Vegan Macaroni & Cheese

Vegan Macaroni & Cheese

Yes, you read that right. Vegan macaroni & cheese! Who doesn’t love macaroni & cheese? It was one of the staples in our house before going vegan. And I don’t mean that nasty instant junk from a box! So I was ecstatic when one of my Instagram friends sent me the link for the recipe of vegan macaroni & cheese that they use. We made it and, guess what? It’s so delicious!! I will go so far as to say that, even if I decided not to be vegan any more, I would prefer this vegan macaroni & cheese to the traditional one made with cheese, butter and milk!

Vegan Macaroni & Cheese

If you read my blog regularly or know how I cook, you know I’m not good at following a recipe as it is written. I tried to follow the original recipe as closely as possible the first time I made it. Especially since this vegan thing is still relatively new to me. If you want to see the VegNews recipe, click here. We liked it, but decided we would change a few things the next time we made it. I don’t usually have shallots on hand, nor are they easy to find, so something else would have to be used. We have also never been the baked macaroni & cheese people. Why waste time and electricity baking when you can just eat it warm from the pot?

Vegan Macaroni & Cheese

The following recipe is a variation of the original. I decided to use things that I always have on hand and to leave out the breadcrumb topping that causes it to require baking. I think pasta with breadcrumb topping is a bit redundant with the carbs. While I’m not a carb-o-phobe, I was always taught that you don’t eat pasta, rice, bread or potatoes together in the same meal. The breadcrumb topping also adds extra fat with the margarine. So just skip it and make your vegan macaroni & cheese healthier and less complicated. And you’ll notice that there are no cheese alternatives used in the VegNews recipe or mine.

Vegan Macaroni & Cheese

Vegan Macaroni & Cheese

For the macaroni:

  • 4 quarts water
  • 1 tablespoon pink Himalayan salt or sea salt
  • 1 pound of organic macaroni noodles

To cook in a saucepan:

  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 5 or 6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 or 4 small organic yellow potatoes, cut into small cubes
  • 2 organic carrots, washed and cut into small cubes
  • 1/4 of an organic red bell pepper cut into small cubes
  • 2 1/2 cups water

To blend in a food processor

  • 1/2 cup raw organic cashews
  • 4 teaspoons pink Himalayan salt or sea salt
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon organic Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon organic lemon juice, freshly squeezed
  • 10 tablespoons (5 ounces, 140 grams) vegan non-hydrogenated margarine (I use Earth Balance Organic Vegan Buttery Spread)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper (optional)
  • 1/4 teaspoon organic cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon organic turmeric
  • 1/2 cup of nutritional yeast (A.K.A. nooch, which is also optional, but we love it, so we use it. If you don’t use the nooch, reduce the water to cook the vegetables in the saucepan to 2 cups)
     

What You Do:

Make the macaroni first. In a large pot, bring the 4 quarts of water and 1 tablespoon of salt to a boil. Add macaroni and cook according to package directions. Drain pasta in a colander and rinse with cold water. Set aside.

Next, in a saucepan, add red onion, garlic, potatoes, carrots, red bell pepper, and water, and bring to a boil. Cover the pan and simmer for 15 minutes, or until vegetables are very soft.

In a food processor, process the cashews, salt, garlic, Dijon mustard, lemon juice, turmeric, black pepper, cayenne and nutritional yeast, if using. This will be really thick. Once the vegetables are ready in the saucepan, add them to the food processor and process until smooth, scraping down the sides as needed to make sure everything is well incorporated.

Pour the sauce into the pot you boiled the macaroni noodles in and add the macaroni noodles and stir until all of the noodles are covered in the sauce. Serve and enjoy!!

We love eating our vegan macaroni & cheese with steamed broccoli. What’s your favorite pair to macaroni & cheese? I’m thinking about making this again and subbing some of the potato or carrot for sweet potato. I have also been thinking about throwing some fresh baby spinach in the food processor part. Always looking for ways to add more nutrition, while keeping it delicious. Let me know if you make this recipe. I would love to know your thoughts and if you changed anything. You may leave a comment below or tag me on your photos by following Organic Andrea on:

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Southern Buttermilk Biscuits

Southern Buttermilk Biscuits

I’ve been running around like a cat on a hot tin roof and just haven’t had time to sit down to give you this recipe. Even if you are a Yankee, or not even from the United States, you too can make Southern Buttermilk Biscuits as good as or even better than a real-life Southern grandma. My family is from the South. My family lineage goes back to Georgia, Alabama and the Carolinas. It was my great-grandparents who relocated to Florida. Southern buttermilk biscuits are a staple of the Southern diet. I grew up eating buttermilk biscuits. My grandmother never measured anything. I remember watching her make biscuits. She didn’t make hers with butter, like I do. She used Crisco. I shutter to think of all the hydrogenated fat I ate growing up in the form of biscuits.

Twenty years ago, more or less, I decided I needed to learn how to make a decent buttermilk biscuit. First, I bought a good 10-inch iron skillet. All respectable Southern cooks have at least one of these. I opted for buying the less expensive unseasoned iron skillets and seasoned it myself. Hopefully you have an iron skillet. If not, go get one, now. I mean it. If you need to season it, click here for a great way to do it. I’m in the process of re-seasoning mine, because my husband isn’t from these parts, and he ruined my finish on them. Let’s just say that this isn’t a fun process, so you should make sure you know how to care of your well-seasoned cast iron pans, and never let anyone clean them who doesn’t know what they are doing. You have been warned.

Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. These biscuits are so good that they will make you want to slap yo mama. Don’t ask me what that means. Southerners have a lot of expressions that just don’t make any sense. I will try to explain it like this. My grandmother has been ticked off about the fact that everyone else in the family thinks I make better biscuits than her for years. We went to visit her this past Mother’s Day, and I made this recipe of biscuits. She finally let it go and admitted that my biscuits are good. That’s actually a huge compliment coming from her. I’ll take it.

Southern Buttermilk Biscuits

Ingredients:

  • 3 Cups (12.75 oz. or 361 grams) of All-Purpose Flour (In the South, it is traditional to use White Lily brand, but it’s not organic, nor is it available everywhere. Whatever brand of organic AP flour you have will be fine.)
  • 4 oz. (113 grams) very cold organic butter cut into 8 to 12 pieces (I used salted butter, but if you have unsalted, that works.)
  • 1 Tablespoon of non-GMO baking powder (I use Rumford brand)
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of sea salt or pink Himalayan salt
  • 1 Cup (8 oz. or 237 ml) organic, grass-fed buttermilk (I used Natural by Nature brand)
  • extra buttermilk for brushing

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees (260 C). Make sure there is a rack in the center of the oven.

In a large ceramic or glass bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the cut up pieces of butter and rub it into the flour with your fingers. I wear latex gloves when I do this, because I can’t stand the texture or having this stuff under my fingernails. Do this until all of the butter is rubbed into the flour and the flour resembles course meal. At this point, put the bowl into the freezer.

Southern Buttermilk Biscuits

Sifted flour, baking powder, baking soda and pink salt

Southern Buttermilk Biscuits

This is what the flour looks like after rubbing in all of the butter.

Grease your 10-inch cast iron skillet with organic extra-virgin coconut oil.

After the flour has been in the freezer for about 10 minutes, take it out. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and add the buttermilk.

Southern Buttermilk Biscuits

Buttermilk in the well of the flour mixture.

Stir with a large-sized dinner fork just until all of the flour mixture has been incorporated. The key is to do this with the least amount of stirring possible. The more you stir, the tougher your biscuits will turn out. You want tender biscuits, not tough ones.

Southern Buttermilk Biscuits

All stirred up.

At this point, you have a couple of options. The way I think they turn out best is to pat and cut them. If you choose this option, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and pat it to the thickness you want. Use a round cutter, sharp knife or floured drinking glass turned upside-down to cut out the biscuits.

Southern Buttermilk Biscuits

Dough lighted patted out on a floured surface ready to cut.

Place each biscuit barely touching the next around the perimeter of the skillet, making concentric circles as you go, until you have the pan full. You will have a very full pan, but you should be able to fit all of the dough into the pan. Make as many biscuits as possible, cutting as close as possible to the edges. Pull the remaining dough together gently, working it as little as possible. Cut again. If there is any remaining dough, form it into a biscuit. The biscuit in the center of picture below is not cut, but just formed from the scraps.

Southern Buttermilk Biscuits

All cut biscuits in the skillet. These are really thick, very large biscuits.

The other option is to use a 1/4 cup scoop and scoop the dough and roll into balls in your hand and then place them in the skillet. If you are going to do this, after you are finished stirring, leave the dough to rest for a couple of minutes. This cuts down on the dough sticking to your hands. Scroll to the bottom of the page to see a pan of baked biscuits using this method. Whichever option you choose, once you are finished and have all the biscuits in the skillet, brush them lightly with buttermilk.

Southern Buttermilk Biscuits

Lightly brushing biscuits with buttermilk. This is a regular paint brush from the hardware department.

Put the skillet on the middle rack in the oven and bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Turn the pan, and continue to bake for an additional 8 to 10 minutes. They are ready when they are a light to dark golden brown, depending on your preference. Invert the pan onto a kitchen towel, releasing the biscuits. Put the towel holding the biscuits into whatever serving device you are going to use and serve with softened organic butter, homemade jam, bacon and sharp cheddar cheese… the options are only limited by your imagination.

Southern Buttermilk Biscuits

Golden Brown Southern Buttermilk Biscuits fresh from the oven.

Southern Buttermilk Biscuits

Biscuit open and waiting for butter.

Southern Buttermilk Biscuits

Half buttered biscuit and half with butter and homemade peach preserves.

Southern Buttermilk Biscuits

This is a pan of biscuits done by scooping and hand rolling. As you see, it makes a lot of smaller biscuits.

Raw Vegan Dark Chocolate Pudding

Raw Vegan Dark Chocolate Pudding

As you might be able to see, I am currently experimenting with some vegan recipes. It’s really easy to make some super yummy sweet treat out of ingredients that aren’t necessarily that great for your health. Even if all of those ingredients are organic. I have taken it as a sort of challenge to see if I can make sweet treats that are not only healthy and packed with nutrients, but are also really delicious. This raw vegan dark chocolate pudding is a definite winner when it comes to healthy, nutrient-dense and, above all, delicious!

I have a lot of people on Instagram who inspire me. One of those inspirational people is Lisa at www.chocolatemeetsstrawberry.com. A couple of weeks ago, she wrote a post called “Healthy Chocolate Pudding for One.” Both of our recipes have ingredients that will surprise you. I had heard of this type of chocolate pudding nearly a decade ago. When I read Lisa’s post, I decided to give it a shot. But since I can’t leave well enough alone, I decided to put a little different spin on it. I think it might also be a little more acceptable to people who are just testing the waters of a more healthy lifestyle.

Chocolate pudding made with avocado? What?! There, it’s out in the open now. Yes, avocado is the mystery ingredient. For those of you new to this, take a deep breath. I promise you that it is really delicious, and no one will ever know that it’s made with avocado. I challenge you to try it out. As with a few of my recipes, this is best made and refrigerated at least eight hours before eating. I think the ingredients need time to chill and get to know each other.

This raw vegan dark chocolate pudding is so packed with nutrients, that it would be perfectly acceptable to eat it for breakfast. Avocados are loaded with several vitamins, B5, B6, C, E, K and folate and have more potassium than bananas. They also contain plenty of heart-healthy fat in the form of oleic acid, which is a monounsaturated fatty acid. If you have been living under a rock and haven’t heard how good avocados are for you, just Google “health benefits of avocados.” There is really no reason you shouldn’t be eating this delicious fruit! If you don’t know the health benefits of the ingredients in this pudding, do the same thing for all of the ingredients. I promise you, I’m giving you a recipe for something super healthy and super delicious at the same time. Who wouldn’t want to eat chocolate pudding for dessert? And even better, who wouldn’t want to eat chocolate pudding for breakfast? Guilt free!!

Raw Vegan Dark Chocolate Pudding

Here’s a shot of all of the ingredients that I used. If you have any questions about where I get any of my ingredients, please ask in the comments below.

Raw Vegan Dark Chocolate Pudding

  • 1 avocado
  • 1 banana
  • 30 grams of organic honey
  • 2 packets (or 6 grams) of granular stevia
  • 28 grams (5 Tablespoons) raw organic cacao powder
  • 1 teaspoon organic vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon organic Ceylon cinnamon
  • 14 grams (2 Tablespoons) organic virgin coconut oil
  • 65 grams (about 2 Tablespoons) organic light canned coconut milk
  • a pinch or two of pink Himalayan salt
Raw Vegan Dark Chocolate Pudding

This is a happy dessert!

You could do this in a blender or a food processor if you don’t have an immersion blender. I’m giving instructions for an immersion blender since that is what I used. Put all ingredients into a glass 4-cup measuring cup. Insert an immersion blender and pulse on high until things get a bit mixed.

Raw Vegan Dark Chocolate Pudding

Blending up the ingredients

Then blend on high, moving the stick around and up and down a bit until it reaches a creamy consistency. This takes 30 seconds to one minute. Spoon about a half of a cup (about 125 ml) into similar sized dessert ramekins or dessert cups. You should be able to get 3 to 4 servings out of this recipe. Cover and refrigerate at least 8 hours before serving. Top with unsweetened, shredded coconut, a light dusting of cinnamon, sliced strawberries, cacao nibs, chopped nuts, or other such yummy topping. Enjoy and know that even though it tastes decadent and sinful that it is really good for you!!

Raw Vegan Dark Chocolate Pudding

Strawberry Cupcakes From Scratch

It is strawberry season again. Strawberry season actually starts here around the new year. No matter what time of year it is, these strawberry cupcakes from scratch are sure to be a favorite!

Back in the days when I really didn’t understand what kind of horrible things were in processed food, I had a recipe for strawberry cupcakes that called for a boxed cake mix and a box of strawberry Jell-O. My grandmother gave me this recipe. She had been using this recipe, I think, since the advent of boxed cake mixes and Jell-O. Everyone loved this strawberry cake. I used to get many requests to make it. I can’t tell you how many times I made this recipe. If you have been my friend or worked with me in the past 10 years, chances are you have eaten it.

About four or five years ago, I started learning about the health risks of the ingredients in most processed foods here in the United States. I started reading labels and ingredients differently. I cleared out my kitchen and pantry. I converted a lot of my old recipes to fit the new, healthier lifestyle. The strawberry cake recipe was one that I had never been able to convert successfully. I refused to eat a boxed cake mix or Jell-O, not even for a treat.

Recently they were reading the book Pinkalicious in my youngest daughters preschool class. In this book, the main character turns pink from eating pink muffins. I imagine it was because she was eating the ones made with the artificial food dyes, but I digress. Anyway, they were going to have a Pinkalicious party on Friday. I didn’t want my daughter eating anything artificially colored or any GMO garbage that I work so hard to keep out of our diets. Plus I didn’t want her to miss out on the party fun. So I volunteered to make strawberry cupcakes for the party.

I had to make the cupcakes with the thing I already had on hand in my house. I didn’t want to use a homemade cake that called for butter, because 1. it’s expensive and 2. I didn’t have much and I wasn’t going to go to the grocery store to get any. So I had to look for a recipe for a homemade cake that uses oil instead of butter. I did an internet search and found a recipe on Rachel Ray’s website for The Cake Boss’ Vanilla Cake. Of course I can never leave well enough alone. I couldn’t just use the vanilla cake recipe and just put strawberry frosting on top. Nooooo. I had never made this recipe without changing a thing to see if it actually turned out right or not. So I was keeping my fingers crossed that this would all work out.

I happened to have a box of Swan’s Down cake flour that had been sitting around unopened and unused for what seemed like an eternity. I checked the date on the bottom of the box, and low and behold, it was coming up very soon. Now, I know that Swan’s Down isn’t organic. But this website is about realistic organic living. I could have used organic all-purpose flour, because I always have it in my pantry. But, I also didn’t want to be wasteful and let the Swan’s Down just get chucked in the trash. It only has one ingredient on the box, which is enriched cake flour. I figured it’s not so bad. The Cake Boss’ recipe actually calls for all-purpose flour, but I think cake flour turns out a more delicate crumb for your cake. You can use either one, if you don’t have cake flour.

Strawberries had to somehow be added to the cake batter. Since puréed strawberries add more liquid to the recipe, I had to figure out how to subtract from the liquids that the Cake Boss’ recipe called for and add in the strawberries. In all, my final recipe ended up having a 1/4 cup more liquid that the Cake Boss’ recipe. But the cupcakes turned out really moist. Who likes a dry cake?

I won’t bore you with any more of my mad scientist cupcake nonsense. Let’s get on to the recipe, shall we.

Strawberry Cupcakes From Scratch

Strawberry Cake From Scratch

For the cake:

2 cups (14 oz. or 400 grams) organic sugar

4 organic eggs

2 1/2 cups (10 oz. or 283 grams) cake flour, organic if you have it

3/4 cup (6 oz. or 175 ml) organic whole milk

3/4 cup (6 oz. or 175 ml) sunflower oil, organic if you have it

1/2 cup (4 oz. or 120 ml) organic strawberry purée

2 1/4 teaspoons (11 ml) baking powder, non-GMO, like Rumford brand

1 teaspoon (5 ml) organic vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). If you are making cupcakes, this recipe makes about 30 regular sized cupcakes, so you will need enough cupcake papers and pans for that amount. If you are going to make cake, you can butter or oil and flour whatever size pan or pans you are going to use. You can make one 9X13-inch pan or two 8- or 9-inch round or square pans. Make sure when you grease your pans, don’t miss a single little spot, because I promise you that it will stick right in that spot.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the sugar and eggs together at medium to medium-high speed until it starts to thicken, anywhere from 1 to 5 minutes. While you are doing that, sift together your cake flour and your baking powder into separate bowl. Also prep your liquid ingredients. You can use one 2-cup measuring cup for all of your liquids. Once your sugar mixture has thickened up, add half of the flour mixture and mix on low speed while adding half of the liquid mixture. Stop the mixer and scrape from the bottom and down the sides of the bowl. Add the other half of the flour mixture, mixing on low speed. While still mixing on low speed, add the remaining half of your liquid mixture. Mix until combined. Don’t overmix. Make sure you scrape the bowl up from the bottom and down the sides to make sure everything is well combined and mixed. Your batter will be rather on the liquid side.

For regular-sized cupcakes, scoop 1/4 cup (2 oz. or 60 ml) into each of the cupcake papers. Bake for 9 minutes, rotate pans and bake for an additional 9 minutes or until cake springs back when pressed lightly in the middle with your index finger.

If you are making cake, pour the batter into your pans. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, rotate pans and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes or until cake springs back when pressed lightly in the middle with your index finger.

For the frosting:

1 stick (4 oz. or 113 grams) organic butter, mine is salted

1 to 1 1/2 pounds (16 to 24 oz. or 450 to 680 grams) of organic powdered sugar

1/2 cup (4 oz. or 120 ml) organic strawberry purée

Put butter into the bowl of an electric mixer. Add one pound of powdered sugar and beat on low until it’s obvious you need to add the strawberries, because it’s too dry to do anything else. This won’t take long. Go ahead and add the strawberries. Here’s where the other half pound of sugar comes into play. If you want to make your frosting stiff enough to pipe onto the cupcakes a la swirly soft-serve ice cream cones, you’ll be adding more powdered sugar. Add more powdered sugar a half of a cup at a time. This process takes time. To make creamy frosting, you need to beat it longer than you think you should. And the thing about the strawberry frosting is that the more you beat it, the more liquid it becomes. Thus the necessity of adding more sugar. You might even use more than a pound and a half to reach the right consistency for piping cupcake frosting swirls. For the picture of my cupcake, I could have definitely added more sugar. My swirls kind of melted. But I’m also kind of appalled at eating that much sugar at one time, so I opted for less sugar. You decide how much you want to add. Once you have reached the consistency you want for your frosting, go ahead and frost your cake or cupcakes.

Keep your finished cake or cupcakes in tightly sealed containers in the refrigerator. They are good cold or at room temperature. They will keep in the refrigerator for at least a week, if they stick around that long.

If you make this recipe, or any of my recipes, I would love to hear your experience. Please leave a comment below. Also, if you have any suggestions about what you would like me to write about, let me know.

Pumpkin Spice Beignets

Pumpkin Spice Beignets

Sometime in September or early October, I decided that the deep fryer was sitting on the counter collecting dust, taking up space and not getting used. It was clear that either it needed to get packed up or it needed to start getting used on a more regular basis. After perusing my cookbooks and buying a large amount of sunflower oil, I decided on the latter of the two choices.

The first recipe that I decided to try out was a quick and easy beignet recipe. These are not the kind of beignets you will get at Café du Monde in New Orleans. Those kind of beignets use a yeast raised dough and are a lot more work. While I love the yeast raised beignets, this blog is about realistic organic living. Let’s be realistic. Most of us aren’t going to want to spend that kind of time or energy on a Saturday night/Sunday morning to make Café du Monde style beignets. These beignets are more like a cake doughnut. Using a very un-organic analogy, it’s like the difference between a Krispy Kreme doughnut (the Café du Monde beignets)  and a Dunkin’ Donuts doughnut (these beignets). Both are good, but indisputably different. Topped with powdered sugar and served with warm maple syrup, they make a Fall Saturday or Sunday morning magical.

The second time I made these beignets, I tweaked my original recipe and turned it into a pumpkin spice delight to fit the season. This recipe is quick to throw together. You’ll spend more time frying these golden nuggets of deliciousness than you will in preparing the dough. If you don’t have a deep fryer, you can also use a Dutch oven or iron skillet. Just in case you are a fan of coconut oil, like me, please don’t use it in your deep fryer. I have tried it, and it doesn’t work out so well. I usually give my fryer a workout every other Sunday. Realistically, we shouldn’t be eating fried treats any more often than that.

Pumpkin Spice Beignets

Pumpkin Spice Beignets

  • 6 cups sunflower oil for frying
  • 3/4 (6 oz.) cup organic buttermilk
  • 1/2 (4 oz.) cup organic solid pack pumpkin
  • 1 organic large egg
  • 1/4 (2 oz.) cup sunflower oil
  • 2 cups (8 1/2 oz.) organic all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons non-GMO baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 Tablespoons organic granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon organic ground Ceylon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon organic ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon organic ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 teaspoon organic ground clove
  • organic powdered sugar
  • organic maple syrup

Heat at least 2 inches of oil to 350 degrees in whatever frying device you have decided to use.

Mix the buttermilk, pumpkin, egg and oil together. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, sea salt and granulated sugar. Combine flour mixture and buttermilk mixture, and stir until smooth.

When the oil is heated to 350 degrees, drop the batter in tablespoon sized dollops into the hot oil. I use a cookie scoop, which looks like a small stainless steel ice cream scoop. Fry four to six beignets at a time. Be sure to leave room for them to expand and move around a bit. Fry the beignets until they are nicely browned on each side, about two minutes per side. Remove from oil and drain on a cooling rack set over a paper towel lined cookie sheet. This keeps the beignets from sitting in and soaking up extra oil.

Put powdered sugar into a fine mesh strainer or sifter and sprinkle over the beignets. Serve with warm maple syrup. This recipe should make enough to generously serve 4.

Pumpkin Spice Beignets

Try out this recipe and let me know what you think. If you would like me to blog about a particular subject or recipe, please leave a comment below. Enjoy!

Oatmeal Two Ways

I kept up on the sugar-free, dairy-free, grain-free diet for exactly two full months. It felt more like two full years. Last Sunday at my two daughters’ birthday party, I decided I would eat whatever I wanted, mainly because I was making a cake that is the best cake ever. Long story short, I didn’t eat that much that day, but I felt a satisfaction that I hadn’t felt for two months. At the end of the day, I said to my husband, “I feel great!” So that was the end of that. Though I am still going to do my best to keep my sugar consumption to a minimum.

Sometime within the last year, my doctor warned me that I was headed down the road toward type-2 diabetes. This is one of my nightmares. I love baking and I love sweets. It’s just part of who I am. Instead of giving up the baking of sweet things that I love, I decided to cut out sugar in other areas of my life. I no longer sweeten my coffee. I didn’t think I would ever be able to drink coffee without sugar, but I have gotten used to it. Along the same line, I also quit eating sweet oatmeal. You might not think that either of these sacrifices really constitutes as a sacrifice, but I used to put two tablespoons of sugar per cup of coffee. And I would drink two cups of coffee each morning. That is 1/4 cup less sugar every morning. I also used to sweeten my oatmeal with 1/4 cup of sugar. That’s a lot of sugar!!

My grandfather had type-2 diabetes for the last decades of his life. Every morning he would eat oatmeal with butter and salt and pepper on it. I always thought that his oatmeal must be disgusting. When I decided to cut the sugar from my oatmeal, I decided to try a little different take on his oatmeal. Have you ever read the directions on a box or can of oatmeal? It says to cook the oatmeal in water with a little salt. Who eats their oatmeal that way? From what I read on the steel-cut oats can, this must be a traditional Scottish way to eat oatmeal. I’m not there yet and I’m not interested in ever getting to that point. I hope my Scottish blood line will forgive me.

You have heard it at one point or another that breakfast is the most important part of the day. I completely agree, but you need to make good choices to fuel your body for the day ahead. This first recipe for oatmeal is hearty and satisfying and will keep you from getting hungry for quite a while. Pair it with some protein, like a handful of almonds or a scrambled egg, and you’ll keep yourself fueled and keep hunger at bay for several hours.

Buttery Oatmeal

My younger daughter, very excited to have buttery oatmeal, that she requested, for breakfast! She won’t eat the sweet oatmeal.

Oatmeal Two Ways — First Buttery Oatmeal, then Sugar and Spice Oatmeal:

Buttery Oatmeal

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup organic whole milk
  • 1/8 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup organic whole rolled oats
  • 1 Tablespoon organic butter

Bring water, milk and salt almost to a boil over high heat in a large, heavy saucepan. Add oats, reduce heat to low and stir. Cook oats until they are almost to the consistency that you like them, anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes, depending on what temperature your stove thinks is low. Stir occasionally during cooking. Remember that oats will thicken as they cool, so you don’t want to cook them until they are at the consistency that you like, otherwise, they will be too thick once they are cool enough to eat. Put your oats into a bowl and add butter. Stir and enjoy. You can always add a little more milk, cream or half and half to your oats to thin and cool them. This recipe makes one to two servings, depending on how much oatmeal you like to eat at breakfast.

For extra protein, nutrition and flavor, you can add chopped nuts, chia, hemp or flax seeds to your cooked oatmeal.

Now, for those of you who have children that I cook for on a regular basis, you might want the recipe for the oatmeal that I make for your kids. This is also the way that I used to eat my oatmeal, and the way that my older daughter prefers it. She has gotten used to the buttery oatmeal though. This recipe should make enough for two to three kids, or one to two adults.

Sugar & Spice Oatmeal

  • 2 cups organic whole milk
  • 1/4 cup organic sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon organic cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon organic nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon organic clove (optional, I don’t always have it, so I don’t always use it)
  • 1 cup organic whole rolled oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon organic vanilla extract

Bring milk, sugar and spices almost to a boil over high heat in a large, heavy saucepan. Add oats, reduce heat to low and stir. Cook oats until they are almost to the consistency that you like them, anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes. Stir occasionally during cooking. Follow what I said about oat consistency in the above recipe. When oats are ready, remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Serve and enjoy. As with the previous recipe, you may add more milk, cream or half and half to thin and cool your oats. Just remember, if you eat your oats this way, don’t do it everyday. Otherwise, you may have your doctor giving you a diabetes warning. This should be considered a special treat, comfort food kind of breakfast.

Try them both and leave a comment below letting me know which one you like better and why.

 

Best-Ever Scrambled Eggs

Best-Ever Scrambled Eggs

Besides boiling water, how much more basic can you get than scrambled eggs? I’m not that big of a fan of eggs by themselves, therefore, I try to find new ways to eat eggs that make them more palatable to me. With this grain-free, dairy-free, sugar-free eating that I’m doing these days, eggs have become an essential part of my diet. I have noticed that my body craves more protein now that I have cut out sugar, grains and dairy. It’s always important to listen to the queues our bodies give us.

Best-Ever Scrambled Eggs

With summer’s heat blazing on, there is a bounty of fresh in-season vegetables available. I decided to take advantage of the vegetables that I had in my kitchen and make a scrambled egg invention. It turned out marvelously! In the past month, I have eaten this at one point or another for breakfast, lunch or dinner, but not all on the same day. This recipe provides a good dose of protein as well as more than one serving of vegetables. And it’s really great, because it will keep you satisfied and energized for hours. This recipe makes one large serving for one person as a complete meal, or it can be the main course at a meal with a variety of other sides. It would also be a great addition to a breakfast or brunch buffet!

Best-Ever Scrambled Eggs

Best-Ever Scrambled Eggs

  • 1-2 Tbsp. organic extra-virgin coconut oil, or bacon grease (a Southern favorite and my personal favorite)
  • 1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 organic zucchini, grated
  • 4 mushrooms, diced
  • 1 handful of organic baby spinach, cut into ribbons
  • 2 small Campari tomatoes, diced
  • 3 large, organic eggs, beaten
  • 1-2 Tbsp. water
  • sea salt to taste

Heat oil in a large (cast iron, if you have it) skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add zucchini and mushrooms and salt to taste and continue to cook for about another 5 minutes. Stir in the spinach and tomatoes. While this cooks, beat your eggs with the water and salt to taste. I beat the heck out of my eggs in a glass bowl with a fork. I’m convinced that this makes my eggs lighter and fluffier. Pour the eggs over the skillet full of sautéed vegetables and use a silicone spatula to stir it around. At this point, you might want to put a lid on your skillet and then open it to stir it occasionally until all the eggs are cooked. Once all the eggs are cooked, plate, sit and eat. Bon appétit!

Best-Ever Scrambled Eggs

 

Have you tried this recipe? Do you have an even better recipe for scrambled eggs that is also dairy-free? Let yourself be heard in the comments section below!

orange cream chia pudding

Orange Cream Chia Pudding

With a sweet tooth like mine, it doesn’t take long to start coming up with dessert ideas, even if I’m following a sugar-free diet. I’m not totally sugar free. I consider naturally occurring sugars in fruits to be okay. I am not using added sugar, i.e. granulated sugar, honey, molasses, maple syrup, agave, etc. To sweeten anything exclusively with stevia, in my opinion, is completely revolting. I have found that a little bit of stevia to boost the sweetness where fruit or fruit juice is used is fairly undetectable, as long as you don’t use too much.

I had made chia pudding before, when I was still using traditional sweeteners and liked it. Plus, there’s no cooking involved, so it’s really easy. There is a waiting period while the chia seeds soak up the liquid and make the pudding-esque texture.

Chia seeds have come a long way from the Chia Pets that used to be advertised on television in the ’70’s. For several years now, chia seeds have been moving into the mainstream of the American diet. I picked up my last bag of organic chia seeds at Sam’s Club. How much more mainstream America can you get, other than their close relative Walmart? But you can probably buy them there too. Chia seeds are tiny powerhouses of nutrition. They are packed with fiber, protein, antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids, and the list goes on. Do a quick Google search on benefits of chia seeds, and you will find a ton of information.

Who doesn’t love an orange creamsicle? Especially in the long, hot days of summer? This recipe is a healthier take on that idea. It tastes great and is great for your health. You can also make a pineapple cream version of this by substituting freshly blended pineapple for the orange juice. My husband, mother, two daughters and I all loved both varieties. Whip up a batch today to start enjoying the delicious heath benefits of the tiny, but mighty, chia seed!

orange cream chia pudding

Orange Cream Chia Pudding

  • 1 cup freshly squeezed organic orange juice
  • 1/4 cup organic unsweetened vanilla coconut milk
  • 1/4 cup chia seeds
  • 2 packets of your favorite brand of organic stevia
  • 1/2 teaspoon organic vanilla extract

Put chia seeds into a bowl that will hold at least one quart. Add the rest of your ingredients.

orange cream chia pudding

Stir to mix well. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Serve alone or garnished with fresh fruit.

orange cream chia pudding

As I said above, you can also make a pineapple cream chia pudding by substituting one cup of blended freshly cut pineapple for the orange juice.

pineapple cream chia pudding

Do you have a favorite way to use chia seeds? Please let me know in the comments below!

Dairy- and Grain-Free Cream of Broccoli Soup

Dairy- and Grain-Free Cream of Broccoli Soup

I know it’s hotter than Hades right now. And maybe soup is the last thing you want to eat. But, summer doesn’t last forever, except here in Florida. And some people still do eat hot soup in the summertime. Otherwise, why would restaurants like Panera still be making it everyday?

In my last post, I told you that I have given up sugar, dairy and grains. This causes one to be more creative in what one eats. As I said before, this is not that Paleo diet thing. I have a wider variety of things that I can eat, like potatoes and beans. I have never been a big cream of broccoli soup fan. I think I never ordered it once back in the days when I actually ate at Panera. But someone asked me how you make it the other day, and it got me thinking. How would I make it so that I can eat it with the constraints of my current diet? The very first experiment that I did produced a winner!! I have often read the blogs of other people who are doing the Paleo diet and variations of clean eating. Many times I have read them say, “It’s so good, I didn’t even miss (insert prohibited ingredient here)!” I have also thought to myself every time that I have read a statement like that, “Yeah, right!” Well, this recipe actually turned out so good that I really think it is better than the original that is made with cream, milk, butter and flour. This soup was really easy to make, which is also a big bonus. Besides a cutting board and knife, all you need to make it is one pot! And it makes enough for freezing for future use for one person or for dinner for a family. And if you are vegan, you can use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth to make this work for you.

I’m so excited about how well this recipe turned out that I’m dying to make a cream of mushroom variety and a creamy butternut squash soup too! Those will probably be coming up in future posts. I have also come up with some desserts for future posts also. I will quit making you wait and get on to the recipe.

Dairy- and Grain-Free Cream of Broccoli Soup

Dairy- and Grain-Free Cream of Broccoli Soup

  • 2 Tablespoons organic extra-virgin coconut oil
  • 1/2 sweet yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 4 small cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 4 medium sized organic yellow potatoes (like Yukon Gold), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 Tablespoons organic Better Than Bouillon Chicken base (or vegetable variety if you’re doing a vegan version)
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 can organic coconut milk
  • 1 pound organic frozen broccoli florets
  • sea salt to taste

Heat your coconut oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add your onion and garlic and about a 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt and sautée until translucent. Add your potatoes, chicken base, water and coconut milk. Raise the heat and bring to a boil for about 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Reduce the heat to medium-low. Use an immersion blender and blend the soup until the potatoes are smooth. Now, add your bag of frozen broccoli florets and let it cook slowly for about 15 minutes. Once again, use the immersion blender and blend the soup until the broccoli is in small pieces. Taste it to see if you need any more salt. Adjust it to how you like it, and voilà! You have just made a delicious, healthy version of a classic favorite soup.

FYI: I don’t usually buy organic onions or garlic. I buy my organic potatoes and organic canned coconut milk at Whole Foods. I buy my sea salt, organic Better Than Bouillon and organic frozen broccoli florets at Costco.

organic pizza dough

Organic Pizza Dough Recipe

For many years I have known that the key to fantastic pizza is the crust. The crust is the base for everything that gets added on. You must always start with a good base. Everyone has his or her preferred toppings, but the base or crust remains the same.

I have tried different recipes for different pizza crusts over the years. It was always a frustrating and disappointing experience. Within the last year, I read the book American Pie by Peter Reinhart, which is a book about the authors search for the best pizza. He traveled the United States and Italy eating all different kinds of pizza. Reinhart shares the story of his travels in the first half of the book and then shares recipes in the second half. After reading the stories, I decided to try his recipe for Napoletana pizza dough. The first time, I made the recipe exactly the way the recipe is written. It turned out well, even if the pizza crusts weren’t exactly round or even in thickness. I’m not a professional pizzaioli. I decided to tweak the recipe to make the dough a little easier to work with, healthier and a bit more tasty.

So here’s what I did. By using a mixture of organic all purpose flour and organic whole wheat flour, I made the dough stronger, so that it doesn’t tear so easily, more healthy and tasty. I also added more salt that Reinhart called for. I use sea salt instead of kosher or iodized salt. If you don’t like as much salt or are on a low-sodium diet, you can cut the salt in my recipe by half. Now, here’s how you make it.

As you may know from reading earlier posts, I like to weigh my ingredients. Having exact measurements, especially when dealing with breads and bakery products, is extremely important if you want it to turn out the same each time. Even then, temperature and humidity differences can change your end result as well, but we don’t necessarily have control over those factors. Therefore, it is important to control the factors that you can. With that said, I am going to give you the recipe with the flour and water by weight. If you want to convert it to cups, one cup of all-purpose flour weighs 4.25 ounces and one cup of whole wheat flour weighs 4 ounces.

First, combine 15 ounces of room temperature water with 1 teaspoon of instant yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer. Let this sit while you do the next step. Combine 12 and a half ounces of organic all-purpose flour, 10 ounces of organic whole wheat flour and 1 tablespoon of sea salt. Mix these together with your mixer’s dough hook. Add this flour mixture to your water/yeast mixture. Mix with the dough hook on medium speed of your electric mixer for 4 minutes. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes, then mix at medium/low speed for 2 additional minutes.

organic pizza dough

 

When you have finished mixing the dough, you will want to turn the dough out onto a floured surface, working the dough into a smooth ball.

organic pizza dough

Oil a large ceramic or stainless steel bowl with your favorite oil (olive oil, coconut oil, butter, etc.). Put your dough ball into this oiled bowl, turning to coat all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and put in a warm area where it will not be disturbed for an hour and a half.

organic pizza dough

 

After the hour and a half has passed, put your pizza dough bowl into the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Then, take the pizza dough out of the refrigerator at least two hours before you are ready to make your pizza. You have to get the dough back to room temperature before you will be able to work with it. During all of this time in and out of the refrigerator, the yeast will be working its magic on the dough. If you would like to know more about how yeast works on dough, Peter Reinhart has another book at explains it called, The Bread Baker’s Apprentice.

Once your dough has reached room temperature and you are ready to make your pizzas, put a pizza stone into your oven and preheat the oven to 425 degrees. If you don’t have a pizza stone, don’t worry about it. You can still make pizza without it. I bake my pizza on the middle oven rack with a pizza stone. If you don’t have a pizza stone, you might want to move your oven rack down a bit lower. Experiment with it to see which level turns out the best pizza.

Generously flour your work surface where you will be shaping the pizza dough. Remove your dough from the bowl as gently as possible and place it on your floured work surface. Using a bench scraper or sharp knife, cut the dough into four or six equal pieces. For me, since my pizza dough stretching skills are limited, six dough balls makes six personal sized pizzas, four makes normal small sized pizzas. If you are going for making those 18-inch pizzas, the you might want to just cut the dough in half. Form the cut pieces into smooth dough balls.

organic pizza dough

Take one of your dough balls and start stretching it evenly to form a circle. After a few, I decided that if I roll it with a rolling pin a bit, then work it with my knuckles from the edges, it turns out better. I even tried doing the pizza toss thing, and the dough held up fine. Just be sure you don’t drop it on the floor. My advice is to shape the dough however it is the easiest and least frustrating for you. As you can see, my first one didn’t turn out as a perfect circle.

organic pizza dough

 

Once you have your dough formed, you have a choice. If you have a pizza peel and know how to use it. Then proceed with preparing that and all your toppings. I don’t have a pizza peel. I have a pizza pan that has holes in it, so it still works on the pizza stone. If you have a pizza pan, then move your dough to the pan so that you can start putting on your toppings. Red sauce is not my favorite, so it is rarely on my pizza. Instead, I brush the dough with organic extra-virgin olive oil, sprinkle garlic granules and a little bit of sea salt over the whole thing and then proceed with the rest of my toppings. Pesto is another one of my favorites to use as a base sauce. You know what your favorites are, so do it the way you like it.

organic pizza dough

 

On this pizza, I went very basic and just used pesto, mushrooms and shredded mozzarella cheese. If only I had some sun-dried tomatoes!

organic pizza dough

 

Bake your pizza in the oven, depending on the size of your pizza and the amount of toppings, anywhere from 10 to 15 minutes, turning halfway through for even baking. If you made your pizza crust extra thick, you may need to bake it longer. Or bake a shorter time if you made your crust really thin. Keep an eye on it. Pull it out when you think it looks like the perfect pizza to you. I like my cheese a bit on the well done side, so my finished pizza might not appeal to you, if you like yours cooked for less time. It’s all about customizing it to your own taste. That’s why you are making it at home. So you can get exactly what you want!

organic pizza dough

 

Organic Pizza Dough Recipe

  • 12 1/2 oz. organic all-purpose flour
  • 10 oz. organic whole wheat flour
  • 1 Tbsp. sea salt
  • 1 tsp. instant yeast
  • 15 ounces water, room temperature

In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine water and yeast. In a large bowl, combine flours and salt. Mix flours and salt together well. Add the flour mixture to the yeast and water mixture. Using the dough hook, mix on medium speed for 4 minutes. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes. Mix again on medium-low speed for 2 additional minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and work the dough into a smooth ball. Transfer dough to an oiled bowl turning to coat the dough on all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave in a warm, undisturbed area for 1 1/2 hours.

Move bowl of dough to the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Remove dough from refrigerator at least 2 hours before you are ready to make pizza, to bring dough to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Turn dough out onto floured work surface. Using a bench scraper or sharp knife, cut dough into 4 or 6 equal pieces. Form your pizza crusts. Top with your favorite toppings. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes depending on the size of your pizza and your own preferences. Remove from oven. Let cool 5 minutes. Cut and enjoy!