Strawberry Basil Yogurt, a Great Snack

Greek yogurt is the new power dairy snack, favored by teachers, moms, office workers and many others seeking a portable tasty yet healthy snack.  I eat it too.  But sometimes I want a more basic, yet above average, yogurt.  My secret for great yogurt is one brand; Stonyfield Organic.  I buy the large 32 ounce container.  I usually get the plain, one percent low fat yogurt.  Organic milk makes creamy flavorful yogurt, far superior to any made with non-organic milk.  Occasionally I treat myself to Stonyfield’s whole milk yogurt. This is thick, creamy and oh so delicious.  The top layer is like cream yogurt; crazy yummy!  I eat a dish of this yogurt with fresh jam, all that jam that I don’t eat on toast anymore.  I know, whole milk! But sometimes you have to enjoy the best that life can give you and frankly experts say that non-fat yogurt is less healthy than yogurt with some fat.  Go on, live wild and try this fabulous organic yogurt.

Update; 11/21/14: a new article about the dangers of highly sweetened and additive filled yogurts specifically says the best choices are organic whole milk yogurts: http://www.cornucopia.org/yogurt.  I was right on the money with my recommendation of Stonyfields yogurt and my use of homemade jams and granola to flavor it up.  Much better for you and your kids!  Tastier too actually.

strawberry and stonyfield yogurt

You can also enjoy this yogurt with honey drizzled on top.  Sprinkled with my homemade granola it is very healthy, filling, and delightful tasting.

Late this past June I made some strawberry basil jam.  The other day I got the excellent idea to put it on top of my organic yogurt.  It was amazing tasting, the creamy mild yogurt stirred together with that fragrant fruity jam. Oh my goodness, a whole world away from commercially flavored fruit yogurts.

yogurt and strawberry basil jam

So here is my strawberry basil freezer jam recipe.  My friend Josh had purchased some and raved about the flavor.  I decided to make my own.  Well, it is great on toast and extremely yummy on your yogurt! It is not too much basil flavor, the strawberry predominates but you do get a taste of it when ever you encounter a bit of basil leaf.  I actually only made half a jam recipe as that was all the strawberries I had available that day.  I used the liquid Surejell, half the package.

strawberry basil jam 1

Strawberry Basil Freezer Jam 

yield: 5 cups

INGREDIENTS:

about 1 pound of fresh ripe strawberries (2 cups crushed strawberries)

4 cups granulated sugar

one 1.75 ounce package of fruit pectin (I used liquid Sure Jell)

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil leaves, really fine!

DIRECTIONS:

In a large bowl, mash strawberries using a potato masher. Measure out two cups and return to bowl. If there are extras, you can eat those. But you want to pretty exact with this recipe.

To the 2 cups of mashed strawberries, stir in 4 cups of granulated sugar. Mix well to combine and moisten all the sugar and then let stand for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine fruit pectin and 3/4 cup water. Bring to a boil on high heat, stirring constantly. When it boils, set a timer for one minute. Continue to stir constantly and then remove from heat when it has boiled for one minute.

Stir pectin and water mixture into the fruit and sugar mixture. Stir constantly for about 3-4 minutes or until sugar is completely dissolved and mixture is no longer grainy.

Pour mixture into freezer containers with tight fitting lids (jars work great). Let jam stand at room temperature for 8 hours before moving to the fridge or freezer. If you freeze it, thaw it in the fridge when you’re ready to use.

Summer Tomatoes Stuffed with Lemony Quinoa Salad

Tomatoes stuffed with salad, I know: very old school but I made a modern take on it the other week for company.  A gluten free version I might add! Everyone raved about the fresh flavor of the dish.  So I am posting it here so you can try it; one caveat; only use local tomatoes.  Do NOT make this with those pale imitation supermarket tomatoes. It is not possible to create something tasty if you start with bad ingredients and those plastic flavored “tomatoes” just will not work.

You can serve the filling as a side salad and I will give those directions after the tomato version. I served the salad style at a picnic last week and my sister Karen had seconds. She was not a big quinoa fan until she ate that salad!

Tomatoes Stuffed with Quinoa Salad

Makes four servings.

Ingredients:

½ cup raw quinoa, plain pale yellow type (not red or black)

1 cup water

½ a veggie  bullion cube

4 medium to large tomatoes

2/3-3/4 cup small dice burpless or European cucumber

½ cup small dice zucchini

1/3 cup small dice red onion

2 tbsp. fresh mint or parsley, diced finely

1 lemon

3 tbsp.  EVOL (extra virgin olive oil)

1 tbsp. red wine vinegar

Sea salt and fresh black pepper to taste.

Directions

Put the quinoa in the water.  If it doesn’t say rinsed you should put it in a strainer and rinse it for a minute to get off any coating which can be bitter.  Add the half bullion cube, bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook 15 minutes.  Let cool to room temperature before continuing.

Using a sharp paring knife cut the top off of each tomato, reserve it for a lid.  Scoop out the tomato guts using a spoon. I like to use a serrated edged grapefruit spoon but almost any spoon will work.   You can use the insides for something else; in a soup, a salad or a stew?  I turn the hollowed out tomatoes upside down to drain briefly to be sure I got all the wet stuff out.

Place the cooled quinoa In a mixing bowl.  Top it with the finely chopped veggies.  You can use less veggies than I suggested; up to you. I like lots of veggies.  Make sure they are cut very small though.  Sprinkle the fresh herbs on top; even fresh chives chopped fine or basil will work great.   Use a zester or a very fine grater and get as much zest off the lemon (wash the lemon first); you can zest right into the quinoa mixing bowl.  In a small mixing bowl put the juice of that same lemon, the EVOL and red wine vinegar.  If you have more than 3 tbsp of lemon juice add a bit more EVOL and whisk to combine; add in up to ½ tsp salt and ¼ tsp freshly grated black pepper.  Pour ¾ of it over the quinoa and veggies and stir to combine.  Taste and adjust seasoning and add the rest of the dressing if it is needed.  Use a large spoon to fill the hollowed out tomatoes.  Top each one with the reserved lids.  I put mine finished tomatoes on a platter and refrigerated for a few minutes so I could make the rest of the meal; no more than 1 hour.  You can serve each on a bed of lettuce or just by itself.   stuffed tomato

This is a great side dish or, if you have a vegetarian visiting, it is a substantial main dish choice as quinoa has a lot of complete protein in it. I served it with some zucchini yeast bread and some gnudi dumplings as a delicious meal for my vegetarian god daughter.

The salad filling can be served all on its own as a salad; I added a bunch of cherry tomatoes halved to it and it was ready to go.  So simple but the combination of fresh lemon juice, lemon zest, red wine vinegar and EVOL makes a great salad dressing.  If your filling seems wet; you added too much dressing.  Add more tomatoes and diced zuke and cuke.  Do not cook the zucchini – if it is fresh and tender it is fantastic raw in a salad.  If you can’t get one of those European cucumbers use a small regular one and peel the skin off it before dicing. If the seeds are large do not use the center with the seeds.  Your salad will not be as pretty if there are sloppy cucumber seeds in it.   I do cut the veggies larger for a salad; diced is fine.  But I suggest you keep the red onion bits very fine.  And start with a fresh red onion. Onion does not keep well; gets bitter so peel a new onion to make your salad if you want the best tasting results.

quinoa salad 8-14

Quinoa salad will keep a few days in the fridge, if it lasts that long! Try it with different fresh herbs. I would never make this in the dead of winter as it just won’t taste the same without the fresh summer veggies.  I try to eat seasonally and this is definitely a summer treat!

Blueberry Sheet Cake for a Picnic

This summery cake is very easy and totally delish.  It is blueberry season, this cake give you the best of all worlds, sweet berries and tender bites of cakey goodness.

blueberry sheet cake

This was the second time I made it. I have used two different flour blends, both worked. One is Better Batter and the other one is the brown rice mix I often use; see at the end of this recipe. Either works but I have to say I prefer the Better Batter for this recipe a little more than the brown rice.

As to the fruit, I bet you could use frozen blueberries or replace the blueberries with raspberries or blackberries.  Enjoy this summer treat with some friends or your family, it makes about 8 generous square servings or ten small ones.  I served it at a family picnic this past week, I was the only GF person there and everyone clamored for seconds!

Gluten-free Blueberry Sheet Cake

Ingredients; For the Cake:

  • 2 cups plus 2 teaspoons all-purpose, gluten-free flour blend
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum (only if your flour blend doesn’t already have this!)
  • 2 sticks of butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • ½ tsp almond extract
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2/3 to 3/4 cup of blueberries

For the Topping:
1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2/3 cup blueberries

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9×13 inch baking dish with butter or gluten-free cooking spray.

  1. Mix 2 cups of flour, baking powder, sea salt and xanthan gum in a medium bowl with a whisk and set aside.
  2. Beat the butter with the brown sugar and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and beat until smooth.
  3. Beat in half of the flour mixture until smooth, add the milk and almond extract and the rest of the flour and beat until evenly incorporated.
  4. Toss 2/3 cup of the blueberries with the remaining teaspoon of flour and gently fold into the batter. Spread into the prepared baking dish.
  5. Mix the topping ingredients together and distribute evenly over the top of the batter. I like to press the berries in a bit so they are not just resting on top of the dough.
  6. Bake for 45 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle of the cake comes out clean.  Let cool at least 10 or 15 minutes before serving.

8 servings

Brown Rice Flour Mix  – mix them all in a big jar or bag
1 c. brown rice flour

1/3 c potato starch

3 tbsp.  tapioca flour

Sensenig’s Meats Comes Through With Safe Yummy BBQ Pork for GF Festing

Another day, another search for a safe gluten free meal at Musikfest. Today I volunteered down under the bridge, near the Bethlehem Dairy Store braving the gluten demon pouring beer at the Beer Caddy spot not far from FestPlatz.  For my meal break I wanted to try something totally new so I passed by the corn stand where I could order an ear minus the seasoning mix.

I kept going all the way to Volzplatz.  There I located a BBQ stand near the very end of the food stands, Sensenig’s Meats & Catering that said they had a safe choice, a loaded baked potato.  It was topped with barbequed pulled pork and served with a squeeze tube of sour cream.  The manager assured me his pulled pork and his BBQ sauce were both GF.  He wasn’t sure about his shredded cheese that normally tops the potato so I skipped that at his recommendation.  It cost me 9 tickets a/k/a $9.

Worth every penny considering the cost of other food there and the quality of what I ate from their stand.  The bbq sauce was rich and flavorful. The pork meat was well roasted and very tasty.  I put on some regular bbq sauce on top of my bbq but didn’t try the hot sauce.  They had a couple of other sauces to pick from.  The potato was decently baked and the sour cream went really well with the barbequed pork.  Winner in both flavor and in filling my tummy.  Give it a try.

FYI: I asked at the Vietnamese stand at VoltzPlatz but their food was not safe for celiacs.  Up on Main Street there is a Vietnamese restaurant you can go in and eat inside and they do have safe food.  It is tough to fest GF but it can be done if you ask polite but essential questions and be very careful in your choices.

Tasty Taco Salad Southside Musikfest

Well, tonight I traveled to the South Side of Musikfest, enjoying some fantastic Creole/Zydeco of Jeffrey Broussard and the Creole Cowboys, then a tribute to Jerry Garcia and we topped off the night with The Avett Brothers.  I really loved the Avett Brothers; fabulously hot strings and energetic soulful singing.  I was totally wowed. Avett brothers

Less wowing was the food selection Southside for someone with celiac disease.  I could only find one thing for a main course; a taco salad they made specially for me using fried corn chips topped with the rest of their standard chicken taco salad; shredded plain chicken, black beans, romaine lettuce, tomatoes, corn, sour cream, some pico de gallo sauce.  I put on a few splashes of hot sauce which added a much needed flavor boost.  I ate it with my fingers and with the fork they gave me.  Normally it would be in a deep fried flour tortilla. Obviously that was not possible for me to eat so they offered me the fried corn tortilla chips.  It was the best thing I have eaten at Musikfest this year.  This was at Cactus Blue up by Steel Staks.  I highly recommend it.

The only other thing besides a beverage I could find was a Breyer’s ice cream stand that had scoops in a cup.  I was too full from the taco salad to have some and I did have concerns that their scoopers might have touched cones made of wheat before scooping my ice cream.  I felt lucky enough to safely eat the taco salad as I was worried that deep frying them might have contaminated the chips. I had brought an emergency serving of quinoa salad just in case so I wouldn’t starve all night, no need to eat it but I was glad to have a back up food source.

musikfest nighttime 2014

So, I am still yearning for that GF food stand at Musikfest.  Tomorrow I will be down under the Hill to Hill bridge pouring beer and rinsing my hands lots! I will be searching for something safe to eat there. I did see some walk away main course Sundays at Shookies.  Humm? I will have to go ask them some questions but it looked promising the other day.  Go out there and enjoy some great music!