greased pans to rise the third and final time. Maybe the 3 times has something to do with Jesus rising on the 3rd day? Interesting thought.

After the final rise – about another hour, into the hot oven it went! Well, this year was a good one. Check this out!

easter bread

Aren’t they beautiful!  I was so happy they turned out so well.  I was only able to eat a small piece because of the intolerance to wheat, but it was delicious.  I made a gluten-free variety as well, but forgot to take a photo of that bread.  It was pretty tasty as well! Hope you had a good Easter with some delicious food of your own!

Kitchen Experiments – Lentil Loaf with Gravy

Well, it was another day 2 in the ALCAT diet plan and I did not know what to make again.  Some days are harder than others.  While I do eat meat, more than once a week is tough for me.  We had turkey the night before and so I was not in the mood for chicken.  So what to make?  Then it came to me!  I had thought about it a few weeks ago and then forgot again – Lentil Loaf!

I used to make it on occasion and I would use lentils, vegetables, oats, soy or rice cheese, and bind it all together with eggs.  Well, I was in luck because almost all of those things were on my day 2 list.  So, I cooked up my lentils with water and oregano and then I let them cool.  I sautéed scallions, celery and beet greens and then added them to the lentils.  I used some gluten-free oats like I would use breadcrumbs, and then I added some vegan soy cheese mozzarella style and then bound it all up with eggs!  I mixed it until it was all nice and moist and placed it in an 8’x8′ pan and popped it in the oven at 375.   I would often put it in a bread pan but I did not have as much time to let it cook so the 8″x8″ pan allowed it to cook much more quickly. I would say it was cooked in about 35 to 40 minutes.

While it was cooking, I took a little olive oil and put it in a small sauce pan.  I ground up some oats to make oat flour and added that to the pan as well. I cooked it over medium heat just for a minute to make a roux and then slowly added my chicken broth.  I cooked it over medium heat for several minutes until it began to thicken and there I had my chicken gravy!

lentil loafI sliced up some lentil loaf put it on the plate and topped it with the chicken gravy!  I must say it was another delicious meal!  I will remember this one the next time day 2 rolls around and I don’t know what to make!

Kitchen Experiments – Pumpkin Pie

Well, maybe calling it a pumpkin pie is a little bit of a stretch. Could we call it a pumpkin crisp since it only had a topping and not a bottom crust?

So once again a typical recipe for pumpkin pie/crisp could not be followed since the Alcat diet plan has us following a 4-day rotation diet.  I am really becoming quite accustomed to substituting ingredients or to just winging it and seeing what happens.  Well, like any good experiment – some work and some don’t!

pumpkin pieIt doesn’t look so bad right?  Actually the taste was pretty good, but honestly the texture was a little funky.  What went wrong?  Well, I will admit that I was in a rush and being lazy and I didn’t want to wash my vitamix, so I mixed it by hand in a bowl. I used some frozen pumpkin that I had cooked up at the end of the fall season and you can really see the difference – look how bright orange the color is in the filling!  When I froze it, I only scraped it out of the shell and did not puree it, so it was not very smooth.  Secondly, I can only eat egg yolks and not egg whites so I used the egg yolks but did not put in an egg white substitute.  I think the filling just did not bind up as well as it would have if I would have added some arrowroot flour to replace the egg white.  I used oat milk and sugar and spices and the filling was tasty if not perfect.

The topping was great!  I left a little of the pumpkin mixture in the bowl for some moisture and then added gluten-free oats, gluten-free oat flour, sugar, spices and a little olive oil and made a crumble.  I put that on top of the pumpkin puree and voila,  Pumpkin crisp! Maybe not perfect, but certainly delicious!

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