Our family has developed a nice routine where we all do our work or schoolwork in the morning and then reconvene for lunch together. Without fail, the afternoon passes by quickly, perhaps because it is my favorite time of day, when we are all at home with nowhere else we need to be. The four of us don’t spend the whole afternoon together, but we are all here, moving in our own orbits, sometimes alone, sometimes together, often intersecting, and always with our house at the center.
At the center of the house of course, is the kitchen, and these days the kitchen has lots of sweets. Never in my kids’ lifetimes have they seen so many cakes, cookies, and treats. I don’t think we have had one day yet where we have not had something sweet to eat, even if it meant raiding the depths of the pantry to find substitutions that could maybe, possibly, perhaps work because we weren’t yet ready for our next grocery run.
Since we are quickly approaching a point where our time in quarantine will be measured in months and not weeks, it has thus become apparent in our house that a never-ending supply of sweets is as much of a lifeline as internet bandwidth sufficient to sustain everyone’s personal devices. Ray and I are both the unfortunate combination of emotional eater and chronic worrier, so basically we have been living our entire lives preparing for the time when our sugar-stress response is considered moderately acceptable for the state of affairs in which we are living. That moment is clearly now.
Rice crispy treats have a comforting familiarity to them, but these are made a little extra special with toasted coconut, a drizzle of chocolate, and a sprinkling of sea salt on top. And rum. Rum, because we’re 7 weeks into the quarantine and if ever a time called for putting rum in your rice crispy treats, this Friends, is it. Bourbon also works very well, if your system tolerates it. If not, many rums are considered gluten free. It is worth noting that in the case of rum, the type of rum matters. Flavored rums may contain additives and coloring that contain gluten, so use what works for you or the person you are preparing for.
Another note, regular Rice Krispies that come in the blue box we all know so well, are not gluten free as you would expect. I like using crispy brown rice cereal like this one that I often find in a big bag at WalMart, but traditional Rice Krispies also work and can be found in a gluten free version on Amazon, or perhaps at your local grocery store. Definitely get CRISPY rice cereal of some variety, not PUFFED rice cereal.
At some point, life will return to kind-of normal and we’ll have to become reasonable eaters again. Until then, be safe, be well, and enjoy the sweets.Print
Spiked Toasted Coconut Crispy Bars
Crispy brown rice bars with toasted coconut and rum, topped with a drizzle of dark chocolate and a sprinkle of salt.
- Yield: 18 bars 1x
3 T. coconut oil*
3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
10 oz. mini marshmallows
4 cups brown rice cereal
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 T. Bourbon or rum
1/2 cup dairy free mini dark chocolate chips
1 tsp. kosher salt or Fleur del sel
1. Toast coconut in a dry non-stick skillet, stirring often. Once the pan begins to heat up, the coconut will brown quickly, so don’t get distracted by something else – stay focused on the coconut! When the coconut is nicely browned, remove from heat and set aside.
2. Melt coconut oil in a large non-stick pot (mine is 6 quarts). Add 4 cups of marshmallows and heat over low, stirring often.
3. Meanwhile, preheat the broiler and spread remaining marshmallows (about 1 1/2 cups) on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Broil marshmallows until they are puffy and browned. Much like the coconut, this happens quickly, so watch them closely! Once they are toasted, remove marshmallows from the oven and add them to the pot with the coconut oil and melting marshmallows. A wide spatula works well to scrape them off of the parchment into the pot.
4. When all of the marshmallows are melted, remove from heat. Mix in the rum and vanilla. Then add in the toasted coconut and rice cereal, stirring well.
5. Spoon the rice mixture into an 8-inch square pan, lined with parchment paper. Spread it out evenly to cool.
6. Once the bars are cool, heat chocolate chips in the microwave in 30 second increments until melted. Drizzle chocolate over top of the bars. Immediately sprinkle the melted chocolate with salt. Chill in the refrigerator to help firm up the chocolate.
7. Cut into 9 squares and then cut each square in half to make 18 triangles.
* Any kind of coconut oil will work, but extra virgin coconut oil will have a more pronounced coconut taste
Keywords: rice krispie treats, toasted coconut, rum & coconut dessert, chocolate covered rice crispy treats
After 2 1/2 weeks of being at home, I have finally come to terms with the fact that these weeks at home are not going to be productive. When this is all said and done, I am not going to walk out of my door and leave behind a house that is clean and perfectly organized. It will be moderately clean, probably a little bit messy, and no more organized than it was a few weeks ago. This is despite me lamenting for ages that if only I had an entire week at home to work on all of those pesky projects I ever make time for. And that’s just one week! Imagine 2, 3, 4 weeks, or more!
But it turns out, I don’t have the energy to be productive. I am afraid and anxious and my worrying tendencies are going into overdrive. I spend my days keeping my family fed, trying to keep in contact with people that I care about, taking walks, watching Game of Thrones with Ray, and spending countless hours with Olive doing puzzles and listening to Harry Potter. At the end of the day, I have zero motivation to clean out closets and I am finally at peace with that.
What I will always make time for, however, is cake. This particular cake is modified from a recipe from one of my grandmothers. She was known to us as Nana. Nana was goofy and fun-loving. She put on records and led my sisters and I in parades, singing and marching through her house. She made us Shirley Temples and ice cream floats. She helped us all develop our love of food and cooking for other people. She was stern when she absolutely had to be and she loved us all fiercely. It was on this day, several years ago, that we lost her and so it is fitting that her cake is what I turned to for comfort.
Nana often made this cake, although she commonly made it with a boiled icing, not chocolate frosting. But when I set out to bake a cake yesterday, I decided that these times call for as much chocolate as possible and I don’t think that Nana would have objected. The cake itself is supremely tender, so treat it gently after baking. As a bonus, the cake ingredients can all be mixed up in one bowl so there are less dishes to wash. You don’t even need a mixer, a large whisk works just fine.
If you want your cake to be picture-perfect, you could refrigerate it for an hour before slicing. Clearly, I did not do that because I have never turned away cake of any kind, let alone a piece that was slightly messy, and I don’t intend to start getting fussy about my cake now. Nana would have definitely agreed.
Stay home if you can, bake cake, be safe.Print
Favorite Gluten & Dairy Free Chocolate Cake
A gluten & dairy free adaptation of my Nana’s incomparable chocolate cake recipe which results in an extra tender, one-bowl chocolate cake. Makes two 9-inch round layers or one 9X13 cake. Delicious with boiled icing, buttercream, or chocolate frosting.
For the Cake:
2 cups gluten free all purpose flour (such as King Arthur Measure for Measure flour blend)
3/4 cup cocoa powder
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking powder
2 tsp. baking soda
1 cup vegetable oil
1 cup HOT coffee (regular or decaf both work)
1 cup non-dairy milk
3 large eggs
2 tsp. vanilla
Dairy free mini chocolate chips, if desired
For the Chocolate Frosting:
3/4 cup cocoa powder (or use Hershey’s Special Dark for an extra chocolatey frosting)
4 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup vegan butter, softened (I like Country Crock Plant Butter with Olive Oil)
1 tsp. vanilla
1/2 cup evaporated coconut milk (see Notes)
For the Cake:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. If making two round layers, cut two pieces of parchment paper to fit on the bottom of each round pan. Grease the inside of each pan with oil and then place the parchment paper at the bottom of the pan.
3. Combine all of the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl and whisk together.
4. Add oil, coffee, and milk, mixing well.
5. Add eggs and vanilla and mix again until well combined.
6. Pour into prepared pans. Bake for 30 minutes.
7. Cool in pans for 5 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the pan to loosen cake and invert it onto a rack to cool. Carefully peel off parchment paper.
For the Frosting:
1. Whisk together sugar and cocoa.
2. Cream half of sugar mixture with vegan butter. Add vanilla and half of milk.
3. Add remaining sugar mixture, mixing well, then the last of the milk.
4. Mix frosting on high for 2-3 minutes until smooth.
1. Once cake layers are completely cool, place one layer on a large round plate. Scoop half of frosting onto cake layer and gently spread it out over the top of the cake, working your way from the center of the cake outward.
2. Place the second cake layer on top and cover with remaining frosting and sprinkle with mini chocolate chips, if you like.
– Evaporated coconut milk works best, but in a pinch, you can substitute any non-dairy milk. I find that regular non-dairy milk makes the frosting a little runnier, so you may need to add an extra 1/2 cup of powdered sugar.
– We keep this cake in the refrigerator.
– I prefer two thicker layers of frosting, so I only frosted the inside and top of the cake, but you could use less frosting on the first layer and frost the entire cake with what remains. If you want to frost the inside and outside of the cake and have extra left over to decorate the cake, I would make an extra 1/2 recipe of the frosting.
We had two beautiful days in central Pennsylvania. The weather was warm and sunny. We took walks and the kids rode bikes and played basketball. We cooked our dinner on the grill and then ate outside under the glow of lights strung across our screened-in porch. You could almost believe it was a beautiful spring weekend. You could almost forget what was going on in the world. Almost being the key word here. Unfortunately, the soundtrack of our lives these days is the news, and the news is grim. Today, the rain has come and the weather seems more fitting for the turmoil swirling both beyond the confines of our yards and within in so many of our hearts. But sun or rain, good news or bad, we keep moving forward, finding comfort where we can.
Food is my comfort, as it is likely for you, too. We can discuss the physical and mental health perils of that at another time (maybe). For now, we are all looking for comfort wherever we can find it and if it’s food, then so be it! This soup has been my comfort this week. It is bright and nourishing, and exactly what I wanted and needed. As a bonus, if you keep a gluten & dairy free pantry, this soup is likely made from staple ingredients that you already have and does not require a trip to the grocery store. Yellow split peas are ideal, but if you only have green, just use those. It’s the perfect soup for a rainy Saturday! Get it started and while it cooks, break out a puzzle and an audio book, as Olive and I have been doing. Food is is a definite comfort in my world, but Harry Potter and puzzles is a very close second!
Be well friends. Stay home as much as you can, wash your hands often, and make lots of soup!Print
Golden Lemon Split Pea Soup
2 Tbl. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 cups chopped carrots
2 Tbl. fresh minced garlic
1 Tbl. grated fresh ginger
1/2 Tbl. turmeric
1 tsp. cumin
1 Tbl. sea salt
1 lb. yellow split peas (or green work fine too)
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
2 cups water
1 can full fat coconut milk
Juice and zest from one lemon
Additional lemon wedges & olive oil, if desired
1. Pour split peas into a mesh colander. Remove any discolored split peas and rinse under cold water. Set aside.
2. Heat olive oil in a large pot. Add carrots, onions, garlic, and ginger. Sauté for 5 minutes, or until onions are translucent.
3. Add turmeric, salt, cumin, broth, water, and split peas. Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 45 minutes, until split peas are cooked through.
4. Add lemon juice, zest, and coconut milk.
5. Keep soup as is or for a smoother consistency, remove one-half of the soup and blend until smooth. Pour blended soup back in the pot.
6. To serve, top with fresh cracked black pepper, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and an extra wedge of lemon.
- Makes approximately 9 cups
- Soup freezes very well
The calendar is telling us that it is spring, but here in Central Pennsylvania it is actually the season of limbo. The temperatures have been rising as the week draws to a close and today is supposed to be the warmest day yet! For the time being, the sun and warmth are like a balm for our cold, chapped, winter-weary souls. But we know that it won’t last and at any moment, winter could return and bring with it some snow and ice that is most unwelcome as we ease into April. It short, early spring is pretty much a meteorological purgatory.
In October, when the weather was just beginning to turn, I gravitated to all things warm and cozy and heavy – spaghetti, chili, and anything else carb-heavy that could qualify as bone-sticking. But now, in our early-spring limbo, I want food that is nourishing enough to see me through the cold that will undoubtedly return but also bright enough to remind me that warmer weather will come, and stay. Eventually. Lemon, fennel, and quinoa check all of those boxes. The lemon and fennel are bright and a little sweet, the quinoa is a nourishing protein, and you get a peppery kick from the arugula.
Don’t be afraid of fennel! I’m always a little discomfited when a vegetable doesn’t fit neatly in a produce bag. It just defies the seemingly natural order of things when you can’t put the produce item in a bag and neatly seal it up with a twist tie. If there is one thing I really love, it is ORDER, and fennel is without a doubt disorderly. It has a wild look to it with it’s fronds spiking out all over the place, so it is one of those vegetables (actually, it is an herb if you want to get technical about it) that many of us look at on the shelf and then immediately walk past in search of something more familiar. Fennel has a distinct anise-like taste to it when eaten raw, but don’t let that scare you either. I am not a fan of anise; I’ve never even liked black licorice, but fennel is milder and sweeter and tastes even better when mixed with citrus, as we do here.
If you’ve never bought or prepared fennel, this video from the New York Times is a great reference! One thing to note – you can eat the bulb, the stalk, and the fronds of the fennel plant. I have found the stalks to have a woody texture so I usually don’t use them. I only use the bulb and the fronds and leave the stalks for our wildlife friends in the back yard. You could consider that a perfectly good waste of fennel, but it makes them happy and if they are happy and less hungry, then it is my hope that they will eat fewer plants in my front flower bed.
Wishful thinking on my part? Likely.
Quinoa Salad with Fennel, Caramelized Lemon, & Arugula
A bright and lemony salad to help celebrate the arrival of spring!
- Prep Time: 25 min
- Total Time: 25 min
- Category: Salad, Food Prep
1/4 cup plus 1 tsp. olive oil
1 T. red wine vinegar, if needed
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. agave syrup (or honey for non-vegan)
1 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
2 cups water
3 oz. sun-dried tomatoes (dry, not in oil)
1/3 cup kalamata olives, chopped
1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted
2 T. fennel fronds, chopped
2 cups thinly sliced fennel
3–4 oz. arugula
1. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add rinsed quinoa and sun-dried tomatoes. Return to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the quinoa has absorbed all of the water. Set aside to cool.
2. Zest lemon, reserving zest. Cut lemon in half.
3. Heat 1 tsp. olive oil in a small non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Add lemon halves, cut sides down, to the skillet. Cook for approximately 8 minutes, or until the cut side is nicely brown and caramelized. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
3. Once cool enough to handle, juice lemon. Add enough red wine vinegar to get 1/4 cup of liquid. (I usually end up with about 3 T. lemon juice and 1 T. red wine vinegar.) Add salt, agave (or honey), and 1/4 cup of olive oil and mix well.
4. Cut the fennel stalks from the top of the bulb, reserving some of the feathery fronds at the end of the stalks. Wipe the outside of the fennel bulb with a damp towel to remove any dirt. Cut fennel bulb in half, vertically. Cut out the core from inside the bulb. Thinly slice the fennel. A mandolin works very well here, and helps you to get extra thin slices of fennel. If using a mandolin, I do not remove the core and instead work my way around it. The core helps to keep the bulb intact so you have more to hold on to when slicing it with the mandolin.
5. Combine cooled quinoa with reserved lemon zest and lemon vinaigrette. Add fennel, olives, almonds, and fennel fronds, tossing to coat.
6. If you are serving immediately, gently toss in arugula. If you are making ahead, or keeping it as part of your weekly food prep, then keep arugula separate and serve salad on a bed of greens when you are ready to eat.
*Salad keeps well for several days. Keep arugula separate so it doesn’t get sad and wilted.
Keywords: lemon quinoa, quinoa food prep, food prep, fennel salad, fennel and lemon, fennel and quinoa
It comes as a surprise (to some) that a waffle recipe with the words “vegan” and “quinoa” in it can be so delicious. This is one of those recipes that is best described to my husband in vague terms because if he knew what I really called it, he would instantly be wary and disinclined to try it. As it was, I just made him the waffles, he happily ate them and said they were good before I told him that they had quinoa and flax in them. Then he promptly groaned and told me I had to stop forcing him to eat so healthy. He did, for the record, eat them several days in a row for breakfast, so apparently he got over his initial nutritional misgivings pretty quickly.
It was with a tone of equal parts skepticism and very great hesitation that my husband read my list on the kitchen chalkboard and said “Baked Noatmeal….what is that?” In all fairness, his state of dubious reservation was justified as I think we can agree that baked oatmeal without the oats would leave your breakfast decidedly lacking….or so you would think. Unless you had a dietary reason for not eating grains, including oats, it probably never occurred to you to try such a thing. But if you are one of those people, like me, who at times need to clean up your system, then Baked Noatmeal is definitely for you.
I love it when I can combine several of my favorite foods and flavors all in one place and have it result in something really delicious – which is exactly what happened here. I started off wanting to experiment with a cold sweet potato salad with a fall vibe, thinking along the lines of a vinaigrette with apple cider vinegar and maple syrup. Then I added Dijon mustard for some extra tang. Then maple syrup just goes with bacon, and bacon goes with everything, so that was thrown in. And then a friend of mine told me about a roasted sweet potato and Brussels sprout dish she made recently, so I shredded up some Brussels sprouts and put them in the mix. And viola, sweet potato and Brussels sprout salad was born, and I am immediately loving it. Eat a little as a side or a lot on top of some greens for a quick lunch or dinner.
Easter morning is always a little bit hectic. You have the baskets and maybe an egg hunt and church and somewhere in there you try to squeeze in some brunch. As with any holiday, having a dish ready to be popped in the oven is the way to go. Having it be healthy, but still taste like a treat is even better! Baked oatmeal is best if assembled the night before and with this one, everything comes together fairly quickly. Don’t let the long ingredient list scare you. The hardest part of assembly is shredding the carrots, which is a task easily delegated to one of your kids so you can finish the rest of your holiday preparations, which you and I both know, will probably still be unfinished as of Saturday night. Or maybe that’s just me. Either way, give the baked oatmeal a try, it will be one less thing to worry about on Sunday morning.
Carrot Cake Baked Oatmeal got two thumbs up from my somewhat-picky husband. He was a little disgruntled to hear that the glaze was tofu-based, but it didn’t stop him from eating an extra spoonful.
…And he’s even more disgruntled now that I have told the internet that he ate anything tofu-based.
Who doesn’t have a soft spot for carrot cake? I don’t delude myself into thinking it’s healthy because it has carrots. I’ve baked enough carrot cakes to know that the carrots are not included for nutritional value. The reason I love it is because it has so many different textures and flavors going on. Carrot cake is kind of the pastry equivalent of a circus. Colors, textures, flavors, all mixed up together. Minus, thankfully, the clowns. It’s delightful, don’t you think?
Maybe it sounds strange to turn a pastry circus into a breakfast food but it makes complete sense if you think about it. Raisins, nuts, and coconut are pretty routine oatmeal additions. Pineapple is not far off. That only leaves you with the carrots and carrots are sweet so they are practically like fruit. Are you buying it? Even if you’re not, just give it a try.
I like topping mine with more pineapple and toasted coconut and a drizzle of the dairy free cream cheese glaze. Dairy free cream cheese is soy-based so if you don’t tolerate soy, then just spoon a little extra maple syrup on top; it will still be delicious.
- 2 eggs
- 3 cups of almond milk
- 1 tsp. vanilla
- 1 tsp. baking powder
- 1 tsp. cinnamon
- 1/2 tsp. salt
- 2 T. maple syrup
- 2 T. olive oil
- 3 cups gluten free rolled oats
- 1 cup shredded carrots
- 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1/2 cup diced pineapple
- 1/2 cup non-dairy cream cheese, softened (such as Tofutti)
- 4 T. pure maple syrup
- 3 tsp. vanilla
- 2-3 pinches of salt
- 1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- 2. Beat eggs, milk, baking powder, vanilla, cinnamon, salt, olive oil, and maple syrup with a whisk until well blended.
- 3. Add in oatmeal, carrot, coconut, nuts, raisins, and pineapple.
- 4. Pour in a 2 1/2 to 3 quart baking dish coated with cooking spray.
- 5. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight.
- 6. Bake for 45-55 minutes until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.
- 7. Serve with extra pineapple, toasted coconut, and dairy free cream cheese glaze.
- 1. Whisk together all ingredients in a bowl.
- 2. Cover and let sit 4 hours or overnight so flavors can meld.
- 3. Drizzle on top of cooked baked oatmeal.
- A 9X13 inch pan works well for one recipe, but you could also use a square pan or a deep dish pie pan as I did in the photographs. Keep in mind that you may need to add 10 minutes or so on to the baking time if using a smaller pan since the mixture will be thicker. Check it periodically after 50 minutes and cover with foil if the top is getting too brown. If using a smaller pan, it will be FULL, so refrigerating the mixture overnight in another bowl is a good idea, then it can be transferred to the smaller pan once some of the liquid has been absorbed overnight.
How are we feeling about the holidays friends? Thanksgiving is over and it is full steam ahead towards Christmas. Like it or not, that train is moving and it’s moving fast, so I guess it’s time for us all to jump on!
I’ve talked to people that have all of their shopping done already. Some of them even have their gifts wrapped!
I am not one of those people.
We got our first holiday card in the mail yesterday.
I was tickled that I even got my cards ordered. Getting them addressed and in the mail is a whole other story. If I were you, I wouldn’t wait by your mailbox in anticipation of receiving it.
I’m seeing pictures on Facebook of beautifully decorated Christmas trees, holiday mantles, and outdoor lights.
We are getting ready to replace the flooring in most of our first floor, so I am using the anticipated dirt and dust as an excuse to keep all of our decorations in the crawl space.
Elves on the Shelf have already made appearances in many homes and are getting up to their usual holiday hijinx.
Our elf, Rosie, has shown up after the incessant questioning by my kids of when she would come and has unceremoniously plopped herself in the usual boring and uncreative spots.