The Blog! Archives

All things zucchini

Everything is bigger in America.  Including zucchinis.  A guy at work was telling me about the zucchinis he had grown in his veggie garden and talked about bringing some in for me.  I didn’t really expect him to (a) remember to bring any in for me or (b) the size of them.  So one day I turned up at work and found these on my desk:

Zucchini prelim

 

So, thus beginneth my zucchini baking and cooking challenge.  What to do with 3 zucchinis the size of baseball bats?  And then another one from our neighbor … and another one just as I was getting through them all!  See below for what I’ve used over the last 2 weeks or so:

Some of these were successes:

  • Zucchini burger – grated zucchini and carrot, together with an egg, nutritional yeast and gluten-free bread crumbs;
  • Zucchini brownies – based off a recipe from Henry’s school teacher (thanks Janet!), and made a little more healthy with no refined sugar or oil, with my famous pecan/date frosting (recipe here)
  • Zucchini cake – my never-fail carrot cake recipe (here) with the only substitution of zucchini for the carrot – one of the guys at work said it tasted so good, he was sure there was pot in it … I just looked at him and shook my head!
  • Thai almond curry with veggies – I love this recipe (sauce recipe here) and it works absolutely fantastically with any veggies you have lying around the house.  This time I did it with sweet potatoes, mushrooms, red peppers, zucchini (obviously) and spinach
  • Roast veggie salad – (recipe here) I actually had the salad with some gluten-free bread and wraps for a healthy lunch at work over a number of days
  • Veggie quiche – (recipe adapted from here) – with mushrooms, red peppers, zucchini and spinach, along with some dairy-free cheese and nutritional yeast, this was a winner in my book!

Some of these were ok experiments, but not worth doing them again:

  • Zucchini choc chip muffins – nice and moist, but didn’t have that ‘zing’ I was looking for
  • Chocolate zucchini cookies – as above
  • Zucchini peanut butter cookies – as above

And then there were the disasters:

  • Zucchini fries – trying to be too clever and ‘healthy’ by not coating them in breadcrumbs, just roasting them alongside potato wedges.  The zucchini fries were soggy and yucky.  The wedges were awesome.
  • Zucchini and veggie sandwich – really didn’t give me much satisfaction for lunch that day, just very bland
  • Zucchini donut cookies (not shown) – I did the recipe according to what was written, but they just weren’t that great.  I ended up throwing these in the bin …

So I’ve learnt a lot about zucchini over the past few weeks (and I still have another zucchini to use up).  I would love to hear from you guys with your tried and true zucchini recipes – so I can use up the last bit of zucchini until I get given some more!

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my cooking adventures – feel free to share with your friends and family and I would love to hear any and all comments you have!

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home!

Sarah

The oatmeal raisin cookie challenge

I love cookies … and cookie dough.  Which is better, I wonder?  Anyway, I was in a baking mode last week and decided to make some oatmeal raisin cookies … as you do!

I received one of my regular e-mails with a recipe for ‘healthy’ oatmeal chocolate chip cookies and thought it was my duty to try them out.  And as I was mixing up the dough (and taste-testing along the way, you know you have to do this!), I made a number of adjustments.  And then I thought it would be fun to see if people could tell the difference between ‘healthy’ oatmeal raisin cookies i.e. no refined sugar and those with refined sugar.  So I whipped up a batch of Sally’s peanut butter oatmeal cookies (recipe adapted from her Flourless Peanut Butter Oatmeal Cookies – see here).  Oh yeah, the no-refined sugar ones also had peanut butter in them, so they were basically the same but different proportions, and obviously different sweeteners.

I took the two types of cookies to two meetings at work … and got people to vote.

Oatmeal raisin challenge

 

I also wanted to know whether people liked the one with no-refined sugar (or the one they thought had no-refined sugar) better than the other one.  You can see I only made small cookies, so there was no excuse for people not to try both.

And the results were …

In the vote for the cookie with no-refined sugar, 55% of people got it correct.  Which meant that it was pretty evenly split between the two.  Which means, it wasn’t that easy to tell the difference.  Interesting …

In the vote for which they preferred – 55% of people voted for the one with no-refined sugar.  Which meant that healthy can mean tasty!

I found these results really interesting that people couldn’t tell the difference and didn’t really prefer one over the other!

I’m still working on tweaking the recipe for the no-refined sugar one and I’ll post that when I get the chance.  Let me know what you think – any suggestions are always welcome!

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home!

Sarah

The gluten-free snickerdoodle challenge

Ok, so for those of you following along, you will know that I love cookies (and the dough).  And I love making cookie crusts for cheesecakes, pies, etc.  Well, I got it into my head that I needed to find a go-to recipe for a cookie crumb crust that didn’t involve peanut butter.  I know, how strange!!  But I want to make some cheesecakes and pies that just won’t go well with anything peanut butter, like a banana custard pie, blueberry lemon cheesecake, etc.  I’m getting hungry already!

I put on my thinking cap, and thought that snickerdoodles (you know, sugar cookies rolled in sugar and cinnamon) would be a good place to start.  My mum had a snickerdoodle recipe that I absolutely loved.  Ok, truth be told, I loved the dough while it was chilling more than the finished product, but you get the picture!  But I didn’t necessarily want to have a cookie that used flour, since then I would have to substitute for gluten-free flour and that sometimes doesn’t work very well.  So I found three recipes that were gluten-free snickerdoodle cookies and one day after work, I tried all of them out and asked the family for their opinion.  A bonus was that all of these recipes contained no refined sugar, so my tendency to eat the dough while baking wasn’t too bad on my overall health (and weight!).

Snickerdoodles - Elana's 

This was a recipe that I found from Elana’s Pantry (see here) and used almond flour, palm shortening, and honey all mixed in a food processor.  Because I didn’t have any palm shortening, I used coconut oil instead, but the rest of the recipe I followed pretty much to plan. 

 

 

Snickerdoodles - Slimpalate

 

This recipe was from Slim Palate (see here) and again used almond flour, but also had a little bit of coconut flour, coconut oil and honey, but could be all mixed in a bowl.  I actually followed this recipe right to the letter, except for rolling the cookies in the cinnamon-sugar mixture – I got lazy and just sprinkled cinnamon on top!

 

Snickerdoodles - Life Made Full

 

This recipe was from Life Made Full (see here) and called for coconut oil, coconut sugar, almond flour (again) and cream of tartar, as well as chilling the dough before baking.  From the picture you can obviously tell that I put way too many on the tray at once, and they spread A LOT!

 

 

And the verdict?  Well for taste, it was the Life Made Full recipe as the winner.  This was hands down the best tasting snickerdoodle, although it was quite chewy and crumbly and difficult to hold while eating.  That could be due to the fact that I just didn’t bake it for long enough, but it’s a learning process.

For texture, it was the Slim Palate recipe, but maybe it was because I just sprinkled on the cinnamon rather than rolling the cookies in a cinnamon-sugar mixture, but all in the family agreed these were a little bland.  However, all is not lost because these are the cookies that I’ve now taken to the freezer and will use as the base of a cheesecake in the near future (and add some more cinnamon etc to it!)

So a great big thank-you to the three recipe originators – I might try tweaking some of their recipes at a later date, but at this stage, I’m done with snickerdoodles for a while!

I’d love to hear any comments you may have, or any suggestions about other challenges I can conduct for you as well – just let me know in the comments below, or send me an e-mail!

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home!

Sarah

 

4th July weekend

Happy 4th July to all the Americans out there!  I decided to embrace the fact that we now live in the US and went all out with what we considered to be stereotypical American food.  Lots of cooking, lots of eating, but it was worth every minute of it!

I actually had the Friday off in lieu of the 4th this year, so it was a long weekend, which was very greatly appreciated – I’ve been working some long hours recently, even a couple of night shifts, so I enjoyed the time the day off gave me to spend on my favorite hobby – cooking!

2015-07-03 Chicken fried chicken steak Chicken fried steak and gravy – When Grant and I drove along Route 66 a few years ago, we had some chicken fried steak that was absolutely smothered with gravy and it wasn’t all that nice.  And when I tried to make it a few weeks ago, the cut of beef I had, and the gravy, just wasn’t right.  We’d seen that you could have chicken fried chicken steak as well, so I thought I’d give it one more try.  And it was awesome.  With Glutino gluten-free bread crumbs, potato flour and an egg helping with the batter on the chicken, with the gravy made from shortening, potato flour, coconut milk and a packet mix of gravy powder, all the family enjoyed it.  Add in the stereotypical veggies of mashed potatoes, sweet corn and green beans, and this was an All-American meal!
Pecan Pie – The last time I made pecan pie was a bit of a disaster – the pastry wasn’t thin enough and the filling was basically soup.  I have been hanging out to make pecan pie again for ages, so used this as an excuse.  I also had some corn syrup from the Anzac Biscuit challenge (see here) that I’ve been wanting to use up (any ideas for any other recipes that uses corn syrup?).  And this worked really well.  With my neverfail ugly crust recipe (see here) and a recipe from the cafe that brought me the ugly crust recipe, it was good.  It was more than good, it was great!  I’ll post the recipe for pecan pie shortly so you can all share the love! 2015-07-03 Pecan pie

So that was Friday’s meals.  But there’s more … 

2015-07-03 Angel Food Cake Gluten-free Angel Food Cake – this one Abby actually made pretty much all by herself.  We found a packet mix for gluten-free Angel Food Cake and have been waiting for an opportunity to try it.  I was procrastinating because it called for 12, that’s right, 12 egg whites.  And what would I do with 12 egg yolks?  Considering my recent successes (read failures) with trying to make custard from scratch … anyway, Independence Day was a good excuse for biting the bullet and making the cake.  With whipped cream (non-dairy for me), strawberries and blueberries, it was a great red, white and blue success.  We made this on Friday and it was supposed to be for lunch on Saturday, but we decided to try it on Friday night … and ate most of it over the course of the evening!

4th of July – INDEPENDENCE DAY!

2015-07-04 Turkey sloppy joes Sloppy Joes – OK, so we could have done a burger, but we had burgers last weekend for the FISH meal (using this recipe here) and I wanted to try sloppy joes again.  I found a recipe on the Food Network from The Pioneer Woman that I adapted, used turkey instead of beef and it was an instant success with the family.  So much that Henry wants it for his birthday lunch this year!  So, ground turkey, a few spices such as chili powder, onion, garlic, mustard, tomato sauce and Worcestershire sauce and it was great.  I had it over a salad, but the rest of the family had their hamburger buns toasted to perfection (thanks Grant) and I served them with some veggies, couldn’t help myself!
Chocolate Peanut Butter Cream Pie – OK, this was a late addition to the menu for the weekend, but how could we have All-American food and not have the delightful combination of chocolate and peanut butter?  And this also used up 3 of the egg yolks from the Angel Food Cake which was the real reason (cough) that I made this.  The cream filling was the normal one I use (recipe here) but the rest of it was pretty much made up.  I made the crust from some peanut butter mystery cookies (recipe here) and added a peanut butter swirl on top.  Grant said it was the BEST chocolate peanut butter pie I’ve ever made, which is pretty good praise coming from him! 2015-07-04 Chocolate peanut butter cream pie

We were going to have pizza for Sunday lunch and hot dogs for Sunday dinner, but plans kind of changed when we ended up going out to a BBQ place for a friend’s farewell lunch and then we didn’t feel like cooking anything for dinner so we just had leftovers.  But, all in all, I think it was a successful All-American food weekend!

Hope you enjoyed reading about the adventures in the kitchen – remember you can subscribe to get the latest recipes, and tell your friends, family, enemies about this website and the awesome recipes on it!  And you can also follow me on Twitter (@sarahcookathome)

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home!

Sarah

Peanut butter birthday weekend

Abby and I get to share birthdays within a week of each other.  Abby’s was last week, mine is this week.  So last week was all about what she wanted to eat, this week is all about me.  And peanut butter … lots of it!  I went all out and had saved up a number of bits and pieces to make my all-time favorite recipes, and try a few new ones.  So here’s what happened …

2014-09-13 Peanut satay chicken Friday lunch was still Abby’s day, and fortunately (for me) she wanted my peanut satay chicken stir-fry.  Now, I didn’t take a picture of what this one actually looked like, but just imagine something like this but with rice, rather than just veggies on the side.  The recipe is similar to the sauce for here, but I didn’t measure it out this time, and it worked really well.  I added some red capsicum (bell peppers) and spinach to the chicken, and then we had peas, carrots and corn added in with the rice.  I didn’t go overboard with the veggies, although I would have loved to, but since it was Abby’s birthday lunch, I only put in veggies that I knew she would eat.  And it was one of the best peanut satays that I’ve made … score 1 for me!

Get the recipe here: Thai coconut curry

Healthy granola bars (no-bake) I love granola bars … and I have always loved the taste of this one, especially the peanut butter part, but I have struggled many times with it holding together after being baked.  So, I thought to myself, why don’t I just try to make this one like a lot of my other favorite granola bars, and just freeze it before cutting (and eating).  So I did.  I had to add a bit extra ground flaxseed and almond meal to make the texture more like what it needed to be for a no-bake bar, but it worked really well – and stayed together!  And I love the taste, so win-win for me again.  Score 2 for me!

Get the recipe here: Healthy granola bars

Birthday monster cookies Monster cookies.  Need I say more?  I found these peanut-butter filled chocolate chips at Walmart and bought them a few weeks ago, saving them for this auspicious occasion.  I also found some springtime colored chocolate chips and bought them a few weeks ago, saving them for this moment.  Add in some peanut butter-filled M&M’s and I was in heaven.  Gluten-free oats, super-crunchy peanut butter, (butter-flavored Crisco to make it dairy-free) and the awesome add-ins.  These were very (VERY) more-ish … the dough and the finished products.  I chilled the dough for about 60 mins before forming the cookies, just so they didn’t spread too much.  I didn’t remember the huge amount of cookies this recipe made until I was in the middle of them … good thing I promised to bring in cookies for work on my birthday this week – I’m sure I’ll have no end of willing helpers to eat them!  Score 3 for me!

Get the recipe here: Monster cookies

Mum's peanut butter cookies Every now and then I just flick through my recipe book and find a recipe that I haven’t tried for ages.  This was one of these.  It was a recipe I copied from my Mum’s recipe book one time when I was visiting them and I hadn’t really tried it for ages.  Peanut butter cookies (what else?), but with just a few differences in the ratios of the ingredients.  I remembered these as being pretty crumbly but still yummy, but was a little intrigued as to how I ‘d find them now after trying so many other peanut butter cookie recipes.  And the verdict?  Well, sorry Mum, but while they were nice, and turned out well, they just weren’t a soft and chewy as I would have liked.  But, for sentimental reasons, I’ll leave the recipe in my folder for tweaking at a later date! 
Chocolate peanut butter pumpkin pie (fail) This was going to be my birthday ‘cake’ – a chocolate peanut butter pie.  I was watching the Pioneer Woman on Netflix and she made this on one episode and thought that would be great for my birthday.  But that was before the whole lactose intolerance issue was discovered.  So then I went searching for something similar that didn’t use evaporated milk, condensed milk, Cool Whip, cream or any other dairy-containing ingredient.  Do you know how hard that is?  Anyway, I looked on Chocolate Covered Katie’s website again and found this recipe, for a peanut butter pie.  I had made this recipe once before and didn’t really like the banana taste, so decided to substitute it with pumpkin puree, making a chocolate peanut butter pumpkin pie (my favorite 3 things!).  The crust I made from Mum’s peanut butter cookies, some Crisco, cocoa, honey and chocolate chips.  And the result?  Yeah, it wasn’t the greatest.  We ended up eating a few pieces and throwing away the rest …

And for a snack on the weekend, I made myself a peanut butter and honey on a corn thin (kind of the corn version of the rice cake) – very yummy, but not photo-worthy!

Oh yeah, my actual birthday cake for the actual day of my birthday – my all-time favorite carrot cake, with the frosting made of non-dairy cream cheese and vegetable shortening.  Always a winner in my book.

Get the recipe here: Carrot cake

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my peanut butter (and other) expeditions in the kitchen.  If you like what you read and see on this website, feel free to add your e-mail address in the subscribe here section and receive updates when I add new recipes and posts.  And feel free to tell your friends and family – the more the merrier!  And PLEASE comment on anything you see on this website – I love to hear from you – suggestions, tales about when you’ve tried these recipes etc.

If you’re that way inclined, you can also follow me on Twitter – @sarahcookathome.

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home!

Sarah

A challenging break

It’s been a tough decision for me, but this week I have decided to take a break from my US National Food Day Challenge.  This is for a number of reasons, but the main one is that I found myself totally consumed with what I needed to make each week, and making lots of food that I didn’t really want to make (or eat), rather than just having fun in the kitchen.  This also led to many instances of eating way too much and feeling sick (even when not using any refined sugar).  

You all know how much I love cooking and baking – I’m not going to give that up.  But my plan is to go back to making what I want to make, not what some calendar says I should eat.  I will try to keep this website up and running with recipes that I test and find to be successful – some healthy, some not.  I will still cook for the family, I will still bake for reasons – like potluck dinners, special family events etc.  But I don’t want to continue the cycle of baking 2-3 lots of cookies or other sweets, as well as cakes/slices and various lunches that only I would eat … and so I have them for 5 days in a row.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this decision – and what type of recipes you’d like to see me concentrate on to better meet your needs now that I’m not just following the US National Food Day calendar.  Even just some encouragement would be greatly appreciated!

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home!

Sarah

Lessons from no-refined sugar January

January is almost over.  And I’ve gone through the whole month (and the week after Christmas Day) without eating any refined sugar (but I have had maple syrup), meat or dairy.  It’s only been this past week that I’ve started having some animal products (eggs and honey in baked goods).  Still no dairy or meat yet … not quite sure how my system is going to react when I start introducing them again.

And the big news is … I won the challenge!  On the 20 January, I got a note from my colleague saying he had 2 donuts that morning so I win.  I’m still waiting to collect my winnings – he was going to make me a Paleo pumpkin pie, which I’m interested in trying out!

Anyway, the point of this post is to let you know some of the things I’ve learnt while cooking a vegan, no-refined sugar diet for just over a month.

Some things should not be tried to be made refined-sugar-free, dairy-free, egg-free etc

As you will see in subsequent posts of my US National Food Day Challenge, I had no real choice but to try to make things like peppermint patties and creme-filled chocolates to fulfil my quota of 4 out of 7 days.  Let’s just say, these did not turn out too well.  The photos worked well, but didn’t taste good … AT ALL!

I can still eat too much in a day, even without any refined sugar

There were days where I just had cravings for peanut butter (not really that odd for me!) and granola bars, and granola.  And I ate them.  Lots of them.  And I also ate stuff while experimenting in the kitchen … lots of stuff.  I ended up just a little bit lighter in weight than at the beginning of the month, but when I did over-indulge, my system recovered a lot quicker than if I would pig out on cookie dough containing ‘normal’ sugar.

Eating too many beans on subsequent days leads to ‘beanie belly’

Beanie belly was a phrase I thought up … it means I had a lot of bloating, leading to lots of gas and discomfort, leading to a lot of noises in the toilet (trying not to give too much information away!).  I narrowed it down to when I had black beans two days in a row.  But strangely enough, having chickpeas in burgers and hummus didn’t seem to lead to the same discomfort.

Some recipes actually taste better when no refined sugar is used

I made up some really cool recipes during the month, based on stuff I had found on the internet, and adapted quite a bit.  I even managed to get Abby to eat a frosting made of dates (she absolutely hates dates!).  I’ve posted some of these recipes already, but watch your inbox for some others that I’ve done and really love!

Overall I’ve enjoyed the month of being refined-sugar free.  It just got a little painful towards the end when I couldn’t eat cheese, eggs, honey etc.  At the moment I’m not craving any sugar, or meat, but I know I’ll get back into the meat shortly.  I’m looking at limiting the amount of stuff with refined sugar to maybe 1-2 times a week maximum.  I’m also looking at staying basically vegan/vegetarian for my lunches at work and MAYBE having stuff with meat with the family for dinner.  We’ll see how it goes!

I’d love to hear any comments/suggestions you’ve got about this journey of mine!  And any adventures you may have had in a similar experience.

Until next time, enjoy cooking at home!

Sarah

Whole foods, plant based

‘Whole foods, plant based, no refined sugar’ – that’s my goal for January this year.  Mainly the no refined sugar bit.  This came after the massive sugar ‘hangover’ I experienced on the day after Christmas Day, where I spent the majority of that morning in bed with a major headache.  I thought … something has to change.  So my goal is to eat mainly whole foods (very little to none processed anything), and no animal products as well as no refined sugar.  I’m basically eating just fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans and a few grains (gluten-free of course!).

I originally was only going to do this for 21 days (the no animal products part for only 7) but after the first week, I just felt so much better and I couldn’t bring myself to eat any meat … I’m sure that will change eventually though!  Anyway, then a colleague at work mentioned he was going for January without any sugar as well, but following a Paleo diet – fruits, vegetables, meats and eggs, nuts (but not peanuts).  So we thought we’d have ourselves a little challenge.  Both of us without sugar for all of January, using two different methods, and seeing which of us stuck with it longer.  It’s not about weight loss, it’s about feeling healthier (although I have lost a little weight since my big splurge on Christmas Day!).

So here’s some of what I’ve been experimenting with … 

Vegan chocolate pecan cookies Chocolate pecan cookies – using cocoa, pecans, prunes, coconut oil, maple syrup, these cookies actually turned out pretty well.  But when I added a pecan/date/coconut milk frosting to it, these were amazing!  Rich, fudge-y, these went like hotcakes when I brought them to work …!
Vegan almond raisin cookies Almond raisin cookies – this recipe was on the back of the almond meal packet for vegan chocolate chip cookies.  I didn’t have any vegan chocolate chips, so I thought I’d be even healthier and use raisins instead.  I also added some nutmeg … again, when I brought these into work, they didn’t last long at all!
 Vegan oatless granola bars  A granola bar without oats – I took my really yummy no-bake oatmeal and raisin granola bar recipe (here) and substituted 1 cup almond meal for the 1 cup oats.  The texture is kind of like cookie dough (and hence I really REALLY like them!).  I also left the nuts quite chunky so the nuts and raisin taste dominate instead of the peanut butter.  Try them … please!
Vegan pumpkin & fruit-nut slices Two pictures in one here – on the left are some pumpkin pie granola slice and on the right is the fruit and nut granola bar (recipe here).  All with natural ingredients, no animal products whatsoever and absolutely delicious.  

And here’s where I’d like some audience feedback.  Apart from the two recipes that I’ve already got on this website, please let me know in the comments section below if you’d like to see any of the other recipes that have been really successful (in my humble opinion) on this website.  I’d love to hear from you!

So, until next time, enjoy cooking at home!

Sarah

Christmas baking

‘Tis the season to be merry … and bake … and give out homemade goodies to the neighbors.  I wasn’t going to do this, but one of the guys at work told me his wife was spending the day today baking cookies and was expecting me to do a similar thing.  And then I thought, why not?  So I pulled out all the stops and probably went a little bit overboard …  Check out how I did and feel free to try them for yourselves – most of the recipes are on this website!  If you do try any, please leave a comment and let me know how you did!

2015-01-10 Bittersweet chocolate crackle cookies Mini pecan pies White chocolate almond butter cookies Oatiest oatmeal cookies
Chocolate crackle cookies Mini pecan pies White chocolate almond butter cookies Oatiest oatmeal cookies
Funfetti sugar cookies Peanut butter raisin balls Gingerbread muffins 2014-12  
Sugar cookies Peanut butter coconut balls Gingerbread muffins  

Chocolate crackle cookies – crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside.  It’s been a while since I have made these cookies (they’re loaded with powdered sugar), but they were definitely worth the wait.  Get the recipe here.

Mini pecan pies – this is the one that I don’t have on this website as yet, for the simple fact that I haven’t really succeeded in making a dazzling pecan pie yet.  These were close, but still weren’t great.  And they overflowed the mini crusts, so I had to carve them out of the trays …

White chocolate almond butter cookies – an experiment that I made up all by myself.  These have an awesome texture and the white chocolate chips really set off a taste explosion in your mouth!  Get the recipe here.

Oatiest oatmeal cookies – I realised the recipe for these originally came from my current cooking hero – Alton Brown.  And as for most of what he makes, they turned out fabulously!  I did make a substitution with half cranberries and half raisins, just to give it a bit more of a Christmas feel and it was worth the switch.  Get the recipe here.

Sugar cookies – I really wanted to try this recipe and use my new cookie press to make Christmas-shaped cookies.  I managed to get some working, but then had lots of problems with the press failing miserably.  So I just rolled out the dough and cut it out with a Christmas tree cookie cutter.  And then I realised I wasn’t that good at decorating cookies … but they tasted good!  Get the recipe here.

Peanut butter coconut balls – Just to balance all the high sugar stuff … I made these bite-sized balls with just raisins and peanut butter, coated in coconut.  I love this recipe .. and had a few while I was making it for the neighbors as well.  But they’re healthy, right?  Get the recipe here.

Gingerbread muffins – what would Christmas be without gingerbread of some variety?  Again, something I haven’t made for ages but used the opportunity to do so … they were great!  Get the recipe here.

So, if you live near us, or you work with me, please feel free to indulge to your hearts content!

Again, please feel free to contact, share this with others and enter your e-mail address to keep updated with all my cooking adventures.

And until next time, enjoy cooking at home!

Sarah

Re-booting for health

So this is going to be more of a self-serving blog post, not much about baking/cooking but a lot about eating.  And sorry, no pictures for this one.

For those of you who know me personally (and you know who you are!), you will know that I’ve always struggled with digestive issues.  I’m not going to go into too many details, but lets just say that I have spent quite a bit of my time in the toilet for one reason or other (and hence the diagnosis of being a non-celiac gluten intolerant person).  When we moved to the US about 4 months ago, I thought I’d have lots of opportunities to try new foods, especially on the gluten-free market.  Well, I did.  And I baked.  And cooked.  And ate.  Lots.  Lots more than I have in previous recent years and lots more than I should have.

A few weeks ago, it came to a head.  I had a really bad few days with headaches and stomach aches (and toilet problems) and I just thought I needed to change things up a bit.  Recently Grant and I watched the documentary ‘Fat, sick and nearly dead’, where a very overweight guy (named Joe, actually an Australian) with multiple medical problems took us through his journey of getting into a better life through simply drinking juices containing lots (and lots) of fruit and vegetables for 60 days.  Grant and I looked at each other and thought we could give something like that a go, for a much shorter period of time of course since neither of us are overweight.  When I was having my health problems a few weeks ago, Grant suggested I do a ‘reboot’ – nothing but fruit and veggies for a couple of days.

We don’t have a juicer, but we do have a blender (thank you Ninja!).  So instead of juicing, which extracts the juice from the pulp, I just blended it all together and ate/drank the entire contents.  For the first 3 days I also had a small meal and 3-4 of these ‘Joes’ (as I called them).  Then for 5 days all I had were the fruit and veggie Joes.  After the first day, my stomach pains had gone and I was feeling better.  However, then the impact of ingesting so many fruits and veggies (and nothing else) hit and I spent some more time in the toilet (for the opposite reasons than normal).  

Anyway, I stuck through the full 5 days reboot and this week I have been gradually introducing other foods back into my routine, like whole grains, fish and dairy.  I’ve tried to avoid any real processed foods, going for more of the wholesome vegetables (mainly) with gluten-free oats and quinoa as my whole grains, tuna as my fish and a bit of chicken for protein and variety, and Greek yogurt for the dairy.

I have to tell you, it has worked for me.  I wouldn’t want to do it much longer, especially with some of the failures of Joes that I made that were almost inedible, but it was definitely worth doing just to shake things up a bit.  And so I want to share some of my favorite recipes for ‘Joes’ with you all.

Sweet potato pie Joe

  • 1 sweet potato, including skin
  • 2 pears, cored but including peel
  • 1 apple, cored but including peel
  • 150g blueberries
  • Dash of cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice

Green Joe

  • 4 big handfuls spinach
  • 2 cucumbers, including skin
  • 2 apples, cored but including peel
  • 1 lemon, without skin

Both of these worked really well.  Just blend them all together.  I usually had about 1 cup (250mL) at a time and had 5-6 of these every day.

I realise it’s not for everyone, but I think it worked for me.  I am also determined to not eat so much of the cookie and cake dough while baking (my Achilles heel!).  And not having any refined sugar in any form for nearly 2 weeks may have helped with me being able to bake some Sticky Toffee Date Pudding Cake (recipe here) last night and not even lick the spoon at the end of it all.

I’d love to hear from any of you about things you’ve tried to (a) be healthier and (b) use natural ways to help with health problems.

Until next time (which I promise will be more about actual cooking and baking!), enjoy cooking at home.

Sarah

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