Thursday, October 9, 2014

Apple Brown Betty (and a Lesson about Life): Gluten free, dairy free, refined sugar free


Substitutions.  Replacements.  Ersatz.  Words that mean the world to those with food allergies if you think about it.

The moment you are diagnosed with an allergy or food intolerance, your life becomes a world of substitutions and trying to recreate dishes as close to the original as possible.  Sometimes those replacements are close, sometimes even better (which I honestly believe my gluten free banana bread is better than the original gluten containing one) and sometimes sub-par.  And you keep trying because you have to.

Such is the way of the world, but I have had a major rethink the last little bit when it comes to food.  It all started when I stumbled across a blog called The 1940's Experiment.  I was immediately impressed with the woman's resolve to follow a UK rationing diet to lose weight and became intrigued with the way the women during WWII had to rethink how recipes were done to compensate for the lack of things like eggs, dairy and a lot of other things.  So, I started ordering books and absorbing everything I could on the home front living in both the US and the UK during the war years.

And honestly?  I started to feel like a lazy slug of a woman.

Here I was sitting in my nice comfy house with gas heat complaining about having to do laundry in my nice electrically run washer and dryer while the books I was reading was telling you how to hand wash everything, make sure you took baths in five inches or less of water to conserve energy and when you had any spare moment to be sure you were darning any weak areas in clothes before they developed holes, canning and preserving any food you could get your hands on and working, in many cases, on top of it all.  I was complaining about the price of food, but at least I HAD food options to choose from.  I can't imagine running to the market each day to wait in line for hours to see what kinds of foods you could get that were available on the ration that day.  Really made me rethink my entire life a bit.

The results of this excessive reading were many.  One, I now make darned sure I don't waste ANYTHING if I can help it, let it be clothing or food.  I thought I was frugal before...man it was NOTHING compared to how I am now.  I plan meals around what I need to use and what I can find cheap at the store and find it a challenge to deal with the food I can get, instead of wishing that I could afford a better cut of lamb instead of marked down lamb shanks.  I do make sure I get my kids the foods they'll eat because I don't want a war on my hands, but we've definitely been eating healthier around here as a result of this research and I'm hoping it's also saving us money in the long run as we are eating cheaper.

So, be prepared for recipes on the blog that are simpler in construction (if I can help it...sometimes different mixes of flours are just needed in gluten free baking to make things taste good, sorry to say),  better for you (nutrition was stressed a LOT during the war years to make sure everyone was not suffering health-wise with the rationing) and taste good.  I have tweaked the original recipes I found to make them allergy friendly for our needs around here, but honestly it is really easy to tweak recipes when there isn't many ingredients to the recipes to begin with.  Warning though, portions back in the day were smaller than today (which in my mind is a great benefit to the recipes), so be prepared for it.

So, here's the first recipe I made.  Apple Brown Betty.  This recipe calls for gluten free bread crumbs.  If you have it, home made bread tastes MUCH better in this recipe as the crumbs tend to be moister, but if all you have is Udi's or some other store bought bread, it'll do in a pinch.  I've been saving the end pieces of Udi's loaves (my daughter is a toast fiend and will ONLY eat Udi's) to make bread crumbs with as a LOT of wartime recipes use things like bread crumbs in the recipes.  Remember, waste not want not.


Apple Brown Betty (Gluten, dairy, refined sugar free)

Ingredients

  • 2 Cups still moist gluten free bread crumbs (white bread works best here)
  • 3 large apples, peeled and sliced thin (separate out of the apples into three piles)
  • 1/4 cup palm sugar (use blond for this if you have it)
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 tsp. to 1 TBS butter, butter alternative or coconut oil, melted (I used Earth Balance Butter Spread once and used coconut oil another time, both turned out well)
  • Whipped coconut cream or whipped cream (if you can do dairy), definitely a great addition

Procedure:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Lightly grease a 1 1/2 quart baking dish or casserole.  Combine bread crumbs, cinnamon and sugar in a bowl and set aside (if your palm sugar is really dry, as mine tends to be, use a tiny bit of the orange juice to make the palm sugar the consistency of brown sugar before mixing in with the other ingredients...it stops the sugar from settling to the bottom of the bowl of bread crumbs).

Arrange 1/3 of the apples (see, this is why I said to split the apples into three piles) in the bottom of your baking dish.  Top with 1/3 of the bread crumb mixture (2/3 of a cup if you want to do it the precise way).  Repeat with another layer.  Add remaining apples and then drizzle orange juice over the top.  Combine the remaining crumb mixture with the melted butter (or alternative) and sprinkle evenly over the top (Note:  If you forget to mix the oil and the bread crumbs on the last step...which I might or might not have done when tired one night, just drizzle the oil evenly over the bread crumbs after you spread them.  It does work just fine).

Bake until apples are tender, 40 to 45 minutes.  Cool 15 to 20 minutes then serve warm with cream, if desired.  You can also chill this and reheat it for breakfast.  It makes AWESOME left overs!
Serves four.

Enjoy!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Put it Up (Winter Preparations) Part 3: Winter Wrap Up!


I'm so sorry about the delay in posting!  It's been, busy, hectic, depressing and all around just overwhelming here the last little bit and honestly I just haven't had the extra energy to blog.

So, since I've had you waiting for weeks now on these posts, I figured I'd better do a wrap up post to share everything I did so that this series gets done before...you know...winter!

So here you go folks!  Be prepared to get bombarded with recipes a little bit :).

1.  Freezing Pesto (Use for Basil)

Before this year I decided I needed to dry my herbs and would hang them up in elaborate bunches around my kitchen.  This year I decided to take it easy on myself.  So, for my basil, I decided the best thing I could do was to freeze it into pesto pucks.  Most recipes, including the one I used call for you to freeze the pesto in ice cube trays. I wanted bigger portions, because I knew that the only thing I'd be using the pesto for was pasta.  So, I put them in muffin tins instead.

The changes I made to work within our allergies:  I used Blue Diamond almonds in place of the other nuts the recipe called for.  I also used pecorino romano cheese (it's sheep's cheese) instead of Parmesan to make tummies not unhappy when we eat it.  I also left out the raw garlic and will add it in when I make the pasta as raw garlic tends to go bitter when you freeze it (that and I'm always concerned about the garlic allergy rearing it's ugly head again, so I'm overly paranoid).  The pesto came out good, I have to say :).


2.  Herb cubes (Use for fresh herbs)

I did kind of a two tiered attack when it came to the rest of my fresh herbs.  I divided them up and some I made into "herb pucks" with olive oil to make herb paste later to slather under the skin of chickens that I'll roast or something.  Those I tended to mix herbs that went well together (parsley, sage and thyme...that type of thing).  The rest I took and diced up fine and placed in ice cube trays.  I then took a dry erase marker so I'd know what herbs  were where (o for oregano, etc).  Then I just filled the cubes the rest of the way with water and froze solid.  Took the cubes out by herb type, bagged them in different freezer bags and tagged them for later use.  And voila!  I now have herbs that I can throw into soups, stews, or other dishes or I can defrost and use later.


3.  Blueberry Syrup (Use for blueberries).

If you are lucky enough to have time to pick blueberries, you can use some of the ones you pick to make awesome home made blueberry syrup.  If you DON'T have time, like me, you either have great friends who give you some of their blueberries or do like I did this year and just got the giant bag of frozen blueberries from Costco.  I halved the original recipe, by the way, as we just don't go through enough blueberry syrup around here to make the original recipe's worth.

And, you should have the perfect amount of blueberries left (if you get the frozen blueberries that is) over to make

4.  Spirted Blueberries.  I know it sounds like a kind of odd recipe, but if you make the blueberries with coconut rum?  You will be surprised how close to heaven they taste!  I tried these on a whim a few years ago and they are definitely on my "can every year from this point onward" roster.  They are SO good over pound cake!  If you don't like alcohol or don't believe in it?  Give these a try.  Trust me by the time they get done boiling away in a canner for 20 or more minutes the alcohol is boiled out of them, but the coconut depth flavors will remain and it just adds a depth of flavor that is astounding!

If you don't want to do the alcohol, you could leave it out and just can the blueberries, but you don't know what you are missing ;).


 5.  Blanched and Frozen Kale (Use for dark greens)

I know that a lot of people end up with a LOT of kale up here if they grow it and this is how I use my bumper crop for winter.  I tried canning greens a long while ago, but found that it just wasn't worth the use of the jar as the greens shrunk so much, had to spend so much time in the canner that they'd come out tasting like mush and you'd pull out a tiny bit of green for the use of a big jar.  So, the last couple of years I've blanched and frozen my greens and it works great!  

Instructions can be found HERE.

6.  Ketchup Based BBQ Sauce.  Yes, using fresh tomatoes and such make a better quality of BBQ sauce, but when it comes to my lazy nature, using ketchup as the base for BBQ sauce (I use organic as I think it tastes better), works for me :).


7.  Victorian BBQ sauce or Rhubarb BBQ sauce (use for Rhubarb):

I fell in LOVE with this recipe last year and made it again this year.  If you add some liquid smoke to the final product you'll never know that it isn't traditional BBQ sauce (well it is chunkier).  GREAT stuff!

Check out the recipe HERE.



8.  Strawberry jam.  Kind of straight forward.  I made a recipe from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving that made a "strawberries on top" effect where you end up with strawberry jelly on the bottom and your solids kind of float to the top.  It's a neat effect.

There are TONS of strawberry jam recipes on line, so feel free to just google that one.

9.  Sauerkraut (use for cabbage)

I LOVE this recipe for sauerkraut because you ferment in the mason jars.  I do a couple of things different.  I half the water (I know weird right) during the fermentation stage.  It gives you a slight ferment to the cabbage instead of a major one when the ferment period is up.  And since you essentially double the salt during the ferment, the cabbage ends up coming out with a crunchy consistency instead of being mushy when it is all said and done.  It is AWESOME!

When your fermentation period is done, add your water to where it should be (in this case I had to add a half gallon of water back to the brine), heat to not quite boiling, jar up and process in a water bath canner 10 minutes per pint and 15 minutes per quart.  This definitely tastes better when you let it mellow for two months in the pantry.

The amount of sauerkraut above made 14 pints of sauerkraut when it was all said and done (I canned it yesterday). 


10.  Dehydrated celery (use for celery)

I grew some celery in my garden this year with all of these lofty plans to have ants on a log and other cool snacks with it.  Unfortunately the stalks never got big enough to do much with.  So, I decided I was just going to dehydrate it all.  Now I have celery leaf (which imparts a really good celery flavor believe it or not) and cut up pieces of celery stalk (the little jar on the right) to use in soups and other applications over the winter.  Worked really slick!

And there you go folks!  I am thinking about doing a couple of more jam type applications this year (to make into easy tarts and such later) and maybe some extra condiments, but for the most part, I'm done with winter prep for this year.  Hope you all had good luck putting up your stores for winter too!

Enjoy!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Put It Up (Winter Preparations) Part 2: Fireweed Jelly


Last year was my first year making things out of the prolifically growing flower (at least in the summer) that we know as Fireweed here in Alaska (and elsewhere).  When I realized all the uses for Fireweed, I got excited and made Fireweed jelly for the first time.  While a BIT of work (you have to harvest 8 cups of densely packed blossoms for the recipe I make), the jelly comes out a beautiful pink color and if done RIGHT (which I totally screwed up last year, listening to a recipe I found online and ended up with little crunchy bits of pectin in the jelly...not good eats by any means) it comes out with a taste that reminds me a bit of cranberries.

This year I decided to make fireweed jelly with one purpose.  Gifts for teachers for my son and daughter.  I figure it is a really nice gift that is classy and costs next to nothing to make.

The recipe I ended up tweaking and coming up with makes four 8 oz jars of jellly when done, but I've seen recipes that call for 8 cups of blossoms (make sure you use wet and packed blossoms to get that 8 cups so it turns out well) to make juice and you end up with a LOT more jelly, so use your judgement on how much you'd like to make, how strong a flavor you'd like, etc.

I use no sugar or low sugar added pectin for this recipe, but still use a typical amount of sugar in the recipe.  I've found this is kinda a fail safe for me (not a natural jelly maker am I) so that the jelly gets a nice hard set to it.

I also use refined white sugar for this as it's safe to use in canning and all agree it's okay to use.  If you want to make refined sugar free you could try using palm sugar or some other sugar for this, but I'd go for freezing it (use freezer pectin instead in place of the pectin called for in the recipe) as I'm not sure how well it'd can with other sugars involved.

So, here you go folks.  My recipe for fireweed jelly.  Enjoy!


Fireweed Jelly (adapted from Food.com.  Makes 4, 8 oz. jars)
  • 2 1/2 cups fireweed juice (recipe follows)
  • 1 1/2 tsp. lemon juice (fresh is best)
  • 3 TBS low sugar or no sugar pectin (or use one box of the pectin instead)
  • 3 cups sugar 
Combine pectin, lemon juice and fireweed juice (room temp) in a pan and whisk to combine (it takes a while to get the lumps of pectin worked out, but keep at it!).  Bring mixture to a boil over high heat.  Add sugar all at once and whisk to combine (once again, this is going to take some arm muscle, but it will combine, just keep at it).  Switch out your whisk for a wooden spoon (less heat conduction) and stir frequently until mixture comes back to a boil.  Boil hard for one minute (or, until the mixture sheets off the back of a spoon).

Fill hot, sterilized jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace.  Tighten lids to finger tight and place in a hot water bath canner for 10 minutes.  Turn off heat under canner and leave sit for five more minutes.  Remove jars to a dish towel or other insulated surface (to stop thermal shock...breaking jars are bad) and let sit until completely cool.  Check jar seals.  If a jar doesn't seal place in fridge and use immediately, but otherwise store in your pantry for up to one year.

Fireweed Juice
Ingredients:
  • 8 Cups wet tightly packed fireweed blossoms (only the blossoms)
  • Water
Place fireweed blossoms in a saucepan and fill up water level right below blossoms.

Boil until blossoms turn grey.

Strain mixture through a cheesecloth lined wire mesh strainer.

NOTE:  The juice should be a deep purple, not brown.  If your mixture is brown you used too much water.  Once you have a decent amount of juice you can then freeze it to use later or use to make jelly (I honestly like to freeze mine in a freezer bag to use later as it lets you harvest fireweed throughout the summer and get a large amount of jelly made at one time, if you want and I've also found it really helps to deepen the color of the juice...you'll be amazed how purple the juice gets in the freezer).

Add juice to measuring cup large enough to read 2 1/2 cups.  If there isn't quite enough juice, add water to bring up juice to the proper mark (this is where making a strong concentrated juice comes in handy, like with this recipe).  Use to make jelly.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Put It Up (Winter Preparations) Part 1: Canned Salsa

It was a busy (as in VERY busy) weekend around here.  It wasn't PLANNED to be quite as busy as it ended up being, but a forecast of frost completely changed the "hey, I'll get a few things put up from the garden" plans I'd had for the weekend.  So, Saturday and Sunday ended up being a time where you would have seen me scrambling to find all of my canning jars, getting my dishes done so I had unlimited access to the dishwasher and it's wonderful, "Sanitize" cycle and doing lots of lists and looking up of recipes. 

Some people showed an interest in learning how I "put things up" for winter around here, so I thought I'd share what I was up to around the house this weekend.

I used to do all kinds of elaborate canning every year, especially the last three or so as I got into the habit of giving canned goods as gifts.  This year, though, I decided I was scaling WAY back on holiday giving (mainly because of an extended period of unemployment for my husband and a hectic schedule around here), so that helped me to get my priorities straight on what I was going to can this year.  Basically?  I canned what I KNEW we'd use and that we actually go through every year.  And that, my friends, was it. 

Second, I decided about three years ago that I just plain did NOT have time, with Alvah's various needs and his want to get into everything while my back was turned, to babysit a pressure canner for ages, so everything I canned this year and the last couple of years, has been JUST water bath canning.  It's just so much easier to slap a lid on a water bath canner, set your timer and be able to chase a child around the house, then worrying about if your pressure is going to creep up or down past where you need it to be.

I will be sharing other "methods" for preserving things for the winter that don't involve canning, but I thought I'd start out with a "recipe" (which isn't really a recipe of mine at all) that is perfect for beginning canners and is something that I get compliments on whenever someone tries it.  Salsa!

I ended up giving a bunch of salsa away to family when my son was first diagnosed with a garlic allergy years ago and since then have had a bunch of compliments about how everyone loved it and asking me for my secret recipe.  Well folks, the "secret" is officially out of the bag, literally ;).


This is the secret to my salsa success.  Mrs. Wages Salsa Mix.  I get mine at Fred Meyer (where it's a lot cheaper than what they're charging on Amazon).

Now, I did research and contacted the company.  This mix IS gluten free and dairy free, but if corn allergic or something I  have no idea what the cross contamination is like when it comes to corn products (since I know this company makes things like pie filling with modified food starch in it), so just wanted to bring that to people's attention. 

The mix is really easy to use.  You can even use canned tomatoes (which is what I do) and you just throw the packet into the pot with petite diced tomatoes (I use organic because I personally think organic tomatoes taste a lot better, especially in the canned varieties) and 1/2 cup of vinegar, boil for the allotted amount of time, put into your sterilized hot jars and process for like 40 minutes in a water bath canner and voila!  You have salsa!

You can also freeze said salsa too (they have directions on the back of the packet that covers all of that).  The mix makes five pints, which is usually enough to see us through the winter (I have been known to pick up another packet and make more salsa in the spring if we need it).

The ease of making the salsa, especially with canned tomatoes (look at Costco for cheap organic canned tomatoes!) just makes this the simplest thing, for me, to can every year.  And easy is always good!

Oh and just as a word or warning from someone who made this mistake last year.  Do NOT can salsa in the pretty blue Ball jars they came out with last year.  The mixture looks...well we'll just say "gross" in the blue jars and leave it at that. 

It sure does look pretty in the green jars that they came out with this year, though (seen above).  Anyway, just wanted to share some aesthetic points there ;).
 
Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Bento Box It: The Teddy Bears' Picnic (gluten free, cow dairy free) With Recipes!

"...Every teddy bear, that's been good
Is sure of a treat today
There's lots of wonderful things to eat
And wonderful games to play

Beneath the trees, where nobody sees
They'll hide and seek as long as they please
Today's the day the teddy bears have their picnic..."  Excerpt from "Teddy Bears' Picnic" Nursery Rhyme


Today's Bento Box is inspired directly from an old nursery rhyme that I, like many other parents, used to sing to their children (well in MY case I used to sing like the above verse and the chorus because I didn't know the entire song *laugh*).

My daughter wanted teddy bears in her lunch.  Yeah, I don't get it either, but hey, I'm never one to shirk from a challenge as I've said before.  So, I came up with a way to get her "noodles" (her other request) and teddy bears in her lunch at the same time.

The "treat" in this lunch came in the form of home made gelatin jigglers.  I made mine out of an orange mango juice blend I had in the fridge, but you can make this out of any juice you have around (I like cherry juice in these). 

I used grassfed gelatin in ours, which gives a minor "gamey" type of aftertaste to it, but if you are using Knox gelatin, just shake out 1/2 a TBS from an envelope and you should be set.

The meatballs with the spaghetti have a secrete ingredient.  Cassava chip crumbs.  I use Crisproot chips because they don't have anything funky in the ingredients (the plain flavored ones), but feel free to sub out gluten free bread crumbs or other things you might have around.  You can also omit the crumbs and the egg, but be aware that it will make the meatballs more prone to being dry.

Enjoy!

Let's break it down by level shall we?

Home Made Gelatin Jigglers (gluten, dairy, egg, nut free)
Ingredients:
Procedure:
  1. Pour 1/3 Cup of the juice (cold or room temp...NOT HOT!)  into a small bowl and sprinkle with gelatin.  Stir to combine.  Let sit for 10 minutes.
  2. Pour remaining 1/3 cup juice into a pan and bring to a simmer over medium low heat.
  3. Pour hot juice into juice and gelatin mixture.  Whisk to combine.  Pour gelatin into a mold (I used a 6" diameter Pyrex flat bottomed bowl for this, but you could try using even a large plate with a deep lip on it.  If you want to make a 9x9 type of pan of these, I'd double this recipe as I'm not sure how far 2/3 of a cup of jello is going to go for you.  You can also use a variety of gelatin molds for this project as well.
  4. Put gelatin mixture in fridge and let sit for at least 3 hours, preferably over night.
  5. Remove gelatin sheet from pan (I just jiggled mine around with my hand while it was upside down and it popped right out) and use a Teddy Bear Cookie Cutter to cut out Teddy Bear Shapes.  Place in bento in a silicone baking cup.
And now on the top floor we have spaghetti and meatballs.  By the way, the flowers are a hard sheep's cheese I bought that I just cut out fun shapes in.  The cheese tastes like parmesan cheese, so I figured it went with spaghetti pretty well.  Armina said the cheese melted over the spaghetti when she microwaved it in class and she liked it, so success there!

Freezer Mini Meatballs (gluten free, dairy free)

Ingredients:
  • 1 lb lean ground beef (you could also use turkey or chicken for this, or whatever meat you have around)
  • 1/2 cup smashed into crumbs CrispRoot Cassava Chips, Sea Salt (I found mine at Fred Meyer)
  • 1 TBS ketchup
  • 1 TBS mustard
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder (omit if garlic allergic and add 1 tsp. onion powder)
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Italian herb seasoning
  • Pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1 egg
Procedure:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Mix all ingredients in a bowl.  Form meat into 1 inch balls and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. 
  3. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked all the way through. 
  4. Let cool to nearly room temperature and then place meatballs in a freezer bag.  Freeze for up to 3 months.
  5. When ready to add to bento, remove the amount of meatballs you need (in this case it was four) and either place on spaghetti frozen (which I did since my daughter has a microwave in her classroom to heat up the spaghetti) or microwave for 20 seconds or so to warm up and then place in bento.

And just as an aside, I may be developing a unhealthy obsession with bento picks.  Aren't the Leaf picks just adorable!?!

So, have fun making your own Teddy Bear Picnic today!!!

Note:  The bento box used in this bento is Urara Red Rabbit 2 Tier Japanese Bento Box.


Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Breakfast With Hello Kitty Bento Box (Gluten, dairy free, refined sugar free)

So today's "featured" bento is based on one of my daughter's many likes in the world.  Hello Kitty.  My daughter has shirts, sheet sets, DVD's...you name it.  I don't really mind her liking Hello Kitty (well I do have to admit I find the DVD's more than a little boring) as I think the Hello Kitty merchandise in particular is cute.

I had planned on doing all kinds of different character bento this week, but life got in the way.  We had a very busy, and unexpected, weekend with things breaking around here that needed to be repaired quickly (like our water line), so doing lunch prep for the coming week?  Yeah, that didn't happen.  So it was bentos just packed with gluten free chicken nuggets, grapes and carrots...things like that...in the way of lunch.

Yesterday, however, my son didn't have therapy due to his therapist having a class, so I got down to business and actually got some meal prep DONE!  It's a wonderful feeling!  And so this morning I was prepared to tackle another character bento.

And so, here you go, Hello Kitty fans!  Have breakfast with Hello Kitty the next time you want something different!

Let's take it by level.  Here's the two levels together...

First for the top level.

 
On the "top floor" as it were we have Hello Kitty sitting on a bed of scrambled eggs with some hearts surrounding her as if to say, "have a great day, I love you".  I also put a small container of maple syrup (that's what is in the container there) and the few left over pieces of Applegate sausage around the box so they didn't go to waste.

Hello Kitty and the hearts are made of french toast (recipe follows the bento explanation as does the scrambled egg recipe) and her bow is just some home made strawberry rhubarb jam that I made into a bow like shape with a small spoon.  Her eyes and nose are tiny pieces of black olive (take a toothpick and put an indentation into the surface of the french toast and then push your black olives into place.  It's actually pretty easy).  Trust me the pieces of black olive are so small your kiddo won't even know they are there when they eat their lunch.

And now for the other level...

This level was kind of hard to make the photo turn out well.  I put a silicone cupcake liner on one side of the box and put two strawberries and a grape inside of it.  I then placed a grape in the upper corner of the box to pinch the cupcake liner in around the strawberries and voila!  You have a heart filled with fruit.  I then placed some french toast sticks underneath the rest of the sausage links.  The sausage links are actually cut into the shape of rabbits, but you can't really see it in the photo because the picture blends in with the sausage texture (sorry about that).  Rest assured they are cute :).

Want to make this box for your little ones?  Here's the materials and recipes I used.

French Toast (gluten and dairy free) 

Ingredients:
  • 4 pieces gluten free bread (I used home made bread for this, but Udi's or other bread will work too) 
  • 1 Whole egg (if you want super rich french toast, add another egg yolk) 
  • 1 cup (or more) almond milk (or other milk of choice)
  • 1 tsp. gluten free vanilla extract 2 tsp. (or more) cinnamon
Everyone has their own way of making french toast.  Honestly, I eyeball the milk and the vanilla extract and usually add extra cinnamon (since it tends to float to the top of the french toast mixture)...but do it how you feel comfortable.

Procedure:
  1. Whisk egg, milk, vanilla and cinnamon in a vessel wide enough to encompass your slices of bread (I use a small, but wide bottomed, Pyrex storage bowl for this).  Butter your pan with some ghee or non-dairy oil (lightly).  
  2. Soak bread on both sides in the egg mixture and place in pan over medium heat.   
  3. Cook until both sides are golden.  If the toast starts to burn, turn down heat to medium low (I've noticed gluten free bread tends to need a bit longer to soak in the egg mixture and a bit longer to cook over a lower heat to get the right consistency, compared to gluten containing bread). 
  4. Chill french toast until cool and then cut out your cute shapes for your bento (I actually made the french toast yesterday).
The next morning make your scrambled eggs.


Scrambled Eggs (gluten, dairy free)

Ingredients:
  • 1 Egg
  • Splash of Almond Milk (about a half tablespoons worth)
  • Dash of salt (I use sea salt)
Procedure:
  1. Whisk egg, almond milk and salt in a small bowl.  
  2. Place in non-stick pan over medium heat.  
  3. Start moving the eggs around with a wooden spoon or other utensil (I use a silicone spatula for this).  Once eggs look like they are JUST done, evacuate to a plate immediately to cool for a few minutes and then scoop into your bento box.
Just as a side note I LOVE the little bento box that I used for this bento.  Why?  Because if you turn it sideways it fits perfectly into a lunch box (I use the traditional McKenzie Lunchboxes from Pottery Barn Kids) and you still have room to stack a couple of ice packs on top of it, some utensils (I got the fork and spoon combo that Pottery Barn Kids sells to go with their bento box insert for said lunch box...pretty cool actually).  The one drawback to the bento when you buy it is that it doesn't come with a bento strap (a fancy looking elastic band), but just go and pick up some heavy duty hair elastics and you're good to go.

Other materials used for the bento box seen above are as follows (contains affiliate links):
Hello Kitty Rice mold (just use the bottom part for a cutter) 
Urara Red Rabbit 2 Tier Japanese Bento Box 
Wilton Nesting Heart Cutter Set 
Pantry Elements Silicone Baking Cups - Set of 12 Reusable Cupcake Liners in six colors 
Japanese Bento Cute Food Wiener Cutter, Laughing Rabbit
Enjoy!

Note:  Hello Kitty is owned by Sanrio corporation.  I in no way imply any claim to her character or merchandise right.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Bento Box It! Peter Rabbit (Gluten free, cow dairy free)


And so the start of school came again today.  The first day of school for me is always kind of bittersweet.  I am always pleased to see the return of school as I know my son needs the social interaction (not to mention my daughter), but at the same time I hate to see my kids go...I actually do enjoy them being home.

As far as goals for this school year went, the main one I had for my daughter was to keep her stomach aches at bay as much as humanly possible.  So, logically, I figure that getting her to eat as balanced of a diet can only help with that goal.

So, I sat and tried to figure out how to get her to do just that as she's a very picky eater.  And I kind of stumbled across the idea of Bento.

What is bento?  It's a Japanese way of packing food that makes the food as appealing to the eye as it is to the taste buds.  Basically, you pack small boxes as crammed full of food (which equals out to a light meal for an adult or a decent meal for a child) and you make the food look cute!  And this usually revolves around some type of theme for the box in question.

I completely fell in love with this idea.  I'm a complete art nerd that used to sit in on art classes in college just to learn more about art, so the idea of doing basically edible art everyday?  I think I found my dream job *laugh*.

So, today, I decided to do a bento based on a series that my children and I have loved for years.  We found a DVD collection of the "World of Peter Rabbit and Friends" at Costco when my daughter was still pretty young and Armina went nuts for it.  I've actually had to put the DVD's through the repair cycle a few times just because we have played those DVD's THAT much.  I fell in love with the beautiful animation and the fact that the series was so true to the Beatrix Potter stories I used to read as a child (and have read to my children).

So, when it came to the first day of school and the first Bento box I was going to do, I had to tackle Peter Rabbit and his story!

So, for those not in the know *clears throat and puts on her narrator voice*:  There once was four little rabbits.  Flopsy, Mopsy, Cottontail and Peter.  Their mother went to the baker one day and told the children that they could go down the lane and gather blackberries, but to stay out of Mr. McGregor's garden as Peter's father had been turned into a pie by Mrs. McGregor at some point earlier in history.

Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail, who were good little bunnies, went down the lane to gather blackberries.  But Peter, who was very naughty, went straight away to Mr. McGregor's garden and squeezed under the gate.  There the little guy gorged himself on a variety of Mr. McGregor's vegetables until he gave himself quite the stomach ache.  When he went looking for a bit of parsley to settle his stomach he didn't find parsley, but Mr. McGregor instead!  Thus a series of adventures followed in which Peter escaped the garden, barely, with his skin in tact.

Peter got home late for supper and missing his clothes (they'd gotten lost in his mad run through the garden) and his mother sent him to bed with chamomile tea, and that was it, as punishment.  His good siblings, however,  got to eat blackberries and cream for dinner.

So, to sum up the story in bento here we go!

So let's break it down by level (the box is shaped like a strawberry and stacks.

On the top, wider level we find Peter on one side of the "gate" hiding in the garden surrounded by carrots cut in the shape of flowers and I have some sweet peas stuck around him underneath.  On  the other side we find two of Peter's siblings (the third didn't fit), smiling from their "safe" side of the gate.

All of the rabbits are ham and cheese sandwiches made with Udi's white bread (the only bread my daughter will currently eat, or I would have used home made), gluten free and nitrate free ham and non-cow dairy cheese.  Peter's face is made with cut up black olives and his siblings eyes and nose are made with black olives while their mouth and cheeks are little bits of ketchup (Annie's Organic ketchup as it is safe with my children's allergies) that I painted on with a toothpick.

The "gate" is just a paper cupcake liner that I cut the bottom off of and then folded into the bento box as a separator.  Lining both levels of the bento I used lettuce as I figure it's pretty and edible.

Next is the top level...



Where I finished up the story so to speak.  I didn't have blackberries, but I did have fresh raspberries from the bushes in my yard, so I put those in a silicone cupcake liner.  The container next to it is filled with "cream" which is...

Sweet "Cream" for Raspberries
Ingredients:
  • 1 to 2 TBS coconut cream (depending on size of container you want to fill)
  • 1/2 tsp. honey (or more to taste)
  • 1/8 tsp. vanilla extract
Procedure:
Mix all in small bowl and place in a small container for dipping raspberries (or they could just spoon the cream over the top of the raspberries).   

The container I used is a small Tupperware container I found a while ago, but I know that it doesn't leak.  Since my coconut cream was kind of liquidy, I used this container to be safe that it wouldn't leak on everything, so just be careful with the container you use for the cream so it doesn't leak all over the rest of the food!  And don't put sugar on your raspberries, or they'll start to break down and you'll end up with a watery mess in your lunch box.  Just a public service announcement there.

I also made some flowers out of a center of goat's milk cheddar that I wrapped ham around to make "ham roses".  You can't really see them that well in the photo, but they turned out pretty cute.  Just take some cheese, cut it into small chunks and then tear ham into strips and wrap around the cheese until the desired thickness of "flower" is reached.  The rabbit in the picture is actually a small fork to use to eat the raspberries and the ham roses.

The rest of the box I filled with some sugar snap peas that I cut up and some small sprigs of broccoli.  I would have put a sprig of parsley in there for kicks, but my son was up pretty much all of last night, so going outside for a sprig of parsley?  Yeah, that wasn't going to happen.

For the sake of simplicity for those who might want to re-create this, here is the materials I used for this!
The Box:  Pink Strawberry Shaped 2 Tier Bento Box

The Rabbit "cutter" I used (I used the bottom part):  Hello Kitty Rabbit Rice mold

The Rabbit Fork/Pick:  CuteZCute Bento Food Pick, 8-Piece, 4 Designs, Animal Fork

The cupcake liner:  Pantry Elements Silicone Baking Cups - Set of 12
The vegetable cutter for carrot flowers:  Stainless Steel Vegetable Cutters

I hope your children are doing okay at school this year as well!

Enjoy

Note:  The world of Peter Rabbit and all of his comrades belongs to someone and that someone isn't me.  I make no claim to them at all. 

Note:  This post contains affiliate links.  I am a proud Amazon.com associate, and if you order through the links on this post I get a small amount of money from Amazon as a way to thank me for spreading the word about their products.  The opinions and feedback about said products, however, are entirely my own.