Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Pizza Cups

Convenience foods are a mama's best friend, and the king of all convenience food is, of course, frozen pizza! Unfortunately, most frozen pizzas don't fit into the MSPI diet. (Although, Amy's Kitchen makes a pretty decent Roasted Vegetable Pizza that's MSPI-friendly, but it's pretty expensive.) So that means making your own frozen pizza, and this recipe works great!

You can easily adapt each individual pizza to your family members' preferences. Some with veggies, some without. Some with MSPI-friendly cheese -- or real cheese for those who can have it -- some without. Have fun! Let your kiddos make their own!

I highly recommend making a double batch ... one batch to eat right away and another to freeze. Trust me, you'll love having these on hand!

Pizza Cups

½ lb. ground beef or Italian sausage
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tbsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
½ cup regular or palm shortening
¾ cup rice milk
1 jar MSPI-friendly pizza or pasta sauce
Chopped pizza toppings, such as pepperoni, onions, green peppers, olives, etc.
MSPI-friendly shredded cheese, such as Daiya, optional

Crumble and brown the ground beef or Italian sausage. If using beef, season it with salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, etc., to taste. Set the meat aside to cool.

To prepare the biscuit dough, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl. Cut shortening into flour mixture using a pastry blender or crisscrossing two knives, until mixture looks like fine crumbs. Stir in rice milk until dough leaves side of bowl. (The dough will be soft and sticky.)

Turn onto lightly floured surface. Knead lightly 10 times. Roll or pat dough to ½-inch thick. Cut with floured 2½-inch round cutter, rerolling the scraps until all the dough is used. (You should end up with 12-14 biscuits.) Using an ungreased muffin pan, place one biscuit in the bottom of each cup. With floured fingers, push and flatten the biscuits up the sides of the cups.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Divide ground meat between the cups, about 2 tablespoons each. Add 2 to 3 tablespoons of sauce on top. Sprinkle with pizza toppings and cheese.

Bake for 15 minutes or until biscuit shells begin to brown and toppings are heated through. Remove from oven and allow pizzas to rest a few minutes, then remove pizzas to a serving dish and enjoy!

To freeze: Arrange pizza cups on a cookie sheet and place in the freezer overnight. Once frozen, pizzas can be stored in a freezer-safe container or wrap, such as foil. To reheat frozen pizzas, heat in the microwave one to two minutes, or until hot.

Tip: Short on time? Use MSPI-friendly biscuit mix, such as Bisquick, and follow the package directions to prepare the dough with rice milk. Or if you can find ones that are safe for you, use MSPI-friendly canned biscuits.

Vegetarian: Replace the ground meat with sauteed vegetables, such as spinach, mushrooms, onions, etc. Or try this MSPI-friendly meat substitute.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Rollout Sugar Cookies

Yesterday was Libby's last day of school until January, so we are in Christmas vacation mode at our house. She is determined to squeeze in a million activities while on break, and decorating sugar cookies was at the top of her list.

I must admit, I groaned a little when she told me this. I really don't like rolling out cookie dough, but this recipe was surprisingly easy! The dough holds together quite well and shakes free of the cookie cutters without disintegrating. I was quite pleased! (I also utilized a pastry cloth and rolling pin cover. That made the rolling much easier! I highly recommend it!)

I didn't include a recipe for icing. We just used MSPI-friendly store-bought icing, but there are several recipes on the internet available. Just use MSPI-friendly margarine and rice milk instead of butter and milk. There's also a glaze-like icing recipe included on the page where I found the original recipe for these cookies.

Now these cookies won't win any awards for being the best tasting or best looking, but my kids had a fun, fun time decorating them and we will share this sweet memory long after the cookies disappear into our tummies. And that, my friends, is what matters! Merry Christmas!

Rollout Sugar Cookies

1½ cups powdered sugar
1 cup MSPI-friendly margarine
1 tsp. vanilla
½ tsp. almond extract
1 large egg
2½ cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cream of tartar
½ tsp. salt

Cream together powdered sugar and margarine in a large mixing bowl. Mix in vanilla, almond extract and egg. In a separate bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients. Add the flour mixture slowly to the wet mixture and mix until properly combined. Cover and refrigerate four hours (or overnight) until dough is thoroughly chilled.

Remove ¼ of the dough from the bowl and return the bowl to the refrigerator. Roll the dough you removed to ¼-inch thick and cut into shapes with cookie cutters. Place cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet. Once cookie sheet is filled, place it in the refrigerator. Continue to roll out and cut the remaining dough.

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Grease a clean cookie sheet lightly or use a Silpat. Arrange cookie cutouts that are in the refrigerator on the prepared cookie sheet. Bake 7-8 minutes or until edges are just barely golden. Remove from cookie sheet to cool while baking the remaining cookies.

Decorate with MSPI-friendly icing and sprinkles. (If you prefer to skip the icing all together, you can sprinkle the cookies with colored sugar prior to baking.)

Tip: Can't use margarine because of the soy oil? Try substituting palm shortening for the margarine.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Peppermint Bark Rice Krispie Treats

Whoever came up with the idea to make flavored marshmallows should get a medal. They're so fun! And MSPI-friendly!

This recipe, which comes from Our Best Bites, takes the humble Rice Krispie treat to a whole new level by utilizing peppermint marshmallows and drizzling it with chocolate. Genius! And delicious! Perfect for a platter of Christmas treats.

Peppermint Bark Rice Krispie Treats
Source: Adapted from Our Best Bites

1 10½ -oz. bag Jet-Puffed Peppermint Mallows (See tip.)
4 tbsp. MSPI-friendly margarine
6 cups Rice Krispies-style cereal
⅓-½ cup MSPI-friendly semi-sweet chocolate chips
½ tsp. canola oil
a few drops peppermint extract, optional
3 6-inch candy canes, crushed

Grease a 9x13 pan and set it aside.

Melt margarine in a very large bowl in the microwave. Add marshmallows and stir to coat. Heat in 30-second intervals, stirring in between, until melted and smooth. (You can do that whole process on the stove top as well.) Add cereal and stir to evenly combine. With greased hands, press mixture into prepared pan.

Place chocolate chips, oil and peppermint extract in a small bowl. Heat in the microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring in between, until melted and smooth. Drizzle chocolate on top of the Rice Krispie treats and sprinkle candy canes on top.  Let sit until chocolate is set, place pan in fridge to speed process along. Cut into squares and eat up.

Tip: If you can’t find the peppermint marshmallows, use regular marshmallows and add ¼-½ teaspoon peppermint extract (or to taste) and a few drops red food coloring to the melted marshmallow mixture.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Cinnamon Sugar Chex Mix

Now that I have two kiddos in school -- Libby in first grade, JD in preschool -- I have a whole lot of teachers and staff members that I would like to give a little something at Christmas. I try to keep the treat simple but oh-so-tasty.

This year, I'm planning to make this snack mix and package it in cute little baggies. It's perfect to nibble on morning, noon and night. I have the feeling the teachers are going to love it. I know I do!

Cinnamon Sugar Chex Mix
Source: Adapted from Lynn's Kitchen Adventures

¼ cup MSPI-friendly margarine, melted
1 tsp. vanilla
¼ cup brown sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 pinch salt
3 cups Corn Chex Cereal
3 cups Rice Chex Cereal

In a small bowl, whisk together the margarine, vanilla, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.

In a large microwave-safe bowl, combine cereals. Pour margarine mixture over the cereal until evenly combined. Microwave entire mixture for 3-4 minutes or until it just starts to brown. Stir every minute while cooking.

Spread mix on a large rimmed cookie sheet to cool and then store in an airtight container or bag.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Nearly Free Chicken Stock

I have a confession to make. I am in LOVE with Costco. As I mentioned on my Facebook page a  few weeks ago, I finally broke down and got a membership, and I haven't looked back since. Ummm, $16.59 for 12 quarts of Rice Dream rice milk? Yes, please! And their organic vegetables and fruits? Fabulous, just fabulous!

But, my favorite thing of all has to be their rotisserie chicken. Yes, it's MSPI-friendly! And it's just delicious. Tender and juicy. Yum! (Yes, I know rotisserie chickens aren't anything new or special. But Costco's is so good!) I can get two to three meals for our family out of one chicken. I use it in soups, salads and other yummy dishes. And it's less than $5! Such a great deal! But I take the savings a step further. I use the bones and scraps from the chicken and use it as the base for homemade chicken stock. And it's "Nearly Free" to make this, since you're using items you would normally throw away.

This really doesn't even seem like a recipe that I'm sharing with you, more like a method. Adjust to what works best for you. If you're having turkey for Christmas dinner, you can use this method to make turkey stock.

Nearly  Free Chicken Stock
Source: MSPI Mama

Chicken bones, skin and scraps
Vegetable scraps
Bay leaf

Whenever cooking a meal, place the leftover bones, skin and scraps from the chicken and the scraps from vegetables, such as onion and garlic skins, carrot peelings and celery tops, in a large Ziploc-style bag in your freezer. Continue to add to the bag as you prepare meals.

Once the bag is filled, empty the contents into a slow cooker. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Toss in the bay leaf. Pour in water until all the contents are fully submerged. Place the lid on the slow cooker and turn the cooker on Low. Cook 8-10 hours.

Remove the large scraps from the broth and throw them away. Pour what remains through a fine sieve or colander into a large bowl. Taste the stock. Add more salt, as needed. Place the bowl in the refrigerator and cool for several hours. Skim off any congealed fat. Use broth immediately or divide it into freezer-safe containers and store in the freezer.

Tip: If the idea of using scraps creeps you out, then follow this recipe, which starts with a whole chicken and vegetables.

Vegetarian: To make vegetable broth, use only vegetable scraps.

Quick Start with MSPI Mama: This is one of my Quick Start recipes.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Cocoa Crinkle Cookies

What would Christmas be without cookies? And these cookies, my friends, are right at the top of cookie perfection. Crunchy on the outside, chewy on the inside. Bursting with chocolate flavor that's only heightened by a roll in powdered sugar. Seriously good stuff.

Oh! And this is one of my Quick Start recipes. Yes! No soy oil or lecithin in these little gems. 

Now, I am going to warn you. These cookies aren't difficult but they are labor intensive. And you have to be patient. The dough needs to chill before you form the cookies. But it's worth all the work!

Speaking of chill. The recipe for these cookies originally says to refrigerate the dough. Don't do this! Put the dough in the freezer! Trust me on this one. The dough will be much easier to work with if it's super cold! And don't worry about the dough freezing solid. This won't happen.

Cocoa Crinkle Cookies
Source: Adapted from Hershey's Kitchens

2 cups granulated sugar
¾ cup canola oil
¾ cup baking cocoa
4 eggs
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
powdered sugar

Combine granulated sugar and oil in large bowl; add cocoa, beating until well blended. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Stir together flour, baking powder and salt; gradually add to cocoa mixture, beating well.

Cover; freeze until dough is firm enough to handle, at least 6 hours or overnight.

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease cookie sheet or line with parchment paper. 

Working with one batch at a time, shape dough into 1-inch balls; roll in powdered sugar to coat. Place about 2 inches apart on prepared cookie sheet. Put remaining dough back in freezer while first batch bakes.

Bake 13 minutes or until almost no indentation remains when touched lightly and tops are crackled. Cool slightly. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Prepare next batch of cookies.

Makes 4 to 5 dozen cookies.

Tip: If you need to avoid eggs, Food Allergy Mama substitutes 1 cup of applesauce for the eggs in her version of the cookies.

Quick Start with MSPI Mama: This is one of my Quick Start recipes.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Salmon Chowder

Thanks to my dad, who goes salmon fishing every year, and my mom, who likes to can, I have several jars of canned salmon on hand at all times. This salmon is a lifesaver on busy days, especially during the crazy holiday season. And my kids LOVE salmon. No one ever complains about dinner when I serve salmon.

At a moment's notice, I can throw together recipes like Salmon Cakes and Tuscan Salmon Pasta. They both contain ingredients that I regularly stock in my pantry and kitchen.

Or I can make this chowder. This soup is warm and satisfying on a cold evening, and like the other recipes I mentioned, it's easy to keep these ingredients on hand for a last-minute meal.

Salmon Chowder
Source: Inspired by

3 tbsp. olive oil
¾ cup onion, finely chopped
½ cup celery, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp. flour
3 cups MSPI-friendly chicken broth or water
1½ cups rice milk
2 cups potatoes, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. ground black pepper
1 tsp. dill weed
2 (16 oz.) cans salmon, drained and flaked
1 (15 oz.) can creamed corn

Heat olive oil in a large pot over low heat. Saute onion, celery and garlic until tender. Stir in the flour. Continue to stir for a few minutes. Stir in broth and rice milk and bring mixture to a slight boil. Stir in potatoes, carrots and seasonings. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Simmer 20 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Stir in salmon and creamed corn. Cook until heated through and adjust seasoning to taste prior to serving.

Tip: The smaller you dice the potatoes and carrots, the quicker they will cook.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Balsamic Chicken

Some of you occasionally like to share recipes with me, and I think that's great. I love to hear what's been a success for you! Since I'm not very quick about getting around to trying out those recipes and posting them here on the blog, the best way for all of you to share your recipes with each other is over on my Facebook page.

When I originally began my page, I included a thread on the Discussions tab for Readers' Recipes, but Facebook has recently removed Discussions. Boo! But don't let that stop you from sharing your recipes. You can just post the recipe on the Facebook wall or share a link, if the recipe is from another website and include any MSPI changes.

Fortunately, before Facebook closed Discussions, I was able to save a copy of this recipe. It was posted by MSPI Mama reader Lindsey. Thanks, Lindsey! The recipe is yummy and super easy to make in the slow cooker.

Balsamic Chicken
Source: Slightly adapted from the version Lindsey shared on Facebook

2 tbsp. olive oil
4-6 boneless, skinless, chicken breasts (fresh or frozen)
ground black pepper and salt, to taste
1 onion, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried rosemary
½ tsp. dried thyme
½ cup balsamic vinegar
2 14.5 oz. cans diced tomatoes
hot cooked angel hair pasta or rice

Pour the olive oil into a slow cooker and swirl to cover the bottom. Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper, then place them in the slow cooker. Layer sliced onion on top of chicken. Sprinkle herbs and garlic cloves over the top. Pour in vinegar and top with tomatoes. Cook on high three to four hours. 

Serve chicken breasts whole, chopped or shredded with vegetables and sauce over angel hair pasta or rice.

Tip: The size of your chicken breasts, how many you are using and whether they are fresh or frozen will greatly determine how fast they cook. Cook it too long, and the chicken will dry out on you. I made this with four frozen chicken breasts, and four hours was more than enough time to completely cook the chicken.

Quick Start with MSPI Mama: This is one of my Quick Start recipes.