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Sunday, September 25, 2016

Snacks and School lunches...Creating endless possibilities

It is difficult for many of us to keep the snacks and lunches we send off to school interesting. Whether or not you have food allergies in your family, more and more are dealing with allergy free classrooms and as in our family, celiac disease. Not only do we need to keep all these restrictions in mind but still need to keep the food tasty, easy, cost-effective and healthy. How do you keep it all organized so that you are not running to the store every night or panicking while filling in yet another form for an activity and realizing that you have to send in extra snack tomorrow?!

SNACKS

A friend shared a great idea with me, which I have attempted to implement. It puts the kids to work packing their own lunches and snacks. I have 5 shoe box sized storage bins I stock each weekend:

1. water bottles
2. juice boxes
3. snack bags, like popcorn, pretzels or veggie sticks
4. apple sauce pouches
5. yogurt pouches and cheese sticks in the refrigerator.


The kids know that they cannot take from these boxes for snacks at home, but know that they can take 1 or 2 items (depending on the size) plus a water bottle for snack. I've provided them with many healthy, allergy free options, Skinny Pop, being their current favorite.  The individual bags work great as a worry free snack to bring to school. I also like to make muffins on Friday afternoons or when we have time at some point over the weekend. I always make a double batch, so that we have plenty to use for a quick snack during the week, whether it goes to school with them or as an after school snack before we start homework.

As this is the beginning of fall, I had to try out a pumpkin muffin recipe. I used the basic muffin recipe from The New York Times Cookbook and adapted it to be gluten free. They were eaten so fast, I couldn't even get a picture!

Pumpkin Muffins (adapted from the New York Times Cookbook, Craig Claiborne)

Ingredients
2 cups of your favorite gluten-free flour (I use Cup4Cup or King Arthur's multipurpose gf flour)
5 Tablespoons of brown sugar
1 Tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon cardamom 
pinch of ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon of salt
3 eggs, well beaten
2 teaspoons of vanilla
1 cup of milk
1/4 pound of melted butter
3/4 cup of canned pumpkin

Directions
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
Sift together the flour, sugar, baking powder and spices.
Mix the eggs, vanilla, milk, butter and pumpkin.
Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and mix together completely.
Spoon into 12 well-greased muffin tins, or line with cupcake liners. Fill cups about 2/3 full.
Bake for about 20 minutes or until a tooth pick comes out clean. 

LUNCH

Lunch, I am still working on organizing, but the kids can add the snacks above to their main lunch easily. I have found that breaking lunch up into multiple pieces makes it less daunting. I created 2 lists: main lunch possibilities and snack possibilities. I mix up the main lunch options throughout the week, adding 1 to 3 of the snack options depending on how big the main lunch is. 



There are so many possibilities, that if you are anything like me, you won't be able to make a decision unless your lists are in front of you! Our rotation includes leftovers (anything from meatballs to quesadillas to grilled chicken), lunch meat roll ups, antipasto (cut up salami, cheese, olives and tomatoes) or hard boiled eggs. These are all items that are easily made or found allergen-free, taking the stress off of your planning whether or not you have a child with allergies.



You don’t have to have a fancy bento box or lunch container with many dividers. Use paper cupcake liners or reusable silicone ones (though my kids have thrown a couple of those out, so I refrain from using them) and a square Tupperware container and you are good to go! I like the Sistema snap lid containers in different sizes or the Rubbermaid Lunch Blocks. Although I usually send my kids with cold food, if your kids prefer hot, get a thermos and while you are getting ready in the morning, fill it with hot water.  Pour the water out and add your heated leftovers and it will stay warm until lunch time.

These meatballs can be served warm or cold with lunch:

Sweet and Sour Meatballs



Ingredients
2 lbs cooked meatballs 
1 cup of your favorite GF barbecue
1 cup of apricot jam

Directions
Place all ingredients in crockpot.
Cook on high for 2-3 hours or low for 4-6 hours.

With a little organization it can be less stressful to have allergy-free, gluten-free good food for snacks and lunch. If you have something you would like to create or adapt to fit your gluten-free needs, let me know! I'm always up for a cooking challenge.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Breakfast for Dinner

An easy way to get dinner on the table during the week or at the end of any busy day is to have breakfast for dinner. We have breakfast for dinner at least once a week in our house. Depending on how busy we are, it can be anything: eggs, pancakes, frozen waffles, toast, quiche, frittatas or just cereal and fruit. Breakfast for dinner can be a fun way to get a meal on the table quickly. With activities, sports and back-to-school nights on top of work, homework and just trying to spend time with your kids, for many cooking is the last thing you want to do when you all walk in the door.  Hopefully these recipes will help take some stress off of you.

Easy Hard Boiled Eggs in the Oven  (adapted from http://allrecipes.com/recipe/232024/hard-boiled-eggs-in-the-oven/)

Ingredients
12 eggs
Ice cubes in a large bowl with cold water

Directions
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
Put one egg into each muffin cup of a muffin tin
Bake in eggs in oven for 25 to 30 minutes.
Remove and put the eggs into the ice bath for 5-10 minutes.
Peel and serve or refrigerate.

TIP: I make this for dinner one night and then have the eggs on hand for the next few days for a quick breakfast or a burst of protein to add to lunches or snacks.


Serve the eggs with yogurt or fruit or whatever you have on hand and you have a dinner on the table in about 30 minutes without much effort.

Now this next recipe is a little more involved, so if cooking relaxes you and you have some more time one night, try this oven baked “fried” chicken, served with cornbread waffles and peas. Take some help from the store and use your favorite cornbread mix. I like to use Wegman’s Gluten-Free Honey Cornbread mixture and add an extra egg and cook it in the waffle maker. For the peas, I put about 3 to 4 handfuls in a cereal bowl with a Tablespoon or two or water, salt and pepper, then microwave for 3 minutes with a small plate covering the bowl.

Oven Baked “Fried” Chicken


Ingredients
1 ½ to 2 pounds of boneless skinless chicken thighs, cut into chicken tenders
3 cups of buttermilk (or 3 cups of milk + 2 Tablespoons of cider vinegar)
1 stick plus 2 Tablespoons of melted butter
2 cups of panko bread crumbs (use gluten-free if you are making it GF)
½ teaspoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon black pepper
2 Tablespoons of cornstarch

Directions
Mix milk and cider vinegar or use buttermilk and soak the chicken for 15 to 30 minutes while you prepare the cornbread mixture. Remove from milk and pat chicken dry with a paper towel. Melt butter. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Mix the panko, chili powder, black pepper and cornstarch.  Dip each piece of chicken into the butter and then the panko mixture and place on top of a baking rack inside a cookie sheet (that way the chicken will crisp all around).  Bake for 15 minutes and then turn the pan in the oven to ensure even cooking. Bake for another 15-20 minutes until the internal temperature reaches about 180 degrees.


Optional:  Brine the chicken the day before if you have time or need to stretch the life of the chicken in the fridge for a day. Life happens and you can’t cook what you planned one night, so put the chicken in brine and make it the next night. This is my typical brine recipe that can easily be halved or doubled depending on the size of the poultry or amount of pork you want to brine. (Make sure poultry or meat does not smell rotten or is past due date when you put it in the brine)

Brine
Ingredients
½ cup black peppercorns
1 Tablespoon coriander seeds
6 small sage leaves, torn (or rosemary or thyme)
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1 cup of salt
1 cup dark brown sugar
2 Tablespoons onion powder
1 Tablespoon cumin powder
12 cups of water

Directions
Combine all ingredients in a large soup pot. Bring to a boil. Boil for a couple of minutes and then allow to cool before you place the chicken or pork in the brine.


My kids look forward to breakfast for dinner and especially love when they can make it themselves. It is a good opportunity to get your kids in the kitchen and make you dinner! My 6 year olds can make yogurt parfaits for us or a bowl of cereal. My 8 year old makes the mixture or batter for scrambled eggs, frittatas or pancakes and then cooks it with our supervision.  Whether you want to make a quick and easy dinner or have something easy for your kids to try making, breakfast is always popular. 

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Good Food that happens to be Gluten Free

I am a GF Cook. I make Good Food that happens to also be Gluten Free. For my family and others with celiac disease it is out of necessity. For many others it is a way to eat healthier or just feel better. In the past 2 years since my son's diagnosis of celiac disease, there have been ups and downs. I have discovered that you do not have to sacrifice taste, texture or being adventurous with new foods. You do not have to throw out your family recipes and favorite cookbooks. Yes there are limitations, but after the first several months, we found our groove and now know the resources that can help navigate the world of gluten-free eating.

Cooking gluten-free food often means making it from scratch because convenience food (like prepared frozen meatballs from Trader Joe's that used to make a weekly appearance at our house!) often contain gluten. More and more gluten-free items are appearing in the market, which is great, but as I love to cook and now have a giant freezer in my garage, I make my own convenience food packs and freeze them.

I spent a great day testing meatball recipes last spring and had some family and friends test recipes. I made Italian meatballs stuffed with mozzarella, homemade sausage meatballs and the winner - Bahn Mi flavored meatballs. I made about 4 pounds worth and saved them in 2 pound batches, perfect for our family of five for dinner with leftovers for lunch. You can cut this recipe in half. I serve them with cucumber noodles (or coodles) for a spin on spaghetti and meatballs. You can use them in a lettuce wrap or as an appetizer with your favorite Asian dipping sauce. My kids love hoisin sauce and I love peanut sauce. I grind my own meat using the Kitchen Aid attachment but you can buy ground meat in the grocery store or ask the butcher to grind it for you, but know that that contains more fat, so you won't need to add as much bacon in the recipe below. 

Bahn Mi Meatballs
Makes about 35 meatballs 


Ingredients
2/3 cup cucumber shredded (about 1 English cucumber)
1/3 cup shredded carrot
3/4 cup rice vinegar
3/4 cup water
2 Tablespoons sugar
About 4 1/3 lbs ground chicken and pork (I use 2/3 pork loin and 1/3 chicken thighs. It was also tested with only pork)
3 pieces of bacon, minced (you might have to test how much bacon you add depending on the fat content of your ground meat)
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
1 Tablespoon ginger, paste or grated fresh
handful of Cilantro, finely chopped
1/2 tsp coriander
1 egg (still add one whole egg if cutting recipe in half)
1/4 cup of bread crumbs (use gluten-free if making this gluten free)
2-3 Tablespoons of canola oil
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil

Mix the rice vinegar, water and sugar in a small bowl. Add cucumber and carrots. Soak at least 3 hours, up to overnight. Drain and dry between some paper towels while you prepare the meat mixture. Pre-heat oven at 375 degrees. In a small bowl mix salt, pepper, ginger, cilantro, coriander, egg and bread crumbs. Place meat in a large bowl and add drained cucumber and carrots and the egg mixture. Get your hands dirty and mix it all together. 


TIP: Cook a small patty of the meat mixture to taste and adjust seasonings if you need before cooking the whole batch.


Heat a large not stick-pan to medium-high, add canola oil and sesame oil. Brown meatballs and transfer to a baking rack that sits on top of a cookie sheet.




Roast for 15 minutes. (You can put directly on rack without browning and cook for about 25 minutes, if you don't have time to brown). Serve or freeze.




I hope you enjoy reading my blog as much as I love cooking for and writing it. My plan is to post weekly. You will see my own recipes, recipes from my favorite cookbooks (gluten free and not) that I have adapted for my family and ideas for entertaining and cooking in bulk. You don't have to eat gluten free to enjoy these recipes. They are tasty enough for everyone!  

Please use the buttons below to Pin, Tweet or share this on Facebook! Thank you! Let me know if there is anything you want to see here. I always love a cooking challenge. 

Monday, August 15, 2016

It's almost time...

The new and improved Mamma's Cooking is almost ready! Keep following me on Instagram and Facebook for the most up to date photos. Recipes, cookbook reviews and hopefully a new bucket list are on their way!



Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Coming Soon!

Please forgive the appearance as I make some changes to the blog! More blogs, more often, are on the way. Send any requests for recipes or questions about meal planning or going gluten free to mammascooking@gmail.com.

In the meantime check me out on Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter (@mammascooking) and Facebook!

I have been very busy cooking and coming up with some new recipes and simplifying the old.






Thank you!

Marie

Monday, May 25, 2015

Warm weather is finally here!

After this tough winter, I am ready to spend each weekend out at the grill! The same grill that was covered in snow about 3 months ago is now fired up and cooking!



Because I don't have time during the week, I tend to grill two or 3 proteins and a bunch of veggies on Saturday or Sunday. I use them to make meals through Wednesday like tacos, Asian noodles or just plain leftovers.

As I posted on my Facebook page earlier this weekend, I grilled up some pizza last night! I used a frozen crust, from Against the Grain (which is amazing!) and then topped it with fresh mozzarella and cheddar with marina. One pizza stayed cheese and the other was Hawaiian. I delegated and had my husband cut up a fresh pineapple (he likes to eat around the core after) and then sliced up some ham lunch meat. I use Hormel's Natural, which is gluten and nitrate free. You can use any pizza you want, even a whole frozen pizza and grill it instead of heating up your house with your oven and less clean up needed too!



Our house has gone completely gluten free because my son's blood tests showed that he is still getting a trace of gluten and because I switched kids' lunches a couple of weeks ago and gave the child with celiac a wheat roll. The aftermath made up my mind to go to a completely gluten free house. Tim is still allowed his beer. Paul won't try drinking that yet :)

Think simple this summer. Grilling doesn't have to be complicated. Grill a frozen pizza. Grill ears of corn (with husks on after soaking in water for at least an hour). Grill hot dogs. Grill peaches. Grill whatever you like. As I usually say, hopefully I will post more about what we are cooking at the Ericson house!

Here are some links of my previous summer fun or grilled food ideas and recipes! Enjoy the warm weather!


Friday, January 16, 2015

Gluten free fresh pasta, really?

Yes really. I used to love making pasta from scratch and eating fresh pasta. There is just something so comforting about it. I had just gotten the handle on a good recipe when our house went gluten free. My challenge now is to find the right gluten free recipe (and get a pasta machine!). I am determined!


I knocked one item off my 2015 Cooking Bucket list and made a brown rice pasta last week. It was really good, but I don't have a pasta machine or the attachment for my Kitchen Aid, so I tried to hand roll it, like I used to with fresh gluten filled pasta. This did not work as well. I rolled it until it was almost transparent, but it was still a little too thick and gummy when I cooked it. Taste was there, but consistency was not. This was the recipe I used: http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2014/05/gluten-free-fresh-pasta-recipe.html. I may try a couple of other recipes to see if hand rolling can work with them. If they don't, you know what my next investment will be!

I didn't have any sauce in the house, so used some tomatoes, onions, garlic, salt and pepper and sauteed together for a about 10-15 minutes.


I served it with some steamed peas and sockeye salmon I cooked in a foil packet in the oven with salt, pepper, lemon slices.




This weekend I may try to make Julia Child's coq au vin! Not the most appropriate football or tailgating food, but hopefully it will be good :) Here is a link to some old blogs that have more gameday appropriate food.