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Unless otherwise noted, all recipes on this blog are free of gluten, peanuts, soy, corn, tomatoes, potatoes, shellfish, cane sugar, oranges, and yeast. Most recipes are also free of egg, dairy, and tree nuts (if used, reliable substitutions will be provided for these when possible). Check out my recipe index for a full list of recipes by category. 

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Entries in SOS Kitchen Challenge (46)

Wednesday
Nov022011

November SOS Kitchen Challenge Reveal

Happy November!  It's the beginning of the month, which means it's also time for a new SOS Kitchen Challenge ingredient reveal!

Your posts last month all made such great use of cranberries.  Here are a few highlights that Ricki and I particularly enjoyed:

This month's featured ingredient is one that Kim and I both adore.  Although they're a bit of a paleface compared to many other antioxidant-rich vegetables, they offer lots of great nutritional value as well as deep, succulent flavor. They may at first appear like off-white carrots, but this month's veggie offers its own unique, healthy and delicious properties.  We're talking about--

PARSNIPS!

[image source]

What Are Parsnips?

They may look like albino carrots, but the gnarly parsnip, native to Asia and Europe, provides many health benefits.  One of the less-lauded root veggies, parsnips appear to be paler carrots with somewhat bumpy exteriors and a light yellow or off-white flesh inside.  Their flavor has been described as alternately nutty, sweet, or peppery; I also find them somewhat earthy.  Because of their high starch content, they brown and caramelize well when roasted, releasing natural sugars for a mild, sweet flavor.

Known as a biannual plant, the flowers blossom from June until August, though only the roots are consumed (unlike carrots, the tops of which can be eaten). [source] Interestingly, parsnips aren't grown in warmer climates because they require frost to develop their flavor (one reason they're so abundant where Kim and I live, I guess!) ;) [source]

Health Benefits of Parsnips

While parsnips are a white root vegetable like potatoes, there are some significant differences between the two.  Parsnips contain lower levels of protein and vitamin C than spuds, but they do provide more fiber. And parsnips contain a host of nutrients, offering an excellent source of vitamin C, fiber, folic acid, pantothenic acid, copper, and manganese. They also contain good amounts of niacin, thiamine, magnesium, and potassium. [source]

In fact, some sources suggest that parsnips can be used to help regulate bowel movements and to keep the liver healthy. [source]

 

[image source]

 

Choosing and Cooking Parsnips

When choosing your parsnip, look for cream or lightly tan exteriors, with a skin as smooth as possible.  The smaller roots are the more tender ones; the larger roots tend to become woody.

Parsnips should be peeled unless they’re organic (in which case, wash well and scrub away any visible dirt before cutting and cooking).  Some sources suggest that parsnips should never be eaten raw, but this is a fallacy; it's just fine to eat them that way! Use them to replace some or all of your potatoes in a mash; chop or grate and include in soups, stews or pasta sauces; roast on their own or in root vegetable fries; or mix up with your favorite carrot cake recipe, substituting parsnips for some or all of the carrot. The possibilites are endless!

Now, it's time for you to show us what YOU can do with parsnips!  You have until the end of the month to link up your favorite parsnip-based recipes.

[source]

 

How to Participate in the SOS Kitchen Challenge

To participate, please adhere to the following guidelines. We hate to remove entries, so PLEASE READ THE GUIDELINES CAREFULLY BEFORE LINKING UP!

  • Cook up a recipe--whether yours or someone else's with credit to them--using cranberries (for our purposes, you can use whole berries, fresh or frozen; dried cranberries; or cranberry juice).
  • Your recipe must be made for this eventwithin the month of the challenge--sorry, no old posts are accepted.  Then, post the recipe to your blog (if you don’t have a blog, see instructions below).
  • Be sure to mention the event on your post and link to the current SOS page so that everyone can find the collection of recipes. Then, link up the recipe using the linky tool below.
  • As a general rule, please use mostly whole foods ingredients (minimally processed with no artificial flavors, colors, prepackaged sauces, etc.).  For example, whole grains and whole grain flours; no refined white flours or sugar (but either glutenous OR gluten-free flours are fine).
  • Please ensure that recipes are vegan or include a vegan alternative (no animal products such as meat, fish, chicken, milk, yogurt, eggs, honey).
  • Please use natural sweeteners (no white sugar, nothing that requires a laboratory to create--such as splenda, aspartame, xylitol, etc.). Instead, try maple syrup, agave nectar, brown rice syrup, coconut sugar, dates, yacon syrup, Sucanat, stevia, etc.
  • Feel free to use the event logo on your blog to help promote the event
  • Have fun and let your creativity shine!

You may enter as many times as you like, but please submit a separate entry for each recipe, and submit only one entry per blog post.

If you don’t have a blog, you can still participate!  Simply email your recipe, or recipe and a photo, to soskitchenchallenge@gmail.com. We’ll post it for you.

For all the details (and to view past challenges), check out the SOS Kitchen Challenge pageDeadline for submission is Wednesday, November 30, 2011.Kim and I look forward to seeing all your culinary creations using parsnips! :D

November 2011 SOS Kitchen Challenge: Parsnips

Tuesday
Oct042011

We're back....it's the October SOS Kitchen Challenge Reveal!

Sweet or Savory Kitchen CHallenge

Darling readers, it's been a long time since you've seen this logo, huh? The last time that my friend Ricki and I hosted a Sweet or Savory Kitchen Challenge was back in June. Remember? It was early summer and we paid honor to the noble blueberry. You created wonderful sweet and savory recipes featuring the blueberry and shared them for all to see. We were so pleased with the turn out!

And yet, despite our love for all your inspiring entries, Ricki and I decided to take a break through the summer to focus on our friends, our families, and our selves. In my case, this holiday from the blog turned out to be a significant blessing! With limited internet access, multiple housing changes, a broken laptop, and a very busy schedule of cooking demos and travel and food swaps, I've hardly been online all summer.

With the coming of Fall, I am happy to say things seem to be finding a place of balance. And thus, Ricki and I are excited to bring the SOS back to life! So, without further adieu...

Our featured ingredient this month has a humble history, but has recently joined the ranks of “super foods” like blueberries, spinach, and pumpkins. Their ravishing red color is  unmistakable and their sweet-tart flavor is unique and versatile. 

Any guesses yet? Okay, okay, we’ll tell you. Our featured ingredient this month is...

image from http://glyndk.blogspot.com/2009/09/land-of-cranberries.html

Cranberries!

Basic Cranberry Information

Cranberries are related to blueberries, and grow in sandy bogs in cool climates of the Northern hemisphere. The short shrubby plants have long trailing vines, featuring evergreen leaves, distinctive pink flowers, and shiny plump berries. Unripe cranberry fruits are white and the fruits deepen to the characteristic red color as they ripen.

Native Americans used cranberries as food, medicine, and dye. Soon after they arrived, the European settlers  caught on to the versatility of cranberries and incorporated them in their meals. In fact, the early colonialists are responsible for the name cranberry, which derives from “crane berry” - the distinctive shape of the wiry stem and flower petals and stamen reminded them of the neck, head, and beak of a crane. American colonialists shipped plants to Europe in the early 1800s, where the cranberry quickly gained popularity throughout Great Britain and Scandinavia. 

Ricki and I are lucky, as we both live in cranberry country - cranberries are grown throughout southern Canada and in northern portions of the United States. In fact, my home state of Wisconsin leads the way in U.S. production, pushing out more than 50% of the crop!  As a native Wisconsinite, I take cranberry bogs for granted, as a drive through the countryside always revealed low-lying bogs dotted with shining red berries. I grew up eating fresh cranberries prepared a variety of ways in the fall, and my family often had bags of fresh cranberries in the freezer. But it doesn't stop there. My grandparents took my brother and I on a tour of the Ocean Spray cranberry plant in Tomah, Wisconsin, and I’ve visited the Cranberry Festival in Eagle River, Wisconsin more than once. What can I say, I’m a cranberry lover from the get-go!

image from http://www.thecamreport.com/images//CranberryHoW.jpg

How to Select and Store

Cranberries are in season from October through December, and can be found fresh at grocery stores and green markets. Frozen berries can be found all year round. Almost 95% of the cranberry crop is processed into juice, dried cranberries, and sauces, while the other 5% is sold raw. When selecting fresh, raw cranberries, look for firm fruits that are deep red and free of blemishes. Firmness is a key indicator, and ripe cranberries will actually bounce when you drop them. This has earned them the nickname “bounceberries”. 

Fresh cranberries can be stored in the refrigerator for up to three weeks, or can be frozen for several years. If freezing them, rinse the berries then lay on a flat baking sheet or pan, and freeze. Then place in a freezer bag and seal tightly. Frozen cranberries can be used as-is in recipes; there is no need to thaw. Cranberry juice should be stored in the refrigerator or frozen for later use. Dried cranberries will keep for 6-12 months if well-sealed.

Culinary and Nutrition Benefits

The fruits are incredibly versatile; thanks to their sweet-tart flavor they can be used for a variety of sweet or savory applications. They can be used for sauces, chutneys, relishes, smoothies, and in baked goods and other desserts. Dried cranberries are an excellent addition to breads and muffins, granola or meusli, or as a snack on their own. For a savory option, try adding to stuffings, salsas, salad dressings, salads, or for adding a tart flavor element to soups or stews. Cranberry juice can be used to make everything from agar agar molds to punches to flavorful apple cider blends. Ricki and I have both enjoyed using cranberries on our blog. Check out Ricki’s Stevia-Sweetened Dried Cranberries or my Stevia-Sweetened Apple-Cranberry Sauce

In addition to amazing culinary variety, cranberries pack a lot of nutrition in a small package. They are a good source of Vitamin C, Vitamin K, and dietary fiber. Additionally, they contain powerful phytonutrients that may help support the cardiovascular system, immune system, and may even reduce the risk of cancer. Cranberries also contain compounds that may help prevent and eliminate bacterial infections of the urinary system, particularly in cases of urinary tract infections. Cranberry pills or unsweetened cranberry juice are often suggested to people and animals struggling with UTIs!

What an amazing fruit, huh? Ricki and I think these little red berries pack an admirably powerful punch. 

image from http://www.plantcare.com/oldSite/httpdocs/images/namedImages/Cranberry.jpg

How to Participate in the SOS

To participate, please adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Cook up a sweet or savory recipe--whether yours or someone else's with credit to them--using cranberries. Your recipe must be made for this event, within the month of the challenge--sorry, no old posts are accepted.  Then, post the recipe to your blog (if you don’t have a blog, see instructions below).
  • Be sure to mention the event on your post and link to the current SOS page so that everyone can find the collection of recipes. Then, link up the recipe using the Linky tool below.
  • As a general rule, please use mostly whole foods ingredients (minimally processed with no artificial flavors, colors, prepackaged sauces, etc.).  For example, whole grains and whole grain flours; no refined white flours or sugar (but either glutenous OR gluten-free flours are fine).
  • Please ensure that recipes are vegan or include a vegan alternative (no animal products such as meat, fish, chicken, milk, yogurt, eggs, honey).
  • Please use natural sweeteners (no white sugar, nothing that requires a laboratory to create--such as splenda, aspartame, xylitol, etc.). Instead, try maple syrup, agave nectar, brown rice syrup, coconut sugar, dates, yacon syrup, Sucanat, stevia, etc.
  • Feel free to use the event logo on your blog to help promote the event
  • Have fun and let your creativity shine!
  • You may enter as many times as you like, but please submit a separate entry for each recipe.

For all the details (and to view past challenges), check out the SOS Kitchen Challenge page.

If you don’t have a blog, you can still participate!  Simply email your recipe, or recipe and a photo, to soskitchenchallenge@gmail.com. We’ll post it for you. 

Deadline for submission is Monday, October 31, 2011.

 

Ricki and I look forward to seeing what you do with cranberries this month. It’s good to be back!

October 2011 SOS Kitchen Challenge: Cranberries

Friday
Jun172011

Sugar-Free Mango-Blueberry Crisp (gluten-free, vegan, grain-free)

Sugar-Free Mango-Blueberry Crisp

I am a night baker and a stress baker. As the sun goes down or my stress level rises, my immediate response is to reach for my apron, fire up the oven, and pull out the mixing bowls. 

Take last night, for example. I had a lot to do - laundry, starting the daunting process of packing my possessions for yet another move, answering emails, paying bills, the list goes on. But rather than attending to any number of tasks on my to-do list, I decided to bake. The fresh mangos and blueberries hanging out in my kitchen were calling my name, beckoning me to take part in their juicy sweetness. I heeded their call. Truly, I adore fruit desserts above almost all other desserts. Especially when those fruit desserts are grain-free, gluten-free, and sugar-free.

Really darlings, trust me, it's not hard to make a delicious dessert without grains or sugar. This easy crisp is a great example! I chose a combination of mango, blueberry, and grated fresh ginger for the filling, thickened with bit of arrowroot starch.  For the topping, I diverted from the expected rolled oat topping and chose a mixture of coconut, chopped cashews, and quinoa flakes. Since the fruit is so sweet already, I merely helped it along with a modest amount of stevia extract powder. Throw it in the oven and hooray, a sugar free crisp is born. And it's really good. My housemates both went in for hearty seconds. I somehow refrained to a single serving (?!?!), and relished in each sweet bite. And to top it off, the crisp looks really lovely: bright orange mango contrasting against the deep indigo-hued blueberries, covered in a flaky layer of spicy sweet golden coconut, toasted nuts, and crisp quinoa flakes. It's delicious on the eyes, right?

Click to read more ...

Friday
Jun032011

June SOS Kitchen Challenge Kick-Off

 

Last month's carob challenge delivered many delicious submissions, from the sweet to the savory. As in past challenges, Ricki and I offered up prizes to two lucky participants: a one-pint jar of Harrison's Sugar Bush Maple Syrup, harvested by my family in Fence, Wisconsin, and a copy of Ricki's new e-book "Good Morning! Breakfasts without Gluten, Sugar, Eggs, or Dairy".

We randomly selected two recipes from the entries, and are excited to announce the winners:

Congratulations to the winners of the prizes. We will be contacting you to get your information!


And now, for this month's Challenge. . . .

By now many of you are probably sick of familiar with the term, "superfoods": those comestibles that have been found to confer extra health benefits along with their nutritional value and taste.

Well, this month Ricki and I are happy to share our SOS Kitchen Challenge key ingredient, one of the best superfoods out there. These gems are perfect if you're into eating for better health; in fact, it's been reported that they have the highest antioxidant capacity of any fresh fruit! They're also bursting with phytonutrients, vitamins, good fiber, and virtually no fat.  They provide a popular ingredient you can use either cooked or raw with equal delight, something that will go well in sweet OR savory recipes.  A food that is low sugar, low glycemic, yet sweet in its natural state.  A food that everyone should eat and enjoy!

And just what is this magical food, you ask?  

Well, this month's ingredient is BLUEBERRIES

 [source]

For those of us in North America, blueberries are truly a fruit of summer, available (depending on your location) from May to September. Blueberries are grown virtually around the world these days, from Germany and Italy to Argentina and Australia (where, apparently, they first tried to grow them in the 1950s without success, but tried again in the 1970s and have been growing them since).

Related to cranberries and bilberries, most blueberries are not truly "blue" but rather pale to deep purple, with a white interior. More important than their cute little shape or sweet-tart flavor is the blueberry's incredible nutritional punch.  These little gems provide a huge does of Vitamin C, manganese, vitamin E and fiber, all while tasting delicious and providing virtually no fat and few calories. Like cranberries, they can help prevent or treat urinary tract infections. In a recent analysis of 60 fruits and veggies, blueberries were rated Number One for their free radical-fighting capabilities!

The antioxidants in blueberries are called proanthocyanins, and they are remarkable at neutralizing free radicals (cancer-causing molecules).  As a result, blueberries are able to prevent a host of cancers, cell damage, or damage to the vascular system. They're also great for cardiovascular health and help prevent macular degeneration, a disease of the eye that often causes blindness (leafy greens also are helpful this way). In addition, blueberries contain both types of fiber, soluble and insoluble, which means they work well to keep you regular.

Once picked, blueberries are best eaten fresh, but they will keep a few days in the refrigerator.  Look for uniformly colored, firm berries that have a  pale white "bloom" on the skin.  They should also roll about freely when you shake their container (if they're stuck together, they may be overly ripe or moldy). I line the carton in which they are packed with a layer of paper towel and allow it to absorb any excess moisture, thereby keeping the fragile berries from damage.  You can also freeze blueberries by placing them in a single layer on a rimmed cookie sheet, then freezing. Once frozen, store in an airtight bag or container in the freezer (and the frozen berries will retain their antioxidant properties, too).  

[source]

For this month's SOS Kitchen Challenge - our last SOS before we begin our summer break - we're asking you to focus on all the amazing blueberry possibilities in your own cooking! Sure, you've we've all used blueberries in baking and desserts and jams, but how about salads? Or, say, a quinoa pilaf? Or a savory blueberry sauce? Anything goes - as long as you adhere to the usual SOS Kitchen Challenge guidelines. :)

As always, it's easy to play along!

To participate, please adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Cook up a recipe--whether yours or someone else's with credit to them--using the challenge ingredient. Your recipe must be made for this event, within the month of the challenge--sorry, no old posts are accepted.  Then, post the recipe to your blog (if you don’t have a blog, see instructions below).
  • Be sure to mention the event on your post and link to the current SOS page so that everyone can find the collection of recipes. Then, link up the recipe using the linky tool below.
  • As a general rule, please use mostly whole foods ingredients (minimally processed with no artificial flavors, colors, prepackaged sauces, etc.).  For example, whole grains and whole grain flours; no refined white flours or sugar (but either glutenous OR gluten-free flours are fine).
  • Please ensure that recipes are vegan or include a vegan alternative (no animal products such as meat, fish, chicken, milk, yogurt, eggs, honey).
  • Please use natural sweeteners (no white sugar, nothing that requires a laboratory to create--such as splenda, aspartame, xylitol, etc.). Instead, try maple syrup, agave nectar, brown rice syrup, coconut sugar, dates, yacon syrup, Sucanat, stevia, etc.
  • Feel free to use the event logo on your blog to help promote the event
  • Have fun and let your creativity shine!
  • You may enter as many times as you like, but please submit a separate entry for each recipe.

If you don’t have a blog, you can still participate!  Simply email your recipe, or recipe and a photo, to soskitchenchallenge@gmail.com. We’ll post it for you. 

Now, let's all get cooking with blueberries! Ricki and I can't wait to see what you come up with this month. :D

SOS Kitchen Challenge Submissions: Blueberries

Thursday
May052011

May SOS Kitchen Challenge Reveal, and a First Anniversary Giveaway!

Welcome to another month and another round of the SOS Kitchen Challenge! Ricki and I realized that the SOS Kitchen Challenge is now a year old. Our first challenge in April 2010 featured the noble beet, and we've been on a roll ever since thanks to your culinary creativity. Ricki and I look forward to seeing your awesome recipes and are inspired every time! Thanks for all your contributions over the past year, and we look forward to your participation in many SOS Kitchen Challenges to come!

To celebrate our 1 year anniversary, we're featuring one of our favorite ingredients and offering giveaways to two lucky readers.  This month we are featuring...

Carob!

recently harvested mature carob pods [source]

An Abridged History of Carob

Carob, also known as St. John's Bread, has been used for over 5000 years. The word "carob" is derived from the Arabic Kharrub or Kharoub, which means pod or bean pod. This ancient food has a long and interesting history, feeding Mohammed's armies and (according to the Bible) sustaining St. John the Baptist in the wilderness (Mark 1:16). Carob was referred to as the "Egyption fig" or "Egyption date" by the Romans, who at the unripened pods as a sweet treat. The ancient Egyptians used carob to make the adhesive used in mummification, and carob has been found in Egyptian tombs.  And more recently, thousands of Spaniards relied on the nutrition from the carob pod during the Spanish Civiil War and World Wars I and II. Fascinating!

Carob is harvested from the carob bean tree. Depending on the age of the tree, carob bean trees yield between 100 and 250 pounds of beans per year. Over the course of the growing season, glossy flat green bean pods develop. As they mature, the pods turn dark brown and become very firm. Each pod grows up to 12 inches in length and can contain as many as 15 carob seeds. Seeds are harvested and used for human consumption while the pods are often used as animal feed.  

carob powder [source]

 

How to Use Carob

As a food, carob is remarkably versatile. Carob powder, available both raw and toasted, is a wonderful 1:1 substitute for cocoa powder in any recipe. Carob is also used to make carob chips, which can be substituted for chocolate chips. The rich brown color is equal to cocoa powder, and naturally sweet flavor reduces the need for other sweeteners in recipes, making it great for low-sugar or sugar-free diets. But unlike cocoa, carob is free of caffeine, theobromine, and oxalic acid, so it a great choice for individuals who are sensitive to or wish to avoid those things. 

Roasted seeds have a rich flavor, and can be used as a substitute for coffee or black tea. Whole pods are eaten in Egypt as a snack and crushed pods are used to make a refreshing drink. In addition to use the pod whole or ground, it can be used for a variety of other purposes. Throughout the Mediterranean, carob is used to make liqueurs and syrups for both culinary and medicinal purposes (carob syrup can be found at Mediterranean, MIddle Eastern, or speciality markets). The commonly-used thickener locust bean gum - often found in many processed foods - is derived from carob.  

In addition to being delicious, carob is actually quite health promoting. As mentioned earlier, it is free of caffeine, theobromine, and oxalic acid, perfect for anyone intolerant to caffeine or on a low oxalic diet. It is high in fiber and contains a respectable amount of calcium, potassium, riboflavin, copper, potassium, and omega-6 fatty acids. It can be used as a treatment for diarrhea, and is particularly effective in infants and children. 

How to Participate (and Enter to Win!)

Ricki and I are offering great prizes to two lucky readers to celebrate our one year anniversary.  By submitting a recipe to this month’s Challenge, you will become eligible to win one of our two great prizes.

Remember that recipes must be vegan or provide reliable vegan substitutes, cannot use refined sugars, and must utilize whole foods ingredients (no heavily processed foods or box mixes). For full Challenge guidelines, please see this post.  If your entry does not comply with our rules, we will remove it - so please read the rules!

Entries must be recieved by 11:59 pm CST on May 31, 2011.

Our prizes this month:

  • A 1-pint jar of Harrison's Sugar Bush Maple Syrup, harvested by my family in Fence, Wisconsin. This syrup is made in small batches and is only available for purchase through my family. It is truly an artisan, regional product! (I'm currently out of syrup and don't have a jar to photograph - I"ll add a photo this weekend when I get more syrup for me and you!)
  • A pdf copy of Good Morning! Breakfasts without Gluten, Sugar, Eggs, or Dairy by Ricki Heller. Ricki's latest e-book features easy allergy-friendly breakfast ideas perfect for everyone in your family. It's inspiring, and I'm looking forward to cooking my way through every recipe I can.

At the end of the month, Ricki and I will choose the two winners at random from the entries, and will announce the winners on our blogs Wednesday June 1, 2011. Be sure to come back here and check if you won at the beginning of next month! 

We’ve been blown away by the enthusiasm and incredible creativity you’ve all shown over the past Challenges.  So put those carob-filled thinking caps on, and start cooking!   

May SOS Kitchen Challenge: Carob

 

 

References

  • Wikipedia. "Ceratonia siliqua" http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ceratonia_siliqua
  • Eden Organic. "Carob Notes." http://www.edenfoods.com/articles/view.php?articles_id=111
  • DigHerbs. "Carob - (Ceratonia siliqua)." http://www.digherbs.com/carob.html
  • Nutrition Data. "Carob flour." http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/legumes-and-legume-products/4324/2