Tag Archives: Secret Recipe Club

Slow Cooker Juniper Venison Stew

Slow Cooker Juniper Venison Stew at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

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Skillet Baked Eggs with Potatoes, Pesto & Sun Dried Tomatoes

Skillet Baked Eggs with Potatoes, Pesto & Sun Dried Tomatoes at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com Continue reading

Cranberry & Coconut Bread Pudding with Chattanooga Whiskey Sauce

Cranberry & Coconut Bread Pudding with Chattanooga Whiskey Sauce

This month’s Secret Recipe Club assignment was A Spoonful of Thyme. Like me, Kathy’s a big fan of bread pudding and features several versions of it on her blog – San Francisco Bread Pudding, Apple Cinnamon Bread Pudding with Creamy Bourbon Sauce and  Bread Pudding with Brandy Sauce. Frankly, I couldn’t decide which version to tackle. Instead, I took elements of two – the San Francisco Bread Pudding and the Bourbon Sauce from the other.

Then I made it both dairy free and gluten free since that much cream, milk and gluten would send me to bed with a tummy ache for a week. Inspired by Kathy sneaking in shredded coconut into her bread pudding recipes, I used canned coconut cream instead of cream and rice milk instead of milk. In the sauce, instead of butter, I used a vegan buttery spread, too.  I also used leftover gluten free hot dog buns from the summer I had in the freezer – waste not, want not!

Even though it’s perfect for folks with food sensitivities to dairy, whey and gluten, my Cranberry & Coconut Bread Pudding with Chattanooga Whiskey Sauce is by no means a healthy dessert. It’s full of coconut cream, eggs and booze! So keep it for special occasions like Thanksgiving, Christmas, or other family celebrations. And watch your portions!

Cranberry & Coconut Bread Pudding with Chattanooga Whiskey Sauce

Since I was using Chattanooga Whiskey that I bought on my trip to Chattanooga, Tennessee last spring, instead of sugar I decided to sweeten the bread pudding and sauce with sorghum syrup, another southern staple. If you don’t have access to sorghum syrup, you can use honey, maple syrup or dark agave nectar instead.

Cranberry & Coconut Bread Pudding with Chattanooga Whiskey Sauce

Cranberry & Coconut Bread Pudding with Chattanooga Whiskey Sauce

Inspired by recipes for San Francisco Bread Pudding and Creamy Bourbon Sauce at A Spoonful of Thyme

Ingredients

For the pudding:

  • 8 cups gluten free bread, cut up into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2 cups rice milk
  • 1 (14 ounce) can coconut cream
  • 1 cup sorghum syrup
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup orange flavored dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • 2 tablespoons gluten free vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

For the whiskey sauce:

  • 1 (14 ounce) can coconut cream
  • 1/2 cup rice milk
  • 1/2 cup sorghum syrup
  • 2 tablespoons rice starch
  • 1/2 cup Chattanooga Whiskey, divided
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 tablespoons buttery spread

Directions

For the pudding:

  1. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients and blend well. Let sit for 20 minutes so bread absorbs liquid.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  3. Pour into a greased 11 3/4 inch oven safe skillet or similarly large baking dish.
  4. Bake for 50 minutes until set. The pudding is done when it is puffy and golden brown. Serve warm with the whiskey sauce.

For the whiskey sauce:

  1. Combine coconut cream, rice milk, and sorghum syrup in a one quart saucepan and set over medium heat.
  2. In a small mixing bowl, blend the rice starch and 1/4 cup of the whiskey to make a slurry.
  3. Pour the slurry into the coconut cream and rice milk mixture and bring it to a boil.
  4. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.
  5. Remove the sauce from the heat, add the salt, buttery spread, and the remaining whiskey.
  6. Serve warm.
Prep Time: 40 Minutes
Cook Time: 50 Minutes
Total Time: 1 Hour 30 Minutes
Servings: Makes 16 servings
  • Serving size: 1/16 of recipe

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Gluten Free Oatmeal Crumb Apple Peach Pie

Gluten Free Oatmeal Crumb Apple Peach Pie  at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

After being out for a couple of months due to my brain surgery, I’m glad to join back up with the monthly Secret Recipe Club event. This month’s assignment was to pick a recipe from Flavors by Four, a mother-daughter team of foodies who have been blogging since the end of 2010. I wanted to try a pie recipe using the Pillsbury Gluten Free Dough that was recently sent to me (read my review of Pillsbury Gluten Free Pie Dough here). So I chose their recipe for Oatmeal Crumb Apple Pie. I really like how Flavors by Four explain things step by step with pictures, making it easy for even the most inexperienced cook.

Gluten Free Oatmeal Crumb Apple Peach Pie at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

In addition, what I liked about their Oatmeal Crumb Apple Pie recipe was that it was very easy and quick to make because you could use a store bought frozen pie crust, and that it was Weight Watchers friendly. I had originally wanted to make their Strawberry Rhubarb Pie, because it looked so delicious, but since rhubarb is out of season I couldn’t find any at the store.

Wanting to change things up a bit, I decided to substitute one of the apples with a couple of small peaches as well as make the dessert totally gluten free. However, I found that using Pillsbury Gluten Free Dough and other gluten free ingredients caused the pie to cook much faster even though I baked it at a lower temperature. If you’re not using gluten free ingredients and sticking to Flavors by Four’s original ingredients, make sure to use her temperatures and times. Also,if you don’t have access to coconut palm sugar, you can use brown sugar. Instead of rice starch, you can use corn starch. For the buttery spread, you can use I Can't Believe it's Not Butter or Earth Balance.

Gluten Free Oatmeal Crumb Apple Peach Pie  at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

Gluten Free Oatmeal Crumb Apple Peach Pie

If the crust starts to get too brown, tear aluminum foil into strips and carefully cover the crust while rest of pie continues to bake.

Ingredients

  • 1 gluten free pie crust - frozen, store bought or from your favorite recipe (I used Pillsbury Gluten Free Dough.)
  • 3 medium Fuji apples, cored, peeled, thinly sliced
  • 2 small peaches, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup coconut palm sugar
  • 1 tablespoon rice starch
  • 1/2 cup gluten free old fashioned oatmeal
  • 1/3 cup gluten free all purpose baking mix
  • 3 tablespoons coconut palm sugar
  • 3 tablespoons buttery spread, melted

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 375 F. Take your premade pie crust and set it aside.
  2. Wash, peel, core and slice your apples. Wash, pit, and thinly slice peaches. Set aside in a large bowl.
  3. In a small mixing bowl add the 1/4 cup of coconut palm sugar, cinnamon and rice starch. Mix well. Add the sugar mixture to the bowl with the apples and peaches. Toss to coat the fruit and set aside for now.
  4. To make the crumble, combine the flour, oatmeal and remaining coconut palm sugar in a bowl. Then melt the buttery spread on a low power in your microwave for 15 seconds at a time until totally melted. Pour the melted spread into the bowl of dry ingredients and mix until combined.
  5. Put the fruit in the pie crust and spread evenly. Then top the fruit with the crumb mixture making sure to spread it out over the entire pie.
  6. Bake the pie until the apples and peaches are tender and the crumb topping is golden brown, about 30-40 minutes.
Prep Time: 30 Minutes
Cook Time: 40 Minutes
Total Time: 1 Hour 10 Minutes
Servings: Serves 8
  • Serving size: 1 slice (1/8 of pie)

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Layered Mexican Christmas Eve Salad with Smoked Beets #SRC

Layered Mexican Christmas Eve Salad with Smoked Beets at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

For this month’s Secret Recipe Club challenge, I was thrilled to be assigned a food blogger from my old home state of Colorado, Lea Ann Brown of Cooking on the Ranch. I so miss Colorado’s food blogging community! While I was tempted to try out several of Lea Ann’s breakfast recipes (anything with an egg is A-OK with me), I decided trying her Mexican Christmas Eve Salad would be more seasonally appropriate. Yes, yes, I know it’s June, but making a nice salad for dinner seems like a good idea when it’s too hot to cook. Don’t you agree?

I took Lea Ann’s advice and make this a chopped salad and arranged it in a trifle bowl, since she felt the Mexican Christmas Eve Salad reminded her of an English trifle. In addition, I did a little research on Ensalada de Nochebuena or Christmas Eve Salad. According to Hispanic Kitchen,

Although many variations exist, three ingredients are at the core: beets, pomegranate and jicama. The root vegetable – jicama is also known as "Mexican potato," so it's an appropriate member. Beets are included for color along with pomegranate seeds sprinkled across the top. Apples, oranges, and sometimes bananas round out the list.

Lea Ann’s version uses pomegranate seeds, romaine lettuce, peanuts, oranges, jicama, along with red and golden beets. I’ve seen other recipes use pepitas (pumpkin seeds), apples, bananas, and pine nuts. I kept pretty true to her recipe, but omitted the peanuts due to my daughter’s nut allergy. I’ll serve pepitas on the side if anyone’s interested in adding them to their salad, though I doubt my kids will go for it. For the dressing, most recipes call for Crème Mexicana, which is Mexican sour cream. If you cannot find it in your grocery store or want to use something lighter, use nonfat Greek yogurt instead. I found Lea Ann’s version super thick, so I thinned it with rice vinegar. Finally, I doubled Lea Ann’s recipe so it would fit in my Pampered Chef trifle bowl.

Layered Mexican Christmas Eve Salad with Smoked Beets at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

How to smoke beets

After having smoked cauliflower at Pulaski Heights BBQ in Athens, GA, I started experimenting by smoking various vegetables from beets to kohlrabi. While you can roast beets in the oven using my method for cooking and peeling beets, I love smoking beets in my electric smoker. Here’s how:

  1. Set smoker to 275 degrees. Add your favorite type of wood chips. And don’t forget to add water to the drip pan!
  2. Coat an oven safe roasting pan with cooking spray. (Make sure your pan will fit inside your smoker.)
  3. Remove beet tops from beets and set aside. (Use the beet tops to make a Simple Beet Salad.)
  4. Wash beets. Cut into quarters and place in your roasting pan.
  5. Place roasting pan in your smoker and cook for 3 hours or until the beets are soft when pricked with a knife or fork.
  6. Remove from smoker and let cool.
  7. Peel skin off beats with a paring knife.
Layered Mexican Christmas Eve Salad with Smoked Beets at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

Layered Mexican Christmas Eve Salad

Ingredients

For salad:

  • 6 red beets, smoked, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 romaine heart, coarsely chopped
  • 1 small jicama, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 4 navel oranges, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 (5.3 ounce) containers pomegranate arils

For dressing:

  • 1/2 cup light mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup Crème Mexicana
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons orange juice
  • 2 canned chipotle chilies, minced
  • 4 tablespoons rice vinegar

Directions

For salad:

  1. Layer ingredients in your trifle bowl in the order listed. For fun you may want to break up the romaine lettuce into two layers.
  2. Since beets have a tendency to run, you may want to have them as the bottom layer.

For dressing:

  1. In a small mixing bowl, combine ingredients and stir until blended.
  2. Serve on the side.
Prep Time: 30 Minutes
Total Time: 30 Minutes
Servings: Serves 6 to 8
  • Serving size: 1 large bowl

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Healthy Gluten Free Slow Cooker Pasta

Healthy Gluten Free Slow Cooker Pasta from This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.comAs I explained in last month’s Secret Recipe Club post for Spaghetti with Spicy Cauliflower Sauce, making pasta is a bit of an ordeal at my house since I only have two proper burners on my stovetop. So when I saw Robin from Robin Restored’s post on Crockpot Spaghetti, I thought, “This is the recipe I have to make for this month’s Secret Recipe Club challenge!”

Robin explains that Crockpot Spaghetti is her mom’s go-to recipe for family parties and people complain if she doesn’t make it. Robin’s version is sure to please, but I wanted to health it up a bit and make it gluten free. So here’s how I changed it:

  • I used the leanest ground beef I could find instead of ground chuck. Buy the leanest you can find at your local store. If you read labels, you’ll notice that it has less fat than ground turkey. Feel free to use ground venison or buffalo, too. If you can find and afford organic or “natural” (grass fed with no antibiotics used) beef or buffalo, go for it!
  • I used fresh ingredients like onions and garlic instead of powders and fresh mushrooms instead of canned.
  • Instead of pepperoni slices, I decided to try it with chicken Italian sausage from Trader Joe’s. Their sausage is precooked, so I was able to cut it into chunks before placing it in the slow cooker. If the sausage you use isn’t precooked and you’re worried about it falling apart during cooking, place it whole into the crock. Then slice it up before serving.
  • I used V8 instead of plain tomato juice since we had a bottle in the pantry. Any veggie and tomato juice blend will do!
  • I also added some additional veggies – two yellow squashes. You could also use zucchini, eggplant or cauliflower. Slow cooking practically dissolved the squash and mushrooms, so their presence remained hidden from picky people in my family who claim not to like vegetables. (That’s my daughter, Lucie, who only eats carrots and cauliflower these days.)
  • Finally, since I'm a Community Leader at Udi's Gluten Free, I'm always interested in making gluten free recipes, especially for the slow cooker. So I used brown rice penne pasta, and my family never noticed! Feel free to use whole wheat pasta instead if you don’t eat gluten free.

Slow Cooker Pasta from This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

All in all, good reviews from the family and super easy and quick to make. The leftovers heat up well in the microwave without the pasta getting too mushy.

Healthy Gluten Free Slow Cooker Pasta from This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

Healthy Slow Cooker Pasta

Ingredients

  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano (or 1 1/2 fresh oregano, minced)
  • 1 (15 ounces) can tomato sauce
  • 4 ounces mushrooms (cut large mushrooms into halves or quarters)
  • 3 1/2 cups V8 juice
  • 1 package Italian flavored chicken sausage, sliced into bite sized chunks
  • 2 yellow squash, cut into a large dice
  • 1 (16 ounce) package brown rice penne pasta

Directions

  1. Over medium heat, place ground beef, onion and garlic into a large skillet. Cook until meat has browned. Drain well.
  2. Place browned meat into a large (6 to 8 quart) slow cooker.
  3. Add all remaining ingredients, except pasta. Stir well.
  4. Cover and cook on low 6-8 hours or high for 3 1/2 hours.
  5. Add pasta and cook for an additional 30 minutes or until pasta is done.
  6. Turn off slow cooker. Serve and enjoy!
Prep Time: 30 Minutes
Cook Time: 8 Hours 30 Minutes
Total Time: 9 Hours
Servings: Serves 8 with lots of leftovers
  • Serving size: 1/8 of recipe

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Meatless Monday: Spaghetti with Spicy Cauliflower Sauce

Spaghetti with Spicy Cauliflower Sauce at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

Making pasta is a bit of an ordeal of my house, since I have to make regular whole wheat pasta as well as gluten free pasta. It’s made even more difficult because I have a 20-year-old Jenn Air range with only two working electric burners and two grill-like burners that take forever to heat up. This means I have to make the pasta first, then put it aside while I make the sauce. Then I have to reheat the pasta before serving. Needless to say, I can’t wait until we have enough money saved to do our kitchen remodel.

Even so, this month’s Secret Recipe Club assignment was enticing enough to deal with the inconvenience. I chose Melissa from Smell’s Like Brownies’ recipe for Spaghetti with Spicy Cauliflower Sauce for several reasons. First, it’s a terrific Meatless Monday dish, even if my husband thought I should have added some sausage to it. (Not a bad idea, frankly.) And second, because my daughter, Lucie, loves cauliflower.

Changes  to the recipe and cooking tips

Changes: I didn’t change up too much in this dish, except for the way I cooked it. For example, I minded and left it in the pan instead of crushing the cloves and removing them later. I also partially cooked the cauliflower  then added the onion and cooking both together instead of cooking them separately.

How to cut cauliflower: I don’t like tossing the cauliflower stems and just using the florets as it seems such a waste. Instead, I slice the cauliflower head into 1 inch slices, then break them apart with my hands into bite sized pieces. Yes, there’s a mixture of pretty and not-so-pretty pieces of cauliflower, but it all tastes good to me!

About the type of cheese: Any freshly grated Romano style cheese is perfect with this dish. I used a Romano-Pecorino cheese from Trader Joe’s that’s very tasty, so feel free to experiment!

Spaghetti with Spicy Cauliflower Sauce at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

The convenience of Gourmet Garden herbs: Instead of fresh parsley, I used Gourmet Garden parsley instead. I’ve been having a lot of fun experimenting with Gourmet Garden’s products, and love the convenience of squeezing out just enough for a recipe without having to buy a whole bunch of herbs. There’s nothing worse than throwing rotten parsley into the compost bin because you didn’t have another use for it before it went bad. If you wish, use the same amount of fresh parsley instead.

Serving the sauce: Since I made two kinds of pasta, I served the sauce on top of it instead of dumping all the pasta into the sauce pot. This also is a better way to do things if you plan to have leftovers as the sauce will soften the pasta, so by the time you reheat it, it’s sort of mushy.

Salt your water: Finally, don’t forget to liberally salt your pasta cooking water. In my opinion, this practically eliminates the need to add extra salt to your pasta sauce.

Spaghetti with Spicy Cauliflower Sauce at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

Spaghetti with Spicy Cauliflower Sauce

Adapted from Smells Like Brownies adaption of the recipe from The Complete Book of Pasta and Noodles

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium head cauliflower, trimmed and cut into bite sized pieces
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, minced
  • 1 pound whole wheat or gluten free spaghetti
  • 1/2 to 1 cup freshly grated Romano-Pecorino cheese

Directions

  1. Start cooking the pasta according to package directions while you make the sauce. Drain and return the pasta to the pot.
  2. Heat 3 tablespoons oil over medium heat in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet.
  3. Add the cauliflower and minced garlic. Sauté, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes.
  4. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and the sliced onion to the pan and cook until golden brown – about 10 minutes.
  5. Add the tomatoes and red pepper to the onion and cook until slightly thickened, about 2 to 3 minutes.
  6. Then stir in the parsley and 1/4 cup of the grated cheese.
  7. Place one serving of pasta in a bowl or plate and liberally top with sauce. Serve immediately with extra cheese and crushed red pepper.
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Cook Time: 20 Minutes
Total Time: 30 Minutes
Servings: Serves 4
  • Serving size: 1/4 of recipe

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______________________
Disclosure: Amazon links are affiliate links. A commission may be earned from a referred sale to their website.

Gourmet Garden provided me with samples of their products to try out in my cooking. All opinions and experiences are my own.

Slow Cooker Lemon, Garlic and Rosemary Chicken

Slow Cooker Lemon, Garlic and Rosemary Chicken at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.comAfter taking a break for the holidays, I’m once again participating in the Secret Recipe Club. This month’s assigned blog was Secrets of the Cookie Princess. While Colleen, the Cookie Princess, is obsessed with cookie baking, she also likes to cook up other dishes like Chicken Enchilada Soup and Crispy Quinoa Bites, which are two recipes to I’ve placed on my “To Cook” list.

I decided to make her Crockpot Lemon and Herb Roast Chicken as an excuse to use the whole organic chicken that had been sitting in my freezer for the past few months. I also chose this recipe since it uses items I always have on hand like fresh rosemary from the garden and garlic. Plus it’s based on this recipe from my friend, Stephanie O’Dea. I urge you to read Stephanie’s recipe as it’s quite funny. Her tale about “scaring the cats bald” had me cracking up.

Slow Cooker Lemon, Garlic and Rosemary Chicken at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

Good, not great

My Slow Cooker Lemon, Garlic and Rosemary Chicken was a disappointment. Even though the chicken was sitting in its own juices, the breast meat tasted dry. The lemon and rosemary were overpowering and gave the chicken an almost astringent taste. Also, I could barely taste the garlic, which was unbelievable considering how much I used. However, the baby potatoes were delicious and perfectly cooked!

Ideas for improvement: Next time I attempt to make this dish, I would only use one lemon and one sprig of fresh rosemary. I’d also add something sweet, like maybe slices from one orange and 1/4 cup of maple syrup, sorghum, honey, or agave nectar poured over the top before cooking. Also, I’d keep the skin on to add moisture to the breast meat. Finally, I’d check the chicken after three hours. I cooked the chicken for five hours and it was falling off the bone, which made for a lousy presentation. (This explains why I had to photograph it in the crock rather than on a pretty platter.)

Slow Cooker Lemon, Garlic and Rosemary Chicken ingredients at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

Slow Cooker Lemon, Garlic and Rosemary Chicken at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

Slow Cooker Lemon, Garlic and Rosemary Chicken

Based on this recipe from Secrets of the Cookie Princess, which is based on this recipe from Stephanie O’Dea

Ingredients

  • 1 (3 to 4) pound whole chicken, thawed and skinned
  • 1 head of garlic – cloves separated and peeled
  • 2 lemons, washed and sliced
  • 1 bunch fresh rosemary or 2-3 tablespoons dried rosemary
  • 1 pound baby potatoes
  • Sea salt and pepper as desired

Directions

  1. Rinse chicken, then remove skin and pat dry.
  2. Rub salt and pepper in and outside of chicken.
  3. Place chicken in a 4-5 quart slow cooker.
  4. Place half of the peeled cloves into the cavity of the chicken.
  5. Place half the lemon slices inside the chicken.
  6. Place the remaining garlic and lemon slices on top of the chicken.
  7. Place baby potatoes around the sides of the chicken.
  8. Place rosemary over top of chicken and potatoes.
  9. Cook on low for 4 to 5 hours.
  10. When finished cooking, remove lemon slices and rosemary, and discard.
  11. Cut up chicken and serve.
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 4 Hours
Total Time: 4 Hours 15 Minutes
Servings: Serves 4 to 6
  • Serving size: 1/4 to 1/6 of recipe

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Healthy fall dinners: Okra Soup #secretrecipeclub

Okra Soup

I loved okra even before we moved to the south. So when I saw a recipe for Okra Soup on Close to Home, my assigned Secret Recipe Club blog, I knew this would be a perfect fall time soup.  I’ve taken Maria’s version that is based on this recipe at Saveur.com and made some changes like using pancetta instead of bacon and fresh thyme from the garden instead of dried.

To save time, I used fire roasted diced tomatoes instead of whole, peeled tomatoes so I wouldn’t have to crush them by hand. I also used pre-diced pancetta (mostly because it was on sale, but bacon would be OK, too). However, the real time saving trick was to use frozen, diced okra. Since fresh okra costs twice as much as frozen, it’s also a way to cut costs. Finally, you don’t want to boil the okra into a mush. I like the okra to be cooked through, but still have a crunch to it.

I made a double batch so we’d have lots left over for lunches. (You can freeze half, too.) I’ve been heating a batch up in the microwave each morning for my son, Nathan to take to school. He says it’s the best soup I’ve ever made.

Okra Soup

Okra Soup

Based on a recipe from Saveur.com via Maria at Close to Home

Double batch – serves 12-16

  • 4 tablespoons canola oil
  • 6 ounces pancetta, chopped into small pieces
  • 2 teaspoons fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 12  cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 ribs celery, finely chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 pounds frozen, sliced okra
  • 12 cups chicken stock
  • 4 – 14.5 ounce cans fire roasted, diced tomatoes

Directions:

  1. In a large soup pot, heat oil and bacon over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring, until fat renders, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add thyme, garlic, onion, celery, and bay leaf, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until soft, about 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in tomato paste. Cook, stirring, until caramelized, about 2 minutes.
  4. Add okra, chicken stock, and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and cook, until okra is slightly tender but not mushy, about 20-30 minutes.

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Zucchini Bread Pancakes

Dairy Free and Gluten Free Zucchini Bread Pancakes at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

Today’s Secret Recipe Club recipe should be perfect for anyone with too much zucchini in the garden and too much zucchini bread in the freezer. That was the case with Andrea of Adventures in All Things Food when she created her recipe for My Zucchini Troubles Turned Zucchini Bread Pancakes.

Since we had no garden this year, I went and bought a zucchini. In case you have to do the same, one smallish zucchini makes about 2 cups of shredded zucchini. So much for eyeballing it because I bought three! Oh well, another excuse to make more zucchini pancakes!

I made a few substitutions to make the zucchini pancakes gluten free and dairy free, but feel free to use Andrea’s original recipe. My kids ate theirs covered in flavored applesauce. I used tofu sour cream on mine. Delish!

Ingredients

  • 2 cups packed zucchini, shredded and patted dry
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • 3 tablespoons agave nectar
  • 1/4 cup tofu sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup gluten free all purpose flour mix
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 lemon, zested

Directions

  1. Grate your zucchini first, pat dry with a paper towel to remove excess moisture and set aside.
  2. Preheat your pancake skillet. Coat with cooking spray when heated.
  3. In a medium bowl combine the eggs, oil, agave, tofu sour cream, and vanilla extract. Whisk well.
  4. Stir in the shredded zucchini.
  5. In a large bowl whisk together the remaining ingredients, minus the lemon zest.
  6. Add the wet mix to the dry mix. Add the zest and fold everything in till all ingredients are moistened.
  7. Pour 1/4 cup of pancake batter in your preheated skillet.
  8. Cook until golden on one side and bubbles start to form on the top.
  9. Flip and wait till the other side turns golden brown.
Prep Time: 20 Minutes
Cook Time: 20 Minutes
Total Time: 40 Minutes
Servings: Makes about 9 to 10 pancakes
  • Serving size: 1 pancake

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Healthier Lemon Pasta

Healthier Lemon Pasta at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

It’s not often that I try a new recipe and have my husband, Paul, tell me, “Hun, this is one of my favorite things you make.” So needless to stay, this month’s Secret Recipe Club dish from Jen at Jen’s Journey will be a dinner time staple at our house from now on. He loved. I loved it. The kids thought it was OK, but it disappeared off their plates. So I bet they loved it, too.

Making Lemon Pasta dairy free and gluten free

Jen’s recipe for Lemon Pasta is based on a Baked Lemon Pasta recipe from the Pioneer Woman. I’ve further modified it by substituting a tofu sour cream for the regular sour cream since I can’t eat dairy products, with the exception of cheese, because of my whey food sensitivity. (My recipe Tofu Sour Cream is based on this recipe from the Vegan Epicurean. Here's my version of the Tofu Sour Cream recipe.) If you need to avoid cheese, you can use vegan Parmesan sprinkles or skip the Parmesan altogether.

If you can have dairy, you can health up the Lemon Pasta by using a low fat sour cream or non-fat Greek yogurt. I also cooked this with a buttery spread to further lower the saturated fat. I used I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Light, but Earth’s Balance spreads are very good and vegan to boot. I like both brands and go back and forth depending on where I’m shopping and what’s on sale. (Note: ICBINB is not vegan as it contains a little bit of milk.)

As for pasta, I used whole wheat, but gluten free brown rice pasta would work well, too. Variation wise, I’m wondering if capers would be good in this, since capers and lemon work well together in dishes like Chicken Piccata. Or maybe some sliced black olives. Hmmmm, maybe next time!

Healthier Lemon Pasta at This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

Healthier Lemon Pasta

Ingredients

  • 1 box spaghetti
  • 4 tablespoons buttery spread
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 lemon, juiced and zested
  • 2 cups sour cream, vegan sour cream or non-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving
  • Flat-leaf parsley, chopped – to taste for garnish, plus extra for serving

Directions

  1. Cook spaghetti al dente in salted water. Drain, rinse, and place spaghetti back in pot. Place lid on pot to keep spaghetti warm and set aside.
  2. Juice one lemon into a bowl. Strain to remove pulp and seeds.
  3. In a skillet, melt butter with olive oil over medium low heat. When butter is melted, add minced garlic and lemon juice. Turn off heat.
  4. Add your sour cream (or sour cream substitute) to the butter and oil mixture. Add lemon zest and salt. Stir everything together and taste. Add more salt if necessary.
  5. Pour sour cream mixture over drained spaghetti and toss. If the sauce is too thick, add a splash of water or milk.
  6. Place spaghetti in a large serving bowl and then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and parsley.
  7. Serve with extra grated cheese and parsley on the side.
Prep Time: 10 Minutes
Cook Time: 20 Minutes
Total Time: 30 Minutes
Servings: Serves 4
  • Serving size: 1/4 of recipe

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Homemade Queso Fresco #secretrecipeclub

queso-frescoWhen we moved to Georgia, I was concerned that I wouldn’t have access to Mexican foodstuffs like locally made corn tortillas or Mexican cheese. How wrong I was! There’s a large Hispanic population here in Athens, GA and you can find all types of Hispanic food – including special cuts of meat like carne picada – right at WalMart, Krogers and Publix. So even though I’ve moved to the South I can still enjoy the dishes I  loved when I was growing up in Southern California like carne asada and Fish Veracruz since it’s easy to find all the ingredients like Queso Fresco, the Mexican version of feta.

However, when I saw Andrea Kruse of Adventures in All Things Food’s recipe for Queso Fresco for my Secret Recipe Club post, I had a light bulb moment. I didn’t have to go to the store – I could make my own at home! My family and I have made mozzarella before, which is easy. But making Queso Fresco is even easier – all you need is milk, kosher salt, vinegar and some cheese cloth.

Let’s talk about milk

The nice thing about making cheese at home is that you can choose the type of milk that you want – organic, non-organic, sourced from a local dairy, or just the regular stuff from the store. Traditionally, Queso Fresco is made from raw cow’s milk. Here in the US, it’s made from pasteurized milk. I used pasteurized organic whole milk, but you can use whatever you like.However, you do want to avoid ultra pasteurized milk, which will not curdle during the cheese making process.

Also, I had wondered about using low fat or skim milk. Since all the recipes I’ve looked up use whole milk, I stuck with that.

What kind of salt and vinegar?

Most recipes I see on the internet for Queso Fresco use kosher salt. However, the types of vinegar vary. Some use white distilled vinegar, others use red wine vinegar or cider vinegar. Others use rennet or lemon juice to curdle the milk. I used white distilled vinegar since I felt it wouldn’t add any negative flavors to the cheese.

Draining and pressing the cheese

I used a double layer of cheese cloth when I made my Queso Fresco. However, the cheese stuck to the cloth and some was left behind when I peeled it away from the cheese. Next time I make this, I’ll use thin muslin tea towels instead.

As far as pressing the cheese, the easiest thing to do is to gather the sides of your cheese cloth and make your Queso Fresco into a mound or disc shape. Another option is to use a large can to make a cheese press like this one.

Also, you’ll end up with around 2 1/2 cups of whey. You can use it in smoothies or instead of water in soups, bread dough, or savory dishes.

Curds and whey draining the cheese

Queso Fresco

Ingredients:

  • 1 quart whole cow’s milk
  • 1 tablespoon coarse kosher salt
  • 2-3 tablespoons white distilled vinegar

Directions:

  1. In a heavy bottomed saucepan heat the milk over medium heat. Add in the kosher salt.
  2. Bring the milk up to just barely a simmer, when it will start to foam up (around 190 degrees F). Make sure that the milk doesn’t burn by stirring frequently and keeping an eye on it. When it has a steady simmer and threatens to boil over, remove the pan from the burner.
  3. Add 2 tablespoons vinegar and stir. The milk should curdle and separate immediately. If not, add another tablespoon of vinegar. Stir gently so you don’t break the curds.
  4. Line a colander with doubled cheese cloth or a thin dish towel. Place colander in the sink or in a large pan. Drain off the cheese.
  5. Take up the corners of your cloth and gently squeeze out the whey. For a drier cheese, you can place a weighted plate on top of the cheese cloth and press out excess moisture. (I tried to remove as much whey as possible since I have a food sensitivity to it.)
  6. Cheese will keep for up to two weeks in the refrigerator. Enjoy it sliced or crumbled on salad, fish or vegetables or Mexican inspired dishes.

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Gluten Free Slow Cooker Hungarian Goulash with Quinoa

Gluten Free Slow Cooker Hungarian Goulash with Quinoa  from This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

I cannot believe we’re moving to Athens, Georgia in less than two weeks! We’re trying to cut down on the amount of stuff to pack, so the kids and I are in the process of consuming all the foodstuffs we can. That’s why I discovered one last package of venison in the freezer. Surprisingly it was stew meat, which was perfect to make Crock-Pot Hungarian Goulash from Heather of Hezzi-D's Books and Cooks blog for this month’s Secret Recipe Club assignment!

Yes, another slow cooker recipe for the Secret Recipe Club post. This is the third in a row after last month’s Healthy Slow Cooker Hoppin’ John and March’s Healthy Slow Cooker Pumpkin and Bean Chili. Hope you don’t mind, but when you have a small kitchen like I do in my temporary Boulder apartment, a slow cooker comes in handy!

I only made a few changes to Heather’s recipe. To make it gluten free, I used starch instead of flour and served it on quinoa instead of egg noodles. I also used coconut palm sugar instead of brown sugar, sea salt instead of regular table salt, and smoked paprika instead of regular paprika. Feel free to use whatever substitutes you wish depending on your food sensitivities and what you have on hand.

Gluten Free Slow Cooker Hungarian Goulash with Quinoa  from This Mama Cooks! On a Diet - thismamacooks.com

Gluten Free Slow Cooker Hungarian Goulash with Quinoa

Ingredients

  • 2 pounds lean stew meat (beef or venison), cut into 1 inch cubes
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon coconut palm sugar
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon dry mustard
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon corn or rice starch
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa

Directions

  1. Place the meat in a 5 quart slow cooker and cover with the sliced onion.
  2. Combine the garlic, ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, coconut palm sugar, salt, pepper, smoked paprika, and dry mustard. Stir in the water and mix well. Then pour mixture over the meat in the slow cooker.
  3. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. If mixture gets dry, add more water (1/2 cup at a time).
  4. Just before serving, remove a couple of tablespoons of liquid from the slow cooker and put into a small bowl. Add corn or rice starch and stir until dissolved. Pour starch mixture into the slow cooker and stir until goulash thickens.
  5. Spoon goulash over quinoa and serve.
Prep Time: 15 Minutes
Cook Time: 6 Hours
Total Time: 6 Hours 15 Minutes
Servings: Serves 6
  • Calories: 412
  • Calories from Fat: 46
  • Total Fat: 5.1g
  • Saturated fat: 5g
  • Unsaturated fat: .1g
  • Sodium: 681mg
  • Total Carbohydrates: 46.7g
  • Sugar: 8.5g
  • Fiber: 4.5g
  • Protein: 41.7g

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Healthy Slow Cooker Hoppin’ John #secretrecipeclub

Healthy Slow Cooker Hoppin’ John

I want to thank my regular readers for their patience the past few weeks as I haven’t been posting as many recipes as I’d normally would. It’s been a time when the personal gets in the way of the professional due to selling our home in February, moving to temporary quarters in Boulder in March, and traveling to Athens, Georgia to house hunt. (I was also on a trip to Honolulu to do some food writing for the folks at Sea Cuisine – more on that soon!)

While I was in Athens, I indulged in local Southern cuisine from barbecue to grits (smothered and chopped – thank you very much!) While I was there I discovered pickled and fried okra, pickled watermelon rinds, and a dish called Hoppin’ John. It’s a combination of two staples of Southern food – black eyed peas and collard greens.

Both foods are packed with nutrition. According to Self Nutrition Data, black eyed peas are low in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium and a good source of fiber, protein, folate, thiamin, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and copper. (The one drawback is that they’re very high in calories.) Collard greens are low in saturated fat, very low in cholesterol, and a good source of fiber, protein, and many vitamins and minerals.

Healthing up Southern cooking

I’m looking forward to our move to Georgia and sharing healthy versions of Southern recipes with my readers. That’s why I was so excited to find a recipe for Hoppin John Vegetarian Black Eyed Peas done in a slow cooker at Kristi Arnold’s blog Veggie Converter, my assigned blog for this month’s Secret Recipe Club post.

Kristi’s recipe is very healthy already, but since I’m not a vegetarian, I decided to add smoked turkey sausage to her recipe after consulting Kristi’s original sources. (Traditionally, smoked ham hocks are used.) I kept the sausage whole instead of chopping them up, so you can decide how much sausage you want to eat and can keep a better eye on portion size. Also, I used canned black eyed peas instead of dried to make the recipe even more convenient for busy folks. I served it on quinoa, but feel free to use rice – brown, of course – which is more traditional.

And the Bacon Salt that Kristi recommends? Awesome stuff! I love how it added bacon flavor – and no calories and saturated fat – to the recipe.

Healthy Slow Cooker Hoppin’ John

Healthy Slow Cooker Hoppin’ John

Healthy Crockpot Hoppin' John

Note: you can health up this recipe even more by using vegetable broth, cutting back on the sea salt, and adding more tomatoes, onions and collard greens. While I loved the addition of quinoa, it can be eliminated, too, if you're watching your calorie count. And the sausage? Feed it to your skinny friends or the dog!

Ingredients

  • 4 (15.5 ounce) cans black eyed peas, drained and rinsed
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 (13.5 ounce) package smoked turkey sausage, keep whole
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced petite tomatoes and diced green chilies
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about 3/4 cup)
  • 1 bunch collard greens, rinsed chopped and ribbed
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon Bacon Salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups cooked quinoa

Directions

  1. Empty the cans of black eyed peas into a colander place in the sink. Drain and rinse until the water runs clear.
  2. Place black eyed peas, chicken broth and turkey sausage in the six quart slow cooker.
  3. Stir in tomatoes with chilies, chopped onion, and collard greens.
  4. Add sea salt, Bacon salt and black pepper. Stir thoroughly.
  5. Cover and cook on low for 8-10 hours until sausage is cooked through.
  6. Serve over quinoa.
Servings: 10
  • Calories: 646
  • Calories from Fat: 56
  • Total Fat: 6.2g
  • Saturated fat: 1.3g
  • Unsaturated fat: 4.9g
  • Sodium: 1115mg
  • Total Carbohydrates: 136.6g
  • Sugar: 8.4g
  • Fiber: 51.2g
  • Protein: 56.4g
  • Cholesterol: 27mg

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Healthy Slow Cooker Pumpkin and Bean Chili

slow cooker pumpkin and bean chiliFor this month’s Secret Recipe Club assignment, I was partnered with Alison of Sweet Flours. As you can guess by her blog’s name, Alison blogs about sweet treats and baked goods. Luckily, for this healthy, gluten free blogger, she also makes savory dishes like chili. I was so enticed by her recent post, slow cooker easy pesto meatballs, that I wondered if she had any other slow cooker recipes. Luckily for me she did – slow cooker pumpkin and bean chili.

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Apartment cooking for three

I was incredibly grateful that this month’s Secret Recipe Club assignment would be an easy-to-make slow cooker chili recipe. You see, I sold my home last month and the kids and I are living in a furnished apartment in Boulder, Colorado to see out the school year. Then we move to Athens, Georgia where my husband will start work next month. It’s been stressful and I needed to make some comfort food!

Also, while I did pack a few pans, knives and kitchen gadgets to take with me, our apartment kitchen is small and stocked with only the basics. Knowing this, one of the things I made sure to take with us was my  red, four quart Crock-Pot. Unfortunately, I dropped it when I was unloading the truck and it now bears a huge dent. It’s no longer pretty, but it still works, thank goodness.

SONY DSC

Chili substitutions

I also chose this recipe because it used canned pumpkin puree. I love the idea of using pumpkin year round as it’s so healthy – full of fiber, Vitamin C, Vitamin A, carotenoids, potassium and zinc. Add it to a chili with a lean meat, high fiber beans, chopped tomatoes, and you have a super healthy dish. I also healthed up Alison’s recipe by substituting ground beef for ground venison. You can also use ground turkey or chicken. If you want to use ground beef, choose the leanest kind you can find.

Other changes included using a red bell pepper instead of a green one as I find them kind of bitter. I used vegetable instead of chicken broth as it’s much lower in fat and calories, and ground chipotle chile instead of cayenne pepper since that’s what I had on hand. Finally, instead of plain chili powder, I used Chugwater Chili Gourmet Chili Blend. If you’re ever in Chugwater, Wyoming, stop at the gas station off the freeway (there’s only one, if I remember right) and pick up a jar of it!

Chili additions

You can also add some extra veggies when making chili. I had hoped to add a bag of okra I had the freezer. However, there was no more room in the slow cooker! Instead, I added it after we ate a few bowls. Adding extra veggies is a great way to sneak some healthy greens into your family’s diet, plus it creates more chili without much added calories or cost.

Finally, I added a tablespoon of pumpkin oil. My husband brought a small bottle of this home from a trip to Germany and swears it makes pumpkin soup super delicious. So I thought I’d try it in pumpkin chili! Don’t worry about tracking a bottle down – using pumpkin oil is totally optional. I’ve also figured out the nutritional information without the oil.

slow cooker pumpkin and bean chili

Healthy Slow Cooker Pumpkin and Bean Chili

Adapted from Sweet Flours who adapted it from Lynn's Kitchen Adventure>

Ingredients

  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 pound ground venison, turkey, chicken or lean beef
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder or your favorite gourmet chili blend
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper or ground chipotle chile (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 15 ounce cans black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15 ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15 ounce can pumpkin puree
  • 1 14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 1 tablespoon pumpkin oil (optional)

Directions

  1. Cook onion, bell pepper and ground meat over medium high heat until meat is cooked through.
  2. Add salt and garlic. Cook for 1 minute.
  3. Add spices (chili powder through cumin) and mix thoroughly. Cook for 1 minute.
  4. Place onion, pepper, meat, garlic and spice mixture into a slow cooker.
  5. Add remaining ingredients.
  6. Cook on low for 5-6 hours.
  7. Dish chili into bowls and top with a small dollop of no fat sour cream or a large pinch of shredded cheese.
Prep Time: 15 - 20 Minutes
Cook Time: 5 - 6 Hours
Total Time: 5:15 - 6 Hours 20 Minutes
Servings: 12
  • Calories: 471
  • Calories from Fat: 48
  • Total Fat: 5.3g
  • Saturated fat: 2.0g
  • Unsaturated fat: 3.3g
  • Sodium: 311mg
  • Total Carbohydrates: 72.9g
  • Sugar: 5.4g
  • Fiber: 18.5g
  • Protein: 35.5g
  • Cholesterol: 37mg