Friday, 29 April 2011

Slow Cooker Bean Barley Soup

Yesterday I made a batch of soup in my slow cooker (which is my favourite appliance next to my mixer!) and I really liked it! Thought some of you might too. Girl1 is not a soup fan and broth-y soups seem to be worse for her. Sometimes I can get her to eat a bit of a creamy/blended soup like the Sweet Potato Apple Ginger Soup I posted on my FB but this soup was a no-go. The other 3 however, ate it happily with a piece of toast/pita bread to dip in.

I was so glad to have this soup today since three out of four kids have been throwing up and feverish. It was nice not to have to worry about a meal for myself and the healthy Boy2 (although he hasn't been eating too much today so I think he's not feeling 100% either.)

The soup has barley - which has gluten but from what I read, a different type of gluten than wheat - but both my food testing and B2's showed we were okay with it. So I'm glad to have another grain to eat. The recipe didn't call for squash, but I still had some leftover from my risotto recipe and it made a really nice addition, adding a subtle sweetness that appeals to the kids. Also, I didn't have any celery and the soup was fine without it! Oh and if you're making soup for kids, dice everything small enough so they can fit it onto small spoons and into their mouths easily. I find that cubing everything in a 1cm dice works well.

Slow Cooker Bean Barley Soup
Adapted from 300 slow cookers favourites - Donna-Marie Pye

1 can beans in tomato sauce (or plain navy beans, rinsed plus 1 can tomato paste)
2 potatoes, peeled and finely diced
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 leek, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely diced
1-2 c butternut squash, peeled and diced
4 c vegetable (or beef) stock
2 c water
1/2 c pot barley, rinsed
1 bay leaf
pinch nutmeg
salt and pepper to taste

In the slow cooker stoneware, combine all ingredients except for salt and pepper.

Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours or on high for 4-6 hours, until vegetables are tender and soup is bubbling.
Remove bay leaf, season and serve.

Make Ahead - This can be assembled the night before. Follow the preparation directions and refrigerate overnight in the stoneware. The next day, place stoneware in cooker and cook as directed.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

I Cheated.

Its true. I had refined sugar in my wheat free, dairy free, egg free naturally red(ish) velvet cake. And it was delicious.
All things considered over the Easter weekend I think I did okay. There were plenty of temptations and foods that I really wanted to eat but I stayed strong! The pile of chocolate eggs on the counter is probably the biggest temptation so I'm really going to have to let the kids at it whenever they want and get it out of here!
I totally forgot to take a picture of the cake... oops. Just imagine it though, in your head, lightly chocolate-y and kinda red-ish with a lovely fluffy frosting... isn't it beautiful? I thought so.
If you're able to have dairy, try the second frosting. Its unlike any cream cheese frosting you've ever tried before! Unless you've eaten cinnamon buns at my house... 'cause its the same recipe... 
Here are recipes if you'd like to give it a try. :)

Naturally Red(ish) Velvet Cake
Adapted from The Allergen-Free Bakers Handbook - Cybele Pascal

2 3/4 Namaste flour blend (or see basic flour mix in my first post)*
1/3 c dark cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp salt
4 tbsp beet powder (or 1 1oz bottle of red food colouring, if you're into that sort of thing)
1 1/2 c rice milk
1 1/2 tsp cider vinegar
3/4 c vegetable shortening (check for allergens)
1 1/2 c granulated sugar
4 1/2 tsp Ener-G egg replacer mixed with 6 tbsp rice milk
1 tsp vanilla

*if using basic flour mix also include 3/4 tsp xanthan gum

Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease 2 nine inch pans and line with parchment paper.
Whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt and beet powder (and xanthan gum, if using) Set aside.
Combine the rice milk and cider vinegar and set aside
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a scraper paddle attachment, combine the shortening, sugar, egg replacer, and vanilla. Beat on a medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. (Add in food colouring, if using, here) Sift in the flour mixture in three batches, alternating with the rice milk mixture, and beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Beat until smooth about 1 minute.
Divide the batter among the pans  - you can weigh the pans to be sure its even and to be super cool like me. Use an offset spatula to smooth the batter down.
Bake in the center of the preheated over for 35 minutes, or until the cake is beginning to pull away from the sides of the pans and a toothpick comes out clean.
Let cool in the pans on a cooling rack for 30 minutes. Invert onto a plate, peel of the parchment paper and them flip cake back onto the rack, right side up, to cool completely.
Frost with Velvet Frosting. Once frosting has set, store covered at room temperature.

Velvet Frosting
1 c vegetable shortening (allergen-free)
pinch of salt
3 c icing sugar
3 tbsp rice milk
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a scraper paddle attachment, cream the shortening and salt on medium speed for 1 minute.
Add the icing sugar in three batches, beating after each addition.
Add the rice milk, lemon juice and vanilla. Beat on medium speed until smooth, creamy and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

Awesome Cream Cheese Frosting (from Sweetapolita)
4 oz Cream Cheese (0.25 lb)
1/2 Cup Butter
1 3/4 Cup Powdered Sugar
1 tsp Vanilla Flavor (preferably Alcohol Free)
1/8 tsp Lemon Flavor (preferably Alcohol Free)

There are several steps involved in the preparation of the frosting. But it is not difficult, and you’ll be surprised at the wonderful results you achieve. For the fluffiest frosting, use Vanilla and Lemon flavors that do not contain alcohol. A total of 50 minutes is required to prepare the frosting, from start to finish.
Remove the cream cheese and margarine from the refrigerator and place it into the mixing bowl. Leave it for about half an hour so that it will not be too cold.
Use the Flat Beater (or Paddle) to blend the cream cheese and margarine for 6 minutes. Use a speed of 65 RPM - #2 on the KitchenAid Mixer.
Switch to the Stainless Steel Whip and whip the cream cheese and margarine mixture for 10 minutes on #6 on the KitchenAid Mixer.
Add 1 cup of the powdered sugar and mix for 1 minute using the Stainless Steel Whip at #2. Add the remaining 3/4 cup of powdered sugar and mix for an additional minute.
Lastly, add the Vanilla Flavor and Lemon Flavor and whip for 1 minute using the Stainless Steel Whip at #6.
Store in the fridge.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Butternut Squash Risotto

Hi guys,

So yesterday we ended up going to Fantasy Fair and the kids were soo excited! It was very busy and we had to wait in line for at least 20 minutes at most of the rides. But they didn't seem to mind too much. It was cute to see how excited B2 was to go on the train ride! I think that was the best minute of his whole life! He also went on the crazy spinning ride with the girls and looked like a drunkard by the end of it because he was so dizzy (or 'bizzy' if you're him...) Boy1 was debating going on the spinner but J and I didn't want to have to clean up vomit, so we persuaded him to watch! I think he got dizzy enough just watching...
Here are some pics for your viewing pleasure.

Waiting in line

 Someone has a wiggly tooth!

Major cheese


 A tad blurry, but it was pretty impossible to get a clear shot

 Hey mom!

 Happy dude


About to get 'bizzy'

The much anticipated recipe! ;)  It really is lovely. If don't want chunks of squash, after its cooked you can stir it up really well and most of the squash will break apart and disappear. If your kids (or you) are not zucchini lovers, don't worry, by the time its all cooked the zucchini just looks like herbs! Yay for sneaky nutrition! I got 3 out of 4 thumbs up with this one.

Butternut Squash Risotto
Allergy-Proof Recipes for Kids by Leslie Hammond and Lynne Marie Rominger

4 c water, divided
3 bouillon cubes (low sodium is better)
2 tsp olive oil
1 small zucchini, coarsely grated
2 c butternut squash, peeled and cubed in 1cm pieces
1 small onion, finely diced
1 1/2 c arborio or short-grain brown rice
salt and pepper to taste

In a measuring cup place 1 c warm water and bouillon cubes; stir until dissolved.
In a large saucepan over med-high heat, add oil, zucchini, squash and onion. Cook for 4 minutes, stirring. Add rice and saute for 4 minutes more. Add the bouillon liquid and cook, stirring, until almost all of the liquid is absorbed. Add remaining 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Stir, cover and reduce heat. Let cook until squash is tender and rice is cooked, about 25 mins. Taste and season.

Yield: 10 small servings

Baked Risotto Option:
Preheat oven to 425F during the final 10 minutes of cooking time. After cooked and seasoned, spoon mixture into a greased baking dish and bake for 20 minutes. Cut into squares and serve.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

What a Morning

Hey friends.
So, last week J and I were talking about what fun things we could do with the kiddos while he's got this time off. We've got two more weeks before his job hunt intensifies and he really starts pushing Students for Justice. So we decided on Fantasy Fair at the Woodbine Centre. Girl1 has been there once when she was small ('I thought that was a dream!!!' she said after seeing the website!) and the rest of them have never been there. Then, magically, WagJag posted a coupon for a $55 family pass for $20! Awesome. Mind you, the family pass is for 4 so we still have to buy regular passes but what a deal to help out! The deal ended yesterday and I'm supposed to get an email with the coupon. But the coupon hasn't come through yet... So have have 4 restless and disappointed punks over here! We let them 'sleep in' this morning - which basically means they sleep for 10 minutes longer then they would on a school day. Crazies. They have been fighting all morning and Boy2 jumped off of the coffee table square onto Girl2's chest resulting in crying and a time out. That kid is nuts. I was glad to get in the shower to get away from the chaos for a bit! Needless to say they all need to get out of the house and do something! We've decided on Chuck E Cheese... should be fun. I guess I need to pack a bunch of snacks for B2 and me 'cause there won't be anything there that either of us can eat!
I hope to post a recipe tomorrow. I'll be making another batch of Butternut Squash Risotto to bring to Mum and Dads for Easter dinner. I know ya'll want the recipe! :) I'll also be making some kind of dessert so I'll probably post that as well.
Enjoy your Thursday peoples.

UPDATE - I finished writing the post and *ding* email from WagJag with the coupon!!! We might end up at Fantasy Fair after all! :)

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

My First Post!

Hi guys,
For those of my Facebook friends who told me I should do this - this is for you! :)

After getting the test results last week and going cold turkey off of all of the sweets (aka chocolate) I love, I was kinda dying without anything for *gasp* 5 days... LOL I'm so lame. Anyway, I took a look through one of the allergy-free books that I had for Boy2 and found a recipe for chocolate cupcakes sans wheat, dairy, eggs or cane sugar! SCORE! I was a little skeptical because the last muffin recipe I tried turned out horribly and I ended up throwing them in the garbage after Boy2 tried to mutilate one with not much success. But these! These are lovely and totally surpassed my expectations!!! I even did a little happy dance after my first bite! One key thing is the quality of the cocoa powder you use. I have some fancy schmancy Cacao Berry Extra Brute cocoa powder that is perfect. I got it at Golda's Kitchen.
The recipe in the book calls for a rice milk chocolate ganache for top the cupcakes, but they were wonderful plain and we ate them that way.
I would assume you can make this same recipe with regular flour and have good results.
Anyway, here is the recipe!

Chocolate Maple Cupcakes
Adapted from The Allergy-Free Baker's Handbook by Cybele Pascal

2/3 c rice milk
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 c basic gluten-free flour mix (recipe follows) I used Namaste Foods Perfect Flour Blend
1/2 c Cacao Berry Extra Brute cocoa powder
1/4 tsp plus 1/8 tsp xanthan gum (omit if using Namaste flour blend)
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/2 c dairy-free, soy-free vegetable shortening
2/3 maple syrup
1 1/2 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350F and spray muffin tin (I used a super cute flower tin) with olive oil spray.
Combine rice milk and vinegar. Set aside.
Whisk together the flour, cocoa, xanthan gum, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle (or scraper paddle) attachment, cream the shortening on medium speed for about 1 minute. Add the maple syrup and vanilla and beat for another 3 minutes or until combined.
Sift in the dry ingredients in three batches, alternating with the rice milk mixture and beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. Beat until smooth, about 30 seconds, scraping the sides as needed.
Divide among muffin cups.
Bake in the center of the over for about 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Transfer to a cooling rack and let cool 5 minutes before turning the cakes out to cool completely.

Perfect Flour Blend

4 c superfine brown rice flour (Authentic Foods, Ener-G or Bob's Red Mill are the best, smoothest brands)
1 1/3 c potato starch (not potato flour)
2/3 c tapioca flour (also called tapioca starch)

Combine all ingredients in a large Ziplock bag. Shake to combine. Store in the fridge.