Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Hearty Vegetarian Pita Pockets with Warm Roasted Mushrooms & Feta

Here’s a delicious and cost effective vegetarian recipe that you are sure to love!

It's so versatile it's bound to please everyone at your table. It can easily be made gluten free by serving it as a salad and omitting the pita bread. It can also be made nut free by substituting the almonds for more chickpeas (or sunflower seeds), and dairy free by leaving out the feta (or serving it on the side). 
Meat eaters and vegetarians alike are sure to be satiated by the hearty warm roasted mushrooms and seasoned chickpeas.

To save time you can prep the dressing and kale salad (minus the mushrooms and the cheese) up to a day ahead of time.

Hearty Vegetarian Pita Pockets with Warm Roasted Mushrooms & Feta
prep time: 25 min


4 whole grain pita pockets

For the salad filling:
4 cups cremini mushrooms
1/2 red onion, chopped into bite size pieces
4 cups kale (any variety works)
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

For the dressing:
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 large minced clove garlic
1 tablespoon honey or other sweetener
1 tablespoon dijon mustard
1 tablespoon feta cheese (or other hard cheese)
3-4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

For the “meat”:
1 cup low-sodium chickpeas (rinsed and drained well if canned)
1 cup raw almonds
1 clove minced garlic
1 teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
pinch of salt


Gently clean mushrooms by wiping the dirt off with a paper towel (don’t rub to hard or you may lose some nutrients). Now, wash your kale very well under cool running water (it can be quite dirty) and let dry completely using a salad spinner or laying the leaves flat on rag or paper towel. Once your kale is clean you will need to derib it. This means removing the tough center stem. This can be done with a knife or by hand (I prefer by hand). Gently tare the leaves away from the stem, starting from the bottom, and then tare those leaves into smaller, bite size pieces.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees

Mix all ingredients for your dressing in a blender until emulsified or use a bowl and whisk. You’ll know your dressing is emulsified when it looks creamy. Put your kale in a large serving bowl and coat with your desired amount of dressing. It should be enough that the leaves glisten and are well coated. Cover bowl and let sit in the refrigerator for 20 min. The purpose of this is to break down some of the fibers in the kale, which can be tough to chew and digest. If you are willing to get your hands dirty, you can massage your dressing into the kale for faster marinating time. When the kale is ready the color will turn a darker shade of green and be fairly easy to tare by hand.

While your kale is marinating, roast your mushrooms. Lay them on a lined baking sheet and place in oven until the juices begin to release, about 10 min. After your mushrooms are in the stove, toast your almonds. Place almonds in a skillet on medium heat until they become golden brown and fragrant. Slightly lower heat and add olive oil. Then add chickpeas, followed garlic and seasoning. Sauté the almonds, chickpeas and garlic for about 3-5 min. Stick your pita bread in the oven to warm up. (about 5 min)
Remove mushrooms from the oven and chop.

 Add mushrooms, feta and onion to the kale and toss well. Stuff pitas with salad mixture and seasoned chickpeas & almonds. Enjoy!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Recipe Review: Slow Cooker Tortilla Soup


Today, I review an easy and delicious recipe by Melissa d'Arabian of the Food Network. (You can find the original recipe here). My inspiration for reviewing this dish comes from Chelsi Myer, a Family and Consumer Science agent at the Dickinson County K-State Extension program in Kansas. Recently, Chelsi decided to pledge a "Junk Food-Free January," and she has been recruiting others to do the same — myself included. To help us stay on track, she has been sharing some wonderful recipes. Thanks, Chelsi, for sharing such a flavorful and versatile recipe!

Chelsi suggests swapping out the chicken thighs used in this recipe for chicken breasts. I couldn't agree more, as this results in a leaner source of protein. Other healthful hints include swapping some of the ingredients for lower sodium options. Here are some examples:
  • Low-sodium black beans can be found at most grocery stores. However, you can also rinse a regular can of black beans to cut sodium almost in half. (Black beans should be rinsed thoroughly regardless for optimal flavor). You can also use dry beans you make at home and skip the salt completely.
  • Low-sodium diced tomatoes can also readily be found. This recipe calls for a 10 oz. can of diced tomatoes with green chilies. I used a combination of fresh tomatoes and low-sodium diced tomatoes, and I skipped the green chilies.
  • Low-sodium tortilla chips are the best choice to top this soup. I used a blue corn variety, which added some nice color.
  • Low-sodium chicken broth can also be found! Check the labels for low-sodium options. 
  • Add extra veggies to lower overall sodium and boost this soup’s nutrition (and flavor). I used what I had in the fridge, which included 2 diced celery sticks, 1 diced green bell pepper and about 1/2 cup frozen corn.

Another swap is to skip the chicken and make this a vegetarian soup. (I would add brown rice if you are skipping the chicken. Why? Black beans + brown rice= a delicious  complete protein.)

For better flavor and consistency of your chicken, you will probably want to braise it. Braising makes a lean, tough cut of meat flavorful and tender. This can easily be done by heating up your stovetop to high and coating a pan with 1 tablespoon canola oil. (The pan should be wide enough to fit the chicken breasts flat without overcrowding them). Sear each side of the chicken breasts for about 2-3 minutes or until golden brown on the surface but not cooked through. Remove from pan and add to a preheated slow cooker, with liquid added, on the low setting. Other flavor-enhancing tips include: 
  • Sautéing onions, garlic and pepper before throwing them in the slow cooker. This will deepen the flavor of the whole dish. This can be done in the same pan as your chicken, after you have cooked it. 
  • Adding 1/2 teaspoon oregano or Mexican oregano, if you can find it.
  • Swapping lemon juice for lime juice if you prefer it.
  • Using different beans, such as pintos or a mix of beans.
  • Topping the soup with chopped green onions and a dollop of Greek yogurt.

Have you tried this recipe and made any of your own changes? If so, I'd love to hear about them! Please leave any of your own suggestions in the comments. 

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Gluten-Free Buckwheat Rice Flour

Have you ever tried buckwheat flour?

Buckwheat is one of my favorite gluten-free grains to work with when baking. It is highly nutritious and has a unique flavor. The grain is slightly bitter so when making the flour mix, pair it with something sweet and mild, such as white rice flour. I find that gluten free baked goods with buckwheat flour are somewhat moister and softer than those made with some other grains. You can find buckwheat flour at speciality food stores or farmers markets/food cooperatives in regions where grains are grown. I found a great deal on a big old bag of locally produced buckwheat flour at an Amish country store while living in Chi-town (Check them out!)

Fun Facts about Buckwheat:

- Bees love buckwheat plants! Bees that frequent buckwheat plants make a very strong flavored honey, that is best enjoyed in small quantities. (Try adding a teaspoon to a basic vinaigrette recipe.)

- Buckwheat is a great source of fiber. 
By the way your mother called; Are you getting enough fiber?

- Buckwheat can be enjoyed in it's unrefined form as a groat, also known as kasha. Kasha can be cooked and enjoyed as a breakfast cereal or served over pasta.

- In terms of diet, buckwheat is considered a whole grain (even when turned into a flour) so chowing done on this tasty plant helps you make half your grains whole!

Gluten Free Buckwheat Rice Flour

prep time: 15 min  


  • 1 part brown rice flour* 
  • 1 part sorghum flour*
  • 2 parts buckwheat flour*
  • 3 parts tapioca starch*
  • 3 parts white rice flour*  
*All of these items can be found at specialty food stores such as, Whole Foods & Trader Joe's.  They are also becoming more and more popular at chain grocery stores and are often sold by a company called Bob's Red Mill. Ask your store if they cary Bob's Red Mill and if not, perhaps they will order some for you. Check out Bob's Red Mill website for a store locator.
Note: This recipe is broken down into parts so you can make as much or as little as you need. Using grams as your unit of measurement will make the math easier. For that, you will need a kitchen scale, which inexpensively at most home stores). If you are using grams the, list would contain the following ingredients: 100 grams brown rice flour, 100 grams sorghum, 200 grams buckwheat flour, 300 grams tapioca starch and 300 grams white rice flour (totaling 1,000 grams).  For more information about why I use a scale to measure my flour mixes please read my previous post.

Items needed:
  • kitchen scale
  • 2 very large bowls.
  • wooden spoon 
  • sifter (optional)

Set your large bowl on top of your scale and find the "tare" button to zero out your scale (or keep mental note of how much the bowl weighs and account for that). Combine all of your flours in the bowl. If working in grams, add as you go until you have reached 1,000 grams. Mix all of your flours very well with a wooden spoon. This step is critical because it ensures that all of the flours are well-incorporated and produces more evenly baked items. You can use a flour sifter to be extra certain you mix all the flour as well as possible. Store your flour mix in an airtight container or bag inside of the freezer to keep the oils inside of the grains from going rancid (which will give your food an off flavor).

Monday, December 30, 2013

Gluten Free Flour

From time to time you will find gluten free recipes here at Food For All Kinds where home-made gluten free flour is used. I do not use premixed gluten free flours because they are over-priced and usually not as good as what I can make in my kitchen.

But how does one make home-made gluten free flour? Isn't that time consuming and complicated?

Well, yes and no but mostly no. Yes, it takes time and there is a bit of a science behind it but I'd rather save money and have a healthier and better tasting end result. I used to be afraid of making my own flour mixes but all I needed was a little confidence. That happened one day when I came across this choco-tastic recipe for Gluten Free Chocolate Banana Muffins
from the NYTimes.

The author describes her recipe for gluten free flour in this recipe but gives credit to the inspiring blogger, Shauna James Ahem of Gluten Free Girl, for the idea. I say inspiring because after reading about her method of making gluten free flour mixes, my whole view of GF baking changed forever. She uses a very precise percentage of grains and starches, which eliminates the need for any 'gum' products. Now, chances are, if you are familiar with a gluten free lifestyle you've probably heard (or read) the words xanthum gum and guar gum before.

(They are added to gluten free flour mixes to act as sort of a glue. Traditional wheat flours contain gluten which acts as binding agent, therefore flour without wheat is less stable).

However, maybe what you didn't know were some of the...um... unpleasant side effects of those gums. Often times symptoms for Celiac Disease sufferers ALREADY include stomach and digestive issues so it's suffice to say they don't need anything else stressing out their tummies.

So what's a gluten free girl to do? Turn to the smartest gluten free girl of them all! Gluten Free Girl's blog describes a food proof method for making your very own Whole Grain GF Flour Mix 
and All Purpose GF Flour Mix (she even includes a great video to make it extra user friendly). I won't get into the nitty gritty of exactly how it's done because I think it's worth a read but I will say that there are a lot of variations for making your own flour. All you need is to follow her percentage of 'grains' to 'starches', preferably using a kitchen scale.

Now, that finally brings me back to Food For For All Kinds. I am continuously making my own gluten free flour mixes. I find it incredibly fun to experiment and play with different flours. They all have unique tastes and textures that contribute differently to their final baking or cooking destination. Often my flour mixes are based on what I'm in the mood for but more often they are based on what's cheap at the store and what I have around the house.

No matter what I am making here in the Food For All Kinds Kitchen (whether gluten free or not) my goal is to be as transparent and concise as possible. That's why I will always link to the recipe for any gluten free flour mix and include a rating for it's ability to bake and cook well. Some flours work better for baking and some work better for sauce thickening, it all depends on lots of factors and I'm not enough of a scientist to know exactly why but I will always tell you honestly how well they work (remember, I'm still experimenting myself!)

I will also keep an updated list on this page of all of my gluten free flour recipes so be sure to check back!

For more information about Celiac Disease (including symptoms and support information) please visit Mayo Clinic and The Celiac Foundation. If you suspect you may have Celiac Disease, please consult a doctor.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Sugar Cookies

I hope you're not pumpkined out yet because I still have some pureed in my fridge from my Thanksgivikuh baking frenzy. I've got to use it somehow!

Hmm, how about gluten-free pumpkin sugar cookies?

Yeah, I thought so!

Below is a gluten-free adaption of various pumpkin sugar cookie recipes I have come across. Most recipes called for cinnamon or pumpkin pie spices, which I can definitely say my palate is just a teensy bit tired of after Thanksgiving. These cookies have a hint of pumpkin flavor but are not too overbearing. They are chewy, moist and just bit cakey. According to my roommate, they are reminiscent of the French macaroons I introduced him when he visited me in New York.

Gluten-Free Pumpkin  Sugar  Cookies

prep time: 25 min  bake time: 8-10 min  makes: about 2 dozen


  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 3 cups gluten free buckwheat rice flour mix (or other flour*)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  •  2 eggs, room temperature**
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup white sugar for coating
  • Optional: pecans for topping
Items needed

  • Small bowl wide enough to fit the width of the bottom of a drinking glass.
  • Drinking glass OR other item (such as the bottom of one of your measuring cups) to press in sugar coating and flatten cookies. 
  • Set of dry measuring cups.
  • Set of measuring spoons.
  • Parchment paper for lining baking sheets (skipping this step will result in cookies baked less evenly and more clean up).
  • At least 1 baking sheet (to bake all the cookies you will need to make 4-5 batches with 1 sheet or use more sheets).

* Different gluten-free flour mixes or regular wheat flour may be used for varied results. Please share any results used with other types of flour!
** Bring eggs to room temperature by setting on counter 20 min before baking.

Set oven to 350 degrees and line up to 4 baking pans with parchment paper. Combine flour, baking powder and salt, mixing throughly. Set aside.

In stand mixer with paddle attachment or large bowl with whisk, combine 2 eggs, 1 cup white sugar, 1/4 cup brown sugar, melted butter, pumpkin, and vanilla until evenly combined.

Slowly mix dry ingredients into wet. If you are not using a stand mixer, you should now switch to your sturdy mixing spoon. Mix until throughly combined and thick dough forms. Chill dough for about 10 min.

While cookies are chilling pour 1/4 cup white sugar into your wide bowl. Remove cookies from fridge and scoop out heaping tablespoons. Roll dough into balls with hands and place cookies about 2 inches apart on baking sheet. Using a drinking glass or the bottom of one of your measuring cups press down cookie dough down until 1/2 inch thick. Dough will stick to cup, so coat the bottom of the glass with the sugar from your bowl (this is easier once there is a little dough on the cup). Continue to flatten and coat each cookie with sugar and then place pecans on top of cookie.

Bake for 8-10 mins or until cookies have set. When set, cookies will appear to have a slight crust forming around the circumference. Ideally, set your timer for 8 min and check on them. If they are not set, return to oven and check on them every 2-3 min until set.