Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Food Review - Kinnikinnick Pizza Crust

There are foods that you like, and foods that you crave... foods that call to you in the middle of the night, and force you into the kitchen at 3am. For my son & me this food was breadsticks. Chewy, garlicky, carb-loaded breadsticks dripping with butter & herbs.

From day one of our gluten-free adventure, finding a breadstick that would pass our finicky idea of what the perfect breadstick ought to taste like has been our ultimate challenge. We have mixed, baked, whined and cried as batch after batch of quasi-breadlike foods just didn't quite measure up. And to be honest, I think we were both beginning to think that perhaps this just wasn't possible.

I sent my husband to the local health food store for a pizza crust mix this weekend, but our favorite brand was out of stock. Knowing better than to return home emptyhanded when the teenage food-machine is craving pizza, he checked the frozen section and found frozen personal-sizza crusts by Kinnikinnick. Having enjoyed several other goodies from Kinnikinnick & finding them to be reminiscent of their glutened counterparts, he picked them up.

Here's the nitty-gritty for my GF friends. The package holds four square-shaped crusts literally as large as the package for $9. They are bagged in twos, so you won't have half a package getting freezerburn. They're gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free, trans fat-free... and they come from a peanut/tree-nut free facility. They claim a single crust is two servings - and for me that's about right, but my starving son ate the whole thing... a sparse 496 calories before toppings as well as 10g fiber & 8g protein! (half that for an actual serving) The directions said to bake for 10-15 minutes & that longer baking times would create a crispier crust so we stuck with the 10 minutes for the chewiest crust possible.

It's tough to tell what a crust will be like when it's frozen solid, but we were vaguely optimistic when the cornmeal dusting on the bottom reminded us of several restaurant-variety glutened breadsticks. Still, we've been fooled before. We decorated our pizzas - mine with Greek toppings & his with cheese & pepperoni, and popped them into the oven. They weren't even halfway through baking before my son & I were sitting in front of the oven, chanting "come ON already!" as the aroma of pizza... real, honest-to-goodness pizza wafted through the house. Once baked the crust was a not-too-thick, not-too thin "handtossed" style chewy, firm, completely non-crumbly crust that reminded us of one thing... BREADSTICKS!!! Don't get me wrong, it made an excellent pizza crust, but we knew how we would be preparing the other two.

Last night we whipped up an herbed batch of Smart Balance for the second pair of yellow squares, and we giggled together conspiratorially as the house began to fill with the nearly-forgotten fragrance of freshly baking breadsticks. And oh, was it divine! They were chewy, rich, doughy... everything we could have wanted (and remembered) from a breadstick was there! It may have taken us 1670 days and dozens of wrong recipes, but we found our breadsticks! These little squares have absolutely made our year. And baby, my waistline is in danger.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

My Little Skinny Greek Lunch

I have to confess, today's lunch comes from a failed dinner experiment. We love to try new foods, and one of our favorite nationalities of late has been Greek. There's just something about tangy olives, feta cheese & fresh cucumbers that we all love to sink our teeth into.

One food we keep trying to recreate is spanakopita. It's a spinach & feta cheese pie, and traditionally it should be made with phyllo dough. We have tried making it in deep-fried & then baked springroll wrappers, and now our latest attempt was to tuck the filling between a Greek yogurt-flavored cornbread. And I am the ONLY one who even kind of enjoyed this, (the collective response from everyone else was "this tastes fishy!") so it's up to Mama to finish the leftovers.

So for Mama, today's lunch will be a serving of the not-so-popular spanakopita-wannabe dish, three of our favorite gluten free mini-pitas with a small dollop of tzatziki sauce (a yogurt & cucumber dressing) to be added last-minute, a scoop of horiatiki, (tomato-cucumber salad) and a handful of red grapes to fill in the empty spaces & round things out. The kids will be substituting turkey & cheese wrap sandwiches for the "fishy" dish, while happily helping me with the more palatable leftovers... which are all tried-and-true favorites from our growing recipe collection and will probably make quite a few returns to our bentos during the coming warm months.

Once again, it seems that the motto for today is "ONE new dish per meal!" I was tempted to break this family rule last night as I had found three fun new Greek dishes to try... but had I done so, I could be in serious leftover-trouble today. Yep, the rule stays!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Bento#3 - "cheeseburgers"

Remember the "meat" loaf from two days ago? Here's the other meal! It's cheeseburgers! When pressed & formed into a pattie shape, these babies bake into itty bitty burgers that are better than any of the other gluten-free veggie burgers I've tried. They're a tiny bit dry, but that just gives us an excuse to use extra ketchup! The boy opted for turkey burgers today & pressed his own patties so Mama didn't have to play with the meat, while the girl & I happily created little cheese shapes with poppy seed eyes for our veggie versions.

Today's lunch is two veggie cheeseburgers, (the "extra cheese" from the cookie-cutter is stacked between the two burgers) tater-tots with plenty of ketchup, mixed vegetables, and apple-walnut salad. This is the end of week one, and my kids are positively giddy for next week. They've loved our meals so far, have LOVED helping to choose & create them, and have actually been carefully scrubbing out their own bentos (these are NOT dishwasher-safe!) each afternoon so they'd be ready for the next day! *thud*

I've actually shared my "meatloaf" recipe with several people now, so here it is just in case anyone else is looking for a meat-free alternative. This does have cheese in it, but I've also made a perfectly wonderful vegan loaf by substituting extra tomato sauce! I like to make this recipe a day or two after making spaghetti, and use my own sauce for a pre-seasoned richer loaf. This is also a nice "end of the paycheck" meal since I always have ALL these ingredients on hand!

3 cups cooked lentils
1 small onion, diced
1 cup Gluten-Free Oats (we use Bob's Red Mill & have found them for $2 cheaper per bag at Super Target, than at the local health food store!)
1 cup your favorite grated cheese
1 cup tomato sauce (if you're skipping the cheese, use 1 1/2 cups!)
1 tsp garlic
1 tsp basil
1 tsp parsley

Mash up the lentils, and mix everything together. Form into loaves, "hamburger" patties or whatever shape you like, and bake at 350F. If you're using a regular loaf-pan, it will take roughly 45 minutes and patty-pans or burgers bake in 15 so keep an eye on them. The top will form just a bit of a crust when you tap it.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Bento #2 - Ladybugs

My daughter and I fell in love with THIS ladybug bento several months ago, and have been waiting for the weather to be warm enough to recreate it. It's still pretty chilly outside, but the other day a lone ladybug followed us into the house & flitted around our light until we shooed her back into the garden to keep the aphids from our lilies. In honor of our first garden-helper of the season, we decided to celebrate the return of ladybugs (and spring) with our own version of "ladybug salad" today.

Lunch today was a green salad with a half-tomato ladybug on top. Her face, stripes & spots were cut from a sheet of nori, and her eyes are itty bitty bits of the Babybel cheese wheel tucked into the side of the container. For the top layer, we had fresh mandarin oranges, and brown-rice stars which we were VERY excited to see turn out so well, as I've read that brown rice isn't supposed to form shapes very well. The kids are now quite excited about ordering MORE rice molds as they not only worked perfectly but were SO easy to make! Our next attempt will be to actually season our rice before shaping it, as they were a bit bland for our tastes. The nori has a distinctly "fishy" taste that we weren't expecting. It's not terrible, but we will be using it sparingly. Still, it was fun to make shapes on our food & my picky-eater was particularly excited about lunchtime today.

Bento #1 - "Meat" loaf

Yesterday we started our "Bento Adventure" with an old favorite, reinvented. We love our comfort-foods, and one day while considering dinner I had a sudden urge to make meatloaf. I don't know why because I HATED it as a girl, but there it was... one of those irrational, unfounded cravings that just can't be ignored. So I sat & schemed for a few days, and finally reinvented meatloaf - sans meat, and sans gluten. It was an instant hit, and has been repeated & tweaked dozens of times.

Today it got a facelift, thanks to our beloved patty-pans. For our very first bento lunch, the kids begged for mini-meatloaves. We prepared them & "frosted" them with ketchup, before laying them on a bed of corn, peas & carrots. The top layer was filled with strawberries and grapes.

The verdict? Yep, we like our meatloaf even MORE in miniature! It baked up in 15 minutes, and we were able to use the "leftovers" to create a new idea that we'll be enjoying for tomorrow's lunch. Two meals out of one quick baking adventure almost seems too good to be true! Our star pans were just a little too big for the bentos though - while my son's larger container was no problem, had we needed to use our lids my daughter & I would have never gotten it on properly without squishing our stars. Time to consider some silicone baking cups!

reinventing our food-blog

After nearly two years of neglect, we are reinventing this blog. No longer are we "Not-Quite Bento" as our first REAL bento boxes have arrived! So after several years of using divided plates, saving ideas & wishing we could carry our food in cute containers, we are venturing into the realm of bento boxes. And oh, are we excited!

Our first purchases included three bento boxes, two hard-boiled egg molds, two rice molds... and a package of nori wraps from the grocery store. We have dozens of other goodies on our "wish list" but for now we're just excited about making beautiful lunches in the cutest containers ever.

All of our posts have been & will be gluten-free. Most days we also eat vegetarian as mama doesn't eat meat, and we also watch our dairy as there is a dairy sensitivity. This will mainly remain a lunchtime blog, however I also do the occasional "new GF food" blog and also like to share creative recipes. I am not a professional photographer so sometimes the food-pics don't turn out as well as I would like. Please bear with me, I'm still learning. This is mainly a place for us to compile & review our food adventures but we've made it on a public site just in case someone else might find it helpful as well. For all of us dealing with multiple allergies, I don't think there CAN be too many food blogs or new ideas.

For the few people I know follow my other blog - I am officially splitting things up, so this blog is where all of my food photos reviews will be from now on. We'll see how long I can manage to maintain TWO blogs! Heh.