I mentioned in my last meal-plan post that I was planning to make a batch of granola for my breakfasts this week. Granola is one of those items where I almost always have the ingredients on hand, without even trying, as it’s super flexible and made entirely of pantry staples. It is also one of those items that I forgot how much I enjoy it until it in right in front of me, on the spoon, on it’s way to my mouth. I love granola! I prefer it over yogurt or treated like cereal, in a bowl with milk, but when you make it at home, you control how large/small the clusters of granola are, so you can keep the clusters large and take the granola on the go, dry, for a crunchy snack.
I also was thinking (though I’m sure that I am not the first), that it wouldn’t be to hard to swing granola’s flavors into a savory-sweet option too. Curry, rosemary, spicy–it would make an awesome topping to salads or a “savory” yogurt (I’ll admit, I still haven’t tried those…and I’m a little hesitant) or even as an accompaniment to a cheese board!
As I said, granola is super-customizable, but it is also very easy. Just think of it as a ratio! My basic ratio is: for every 1 cup of (gluten-free) oats, I have 1/3 cup (total) of mix-ins, 2 tablespoons of fat and 2 tablespoons of liquid sweetener. I like to bump up my omega’s too, so I bargain for 2 teaspoons apiece of chia seed and flax seed. With the variety of mix-ins, fats, sweeteners, and spices, the granola possibilities really are endless! Here are some ideas for each:
Be sure to use oats that are certified and labeled “gluten-free”–otherwise you risk cross-contamination. Combine up to two different fats and two different sweeteners (just be sure the total volume remains the same) for extra depth of flavor!
1 cup GF rolled oats, plus:
Fats (2 TBSP per 1 c oats):
- melted butter
- melted coconut oil
- olive oil
- avocado oil
- safflower oil
- 1/2 nut butter + 1/2 fat choice above
Liquid Sweeteners(2 TBSP per 1 c oats):
- maple syrup
- Lyle’s golden syrup
- agave nectar
Mix-ins(1/3 c total per 1 c oats):
- Nuts (almonds, peanuts, walnuts, pecans, hazelnuts, cashews, brazil nuts, macadamias…)
- Seeds (sunflower, pumpkin, squash, sesame, poppy seeds, millet…)
- Dried fruits (cranberries, raisins, blueberries, chopped apricots, cherries, figs, goji berries…)
- Other (dried shredded/flaked coconut, chocolate chips, cocoa nibs, crystallized ginger…)
Plus 2 tsp chia seeds and 2 tsp ground flaxseed and about 1/2 tsp each of spices (cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, clove, nutmeg, chili, etc), with a pinch of salt and a dash of extract (vanilla, cinnamon, lemon, etc) with 1 cup of rolled gluten-free oats.
My batch that is in the photos above a larger triple batch. I just multiplied it all (roughly) by three!
Pantry Clear-out Coconut-Almond Granola
Serves: 10-12 | Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 25-30 minutes
- 3 c rolled oats, raw
- 1/3 c. pumpkin seeds
- 1/3 c. sliced almonds
- 1/3 c. shredded coconut
- 2 Tbsp. ground flax seeds
- 2 Tbsp. chia seeds
- 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
- 2 tsp. ground cardamom
- 6 Tbsp. melted butter
- 3 Tbsp. Lyle’s golden syrup
- 3 Tbsp. molasses
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- big pinch salt
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Lightly spray with cooking oil. Add the oats, mix-ins, spices, and other dry ingredients to a large bowl. Mix until combined. Stir together the melted butter, golden syrup, molasses, vanilla extract, and salt until combined. It may take a minute or two for the fat to mix into the liquid sweeteners. Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and stir until all of the dry ingredients are coated. Spread into a thin layer on the lined baking sheet and baked for 25-30 minutes. Remove the granola from oven and allow to cool completely on the pan without disturbance. This will allow the granola to stick to together. Gently lift an edge of the granola–it will begin to break into pieces. Stir and crumble until clusters reach desired size. Store is a tightly closed container at room temperature for up to 10 days.
We had the first glimmers of autumn here in the past few day: a gentle crispness in the mornings when we take Punc out for her walk and cool breezes throughout the days. I, of course, pounced on this brief respite from the heat and took my cue to start thinking of all of the stereotypical fall plans. Pumpkin-everything, baking apples nine different ways, sweaters, and cool days and long, darkening evenings. Yes, I harbor a deep love for fall, for all of the stereotypical reasons. As mentioned, with my primary job working with children, our schedule revolves around theirs. We can segment the year into Fall, Spring, and Summer. Naturally, the oncoming of September each year has developed into a transition-type period in my life, and the hints of a season change only strengthens that feeling. After a long, hot summer, I am longing for the blustery, cool weather. This year especially, I find myself earnestly awaiting the season’s shift. Fall feels fresh; encouraging cozy clothes and the promise of fires in the hearth. As much as I have dreamy musings of wanderlust (long walks, new places, all colored with autumn leaves); I find myself craving stillness even more. I want stretches of quiet, allowing for reflection and reading. I want a quilt, a cup of tea, and a new book to keep me company as the day creeps from afternoon to night. I fully plan on getting what I want–I’m drafting up quite a list of books waiting to be read, and I’m compiling simple or long-and-slow cooked recipes for dinner, to simplify my evenings after work. Less stress, more rest–that is my plan for the coming few months.
I have been putting more effort into socializing as well. Living with my significant other and a roommate fulfills my basic need for conversation and camaraderie, but I do miss spending time with other girls, and the friends that have been close to me for years. It is so easy to get stuck in the rut of a daily routine: See roommates at home, see coworkers at work, come home, dinner, tv, bed, repeat. With my strange arts schedule keeping me working on weekends, meeting up with people with more “routine” schedules is all the more challenging. I am trying harder to keep connections as more friends are getting engaged, getting married, having babies, and moving across the country. Everyone is busy, but the initiative to see one another has to start somewhere. I am putting more effort into taking that initiative. (Plus, then I have an excuse to go to brunch/coffee/dinner–why didn’t I start reaching out earlier?)
I also feel like I haven’t really been listening lately. Not in a “can you repeat that” sense, but I have noticed myself interrupting more, and pushing to express my opinion. I am giving the people around me only half of my attention as I think about my own response–before they are even finished speaking. So there is another goal for this season: give all of my attention and listen fully to another’s story, anecdote, complaint, idea, sentence until it is complete.
This recipe for butternut squash gnocchi fits with all of my goals and with my seasonal obsessions: squash is one of my quintessential ‘fall flavors’ and these gnocchi make a filling, comforting dish. Plus, the preparation of the dough is a simple, meditative task that, while somewhat time consuming, allows for mindless relaxation or a long conversation with whomever you can lure into the kitchen. I’ll pour M a drink and force him to sit with me!
Gluten-Free Butternut Squash Gnocchi
Adapted from: Iowa Girl Eats
Serves: 6|Prep time: 60-90 minutes|Cook time: 5-10 minutes
- 2-2.5 lb butternut squash
- 1 c. brown rice flour (or white rice flour)*
- 3 Tbsp. buckwheat flour (or millet, oat, teff, or a heaping measure of quinoa flour)*
- 1/4 c. + 1 Tbsp tapioca starch*
- Up to 1/2 c. additional flour (2 Tbsp. tapioca starch + 6 Tbsp. brown rice flour or more of the mix)
- Additional flour for coating the rolling surface
- 1 egg
- 1/4 c. parmesan cheese
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp pepper, ground
- 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
- 1/4 tsp sage, ground, optional
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper, optional
*Or use 1 1/2 c. total of your preferred GF flour mix–a low starch mix is preferred–my combo here is around 20% starch.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line baking sheet with foil and coat lightly with oil. Pierce the squash several times with the tines of a fork or the point of a sharp knife. Split the squash in half. Remove the seeds and discard, or save for roasting. Roast the squash, cut side down, for one hour. Remove the squash from oven, let cool for 10 minutes, then scoop out the flesh. Mash well, then spread on a plate or cookie sheet to cool completely.
In a large bowl, mix the cooled, mashed squash with the egg and parmesan cheese. Whisk together all spices and flours in a small bowl. Add 1 1/2 cups of flour mix to the wet mixture, stir and knead until a smooth, uniform dough forms. If too wet, add up to 1/4 c. additional flour, in small increments, kneading in between, until dough is smooth and slightly tacky to the touch. The dough should pull away from the bowl. Refrigerate dough for 10-15 minutes.
Flour your work surface and your hands well. Split cooled dough into large segments. Take each segment and roll into a long rope on a well-floured surface. The rope should be 1/2 inch- 1 inch in diameter. Cut rope into 1-inch segments, coat lightly in flour. You can either leave the segments unshaped and rustic, or roll them into the traditional gnocchi shape over a fork or gnocchi paddle.
To Serve Immediately: Boil a pot of salted water on the stove. Drop the gnocchi in one-by-one in small batches, stirring once after 30 seconds to prevent from sticking to the bottom of the pot. Cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes, until gnocchi floats at the surface. Ladle out the pasta, into a saucepan with 1 Tbsp of butter+1/8 tsp. ground sage (per serving of gnocchi). Cook for an additional 2-3 minutes, stirring gently, until gnocchi is lightly browned. Serve with grated parmesan or crumbled goat’s cheese, or feta and balsamic vinegar. I’ve also made it with sliced sausage, onions, and wilted greens as ‘add-ins’ that can be added to the gnocchi in the saucepan. This gnocchi would be delicious with a variety of sauces.
To Freeze and Cook Later: Before placing kneaded dough in fridge, knead in an addition 2-4 Tbsp of flour mixture*. Place in fridge for 10-15 minutes. Flour your work surface and your hands well. Split cooled dough into large segments. Take each segment and roll into a long rope on a well-floured surface. The rope should be 1/2 inch- 1 inch in diameter. Cut rope into 1-inch segments, coat lightly in flour. You can either leave the segments unshaped and rustic, or roll them into the traditional gnocchi shape over a fork or gnocchi paddle. Place formed gnocchi on a cookie sheet and freeze flat overnight. In the morning, transfer to a freezer-proof bag. Cook from frozen–do not thaw.
I hope everyone had a beautiful Mother’s Day weekend! I finished up our last showcase on Saturday, which went perfectly smoothly, and now has me calm and collected for the six weeks of prep work and school classes remaining before summer camp. Sunday was nice an simple, with the mum and the mom (and the brother and friends) coming over for a barbecue. I marinated some Buttermilk-Dijon Chicken and then passed it over to M to grill with some quick-rubbed ribs and asparagus while I baked a vegetable gratin and beautiful little pots de cremes that surprised even me with their simplicity. Both will soon be appearing on the blog sooooon! I did not take pictures on Mother’s Day, but that just mean I will have to make both recipes again! Such a shame! (Once again, I am longing for a sarcasm font).
Spring has been fickle here. Since we didn’t get any snow until March, I can’t say that I’m surprise that we’ve been switching from torrential downpours, to gusty gray chills, to sticky, hot humidity over the past two weeks. The only reliable feat of weather was that, when we had to load or unload props and set pieces, the rain would begin. Usually in earnest. Ugh.
But the past two days have been sweltering, in spite of the storm warnings. I think that now, in May, spring may finally have arrived, just in time to shift to summer (I’m knocking on the table right now). And I have finally let go of the warming soups and squash dishes of winter. I’m embracing zucchini, craving berries, peaches, and bright green salads. Though M and I are pretty firmly into a bacon-and-eggs breakfast rut (I’m now out of fruit and yogurt and can’t bring myself to make oatmeal on warm mornings), when I had the extra time to spare I threw together some doctored-up GF Bisquick pancakes. But only after the batter was mixed, did I remember that we had no syrup in the house. We still don’t…it’s one of the those strange pantry essentials that always get missed when making the grocery list.
But we did have berries and lemons, and I figured I could whip up something without much trouble. I happen to love pancakes, especially GF Bisquick’s (I’m withholding my raving for the moment), plain, but I know that I may be in the minority there. Plus, when I have a morning to make pancakes, I’m practically going all out. This berry-lemon syrup really is just fruit steeped in a simple syrup. Crushing the fruit releases some juices, but the boiling and simmering really infuses the flavors. I set my batch simmering and was able to cook my pancake batter in the 15-20 minute simmer time. A quick strain and a stir was all that was left separating this fruity syrup from soft, warm pancakes. Try this for breakfast, it’ll definitely give your day a good start!
- 2 c. mixed berries*
- Juice + zest of 1 large lemon (2-4 tbsp juice, up to 1 Tbsp of zest)
- 3/4 c. water
- 3/4 c. sugar (agave/honey would be fine, just needs more reducing time)
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
*I used a mix of blueberries and strawberries, but any combo, or even just 2 cups of one kind of berry, should work just fine.
Use a potato masher or a fork to mash the berries in a medium sauce pan. Add water, stir well and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil for five minutes. Add in sugar, stir until dissolved. Stir in lemon zest. Bring back to a boil, then reduce heat to med-low to simmer for 15-20 minutes. Strain fruit from syrup. If a thicker consistency is desired, return syrup to pot and continue to reduce until desired consistency is reached. Remove syrup from heat, stir in lemon juice and vanilla extract into syrup. Serve warm.
This syrup will keep in a sealed container in the fridge for up to two weeks. Try it on pancakes, oatmeal, yogurt, ice cream–anything you can think of! I also reserved my strained fruit pulp to add to smoothies, but you can discard the pulp, if you wish.
This has been a crazy couple of weeks, to say the least. I knew it would be, but even I couldn’t prepare myself for the little wave of panic when I looked at my calendar and saw three tech-to-performance weeks in a row. There is a reason that the theater industry calls these “hell weeks”…nah, I’m (mostly) joking. Thankfully, all of these performances are with my children’s company which means: (A) I know those involved, (B) Most of our team has down this before, and (C) We are all awesome enough to make these week run smoothly and simply! This post has been sitting in my drafts, half-written, for almost a week-and-a-half, and this recipe has been waiting even longer!
This lasagna was one of the actual “recreation” dinners I made after going gluten-free, and it was also the first time I’d ever tried making lasagna at home. I was intrigued by the grain-free recipe (one less ingredient to worry about converting to gluten-free–score!) and the extra veggies with zucchini substituting for noodles. I added more vegetables in the form of onions and peppers, but this recipes is incredibly flexible. Sub more vegetables in for some or all of the meat, or any more to the onion-pepper mixture. When I first made this recipe, I sliced the zucchini lengthwise, into long strips like noodles. These had a tendency to slip out when trying to cut a bite’s-worth, so I recommend cutting into circle crosswise, or peeling the zucchini before slicing it.
I wish I had had time to make this Lasagna this week (the recipe and photos are from about a month back). This makes the best leftovers, and we have plenty when I’m only serving dinner to three people. This comforting dish is the perfect bridge between winter and spring (we’ve just had three days of torrential rain–yuck) and would be the best lunch on my hectic performance days. I’ve got one more performance weekend, one more week of wrap-up, and then we’ll be off on our relaxing cruise! I’ll certainly keep you posted before then, and plan to come back with a full review of Royal Caribbean’s gluten-free offerings!
Zucchini Lasagna (Pasta-less Lasagna)
Serves: 8 | Prep time: 30 minutes
- 2 large zucchini
- 1 large onion, finely diced
- 1 large bell pepper (any color), finely diced
- 4 cups fresh spinach or kale leaves (kale stems removed), roughly chopped
- 2 Tbsp fresh basil, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 16 oz ricotta cheese*
- 1 c. shredded mozzarella cheese*
- 1/4 c. grated parmesan cheese*
- 1 lb italian sausage (can replace with equal amounts of another ground meat or finely diced tofu or mushrooms or veggie mix)
- 2 c. tomato sauce (storebought or homemade), divided
*I’m guessing that you could possibly use cashew ‘cheese’ if you wanted to make this vegan. I’ve never tried it myself, please let me know how it turns out if you give it a try!
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Slice the zucchini into thin slices crosswise (making circles, not long strips). (Optional–peel zucchini before slicing). Lay slices out on papertowels and salt generously. Allow to sit for 5-10 minutes–zuchinni will release some of their liquid. Crumble sausage/meat/tofu/veggies into a large sauté pan. Cook completely, then set aside. Drain grease. Cook chopped onions and peppers in a large sauté pan with minimal oil for about 5-7 minutes, until softened. Set aside. Rinse all zucchini well. Cook zuchinni in sauté pan for about 5 minutes, until slices begin to wilt. Spread on papertowels and allow to cool. Cooked spinach/kale in a covered sauté pan until wilted, about 3 minutes. Mix together wilted greens, basil, garlic, parmesan, 1/4 c. mozzarella, and ricotta cheese in medium bowl. In separate bowl, mix together onions, peppers, and meat/veggies with 1/2 c. of tomato sauce. Firmly pat zucchini slices dry
Lightly grease a 9×9″ pan. Spread 1/2 c. of tomato sauce into the bottom of the pan, coating evenly. Layer zucchini in even layer, top with cheese mixture then meat/veggie mixture, spreading evenly for each layer. Top meat/veggie mixture with 1/2 c. of tomato sauce. Continue this pattern (zucchini, cheese, meat, sauce) until ingredients run out–I got three layers. Be sure to end with sauce on topmost layer. Cover with remaining 3/4 c. mozzarella cheese.
Cover pan with aluminum foil. Bake at 375 degree F for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for 10-15 minutes more, until cheese is browned and bubbling. Allow lasagna to rest for 20 minutes before slicing.
Can be refrigerated in sealed container for up to 4 days.
And a Punc update, since I feel she’s been neglected here lately. Punc just turn eight months old last week and we are now halfway through our “Intermediate-Level” training class. It’s been a little more difficult than her puppy class. We did not enroll her straight away, since our holiday rush at work and our vacation would mean our absence at 3 of the 6 classes. Then, finding a class to fit into our schedule meant waiting until February, when the only other option was full. In the 10 weeks off from class, Punc hit “teenage phase”, generally characterized by being too smart and too stubborn for her own good. She knew the game of all of these tricks, and would only perform when she felt like it. The Intermediate course finally began and, while her classmates were larger dogs, as I was hoping (she’s still a bit wary of big
monsters dogs), the new skills were definitely more challenging. Heeling, Wait vs. Stay, Going to Bed are all skills that need consistent, daily practice. Unfortunately, while we still sort out the living situation (looking at townhouses next week! Hurray!) M and I do not see her every day. My mother has enough time to wear down her energy and review the old skills, but not the concentrated time to work on new tricks. We were falling frustratingly behind. We finally had a breakthrough in class yesterday (though it may have been that one dog was absent and the other couple that usually comes had only one human that day). Punc was focused and cooperative, even attentive when we were heeling storewide, despite the many customers, animals, and M and my mother lurking around the corners of every aisle. It was nice to have that reaffirmation after a couple of difficult classes. Maybe we are finally moving away from the “teenage phase”…won’t that mean all of her chewing stops too? 😉
Not a chance.
But onwards and upwards. Last week, I shared my Skillet Shrimp Scampi with you, mentioning that I’d mixed up a quick Pepper-Parmesan recipe to go on our kale salad. I was quite pleased with this mixed and more delighted in the days following, when all of the flavors really began to meld. It kept for about 4 days before we had used it all up. My guess, if refrigerated and tightly sealed, this dressing should last at least a week, if not longer. Though, if you are like me, and the barest hint of spring in the air has you gobbling greens like no tomorrow, you may find that one batch won’t last that long!
I kept this dressing fairly thick because I wanted it to stand up to the heartiness of the kale. You can easily make it thinner by adding more milk. Our parmesan was finely grated, but still enough to keep the dressing a little chunky. A spell in a blender could smooth things out, if you wish. I tend to stay away from too much mayonnaise in my dressings, but only because we almost always have sour cream and greek yogurt on hand and I love the flavor combo of all three. If you are missing one or two, you could easily sub in the other, but the flavor will change slightly. Looking at this recipe, I bet that I will make another batch tonight to top the salad alongside our pork chops!
Serves 8-12 | Prep time: 10 min | Wait time: 30+ min
- 2 Tbsp mayonnaise
- 2 Tbsp sour cream
- 1/4 c. greek yogurt
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- 1/4-1/2 c. milk (depending on thickness)
- 1 Tbsp crushed crispy onions* or ½ tsp onion powder
- 1 tsp crushed garlic
- 1 Tbsp black pepper
- 1/2 tsp cayenne or chipotle pepper (ground)
- 2 tsp worchestershire sauce
- 1 dash hot sauce
*We use fried crispy shallots found at Asian markets that are gluten-free. Always check you ingredients to make sure they do not contain gluten.
Combine the mayonnaise, sour cream, yogurt, lemon juice, and milk into a small bowl. Mix well. Now is the time to add more milk for a thinner dressing. Stir in remaining ingredients, combining thoroughly. Set in the refrigerator, covered for at least 30 minutes. The longer the dressing sits, the better the flavors will meld.