Thursday, October 24, 2013

Sweet Potato Dumplings (Paleo)

This week is my husband's birthday so I've been trying to make dinners all week that are meals he loves.  One of his favorites is his grandma's Dumplings.  I usually make them quite a bit during the winter.  The whole family loves them and they are pretty simple to make.  Although, now that I've cut out the gluten from my diet I can't have them anymore.  Bummer!  I had pinned a recipe for sweet potato gnocchi and thought I'd give it try.  I made a few alterations and voila!
So in one pot I made regular Dumplings for everyone and in the other I made a small pot of Sweet Potato Dumplings.  Everyone is happy.  I started with my regular recipe for Chicken Soup with Dumplings recipe and just added my Sweet Potato Dumplings instead.  They turned out pretty good!  These actually made the broth turn a little creamy and thicker and it was really good. 
I even think if you made the sweet potato mixture into patties to brown in butter or oil they would be yummy.  What do you think?

Sweet Potato Dumplings

1 sweet potato, baked and peeled
1-1 1/2 cups almond meal
3 T tapioca flour

Mash sweet potato and stir in almond meal and tapioca flour until you get a thick consistency.  Next time I might try adding an egg.  It was thick, but the dumplings were still very soft when boiling.
Drop by tablespoons into boiling broth or water until they float to the top.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Great Grandma's Zucchini Bread

Fall is my favorite time of year, hands down!  I love the weather, but even more I love the food of fall.  Soups, stews, roasts, sweet breads...  Yum!!  I recently made Zucchini Bread.  I love it!  Any flavor, any add ins, I love it.  This recipe is my Great Grandma's recipe and it is a no fail one.  I love it because it makes 3 loaves and you can make it any flavor you want.  How great is that?!  These freeze well too.  Give as gifts, save for a pot-luck, pull out for a special breakfast or serve for company with coffee.  Enjoy!!
Chocolate chip, Chocolate chocolate chip and
regular zucchini bread
Great Grandma's Zucchini Bread
3 cups shredded zucchini (try to get out as much water/moisture as possible)
3 eggs
1 cup oil
2 tsp vanilla
2 cups sugar
3 cups flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
Beat sugar and eggs.  Add vanilla and oil.  Add all dry ingredients and zucchini.  Stir in up to 3 cups of mix-ins*.  (I divided batter into 3 portions and flavored them 3 different ways, or you can make them all the same)  Divide between 3 greased and floured bread pans and bake at 350 for 1 hour or until toothpick comes out clean.
*Mix-ins: 1 cup raisins, 1 cup dried cranberries, 1 cup chopped nuts, 1 cup coconut, 1-2 cups chocolate, white chocolate or cinnamon chips or anything else you can think of. 
*To make chocolate zucchini bread decrease flour to 2 1/2 cups and add in 1/2 cup of cocoa powder.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Homemade Vanilla Extract

I realize that it is only the first week of October, but for me, once school starts it is fall/holiday time.  I get so excited for the parties, food, cookies, gifts and celebrations!  I just love fall and all that brings.  The unfortunate part is that living in Vegas doesn't make it always feel like fall, but I just play pretend from inside my house and then all is good in my world.  :) 
I love to make homemade gifts for teachers, neighbors, friends and family.  I think when you take the time to make something special, the person receiving always appreciates it a little extra.  I love to see people enjoy what I make, don't you?  Plus this is one that you'll want to keep one for yourself too!
I go through vanilla extract fast!  Although I'm picky about the kind I buy.  I only use the real stuff and it can get expensive, especially at the holiday time with all the cookies and other baking I do.  I found this recipe to make Homemade Vanilla Extract and I love it!  It is so simple.  Initially it can be a little costly, but overall saves tons of money.  So look at it that way.  All you need is vanilla beans, vodka and nice bottle.  How amazing is that?!
For the bottle(s), if you are making it just for yourself, you can always make one big batch and use the vodka bottle itself which makes it even easier.  If you want to make smaller bottles to have you can find nice glass bottles at Wal-mart and craft stores.  Just make sure they have a good seal.  I had gotten some single serve wine bottles and they were the perfect size.  I just washed them up, after drinking/using the wine of course, and they worked great and I didn't have to spend anything extra on bottles.  I made 4 bottles of this size with one bottle of vodka.  I took 3 home to Ohio to give as gifts and kept one for myself.  Yum! 
The only bad part about making your own is that you have to let it seep for 4-6 weeks before using.  So, if you do want this for your own holiday baking or to give as gifts, start now!

After 1 week of shaking, it will keep darkening
as the beans continue to seep.

Homemade Vanilla Extract
from Akshayapaatram
  • 2-3 Vanilla beans, split lengthwise
  • 3/4 cup - Vodka
  • glass bottle with lid/cork
Pick a glass bottle that can hold a whole vanilla bean. Clean and dry completely. Place vanilla beans in the bottle and cover completely with vodka. Seal well and place in a cool, dark place in your kitchen. Give it a shake every day or so for the first week.  Can use after 2 weeks, but for best results let seep for 4-6 weeks.

Notes: Within 3 days you will begin to notice a light brown color and the extract was strong enough to use within 2 weeks. A month would be ideal but if you want to use it sooner start off with extra vanilla beans. I used 4-5 beans in my current batch and add more vodka as I use some of it. I buy my vanilla beans on Amazon from this supplier, its a great deal and the quality has been great. You can use vanilla beans in the extract for recipes as well. They will be super moist and you can squeeze out the seeds easily.

When your extract is all gone and you have super moist and amazing vanilla beans to scrap, it is the perfect time to make Vanilla Coconut Rice Pudding.  Delicious!! 

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Filling the Freezer Part 2

Freezer Cooking is such an underground cooking way of life I think.  You have the die hard freezer users, some that freeze leftovers sometimes and then those that think the concept is completely gross, that unless it came frozen it shouldn't be in there.  Where do you fit?  Me, I'm all about filling my freezer to the max.  I love to buy and cook in bulk.  It saves not only time later on but usually money too.  There are so many things you can freeze from whole gallons of milk to pre-made casseroles and dinners to bread to produce to cookies.  There are some things that freeze better then others, but as a whole, you can pretty much stick anything in there. 
At holiday time I always start my Christmas cookie and candy baking anywhere between October and November so that it is done by Thanksgiving.  I freeze them all and then pull them out as I need them to make a tray to take to a party or have for dinner or whatever it may be. 
I love to freeze leftover coffee in ice cube trays for iced coffee or juice lemons or limes that need to get used.  I haven't done it, but I've heard to do this with left over buttermilk and heavy cream too.  You always have some of those left over after you use them for that one recipe! 
Breads of all kinds freeze great.  Go buy day old artisan breads from the bakery when they are on sale and freeze them to use for garlic bread, French toast, bread pudding or just to heat and eat! 
Cheese is another one that I do ALL the time.  I prefer to buy blocks of cheese.  You can freeze the whole block, or slice or shred it and freeze that way, pulling out what you need when you want it.  Lunch meats in the same way freeze well. 
Pre-make pancakes or waffles and save money and time instead of buying the boxed ones for 1/2 the price. 
Left over spaghetti sauce, chili, lasagna, and casseroles all freeze great too.
This freezer cooking that I'm talking about today though is for Crock-Pot Freezer Meals.  You dump the ingredients into  a freezer gallon size zip-lock bag and freeze.  When you want to make it just empty the bag into your Crock-Pot and let it cook.  Cannot be simpler!  This time I really wanted to stay away from the cream of whatever soups and we learned from last time that we didn't always like the chicken recipes that weren't a soup as much as some of the others.  Here is the link for my first round of Freezer Meals.

This time I made these Crock-Pot Freezer Recipes....
"Creamy" Chicken Tomato Soup (paleo)
Honey Apple Pork loin (paleo)
Taco Soup
White Chicken Chili
Pizza Sauce
I also made Freezer Friendly Pizza Dough, which I doubled and also made a 1/2 recipe to try with gluten free flour.  The gluten free turned out ok.  I think it needed a little less flour, it got really stiff and cracked easily, but tasted great.  This recipe is super fast and easy and doesn't require time to let rise.  I froze 3 portions of the pizza dough and with the 4th I made Calzones using The Pioneer Woman's Calzone filling recipe.  My family loved them and then I froze the left over ones for later.  (Just to clarify, I froze fully baked calzones)

Lastly, I made, what I call, Egg McMommies.  I stole this name from a childhood friend's mom.  She used to make her version of these for us after sleep overs.  My version I bake the eggs and make them a little bit healthier.  I first got the idea (again) from The Yummy Life.   Here is what I do...

Egg McMommies
Start by lightly spraying a jumbo muffin pan, ramekins or Pampered Chef Brownie Pan with cookie spray.  Crack an egg into each, sprinkle with a little pepper if you like.  Bake at 350 for 10-15 minutes or until set.
Lightly brown Canadian bacon just long enough to sweat the water out.  *You could use fully cooked sausage patties if you prefer.
Split whole wheat English muffins (Toasted if you like) in half and layer with 1 slice of cheese (your choice, I usually use Cheddar or Colby Jack), 1 piece of Canadian bacon and 1 baked egg.  Put the top of the muffin on and wrap in parchment or in sandwich size zip-lock bags.  Freeze.  Heat in the microwave about 3 minutes on 1/2 power.  My hubby loves these!

Have fun filling your freezer with something new.  What is your favorite things to freeze?