Pumpkin Muffins

Here’s a delicious gluten-free fall treat!  A friend passed this recipe to me, so I don’t know its origins.  Since I have altered it a bit, I don’t feel completely bad for posting it without the source listed.

Either grease muffin pan(s) well or use liners.  I prefer to skip the liners whenever possible.  It saves money and allows hungry people to get right into the goodness rather than having to deal with drooling on themselves while trying to remove the paper.  🙂

This recipe will make 24 muffins.

In a small bowl, mix:

  • 1 cup coconut flour
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon cloves
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt

In a larger bowl, place:

  • 1 cup pumpkin puree
  • 12 eggs, mixing well with puree after adding each egg
  • 8 Tablespoons coconut oil or butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Add flour mixture to egg mixture and blend well until floury lumps have disappeared.

If desired, you can gently fold in:

  • 1 cup (or to preference) chocolate chips

With a 1/4 cup measuring cup, scoop the batter into the muffin pans.  Bake for 20 minutes.

And voila! A lovely fall treat for the whole family.  🙂


African Meat Curry

As I mentioned in this post, we’ve been studying countries and cultures.  In conjunction with our study of Kenya, we made a dinner from the book, Cooking the African Way.

Though I didn’t have everything in the precise form the recipe requested, it still turned out great. In fact, my dad said we should bottle and sell the sauce.  I wouldn’t go quite that far, but we definitely saved the leftover sauce for later use.

In a large frying pan, heat for 1 minute:

  • 1/2 cup  vegetable oil

Add and stir:

  • 1/2 cup onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 inch piece ginger root, cut in half
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seed (I used ground cumin)
  • 4 whole cardamom seeds (I didn’t have this, so I skipped it)
  • 1 cinnamon stick (I used a teaspoon or so of ground cinnamon)
  • 4 whole cloves (I used a few dashes of ground cloves)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric

Stir in and cook about 10 minutes:

  • 6 oz tomato paste


  • 4-6 pieces chicken (I used both drumsticks and boneless breasts)

Reduce heat to low, and cover. Simmer for 35 minutes.


  • 2 medium white potatoes, peeled and quartered

Cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until tender.


  • 1/2 cup fresh coriander (I didn’t have this, so I skipped it)

Simmer uncovered 10 minutes more.

I served the curried chicken and potatoes with steamed broccoli and sauteed asparagus.

Mom’s Famous Cake Frosting

Okay, so the frosting isn’t actually famous.  And mom says it didn’t originate with her.  She thinks she got it from her mom, but since her mom (my memere) doesn’t make this exact frosting anymore, our family attributes it all to her.

I’ve tried several healthy frosting recipes, but none of them came close to being pleasing to the palate.  So, I’ve resigned myself to using this not-so-healthy (but terrifically pleasing) frosting until I decide to venture into further healthy frosting explorations.  I figure that since I make healthy cakes/cupcakes, a thin layer of this frosting won’t hurt too much.  Plus, I can make it with organic sugar, milk, and butter to lessen the fact that it’s not actually healthy. 😛

Now, in the name of full disclosure, I need to confess that the recipe I have listed here does not produce my moms delicious frosting exactly.  I’ve been unable to get it just right on my own.  There are two reasons for this.  When my mom makes frosting, she uses the whole box of powdered sugar and covers a giant cake with a thick layer of it.  Since I usually make only a dozen cupcakes, I don’t need that much frosting.  So, I’ve tried to reduce her recipe.  (That’s reason number one.) But since her recipe is already ball-parkish in its measurements, that’s been tricky to do. She adds things without measuring precisely.  (That’s reason number two.)

Update: On Anson’s 4th birthday, I finally nailed the frosting.  This amount will make enough delightful frosting to cover a dozen cupcakes. It will produce a much thicker frosting than what is pictured above, which is a good thing, since that thinner frosting always melted away into the cupcakes after an hour or so.

In a small bowl, mix:

  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons softened butter
  • 1 Tablespoon milk (we use almond milk)
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake/Cupcakes (with a secret!)

This is such a fun recipe!  You do NOT have to be gluten-free to appreciate how tasty it is.  And moms everywhere can feel good about feeding one of these “treats” to their kids. This has been our go-to birthday/special occasion recipe for the last year or so.

I found the recipe on Lauren’s Healthy Indulgences blog, but I’m always paranoid about the original blog/site going down and the recipe being lost forever, so I’m reprinting it here for safety’s sake.  🙂

This recipe includes no flour, sugar, or dairy.

I’ll let Lauren tell you about the secret ingredient in her own words:

“The cake is made out of black beans. Beans, seriously! Even if you’re the fiercest of bean haters (like I am), you’ll fall head over heels for this moist chocolate cake. I haven’t have a flour- and sugar-based chocolate cake in a very long time, so my roommates had to confirm this cake’s rockstar status. Safe to say they agreed with me, and hungrily polished off the slices I provided for them. Served with a cold glass of almond milk, it was all the more refreshing after a day spent soaking up the Carolina sun.”

Makes a single 9” layer cake (can be halved and stacked – see above) or 12 cupcakes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

If making a cake: Spray a 9″ cake pan with extra virgin olive oil cooking spray, or just grease it with a thin layer of butter. Dust cocoa all over the inside of the pan, tapping to evenly distribute. Cut a round of parchment paper and line the bottom of the pan, then spray the parchment lightly.

If making cupcakes: Put cupcake liners in pan.

In a blender, combine until liquified (no lumps!):

  • 1-15 ounce can of unseasoned black beans, rinsed (or about 2 cups)
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon stevia (Note from Erika: I left this out the last time I made them. Erich and I liked the cupcakes even more without the extra sweetness, especially since the icing I often use for this is so sweet.)

In a bowl, whisk together:

  • 6 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon aluminum-free baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

In another bowl, beat:

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted organic butter OR extra virgin coconut oil
  • 1/4-1/3 cup honey

To the butter, add:

  • 2 eggs, beating for a minute after adding each one

Pour egg mixture into blender with bean batter and mix.  Add cocoa mix and blend on high for 1 minute until smooth. Scrape batter into pan and smooth the top. Tap the pan on the counter a few times to pop any air bubbles.

For Cake: Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes.

For Cupcakes: Bake at 350 for 20 minutes.

After 10 mins, remove from pan and cool on wire rack. Once room temperature, cover in plastic wrap or overturned bowl. For best flavor, let sit overnight.  Frost immediately before serving.

Here’s another bean cake, this one made with white beans instead of black, that I intend to try soon.

“Baked” Potato Soup

This is a recipe I adjusted slightly from Southern Living’s Slow-Cooker Cookbook.  Both the slow-cooker and the book were gifts from my ever-generous mother-in-law.  I’m still really new to the slow-cooker realm, but I do like the idea of starting dinner in the morning and being done with it.

I have put this under vegetarian, because it could be made vegetarian by using vegetable stock instead of chicken and by leaving the bacon topping off.

In a 5-quart slow cooker, combing:

  • 6 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes (about 3 3/4 pounds)
  • 1 large onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
  • 2 3/4 cups chicken stock  (the original recipe called for three 14 oz cans chicken broth with roasted garlic)
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons freshly ground pepper

Cover and cook on high 4 hours or on low 8 hours or until potatoes are tender.  Then mash mixture until potatoes are coarsely chopped and soup is slightly thickened.  Stir in:

  • 1 cup whipping cream or half-and-half
  • 1 cup (4 oz) sharp Cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

Top with:

  • Sour cream
  • Turkey bacon, cooked and crumbled (Make sure your bacon has no nitrites/nitrates)
  • Shredded cheddar cheese

Grilled London Broil



I know it’s not the ideal picture of health.  Some people think red meat is unhealthy. (I am not convinced.) Many think that potatoes are one of the lesser quality vegetables.  (Maybe so, but I still like ’em.)  Lots of health-conscious people think that soy (including soy sauce, of course) is NOT a health food and should be avoided.  (I haven’t studied it in depth myself, but all of the people I trust who know more about it than I do think that. So, I try to avoid it as much as possible.  But there’s definitely soy sauce in this recipe.) And boxed macaroni and cheese wouldn’t rank on anyone’s health-radar.  Not even the organic boxed version I bought. (But steak and boxed macaroni and cheese is a nostalgic pairing for me.  It was one of the “fancy” meals I remember from growing up. Besides, we have boxed macaroni and cheese probably two times per year, if that.)

This meal was not only fun for us, it was reasonably quick to put together despite its fancy feel.  And since I got the meat on sale at Earth Fare, it was surprisingly affordable.

Here’s what we had and the approximate price breakdown:

  • London Broil ($8.00) When I first made my menu plan I had another meat dish on the menu.  But when I got to the meat department, I saw that the cut my plan called for was something like $9.99 per pound and the London Broil was just $4.99.  I got a pound and a half of beef that had been raised without antibiotics, synthetic growth hormones or animal by-products in the feed for just $7.98.
  • Marinade-Turned-Sauce ($.50) It’s just 3 cloves of garlic, a bit of leftover fresh ginger, dried thyme and shoyu (a healthier version of soy sauce).  All stuff I had already, but I’ll guess it was about 50 cents worth.
  • Mashed Potatoes ($2.50) I got a 5 pound bag of organic russet potatoes for $3.97 and used a little less than half of it for this meal. Add in the couple of tablespoons of butter and almond milk and it probably cost in the neighborhood of $2.50.
  • Macaroni and Cheese ($2.25) Organic, but not necessarily healthy.
  • Steamed Asparagus ($1.00) Used half of a bunch.  This is one of the least contaminated conventional crops, so I didn’t go organic.
  • Sauteed Portabella and Onions ($1.75) I didn’t get the best deal on portabellas.  Sam’s has the best price, but I wasn’t able to make it over there this week.  I used one portabella from a non-organic pack of two from Kroger. I’ll use the other one plus the unopened pack of two for my stuffed portabella meal later this week.

So, for 16 bucks, we had a fun, fancy meal with leftovers for tomorrow too.  There are a bunch of mashed potatoes and 4 good slices of meat left. I just got a good tip for how to use leftover mashed potatoes from an article recommended by my friend Leigh Ann, 50 Ways to Never Waste Food Again.  So, I’ll be forming them into patty shapes and cooking them in butter tomorrow to see if they really make for a  “pretty good ‘mock hashbrown.'”   The slices of meat will be tasty over a big green salad tomorrow.

And now, for my final notes on how to pull this meal together effectively.  I was impressed by how nicely the whole thing came together and figured I should write it down as best as I can remember it so that next time I can benefit from the happy coincidence I experienced tonight.  There are probably more efficient ways to get it all done, but this was approximately how it happened tonight:

1. Made the marinade and let the meat sit in it for about a half hour.

  • 6 Tablespoons shoyu or soy sauce
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger
  • 1 Tablespoon dried thyme

2. While the meat was marinading, I got my pots ready.  One for boiling potatoes, one for boiling pasta, one for steaming asparagus and one pan for sauteeing portabellas.

3. Started boiling the water for the potatoes.

4. Peeled and cut the potatoes.  By the time I was done, the water was ready.  Boiled potatoes 10-15 minutes, until they broke apart when I stabbed them with a fork.

5.  While the potatoes were working, I started the water for the pasta.

6. While I was  waiting for the pasta water to boil, I had Madeline cut up the portabellas. I made the cheese sauce, cut onions, and cut the bottoms off of the asparagus.

7.  Plugged in the Foreman Grill.

8. Added the pasta to the boiling water.

9. Started the mushrooms by throwing them into the saute pan along with the onions and about a tablespoon of butter over medium-0r-so heat.

10. Started cooking the meat.

11. Dumped the potatoes into a colander, saving the boiling water to steam the asparagus.  (I thought this was particularly clever of me!) I turned on the burner for the asparagus.  It didn’t take long to boil with the already-hot water in there.

12.  Mashed the potatoes, some almond milk and butter with a potato masher and kept them warm.

13.  Drained the pasta and added the cheese mix and kept them warm too.

14. Flipped the meat.

15.  Placed the mushroom saute on our plates.

16.  Put the leftover marinade into the now-empty-mushroom-saute pan without cleaning it first.  The flavor of the mushrooms and onions was welcome!  Simmered it for about 5 minutes so that I could use it as a sauce.

17. Pulled the asparagus off of the heat.

18. Checked the meat.  Thought it was done and turned off the grill and pulled it off.  Let it rest a bit only to find out when I cut into it that it was still a bit too underdone for us.  (But always better underdone than overdone.)  Placed the slices quickly on the still-kinda-warm grill to remove some of the moo-ishness in the center.

19.  Threw silverware, cloth napkins and water on the table.

20.  Placed potatoes, macaroni and cheese and asparagus on our plates along with the mushrooms.  Fanned the meat over the potatoes and drizzled some of the sauce over the top.

20.  Called desperately for the family to join me in a hurry to enjoy the beauty that was our dinner.

Where do you stand on the vegetarian vs. meat-eater issue?  Do you think potatoes are a healthy vegetable? What about soy?  Do you think $16 is a good deal for this kind of meal? And does anyone else on the planet over the age of 25 like boxed macaroni and cheese or am I the only one?

Classic Wheat Bread

If you read my menu plan for this week, you know that I was over-budget last week and spent this week making do with things on hand.  You also know that I ran out of my beloved almond flour.  So, when I ran out of the sprouted bread we usually eat, I had to dig out the white whole wheat flour that I had in the back of my fridge.

Classic Wheat BreadI don’t often cook bread just for the joy of it.  I prefer to use my baking moments for healthy muffins, which seem like more fun to me.  But when I run out of bread and don’t want to make a special trip to the store, I’ll make some of my own. Once I pull it out of the oven, I’m always glad we ran out of the regular stuff.

This bread recipe is solidly good and simple.  It goes well with breakfasts and can double as a hearty sandwich bread.

In a large bowl, combine:

  • 3 1/2 cups of either whole wheat or white whole wheat flour
  • 1 1/3 cups water
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup molasses, honey, or maple syrup
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 packet of active dry yeast dissolved in 2 Tbsp water

Stir until dough starts to leave the sides of the bowl.  Transfer to a lightly oiled surface and knead 6-8 minutes until smooth and supple.  Transfer to a lightly greased bowl, cover with a kitchen towel and let rise for about 60 minutes until puffy, not necessarily doubled.  Shape into a log and place in a lightly greased 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 inch load pan.  Cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise another 60 minutes or until crowned 1 inch above the pan.  (I don’t always wait for it to get 1 inch above the pan, and it turns out fine.)

Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until brown.  Cool on a wire rack.  To store, place in an empty bread bag (salvaged from the trash for another round of use!) or a ziploc bag and keep at room temperature.