Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Acorn Squash Low Carb Pizza Crust

Did I mention that my husband and kids (me included) love pizza! I am a carb junkie. My addiction includes breads and desserts, so I try to curb my carb cravings and at least try to reduce the amount of flour I consume.


In the last six months we have been ordering produce through Bountiful Baskets, a coop distribution of 50% fruit/50% vegetable baskets, organic produce baskets, artisan bread and sandwich bread every other week. The last week's basket was definitely bountiful and included three small acorn squashes. Instead of using sweet potatoes for a pizza crust (as we have tried in a previous post), the thought occurred to me...why not try squash and see what happens! I am hoping this experiment is a success as the crust is baking in the oven right now.

I must give credit for the inspiration of this recipe to Tina at Carrots N' Cake. I did make some modifications to her original recipe, so see the comments below. You can find my original sweet potato pizza crust recipe by clicking here.

Ingredients:
  • 2 cups acorn squash roasted (1 whole small acorn squash, skin and seeds removed)
  • 1/2 cup canned coconut milk (pureed in blender with acorn squash)
  • 1 3/4 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp minced fresh garlic
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • dash of cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Your choice of toppings
Directions:
The first step is to preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.  Next, I prepared the acorn squash for mashing by cutting it in half, placing it on a cookie sheet (cut sides up), drizzling with olive oil, seasoning with salt and pepper, and roasting in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until cooked through (about 30 minutes).  After the squash is cooled, I peeled it, scooped the seeds out, cut it into small chunks, and threw in the blender with a half cup coconut milk to puree. To be honest, I did this step one week ago and threw the acorn squash puree in the freezer.



Next, I combined all the ingredients listed above.  The original recipe called for almond flour.  It's not a staple in my pantry, so I replaced with whole wheat pastry flour instead. Those who suffer from gluten allergies could substitute with another kind of flour, such as almond or coconut flour.

The original recipe also called for garlic powder, although normally a pantry staple in my home, I was all out and did not feel like running to the store, so we used the fresh garlic we had on hand instead and grated with a micro-planer.


The original recipe also called for a pizza pan. Thanks to my wonderful MIL, I received one at Christmas. I covered it with olive oil and preheated it in the oven. I spread the dough onto the baking pan until about a 1/2 inch thick and baked for 25-30 minutes until center was firm and edges were lightly browned. Just an advanced warning, the dough will be sticky and goey and may be difficult to spread. I used a spatula to help spread the dough.


Next, we removed the crust from the oven, added toppings, and baked for another 5-7 minutes until the cheese was completely melted. My children's favorite topping of all time, "Epiphany" sausage! It is made by a local church as their annual fundraiser and is held every year on the 2nd Sunday in March. The entire parish works together to butcher 30 hogs and process their own sausage with seasonings and casings making the leanest most flavorful sausage I have ever tasted! This small town of 50 people will fill with 1000 to 1500 people in one day looking for a great meal that only happens one time a year!


UPDATE! The crust is awesome and so much better than the sweet potato pizza crust I posted earlier! My children will agree! THEY EVEN REQUESTED WE MAKE IT AGAIN SOON!

Sunday, November 3, 2013

A project finally completed...

I really dislike clutter. Really. Loathe. Clutter. My small kitchen and dining area where I prepare meals for my family of six is constantly attacked by one small pile of paper or another, coats, shoes, back packs, hats, and gloves (times six!). I am working on some plans to control the paper clutter on my kitchen counter, but what I am really excited to share is the organization cubby in my garage to control the shoe, hat, glove and coat clutter at the entrance of my house located in the dining room. To prevent the overflow of clutter into the entry of our home from the garage to our dining room, my husband and I have created this awesome organizer with one basket for shoes and another for hat and gloves for each family member (only took 18 months to complete from paper plan to finished project).


The baskets were purchased from the Dollar Store at $1 per basket ($10 total). These economical and waterproof resistant baskets will work great to store wet and muddy shoes.  A quick hose wash will make the baskets like new again.  The storage unit itself was built from 1x10 inch standard pine boards and stands 72 inches wide. I hope to paint the unit the same color as my entrance door, but that may need to wait until I have more time over Thanksgiving or Christmas break.


The legs were cut from leftover banister (added a few weeks earlier and only sold in 8 foot lengths - I only needed four feet of banister for my garage entrance). I added the legs to help keep the cabinet off the garage floor.  In the winter months, the garage floor can get very wet from snow melt and I didn't want the wood to soak up the moisture off the garage floor and warp.

As you can see from the picture, I need to remind my daughter to place her shoes in her basket and not on the garage floor to prevent tripping hazards at the bottom of the stairs. I am so glad to finally have this project complete. I started the plans last summer (2012), my husband finally cut the wood and pre-drilled half the screw holes the start of this summer (2013), and finally just this weekend (after soccer season was finished for the fall) I made time to put the cabinet together and it looks beautiful! I am definitely not a carpenter and if you look close, you may see mistakes, but it will serve its purpose of organizing shoes and winter accessories in the most beautiful way!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Homemade Whole Wheat Bread

I love bread and so do my kids. Who doesn't!? I would have to say of all the homemade whole wheat bread recipes I have tried so far, this is the easiest, fastest, and best tasting. This recipe (which requires the use of my mixer) caused me to donate my no longer used bread maker. Never once did I have a successful 100% whole wheat loaf in the bread maker anyway! I wish I could remember where I found this recipe and credit the owner, but unfortunately I can't find the link.

Ingredients:
5 1/2 - 6 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 pkg active dry yeast
1 tbsp. salt
1/4 cup honey
4 tbsp. softened butter
2 1/2 cups hot tap water
vegetable oil
In a large bowl (or even your mixer bowl, I am all about saving work when it comes to washing dishes), combine 2 cups flour, yeast and salt. Stir well. Add the honey, butter and tap water to the dry flour mixture. Next step is to beat the mixture with a stand mixer at medium speed for 2 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally. 

Fit the mixer with dough hook. Add another cup of flour and knead for 2 more minutes. Gradually add just enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough that pulls away from the sides of the bowl (this all depends on the dryness of the flour). 

Today, I only needed 5 1/2 cups of flour. Using the mixer with dough hook, knead the dough for 4 more minutes. At this point, the dough will still be sticky.

 

Place dough in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rise til double (only 1-2 hours later). I have even left the dough in the mixing bowl and covered with plastic cling wrap. After the dough reaches double size, punch down (literally take your fist and punch it with all your pent up aggression!) and divide dough into two portions. 

The original recipe requires you to grease two loaf pans (8-1/2 X 4-1/2 X 2-1/2), form 2 loaves and place in pans, but I do not have any loaf pans at the moment, so I place the loaves side by side in a 9"x12" oven safe glass baking dish. Set the pans or pan in a warm place to rise until doubled.

The final step before enjoying this delicious home baked bread is to place in a preheated 375°F oven for 30-40 minutes or until loaf sounds hollow when lightly tapped on bottom. Remove loaf from pan immediately and cool on a wire rack. Brush loaf tops with melted butter, slice and enjoy!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Sweet Potato Pizza Crust

I am a carb junkie. My addiction includes breads and desserts, so to curb my carb cravings and at least try to reduce the amount of flour I consume, I thought what better way than a sweet potato crust pizza. Did I mention that my husband and kids (me included) love pizza! My husband worked in the pizza business for ten years and although, he is not home to try this new experiment, I am hoping to save him a piece and give me his pizza man experienced opinion! I must give credit for the inspiration of this recipe to Tina at Carrots N' Cake. I did make some modifications to her original recipe, so see the comments below.

Ingredients:
  • 1 1/2 cups mashed sweet potatoes (2-3 medium sized sweet potatoes)
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup shredded cheese (I used sharp cheddar because that is what I had on hand, but any kind would work)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp minced fresh garlic
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • dash of cinnamon
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Your choice of toppings
Directions:
The first step is to preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.  Next, I prepared sweet potatoes for mashing by peeling and cutting into small chunks and throwing into a sauce pan with water. Let the potatoes boil until soft. Now you're ready for mashing!



Drain the sweet potatoes, but reserve a cup of the starchy sweet potato flavored water for mashing.  I used a hand masher, but I suppose you could use a processor as well, just be careful not to over process. I added about a half cup of the water reserve while mashing to help make the potatoes softer. Next, I combined all the ingredients listed above, adding the mashed sweet potatoes last.

The original recipe called for almond flour. It's not a staple in my pantry, so I replaced with whole wheat pastry flour instead. I purchased a 25 lb bag from Azure Standard. That's a lot of flour....What was I thinking? I am not quite sure! Those who suffer from gluten allergies could substitute with another kind of flour.

The original recipe also called for garlic powder, although normally a pantry staple in my home, I was all out and did not feel like running to the store, so we used the fresh garlic we had on hand instead and grated with a grater.



The original recipe also called for a pizza pan. Alas, something we do not have in our kitchen. Isn't that amazing that we love pizza so much, but do not have a pizza stone or pan in our house?! So, instead, I covered a cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray (olive oil). After making this crust, I found it did stick to the pan, so I may use aluminum foil next time. Using a spatula, I spread the dough into the baking pan until about a 1/2 inch thick, and baked for 25-30 minutes until center was firm and edges were lightly browned. 


Next, we removed the crust from the oven, added toppings, and baked for another 5-7 minutes until the cheese was completely melted. My kids loved the beef and barbeque pizza, but the asparagus, although still good, was not their favorite.


Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Easy Slow Cooker Chicken with Garlic and Lemon

This delicious and easy recipe is inspired by the Harcombe Diet cookbook. For any of you who are not familiar with the Harcombe Diet, it's established by the experiences and research of Zoe Harcombe, a nutritionist from the UK.  She is an author, obesity researcher and nutritionist graduated from Cambridge University. This is what I take most from her books and diet research; eat a clean diet by limiting processed foods, sugar, and carbs, exactly what I want my family to experience.

This is one of my favorite recipes from her Harcombe Diet recipe book. I have tweaked it to fit my busy lifestyle, by transferring the cooking process from the oven to the slow cooker. My family enjoys this recipe, too! Another great perk about this recipe; it's simple and so are the ingredients.

Ingredients:
one whole chicken
6-8 cloves garlic
2 whole lemons
salt and black pepper
Olive oil
2 cups chicken stock or vegetable broth

Add two cups of chicken stock to your slow cooker. After removing giblets, stuff 1/2 the garlic cloves and lemons inside the chicken. My bird is from a local producer, Maxwell Colony. I feel the quality of these birds is exceptional! 

 
I place the bird in the slow cooker upside down so the juices can penetrate the breast meat. To add more flavor to the meat, I drizzle olive oil on top of the skin and in between the skin and meat.as well as half of the garlic cloves. 


Season with salt and pepper. Cook on low heat all day (8-9 hours) or on high heat for 5-6 hours until the bird is cooked thoroughly. I usually serve with vegetables. This particular meal I served with steamed organic carrots from Azure Standard.



My take on chicken, beef, or vegetable Stock and broth, if you can't understand the ingredient list, don't buy it. I like buying most organic brands because when I read the ingredient list, I can understand every ingredient. When I look at a brand like Swanson's, I find autolyzed yeast extract. What is that? Well, after further research, it turns out to be monosodium Glutamate (MSG). MSG is a form of concentrated salt. Because the kind of MSG we find at the store is processed, it can cause many adverse reactions, including skin rashes, itching, hives, nausea, vomiting, migraine headaches, asthma, heart irregularities, depression and even seizures. Since MSG has gained a bad rap because of its ability to cause headaches and migraines, the food market changes MSG's name. Other names used to disguise MSG include autolyzed yeast, yeast extract, maltodextrin, hydrolyzed protein, sodium caseinate, mono-potassium glutamate, and textured protein. (www.naturalnews.com)


I once thought that Rachel Ray's broth was safe to use and maybe even healthy for me, until I read about MSG and its other names and forms. Why would food companies choose to use these ingredients? Because MSG can enhance the flavor of low quality foods and reduce production costs. Natural flavoring such as "natural chicken flavoring" is another ingredient I try to avoid. What is that exactly? The Sweet Beet wrote a great article about this same topic and I found it very enlightening. If you have time, hop over to read it.


Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Cream of Asparagus Soup

We've had an unusually cold spring with ice and snow storms even in late April. Today's forecasted high is in the low 60's with clouds making the day very gloomy and leaving the potential for rain unfortunately high. Soup sounds like a great meal for this family. This is the season for asparagus and even with the late spring and cool temperatures you can find it in abundance at the market. Here is today's recipe and the kids devoured it, asking for seconds and thirds! This can be made Harcombe friendly or gluten free by using corn or almond flour instead of whole wheat flour. This is one recipe we will certainly make again and so simple, too!

Ingredients:

1/2 cup onions diced
1/2 cup celery diced
6 TBSP butter
6 TBSP whole wheat flour
3 cups skim milk
1 bunch asparagus, cut into 1 inch pieces
Dash of nutmeg
salt and pepper for seasoning

Dice the onions and celery and leave to the side. In a sauce pan, add the butter and melt. Once melted, stir in the flour. This will thicken the butter and make a paste. Add the milk one cup at a time, making sure the sauce thickens each time you add the next cup of milk. Finish by adding the asparagus, nutmeg, salt and pepper.  Let it cook for a few more minutes until the asparagus brightens in color. We served over homemade whole wheat bread or serve by itself. The homemade bread is a great and easy recipe...watch for that post soon to come!


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Carrot Cake (sweetened with crushed pineapple and juice)

Dear David's birthday, his first, and I wanted to make something special and healthy. I found this recipe on Cooks.com, but the original recipe called for 6 tablespoons of sugar. I wanted something totally sugar free for my baby and only sweetened with fruit juice concentrate, so I just cut the sugar and added more crushed pineapple and unsweetened pineapple juice concentrate. The recipe turned out great and even my mother was asking for the recipe and my father-in-law enjoyed it, too!

Ingredients:

1 c. all-purpose flour 
3/4 c. whole wheat flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c. olive oil 
2 eggs
1/4 c. unsweetened pineapple juice concentrate
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. shredded carrots
1/2 c. raisins
3/4 c. crushed unsweetened pineapple, drained

Very first step, preheat the oven to 350°F and grease and flour two 8x8x2 inch pans. Next, I grated the carrots using this old outdated archaic food processor. It looks like its from the 60's, because it is from the 60's. A hand me down from my mother that I will not let go. It's dependable and efficient. They don't make 'em like this one anymore!

After that, I tossed the dry ingredients in one bowl. In a second bowl, I stirred the oil, eggs, juice and vanilla.

Stir the liquid into dry ingredients until smooth. 

Add the carrots, raisins and pineapple. 

Scrape the batter into prepared pans and bake 35-40 minutes. Cool in the pan on a rack for about one hour or if you are like me, till you have time to come back and frost, which may be the next day.
The finishing touch, frost with Cream Cheese Frosting. See recipe below. I hope your family enjoys it as much as mine did!


Cream Cheese Frosting
For Carrot Cake or Applesauce Cake.
1 8 oz. pkg. cream cheese
5 tbsp. unsweetened pineapple juice concentrate
1/2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. finely grated orange zest
Beat all ingredients together until smooth.