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Category: Recipes

  1. Wednesday, July 11, 2018

    How to Cook Fresh Masa Tortillas

    Side view of homemade fresh masa corn tortillas

    Several years ago I had the chance to do a walking tour of the Mission District in San Francisco with Rick Bayless. It is one of the coolest things I’ve done and I learned a ton about Mexican cuisine. (Seriously, the Rick Bayless is like a college professor.) One of the topics he covered was tortillas. He took us to a tortilleria where they make their tortillas from fresh masa. These tortillas were like nothing I had every tasted before. Rick explained the difference between maseca and fresh masa and talked probably for 15-20 minutes just about tortillas. I’ve been meaning to act on what I learned since that day but only recently tracked down a fresh masa source in my neighborhood. Man, I wish I had done it sooner because these tortillas. And now that I have cooked them many times I am going to share the magic with you! Today you will learn how to cook fresh masa tortillas and as well as why they are so magical.

    A Wee Bit of Masa History

    I’ve done a lot of reading about masa, corn and tortillas over the last couple of months. The short story is that in ancient Mesoamerica, people processed corn using nixtamilization, where corn is soaked in an alkaline solution and then washed and hulled. This process makes corn a complete nutrient. Interestingly, when Europeans brought corn home they neglected to learn nixtamilization, which in turn made European diets less nutritious. Crazy, huh? Meanwhile in the Americas masa and corn tortillas were a nutritious staple in many people’s diets.

    Side view of a bowl of fresh corn masa

    Fast forward to the 1980s. Masa-based tortillas were still the norm in Mexico until a company called Maseca came along. Maseca created masa flour, basically a flour made from masa. It’s more efficient and shelf stable but does not taste nearly as good as fresh masa. In the beginning Maseca did not do well in Mexico because the taste just couldn’t compare, but in 1988 the new president of Mexico helped the company in significant ways and transformed the Mexican tortilla industry. Today it is more common for tortillas to be made from maseca, which is a crying shame. (Click here to read more about this culinary and economic transformation, it’s fascinating.)

    Top view of a bowl of fresh masaPhoto of homemade fresh masa corn tortillas

    Why Fresh Masa Is So Much Better for Tortillas

    Okay, so back to Rick Bayless. The tortilleria we visited in San Francisco used masa and you could tasted the difference. I have a hard time describing fresh masa tortillas I will try. The difference comes through both in texture and taste. Fresh masa tortillas are more like a flatbread. But as soon as I say that I regret it because they are still like tortillas, but the texture is just so much better. And the flavor is unreal. The kids and I can eat them straight up with a bit of butter (and honey!) and be happy. But of course the tortillas want to be tacos and so we make them tacos! Rick explained that one of the reasons he opened Frontera Grill in Chicago was because there were tortilla makers in that city using fresh masa and he needed a ready source of masa-based tortillas for his restaurant. The tortillas were that important to him when starting his restaurant.

    Homemade fresh masa tortilla with butter and honeyTop view of fresh masa tortillas, one with butter and honey

    How to Cook Fresh Masa Tortillas

    Rick converted me to fresh masa tortillas, but how in the world would I make them at home? You can make your own fresh masa from dried corn – the blog Mexican Please blog has a great recipe and tutorial. However this is a time-consuming process, one which I am not apt to go through on a regular basis. If you are lucky like me and live in range of many Mexican restaurants and tortillerias, chances are one of them makes and sells fresh masa. I searched the map then called places to find out if they sold fresh masa. My source here in North County San Diego is El Nopalito. They sell fresh masa for tortillas for about $1 a pound.

    Side view of tacos using homemade tortillas made from fresh masa

    If you want to make fresh masa tortillas, start digging around to see if you, too, can find a masa source. It is worth the effort to find masa! If you come up empty and feel like a fun food project, maybe give making masa from scratch a shot. But keep in mind I have never done that myself and can’t vouch for the results (although I’m sure it would be delicious)!

    top view of tacos using fresh masa tortillas

    Okay, so you have fresh masa in hand. Now what? In the recipe below I describe in detail the process for how to cook fresh masa tortillas. I’ve made them many times and finally have it down. I will write the instructions as detailed as I can but keep in mind there’s a bit of a learning curve and you just have to dive in and do it to get the hang of it. You’ll get the feel for how to form and cook the tortillas as you cook more of them. If you have questions, just drop them in the comments below! Happy tortilla cooking!

    Process for forming tortillas from fresh masaFresh masa corn tortillas cooking in the pan

    How to Cook Fresh Masa Tortillas
     
    Author:
    Serves: 12-16
    Ingredients
    • 1 pound fresh masa
    • 1 teaspoon kosher salt (if masa is unsalted)
    Instructions
    1. When working with the fresh masa, make sure it is kept covered or in a plastic bag the whole time so that it doesn't dry out while you are cooking.
    2. Form balls about 2 tablespoons in size, pressing the ball together well and rolling it between your hands to smooth the outside of the ball. I use my medium Pampered Chef scoop to measure out the balls. I also make the dough balls as I cook them, but if you want to form all the balls at once, just make sure you are storing them covered until they are ready to cook.
    3. Cut a quart-sized ziploc bag down the two side seams to form a long, rectangular piece of plastic. I use freezer bags because the thicker plastic holds up longer. I also wash the bag after each use and store it with my tortilla press.
    4. Place half of the plastic on the press, then place a masa dough ball in the center, then fold over the plastic to cover the dough. Gently but firmly press the ball into a tortilla shape. You want to get the tortilla as thin as you can but if you go too thin it will be hard to get off the plastic. It may take a few times to get the feel for it but don't fret, if you mess up just re-roll the ball and start over! If you do have a tortilla stick to the plastic, you may need to wipe the plastic down before trying again. My friend Mindy found it helpful to use a little spray oil on the plastic to prevent sticking, which could be helpful as you start working with the dough.
    5. If you don't have a tortilla press, you can use a glass casserole dish - just put the dough ball in the plastic then firmly press down on the dough. Glass is nice because you can see how thin the tortilla is getting as you press. Just be sure to press evenly down so the tortilla is the same thickness throughout.
    6. Preheat a large frying pan (I use non-stick, but a well-seasoned cast iron skillet should work, too) over medium-high heat. Let it preheat for a good five minutes before you start cooking the tortillas. On my stove medium-high works, but your stove may be a little different. You want the pan quite hot and you'll get a feel for it after you try it the first few times.
    7. Once the pan is hot, place your formed tortilla in the pan and let it cook for about 30 seconds then flip it over. If it is sticking to the pan that means it needs to cook a little longer. I like to do this first flip as early as possible so that the top uncooked side doesn't get too dried out before it finally gets a chance to start cooking on the griddle. After the first flip, let the tortilla cook for a minute or two, flip it back to the original side and cook for another minute or two. The tortilla will looked "cooked" when it's done - non-gummy, dry and potentially browned in spots. It's okay if the tortilla puffs up with air! I use a pancake flipper to flip the tortillas.
    8. Serve immediately. If you can't serve immediately, store in a tortilla warmer. As they sit they will get less crispy and a bit gummy, the best way to reheat is right on the pan. I generally make the tortillas as everyone is eating, but my family is also fine with tortillas that have been sitting in the tortilla warmer for a few minutes. I can cook 3 tortillas at a time on my 12-inch pan, so the cooking goes quickly.

     

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    EQUIPMENT I USED TO MAKE THIS RECIPE:


  2. Thursday, June 7, 2018

    Kitchen Sink Orzo Bowls

    These kitchen sink orzo bowls are delicious and a new favorite go-to dinner option in our house, super flexible and you can use whatever ingredients you have lying about…you know, everything but the kitchen sink!

    Kitchen Sink Orzo Bowls, a comforting, nutritious and delicious go-to dinner recipe

    Last week when I went to the farmer’s market I had no idea what I was going to be making for dinner that night (despite having a meal plan ready…yeah, sometimes I don’t follow it, I’m only human). I decided to see what vegetables I could find at the market and go from there. Then I came home, rummaged through the cabinets and fridge and discovered a package of whole wheat orzo. The result of all this searching and finding is today’s recipe, kitchen sink orzo bowls.

    Easy and tasty kitchen sink orzo bowl recipe

    This is a very flexible recipe. Pretty much the only ingredient you have to have is orzo! Olive oil, onions, tomatoes, salt and pepper are also pretty necessary, too, but beyond that you can throw all kinds of yummy veggies and even chicken or fish with success. As a result of all this flexibility, I don’t have any measurements for you on this recipe. I’ll describe the technique and the approximate amounts of ingredients I used and then I encourage you to take this recipe and make it your own. And your own version will probably even change depending on the season or what is in your fridge on a particular day.

    Recipe for Kitchen Sink Orzo Bowls - use whatever you have in the kitchen to make this delicious go-to dinner

    The final result is a very homey, tasty dish, reminiscent of a classic casserole but much healthier. If you’re craving risotto but don’t feel like cooking risotto, this is a great alternative, providing a similar texture and flavor without the long cooking process. Enjoy!

    Kitchen Sink Orzo Bowls
     
    Author:
    Ingredients
    • Whole wheat orzo pasta (Definitely go whole wheat here! It's more nutritious and tastes the same! My favorite brand is Delallo Organic.)
    • Olive oil, a few tablespoons
    • Onion, about ¼-1/2 of an onion chopped
    • 2 cloves garlic, pressed through a garlic press
    • Cherry Tomatoes, halved, above one pint (you could also chop appx. 2 whole tomatoes)
    • Fresh vegetables, whatever you have lying around (I used 2 fresh summer squash)
    • Cooked chicken, chopped or shredded depending on your preference (About 1-2 chicken breasts' or a few thighs' worth of meat, I like the chicken to be grilled)
    • Dry white wine, ¼-1/2 cup or so (optional)
    • White balsamic vinegar, a few tablespoons (optional)
    • Pasta water, reserve 2-3 cups
    • Salt and Pepper
    • Spices and herbs if you like: parsley, oregano, basil are all good options (optional)
    Instructions
    1. Prepare orzo pasta as directed on the package. Drain, reserving 2-3 cups of the pasta water, and then set aside both the water and the orzo. I used about ¾ of a package of Delallo Whole Wheat Orzo to feed our family of 5 with some leftovers.
    2. In a deep, 12-inch skillet heat olive oil over medium heat. Add chopped onions and cook a few minutes until translucent.
    3. Add fresh garlic and cook, stirring, about 30-60 seconds. Add the chopped tomatoes. Reduce heat to medium low and let mixture cook for 5-10 minutes to really get the tomatoes to cook down.
    4. If using wine, add it now and cook about 5 minutes. Add vegetables and cook a few minutes until the veggies are al dente. (If you are using vegetables like carrots that take longer to cook, steam them ahead of time and just heat through at this point in the recipe.) If you aren't using wine and need a little more fluid in the pan, just add another swig or two of olive oil.
    5. Add the orzo to the pan. Add the white balsamic vinegar and then start adding pasta water about ½ cup at a time until you get a nice, creamy consistency. Salt and pepper to taste, adding herbs and spices if you choose. I simply used salt and pepper and it tasted great!

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  3. Friday, May 18, 2018

    Friday Show and Tell: Joy’s Red Beans and Rice + the Chompers Podcast

    Happy Friday! I have two quick things to share today. These two things are awesome. Ready?

    Joy the Baker's Red Beans and Rice Recipe

    Joy’s New Orleans-Style Red Beans and Rice

    When I went to New Orleans about 347 years ago I bought a bag of Camellia Red Kidney Beans, a New Orleans classic. And then I came home and put the beans in the pantry. And then I didn’t do anything with them in forever and the beans were sad. But now they’re happy because they finally made it into a pot. One of my blogging friends Joy the Baker moved to New Orleans a few years ago and has a recipe for Red Beans and Rice on her site. I trust Joy, so I decided to give her recipe a try.

    Oh goodness I really loved this dinner. Joy’s Red Beans & Rice are delicious. And I didn’t change the recipe at all, which means I’m just gonna go ahead and send you on over to her site! (Okay, I did double the amount of pancetta and sausage, a decision I firmly stand by. We also served it over brown rice, which worked great.)

    Also, people from New Orleans say you have to use Camellia’s Red Kidney Beans. And you can buy them online so there really is no reason not to.

    Also, I bought a canister of Tony Chachere’s Famous Creole Seasoning for this recipe and have since used it three times on other foodstuffs, too. So, that is also a worthy investment.

    Chompers, the kids' tooth brushing podcast that rocks

    Chompers Podcast

    If you have any kids in your life that you have any kind of influence over then you need to keep reading. CHOMPERS IS THE GREATEST THING EVER. What is Chompers, you ask? It is a twice-daily podcast show for kids that teaches them how to brush their teeth and gets them to brush for a full 2 minutes. They tell jokes, share facts, do quizzes…the list goes on. It’s the best. Owen, our 6 year old, especially loves it and has listened to the Chompers podcast twice a day every day since we discovered it. And he totally brushes the whole 2 minutes every time.

    Seriously, go subscribe STAT. (I hear even some adults listen to the podcast to make sure they get their full 2 minutes of brushing in, too!) Click here to visit the Chompers website or simply subscribe wherever you get your podcasts.


  4. Thursday, May 10, 2018

    Pressure Cooker Pot Roast

    So. I’ve been making pot roast in a slow cooker for ages. The recipe is simple, reliable and delicious. I didn’t think anything could ever replace that recipe. And then, this week, I tried making pot roast in my Instant Pot, using the pressure cooker settings. Whoah, boy, pressure cooker pot roast just replaced slow cooker pot roast. Quite frankly I’m stunned by this upset. But I’m happy about it just the same.

    How to make pot roast in a pressure cooker

    I bought an Instant Pot I think three years ago and, until last month, had used it only once. I tried cooking basic chicken using the pressure cooker function and it worked, well, fine. It didn’t blow me out of the water, and so the Instant Pot got pushed to the back of the cabinet. And then my friend Christine mentioned a few weeks ago how she loves making brown rice in the pressure cooker. So I dug it out and started experimenting.

    Recipe for pressure cooker pot roast

    As of today I am so-so on brown rice (I just haven’t perfected that process yet) and in love with making beans in the pressure cooker (I’ll share that recipe another day, it took some tweaking but I finally have it where I like it). And then I decided to try pot roast. HUGE SUCCESS. It tasted the same as my slow cooker pot roast and, top to bottom, took about 2 hours instead of the usual 8-9 hours.

    I will say this – I can totally see instances where cooking the pot roast for 8 hours will be more convenient based on my schedule for a particular day. But what is so glorious is now I have two options, 2 hours or 8 hours, with equally delicious results. Hooray for pressure cooker pot roast!

    Pressure cooker pot roast, my new favorite way to make pot roast!

    I took my inspiration for this pot roast from my friend Barbara from Pressure Cooking Today. She is my pressure cooker guru. You need to bookmark her site pronto if you have a pressure cooker or Instant Pot. You’re welcome. (Click here for Barbara’s pot roast recipe, which has a few more ingredients than my version below.)

    Pressure Cooker Pot Roast
     
    Prep time
    Cook time
    Total time
     
    Simple, easy and delicious! Instructions below are based on using an Instant Pot.
    Author:
    Serves: 6-8
    Ingredients
    • 1 chuck, chuck-eye, or round roast (around 4 pounds)
    • 1-2 tablespoons canola, vegetable or olive oil
    • Salt and pepper
    • ½ of an onion, chopped
    • 2 cups beef broth or stock
    Instructions
    1. Sprinkle roast evenly with salt and pepper. Set aside.
    2. Select the "Browning" setting on the Instant Pot. Add oil to Instant Pot and let heat up. Once hot, brown the roast on both sides, a few minutes per side until you start to get beautiful browned spots. Set roast aside.
    3. Add onions to the Instant Pot and cook until softened and translucent. Stir regularly.
    4. Add the chopped onions to the oil in the pot. Cook, stirring occasionally until softened, about 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and mushrooms and cook, stirring constantly, about 3 minutes. Stir in broth and simmer until slightly reduced, about 3 minutes. Scrape up all the browned bits stuck on the bottom of the pot while broth is simmering.
    5. Add roast and change Instant Pot setting to High pressure. Make sure the pressure release handle is on "Sealing." Set the timer for 90 minutes. It will take about 15 minutes for the pot to build pressure and for the 90-minute countdown to begin.
    6. When the 90 minutes is over, turn off the pressure cooker and let it sit for 15 minutes, letting pressure release naturally. At the 15-minute mark, using a hot pad and being careful not to touch the steam, turn the pressure release handle to "Venting" to release the rest of the pressure. Once it stops steaming, remove the lid.
    7. Let roast rest for 10-15 minutes. Use juices for gravy, straining the juice first to remove the "stuff" left behind in the juices. Make gravy using white roux (click here for recipe and instructions). You can also use a slurry made from ½ cup flour whisked with 1 cup cold water to thicken the gravy if you forgot to make the roux.

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  5. Wednesday, April 25, 2018

    Lentil Rice Bowl with Lime-Tahini Dressing

    Today I have a recipe to share with you that is now my favorite. It’s a lentil rice bowl with lime-tahini dressing. That may or may not sound good to you, but no matter what you are thinking right now I promise you will like it. Well, okay, there may be someone out there not down for the lentil rice bowl but I kind of doubt it.

    Last week I had a photography job in Orange County. I needed to grab lunch on the road and noticed a place called CAVA. Now that I’m not eating wheat, dairy and sugar and my diet is still quite strict (waiting to get that allergy testing done!), eating out is tricky. CAVA looked like it could be promising so I decided to give it a try. I am so glad that I did, I love this restaurant!

    Recipe for Lentil Rice Bowl with Lime-Tahini Dressing from This Week for Dinner. Healthy and delicious!

    Heartbreakingly, we do not have a CAVA restaurant anywhere near my house. (Insert trombone.) I think the best way to describe CAVA is that it is essentially a Mediterranean-inspired Chipotle. You create a bowl, choosing your grains, greens, proteins, veggies, etc. While there were ingredients that did have wheat and dairy, there were plenty that did not. There was so much to choose from it made me happy! I ended up creating a lentil rice bowl with lime-tahini dressing and was, quite frankly, surprised how much I liked it.

    I had a bit of my bowl left over when I picked up Owen from school. He ended up stealing the rest of my lunch…I have never seen him inhale unidentified vegetables and grains that way! For the last week he has been begging me to recreate the bowl at home, so last night I gave it a go.

    Recipe for Lentil Rice Bowl with Lime-Tahini Dressing from This Week for Dinner, delicious and healthy dinner that makes great leftovers!

    This is my new favorite meal. It took some effort to get all the ingredients prepared, but the final dish was worth it. And now I have a fridge full of ingredients I can easily throw together for lunch or leftover dinner this week.

    Nutritious and delicious recipe for Lentil Rice Bowls with Lime-Tahini Dressing from This Week for DInner

    I did include leftover rotisserie chicken in our bowls to use it up, but you could easily leave the meat out and the bowl would be just as delicious…and completely plant based! Yay for delicious vegan food! (Update: the last time Nate and I ate this, we decided it really truly does not need chicken. This bowl is hearty and filling and delicious without meat.)

    Animated GIF showing how to create a Lentil Rice Bowl with Lime-Tahini Dressing from This Week for Dinner

    I am going to list below exactly how I built our bowls. Obviously you can mix and match ingredients or come up with your own creation. The CAVA menu provides some pretty great cooking inspiration, click here to check it out. (CAVA also has locations in 9 states as well as Washington D.C. If you live near one, I highly recommend it. Go and enjoy it for me!)

    Lentil Rice Bowl with Lime-Tahini Dressing
     
    Author:
    Ingredients
    • Brown Rice
    • Lentils (Green, Brown and/or Black)
    • Cooked chicken, bite-sized pieces (leave out to make this dish vegan)
    • Carrots, diced
    • Golden beets, diced
    • Cauliflower, bite-sized pieces
    • Super or Power Greens, chopped (I bought a mix from the grocery store produce section)
    • Broccoli Slaw (no dressing, again, I bought a mix from the grocery store produce section)
    • Hummus
    • Chimichurri sauce
    • 3 handfuls grape tomatoes, chopped
    • 1 cucumber, chopped
    • Olive oil
    • 3 limes
    • ⅓ cup tahini (stir well before using)
    • ⅓ cup water
    • 1 garlic clove, minced or pushed through a garlic press
    • ¾ teaspoon salt
    • 1 teaspoon sugar
    Instructions
    1. Combine the juice from 2½ limes, tahini, water, garlic, salt and sugar in a small bowl. Whisk well and set aside.
    2. Roast carrots, beets and cauliflower together in a 425º F oven for 15-20 minutes, or until vegetables are tender. Toss in olive oil and sprinkle with salt before roasting.
    3. Cook brown rice and lentils as directed on the package.
    4. Put tomatoes and cucumbers in a small bowl, drizzle with olive oil and squeeze the juice from the final ½ lime you haven't yet used. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat.
    5. In a bowl, layer the ingredients as follows: brown rice, lentils, chicken (if using), roasted vegetables, greens, slaw, spoonful of hummus, spoonful or two of chimichurri sauce, cucumber-tomato mixture. Drizzle generously with the tahnini dressing, mix all together and enjoy!
    6. Tip: I mixed and prepared all the individual ingredients in the containers that I would be storing them in the refrigerator in after dinner was done. It made clean-up much easier!

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  6. Sunday, April 22, 2018

    Urban Plates Chimichurri Sauce

    Hello. I need to share a quick recipe with you today. It’s for Urban Plates chimichurri sauce, which basically means I am totally copying a sauce I love from a restaurant called Urban plates. The Urban Plates chimichurri tastes especially delicious over steak or salmon, but it is so good you’ll probably want to pour it over all kinds of things (chicken? roasted vegetables? toasted baguette? YES to all!).

    Copycat recipe from the restaurant Urban Plates for their delicious Chimichurri Sauce by This Week for Dinner

    Less than a week after making my first batch of Urban Plates chimichurri I also made my new favorite meal Lentil Rice Bowls with Lime-Tahini Dressing. Holy smokes the chimichurri was good in that dish. Basically, you can pour the Urban Plates chimichurri over just about anything and be happy.

    So what is this Urban Plates and I keep speaking of? It is a a restaurant chain near where we live that is pretty much my favorite take-out place to eat. The food tastes homemade, there are tons of vegetables involved and the food is consistently delicious. Lately I’ve been ordering their baked salmon with a side of their chimichurri sauce…over and over again.

    Recipe for Chimichurri Sauce by This Week for Dinner as inspired by the restaurant Urban Plates

    The Urban Plates chimichurri sauce is divine. I dug around on the internet, found a blog post describing the ingredients in the sauce, then went to my kitchen to figure out the recipe. Happily I succeeded! I’ll still willingly go to Urban Plates where they can make the sauce for me, but I am relieved to know I can replicate this tasty sauce at home as well as share the recipe with those of you who live nowhere near an Urban Plates restaurant. Enjoy!

    Urban Plates Chimichurri Sauce
     
    Prep time
    Total time
     
    This recipe is a copycat of the Urban Plates chimichurri sauce I love so much! This sauce is wonderful served over steak or salmon but would be delicious drizzled over other savory foods, too!
    Author:
    Ingredients
    • 2 cups fresh parsley (no need to chop it up at all)
    • 1 red bell pepper, cut into large pieces (originally this recipe said ½ of a pepper, but I have revised to 1 whole pepper because I like it better that way)
    • ½ of a red onion, cut into large pieces
    • 2 garlic cloves, removed from the paper and cut in half
    • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
    • ¼ cup white balsamic vinegar
    • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
    • ½ teaspoon black pepper
    • ¼-1/2 teaspoon chili powder
    • ⅛-1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    Instructions
    1. Place all ingredients in a food processor. Process on high for about 30 seconds, scraping down the sides of the bowl about halfway through. Pulse until sauce has a uniform, medium-fine chunky consistency like you see in the photos. Serve over proteins like steak or salmon, vegetables or whatever suits your fancy!

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    EQUIPMENT I USED TO MAKE THIS RECIPE:

     


  7. Monday, April 2, 2018

    Gluten-Free Homemade Chocolate Granola Bars

    Recently I had to go super clean with my eating. There were a few weeks where I couldn’t eat any sugar, dairy or wheat. It ended up being easier than I thought it would be (no, really), but it has been nice to slowly add those ingredients back into my diet here and there. But now that I’ve made these positive changes to my diet, I would really like to maintain those changes. As a result, I’ve started looking at some of my favorite recipes and thinking about how I can modify them. One of the first recipes to go through a makeover was my beloved Chewy Chocolate Chip Homemade Granola Bar recipe. First I made the recipe gluten free and reduced the sugar by about 3 grams per bar. Then I took it a step further, which brings us to today’s recipe for homemade chocolate granola bars.

    How to Make Gluten-Free Homemade Chocolate Granola Bars from Jane Maynard of This Week for Dinner

    When I was working on reducing the amount of sugar in my original granola bar recipe, I was surprised by how much sugar was coming from the chocolate chips. I wanted to be able to take out the chocolate chips but still get a good chocolate fix. By removing the chocolate chips and adding cocoa powder to the granola bar, we still get that delicious chocolate flavor with even less sugar. I tried it and it totally worked.

    Recipe for Gluten-Free Homemade Chocolate Granola Bars by Jane Maynard of This Week for Dinner

    This recipe for homemade chocolate granola bars is awesome. My original recipe is a bit more chewy, but the texture on these chocolate bars is fantastic, a little chewy as well as a little crispy, and they don’t fall apart at all. The flavor is wonderful – I think I might even like these better than the original chocolate chip bars, which is really saying something. This recipe is gluten free and each bar contains about 8 grams of sugar, which is 5-6 grams less per bar than my original recipe. Woohoo!

    Gluten-Free Homemade Chocolate Granola Bar Recipe by Jane Maynard at This Week for Dinner

    Please note that if you do not need the bars to be gluten free, you can in fact use regular all-purpose flour as a substitute for the oat flour. But if you want to go gluten free, stick with the recipe below using oat flour.

    Without further ado I give you Homemade Chocolate Granola Bars!

    Homemade Chocolate Granola Bars (Gluten Free)
     
    Prep time
    Cook time
    Total time
     
    Author:
    Serves: 24
    Ingredients
    • 4 cups rolled old-fashioned oats (make sure label says gluten free)
    • 1 cup brown crisped rice cereal
    • ½ cup shredded or flaked unsweetened coconut
    • ⅓ cup brown sugar
    • 3 tablespoons oat flour (make sure label says gluten free)
    • ¼ cup cocoa powder
    • Generous ½ teaspoon kosher salt
    • ¾ cup coconut oil
    • ½ cup honey
    • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract or vanilla paste
    Instructions
    1. Preheat oven to 325º F.
    2. Combine oats, crisped rice, coconut, brown sugar, oat flour, cocoa powder, and salt. Mix well.
    3. Combine coconut oil, honey and vanilla. Whisk well. Add to dry ingredients and mix well. (Stir. Stir some more. Keep stirring!)
    4. Line a large cooke sheet with parchment paper. Pour granola bar mixture onto the lined cookie sheet. Press mixture out into a large, uniform rectangle, about 9" x 13" (which will be smaller than the pan, you do not push the granola all the way to the edges of the pan). It is easiest to form the rectangle if your hands are wet.
    5. Bake for 15 minutes, rotate pan and bake for 14-15 more minutes.
    6. Cool completely before cutting. Cut into 24 bars, 8 rows x 3 columns.
    Notes
    The coconut oil can be solid or liquid - whatever it happens to be sitting in your cupboard is fine!
    If you do not need these to be gluten free, regular all-purpose flour can be substituted for oat flour with the same measurement.

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    EQUIPMENT I USED TO MAKE THIS RECIPE:


  8. Chocolate Chip Gluten-Free Homemade Granola Bars

    One of the recipes I’m most proud of on this blog is the Chewy Chocolate Chip Homemade Granola Bar recipe. I love those granola bars and everyone I’ve ever shared them with loves them. I’ve tried different flavors, but we always come back to chocolate chips. The original recipe is best! However, for reasons I will describe below, I recently developed a recipe for gluten-free homemade granola bars based on that wonderful original recipe, which I will share with you today!

    Recipe for Gluten-Free Homemade Granola Bars with Chocolate Chips from This Week for Dinner

    Over the last few weeks I’ve had to clean up my eating and do some elimination diet stuff. (FUN TIMES!) The adjustments to my diet prompted me to modify my granola bar recipe in two ways: take out the wheat and reduce the amount of sugar. The recipe below is the gluten-free version of my original granola bar recipe and each bar contains about 3 grams less sugar than the original recipe, going from 13-14 grams added sugar per bar to about 11 grams.

    What the gluten-free homemade granola bars will look like when formed into shape on the pan

    This recipe tastes almost the same as the original, it’s just a little less chewy and a little more crispy. But not by much. I am perfectly happy with the modifications to this recipe and would use either recipe just as happily! Also, for those of you who do not need the bars to be gluten free, you can use all-purpose flour, which basically will make these a lower-sugar version of the original.

    I have created a second modified version of these bars that has even less sugar, Homemade Chocolate Granola Bars (click here to see the recipe). The chocolate granola bars have only about 8 grams of sugar per bar and they taste great! But if you are wanting chocolate chips, here is the recipe for Chocolate Chip Gluten-Free Homemade Granola Bars!

    Chocolate Chip Gluten-Free Homemade Granola Bars
     
    Prep time
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    Author:
    Serves: 24
    Ingredients
    • 4 cups rolled old-fashioned oats (make sure label says gluten free)
    • 1 cup brown crisped rice cereal
    • ½ cup shredded or flaked unsweetened coconut
    • ⅓ cup oat flour (make sure label says gluten free)
    • ¼ cup brown sugar
    • 1 cup chocolate chips
    • Generous ½ teaspoon kosher salt
    • ¾ cup coconut oil
    • ½ cup honey
    • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or vanilla paste
    Instructions
    1. Preheat oven to 325º F.
    2. Combine oats, crisped rice, coconut, oat flour, brown sugar, chocolate chips and salt. Mix well.
    3. Combine coconut oil, honey and vanilla. Whisk well. Add to dry ingredients and mix well. (Stir. Stir some more. Keep stirring!)
    4. Line a large cooke sheet with parchment paper. Pour granola bar mixture onto the lined cookie sheet. Press mixture out into a large, uniform rectangle, about 9" x 13" (which will be smaller than the pan, you are not pushing the granola all the way to the edges to fill the pan). It is easiest to form the rectangle if your hands are wet.
    5. Bake for 15 minutes, rotate pan and bake for 14-15 more minutes.
    6. Cool completely before cutting. Cut into 24 bars, 8 rows x 3 columns.
    Notes
    The coconut oil can be solid or liquid - whatever it happens to be sitting in your cupboard is fine!
    If you do not need these to be gluten free, regular all-purpose flour can be substituted for oat flour with the same measurement.

     


  9. Monday, March 19, 2018

    Thai Basil Beef with Coconut Brown Rice

    Ages ago when I kicked off my {now sorely-neglected} podcast, one of my first guests was Tracy Benjamin of the food blog Shutterbean. First off, Tracy is one of my favorite people and I love her episode, so go take a listen if you haven’t already! One of the recipes Tracy shared in that episode was for Thai Beef with Basil, a recipe her family loves that utilizes ground beef. I’ve had it on my to-try list ever since and last week it finally happened.

    Recipe for Thai Basil Beef with Carrot Slaw and Coconut Brown Rice

    The result? A really great go-to recipe that my kids devoured. All three of them said they want me to make it again and I am definitely planning to. I must admit that I wasn’t sure I was going to love this recipe – serving ground beef over rice just, I don’t know, didn’t capture my interest. Well, I’m glad I tried it anyway as I loved the recipe, too! The carrot slaw is key to why I love this dish so much. I also cooked the rice in coconut milk instead of water, which gave a nice, subtle flavor to the dish overall.

    Thai Basil Beef, an quick and delicious weeknight dinner option

    As is my M.O., I changed the recipe, both on purpose and on accident. I am writing my version up below, mostly so I don’t forget what I did but also so I can share it with you, in case you think my changes seem like a good idea. Enjoy!

    Update! This is one of our new favorite go-to meals. The last time I cooked this dish I made a discovery – it is awesome if you had a handful of greens to the bowl. This adds a nutritional punch and tastes awesome. I just put the rice and beef in the bowl, then topped it with greens and finished with the carrot slaw. The dressing from the carrots mixes in with the greens and it’s great. I just used prepackaged “power greens,” but any kind of darker greens will work well!

    Thai Basil Beef with Greens and Carrots

    Thai Basil Beef with Coconut Brown Rice
     
    Prep time
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    Adapted from Bon Appetit recipe, as discovered by friend Tracy Benjamin from Shutterbean. This dinner is easy to make and all three of my kids (all ages!) loved it!
    Author:
    Serves: Serves 4
    Ingredients
    • 1 cup short grain brown rice
    • 1¾ cup canned coconut milk (one 13-14-ounce can will work!)
    • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
    • 1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons vegetable oil, divided
    • 2 tablespoons chopped yellow onion
    • 1 jalapeño, thinly sliced (remove seeds for less heat)
    • 3 cloves garlic
    • 1 lb. ground beef
    • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
    • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
    • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • kosher salt
    • ½ cup beef stock (or ½ teaspoon beef bouillon + ½ cup hot water)
    • 3 cups fresh basil, cut into a chiffonade (measure basil before cutting)
    • 4 medium carrots, julienned
    • 2 scallions, thinly sliced (both white & green parts)
    • 1 lime, juiced
    • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
    • ½ teaspoon sesame oil
    • 1 teaspoon sugar
    • lime wedges for serving, if desired
    • leafy greens (for example "power greens" salad mix), optional
    Instructions
    1. Add rice, coconut milk and ½ teaspoon salt to a pot. Stir then bring to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, cover pot and reduce heat to low. Cook on low for 45 minutes. Remove from heat and let sit with lid on for 10 additional minutes.
    2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add chopped onion and jalapeño and cook until onions have softened and start to turn translucent, about 3-5 minutes.
    3. Add garlic, pressing it through a garlic press, to the pan. Stir then add ground beef. Break beef up, sprinkle evenly with kosher salt, then cook until no longer pink, breaking up the meat as it cooks.
    4. Add beef broth (or bouillon and water, if using) along with the ginger, cumin and cinnamon. Let simmer over low heat for 5-10 minutes, adding ⅔ of the basil a few minutes before serving. (Note: I removed about half of the jalapeño pieces before serving to reduce the heat for my kids.)
    5. In a mixing bowl combine juice from 1 lime, 2 teaspoons oil, soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, carrots, green onion and the remaining ⅓ of the basil. Stir well to coat veggies in the dressing.
    6. Serve rice topped with beef and carrot slaw. Drizzle some of the dressing from the slaw bowl over the servings and enjoy! Optional: Add a handful of leafy greens to the bowl for extra nutrients and deliciousness!

    OTHER RECIPES YOU MAY LIKE:

    EQUIPMENT I USED TO MAKE THIS RECIPE:

     


  10. Wednesday, March 7, 2018

    Sweet Ricotta Cream

    I can’t eat dairy right now (in the process of figuring out some allergy stuff). Therefore, I think the best way to torture myself is to share a recipe that is all about dairy.

    Sweet Ricotta Cream Recipe from @janemaynard, perfect served with fruit for a rich yet light dessert

    This sweet ricotta cream recipe is divine. The sweet ricotta cream is perfect paired with fruit, especially berries, peaches and the like. And while I am one who usually considers nothing to be dessert unless chocolate is involved, this ricotta cream served with fruit is definitely dessert enough for me. That is saying something.

    Sweet Ricotta Cream Recipe from @janemaynard, perfect served with fruit for a rich yet light dessert

    Now go and enjoy! And eat an extra bite for me!

    Sweet Ricotta Cream Recipe from @janemaynard, perfect served with fruit for a rich yet light dessert

    Ricotta Cream
     
    Prep time
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    Pair with your favorite fruit to create a rich yet light dessert that everyone will adore!
    Author:
    Ingredients
    • 15 ounces whole milk ricotta cheese
    • 8 ounces mascarpone cheese
    • ¼ cup heavy cream
    • 6 tablespoons powdered sugar
    • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract
    • Fresh fruit of your choice
    Instructions
    1. Using a spoon, mix together the ricotta, mascarpone, cream, powdered sugar, and vanilla well in a medium bowl. Some ricotta cheeses are firmer than others - adjust by adding additional cream if the mixture seems too thick.
    2. Pair with sliced or chopped fruit of your choice - berries are wonderful as well as fruits like mango and peaches. Layer the ricotta cream with fruit for a pretty parfait, or simply just scoop everything into a bowl willy nilly. Either way it will be delicious!