Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Soft Cornbread (Gluten Free)

I have to be honest, I am not a fan of most cornbread recipes.  Corn spoonbread, sign me up. 

But cornbread?  Usually too dry and crumbly to suit my tastes.

I've been working on a homemade and gluten-free cornbread recipe for weeks and finally came up with a version worth sharing.  And yes, it is gluten-free, but you can easily use all purpose flour instead of gluten-free flour.

As alert blog-reader Vicki messaged me, "are you guys gluten free now?"  No, not officially, but for various reasons we've been trying to do more gluten-free cooking and baking. 

This cornbread is so soft and moist, you won't miss the gluten!

Soft Cornbread (Gluten Free)

3/4 cup cornmeal
1 1/4 cup milk
1 cup gluten-free flour (all-purpose is fine if you don't need it to be GF)
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine the cornmeal and milk.  Let sit for 5 minutes, stirring once or twice during this time (soaking the cornmeal allows it to soften, and is key to producing a soft cornbread).

Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and sugar.  Stir well to mix.

After the cornmeal is done soaking, add the egg, vanilla extract and oil and stir well to fully combine.

Add the dry ingredients and mix for 2 minutes by hand.

Prepare either a 10 inch round cast iron skillet or a 9x9 glass baking dish by coating the bottom and sides with a touch of oil.

Pour the cornmeal batter into the skillet or dish and bake for 22-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out dry.

Makes 12 servings of delicious, soft, moist, not crumbly cornmeal.

Life is sweet,

Monday, February 25, 2013

Carrot Cake Pancakes (Vegan and Gluten-Free)

I'm always looking for new ways to jazz up our breakfast, to give the boys a little bit of extra nutrition before their day begins...and these pancakes hit a home run in our house!

To streamline your morning, you can either mix the batter the night prior, or at least measure out the dry and wet ingredients, and then mix them in the morning.

Whole grains, a vegetable and fruit are all in this recipe...all without dairy or eggs and we used gluten-free flour (regular flour is fine too).

Carrot Cake Pancakes (Vegan and Gluten-Free)

Dry Ingredients:
1 cup oat flour (grind oats in a food processor or coffee grinder)
1 cup gluten-free flour (we use Bob's Red Mill)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 cup dried unsweetened coconut (optional)

Wet ingredients:
2 medium carrots, shredded
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce, or 1/2 cup shredded apple
2 teaspoon vanilla
2 tablespoons oil (coconut or vegetable)
1 1/2 cups milk (almond, soy or coconut)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup honey or agave or maple syrup

Optional toppings:
Maple Syrup
Walnuts, Pecans or Sliced Almonds
Dried Coconut
Fresh Fruit

In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients.  Stir well.

In a medium bowl, mix the wet ingredients.  Stir well and add to the dry ingredients.  Mix until just fully combined.

In a large skillet over medium heat, add a teaspoon of oil or a bit of cooking spray.  Add 1/3 cup batter at a time.  Cook until the edges look set, about 3 minutes.  Flip and cook another 2-3 minutes.

Top with desired toppings!

Makes 12 large pancakes.

Life is sweet,

Friday, February 22, 2013

Healthy Meal Plan: Ice Day

"Hey, I just met you..."

Can you hear the music from this morning's PE class?

Winter Storm Q came last night in the form of ice, and since you can't even step on our side door mat without slipping, we're hunkering down this morning!

Could be a long day...with a snow day you can go outside and play.  With an ice storm?  Without ice skates, not so much.

So we're starting our morning with a bit of "get your energy out" dancing.

While the boys bust a move in our family room, I've got some healthy meals to share for next week, aka, the last week of February!  March is on it's way!!

Next Week's Healthy Meal Plan:

Meatless Monday:  Garlicky Smashed Tomato and Arugula Spaghetti, Applesauce

Grilled Portabella Burgers, 
Sweet Potato and Chard Cakes, Fresh Mango

Mexicali Pie, Mixed Greens Salad, Clementines

Quinoa and Curried Chickpea Salad, Pineapple

Easy Baked Coconut Shrimp, Garlicky Collard Greens, Roasted Beets, Pears

 Seven Bean Soup, Arugula Salad, Bread, Frozen Peaches with Almond Slivers

"...and this is crazy..."

And PE class continues...

Life is sweet,

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Our Kitchen Family Command Center

Don't the words "command center," sound a bit intense?  Yet, with this welcome addition to our kitchen, our days seems a wee bit *less* intense...even smooth!

Why a family command center?

Our family is probably a lot like yours:  busy, stretched, and a little harried sometimes.

So I'd been eyeing a section of our kitchen wall, right between the basement door and the family room pass through, trying to figure out the best way to use this prime wall territory.

I started brainstorming and decided that I needed a way to communicate with the family, and to start allowing them to take responsibility for their days in age-appropriate ways.

With the help of pinterest, my super-organizer friend Shannon and some of my own thoughts on how things would work best, I came up with:

Here's what you see, from top to bottom:

--one long cork strip to hold the weekly calendar including the school schedule and other activities, a little inspiration from Ann Voskamp and a reminder for all of us to think before we speak (lest you think it is just for my boys, I need this reminder too!)--these items all can change weekly.

--two "dry erase" boards made out of two inexpensive prints, over which I covered fabric.  The glass fronts works beautifully as dry erase boards:  the left, to hold our schedule for the day and the right, to hold Scripture, a special message or inspiration.

--three cookie sheets covered with fabric.  The left is G's, the center is mine and SPH's, the right one is for R.  Here's where I put reminders or can hang things like signed permission slips.  They also each have a card to remind them if they are setting or clearing the dinner table.

Here's what this family command center has done for us:

1.  no more nagging about whose turn it is to do what responsibility.
2.  allowed the boys to see visually what is on the day's schedule (I used to write out the day's responsibilities for R and G, now they do this and 99%, they nail it).
3.  created gentle reminders of things were working on
4.  empowered the boys to find information themselves without having to always ask me or SPH.
5.  organization!

Why I share this...

I am just a regular mom like you, except you are probably more crafty than me!  So I just thought I would share a little inspiration from one kitchen to another!

Life is sweet,

Friday, February 15, 2013

Healthy Meal Plan: President's Day Week

Here's a healthy meal plan for next week (and I hope you enjoy your 3 day weekend!)!

Next Week's Healthy Meal Plan:

Meatless Monday:  Italian Stuffed Shells, Green Beans, Blood Oranges

Lemon Pepper Flounder, Red Cabbage, Braised, Grits and Grapes


Slow Cooker Pork Carnitas Tacos, Brown Rice, Refried Beans, Mango

Rainbow Quinoa, Kale Chips

Falafel with Yogurt Tahini Sauce, Cucumbers, Pears

Indian Roast Chicken, Side Packets from Trader Joe's, Pineapple

Life is sweet!


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Detox Raw Vegetable Salad

This salad is the complete antithesis of all the candy hearts and Valentine's chocolates you might be enjoying this week!  I've seen similar recipes all over the Internet and it is usually called "Detox Salad."  Maybe you need a detox from leftover Christmas candy, from the future Valentine's candy or maybe you just want to eat healthy.

Whatever your reason, choosing to eat this salad is a delicious experience in healthy, raw foods.

Somehow, by chopping all the vegetables into little pieces and mixing them with parsley, lemon juice, sunflower seeds and raisins (but use any unsweetened dried fruit you like), greatly improves their flavor.

I am not a huge raw cauliflower and broccoli fan...but I can eat this salad with a huge smile on my face.

Full disclosure:  the Sweet Pea boys weren't huge fans, but I will keep on trying!

Detox Raw Vegetable Salad

2 broccoli crowns (about 4 cups), roughly chopped
2 cups cauliflower (about half a head), roughly chopped
5 large carrots, sliced
2 cups (packed) kale
1/2 cup (packed) parsley
1 cup sunflower seeds
2 cups raisins
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (can omit)
juice of 1 large lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Using your food processor, process the broccoli until it looks like this:

Empty into a large bowl and repeat with the cauliflower, carrot, kale and parsley, adding each to the large bowl:

Stir well and add the sunflower seeds, raisins, oil, lemon juice and salt and pepper:

Serve as a side dish or as a very healthy snack.  Did you know all the good things these ingredients do for your body??  Revel in your good health choice!

Makes about 10 cups.

Life is sweet,

Monday, February 11, 2013

Strawberry Coconut Breakfast Bites (Vegan and Gluten-Free)

R and G love our Oatmeal, Apple and Flax Breakfast Cookies, and I love that they can be made ahead and ready for busy mornings.  Except that I don't call them "cookies" to the boys, I don't want to set that precedent!

I was hankering for a new breakfast recipe, and I happened to have strawberries and coconut on hand.  I found inspiration with this recipe from and decided to give it some Sweet Pea twists. 

The result? 

A nutritious, low-added sugar, whole-grain, gluten-free and vegan breakfast bite that the boys l-o-v-e.  That makes for one happy mom.

Strawberry Coconut Breakfast Bites (Vegan and Gluten-Free)

2 cups gluten-free whole oats
1/4 cup oat flour (or any GF flour)--to make oat flour, process oats in coffee grinder or food processor
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
1/4 cup ground flax seed
1/2 cup roasted almonds, ground
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/4 cup agave nectar or maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons coconut oil (or vegetable oil)
1 cup diced strawberries

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix the oats, flour, baking powder, coconut and flax. 

Take the almonds and chop them well with a large knife until they go from looking like this:

To this:

Alternatively, you can also process the nuts in the coffee grinder or food processor.

Add the nuts to the oat mixture and stir well.

In a separate bowl, combine the apple sauce, agave, vanilla, coconut oil and strawberries.  Mix well and combine with the oats.

Let the oat mixture sit for 5-10 minutes to allow the oats to absorb the extra moisture.

Place small mounds on a cookie sheet:

The batter may be a bit crumbly, but the cookies will bake up just fine.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until the edges are slightly browned.

Makes 2 - 2 1/2 dozen breakfast bites.

Life is sweet,

Friday, February 8, 2013

Healthy Meal Plan: Mardi Gras and Valentine's Week

As I type, G is sitting next to me, working on his Valentine's for school.  Right now he is working on a special homemade one for his teacher:

I heart Valentine's Day.This week is also Mardi Gras and the beginning of Lent, so we'll be making our family favorite Slow Cooker Jambalaya.  Here's what else is on our weekly menu:

Healthy Meal Plan:

Meatless Monday:  Homemade Pad Thai, Fresh Mango

Slow Cooker Jambalaya, Pear

Eggplant Parmesan, Tossed Salad, Green Beans, Apple Slices

Pomegranate Braised Pork, Cauliflower Mash, Broccoli, Pomegranate Seeds

Vegetarian Chili, Cornbread, Kiwi


Breakfast for Dinner, aka, "Brinner," Strawberries

Have a great weekend!

Life is sweet,

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Naturally Sweet Strawberry Heart Fruit Snacks

Here's an easy way to transform strawberries into naturally, no-sugar-added, real-fruit snacks:

Naturally Sweet Strawberry Hearts

1 quart strawberries
pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

Wash and pat dry strawberries.  *If you can do this earlier in the day, leaving the strawberries out on the counter for an hour or two will allow any residual moisture to evaporate.*

Take each strawberry and cut off the leaves by making two diagonal cuts like this:

 Remove the top and you should have a heart shape:

Turn the strawberry on it's side and cut in half vertically:

Repeat with your other strawberries and place them on a cooling rack, on top of a cookie sheet:

 Take a pinch of salt and sprinkle over the top of the berries to help extract more liquid.

Bake for 3-4 hours, opening the oven every 30 minutes or so to allow the evaporating moisture to escape.

Let cool.

Some strawberries will be more heart-shaped than others, but you should get some good ones for snacking.  Other uses:  decorating the top of a bowl of cereal or oatmeal, garnish for a dessert, a topping for pancakes or even on top of a spinach salad.

However you eat them, just try to pop one in your mouth without a smile on your face!

Life is sweet,

Monday, February 4, 2013

Avocado Hummus

Any time I watch Giada on Food Network, it's just a matter of time before I hear the words, "mascarpone cheese."  I love the way she says the "mascarpone," and I chuckle because she finds ways to incorporate this cheese into almost any dish, be it sweet or savory.

But has anyone else noticed how she's been cooking a bit healthier lately?  This recipe is adapted from an episode of Giada at Home, during which she made an avocado hummus.

I've made this with the boys and they call it Guacamole Hummus.  With the fresh lemon juice and vinegar, this avocado dip won't turn brown like traditional guacamole.

Avocado Hummus

1 - 15 oz can Canellini Beans, or about 1 3/4 cups cooked Canellini Beans
2 ripe Haas avocadoes
1 large clove garlic, chopped
1/2 cup fresh parsley, roughly chopped
juice of one lemon
1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Gather your ingredients and begin adding them to a food processor:

Process until smooth, adding 1 tablespoon olive oil, and tasting:

If needed, add the second tablespoon of olive oil.  Process again until very smooth.

Enjoy with whatever dippers you choose!

Makes about 3 cups.

Life is sweet,

Friday, February 1, 2013

Healthy Meal Plan: Brrrr!

As I type it is 12 degrees outside and well into the negative temperatures with the wind chill.  How about some warm homemade meals to warm you up?

This week's Healthy Meal Plan:

Meatless Monday:   Northstar Cafe Burgers, Store-Bought Sweet Potato Fries, Pomegranate

Pizza Soup, Bread, Salad, Apple Slices

Fish Tacos, Refried Beans, Fresh Mango

Asian Tuna Noodles
, Oranges Slices, Fortune Cookies

 Golden Chili with Carmelized Onions and Sausage, Cornbread, Fresh Pear

Tofu and Veggie Stirfry, Pineapple

Stay warm!

Live is sweet,