Thursday, April 14, 2011

Polenta Veggiola: no gluten, no dairy, no cow's milk

This one is for you "Seuss-Seuss", my very OLDEST BFF (yes it's a Dr. Seuss reference and yes, that is what we called eachother when we were little.) She's not really old, we've just known one another since we were in-utero ;-)

A couple of nights ago we were just home from vacation and I needed to whip something up for dinner. My daughter was asking to help cook and wanted to come up with something new. We looked at our inventory together, which was looking pretty low, and found that I had a nice little tube of polenta sitting there in the fridge. "Cheater Polenta" I like to call it. I knew that thing would be there for me when I needed it! I always buy those things to have on hand for quick appetizers. I'll have to post those up here eventually. I do have a container of dry  polenta grits sitting in my pantry. I managed to pick up the kids cold myself so I decided that this was not the week to make everything from scratch. My daughter pointed out peas in the freezer. I pulled out my favorite Italian cookbook and had her look up peas for inspiration. Peas are a really common ingredient in Italian cooking. You'll often find peas sauteed with garlic and onions. Simple and yummy. A veggie here and a veggie there and all of a sudden Polenta Veggiola was born. You can also add sauteed chicken or tofu to this if you'd like some added protien. My daughter isn't eating meat these days, so we left it out.

Polenta Veggiola: gluten free, dairy free, soy free
1 container home made tomato sauce (2-4 cups) or 1 jar store bought tomato sauce of your choice.
olive oil
1 bag frozen organic peas
yellow bell pepper
1 large carrot
1/2 - 1 small red onion
1 - 2 cloves garlic
fresh cilantro or basil
Pecorino Romano (sheeps milk cheese) (You can use whatever cheese you can have or use no cheese at all)
optional: Trader Joes Almond Meal (for topping)

Cut the red onion, garlic, bell pepper, carrot, into small, bite sized pieces.
Chop up the cilantro or basil and set aside.
In a frying/sautee pan, drizzle some olive oil at the bottom of the pan.
Add the red onion to the hot pan and cook over medium-medium high until tender.
Add the garlic, carrot and bell pepper, frozen peas and cook until tender.
Add in your chopped cilantro or basil and stir then turn the heat to low and let it sit while you prepare the polenta.
In a 2.2 Quart or 2 Liter Pyrex dish or comprable, drizzle or spray with olive oil spray.
Cut a small slit in your polenta tube and drain the water in the sink. Remove the wrapping.
Slice your polenta into thin rounds and line the bottom of your baking dish with them.
Add a layer of your sauteed veggies, aka: veggiola topped with a generous layer of tomato sauce topped with Pecorino Romano.
Add a second layer of sliced polenta, if you have enough followed by another layer of veggiola, tomato sauce and Pecorino Romano.
For that top layer of Pecorino Romano, you can also add some almond meal to the top to create a nice cheesy/crunchy top. It helps to combine the Pecorino Romano and Almond Meal for the very top in a small bowl before adding it to the top of your dish.
Bake in a 375 - 400 oven for 30 minutes or so. If the top begins to burn before it's done, you can top it with aluminum foil during the last 15 minutes or so of baking. Remember, all the ingredients are cooked already, you are pretty much just heading up and melting it all together. It sure smells great when it's baking!!!

Here is what the top looks like when I mixed almond meal with Pecorino Romano.


Oat'n Almond Meal Chocolate Chip Cookies: Wheat/Gluten free, dairy/cow milk free, vegan

Sing it with me, "C is for COOKIE it's good enough for me, hey! and REPEAT!" No wonder why I'm not loosing any weight these days. I'm obsessed with baking things that everyone can eat and will actually enjoy! Besides, it's always nice to have "treat" recipes on hand when you need to bring something special to someone's house for dinner and not have to worry about bringing multiple options for people with food issues. It gets insane, it really does. I'm always happy to bake or bring options, especially since my family are the high maintenance ones. ;-)

The ultimate comfort food for me, and many others I've compared notes with, is the good ole chocolate chip cookie. They are requested by my kids almost as often as pancakes. Years ago I used to love going to PCC (a natural food store in WA) to get some yummy Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies. I thought maybe they'd have a recipe for them on their website. With a quick search, I found a recipe on their website for Wheat-free Chocolate Chip Cookies  that I've linked to here. The recipe was originally created by Post-Punk Kitchen. I changed a few thing to add my own nutty/coco nutty/super vanillaee twist and the result are some insanely yummy cookies. I'm actually eating one, um two, while I type this. To note, my recipes will always be heavy on the vanilla since our family motto is "you can never have too much vanilla".

My kids can eat nuts at home (away from the insane amount of kids at school who can't.) I really love the health benefit for nuts but my kids don't like whole nuts baked into their cookies. So, I'm taking a cue from my "Blue Velvet Blueberry Muffins" , I decided to use blended nuts (almond meal) instead. I've been wanting to use some of my Trader Joe's Almond Meal that was sitting in my pantry stash anyway. The taste is so "nutty", go figure ;-) and I love the stuff.  Elana's Pantry, a gluten free site which uses primarily almond flour, recommends using almond flour and not the almond meal because the almond flour uses blanched almonds and the almond meal does not. She's talking mainly about her own recipes.  I like the unbalanced almonds though, so I thought I would just try using it in my cookies, to see what would happen. I decided to use a combination of Bob's Redmill Gluten Free Oat Flour and Trader Joe's Almond Meal as my flour in these cookies, instead of just using Oat flour.

I'm a huge fan these days of So Delicious Coconut milk. At 90 calories a cup and a texture that foams, it's an excellent replacement for cow's milk. It's really smooth and creamy, just like the container says.

 A chocolate chip cookie is only as good as the chocolate chips that are used it them. You can quote me on that. ;-) I've been using the Guittard brand for years since it was one of the only ones, for a long time, that didn't have any dairy derivitaves it them. They do contain soy lecithin in them. There are brands, like Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips, that don't have any ingredients that are known allergens.

Oat'n Almond Meal Chocolate Chip Cookies
*if you can't have nuts, go with their recipe.

1 1/3 cup Gluten Free Oat Flour, Bob's Redmill
1 cup Almond Meal, Trader Joes (You can also make your own almond meal if you have a Vitamix.)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon flax meal
1/4 cup So Delicious Vanilla Coconut milk. (I LOVE this stuff, It's so creamy and delicious. It's great to bake with.)
1/4 cup organic brown sugar
1/2 cup organic evaporated cane juice (sugar)
1/3 cup organic canola oil
2 tablespoons vanilla
3/4 cup chocolate chips (check ingredients)

In a bowl combine all dry ingredients, oat flour, almond meal, baking soda, salt, and flax meal in a bowl with a wisk.
In a mixer or other bowl combine sugars, oil and vanilla until well combined.
Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix well.
Fold in chocolate chips with a spatula.
Place batter in cookie sized balls, onto a baking sheet.
Bake at 375 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until they look done.
Remove from oven and allow the cookies to cool on a cooling rack.

Thanks Post-Punk Kitchen for the inspiration! You are truly yummy!