Monday, April 29, 2013

Mini Corn Dog Bites (Gluten Free)

Carnival food…not exactly how I would describe how my family eats, but a fun way to jazz up a meal. Plus, I love the challenge of making really unhealthy foods a wee bit more healthful.

Corn dogs are not at the top of any “healthy foods” list, but I have a theory that kids like to eat things on a stick. Popsicles, lollipops, and yes, corn dogs. There is an inherent thrill in eating off of a stick.

Throwing potential eye hazards aside, I came up with a fun way to make miniature “corn dogs” for lunch or dinner for your family. Basically you use a thickened corn bread batter and dip little pieces of sausage or hot dog in the batter and bake them in a mini-muffin tin. It was fun to make and even more fun to eat.

A tip if you do try this recipe: pop the corn bread mixture into the fridge for 10-15 minutes before you intend to dip your sausage in it, as it helps firm up the mixture and makes it easier to stay on the “dog.” 

Another tip:  preheat the oven with the mini-muffin tin in the oven, so that it is hot when you put the mini-corn dogs in the pan. This makes them brown nicely on the bottom.

Mini Corn Dog Bites (Gluten-Free)

2/3 cup cornmeal
1/3 cup gluten-free flour (whole wheat or all-purpose is fine if you don't need it to be gluten-free)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon ground pepper
1/3 cup milk (can use soy, rice or almond if you need it to be dairy-free)
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2-3 pre-cooked sausages or hot dogs, preferably nitrate-free
Cooking spray
24 toothpicks

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Place the mini-muffin tin in the oven to warm.

Prepare the batter: In a medium bowl, mix the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, onion powder and ground pepper. In a small bowl mix the milk, eggs and oil. Pour the milk mixture into the cornmeal mixture and mix until just combined. Pop the bowl in the fridge for 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, cut each sausage or hot dog into 8-12 slices, or about ½ inch slices. Place a toothpick in each piece.

Remove the mini-muffin tin from the oven and dip each sausage in the batter, using a spoon to coat each piece, if necessary.

Place immediately into the pan. Repeat until the pan is full.

Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the corn dog bites are slightly browned.

Makes 24 bites.

Life is sweet,

Friday, April 26, 2013

Healthy Meal Plan: R's soccer game

Last week I shared a picture of my sweet G in soccer mode, so this week, here's one of R, tracking the ball during his game last weekend...

May your weekend be bright and happy...and full of some fun times outdoors!

Here's Next Week's Healthy Meal Plan:

Meatless Monday:  Best Barbecue Veggie Burgers, Sliced Avocado, Mango


Seared Flounder with Blood Orange Drizzle
, Green Beans,
Parmesan Grits, Cantaloupe

Honey Mustard "Fried" Chicken, Coleslaw,Caramelized Onion Quinoa, Raspberries 

Homemade Pizza (Topped with Grilled Vegetables and Feta), Kiwi

Sesame Lime Noodles or Quinoa, Fresh Pineapple

Life is sweet,

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Super Spinach Salad with Warm Maple Dijon Dressing

I'd forgotten about this salad. 

A long, long time ago when SPH and I still lived in Virginia, our good friends Dan and Lee served a version of this salad at one of our Supper Club dinners.  Oh, was it good...

Last night I was driving home from picking R up from piano lessons.  I'd already planned a spinach salad for dinner when , into my head popped this recipe.  I found it in my old recipe binder and altered our dinner plans a wee bit.

It was so good, the boys loved it (my theory?  the maple syrup in the dressing) and since I am excited to share it with you, I did an impromptu photo shoot as I made it for my lunch earlier today.

You can alter this recipe and omit the bacon so it will be vegetarian/vegan, or add a cheese if that floats your boat.  You can certainly use other greens, and since the dressing is warm, it would work great with firmer greens like kale or swiss chard, as they will wilt a wee bit. 

Don't worry so much about using the exact vegetables in the salad, as you can alter them to your heart's content, but do, do, do try this dressing!

Super Spinach Salad with Warm Maple Dijon Dressing

10-12 ounces baby spinach, chopped
1 small red onion, sliced
1 red pepper, diced
1 avocado, diced
1 - 15 ounce can Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
6 slices cooked bacon, chopped
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Chop the spinach and vegetables. 

Cook the bacon and slice or crumble.  Place the drained beans in a microwave safe dish and heat on high for 1 minute to warm. 

Arrange the spinach in each bowl, topping with bacon and beans.

In a microwave safe container, such as a glass pyrex, combine the maple syrup, dijon mustard, olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper.  Stir well.  Cook on high for 1 minute and stir again.

Add the remaining vegetables.  Pour approximately 1-2 tablespoons of dressing over each salad.


Serves 6 as a main-dish salad, 8-10 as a side salad.

Life is sweet,

Monday, April 22, 2013

Our Family's Best Homemade Earth-Friendly Cleaners

This is a re-post of my 2012 list of our family's best homemade Earth-friendly cleaners.  Happy Earth Day!


1. The Ole' Stand-by: Vinegar and Water. We use roughly half water, half white vinegar for our go-to cleaner for mirrors, window and other surfaces. Yeah, it doesn't smell great, but once it is dry the smell is g-o-n-e, gone.

2. The New Favorite: Homemade Dishwasher Detergent.

Here's the new, easy recipe:

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

1/2 cup Borax (Sold at Target)
1/2 cup Washing Soda (made by Arm and Hammer, I buy it at Meijer)
1/2 cup Citric Acid (Sold at Whole Foods, I bought some through in bulk)
1/4 cup Kosher Salt

Mix in an airtight container. Use 1 tablespoon per load of dishes.

Since our water is hard, this is the best cleaner for our dishes, earth-friendly or not. If you have soft water, you can use 1/4 cup citric acid.

3. My I-can't-believe-it-works-so-well-even-on-delicates: Homemade Laundry Detergent

Click on the link for the recipe, which was enough for our family for five months.

4. Kitchen Hero: Homemade Fruit and Vegetable Produce Wash

I use this seemingly all day long. Click on the link for a great way to remove pesticides, residue and other gunk from your fresh produce.

5. Greener Garden Helper:
Homemade Earth-Friendly Weed Preventer

It's spring and weeds are popping up along our patio, driveway and front walk. This weed killer has been a huge help! Bonus: R and G love using it which is a huge help.

There you have it; five ways you can celebrate Earth Day, everyday.

Life is sweet,

Friday, April 19, 2013

Healthy Meal Plan: Reluctant Soccer Mom

G's first game of the season, it was cooooold.  Of course, then yesterday it was 86 degrees.  Spring in Ohio!

It is the start of spring soccer and with both R and G playing, SPH coaching and yours truly driving to practices, sitting at the soccer field, gathering post-game snacks, cheering, keeping track of cleats, shin guards and other equipment, I have one thought...

How did I become a soccer mom?

For some reason I don't like the term "soccer mom," it being a label and all, and me not liking labels too much.

But what better term to explain my life for the next month and a half as we fit multiple practices and games into each week?

So with soccer season comes busy weeknights and weekends, but at the end of the day, would I really want it any other way?

Maybe I can just be a mom to two soccer-playing boys, okay?

Here's next week's Healthy Meal Plan:

Meatless Monday:  Black Bean and Avocado Tostadas, Fresh Pineapple

Summer Rolls, Steamed Edamame, Fresh Mango

Make-It-Your-Own Baked Penne, Tossed Salad, Kiwi with Shredded Coconut

Chicken Paprikash, Sauteed Green Beans with Garlic and Olive Oil, Fresh Pear

Panzenella (works great with Gluten-Free Bread), Clementines

Grilled Chicken, Corn and Avocado with Chipotle Ranch Dressing, Apple Slices dipped in Cinnamon Honey

Life is sweet,

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Grilled Vegetable Risotto (Gluten-Free and Vegan)

This recipe is a beautiful marriage of flavors:

the rich, creamy risotto paired with the bright, crisp flavors of fresh vegetables.

If you happen to have leftover grilled vegetables, this is a great way to repurpose them...dipping each tasty vegetable into the creamy risotto, almost as if it were a condiment.

Okay, I have to stop writing, my mouth is watering.

Try this combination, it is good.

Grilled Vegetable Risotto (Gluten-Free and Vegan)

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup arborio rice
1 quart (4 cups) vegetable or chicken broth
1/4 cup dry white wine (or use additional broth)
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1/4 cup cashew cream (or milk)

Grilled Vegetables
Red Onion, Zucchini, Asparagus, Bell Peppers, Squash, and Eggplant all work well
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Make the Risotto:
In a large sauce pan over medium heat, heat the olive oil and add the onion. Saute for 3-4 minutes or until the onions begin to become translucent. Add the garlic and arborio rice and stir well, to coat the rice well with the olive oil.

Meanwhile, pour the broth into a microwave safe container (a glass pyrex container works well).  Heat for 2 minutes on high.  Set aside.

Add the white wine. Stir and in about 1-2 minutes, add one cup of the broth. Stir occasionally until the broth has been absorbed by the rice, which takes about 3-4 minutes. Keep adding broth in 1/2-1 cup increments until the rice is cooked (taste it if you are not sure!).

When the rice is cooked, add the salt, pepper, cashew cream (or milk). Stir well.

Grill or Broil the Vegetables:
While the risotto is cooking, slice the vegetables, sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Grill or broil until soft.

Keep the ends of the red onions on until after you grill to keep the onions from falling apart!
Chop the grilled vegetables.

Serve the risotto with the vegetables on top.

Serves 4.

How good is this recipe?  Why don't you ask my friend's adorable little 1 year old?

"What do you think L?"

"Yum!"  (he ate two bowls!)

Life is sweet,

Monday, April 15, 2013

No-Bake Carrot Cake Bites (Vegan and Gluten-Free)

A few months ago I was shopping at our local Market District grocery store when I came upon my favorite dietician, who was passing out samples of Carrot Cake bites...basically, completely healthful and delicious bites of goodness.

R loves this recipe, and I love that he's getting a slew of healthful ingredients each times he enjoys them.  Many mornings, these serve as an "appetizer" to his breakfast.  They're also a great after-school snack or anytime snack.

Packed with ground nuts, flax, dried fruit and coconut, they offer a powerful nutrition punch!

No-Bake Carrot Cake Bites
(adapted from a Market District recipe)

2 large carrots, roughly chopped
1 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup walnuts
4 oz pitted dates (about 1/2 cup), roughly chopped
1/4 cup ground flax seed (flax meal) 
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (plus extra for rolling, if desired)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon agave syrup or maple syrup

Place the carrots, almonds, walnuts and dates into a food processor and process until the ingredients resemble fine gravel or very coarse sand or pebbles.

Add the flax, coconut, cinnamon, nutmeg and agave/maple syrup and process until fully incorporated.

Pour into a bowl.

Shape into generous tablespoon balls.

If desired, pour a few tablespoons of extra shredded coconut into a shallow dish and roll each ball in the coconut before serving.

 Makes about 2 1/2 dozen bites.

Life is sweet,

Friday, April 12, 2013

Healthy Meal Plan: Spring has sprung!

This week we had temperatures in the 80s (though it is cooler today!) and the boys had their first super soaker battle of the season.

Spring has sprung!

Here's some of my favorite healthful, delicious spring meals for next week's healthy meal plan:

Meatless Monday:  Spring Risotto, Arugula Salad and Kiwi

Darn Good Skillet Dinner, Fresh Plums

Best Barbecue Veggie Burgers, Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Pineapple

Taco Lasagna, Cilantro-Lime Rice, Mango

Layered Asian Salad, Kimchi (from Trader Joe's)
Life is sweet,

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Pickled Cauliflower and Carrots

Do you know someone that loves pickles in your family? 

Both my boys love pickled cucumbers, so I came up with a new pickled vegetable recipe, pickled cauliflower and carrots.  It's based on the Italian recipe for Giardiniera, meaning "from the garden." 

I think you will love this twist on traditional pickles!

Pickled Cauliflower and Carrots

1 cup vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons sugar
2 cloves garlic, smashed
3 bay leaves
pinch of red pepper flakes
1 small head cauliflower, cut into small florets
1 carrot, sliced thinly

Combine the vinegar, water, salt and sugar in a microwave safe pyrex or other container.  Heat on high for 1-2 minutes, or until the sugar is dissolved.  Stir well.

Add the garlic, bay leaves and red pepper flakes.  Stir again.

In a large bowl or jar, add the cauliflower and carrots, (or by all means, add other veggies as well--we like mild peppers too) and pour the marinade over the veggies.

Refrigerate for 24 hours.  Use as needed, lasts for up to 4 weeks in your refrigerator.
Life is sweet,

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

This is a darn good cookie recipe.  I've made it more than any other chocolate chip recipe in the last months.


It is best "healthier" version of chocolate chip cookies I've ever baked, Gluten-Free or otherwise.

True, "healthier" and "chocolate chip cookie" probably don't belong in the sentence, but these cookies boast lots of whole grain and half the butter is replaced with less-saturated fat vegetable oil.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies
(adapted from a traditional cookie recipe from

1 1/2 cups Gluten-Free Oats
2 cups Gluten-Free Flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup canola oil
2/3 cup white sugar
2/3 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Grind oats in a food processor, blender or coffee grinder until they resemble coarse sand.

Combine the oats, flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, beat the butter until soft and fluffy, then add the oil, sugars, eggs and vanilla.  Stir well until fully incorporated.

Slowly add the flour mixture, a little at a time.  Stir until fully combined and add the chocolate chips.

Drop spoonfuls onto a baking sheet:

Bake for 12-14 minutes, or until the edges are slightly browned.

Makes 3 1/2 dozen cookies.

Life is sweet,

Monday, April 1, 2013

Doing a Gluten-Free Trial as a Family

This is not an April Fools' Joke...

After lots of thought, research, discussion and prayer, our family has decided to try a Gluten-Free trial in our home.  It's been quite the journey, full of lots of revelations, indecision and tons of reading.  

We did not embark on this journey because Gluten-Free is all the rage.  Quite the contrary.  This is not an experiment based on reading any one book, listening to a celebrity gush about Gluten-Free or because we just casually decided to do it.

But regardless we're...

Going Gluten-Free as a Family.

For 8 Weeks.

No Gluten.  Period.

In other words, GF.

As SPH and I made the decision, the biggest question to me was "how are we going to tell the boys?"  I mean, they love pizza, pasta, cookies, bread, cake...I could go on.

So over the last few months I've been experimenting (alert readers may have noticed!)...with GF recipes, GF take-out pizza (hello, did you know that Mama Mimi's, Domino's and Donatos all have GF pizzas?) and other ways to eliminate gluten, but maintain healthy whole grains as a part of our diet.

I've perused the GF aisle at Market District, asked for GF recommendations from my friends who have Celiac Disease, and been working on a homemade GF flour mix.

This has not been a hasty decision to try Gluten-Free.

So recently I sat the boys down and explained our reasons for going Gluten-Free and why we thought this was a good thing for our family.

I tried to talk straight about the challenges:  no school lunches, no school treats (but told them I would make some if a birthday was that week), no school snacks unless they were Gluten-Free (but promised to stock their teacher's shelves with some Gluten-Free Snacks), and remembering they will have to ask if they aren't sure if they can eat something.

Then I handed them a few things to read.  First, a brainstormed list of all of their favorite foods that are naturally Gluten-Free foods (and there are tons more!), along with a list of their favorite Gluten-Free foods at Trader Joe's (you can print your own list here).

Next, two cookbooks from my sweet mother.  I told R and G they could flip through the pages and pick any two recipes for this week.  We'll be trying Gluten-Free Italian Garlic Breadsticks and Gluten-Free Sugar Cookies.

At the end of the conversation R looked at me and said, "that's fine, I don't really mind not buying lunch at school" (my biggest concern) and G said, "sounds great, why don't we start today!"

Shock.  Awe.  Thanks-giving.

I am thankful they are supportive of this experiment and I hope their attitudes continue.

In the meantime, I'll be sharing what we learn as we journey down this road.

Life is sweet,