No Bake Chocolate Dream Bars

No bake chocolate dream bars

This pic was taken yesterday and now the pan is nearly empty. They are THAT good. I’m also the ONLY one eating them. Which I have mixed feelings about. On one hand, I like having a tray full of chocolate dream bars to myself, but on the other, sharing helps out with portion control.

But first, a trip to the Brooklyn Botanical Garden. I can’t help myself. The roses are in bloom and they are gorgeous.

Check out that sky, and all those blooms. Can you believe this garden oasis is in Brooklyn?

Both Bunky and Little Guy love to stop and smell the roses. It is pretty adorable (except for the bees swarming everywhere, which is really just an accident waiting to happen). I especially love Little Guy’s funny scrunched up nose face when he “sniffs.” It’s very dramatic and not properly captured here, but you get the idea:

Look close for the scrunch nose.

Look closely for the tell-tale scrunch nose.

And check out my girl, in total rose rapture.

bunky smells rose

I thought the pose looked familiar and then I did a search online and realized it looks just like THIS piece of art which I studied in college during my obsession with Pre-Raphaelites.

The Soul of the Rose by John Williams Waterhouse

The Soul of the Rose by John Williams Waterhouse

Pretty crazy, right? We all enjoyed smelling the roses and enjoying the rest of the garden, especially the Japanese garden which has a lake filled with koi fish. We had to restrain Little Guy from diving in.

garden family

japanese garden gazing

We’ve been venturing out more lately, as our family of four is way more portable now that Little Guy nearly 20 months. This past Saturday we went to Coney Island, braving both heat and crowds – and a complete dearth of gluten free food. More on that in an upcoming post, but now it’s time for these no bake beauties…

no bake gray plate

Run, do not walk to this recipe, lightly adapted from a gem I spied on Pinterest. I love how recipes are like nesting dolls, my version was adapted from this one, this version was adapted from that one, and so forth. The big change in mine was using almond butter instead of PB. Can I tell you a secret? Please don’t hold it against me, but I’m finally realizing that I just don’t like peanut butter. I can’t even stand the smell. It’s strange, I used to love peanut butter, but once I got a taste of almond butter (specifically Justin’s brand) I officially dumped PB for AB and haven’t looked back since.

no bake choco bars

These No Bake Chocolate Dream Bars are filled with GF oats, coconut oil, coconut flakes, honey and of course, chocolate. Plus you don’t have to turn on your oven. How can you possibly go wrong?

Ingredients: 

  • 1 cup almond butter (I used Justin’s Honey AB)
  • 1/2 cup honey (maple syrup for vegan)
  • 1/2 cup organic coconut oil
  • 2 cups GF oats
  • 1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut flakes
  • 1 cup chopped pecans, nut of choice, or no nuts (use rice cereal or pretzel pieces)
  • 1 1/4 cups dark chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Grease a 9×13 pan with coconut oil.
  2. Place the oats, coconut, pecans, and chocolate chips in a large bowl, and stir to combine.
  3. Heat the almond butter, honey and coconut oil together until the coconut oil is mostly melted. Don’t let the honey boil. (TIP: To prevent honey from sticking to your measuring cup, grease it with coconut oil and then it will slide right out.)
  4. Pour the heated almond butter mixture onto the oat mixture, and stir until the chocolate chips are melted.*
  5. Evenly spread the mixture in a greased 9×13 pan.
  6. Cover and refrigerate until hardened. Or put it in the freezer if you can’t wait like me.
  7. Cut into bars, enjoy, and refrigerate the leftovers for up to one week (if they last that long!)

* There may be a moment during the mixing process when you wonder, will the chocolate actually melt? And if you’re like me you might get worried and dump in more chocolate chips, but the answer is YES, the chocolate will melt, but more chips are never a bad thing, either.

I’m happy to have shared this post at the Gluten-Free Friday’s link up party hosted by Vegetarian Mamma. Click the link to find more great GF recipes!

gf friday badge

Gluten Free Fried Rice, Free Style

fried rice in bowl revised

If you know me from my rants on this blog, you know my family is picky (as hell), but there happens to be ONE (okay, fine, two) meals that we ALL enjoy. Besides pizza, I mean. And this fried rice dish is one of them. Even Little Guy ate some, though to be honest he seemed to enjoy the carrots most of all. Note to self, cook the kid some carrots. Second note to self, consider covering entire kitchen floor with a plastic sheet before any meal with rice and two kids. Enough said.

This meal makes my people happy, but more importantly it makes ME happy to only cook one dinner. The other night I slaved over this delicious lemony pasta dish only to have Bunky turn her nose at it. I made her wait until I finished eating my bowl before making her dinner #2 which turned out to be a grilled cheese that I burned on one side because I was so annoyed and in a rush. Lucky for her she ate it cause I was not making another. That’s right, I run a tight ship around here. (Yeah, right.)

The great thing about this meal is that IF you can think ahead – and sometimes I actually can – cooking the rice earlier in the day makes it come together pretty quickly. Bonus, if you can cook the chicken or tofu ahead of time, or use leftover chicken, even faster. In my home, I consider it a raging success if I can make dinner within one 20 minute show on Netflix. (Recently, it’s been Horseland, which sounds more tolerable than it actually is. A bunch of Bratz-ish looking hot girls who ride horses and often act catty. Oh, I am nostalgic for the sweet days of Little Bear, sigh.)

Don’t have zucchini or don’t like it? Skip it. Do you find peas and carrots to be a rather banal veggie combo? No problem. Free style it, people. Use what you like and/or what you have. Frozen veggies are awesome because you don’t have to chop or thaw or anything. Just toss right into your hot skillet.

The less work for me, the better. Time is money, right? Or in my case, time is just time and the less of it I spend slaving over a hot stove while kids are screaming and crying in the background the better. Ah, domestic bliss! Well, sometimes, it is.

Thank goodness there are two kits.

Fortunately there are two kits.

Gluten Free Fried Rice, Free Style

Ingredients: 

  • 4 tsps canola or vegetable oil divided in half (plus more just in case)
  • 1/4 medium onion diced (not for us, alas, but you can!)
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb chicken breasts or tofu, cubed (this is optional and totally your call)
  • 1 zucchini or summer squash diced
  • 1 cup frozen peas and carrots, or any mixed veggie you like! free style it
  • 1/2 cup corn (or not – I opted out because of my picky husband)
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dried ginger
  • approximately 3 cups of cooked brown rice cooled*
  • 3 tablespoons of gluten free tamari or soy sauce (we use San-J)
  • handful of fresh cilantro, chopped
  • iceberg lettuce if you want to serve in lettuce cups/wraps

Directions:

* Cook rice ahead of time and store in fridge to get it cold. I cooked 1.5 cups of long grain brown rice in my rice cooker with 3 cups of water + 1.5 tablespoons of water an hour or so before starting this meal. Fried rice is best prepared with rice that is nicely chilled, similar to white wine, which you should also totally have.

1. In a large nonstick skillet, heat 2 teaspoons of oil on medium. [Skip to step 2 if you are not using chicken or tofu.] Add diced chicken or tofu and cook until it is cooked through, for chicken, or browned the way you like it, tofu. Remove meat or tofu and set aside in a large serving bowl.

Often, I dice up the chicken into small pieces after cooking. Easier that way.

fried rice prep

Food prep with our over the counter drug stash in the background.

2. Lower temperature to medium low and add onion (if using) and squash to the skillet. If necessary, add another teaspoon of oil. Saute until onions become translucent, then add garlic and cook for another minute until fragrant.

If you’re NOT using onions, then saute the squash in oil for about 3 minutes BEFORE adding the garlic. Then add garlic for another minute or so until fragrant. You really don’t want to burn garlic, as it is a total buzz kill and smells awful.

3. Add frozen veggies – peas, carrots, corn, or your choice – to the squash and possible onion/garlic mixture. Continue sauteing until frozen veggies are completely thawed and hot.

fried rice in skillet upgraded

Once cooked, remove veggies and add them to the bowl with chicken or tofu.

4. Add remaining oil, or another 2 teaspoons if you used it all, and then turn heat to medium high. Add the brown rice to the skillet and stir frequently until all the rice is heated through.

5. Return meat/tofu and veggies back to the skillet as well as the 3 tablespoons of tamari. Stir everything until it is well combined. Remove from heat and sprinkle with cilantro. Or not if you forgot to buy cilantro and your kid has an aversion to pieces of added green stuff.

An aerial shot of fried rice on a finger painted paper plate. Fancy, right?

Aerial shot of fried rice on a finger painted paper plate. Fancy, I know.

Serve in bowls or use iceberg lettuce cups/wraps.

Taken by phone while both children screaming.

Taken by phone while both children screaming.

I’m happy to have shared this post at the Gluten-Free Friday’s link up party hosted by Vegetarian Mamma. Click the link to find more great GF recipes!

gf friday badge

Thai Coconut Shrimp, Curry Optional

As I may have mentioned (um, ranted), we have more food restrictions here than just gluten. My husband’s stomach has a phobia of most veggies and my daughter is a fruit and cheese-etarian who can be sometimes be coaxed into eating meat as long as it’s doused in cheese sauce. Little Guy used to be easy, but now is becoming a picky toddler. Hmm, wonder why??!!

So dinner is pretty much ALWAYS a challenge. I prefer not to make 4 different meals, but I’ll compromise with 2. This meal went down that way, Bunky refusing the shrimp even though she loved them once, sigh, but Little Guy – who is a big fan of coconut milk – enjoyed chopped shrimp mixed with rice and sauce.

IMG_2464

I can’t wait for the day when we ALL eat the same dinner. Am I fooling myself, or is that really possible?

Since my husband might divorce me if I use curry paste, I didn’t, but feel free to add it for yourself as I’m sure it would be awesome. However, if you live with spice (um, taste) averse folks, please know this dish is also great without.

This recipe is adapted from a new and fantastic recipe blog I’ve discovered called Skinny Taste. I also made a version of this easy and tasty meal, which went over well with 3 out of 4, once we bribed Bunky to eat a few tiny pieces of chicken. Each recipe also contains nutritional info including weight watcher’s points, which could be helpful to WW followers.

IMG_2465

Thai Coconut Shrimp, Curry Optional

Ingredients: 

  • 1-2 tsps canola or vegetable oil
  • [1 tbsp Thai red curry paste, optional]
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 6 oz  coconut milk + more to make it extra saucy
  • 2 tsp fish sauce (Thai Kitchen brand is gluten free)*
  • 1 cup of sugar snap peas (sub any veggies you like here, snow peas, carrots, etc)
  • 1 small can of sliced water chestnuts
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
  • salt to taste

*Don’t be afraid of fish sauce! It won’t make your dinner taste fishy, just awesome.

Directions:

In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil on medium. Add garlic (and curry paste, if using) and shrimp. Season with salt and cook for about 2-3 minutes. Then add coconut milk, fish sauce and mix well. Throw in veggies. Add extra coconut milk if you want more of a sauce. I honestly don’t think you can use too much coconut milk, and neither does my husband.

IMG_2460

Simmer about 2-3 minutes more, until shrimp is cooked through. Veggies will be on the crunchy side, which I like, but if you want them cooked more, remove the shrimp so they don’t overcook, and continue to simmer veggies in the sauce until done to your liking.

Remove from heat and add cilantro (which I totally forgot until we were half way done, sigh. It really adds a lovely fresh flavor to the meal). Serve over rice, or any gluten free grain, and enjoy!

Try to imagine cilantro sprinkled on top.

Try to imagine cilantro sprinkled on top.

This next picture has absolutely NOTHING to do with our dinner, but I who can resist a kid swallowed up by stuffed animals and dolls in an Ikea egg chair? Not me.

egg chair

 

I’m happy to have shared this post at the Gluten-Free Friday’s link up party hosted by Vegetarian Mamma. Click the link to find more great GF recipes!

gf friday badge

Awesome Egg Bowl with Coconut Rice GF + DF

As many of you busy mamas out there can relate, I spend a lot of my time doing stuff for everyone but myself. In the morning I’m rushing around throwing yogurt pops at people, making lunches, feeding Little Guy, that I barely have time to gulp my coffee down let alone eat a proper breakfast.

Don’t feel too sorry for me, I really do enjoy my coffee even when inhaled at high speed.

Just add milk and I can down this sucker in about two minutes.flickr, waferboard

Just add milk and serve. I call it breakfast.
flickr, waferboard

A proper breakfast is important though, not the least because when I’m high on caffeine I’m bound to crash hard and I will take family members with me if they’re not careful. Watch out. Really, it’s in everyone’s best interest for me to take care of myself. So I’m trying. I even ordered make up online from Sephora. Crazy but true!

Little Guy contemplating my stash.

Little Guy contemplating my stash.

Back to food though. I’m thinking of making some of these morning glory muffins or maybe these delicious looking vanilla biscotti, but until then I will wait until Bunky is out the door and then cook up this hot bowl of deliciousness that I call Awesome Egg Bowl. Because it’s that good.

The key to this meal – which, incidentally can be enjoyed any time of the day – is to have the rice made ahead of time, or else just forget it. Who has time to wait for rice? Not me.

I’ve made this with regular brown rice, but it’s even more awesome if you use creamy coconut rice. But please don’t feel any pressure. I’m here to help, not to make you feel all food inferior (the way I do when I browse the stylized photos on so many food blogs; sometimes I just have to take a deep breath and remind myself, I’m NOT a food blogger).

Sorry, I’m losing focus here. In the rice bowl recipe it’s also the coconut oil that makes it so snazzy and crackly and super yum. But if you have the time, and some extra coconut milk from making those healthy banana chip muffins, then by all means do it. Because you can make another breakfast with the leftover rice which I will tell you about after this…

Awesome Egg Bowl

egg bowl

Ingredients:

  • 1-2 teaspoons of coconut oil (or olive oil, really it’s okay)
  • about 1 cup cooked brown rice (for coconut rice, see below)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup frozen peas (or any other veggies you want)
  • 1-2 eggs
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

1. Heat oil in a small frying pan over low heat. Add the rice and stir gently until rice is hot. Add the peas, continue stirring, and cook until peas heat through and are bright green.

2. Spread the rice in an even layer over the bottom of the frying pan. Crack the egg(s) into a small bowl and carefully transfer them to the top of the rice layer. Season with salt and pepper and cover. Cook the egg to your desired doneness.

That’s it! So easy and fast. Carefully shimmy the rice egg mixture into a bowl and enjoy. Throw some hot pepper flakes on top if you want to spice things up.

egg bowl

Now, if you’re feeling ambitious…

Coconut Brown Rice (in a rice cooker)

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of medium or long grain brown rice
  • 3/4 cup coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon of salt (if desired)
  • 3+1/4 cups of cold water

Directions:

1. If you have time, soak the rice first in about 4 cups of cold water. Let it sit for an hour then pour rice into a strainer to drain water and rinse. This will make it less starchy and also get rid of any pesky arsenic.

2. Put rice in rice cooker. Add coconut milk, coconut oil, ginger, and salt. Stir well. Then add 3 1/4 cups cold water. Stir it up and close the lid. If you have a brown rice setting use it, otherwise just turn it on.

3. When the timer goes off, check the rice and stir. If it needs more time, close the lid and let it sit in the On Warm cycle for 5-10 minutes before turning it off.

coconut rice

*Another great breakfast idea for leftover coconut rice is to warm it up in a small saucepan with some milk (dairy free if you’d like), cinnamon, a dash of vanilla extract, and brown sugar. Heat on low and then pour into a bowl. It’s a nice change from oatmeal. So very creamy and comforting.

I’m happy to have shared this post at the Gluten-Free Friday’s link up party hosted by Vegetarian Mamma, and Simply Sugar and Gluten Free’s Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays. Click the links to find more great GF recipes.

gffbadgesmall_zpse392b4e3

Kale me Crazy

flickr photo credit, Glory Foods

I just couldn’t help myself with this ridiculous title. The runner up was, “A Kale for Help.” Yes, a kale recipe is coming up, but first…

I’m actually terrible at titles (can’t you tell?) and at one point when I worked for the evil empire of MTV Networks it was part of my job to come up with catchy, quirky, and cool headings and you can guess that I did NOT excel at that. At all. It was a rather short-lived job, and actually my last “corporate” one. Then I went on to become a self-defense instructor. Way more fun, and I was much better at it.

*If you want to see me in groin-kicking action, check out the movie, The Brave One, starring Jodie Foster. Um, my brief scene didn’t make the final cut, but it did make the deleted scenes! I can’t say much for the movie itself (I enjoy kicking butt for fun, but I don’t like actual violence, even in the movies) but it was definitely a fun experience being on a movie set. Directors actually yell “Action!” and “Cut!” and the part about waiting around for hours, totally true.*

But I digress. Back to –

flickr photo credit, krupp

Maybe this post should’ve been called, “A Kale for Help” because I need help, people, serious help, with dinner. Bunky is in a picky(er) phase right now and is a sort-of vegetarian, or I should say, cheese-atarian because she pretty much only eats cheese. My husband is picky with most vegetables and beans because of digestive issues. I will not elaborate (you really don’t want to know). He will really only eat potatoes, tomatoes, and green beans right now. I’m only allowed to use a tiny amount of garlic. No onion. My list of “no’s” is long and depressing. If I made food just for myself it would be magical, dishes filled with vibrant veggies and tingling spices. Even Little Guy who formerly ate whatever, is now getting picky. Or at least enjoying his new trick of shaking his head “no.” It was really cute for a few days. Not anymore.

So you see what I’m up against. I don’t want to a short order cook and make everyone individual meals, but I have to admit that sometimes it goes down like that. My goal is to find a meal I can make and truly enjoy, and then tailor the same meal for my picky people. Which brings me to kale.

Bunky ate raw kale at age two when we took a garden class together and it gave me the false hope that she would be a voracious veggie eater. Not true. I am currently the only kale eater in the house, but that is not stopping me from making this awesome dinner…

Creamy Spaghetti with Chicken, Kale and Tomatoes

Not the prettiest picture, but everyone was hungry and grumpy when I was trying to take it.

The meal deconstructed worked out like this: Bunky ate her pasta with red sauce and strawberries on the side (don’t ask). My husband enjoyed his with chicken and tomatoes. I ate it all. The recipe is adapted from With Style & Grace, but as you know, I adjusted it for my picky family.

*This meal is gluten free, obviously, but with a few easy changes it can also be dairy free. I haven’t tested it DF, though, but if you do let me know how it turns out.

Ingredients:

  • 12 ounces dry gluten free spaghetti (I used Mrs. Leeper’s brown rice pasta)
  • 2 boneless chicken breasts, filleted
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter (sub non dairy spread if you’re Dairy Free)
  • 3/4 cup half and half (use full fat coconut milk for DF)
  • 1/2 cup, approximately, grated parmesan cheese (sub nutritional yeast here for DF)
  • 2 cups kale, cut and removed from stem
  • 1 cup of grape tomatoes (or more if you like)
  • Salt + pepper, to taste

Directions:

In a large pot, bring water to a boil and cook spaghetti a few minutes short of the package instructions for al dente. *This is key for GF pasta. If you overcook it, it will be gross – especially brown rice pasta, which gets gummy.* Set aside some pasta water if you remember. If not, don’t beat yourself up.

In a large sauté pan, heat oil over medium heat and cook chicken breasts. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook 5 minutes on each side, or until it is cooked through. Set cooked chicken aside.

Then melt the butter in the same pan over low heat. Add half & half and mix with the melted butter to combine. Stir frequently and then add the cooked pasta. If you time it right, which I did by sheer luck, you can use tongs to transfer the pasta directly into the pan without draining it. But if not, no big deal. Just use a colander and then add pasta to saucepan.

Increase the heat to medium while you toss the pasta with the butter and half & half. Add 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese, mix well. Add a little cooking water from the pasta if you need more liquid. If not, regular water is fine too. Then add the rest of the cheese and toss again to combine. Decrease heat and throw in the kale and tomatoes and mix well to combine. Remove after a few minutes or until kale is just slightly wilted. 

Spoon some of the pasta mixture on a plate and place chicken along side, or on top. Or underneath. It’s up to you. Tell your picky family members to remove what they don’t want and sit back and enjoy.

Pairs nicely with a glass of chilled white wine. (What doesn’t, really?) 

I’m happy to have shared this post at the Gluten-Free Friday’s link up party hosted by Vegetarian Mama, Eat.Live.Make, and Gluten Freed R.D., and One Creative Mommy’s Gluten Free Monday link up. Click the links to find more great GF recipes.