Friday, February 11, 2011

Pork Chops and Root Veggie Mash

We didn't have pork chops in our house when I was growing up, so this is a food that is still new to me. I have found it easy to overcook and make tough. But then I was introduced to cooking it in the pressure cooker -- and, voila! Perfect pork chops every time. As an added bonus, I've created a recipe that produces one of your side dishes at the same time, and infuses it with the pork juices. It's an easy weekday dinner that is ready in a jiffy. I add steamed kale or a salad to round out the meal.
  • 4 1-inch thick pork chops
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • salt, pepper, and seaweed salt replacer (if you have it)
  • 2/3 cup chicken stock
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine (or 1/3 cup more chicken stock if you prefer)
  • 2 medium yellow potatoes, peeled and cut 1/8-inch thick
  • 1 large sweet potato (equivalent to 2 medium potatoes), peeled and cut 1/8-inch thick
  • 3 carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/2 onion, chopped or sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, quartered
  1. Heat oil in pressure cooker over medium-high heat. Add pork chops and season with salt, pepper and seaweed salt replacer. Brown both sides, then remove from pan.
  2. Add stock and wine to pressure cooker and scrape loose any browned pork bits.
  3. Add veggies and garlic, then top with browned pork chops.
  4. Close lid and bring cooker to full pressure according to your cooker's instructions.
  5. Cook at 15 psi for 10 minutes, then release pressure.
  6. Remove pork chops to plates to serve. Mash remaining ingredients together and taste to see if more seasoning is needed (I usually don't need to add anything).
Note that if your pork chops are not 1-inch thick you will need to adjust the cooking time. You can experiment with other vegetables in this dish -- parsnips give it a whole different flavour!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Breakfast Birthday Party

A year ago if you had asked me about hosting a breakfast-themed party, I would have said "no way!". Breakfast can be a difficult meal for people with allergies, especially when making food for a crowd. But when Little Man was recently asked what food we should serve at his birthday, he replied "waffles and bacon". That sounds like the makings of a breakfast party to me!

Here's what we served for our party of nine people:

The cake was our first one that wasn't white (we don't use food colouring). The pink icing (I was going for purple) was coloured and flavoured by crushing raspberries and blueberries through a fine mesh sieve and adding the juice to the icing. The brown icing had molasses added to it. I made the cake in 2 8-inch round cake pans and cut them to form the car shape. The '3' was made of raisins.

*Blueberry sauce:
  • 2 cups blueberries
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 Tbsp maple syrup
  1. Combine all in small saucepan. Cook at medium-low heat for 15 minutes, until sauce thickens a little.
The party was a big success and all the food was a hit. Our 3-year-old was very pleased with his special party.  And when it was all over, he predictably asked "Can I have more cake please?".

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Cookbook Review: Allergy Free Cookbook for the Family

Allergy Free Cookbook for the Family by Brianna Monson is a charming little book that delivers what it advertises: family-friendly food that is free of allergens. The recipes in this book are simple, quick and budget-conscious. They are foods that are likely to appeal to children. The author is a mother of a child with life-threatening food allergies, and her personal experience with this challenge is apparent throughout the book. Each recipe has a little note about it being her childhood favourite to bake with her grandmother, a dish she serves to her inlaws, or a weekly meal at her house. I like this little personal touch that lets you know these are enjoyed so much by her family.

Some of the recipes that most interested me included:
  • Breakfast burritos
  • Country hash browns
  • Sugar cookies
  • Pie crust
  • Apple crisp
  • Graham crackers
  • Raspberry pie
  • Meatballs
  • White sauce
  • Honey ham
  • Croutons
  • Ham and bean soup
  • Kale soup
The ingredients are not whole-foods conscious, which is the usual fare at our house. There is plenty of refined sugar, corn starch and corn syrup throughout the book. I simply made the recipes with replacements such as natural cane sugar or agave, tapioca or arrowroot flour, and rice syrup. For most people just venturing into the world of allergies, the ingredients in the book are likely familiar to them and easily obtainable. I also found that the baking recipes call for way more sugar than we usually use. For instance, the banana bread and muffins call for 3/4 cup of sugar, where my recipe (using the same amount of flour) calls for 1/8 cup. But in spite of this, I still like this book and have enjoyed several recipes from it, applying changes as needed for our lifestyle.

I had success with each recipe that I tried, but the one that was the biggest success was the sugar cookie recipe. They were delicious and tasted like a wheat and butter filled cookie. They flew off the cookie sheet as everyone wanted seconds (and thirds...). I followed the recipe faithfully, including all that sugar. They were wonderful for a special occasion treat, not something that we could eat every day.

This book uses rice flour, potato flour and tapioca starch for most recipes that include starch, with the occasional recipe requesting oat flour or cornstarch. Ener-G egg replacer is recommended as a substitute for eggs. Dairy-free margarine is used frequently, and sometimes shortening is used as well. A few of the recipes call for oats, oat flour, and soy-based cream cheese; we do not use these due to an allergy, so I avoided those recipes. The book advertises that "most" recipes are free of milk, eggs, peanuts, tree nuts, wheat, fish and shellfish. As far as I can tell, the recipes are all free of those ingredients, with the recipes containing oats specifically listed as not being gluten-free unless gluten-free oats are used. Some recipes do contain soy and corn.

I like this book and would recommend it to families that are dealing with food allergies. I appreciate that the recipes I tried all worked successfully and were easy to make.

Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this book from the publisher. As always, this review is my own opinion of the book and is not influenced by anyone except my family of taste-testers. :)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Vitamix Recipe: Orange Slush

Our whole family is sick right now. There are all sorts of viruses going around this year, so everywhere we go we see people coughing and sniffling. In an effort to boost our Vitamin C, I bought two bags of fresh oranges this week. Using my Vitamix, I've made everything from orange juice to orange sorbet. My favourite is something in between: an orange slush.  It packs in the vitamins from fresh oranges and is very soothing on a sore throat. You can make it in less than 2 minutes too.

  • 2 fresh oranges
  • dash of agave syrup
  • ice cubes
  1. Peel and quarter the oranges.  I find it fastest to remove the peel with a knife, but feel free to quarter the orange and then use your fingers to peel off the skin.  If a little white pith remains, that's ok.
  2. Place the oranges in the Vitamix and add a dash of agave.
  3. Add ice cubes until the total contents reach between 2 1/2 and 3 cups (use the measurements on the side of the Vitamix container).  I use large ice cubes that my fridge makes, and this is about 6 or 7 cubes.
  4. Blend, starting on low and dialing up to high.  Flip the high-speed switch and blend for about 20-30 seconds until all ice is crushed and your drink is smooth.
  5. Pour into a tall glass. If it is too thick, simply wait 10-20 seconds and it will become more liquidy.
Do you have any recipes that make you feel better when you are sick?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Seaweed Salt Replacer

Are you looking to reduce your salt intake without reducing taste? This sea vegetable blend imparts a special flavour to soups, stir-frys, and just about anything else. Although seaweed contains sodium, it is an organic form of sodium, not the sodium chloride that is found in table salt. Seaweed is a superfood, packed with nutrients, trace elements and vitamins.

This seaweed salt replacer is an easy way to add the benefits of seaweed to your diet. Add 1 teaspoon of the mix to season your next soup and reduce the salt. Try sprinkling this over steaming veggies or add to your rice or quinoa.

Warning! Some sea vegetables are surprisingly sharp. Blending this in your Vitamix will permanently etch the bottom of your container so it will be a little cloudy. But your health is more important than the look of your blender. :)

  • 1/2 cup arame
  • 1/2 cup wakame
  • 1/4 cup macro kelp
  • 1/4 cup kombu
  1. Crumble large pieces of kelp and seaweed with your hands. Note that amounts are approximate as seaweed is difficult to measure -- just give it a good guess.
  2. Add all ingredients to Vitamix. Blend on high speed until you get the texture you want -- I usually process until most of the seaweed is powdery but there are still some coarse little flakes in there. 
  3. Wait a few moments before opening the Vitamix to let the powder settle. Store your seaweed salt replacer in a clean and dry recycled spice jar -- don't forget to label it!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Morning Millet in a Zojirushi Rice Cooker

I love waking up on winter mornings to a hot breakfast. Even better, a hot breakfast that is already made and waiting for me!  We recently purchased a Zojirushi rice cooker to replace our 12+ year old rice maker that was showing signs of distress.  My favourite thing about the Zojirushi (other than the perfect rice that it cooks) is the timer feature.  It saves 2 timer settings, so I have a pre-set breakfast timer and a pre-set dinner timer.  When I first got the machine, I went looking online for how to make millet in it but came up empty-handed.  After a bunch of trial and error, we've figured out how to make it perfectly every time.

  1. For each portion needed, measure 1/4 cup of millet into the Zojirushi.  For the 3 of us I therefore use 3/4 cup millet.  (Note that some people first toast the millet -- I've tried both ways and I personally prefer it untoasted.)
  2. Add 1 cup water for each portion.  So if you used 1 cup of millet, add 4 cups water.  For 3/4 cup millet add 3 cups water.  For 1/2 cup millet add 2 cups water.
  3. Shake a small dash of salt into the water, then close the lid.  Plug in the rice cooker and select the "Porridge" cycle.  Set the timer for when you will want to eat in the morning.
  4. When the millet is cooked, dish up into bowls.  Sprinkle each serving with cinnamon and cardamom, pour almond milk over the top, then add fresh (or frozen) berries or slices of fruit.  Top with a light drizzle of maple syrup.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Eagle Loft Italian Sausage

Sausages can be something tricky when you have allergies. Although there are sausages that are gluten-free, I feel safer preparing our sausages in my own kitchen. I have a sausage-stuffing attachment for my Kitchen-Aid stand mixer, but it isn't necessary to have special equipment -- you can shape the seasoned sausage meat into oblong patties and fry them in a pan.

I have included two versions of the recipe, one for making patties and one for making a larger batch to stuff in sausage casings.  The first recipe makes about 12 patties; the second makes about 30 sausages.

  • 2 pounds ground pork
  • 1 3/4 tsp sea salt
  • 1 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 2 1/2 tsp fennel seed
  • 1 1/4 tsp anise seed
  • 1/4 - 1/2 tsp ground pepper
  • 1/4 - 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • scant 1/4 cup water
  1. Combine all ingredients in a stand mixer and mix thoroughly.  
  2. Shape into oblong patties.  Excess patties can be frozen for future meals.
  3. Fry patties in a pan until browned and cooked through.

Here is the same recipe scaled for if you are stuffing these in sausage casings:
  • 5 pounds ground pork
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp sea salt
  • 1 Tbsp paprika
  • 2 Tbsp fennel seed
  • 1 Tbsp anise seed
  • 1 tsp ground pepper
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 cup water
  1. Put all ingredients into a very large bowl and use your hands to mix thoroughly.
  2. Stuff into sausage casings.  Sausages can be frozen.
  3. Barbeque sausages (or fry in a pan) until browned and cooked through.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Sloppy Joes

Back when I was in university, I used to make a lot of casseroles. Tuna noodle casserole (my Grandmother's recipe!), lasagne, beefy pasta bake. Comfort food. One of our favourites was sloppy joes. I looked up my old recipe yesterday and to my surprise it needed almost no modifications to fit our allergies. It was a great blast from the past, and something we will be having again for dinner once in a while as not only was it super easy and fast to make, it was also so tasty.

This recipe makes lots, so you could serve it to some hungry teenagers, eat it for lunch the next day, or freeze some for a future meal.

  • 2 pounds ground bison
  • 1 sweet onion, chopped
  • 2 ribs of celery, chopped
  • 1 sweet red pepper, chopped fine
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 cup safe ketchup
  • 1 14-oz can finely diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp natural cane sugar
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • pepper to taste
  1. Brown ground bison in a large frying pan. Drain if there is excess fat.
  2. Add onion, celery, red pepper and oregano. Fry on medium-high heat, stirring frequently, for about 4 minutes.
  3. Add remaining ingredients to pan. Heat to bubbling then reduce heat to low and simmer for 8-10 minutes.
  4. Serve over toasted allergen-free bread. Add a salad to round out your meal.