Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Girls night in!


Tonight I am having the girls over for a relaxing evening of food, fun and of course a whole lot of visiting!  I am keeping a light menu with shrimp and cocktail sauce, ham and asparagus roll ups, grapes and Sunny Citrus Squares.

I went to the kitchen to bake, rolled up my sleeves (well actually I had on a tank top) and got to work.  Of course, since I didn't plan ahead, I soon realized I was out of powdered sugar.  So, I grabbed my food processor, put in a cup of organic sugar and in no time at all I had organic powdered sugar.  I really don't think I will spend money on powdered sugar again when this was so easy.  It took a little longer than I thought, maybe 5 minutes or so, but I let it process while I mixed the other ingredients.  It worked out very well. A quick tip that I learned really really fast was to tape a Ziploc bag over the top of the feed tube on the food processor.  If not, the powdery sugar flies all over. 

These bars are light and perfect for summer gatherings.  They are very much like the classic lemon bars that we know and love.  I prefer these because there is not much white flour but whole spelt flour instead and there is less butter. 

Sunny Citrus Squares

Crust
1 1/2 cups whole spelt flour
1/4 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 tablespoons orange juice

Filling
4 large eggs
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/2 cup lemon or lime juice or a combination
1/4 cup unbleached flour
2 tablespoons grated citrus zest (the rinds of 1 large lemon and 2 medium limes)
1/2 teaspoon salt
Confectioners' sugar for topping

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease a 9-inch square pan.

To prepare the crust:  Mix flour, sugar and salt in a medium bowl.  Cut the butter into pats and work it into the dry ingredients until the mixture is evenly crumbly.  Add the orange juice and mix until large clumps form.  Press the mixture into the pan, covering the bottom completely.

Bake the crust until it's beginning to brown, 15-20 minutes.  Remove it from the oven.

To prepare the filling:  Beat the eggs, sugar and juice in a medium bowl.  Stir in flour, zest and salt.  Pour the filling over the baked crust.

Return the bars to the oven and bake until they look set all over, 25 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool to room temperature.  Cover and refrigerate overnight. 

Remove from the refrigerator one hour before serving and dust with confectioners' sugar.  Cut into squares and serve immediately. 

*Recipe is from Whole Grain Baking

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Guilt-free fudgy brownies


Chocolate and I have always had a love/hate relationship.  I adore chocolate!  The problem is I don't know when to stop eating chocolate.  Well that is a raunchy excuse because I do know WHEN to stop I just choose NOT to stop when I should.  Since it is important to enjoy a treat from time to time, discipline with portion control is one of those things I am working on.  Making sure that I am indulging in treats that are made with quality ingredients allows me to enjoy without feeling too guilty.  I found a wonderful brownie recipe some time back and have adapted it to better suit an anti-inflammatory eating plan.  I have changed the amount of butter by cutting it in half and substitute olive oil for the other half.  I have replaced the semi-sweet chocolate chips and cocoa for dark chocolate chips and cocoa.  There is no white sugar in this recipe so that is a healthy plus.  Just a bit of a side note, I tried to add only half the chocolate chips once and the brownies did not turn out very well.  I recommend using the entire 2 cups of chocolate chips. 

These brownies are so delicious, moist, and super easy to whip up in no time at all.  If you are a fan of box brownie mix, I do believe this recipe will cure you of that.  These are pure dark chocolate indulgence and worth every bite.  Enjoy!

Fudgy Brownies

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup olive oil
2 cups organic brown sugar
3/4 cup dark chocolate cocoa powder
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon espresso powder
2 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 cup All Whites liquid egg whites
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups dark chocolate chips

Melt the butter and add the olive oil.  Stir in the brown sugar.  Stir in the cocoa, baking powder, salt, espresso powder and vanilla.  Add the egg whites and beat until smooth.  Add the flour and stir until smooth.  Stir in the dark chocolate chips. 

Spoon the batter into a 9 X 13 greased pan.  Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until done.  Check to see if the brownies are done by poking a toothpick in the center.  It should be a bit gooey but not raw.  Remove from oven and place on a cooling rack. 

Saturday, June 18, 2011

A tribute to dads: Happy Fathers Day!

I am reflecting this evening on Fathers Day and the men in my life who are great dads.  It all began for me growing up in a loving home with a great dad.  My dad is a hard worker and provided for his family no matter the cost.  He was a Navy man and had to be gone from home for long stretches of time, but he did it for his family.  As hard as it was on us having him gone, it must have been much harder on him being away from his entire family.  My siblings and I were so blessed to have a loving, strong, honorable, Godly man to call dad. 

My Dad

Now, I am married to a man who is also an amazing dad. He has always provided well for his family, and like my dad, he is a retired military man having served in the Air Force.  He is such a loving, selfless, giving, trusting, compassionate, hard working, amazing person.  All who know him are blessed.  He is not the father of my children, however he is always there for them as well as his own.  He puts others' needs ahead of his own needs always.  He is such an awesome example of how to be a dad, but also how to be a man. 

My Husband

I want to say thank you to both of these wonderful men that are in my life.  So thank you Dad and thank you Ed.  I love you both dearly.  Happy Fathers Day!

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Feeding the gloomy weather blues


I am sad to report that the weather here in the Spokane/North Idaho area is still quite gloomy.  So, once again we are craving good ole comfort food.  Since I am also trying to use what I have on hand instead of running to the grocery store every day I went through my pantry and refrigerator to see what I could find.  I came up with the ingredients to make what turned out to be an extremely delicious White Bean Chili.  I took some extra time and even wrote down the ingredients and each step I took in the cooking process.  I encourage you to try this out and, as always, it is made with plenty of anti-inflammatory ingredients to calm down the inflammation attacking our bodies. 

White Bean Chili

1 skinless, boneless chicken breast
1 15 oz can of white kidney beans
1/2 onion, diced
4 small red, yellow, or orange sweet peppers, diced
2 cups chicken broth
1 ripe tomato, diced
1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Cut the chicken breast into small pieces.  Drizzle a little olive oil in a pot, add the chicken and saute until browned.  Next, add the onion and peppers and saute, stirring occasionally until tender. Add the remaining ingredients.  Bring to a boil.  Turn the heat down to a simmer, cover and let cook for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until the chili has thickened up a little bit.  Serve hot and enjoy! 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Berry crumble on a dreary day


We celebrated my husbands 50th birthday over the weekend.  I invited about 30 people over and we celebrated in style.  We ate, visited, laughed, and ate some more.  The weather even held out and we had some sunshine.  It was a perfect day with family and friends.  Since it was nice for this important event, I guess I can't really complain too much about the dreary weather today ... right?  There is something about dreary days though, that cause me to crave comfort food.  I have this great recipe for a cobbler that I have added flax meal and whole wheat flour to in order to keep it anti-inflammatory.  I have also switched out the butter for light olive oil.  It is really delicous and perfect for cloudy, rainy, dreary days.  PS....it is pretty good on sunny days as well :)

Berry Crumble

5 cups of a mixture of blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries
2 tablespoons of brown sugar
1 tablespoon of whole wheat flour
1 tablespoon of flax meal
1 teaspoon of cinnamon

Crumb Topping

1/2 cup of brown sugar
1/2 cup of quick cooking oats
1/2 cup of whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
4 tablespoons of light olive oil

Combine the berries with the brown sugar, flour, flax meal and cinnamon.  Toss to coat and place the mixture in a 9X13 baking dish.  (Place in an 8X8 baking dish if you prefer a thicker dessert)

To make the crumb topping, combine the brown sugar, oats, flour and cinnamon in a bowl.  Add the olive oil and stir until crumbly. 

Sprinkle the crumb mixture over the top of the fruit mixture.  Bake at 400 degrees F for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the fruit is bubbly and the topping is golden brown. 

Friday, June 3, 2011

Anti-inflammatory eating is my way of life!


I have had some questions recently about my diet.  It is wonderful and delicious and the only thing I really feel deprived of is Ho Ho's.  Really!  I love those horrible little things.  So I thought I would explain my way of eating a little more in depth. 

When I talk about eating an anti-inflammatory diet, I mean every meal and every snack every day.  If I am not faithful to this way of eating, in time I begin to experience pain and inflammation.  Each meal is filled with foods that calm inflammation in my body.  Not every ingredient I use is anti-inflammatory but I do make sure that the majority are and that the each meal has a strong anti-inflammation factor.  What that means is that all foods have IF (Inflammatory Factor)  Ratings:

Some food is way off the charts and totally inflammatory.  I avoid those foods.
(Ex.  pretzels, safflower oil, coconut oil, sweetened condensed milk, sugar, white pasta)

Some food is way off the charts the other direction and totally anti-inflammatory.  I eat those foods. 
(Ex.  salmon, olive oil, coconut oil, olives, garlic, chili powder, avocado, dry roasted almonds)

When foods are slightly inflammatory, I pair them with spices and other foods that bring the meal over to the anti-inflammatory side so that it has a calming effect on the inflammation in my body.  Since RA is known to cause an abundance of inflammation I attack it right back with these wonderful foods and that keeps my body running normal. 

The Inflammation Free Diet Plan is written by Monica Reinagel, and an excellent resource for finding out the IF Rating on food.  It is packed full of recipes and great information to help in maintaining an anti-inflammatory diet. I refer to it constantly. 

Since there are so many wonderful food choices that lower inflammation, I still eat absolutely delicious meals.  Thankfully I love to cook and experiment in the kitchen which helps me in maintaining my diet.  I will keep looking for and posting great recipes that meet the anti-inflammatory criteria.  If you have any great recipes that fit....please share!