Thursday, August 30, 2012

Daniel Tiger Bars

If your TV is anything like my TV, it is regularly tuned to PBS Kids. "Curious George" is a must-see on our screen, but I have a feeling George is going to have to make room for a new little critter in our hearts: Daniel Tiger.

PBS is premiering "Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood" this coming Monday, and my kiddos couldn't be happier. Last week, we watched a sneak peek of the entire first episode -- Click here to watch it, too! -- and my 2- and 4-year-olds haven't stopped asking for it since. And for those of you who grew up watching "Mister Roger's Neighborhood," you're going to love the show, too! It is truly a walk down Memory Lane for this child of the '70s and '80s.

In honor of little Daniel Tiger, I've created a fun snack for you and your kiddos to share while watching the show. It's a twist on peanut butter crispy treats. Feel free to use sunflower seed butter, if peanuts are an issue for you.

Now I dare you not to hum "It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood" while munching on one of these gooey bars of yumminess.

Daniel Tiger Bars
Source: MSPI Mama

2 cups mini marshmallows
2 tbsp. MSPI-friendly margarine
3 tbsp. creamy peanut butter
4 cups MSPI-friendly corn flakes cereal
¼ cup MSPI-friendly chocolate chips (I use Enjoy Life.)
1 tbsp. creamy peanut butter
1-2 tsp. shortening, optional

In a large microwave-safe bowl, heat the marshmallows and margarine, stirring every 30 seconds, until melted, about 2 minutes total. Stir in 3 tablespoons peanut butter until melted. Stir in the cereal until fully combined.

Coat an 8x8 baking pan with cooking spray. Spoon the cereal mixture into the prepared pan. Coat your hands with cooking spray, then press the mixture firmly into the bottom of the pan. Set pan aside while the mixture cools and firms, about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, place chocolate chips and 2 tablespoons peanut butter in a small bowl. Microwave on high, stirring every 30 seconds, until melted, about 2 minutes total. The chocolate mixture should be smooth and pourable, if it needs to be thinned out, stir in 1-2 teaspoons of shortening to the mixture.

Once the pan has cooled, drizzle the chocolate mixture in a stripe pattern across the top of the cereal mixture. Set pan aside to allow the chocolate to cool and firm up. Cut mixture into bars and serve.

Tip: Many brands of corn flakes have cross-contamination issues with soy. If you can't find one that's safe for your family, substitute a crispy rice cereal -- the bars will still be yummy, just not tiger orange.

Tip2: This recipe can easily be doubled. Just use a 9x13 baking pan instead.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Revamped & Revived: Salmon Cakes

I'm reaching into my blog's archive and sharing an updated recipe with you today. 

Thanks to my dad's love of salmon fishing and my mom's love of canning that salmon, I always have several jars of canned salmon in my pantry. This makes for quick and easy meals, and it so happens one of my family's all-time favorite meals is made with canned salmon: Salmon Cakes. (A recipe I originally posted back in 2008.) I make this recipe a lot and have tweaked it over the years. Here's my update on an old favorite!

Salmon Cakes
Source: MSPI Mama

1 15½-oz. can of salmon, drained and flaked
1-2 eggs
½-1 cup MSPI-friendly panko bread crumbs
1 tbsp. dried onion flakes
½ tsp. dried dill weed
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 tbsp. olive oil

Mix together all the ingredients, starting with 1 egg and ½ cup panko and adding in another egg or more panko, until you reach a sticky but not gloppy consistency that holds together well. Using a measuring cup, scoop out ⅓-cup of the mixture and form the mixture into a patty. Place patty on a plate and repeat with the remaining salmon mixture.

Cover patties with plastic wrap and place plate in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Heat olive oil in saute pan over medium heat. Fry cakes, flipping after first side turns golden brown. Serve with lemon juice or MSPI-friendly tartar sauce.

Tip: Looking for a tartar sauce recipe? Here's an easy one!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Broccoli "Cheese" Soup - Vegan

Oh my. It's been nearly a month since I last posted. In my defense, this past month has been SUPER crazy with so many trips and activities: a reunion, an end-of-summer family vacation, our 10-year anniversary, a weekend away (with no kids!) to celebrate our reunion, the start of school and preschool and all the other little things one must squeeze in before school starts. Needless to say, the blog wasn't a top priority.

However, I have been cooking! And, my friends, this recipe was worth waiting for because it is so good and comforting. Now it may seem strange to cook soup in the heat of the summer, but I had all these wonderful vegetables from my CSA basket that needed eating: broccoli, potatoes, onions and carrots. This soup truly shines when all the veggies are fresh from the garden or local farm!

The only "unusual" ingredient is nutritional yeast. (I use this brand and buy it from Amazon.) You can still make this soup without the nutritional yeast. It just won't be nearly as "cheesy" in flavor.

Broccoli "Cheese" Soup
Source: MSPI Mama

1 large onion, diced
2 stalks celery, minced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 medium (approx. 12 oz.) yellow potatoes, cleaned and diced
2 cups MSPI-friendly vegetable broth
2 cups plain, unsweetened rice milk
1 head broccoli, chopped into small, bite-size pieces
1 large carrot, shredded
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. mustard powder
½ tsp. onion powder
¼ tsp. black pepper
1 tbsp. corn starch
½ cup rice milk
½ cup nutritional yeast
chopped fresh chives, for serving

Coat a large pot with cooking spray and place it over medium heat. Add onions, celery and garlic and saute until the veggies begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add potatoes and saute for five more minutes. (If at any time the mixture begins to stick to the bottom of the pot, you can add a splash of water to loosen things up a bit.)

Add the broth and 2 cups rice milk. Bring the mixture to a low boil over medium-high heat, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are soft. (Simmering time will depend on the size of the diced pieces of potato. Smaller dice = shorter cooking time!)

Remove half of the soup from the pot and blend in a blender or food processor until smooth. Return the mixture to the pot along with the broccoli, shredded carrot, salt, mustard powder, onion powder and pepper. Return soup to bubbling, and cook for 10 minutes, or until broccoli is tender.

Add the corn starch to a small bowl. Stir in the rice milk and mix until the corn starch is completely incorporated. Stir the mixture into the soup pot. Add the nutritional yeast to the soup. Stir the soup while the soup simmers and thickens. (If you like your soup to be thicker, repeat the corn starch/rice milk step.) Adjust seasoning to taste and serve with chives sprinkled over the tops of individual bowls.

Tip: When blending a hot mixture, make sure you remove the blender’s center plug and then cover the top of the blender with a folded towel before blending. This will allow the steam from the hot mixture to escape and keep the blender from exploding hot soup all over you!

Link Love: I'm sharing this post at Healthy Vegan Fridays.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Balsamic Pasta Salad

It's Friday! What are your plans for the weekend? Hopefully, you'll be enjoying time with your family and NOT slaving away in the kitchen every time you get hungry. To make that a reality, spend a few minutes in the kitchen whipping up this simple salad, and keep it at the ready in your refrigerator. Whenever hunger pains hit, this will be waiting for you!

Adapt the veggies to whatever you have on hand or prefer. Carrots, celery, broccoli, cauliflower. You can even use frozen veggies. If using frozen corn or peas, you can just toss them into the salad after thawing. If using larger frozen veggies, such as green beans. Cook them as directed by the package, but cut the cooking time in half. (You don't want them mushy!) Drain, then immediately "shock" the veggies in a bowl of ice water. Once the veggies are cool, drain thorougly and toss into the salad.

Balsamic Pasta Salad
Source: Adapted from

½ cup balsamic vinegar
1½ tbsp. olive oil
¼ tsp. black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced (or ½ tsp. garlic powder) 
1 tsp. dry basil
½ tsp. salt
8 oz. whole wheat penne pasta
1 cucumber, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
2-3 roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 cup black olives, sliced

Place the vinegar, oil and spices in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Shake vigourously to combine. Set aside while you prepare the rest of the salad.

Prepare the pasta to al dente, according to package directions. Drain, rinse with cold water and place in a large bowl. Add the chopped veggies to the bowl.

Give the dressing another shake and pour over the pastas and veggies. Toss. Adjust seasoning to taste. (Depending on the quality of your vinegar, you may need to add a pinch of sugar. Good balsamics are very sweet.) Serve immediately or cover and keep cold in the refrigerator.

Tip: To make this salad a main dish, add a can of drained and rinsed kidney beans. Or you can add 2 cups of cooked chicken breast. Here is a super simple way to cook chicken breasts in the microwave.

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

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Country-Style Stir Fry

Hello, friends! My blog has been rather quiet these past several weeks. The summer months are brutal on this mom-of-three. Lots of activities ... swimming, dance, piano, softball, tee-ball, VBS, camp, sleepovers, out-of-town trips, etc. ... but I wouldn't have it any other way. My kids love to be kept busy!

Regardless of how busy we get, I still manage to get dinner on the table in the evening. This meal was well-received in my house. I used my kids' favorite veggies -- broccoli and carrots -- but you can easily adjust to whatever your family prefers. I used chicken, but slices of pork or beef would both work. Or you could go vegetarian by leaving the meat out all together and using veggie broth. Maybe add a can of kidney beans. Yum!

Country-Style Stir Fry
Source: MSPI Mama
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. chicken breast, sliced into bite-size pieces
¼ tsp. salt
2 small broccoli crowns, cleaned and chopped
2 large carrots, thinly sliced
½ cup onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup MSPI-friendly chicken stock
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 tsp. dried parsley flakes
1-2 tsp. corn starch
2 tbsp. cold water
Hot cooked rice

Heat the oil in a large saut̩ pan over medium high heat. Add chicken to the pan and sprinkle with the salt. Stir fry the chicken until the meat is cooked through, about 5-7 minutes Рthe amount of time will depend on how thinly the chicken is sliced. Using a slotted spoon, remove chicken from the pan, cover with foil to keep it warm and set aside. Return pan to the stove top.

Add the broccoli, carrots, onion, garlic, chicken stock, lemon juice and parsley to the pan. Stir together and simmer the contents of the pan until the vegetables are crisp tender, about 6-7 minutes. Add more stock or water to the pan, if the mixture becomes too dry or you would like the finished product to have more sauce.

In a small bowl, stir together the corn starch and water. (The amount you use will depend on how thick you like your sauce. A thinner sauce will only need 1 tsp. of corn starch.) Stir the mixture into the pan. The liquids in the pan will tighten up into a nice sauce.

Add the chicken back to the pan. Serve the stir fry over the hot cooked rice.

Tip: Make sure to THINLY slice the carrots. If you cut them too thickly, it will take way too long for the carrots to cook and the broccoli will be way overcooked. (To make the slicing easier, I use this mandolin slicer. It makes cutting veggies into uniform little slices so quick and easy!) If you have trouble cutting the carrots thinly, I would recommend grating the carrots.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Garden Tacos with Avocado-Tomato Toss

One of the foods I miss the most on the MSPI diet is cheese. (Yes, there are a few MSPI-friendly "cheeses" available -- Daiya is decent -- but it's still not the same, for me at least.) I especially miss cheese on tacos, but I figure that since I can't have cheese, I'm going to splurge and have avocado! And, honestly, if I had to choose, I'd go with avocado over cheese any day. Love those little gems!

I love trying out new recipes for avocados, and the folks over at Avocados From Mexico have just launched a new recipes section on their site, called Recipes From Avocado Lovers, to give foodies who love avocados the opportunity to upload their favorite avocado recipes, download ringtones, wallpapers and other fun items to show their avocado love and discover other fan favorite avocado recipes.

I was invited by Avocados From Mexico to create a recipe that showcases avocados. I took up the challenge and created these Garden Tacos with Avocado-Tomato Toss. They're vegetarian ... no meat in site. In fact, not only are they vegetarian, they're vegan. It's the perfect recipe for summer, since all those veggies are super fresh and on sale! Feel free to mix things up by using other veggies. Bell peppers and zucchini would be great in this, too! To round out the meal, try serving the tacos with refried beans or whip up a batch of my Slow Cooked Pinto Beans. Yum!

If you love avocados as much as I do, submit a recipe to the Recipes From Avocado Lovers website from Avocados From Mexico. And make sure you leave a message here to let me know about your post. I would love to try out YOUR recipe!

Garden Tacos with Avocado-Tomato Toss
Source: MSPI Mama

1 tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, sliced
12 oz. pkg. button mushrooms, sliced
1 small summer squash, halved and sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. water
1 tsp. cumin
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. chili powder
¼ tsp. black pepper
⅛ tsp. crushed red pepper, or to taste
2 large handfuls baby spinach
2 Avocados From Mexico, halved and cut into small chunks
1 large tomato, seeded and diced
1 tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tbsp. fresh lime juice
¼ tsp. salt
MSPI-friendly tortillas, for serving

Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Add the onions to the pan and heat for a minute, breaking the onion slices apart with a spoon. Add the mushrooms and squash to the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring often. Stir in the garlic and water. 

Once the water in the pan begins to simmer, add in the cumin, salt, chili and peppers. Stir everything together and allow the mixture to simmer for a few minutes, adding a splash of water, if the vegetables become too dry. Once the veggies are tender, stir in the spinach. Turn the heat to medium low and allow the mixture to continue simmering. 

While the vegetables simmer, prepare the Avocado-Tomato Toss. In a small mixing bowl, gently toss together the avocados, tomato, cilantro, lime juice and salt. Set the topping aside while the vegetable mixture finishes cooking.

Heat the tortillas according to package directions. Once the liquid in the vegetable mixture has completely simmered away, adjust seasoning to taste, then layer some vegetables down the middle of a tortilla and top with the Avocado-Tomato Toss.

Tip: For extra heat, chop up a jalapeno and add it to the salsa mixture.

Fine Print: This is a sponsored post. This sponsorship is brought to you by Recipes from Avocados From Mexico who we have partnered with for this promotion. Regardless, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Cinnamon Bun Pancakes

Do you ever have a craving for cinnamon rolls? Ummm, I do! But that craving usually hits first thing in the morning. Making cinnamon rolls from scratch takes way too long to satisfy my immediate cravings, and store-bought, MSPI-friendly cinnamon rolls are few and far between.

Fortunately, these simply amazing pancakes satisfy those cinnamon roll cravings. They are crazy good. My oldest daughter is often pestering me to make cinnamon rolls, and she said: "Mom, these pancakes taste just like cinnamon rolls! Please make them again!"

Don't worry, Libby, I'll be making these quite often!

Cinnamon Bun Pancakes
Source: Adapted from Baked Bree

For pancakes:
1½ cups flour (can use combination of regular and whole wheat)
3 tbsp. sugar
½ tsp. salt
4 tsp. baking powder
1 tbsp. cinnamon
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup rice milk
2 tbsp. pure maple syrup or honey
1 tbsp. vanilla
4 tbsp. coconut oil, melted (I use Nutiva.)

Put all of the dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk them together. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, syrup and vanilla. Continue to whisk the wet mixture while drizzling in the melted coconut oil. (Make sure to whisk in the coconut, otherwise the oil will seize up into a large blob when it hits the cold batter.) Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir until combined.

Coat a griddle or large saute pan with cooking spray (or brush it with oil) and preheat it over medium heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the hot griddle. Cook pancakes until brown on both sides. Serve hot pancakes drizzled with icing.

For icing:
1 cup powdered sugar
2 tbsp. coconut oil, melted
2 tbsp. rice milk

Whisk the ingredients together until smooth and a pouring consistency. If too thick add more rice milk, if too thin, add more sugar.

Tip: You can substitute a different kind of oil for the coconut oil, if you prefer, but I love using the coconut oil. It adds a great richness to the pancakes, similar to butter, and it has some tremendous healthy attributes! When using coconut oil in baking, I've found that my batter usually becomes quite thick upon standing, but I believe that's because coconut oil has such a low melting point. Once the batter begins to cook, things will loosen up, so don't become too concerned about the thick batter.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Homemade Spaghettios

Sometimes I create a recipe and get it right the first time out. There's no need to make it again and tweak the recipe before I'm willing to share it with you. And sometimes I have to tweak the recipe A LOT.

Several months ago, I mentioned on my Facebook page that I was devising an MSPI-friendly spaghettios recipe. Well, it's taken me this long to get it right, but here it is!

My kids absolutely adore this recipe. My oldest daughter, who has actually had the real thing from the can, says my version is so much better. Yay! That makes this mama happy!

Homemade Spaghettios
Source: MSPI Mama

1 15-oz. can plain tomato sauce
15 oz. rice milk (just use the empty tomato sauce can to measure)
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
½ tsp. paprika
¼ tsp. salt
1 tbsp. nutritional yeast, optional (See note.)
1 7-oz. pkg. ring-shaped pasta (I used Creamette, which I found at Walmart.)
water, as needed

Stir together in a medium saucepan all the ingredients, except for the pasta and water. Bring the tomato mixture to a boil and stir in the pasta. Turn the heat down and cook the pasta as it simmers, stirring often to keep the pasta from sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Continue to cook and stir the mixture until the pasta is tender. (The time will vary depending on the size and shape of the pasta but will likely be much longer than indicated on the pasta’s package.) Add a splash of water, as necessary, to keep the sauce from becoming too dry. (I probably added about 1 cup of water by the time I was finished.) Adjust seasoning to taste – including a bit of sugar, if you prefer your sauce on the sweeter side.

Note: Nutritional yeast is not necessary in this recipe, but it helps replace the flavor of cheese. It’s also a nutritional powerhouse, so it’s a great addition to your diet. You can find it at most health food stores or online.

GF: For a gluten-free option, use a small gluten-free pasta. If you can't find one that is satisfactory, try using a gluten-free spaghetti noodle and breaking it into small pieces before cooking.

Link Love: I'm sharing this recipe over at Allergy Free Wednesdays.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Revamped & Revived: Salsa Chicken

I conducted a rather unscientific poll on the MSPI Mama Facebook page yesterday. I asked:

In the "Dark Ages" of my blog, I would post recipes without photos and sometimes no recipe -- just a link to another site. I often remake several of these favorite recipes for my family, so taking a photo wouldn't be an issue. Would you like me to occasionally repost these recipes with pics, or would you prefer I just focus on new ones?

The resounding answer was YES! So today I am introducing Revamped & Revived. I occasionally will repost favorite recipes from my blog. Sometimes I'll share tweaks to the recipe. Sometimes it'll be the exact recipe as was originally posted. Regardless, it'll bring to your attention some of my family's favorites from over the years!

So here's my first R&R recipe: Salsa Chicken. The original post only linked to a recipe over at A Year of Slow Cooking.

I've actually been making this recipe for years ... long before I ever was on the MSPI diet. I'm going to share with you how I've tweaked it over the years. (I've also included Stove Top Directions.) I honestly don't measure the ingredients. I just eyeball the salsa, corn and seasonings. However, this is a pretty close approximation of what I use.

Salsa Chicken

1 15-oz. can black beans, rinsed
1 cup salsa
1 8-oz. can tomato sauce
1-2 cups frozen corn
1 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. cumin
1 lb. frozen chicken breasts
1-2 tbsp. fresh cilantro, chopped
hot cooked rice
Combine the first five ingredients in your slow cooker. Nestle the chicken into the mixture, making sure to fully coat the breasts. Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook the chicken on high for 2-3 hours, on low for 4 hours or until the chicken is fully cooked.

Remove the chicken from the slow cooker. Allow the meat to rest for a few minutes. Chop or shred the chicken and return it to the salsa mixture in the slow cooker. Stir in the cilantro. Adjust seasoning to taste. Serve with hot cooked rice.

Stove Top Directions: Follow the same steps as above, but add 1 cup of water to the mixture. Heat in a large pot on medium-high until the mixture begins to bubble, turn the heat to medium-low and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through, stirring occasionally and adding more water, if necessary. Remove the chicken and chop or shred it. (If the salsa mixture is too thin, turn the heat up to medium-high and simmer to preferred consistency.) Add the chicken and cilantro to the pot and serve.

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

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Sesame Noodles with Golden Garlic

Ahhhh, it's summer! The last month has been BUSY! School and all those school-year activities wrapped up. We've had recitals, open houses and field trips galore. Then, before we could even catch our collective breath, we took off over the Memorial Day weekend to visit our far-flung family and friends. Not to mention, my hubby has been super busy at work, so his help around the house has been spotty at best.

With that in mind, in order to get dinner on the table, I've needed food that could be prepared in advance -- usually during nap time -- that could cook for a few hours (i.e. slow cooker recipes!) or foods that could be served cold. This recipe fits the bill perfectly! Not to mention, it makes a huge amount of food, so we could easily get two family meals out of it. Yay for "twofers"!

The original recipe does not add chicken, but I knew my family would revolt without a little meat somewhere. But you could easily leave it out. Also, if peanut butter is a no-no in your house, I would recommend using sunbutter.

Sesame Noodles with Golden Garlic
Source: Adapted from All You

3 tbsp. canola or coconut oil
4 large cloves garlic, halved and thinly sliced lengthwise
1 lb. chicken breast, thinly sliced, optional
2 celery stalks, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and thinly sliced
2 large carrots, thinly sliced or shredded
1 lb. spaghetti
½ cup peanut butter
1 cup reserved pasta water (likely won't use all of it)
2 tbsp. rice vinegar
1 tbsp. sesame oil
1-2 tsp. MSPI-friendly fish sauce, optional
Salt, to taste
2 green onions, thinly sliced

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add pasta to the water and cook, according to package directions, to al dente. (While pasta is cooking, you can prep your veggies and chicken.) Before draining the pasta, remove 1 cup of cooking water from the pot and set it aside. Drain pasta well and rinse under running water. Place noodles in a large bowl and return the pot to the stove.

Warm oil in the same pot over medium heat. Add garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. (Do not step away from the stove. The garlic will burn if you don't watch it closely!) Remove the garlic with a slotted spoon and set it aside. Leave the oil in the pot and return it to the stove top.

If using chicken, add it to the oil in the pot and cook until chicken is cooked through, about 5 minutes. Remove chicken and add to the noodles. Return pot to the stove top.

Add the vegetables to the pot and cook, stirring, until softened but not browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add to the noodles.

In a small bowl, whisk together the peanut butter, ½ cup pasta cooking water, vinegar and sesame oil until blended. Add salt to taste. Drizzle the sauce over the noodles, chicken and vegetables and toss until well coated. Add more pasta cooking water, if so desired, and adjust seasoning to taste.

The dish can be served now while warm, or refrigerated and served cold. Sprinkle golden garlic and green onions over pasta just before serving.

Tip: I don't give a measurement on how much salt to use in the sauce because it will greatly depend on how much salt you put in your pasta cooking water and whether you use fish sauce.

Vegetarian: Leave out the chicken and fish sauce.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

And the lucky sorbetto winner is ...

I have so enjoyed reading all of your comments over on my giveaway. If I could make all of you winners, I would! However, only one can win, and that winner is "Kate & Jeremy"!

Kate's been nursing her 8-month-old, who can't have milk, soy, wheat or peanuts. She definitely deserves a special treat! Yay!

Photo courtesy of eCreamery

Now, for the rest of you. The next time you need a gift for someone special in your life, consider eCreamery. Wouldn't this make an awesome Father's Day gift? ... Just make sure you get your fair share of the sorbetto ... 75 percent sounds fair to me!

Thanks again to eCreamery for sponsoring this giveaway!

Fine Print: The winner was randomly selected from all the entries using the random number generator at

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Creamy delights and a giveaway, too!

One of the rites of summer that I always enjoyed as a child was the whole family piling into our rust-orange Ford LTD station wagon and driving to the edge of our tiny town to the lone drive-in hamburger joint. But we weren’t there for hamburgers. We wanted ice cream. Looking back at those memories, I know that there wasn’t anything special about those ice cream cones, but they were cold and creamy and they hit the spot on a hot summer’s night. Plus, it was a special activity for our family to do together, and now that I’m a mom, I covet those same opportunities with my kids.

But, there’s a tiny problem: MSPI. All of us going for ice cream isn’t an option when a member of the family is on a dairy-free diet! But, my friends, I got to take ALL my kids (including my MSPI girl Caroline) to an ice cream parlor last week! It was such a joy to see my little Caroline digging into a cone of her own. And this wonderful memory was made possible by a cute little shop in the heart of Omaha’s historic Dundee called eCreamery!

In addition to wonderful, freshly made ice creams and gelatos, eCreamery makes MSPI-friendly sorbettos! And, holy cow, are they amazing! If you live in the Omaha area, you MUST go visit their shop. It’s located right on the corner of 50th and Underwood. It is definitely worth the trip if you live on the outskirts of town, and you will not be disappointed. Every day they offer four flavors of MSPI-friendly sorbettos that are beyond amazing. But you don’t have to live in Omaha to enjoy this fabulous product … the brilliant masterminds at eCreamery ship their tasty creations nationwide!

You get to pick your own custom flavors, they mix it up right in their store, pack it up (on dry ice!) and ship it out their door. It comes to your doorstep icy cold and ready to enjoy. How awesome is that?! You can even have a custom label made. (They gave me a pint of “Andrea’s Pick Me Up” … decadent chocolate sorbetto. Yum!) You can order one of their Special Occasion Gift Packs or Create Your Own Flavor with fun mix-ins … just make sure they’re MSPI-friendly. There are so many options! You can even get cute little Individual Party Cups. Wouldn't that be ADORABLE for a first birthday party?!

And I’m not the only one to have fallen in love with eCreamery. Martha Stewart, Nate Berkus and Oprah (as well as many, many others!) have raved about these delectable treats. If it’s good enough for Martha, you know it’s good enough for MSPI Mama!

But here is the absolute best part about all of this … eCreamery has graciously agreed to sponsor a giveaway right here on my little blog! I am just giddy with excitement about all of this! Thank you, eCreamery!

Photo courtesy of eCreamery

Giveaway Lowdown
One of you is going to be the lucky recipient of a New Baby Sampler Pack of Sorbetto – plus free shipping. The winner will receive FOUR pints of eCreamery’s cool and tangy MSPI-friendly sorbettos:
  • “Welcome Sweet Baby” - Lemon
  • “2am Feeding Fuel” - Raspberry
  • “New Mommy Sweet Treat” -Passion Fruit
  • “Naptime Nosh” - Coconut
How to Enter
To enter the giveaway, all you have to do is leave a comment on this blog post below, telling me which of the sorbetto flavors you are most excited to try. Also, make sure you leave an email, so that I can contact you if you are the big winner!

The giveaway will close at noon (CDT) on Thursday, May 17, 2012. I’ll randomly pick a winner from all the entries and contact the winner. (Make sure you leave an email!)

The giveaway is now closed, and a winner has been notified. Thank you!
Extra Credit
Increase your chances of winning by doing a few things. For every one you do, leave an extra comment below saying what you did. (If you already do any of these things, that counts. Just leave a comment for it.) That means you have the potential of leaving a total of five comments!
  1. Like MSPI Mama on Facebook.
  2. Like eCreamery on Facebook. 
  3. Subscribe to MSPI Mama blog posts either through an RSS feed or via email.
  4. Subscribe to eCreamery’s blog.
  1. No duplicate comments.
  2. Please be honest. If you leave an extra comment saying you subscribed to my blog, and then I find out you didn’t, I’ll be super sad. We want to keep it fair!
  3. This giveaway is open to US Residents ages 18 or older. The prize must be shipped to an address (no P.O. box) within the 48 contiguous states. Sorry, shipping frozen treats to international addresses isn’t going to happen!
  4. The winner will be selected via random draw and will be notified by e-mail. You have 72 hours to get back to me, otherwise a new winner will be selected.
Good luck, everyone! Regardless of whether you win or not, please check out eCreamery! They are beyond amazing!

The Fine Print: I received three pints of eCreamery's sorbettos for my family to try. Regardless, the thoughts and opinions expressed here are purely my own.

Allergy Warning from eCreamery: Peanuts, other nuts, dairy, soy, wheat/gluten and other common allergens are used at eCreamery. Although we strive to keep these items separate, it is impossible to guarantee that your eCreamery creation will be free of these ingredients.

Sorbetto Base Ingredients: Purified Water, Granulated Sugar, Dextrose, Corn Syrup Solids, Palm Oil, Modified Food Starch, Tri-Calcium Phosphate, Mono and Diglycerides, Microcrystalline Cellulose, Guar Gum, Maltodextrin, Polysorbate 80, Cellulose Gum, Carrageenan, Sodium Alginate.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Black Magic Cake

A Facebook ad for this recipe has been mocking me for several months. It just hangs out on the side of my News Feed, repeatedly telling me that it's the "Best Chocolate Cake Ever!" I finally gave in and decided to make it for my husband's birthday. Well, I don't know about it being the absolute "Best" -- but it's definitely magical!

The secret is the use of cooled coffee as the liquid. It enhances the chocolate and adds richness but doesn't overwhelm you with coffee flavor. In fact, you don't even taste the coffee!

Use decaf coffee if you're worried about too much caffeine.

Black Magic Cake
Source: Adapted from Just a Pinch

For the cake:
1¾ cups all purpose flour
2 cups sugar
¾ cup cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 eggs
1 cup strong black coffee, cooled
1 cup rice milk
½ cup canola oil
1 tsp. vanilla extract

For the chocolate frosting:
½ cup MSPI-friendly margarine, room temperature (See Note.) 
⅓ MSPI-friendly chocolate chips, melted and cooled
3 cups powdered sugar
3 tbsp. rice milk
2 tsp. vanilla extract 

Whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder, and salt in a large mixing bowl or stand mixer. Add eggs, coffee, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla. Beat at medium speed for two minutes. Batter will be thin.

Pour batter into a greased and floured 9x13 pan or two 9-inch cake pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes for a 9x13, or 30-35 minutes for layer pans.

Combine frosting ingredients and mix with a hand or stand mixer until light and fluffy. Spread frosting on cooled cakes. Decorate as desired. ... I used MSPI-friendly chocolate chips to make it extra purty. :)

Note: You can substitute shortening for the margarine. Palm shortening is completely soy-free.

Tip: This recipe actually reminds me quite a bit of my Wacky Cake recipe, but the Wacky Cake is even simpler. Try substituting 1 cup of cooled coffee for 1 cup of water in the Wacky Cake recipe. My mom does this all the time when she makes the cake. So good!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Greek Meatballs with Cucumber-Tomato Salad

Ohhhh, I've been a lazy blogger. It's been more than a month since my last post. We spent the first week of April at Disney World. (It was completely and utterly fabulous!) And I've pretty much spent the rest of the month recovering!

Then my baby decided to go and turn 2 years old. (I don't remember giving her permission to do that!) So that was another big production. I'm pooped! ... But I'm slowly dragging myself back to normal.

Anyway, here's a super tasty recipe that my kids went nuts over. (Afterall, who doesn't love meatballs?) The list of ingredients looks incredibly long, but don't let that scare you away. Many of them are basic spices and are used more than once in the recipe.

Greek Meatballs with Cucumber-Tomato Salad
Source: MSPI Mama with dressing adapted from 

½ cup olive oil
1¼ tsp. garlic powder
1¼ tsp. dried oregano
1¼ tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. Dijon-style mustard
⅔ cup red wine vinegar

1 egg
¼ cup rice milk
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. dried parsley
1 tsp. onion powder
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. cumin
½ tsp. garlic powder
¼ tsp. pepper
⅓ cup panko or other MSPI-friendly dry breadcrumbs
1 lb. lean ground beef

1 English-style cucumber, diced
1 cup tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1-2 green onions, diced

Serve with:
hot cooked rice, couscous or orzo pasta

To prepare the dressing, combine the dressing ingredients in a glass jar. Screw on the lid tightly and shake contents vigorously until well-combined. Set aside while you prepare the rest of the meal. (The dressing can be prepared ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator, as well. The longer it sits, the better the flavor!)

To prepare the meatballs, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk together the egg, rice milk and spices in a medium-sized bowl. Fold in the bread crumbs. Mix in the ground beef. (Don’t overmix! This will lead to tough meatballs!) Using a medium-sized cookie scoop, form the mixture into 18-20 meatballs, rolling the meatballs between your hands until they are smooth. Bake the meatballs on a cookie sheet coated with cooking spray or brushed with olive oil for 15-18 minutes, or until browned and cooked through.

While the meatballs bake, prepare the salad. Toss together the cucumber, tomatoes and onion in a medium-sized bowl. Grab the dressing you prepared earlier and give it a good shake. Pour two-thirds of the dressing over the salad and stir together to combine.

Serve meatballs over hot cooked rice, couscous or orzo. Drizzle with the remaining salad dressing. Serve salad on the side.

Tip: If you don't want to use the oven, you can cook the meatballs on the stovetop. Just coat a frying pan with cooking spray or brush it with oil, then heat it over medium-high heat. Once hot, fry the meatballs for 10-12 minutes, or until done, flipping the meatballs every few minutes so they brown evenly.

Friday, March 30, 2012

All-Purpose Marinade

We have been having the most glorious spring weather, and it came super early this year, which means I've been grilling! When I'm in a hurry -- or didn't plan in advance -- I usually just liberally sprinkle whatever hunk of meat I'm grilling with garlic powder, salt and pepper. But when I have the time, I love to infuse the meat with some extra flavor by using a marinade. And this is my go-to marinade.

In the picture below, I used the marinade on chicken breasts, but this marinade would work great on pork chops and steaks ... and veggies, too. Just be sure to marinade the raw meat and veggies in separate containers.

All-Purpose Marinade
Source: Adapted from Food Network Kitchens

2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. Dijon mustard, whole grain or Dijon
1 tbsp. Italian seasoning
2 tsp. garlic powder
¼ cup olive oil
½ tsp. salt 
¼ tsp. ground black pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a large resealable plastic bag. Close the bag and shake to combine all the ingredients. Open the bag, drop in 1 pound of meat of your choosing. Close and shake the bag to coat evenly. Place the bag in a large bowl in the refrigerator for 4-12 hours. If possible, shake the bag every few hours to redistribute the marinade.

Heat a grill or grill pan. Remove the meat from the bag and dispose of the bag and the marinade. When the grill is hot, place the meat on the grill and cook until cooked through. Allow the meat to rest for 5 minutes prior to slicing.

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

Monday, March 26, 2012

Roasted Tri-Color Vegetables

Do you have a recipe that you love to make, and your family loves to eat it, and you just assume that everyone else out there makes it too, because it's just that good and easy? Well, roasted veggies is one of those recipes for me. And just in case you all don't already make this awesome recipe or something similar, I wanted to get it up on my blog.

I know that if I take the time to roast veggies for dinner, my family will gobble them up. The flavor is just that good! Plus, it's just an awesome way to clean out your fridge!

I've used asparagus, red pepper and mushrooms in this recipe, but you can easily adjust it to whatever you like. Broccoli, cauliflower, onions, carrots, etc. all roast well. Just keep in mind that harder vegetables, such as carrots, should probably be sliced thinner than the softer vegetables since they take longer to cook.

Roasted Tri-Color Vegetables
Source: MSPI Mama

1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and sliced into bite-size pieces
1 red bell pepper, trimmed and sliced into bite-size pieces
8 oz. button mushrooms, cleaned and sliced into bite-size pieces
1 tbsp. olive oil
Herbs and spices, to taste (See Note.)
Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Toss the vegetables together in a large bowl. Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with the herbs, spices, salt and pepper. Toss.

Spread the vegetables out in a single layer on a large baking pan. Roast in the oven until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes. Adjust seasoning, as needed, to taste.

Note: I like to use a healthy sprinkle of garlic powder and Italian seasoning when I roast vegetables, however, you can adapt this recipe to whatever you like or have on hand. Plain Jane? Salt and pepper will work just fine. Feeling spicy? Add a pinch of red pepper flakes. There are a lot of flavors you can try. Rosemary, thyme, basil, oregano, cumin, etc. Not to mention, there are lots of spice mixtures available at the store that you can try. Have fun with it!

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

Friday, March 23, 2012

Slow-Cooked Chicken Drumsticks with Lemon & Herbs

Sometimes I come up with a recipe that when I'm done making it, I am absolutely giddy about sharing it with you. I literally have to restrain myself from rushing to the computer to type up a blog post! (Ummmm, doing the dishes first is usually a good idea!) This is one of those recipes! We had it for dinner last night. I know all of you are going to love it!

First, it tastes great. The flavor of the lemon and herbs is just perfect. (It seems like a lot of herbs, but trust me, it's perfect.) Second, it's made in the slow cooker. We love our slow cookers! Third, it's super easy to make. Mix and dump. That's all you have to do. Fourth, it's kid- and husband-approved. Your whole family will love it -- mine did! In fact, it would be great for guests! And finally, it's one of my Quick Start recipes. Absolutely simple and basic ingredients. No soy oil or lecithin in sight!

My favorite part about this recipe is the sauce that is made in the bottom of the slow cooker from the lemon, herbs and drippings. So delicious! Make sure to serve the sauce over rice or some other pasta or grain to soak up every drop.

You could also make this recipe with other cuts of chicken. If you use breasts, just keep in mind that breasts cook very quickly and have the tendency to dry out in the slow cooker, so adjust your cooking time accordingly.

This recipe would double (or even triple, if your slow cooker is big enough) very easily. Buy the huge family pack of chicken drumsticks and cook all of them! You will love the leftovers!

Slow-Cooked Chicken Drumsticks with Lemon and Herbs
Source: MSPI Mama
6-8 skinless chicken drumsticks
1 lemon
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. Italian seasoning
2 tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
Pat chicken drumsticks dry with a paper towel and arrange in the bottom of a 6-quart slow cooker.

Zest and juice the lemon into a small bowl. Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl and whisk together. Pour the mixture over the chicken drumsticks. Use a spatula (or your fingers!) to evenly coat all sides of the chicken. Place lid on slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours or on high for 4 hours.
Tip: Drumsticks can be an absolute pain to skin! Don’t worry about completely removing the skin, just make sure you have it pulled back enough to expose the meat to the herb mixture. Once the chicken is cooked, you can easily remove the remaining skin.
Quick Start with MSPI Mama: This is one of my Quick Start recipes.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Banana Coffee Cake with Chocolate Chip Streusel

How are you all doing? Me? (Thanks for asking!) I'm doing good, but I have a bad case of writer's block. I have no idea what to write at the top of this post. (And, seriously, how many of you really read this part? I know you're just here for the recipe!) So I'm not going to waste your time. On to the recipe!

Banana Coffee Cake with Chocolate Chip Streusel
Source: Adapted from Epicurious via Nutmeg Nanny

1 cup MSPI-friendly chocolate chips
⅔ cup (packed) brown sugar
½ cup chopped walnuts, optional
1 tbsp. ground cinnamon
1½ cups flour
¾ tsp. baking soda
¾ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
¾ cup sugar
½ cup canola oil
1 large egg
1⅓ cups mashed very ripe bananas (about 3 large)
3 tbsp. rice milk

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour an 8-inch square metal baking pan or an 8-inch round spring form pan. Stir chocolate chips, brown sugar, walnuts, and cinnamon in small bowl until well blended; set streusel aside.

Sift all purpose flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer, beat sugar, oil and egg in a large bowl until fluffy. Beat in mashed bananas and rice milk. Add dry ingredients and blend well.

Spread half of batter (about 2 cups) in prepared baking pan. Sprinkle with half of streusel. Repeat with remaining batter and streusel. Bake coffee cake until tester inserted into center comes out clean, about 45 minutes. Cool coffee cake in pan on rack before serving.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Basic White Bread for the Bread Machine

One of the most frequently asked questions I receive is about bread. Specifically, what bread is MSPI-friendly? (FYI: I do address this question in my FAQs.)

If you can eat soy oil/lecithin, then your options are greatly increased, however, for those of you who need to avoid soy oil/lecithin, it's a lot harder! So what I recommend is to get yourself a bread machine. Making bread is so incredibly easy if you have one of these appliances, and the bread tastes so good when it's fresh.

I was fortunate enough to receive one for Christmas -- thanks, Mom and Dad! -- and I just love my Cuisinart bread maker. It's pretty versatile, and I've been getting a lot of use out of it.

If you're wanting to get a bread machine, but don't have the budget for it, consider checking craigslist or put out an SOS to friends and family. I bet someone will be willing to help you out.

This is a good, basic recipe to start with in a bread machine. Who doesn't love white bread? My kids gobbled it up. It's fantastic with a drizzle of honey on it!

Basic White Bread for the Bread Machine
Source: Slightly adapted from Go Dairy Free

1 cup warm water (110 degrees)
2 tbsp. sugar
2¼ tsp. bread machine yeast
¼ cup canola oil
3 cups bread flour
1 tsp. salt

Place the water, sugar and yeast in the pan of the bread machine that has been fitted with a paddle. Let the yeast dissolve and foam for 10 minutes. Add the oil, flour and salt to the yeast. Select Basic or White Bread setting for a 1½-pound loaf and your preference for light, medium or dark crust. Press Start. 

Once bread has mixed for several minutes, check on the dough and, if needed, scrape down the sides of the pan with a rubber spatula. If the dough appears too dry, add a splash of water. If it appears too wet, add a bit of flour. Allow bread machine to finish mixing, rising and baking cycles. Once finished baking, remove bread from the machine and allow to cool slightly before slicing.

Tip: Don't want to use a bread machine? Here are instructions on how to convert bread machine recipes to traditional.

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

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Alphabet Soup

Trying to serve a vegetarian meal to my carnivorous family is no easy task, but every once in a while I can get away with it. And the best chance I have of getting away with it is to serve soup.

This fantastic recipe from the Post Punk Kitchen made my kids squeal with delight! They loved digging around their bowls for their favorite letters. "L" for Libby. "J" and "D" for JD (duh!). My baby Caroline was an equal-opportunity-letter-eater. ;)

And in between all those letters, they also ate their veggies. I was one happy mama!

Alphabet Soup
Source: Slightly adapted from Post Punk Kitchen

2 tsp. olive oil
1 small onion, diced small
2 stalks celery, tops removed, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup baby carrots, in ½-inch slices
¾ lb. potatoes, peeled then diced into ½-inch pieces
1 tsp. dried thyme
¼ tsp. dried tarragon
6 cups MSPI-friendly vegetable broth
½ tsp. salt
1 cup alphabet-shaped or other small pasta
1 tsp. sugar
16 oz. tomato sauce
1 cup frozen peas

Preheat a 4-quart soup pot over medium heat. Saute onion and celery in the oil with a pinch of salt until soft. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 30 seconds or so.

Add carrots, potatoes, thyme, tarragon, vegetable broth and salt. Cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower heat to a simmer, add pasta and cook until pasta and vegetables are soft, about 10 more minutes.

Add sugar, tomato sauce and frozen peas and heat through (5 minutes or so.) Remove from heat. It tastes better the longer you let it sit, but give it at least 10 minutes. Taste for salt and seasoning, and serve.

Tip: This soup is a great way to use up the odds and ends of frozen vegetables you may have lurking in your freezer. Feel free to toss in corn -- if you look hard, you'll see there's some in my picture of the soup -- or green beans, etc.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Gluten-Free Chocolate Cupcakes

A friend of mine had her birthday a few days after MSPI Mama reader Julie shared a recipe for a gluten-free chocolate cake over on my Facebook page. And wouldn't you know it? That friend of mine has celiac disease, so I decided to try out that cake recipe from Julie and give them to my friend as a birthday surprise.

My friend's reaction? She LOVED them! And I loved the fact there were no specialty gluten-free flours. Just garbanzo beans!

I tweaked the recipe just a little bit, so I'm sharing my version here.

Thanks, Julie, for posting such an easy and delicious recipe. Please share more!

Gluten-Free Chocolate Cupcakes
Source: Adapted from

1½ cups MSPI-friendly semisweet chocolate chips (I used a 10-oz. package of Enjoy Life chips.)
1 (15.5-oz.) can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
4 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
¾ cup white sugar
½ tsp. baking powder
1 tbsp. powdered sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper cups. Set pan aside.

Place the chocolate chips into a microwave-safe bowl. Cook in the microwave for about 2 minutes, stirring every 20 seconds after the first minute, until chocolate is melted and smooth. If you have a powerful microwave, reduce the power to 50 percent.

Combine the beans, eggs and vanilla in a blender. Process until smooth. Pour chocolate mixture into a medium mixing bowl and mix in the sugar and the baking powder. Pour in the melted chocolate and mix until smooth. (If you have a food processor, there's no need to transfer the mixture to a separate bowl. Everything can be mixed in the food processor's bowl.)

Divide the batter evenly into the 12 muffin cups. Bake for 23-27 minutes in the preheated oven, or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cakes comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes before removing the cupcakes to a wire rack to completely cool. Dust with powdered sugar before serving. 

Tip: If you are needing to make this completely gluten-free, be sure to read all labels for the gluten-free designation. 

Monday, February 13, 2012

Homemade Tootsie Rolls

I've been busy this morning whipping up a delicious batch of these homemade candies to give to my kiddos' teachers tomorrow for Valentine's Day. After taste-testing a few of these myself (quality control!) I can say with absolute certainty that they are going to love them!

This recipe is super easy to make. Only four ingredients! However, there is a lot of hands-on work with rolling and wrapping the candies, but it is so worth it. Everyone will love them! You can experiment with the flavoring. I used orange extract, which is just delicious, but peppermint, vanilla and raspberry would be so good, too.

And trust me on this one, if you're planning to give any away, make a double batch! That way you'll have plenty for yourself!

Happy Valentine's Day!

Homemade Tootsie Rolls
Source: Slightly adapted from Balancing Beauty & Bedlam

12 oz. package MSPI-friendly semisweet chocolate chips
½ cup light corn syrup
¾ tsp. warm water
1½ tsp. orange extract

Melt the semisweet chocolate in a sauce pan on the stove over low heat or in the microwave in a microwave-safe bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and stir well. Line a cookie sheet with wax paper and scrape the chocolate mixture onto the paper. Spread the mixture to about ½-inch thick in the pan. (Don't worry if it's an irregular shape.)

Cover the mixture with a second piece of wax paper and let the chocolate mixture set over night at room temperature; it will be stiff, but still flexible.

Turn your candy out onto your work surface and cut the mixture (a pizza cutter works really well!) into whatever size sections you prefer. Then roll the pieces between your hands into little logs.  

Set the candies aside to firm up before wrapping, since the mixture warms up and softens as you handle it.

Roll each candy up in a square of wax paper. Twist ends to secure.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Whole Grain Apple Oatmeal Pancakes

We've all been there. It's 5 o'clock at night, and you have absolutely no clue what to make for dinner. Thanks to the MSPI diet, take-out isn't that great of an option ... since you're sick and tired of the one or two places you can safely eat at ... not to mention your budget can't take it! And all the hunks o' meat you have on hand are frozen solid, since you forgot to thaw them.

So what's a mom to do? ... Make breakfast!

These pancakes are just plain yummy and are a wonderful change from the usual. They puff up quite thick, yet maintain a slight chewiness from the oatmeal. They're fluffy and dense all wrapped into one. They remind me of oatmeal muffins. Yummy and comforting!

We drizzled honey on the top of our pancakes and served it with a side of Fruit Salad and grilled smoked sausage. The perfect breakfast-for-dinner!

Whole Grain Apple Oatmeal Pancakes
Source: Adapted from Zesty Cook, via Picky Palate

1 cup quick-cooking oats
2 cups hard white whole wheat flour * (see tip)
½ cup peeled and shredded apple
2 tbsp. baking powder
½ tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. salt
1½ cups rice milk
¼ cup canola oil
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
2 tbsp. honey

Whisk together the oats, flours, baking powder, nutmeg and salt in a large bowl. In a second bowl, whisk together the rice milk, oil, eggs, vanilla, apple and honey. Pour the wet into the dry mixture and stir briefly, just until combined. Set aside for a few minutes to allow the oats in the batter to soften while you preheat a skillet or griddle over medium heat. (I used an electric griddle and set it at 300 degrees.)

Add a little tiny bit of oil to the pan or coat it with cooking spray. Spoon the batter into the skillet. (The batter will be thick! Perfectly round pancakes likely won't happen!) Allow to cook for a few minutes. Once bubbles form on the outside of the pancake and do not fill in again, flip the pancakes over and cook on the other side. Remove the pancakes to a baking sheet and cover them with a towel while you prepare the remaining batter. (You can put the baking sheet in an oven on the lowest setting, if you like. My oven has a Warm setting, which is around 150-175 degrees.)

Serve with honey, syrup, powdered sugar, fresh fruit or any other favorite pancake topping.

Tip: You may substitute any combination of flour you have on hand for the hard white whole wheat flour. The original recipe called for 1 cup all purpose flour and 1 cup regular whole wheat flour. I have recently started using hard white whole wheat and love it!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Simple, Perfect Chili

These last few weeks have been just crazy at our house ... which would help explain my lack of posts! My son turned 4, and we had a house filled with family to celebrate that. (Has it really been four years? That means this blog is almost four years old! Wow!) And my oldest daughter turned 7 this past weekend, and she celebrated with eight of her closest friends. (That was the longest four hours of my life!)

So when Sunday rolled around, I took it easy and caught up on the DVR. One of the shows I watched was "The Pioneer Woman" on the Food Network. I just love Rhee and her recipes, which I've been following for years over on her blog. But her show is just wonderful. Her family is adorable, and I love how she shares their lives with us. And her food? It's even better!

I've shared a few of her recipes over the years ... Crash Hot PotatoesRestaurant-Style Salsa and Spicy Shredded Pork. All three are absolutely delicious. I'm never disappointed by her food, and this recipe, which was featured on her show over the weekend, didn't disappoint either!

It truly is simple and perfect. Just the way chili should be!

Simple, Perfect Chili
Source: "The Pioneer Woman"

2 lbs. ground beef
2 cloves garlic, chopped
One 8-oz. can tomato sauce
2 tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground oregano
1 tsp. salt
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
¼ cup masa harina (corn flour, found in the Mexican food section of many supermarkets)
One 15-oz. can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
One 15-oz. can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
Chopped onions, for serving
Tortilla chips, for serving
Lime wedges, for serving

Place the ground beef in a large pot and throw in the garlic. Cook over medium heat until browned. Drain off the excess fat, and then pour in the tomato sauce, chili powder, cumin, oregano, salt and cayenne. Stir together well, cover and then reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. If the mixture becomes overly dry, add ½ cup water at a time as needed.

After an hour, place the masa harina in a small bowl. Add ½ cup water and stir together with a fork. Dump the masa mixture into the chili. Stir together well, and then taste and adjust the seasonings. Add more masa paste and /or water to get the chili to your preferred consistency, or to add more corn flavor. Add the beans and simmer for 10 minutes. Serve with chopped onions, tortilla chips and lime wedges.

Tip: I didn't have masa harina on hand and didn't want to run to the store just for that, so I substituted corn meal that had been given a whirl in the blender before mixing it with the water. It worked great!

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

Friday, January 13, 2012

Chicken Patty Pockets with Cucumber Sauce

As a well-deserved gift to myself upon graduation from college, I took a trip to Greece prior to starting my new job. Greece is just incredible and beautiful. And the food? Not bad either! Lots of fresh ingredients and yummy things like yogurt, feta cheese, olives and seafood. But the food that was the most tempting? Gyros!

Gyro shops would roast these huge hunks of meat right at the front of their shops, so the smell would just draw you (and all the other tourists!) right inside. Hard to resist!

Roasting huge hunks of meat on a rotating spit isn't the easiest thing to do at home, so when I came across this recipe, I knew I just had to make them. The meat is broiled. So much easier!

These awesome little pocket sandwiches usually come topped with a cucumber yogurt sauce called tzatziki. I was able to adapt a recipe to create a dairy-free version of it. Of course, you could probably just skip the sauce all together, but I definitely recommend making it!

Emeril’s Chicken-Patty Pockets
Source: Adapted from Everyday Food

1 lb. ground dark-meat chicken
1 large egg, lightly beaten
½ cup MSPI-friendly plain dried breadcrumbs, such as panko
¼ cup finely chopped onion
¼ chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. coarse salt
¼-½ tsp. cayenne pepper
½ tsp. ground coriander
¼ tsp. ground cumin
¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
2 tbsp. olive oil
MSPI-friendly pita pockets, for serving
Lettuce, sliced tomatoes, and cucumbers, for serving

If using the Cucumber Sauce (recipe below) prepare it first. 

Heat broiler, with rack in highest position. In a large bowl, combine chicken, egg, panko breadcrumbs, onion, parsley, garlic, salt and spices and mix until well blended. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil and drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil. Divide chicken mixture into 8 portions (about 2 1/2 to 3 ounces each) and place on sheet. Shape each into an oval patty and use your hand to flatten slightly. Drizzle 1 tablespoon oil over patties.

Broil until lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Flip and cook until cooked through, about 4 minutes more. Serve in pita pockets, with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and Cucumber Sauce, if desired.

Cucumber Sauce
Source: Adapted from

1 large cucumber, seeded and grated (see tip)
½ cup mayonnaise
½ tsp. garlic powder
1½ tsp. lemon juice
½ tsp. dried dill
¼ tsp. sugar
black pepper, to taste

Put the cucumber into a colander. Let rest for 10-15 minutes to allow extra juices to escape the cucumber. Gently squeeze the cucumber in a paper or cloth towel.

Mix cucumber with remaining ingredients in a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate for a couple of hours prior to using (if you have time) or serve immediately.

A turn or two in the food processor or blender will yield a smoother sauce but isn’t necessary.

Tip: If you prefer your sauce to be whiter in color instead of greenish, then peel the cucumber before grating it. Also, if you are using an English cucumber, you can skip the seeding.