Sunday, September 29, 2013

Gluten Free, Dairy Free, No Bake Tuna Noodle Casserole Recipe

If casserole means a whole bunch of foods thrown together, and then baked in the oven, we rarely had casseroles growing up. Not tuna casserole, not green bean casserole, nada.
But we did have lots of "fake casseroles"- with all the same ingredients that would go in a casserole, only cooked on the stovetop, and not baked.
This tuna noodle "casserole" is a reincarnation of the tuna noodle "casserole" my sister and I used to make growing up. When we'd want to fix up a quick meal, Violet and I would take some cooked pasta, make some chicken soup from consomme, add a can of tuna and some meunster cheese and green beans or corn, and heat it up in the microwave until the cheese was melted. It was really yummy and we felt awesome that we knew how to cook something "professional" like that.
As I learned more about healthy eating, and moved to this country where meunster cheese isn't as readily available (and cheese in general is super expensive), I started making my tuna casserole by mixing tuna fish with sour cream, salt, garlic powder, and corn, and adding cooked pasta to it. And it was always a hit...
But since going gluten free and dairy free, I sadly have not been able to enjoy this favorite dish of mine.

The other day, Violet mentioned tuna casserole in conversation, and my mouth started watering! It had been so long since I had any, and I was overcome by a sudden urge to make it ASAP. No matter that I can't eat dairy or gluten, and I wouldn't be using any of the processed foods I used to put in mine... I'd figure out a solution so I could have my tuna casserole!

This recipe was a conglomeration of about a million dairy free tuna casseroles I found on the net, plus some ideas of my own... and as we always made it growing up, this tuna "casserole" isn't really a casserole because it isn't baked. But it certainly hits the spot, and was better than the tuna casserole we used to make growing up.
If you're not dairy free, feel free to use regular milk in place of the coconut milk in this recipe, and of course, use regular pasta instead of gluten free pasta if you have no need for that.

Gluten Free, Dairy Free, No Bake Tuna Noodle Casserole Recipe

Friday, September 27, 2013

Perfect Gluten Free Pizza Recipe- Vegan, Starch Free

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Gluten free vegan mushroom pizza sprinkled with vegan Parmesan
I was in town the other day and passed a pizza shop. The smells there were so tantalizing- it made me really want pizza! But obviously, being gluten free and dairy free, I can't just buy pizza from the pizzeria. So when I came home, I decided to try to find the most perfect gluten free pizza recipe. I'd had lots of pizza since I went gluten free, and they worked...but they were mediocre. They weren't perfect, they just "made do". But I didn't want mediocre pizza, I wanted perfect pizza!
I asked a bunch of friends for their favorite gluten free vegan pizza recipes and came up with this recipe that looked really great. Now my criteria for choosing a pizza crust recipe is probably amusing for you, but in addition to the ingredients listed and the claims made about the pizza, I was looking for proof that its a good pizza with a good texture. One of the things a mediocre or a bad pizza crust recipe usually has is a tough to work with dough, which usually results in raggedy edged pizza crusts. You tell me- if you saw a pizza that its edges were jagged and not perfectly round, would it make your mouth salivate, or would you prejudge it and assume it is a bad pizza?
Anyhow, this recipe was a winner because of the ingredients and what the pictures showed...
Only I have no idea how that pizza tastes or what its texture is like. Because as I was putting together supper, after the store already closed for the day... I realized that I was out of potato starch, one of the two main ingredients for that recipe! Yikes! I was in a bit of a panic, because I had promised my kids pizza and I would have had some very unhappy customers if I didn't deliver, so I tried to figure out what I could do in place of the potato starch. I decided to completely change over the flours- the starch helps the gluten free flours stick together, and I was afraid that without that, I'd have a messy crumbly pizza, not the perfection I was looking for. So I decided to use buckwheat flour and sticky rice flour (made from short grain rice) because both are naturally sticky and would decrease the likelihood of crumbling.

My experiment paid off, and this pizza is simply out of this world! It is exactly the same texture as the gluten pizza I used to have. This makes a thin crusted pizza, crispy at the bottom, but flexible enough to fold your pizza in half to eat it... As for taste- it's absolutely delicious. Can I say it tastes exactly like gluten free pizza? I'd like to say yes, but its been 2 years or more since I had gluten pizza, so I can't promise that, because it's possible my taste bud's memories are faulty, but as far as I remember... this pizza tastes like a cross between regular pizza and whole wheat.

Gluten free pizzas differ from regular pizzas in that you first need to bake the crust and then top it and bake again. I made these one day, left them out overnight, and topped them the next and baked them, and they were still terrific! I want to try making a stash and putting them in my freezer for busy days.

This recipe makes 2 family sized round pizzas.

And since people eat with their eyes (or at least I do), when I was making this pizza and the crust edges were a little jagged when I was rolling them out, I used a pizza cutter to cut off the edges to make the crust perfectly round. :-D

Perfect Gluten Free Pizza Recipe- Vegan, Starch Free

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Raw Beet Salad Recipe- Sugar Free, Vegan Option

 photo IMG_0874_zpsf73a19fd.jpgI was discussing my love of salads with my freind the other day. Salads are so refreshing and delicious and usually are filled with healthy ingredients. I could almost live off of salads. My kids'  favorite types of salads are anything with beets, as they are by far my kids' favorite vegetable.
It's funny, but growing up, even though we had beets a lot, I only ever knew one way to make them- my mom's recipe is with cooked beets, scallions, and I forget what else. But I never even thought about being adventerous with beets, let alone serving them raw, until I ran my own household and saw just how cheap beets were during the fall and winter months.
Speaking of winter, during the colder weather, when root vegetables are what's in season, it's hard to know what type of refreshing salad to make with them. Raw beet salad is a sure win, in my opinion. It has the crunch I love and lots of delicious flavor, and since it's raw, it has the refreshing summery feel to it, missing in many of the standard winter dishes.

I made this beet salad this morning, and sampled a bit. Anneliese, 21 months, saw what I was eating, and asked for some as well. I gave her a few spoonfuls, but she quickly finished them and demanded more, stuffing her face with them. Anneliese approves of this recipe.

You can make it sweeter if you want, by using more sweetener, but in my opinion, it's just as good with less sweetener.

Raw Beet Salad Recipe- Sugar Free, Vegan Option

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Gluten Free Vegan Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe

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I'm really pressed for time today, I just want to leave you with this recipe for chocolate chocolate chip cookies. We're going away to a family reunion, and after I made a bunch of food, I realized I didn't have any baked things for the kids to snack on, and they'd probably be disappointed since there will be lots of gluten snacks there. So I searched the recipe for an easy cookie recipe, and decided on this chocolate chocolate chip cookie recipe because it's gluten free and vegan. I based it on this one. It was a little too sweet- next time I make it I'll definitely cut down the sugar, or replace the sugar with coconut sugar- I just happen to be out of coconut sugar at the moment or I would have tried that today.
Either way they're yummy and easy to make.

Gluten Free Vegan Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies Recipe

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Easy Onion Soup Recipe- Vegan, Cheap, Gluten Free

 photo IMG_0853_zpsb7fd7372.jpgWhat do you do when you want to feed a crowd tasty food, but you really don't want to be spending a lot of money? That is something my sister in law and I were discussing yesterday. We have our annual family reunion in a few days, and she and I, as the ones doing the cooking, were discussing how to feed so many people without breaking the bank.
I thought to do onion soup as an appetizer, since onion soup can be made for pennies!
I've shared a recipe for onion soup in the past, but it was more complicated than this, with more ingredients, and people weren't thrilled that it had wine in it, as it is too expensive for them (whereas I used my own homemade wine so that part was cheap for me).
Either way, this is the recipe I decided to cook up for the crowd, and I have to say, despite not having a million ingredients like the other one, it's pretty good. (My husband said it tasted like restaurant stuff, but I'll let you be the judge of that.)
The idea for this recipe came from an old neighbor we had, who made her onion soup with just soy sauce, mustard, onions, and water. I added a few more ingredients, but you can definitely see that that soup was my inspiration.
This is vegan and gluten free, but if you aren't vegan or gluten free, feel free to serve this with cheese and/or bread.

Easy Onion Soup Recipe- Vegan, Cheap, Gluten Free

Monday, September 16, 2013

Our Cheap Anniversary Date

 photo IMG_0817_zps4b38c608.jpgOn Saturday, Mike and I celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary. A lot has been going on in our life lately (sorry for the really slow posting rate! hopefully it'll get better!) and we only got a chance to go out for our anniversary tonight.
We have a lot of expenses at this time of year, so I wanted to keep the date as cheap as possible, while not sacrificing on quality.
I recently was given a writing assignment on frugality for a writing job of mine and I wrote this whole in depth piece on frugal dating, and the more I thought about ideas for that article, the more I came up with ideas how to make our anniversary date really nice for really cheap. I had set myself a limit for 15 dollars for the date, not counting babysitting or transportation, and I'll admit, we went over the 15 dollars. It cost something like 18 dollars. But not bad for a great date, something my husband and I admitted was one of the nicest dates we've had yet.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Children's Frugal Robot Birthday Party

Ike recently turned 4, and Lee recently turned 6. In some years in the past, we combined their birthday parties, since their birthdays are just a few days apart, and because they had the same group of friends, but now I decided that I wanted to make them each their own special party, so they could feel they have their own special day that they don't have to share with their brothers. (They share almost everything they have, so I think its important that they have things that are just their own...) The other reason is because now that they're in school, I wanted to encourage friendship with their classmates, so I invited kids from each kid's class to their birthday party.
A friend was shocked that not only do I make my kids birthday parties (she just makes a cake for the family), but that I make the boys separate parties days apart. But since we live on a tight budget, and there are a lot of things my kids go without, I try to do as many nice things for them as I can so they don't feel they grow up deprived, despite my not spending a lot of money on them. And making them their own special themed birthday party costs little money, just takes some effort and time to prepare, but pays off a lot. The kid ends up feeling like a million dollars, and you've just deposited a large amount in your kid's emotional bank account.

Ike asked for a robot themed birthday party. I tried using pinterest and google as inspiration, but ended up planning the party entirely out of my own mind because I couldn't find anything that really spoke to me when I was searching online.
Since Ike just was turning 4 and his friends are all little, I decided the party didn't need to be anything major or fancy, because anything would be appreciated.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Homemade Zaatar Spice Mix Recipe- Gluten Free

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If I had to pick my favorite spice mix, zaatar would probably be high up on the list, if not my favorite. Middle Eastern in origin, this spice mix can be bought at any Middle Eastern grocery store, but if you're gluten free like I am, you'll likely need to make it at home, as zaatar sometimes contains toasted wheat flour as part of the ingredients...
Zaatar is generally made from the herb hyssop, in the mint family. My mom grows it in her garden, so I am able to get it for free, but if you can't buy or get hyssop easily, you can make your own zaatar with marjoram or oregano or a mix of the two, as both are closely related to hyssop and have a similar flavor profile.

I use foraged sumac (deseeded and made into a spice) in my zaatar mix- if you can't forage it, you can buy it (also at Middle Eastern grocery stores) or use citric acid in its place.

Zaatar is yummy on rice and chicken, but is typically eaten either mixed with olive oil as a dip for bread, or brushed onto flatbreads with olive oil and baked. This is known as pita zaatar and is a popular street food in the Middle East. Breads are also eaten with Greek yogurt topped with olive oil and zaatar. Delicious!
My favorite way to use zaatar was one that I thought really weird at first- on pizza! The tastiest pizza I ever tasted was with a pizza base, tomato sauce, green olives, diced tomatoes, diced onion, feta cheese, and zaatar.

Here's my "pita zaatar" I made with my gluten free flat bread. It was certainly a hit!

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If you've never tried zaatar before, give it a shot! You may fall in love with it like I have!

Homemade Zaatar Spice Mix Recipe- Gluten Free

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Golden Black Eyed Peas Recipe- Vegan, Gluten Free, Grain Free

 photo IMG_0751_zps407a44be.jpgIf I had to list legumes from favorite to least favorite, black eyed peas would definitely have to be up there somewhere at the top, since they are quicker to cook, and have a very pleasant, mildly sweet taste, and a decent texture. Because of their basic flavor profile, I especially enjoy black eyed peas with something sweet instead of savory- with cinnamon and butternut squash is one of my favorites.
My friend, Robin, recently shared her recipe for golden black eyed peas with me- she loves it so much that she refers to it as caviar. She told me that I can't credit her for this recipe since she got it on the internet somewhere... so I'm including that info just because my friend Robin is so humble. :-D

I make this in a pressure cooker which makes it even quicker, but you can cook it in a regular pot on the stove top- it'll just take a little longer to cook. This can be served either cold or hot. And the liquid in which it is cooked is so delicious that it's a good idea to keep it for some other use- like as the base of a veggie soup, or to use it instead of water to cook rice.

Honey isn't vegan, but to make this recipe fully vegan, just choose the vegan sweetener options.

Golden Black Eyed Peas Recipe- Vegan, Gluten Free, Grain Free