Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Sugar-Free Stewed Tomatoes Turned Pizza Sauce


My garden didn't produce too much this year and while it's still growing, I don't have high hopes for bushels of tomatoes or green peppers. The same sort of thing happened two years ago and now that I think about it, the weather was quite similar: lots of extremely hot days followed by a string of downpour days. I don't think that bodes too well for a garden -- at least not mine it seems.

I did bear tomatoes, but not nearly enough to last me through the winter. I think the the amount I have will just barely take me through the fall months. When I get a huge amount of tomatoes from my garden, I usually make a bunch of huge batches of stewed tomatoes and freeze them. I use them throughout the the fall, winter and spring for anything that requires a tomato base -- pizza sauce, pasta sauces or simply as a tomato base in soups, in particular, my Vegetable, Bean and Quinoa Soup.

I made my first batch a few days ago and instead of freezing it, I turned it into a pizza sauce for the next day. The stewed tomatoes are really quite versatile and what's even better is that they are sugar-free. They give me the ability to make all of my tomato base foods sugar-free which is awesome because it is so hard to find sugar-free pizza sauce and pasta sauce.


Actually, it's hard to find anything that doesn't contain at least a little sugar in it. Seriously, if you care, look at the ingredients of almost any packaged or processed food; it always has sugar (or evaporated cane juice) listed. Don't get me wrong, I used to love sugar and firmly believe in moderation in life, but it makes my joints ache, so we had to divorce. Sugar can't seem to get the picture though because it still stalks me...

Sugar-Free Stewed Tomatoes 





Makes 2 Cups 

Ingredients:

12 large tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped green pepper
1 teaspoon dried parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon coconut palm sugar

Directions:

You are going to have to remove the skins of the tomatoes which requires a pot of boiling water and a large bowl of cold water and ice (an ice bath). 


Set a large pot with hot water over high heat and bring to a boil. Fill a large bowl with cold water and ice. Set aside. Once the water is boiling, plunge as many tomatoes as will comfortably fit into the boiling water. Allow to sit for 30 seconds. Pull them out and immediately place them in the ice bath for 30 seconds. The skin on the tomatoes should peel right off. 


Proceed to peel, seed and dice the tomatoes. Repeat the entire process until all of the tomatoes have been broken down.

In a large pot over medium heat, combine all of the ingredients and simmer until slightly thickened about 15 - 20 minutes.


You now have stewed tomatoes. Transfer to freezer-safe containers, cool to room temperature and store in the freezer.

Nutrition Information For Entire Recipe: Calories 516; Total Fat 7g; Total Carb 115g; Fiber 26g; Sugars 6g; Protein 20g

*Nutrition information has been calculated using an online recipe calculator tool.
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As I mentioned earlier, I turn my stewed tomatoes into all sorts of fun things. Over the weekend, I made pizza sauce!

Sugar-Free Pizza Sauce






Makes Sauce for 2 12-inch Pizzas

Ingredients:

1 recipe stewed tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon coconut palm sugar

Directions:

Pour stewed tomatoes into a food processor and process until smooth.


Pour into a medium saucepan and warm over medium-high heat. Add the rest of the ingredients and stir to combine.


Cook until thickened, about 15 minutes.


Spread onto pizza dough. And proceed with your pizza as you normally would (here's how I do it).


Store any leftover pizza sauce in a jar in the refrigerator or in the freezer until next use. Nothing beats fresh-from-the-veggie-garden stewed tomatoes and pizza sauce.



Nutrition Information For Half of Recipe: Calories 306; Total Fat 4g; Total Carb 69g; Fiber 15g; Sugars 10g; Protein 12g

*Nutrition information has been calculated using an online recipe calculator tool.


Monday, August 29, 2011

Two-Ingredient Concord Grape Jam


School days are here. Again. I get so excited when I see school supplies start to crowd the shelves at the superstores and markets. My mind instantly floods with sweet memories of backpacks, sharpened pencils, clean erasers, fresh notebooks, homemade brown paper bag book covers and lunch boxes loaded with peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, a Strawberry Shortcake thermos filled with piping hot soup and little pieces of paper with scribbled notes from my mom about having a good rest of the day. 

I swear, my fingers start to tingle when I see the aisles of school supplies line the back of the stores. But, since I am sadly no longer climbing aboard the bus these days, I'll have to live vicariously through my two girls -- one who was very excited to start school this year. And the other who was very excited to climb the front porch stoop.


With school comes after-school treats in the form of thick and sweet concord grape jam. I ran into a pint of concord grapes twice this year and was forced to purchase them because I had never in my life seen concord grapes at the market.

I came home excited, chanting all of Alton Brown's concord grape quips. I washed them and popped one in my mouth.  

Blech. Tiny, tiny seeds hid beneath all of the wonderful concord juiciness. We clearly couldn't eat these. So what is a girl to do?


Make two-ingredient concord grape jam of course. Oh, dairy-free, gluten-free and sugar-free concord grape jam.

Sweet serendipity.

Two-Ingredient Concord Grape Jam


Makes approximately 1 cup

Ingredients: 

2 pounds concord grapes
1/2 cup honey or agave nectar

Directions:

Wash and remove all stems from the concord grapes.


Place the grapes in a large dutch oven or stock pot set over medium-high heat. Lightly smash with a potato masher.


Bring to a hard boil and turn heat down to a gentle simmer. Cook for 10 minutes and smash grapes again. They should flatten easily.

Run through a food mill to remove the seeds.


Transfer back to the pot and set over high heat. Once it begins to boil, add the honey and cook mixture down until it becomes dark and thick, 10 to 15 minutes from the time it started to boil.


Transfer to a container and cool briefly before placing in the fridge. To loosen up jam, place in the microwave for a few seconds. Spread on seriously anything and enjoy. 


I had a serious problem eating this out of the jar with a spoon. I couldn't stop. Then I started thinking about how good this would be mixed in with ice cream...

Nutrition Information Per TablespoonCalories 52; Total Fat 0g; Total Carb 14g; Fiber 0g; Sugars 9g; Protein 0g

*Nutrition information has been calculated using an online recipe calculator tool.
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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Framed Flower Gift Card Holder


Gift card exchange runs so ramped around here that we jokingly call Christmas The Annual Gift Card Exchange. Although it might seem trite and impersonal on the surface, sometimes a gift card is truly the perfect fit for someone. 

In cases like these, I like to make something about the gift personal and create a homemade gift card holder. It's so easy and the effect is just so cute and unexpected.


I had these cute flower stamps burning a hole in my drawer for a few months, so I decided to make this gift card holder a flower-stamped birthday card  Here's how I did it:

I started with a base brown card stock (and matching brown envelope) that was 5 x 8 (4) inches.


I wanted to create a frame for the stamped picture, so I used my Cricut machine equipped with the Fabulous Finds cartridge (which I happen to love -- so many unique things on that one) and created a pink rounded frame.


I cut a base green layer at 3.5 x 4.5 inches, the pink layer frame layer at 4 x 3.5 inches and the white layer for the stamp at 3 x 3.5 inches.


I stamped the white paper using a big black stamp pad. 


And then I immediately cleaned the stamp with my stamp cleaner. (I am so obsessive about cleaning my stamps immediately with stamp cleaner. My mom makes fun of me.)


I started building my layers by using double-sided tape.


And colored in the stamped image with colored pencils.


I then used the scrap from the inside of the frame that was cut (plus the inside of a test one that was .5 inch bigger) as the gift card pocket.


It worked out fabulously! I glued it to the inside of the card on the page that faced the message side of the card.


I also created a two-layer inside of white and green, the green layer measuring 3.5 x 4.5 inches and the white layer measuring 4 x 3 inches.


It ended up being a colorful, easy-to-make and useful card -- those are the best!


Give it a whirl!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Zucchini Brownie Cakes With Peanut Butter Frosting


Dumbledore is dead. And my husband is devastated. Saturday night has become watch-the-next-movie-in-the-Harry-Potter-series night. (Technically, we started this project way back in 2009, but it quickly derailed when our second daughter was born.) So we picked up a few Saturdays ago and refreshed with Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. And just this past Saturday, we just finished Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, which happens to be my favorite so far.

My husband, however, remains very disturbed by our most recent Harry Potter installment -- Harry Potter growing up, drinking butterbeers, having girlfriends. And it really put him over the edge when Dumbledore plunged to his death. I gently tried lightening the blow by reasoning that it wouldn't be a good story without the death of a well-liked character. He agreed, but pressed on with sweet hope, "Maybe it's a ploy."

What does this have to do with zucchini brownie cakes with peanut butter frosting? Absolutely nothing. Other than the fact that we each ate one right after watching this movie because we needed comfort food to help us grapple with Dumbledore's sudden death. Seriously, I wanted nothing more than to sink my teeth into a dense and chocolatey brownie.


It's been over 9 months since I have eaten a brownie and I have zucchini coming out of my ears. So I hunkered down substituting ingredients and came up with this gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free and sugar-free decadent treat we can all enjoy. I baked them in cups (hence brownie-cups) and topped them with this rich and smooth peanut butter frosting.

And I'm not lying: If chocolate is your thing, this is your brownie-cake. This is not cake-like at all and instead is thick and fudgy and desperately begs for a glass of milk while you're eating it.

Chocolate Zucchini Brownie-Cakes with Peanut Butter Frosting






Makes 10 Brownie-Cakes

Ingredients:

For the brownie-cakes:

1 cup almond flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 extra large eggs
1/4 cup coconut palm sugar
1/4 cup agave nectar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
5 ounces unsweetened chocolate, melted
1 cup shredded and squeezed dry zucchini

For the frosting:

1 cup natural peanut butter
1/2 teaspoon salt (if your peanut butter is not salted)
2 tablespoons agave nectar
1 tablespoon coconut palm sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Chopped peanuts (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cupcake pan with liners. Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together almond flour, salt and baking power. Set aside. In a large bowl, whisk the egg, agave nectar, coconut palm sugar and vanilla together. Add the melted chocolate and melted coconut oil (you can melt together using a double-boiler) and mix to combine. Add the almond flour mixture and combine. Fold in the zucchini.

Fill cupcakes up to the top with batter.


Place in the preheated oven for 20 - 23 minutes or until a toothpick in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached. Cool completely on wire racks before frosting.

To make the frosting, add all of the ingredients, except for the chopped peanuts in a bowl and mix with a handheld mixer.


Frost brownie-cakes and top with chopped nuts if you want.


I kept these in the refrigerator as I do with all almond flour baked goods and they held up wonderfully. I even transported some over to my mom's house and they were kept out of the fridge for the majority of the day and they held up awesome.


Too bad we can't say the same thing for old Dumbledore.





Nutrition Information Per Brownie-Cake (No Frosting)Calories 240; Total Fat 20g; Total Carb 18g; Fiber 4g; Sugars 10g; Protein 6g

Nutrition Information Per Brownie-Cake With FrostingCalories 370; Total Fat 31g; Total Carb 24g; Fiber 6g; Sugars 12g; Protein 12g

*Nutrition information has been calculated using an online recipe calculator tool.
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