Oatmeal Spice Muffins.

Gluten-free | Soy-free | Dairy-free option | Nut-free option

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These muffins remind me a lot of my husband’s favorite “Freedom Puffs,” but are JUST different enough to not feel like a flimsy gluten-free counterfeit. The hearty oat flour creates a firmer bite and the little hint of orange in the batter just adds so much to the flavor! I’ve been having a hard time getting textures right in gluten-free muffins, but these do a great job without requiring extra steps and ingredients. They will definitely be a staple in this house!

Makes about 16 regular sized muffins, or a dozen regular plus a half dozen mini muffins.

Gluten-free Oatmeal Spice Muffins

Original recipe here

  • 3 1/2 cups quick oats (gluten-free)
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • optional: 1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 3 drops orange essential oil or 2 tsp orange zest
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 cup milk of choice
  • 4 Tbsp butter (or soy-free vegan buttery stick), melted
  • 1/3 cup sugar mixed with 3/4 tsp cinnamon
  1. Preheat oven to 350 and grease the wells of your muffin tin(s) with soy-free cooking spray.
  2. Put oats in a blender and blend to a flourlike consistency. Put oat flour in a large mixing bowl and add baking powder, salt, nutmeg, and pecans; stir to combine well.
  3. In a smaller bowl, whisk together applesauce, sugar, eggs, orange, vanilla, and milk.
  4. Add wet ingredients to the dry ones and mix with a spatula until just combined.
  5. Ladle batter into the wells of your muffin tin and bake 14-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the centers comes out clean.
  6. Let cool until they can be handled, then dip the tops in the butter and then cinnamon-sugar mixture.

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My most favorite cookie: Classic Oatmeal Chocolate Chip.

Gluten-free option | Dairy-free option | Soy-free | Nut-free

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Oh, Classic Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways:

I love you before you ever get into the oven. I love you straight out of the oven. I love you 3 days later–though you rarely last that long.

I have loved you dairy-free.

I have loved you with a bit of flaxseed added to the dough when my milk supply was suffering.

I loved you in Switzerland with chopped-up Swiss chocolate bars when we were desperately homesick for something that tasted familiar.

And now, I love you gluten-free.

Suffice it to say, friends, these cookies are favorites around here. And I have made them SO many different ways during SO many different phases of our lives, and they’re always delicious. One of the many things I love about the recipe is how easy and straightforward  it is–almost everything is whole cups or teaspoons, so it dirties fewer utensils and I now have the recipe memorized–so I don’t want to make it too unnecessarily complex with lots of different measurements. I’ve been trying to think of how to best post this recipe with all of the variations we’ve done to accommodate various changes in diet over the years, and I hope that this is the best solution. Bear with me!

Classic Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Original recipe here

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 cups flour
  • 2 3/4 cups old-fashioned oats (if you live in a humid climate, like I do, where cookies are prone to spreading, I’ve found that 2 cups old-fashioned plus 3/4 cup quick oats help the cookies maintain their shape and thickness best)
  • 2 cups chocolate chips (we use half milk, half semisweet)

Nursing variation (has helped me and several friends boost breastmilk supply):
Substitute up to 1/4 cup flaxseed meal for up to 1/4 cup of the oats (quick oats, if using).

Dairy-free variation:
Substitute Earth Balance soy-free buttery stick for butter. Decrease salt by 1/4 tsp. Substitute 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 cup Enjoy Life semisweet mini chips for the chocolate chips.

Whole-grain variations:
Substitute whole-wheat pastry flour for all of the all-purpose flour, or use 1 cup white whole-wheat flour and 1 cup all-purpose flour.

Gluten-free variation:
For the flour, substitute 2 1/4 cups (note the extra 1/4 cup) gluten-free baking blend and ensure that all remaining ingredients are gluten-free. Because we’re always trying to get more fiber into this new gluten-free diet, we use 1 1/2 cups Cup 4 Cup brand all-purpose flour (the blue bag) plus 3/4 cup Cup 4 Cup brand Wholesome Flour (the green bag) because it contains brown rice flour and flaxseed for more fiber.

  1. Preheat oven to 350 and line baking sheets with parchment.
  2. In your stand mixer, cream together butter and sugars. Beat in eggs and vanilla until light and fluffy.
  3. Mix in salt, baking soda, and baking powder.
  4. Add all remaining ingredients and mix until just combined.
  5. Spoon 2-Tbsp-sized balls of dough (I use a dough scoop) onto cookie sheet and bake 10 minutes or until golden around the edges and set in the middle. Cool on the cookie sheet a few minutes before transferring to cooling rack. Makes about 3 dozen.

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Colorful Chicken Veggie Stir-Fry

Gluten-free | Dairy-free | Egg-free | Nut-free | Clean eating option | Soy-free option

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This is a great, easy, adaptable weeknight option for getting lots of protein and colorful veggies with minimal effort! Just include whatever veggies your family likes (or at least will tolerate) and watch them scarf it down!

Colorful Chicken Veggie Stir-Fry

Original recipe here

  • 1 lb chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1/4 cup gluten-free tamari sauce (or soy sauce)*
  • 1 Tbsp rice vinegar (apple cider vinegar works great too)
  • 1 tsp sesame oil (optional)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • up to 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 3/4 cup low-sodium chicken broth (gluten-free)
  • 2 tsp corn starch
  • 1 Tbsp grapeseed oil (or other high-heat oil like canola), divided
  • up to 6 cups assorted veggies (I used halved baby carrots, diced red pepper, frozen broccoli florets, frozen peas, and frozen corn–just use what you have on hand. Other suggestions: zucchini, squash, red onion, edamame, etc.)
  • cooked rice, for serving (use brown rice for clean eating)

*For soy-free, try coconut aminos

  1. Combine tamari sauce, vinegar, sesame oil (if using), garlic, ginger, and red pepper flakes in a medium bowl, then add chicken and toss to coat.
  2. Marinate 10 minutes in the refrigerator, then drain, reserving marinade in a measuring cup. Add chicken broth, then whisk in corn starch until smooth.
  3. Heat 1 tsp oil in a large wok or nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken. Stir-fry until cooked through. Set aside.
  4. Increase heat to high and add remaining 2 tsp oil to wok. Add veggies in order of how long they take to cook: carrots obviously are first, then broccoli, then smaller veggies. Remember frozen veggies take less time to cook. Stir-fry until crisp-tender; do not overcook, as they’ll continue to soften when you add the sauce.
  5. Add chicken and sauce, then stir-fry until sauce has begun to thicken, 2-3 minutes.
  6. Serve over cooked rice.

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Going Gluten-Free: Super-Easy One-Skillet Chicken with Cilantro-Lime Black Bean Rice.

Gluten-free | Dairy-free | Soy-free | Nut-free | Egg-free

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My middle daughter (the strawberry gelato aficionado from my last post) was recently diagnosed celiac just before her 5th birthday. Over the past couple of months, I’d noticed some changes in her that worried me: she was sleeping later than either of her sisters, but was still tired all the time, wearing out much more quickly than usual. She complained often of belly pain and growing pains, she had circles under her eyes, would often get unexplained low-grade fevers, and she was much more easily irritated. So I called our pediatrician’s nurse line and expressed my concerns, asking if we could get some blood work done before her 5-year checkup. The doctor wanted to see her right away after hearing the symptoms I was describing, and ran a full panel for everything from mono to anemia, diabetes to liver dysfunction, cancer to celiac. Her celiac numbers were astounding, and we were referred to a GI specialist right away. At that visit, she weighed in at 34 pounds. 5 days before her 5th birthday. Being in the 90th percentile for height. Her dot was 2 full inches BELOW the BMI curve. I knew something wasn’t right, but I wasn’t prepared for that shock.

As you know from my MSPI posts, we’re no strangers to accommodating dietary changes, but as hard as it was do avoid dairy and soy, I knew that it was temporary; I only had to cut them out for 6 months until my baby’s stomach was strong enough to get it through my milk, and my now-almost-3-year-old grew out of it at 18 months. Being told that celiac was a change for life–and an autoimmune disease, no less–and that she was so malnourished as a result of the malabsorption that we were one step away from a feeding tube, was a LOT to take in. (Keep in mind we’re also expecting baby #4 in 2 months, are getting a house ready to sell, and are building a house.)

But my pity party is over (for the time being) and now I’m setting to work researching recipes and finding gluten-free snacks that my pickiest eater (of course it WOULD be my pickiest eater) will eat so that she can catch up to her growth curve.

I’ve had some success adapting some of her favorites of my old standbys (I’ll do a separate post about those), but while I have the time before Baby comes, I’m trying to expand my repertoire of naturally gluten-free meals that are easy and don’t require the separate pots and pans needed to prevent cross-contamination (I told you it’s a lot to take in).

If you’ve been around for awhile, you already know what big fans we are of the many variations of chicken-and-rice dishes, but one of the challenges of gluten-free eating is finding ways to keep the fiber content up when we’re so used to eating whole-wheat almost everything. So I love that this easy one-skillet meal mixes the beans right in with no effort!

One-Skillet Chicken with Cilantro-Lime Black Bean Rice

Adapted from here

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts (or use skin-on thighs like in the original recipe)
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth (make sure it says “gluten-free”)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup jasmine rice
  • 1-2 Tbsp (I used 1 1/2) fresh-squeezed lime juice (can be bottled; I add a drop of Lime essential oil to mask the bottled taste)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp dried cilantro (or 1/4 cup fresh chopped)
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
  1. Heat a wide, deep skillet with lid on medium-high and add the olive oil. Swirl to coat the bottom of the pan. Season both sides of the chicken with salt and pepper, then lay them face down in the pan and brown 4 minutes–careful not to burn.
  2. Turn chicken breasts and brown on medium heat 2 more minutes. Remove to a plate (they won’t be done through yet).
  3. To the same skillet, add chicken broth, water, salt, cumin, garlic, and rice. Stir to incorporate and bring to a boil. Place chicken on top, making wells in the rice for each chicken breast, reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook 15 minutes or until rice is tender, moisture is absorbed, and chicken is done through.
  4. Remove chicken to a plate and add lime juice (start with 1 Tbsp), cilantro, and black beans. Taste and adjust amount of lime juice. Then place chicken breasts on top to serve.

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Fresh strawberry gelato.

Soy-free | Gluten-free | Nut-free | Egg-free

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More fun strawberry stuff!

I have another tasty strawberry ice cream recipe on here that takes less time, so if you’re just hankering for homemade strawberry ice cream NOW, go check it out. BUT–here’s the trouble with strawberry ice cream: it gets icy. The water content in those delicious berries is so high that it’s hard to get homemade ice cream to stay creamy after freezing without a little work. Enter this recipe. If you want silky, strawberry-y cold deliciousness, this is it.

Once upon a time (two years ago), there was a family living in Switzerland. The family loved ice cream–especially gelato. And one of the children in the family especially loved strawberry gelato. In the six months that family lived there–and the summer they spent there the year before–this little girl only ever ordered strawberry gelato. And this was a lot of times, because we (I mean they) lived down the street from a Swiss ice cream shop called Movenpick, and we spent weeks in the grips of a record heat wave with no air conditioning, so we often had literally no other recourse but to eat gelato multiple times a day during that period. (It helped that the ice cream shop was across the street from the fountains we played in to keep cool.)

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(That’s her on the left with her signature pink strawberry gelato scoop. The oldest daughter always got something chocolaty–girl after her mother’s heart–and the youngest was still allergic to dairy, so her kind and selfless mother usually got sorbet, which was also amazing, to share with her.)

Ever since getting back to the States, this little girl, who’s always been on the choosy side anyway, has been asking for gelato, and where we live, there just isn’t any to be found. So when I found a recipe for fresh strawberry gelato on one of my favorite resources for delicious recipes, I got pretty excited.

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Though the amount of actual work is pretty minimal, it takes a bit of prep and planning, so I was working on it last night, and happened to read in the blogger’s “backstory text” (whatever you call this stuff I’m writing right now that you always scroll past to get to the actual recipe) that she had never actually been to Italy to try the real thing. Being that we’re total gelato snobs now after our own travels through Italy and living in a country that borders Italy and houses lots of Italian transplants, this got my husband and me worried. But the work was pretty much done, so we were committed.

As he poured it into the ice cream maker, though, Husband kept IMG_2442licking his fingers. And as it came out of the ice cream maker and he put it in the container to freeze, he couldn’t wait to lick the spatula. And when we finally got to scoop it into our bowls and eat it for ourselves, it was a hit. My middle child, understandably the strawberry gelato expert–who also happened to be wearing a matching pink Swiss cow shirt at the time, so she must know what she’s talking about–proclaims it mid-bite-thumbs-up perfect. My husband, who also often ordered fruity gelato flavors, says it’s not Italian gelato, but it’s really good ice cream. My oldest and I always preferred chocolate–or else I was eating sorbet–so we’ll defer to them.

The verdict? We’ll call it gelato* with an asterisk. It’s really really really good ice cream, without the iciness you so often get with the homemade stuff, and in any case, it’s certainly cheaper than a trip back to Giolitti in Rome. But if you get the chance, definitely try to get to Giolitti. Maybe this’ll hold you over until then.

Fresh strawberry gelato* (or at least just really good ice cream)

Original recipe here

  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups sliced ripe fresh (or frozen from fresh and then thawed) strawberries
  1. In a medium saucepan, whisk together sugar and cornstarch. Slowly whisk in milk and cream.
  2. Place the pan on medium heat and cook, whisking constantly, 5-10 minutes or until bubbling and thickening.
  3. Pour into a medium container (a 4-cup measuring cup worked great for us), press plastic wrap to the surface of the mixture, and refrigerate to cool completely.
  4. Puree the strawberries until smooth.
  5. Pour the puree through a fine mesh strainer into the cream mixture, using a rubber spatula to press the liquid through while the strainer catches the pulp and seeds. (Or at least most of them.) Stir well.
  6. Press plastic wrap to the surface again and refrigerate several hours or overnight.
  7. Process in your ice cream maker as directed. Transfer to an airtight container and freeze at least 2 hours until fairly firm before enjoying. (Trust me, it’s worth the wait.)

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Fresh strawberry muffins. (And how I keep my strawberries fresher longer.)

Dairy-free | Soy-free | Nut-free

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It’s strawberry season again! At least in Florida. Right here in our own county we have some of the nation’s biggest and best strawberries–the epitome of delicious local produce. So last year we started a family tradition of going strawberry picking at one of the many u-pick farms nearby. Last year we thought we did pretty well with 11 quarts; this year, after only an hour and a half, we ended up with 25 quarts! (Including the quart that my youngest filled with her strawberry tops once she realized that she could eat the strawberries she was picking…)

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It took over an hour and a half to wash and cut all of those strawberries! So of course after all that effort I wanted to keep them fresh as long as possible! Here’s how I did it: I filled the big bowl of my divided sink with a few inches of water and added a couple drops of Thieves essential oil (a blend of spice oils with proven antimicrobial properties–the story goes that during the Black Plague, spice traders realized that the spices with which they were in constant contact protected them from the disease, so they used their immunity to loot the homes of Plague victims, hence the name Thieves) to disinfect the berries; I also added several drops of Lemon essential oil, an antioxidant, to keep the berries from going bad as quickly. Then I dumped in a box, which was probably 8 quarts’ worth. After each box I drained the sink and started again with the water, oils, and berries.

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These oils are therapeutic-grade, so they’re very potent; a little bit goes a very long way! Because I didn’t need to use much, there was no weird lingering taste on my delicious berries, and the ones I didn’t freeze stayed as fresh as the Friday I cut them for the entire weekend–because that’s all it took to eat them.

Now I’ve got over a dozen quarts of fresh-frozen berries to find delicious things to make with! I’ll definitely be making fruit leather, popsicles, ice cream, and smoothies, but I wanted to try something new this year. These muffins are perfect for a spring morning. They complement and retain the sweetness-with-a-touch-of-tart of the strawberries. They use refined sugar, so they’re not clean, but I did use whole-wheat pastry flour to make them a little bit healthier and more filling while keeping them light. And they’re dairy-, soy- and nut-free!

By starting the oven at a high temperature and then reducing it, you get a great puffy crown on the muffins that leaves them very light and delicious. This recipe makes about 18 regular-sized muffins, or I did a dozen regular and another dozen mini muffins.

***Note: Canola oil is easier in this recipe, but as I had run out, I used coconut, and it lent a delightful depth of flavor to the muffins and left my whole house smelling incredible. However, unless your strawberries AND eggs are completely room-temperature, you’ll have a solid lumpy mass on your hands; I had to warm the oil/strawberry/egg mixture in my microwave at half power for several 30-second interval to get everything the correct consistency again.

Fresh Strawberry Muffins:

Original recipe here

  • 3 cups whole-wheat pastry flour or unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 4 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 1/4 cups canola oil or melted and cooled coconut oil (see Note above)
  • 2 1/2 cups fresh (or frozen from fresh–not storebought in a bag frozen–and thawed) strawberries, sliced and slightly mashed
  1. Preheat oven to 425 and lightly grease the wells of your muffin tins with soy-free cooking spray.
  2. Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
  3. In a medium bowl, combine eggs, oil, and strawberries, mashing with a fork if desired to get smaller strawberry pieces.
  4. Add liquid ingredients to flour mixture and stir until combined. Do not overmix.
  5. Spoon 1/4-cupfuls (for standard muffins) or 1/8-cupfuls (for mini muffins)–a triggered ice cream scoop works great–into the wells of your muffin tin.
  6. Bake at 425 for 5 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 and bake another 15-19 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

 

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Clean Crock Pot Chicken Cacciatore.

Dairy-free | Soy-free | Nut-free | Gluten-free option | Clean eating

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Fresh, light, kid-approved, and ready straight from the Crock Pot at dinner time–my kind of recipe for a busy ballet evening! This recipe uses components of a couple different ones: a friend’s and one that I found online that used fire-roasted tomatoes, which I’ve fallen in love with since discovering the Beef Curry recipe that inspired mine on here.

One of my favorite things about this is that I can just throw frozen chicken breasts in here if I’m short on time! They don’t turn out quite as fall-apart tender as fresh ones, but no one else has been able to tell the difference, and the time saver is worth it to me!

Clean Crock Pot Chicken Cacciatore

Adapted from here and a friend’s recipe

  • 28 oz. canned diced fire roasted tomatoes
  • 4 chicken breasts (frozen if needed)
  • 1 yellow onion, large dice
  • 1 red bell pepper, large dice
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced or finely chopped
  • up to 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1-2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 3 oz (6 Tbsp or half of a 6-oz. can) tomato paste, in approx. Tbsp-sized dollops
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • up to 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  1. Spread 1/2 cup of the canned tomatoes in the bottom of your slow cooker.
  2. Layer remaining ingredients on top, in order listed.
  3. Cover and cook on low 6-7 hours.
  4. Before serving, prepare pasta of choice (we use whole-wheat short pasta) according to package directions.
  5. Just before serving, gently stir cacciatore, then spoon on top of pasta. Top with parmesan cheese, if desired.

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