Coconut Zucchini Bread

We restrict video games in our house. Fridays and Saturdays only. That means, Friday afternoons we typically have a pack of boys in our house glued to various computers, systems and devices. Today I planned to try out a new recipe for coconut banana bread, using the bananas I bought a few days ago. Those of you with sons can probably foresee what comes next…

You see, in a house full of boys, if you don’t specifically designate something as being bought for a recipe, it’s fair game. I went to start the recipe and the bananas were gone. So, I invented something else, after digging through my fridge, eyeing the fruit bowl and taking a gander in the pantry.

Boy am I glad I did.

This may be the best quick bread I have ever made. It’s super moist, sweet and packed with zucchini. It’s a keeper. Both loaves are gone and I’ve been commanded to make more tomorrow.

COCONUT ZUCCHINI BREAD

2 eggs
1/2 cup oil
2 cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla
1 cup coconut milk
3 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
2 cups zucchini, shredded

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Grease two 8×4 loaf pans. In a mixing bowl, beat eggs, oil, vanilla and sugar until light and fluffy. Add coconut milk. Be sure you shake the can well before opening. The solids and liquids separate in the can, and you may have to stir it with a spoon before measuring. Mix well. Add flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Mix until almost flour is almost incorporated. Add zucchini and coconut. Stir by hand just until mixed. Split the batter between the two loaf pans. Bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a knife entered near the center comes out clean. Cool in the loaf pans on a baking rack before removing from pans.

HEALTH alert: Make this healthier by subbing 2 cups of the flour for whole wheat. You can also choose a healthier sugar, like raw honey or agave, or a less-processed sugar, like succanat. Keep at least one cup of sugar a “dry” sugar, so sub up to one cup for honey or agave. You could lower the sugar as well, though it won’t be as, well…sweet. (duh.) But, the coconut’s natural sweetness makes up for some of that.

printable version

Slow Cooker Ranch Pork Chops

I love a good slow cooker recipe. The problem with many of those recipes, is that they use cream soups and packaged mixes that are full of MSG and Preservatives. We are an MSG-free family, and so I have found that I need to remake many of the recipes I find for slow cooking. This one I found and it originally used a package of dry ranch mix and creamed condensed soups. That’s a double dose of MSG, not to mention all sorts of stuff in the condensed soups that we steer clear of. It takes a little extra time making a condensed soup substitute from scratch, but it’s only 15 minutes or so. If you have a favorite recipe you’d like me to make over using REAL food, let me know!

SLOW COOKER RANCH PORK CHOPS

4 TBS butter
6 TBS flour
2 cups chicken stock
1 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp seasoned salt
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp dill weed
1/2 tsp dried chives
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
6 Pork Chops (whatever cut you prefer)

Make a roux, by melting butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat. When the butter is melted, add the flour and whisk continually until it becomes light brown. Slowly add the chicken stock, 1/2 cup at a time while whisking vigorously. Whisk out all lumps before adding the next portion of stock. When all the chicken stock is incorporated, stir until very thick. Add all of the seasonings. Place pork chops in slow cooker. Pour sauce over. Cook on high for 4 hours, or low 6 hours. The last hour, you can remove the lid to help thicken the gravy. Otherwise, when done, you can remove the gravy back to your saucepan and boil over medium heat until desired thickness.

REAL food alert: Check your chicken stock for preservatives and MSG. Check your seasoned salt for MSG or “natural flavorings”, which may be MSG.
ALLERGY alert: To make gluten-free, sub a gluten-free flour. To make dairy-free, use 100% vegetable margarine or oil in place of the butter.
You can make the sauce and freeze it for a quick slow cooker meal later!

printable version

Shepherd’s Pie

Shepherd’s Pie is the ultimate comfort food. Yeah, I know, you’re thinking “No, it’s not. Macaroni and Cheese is”. Well, we could arm wrestle over it, but for me, meat and potatoes will beat pasta every single day. Plus, add some green veggies to it, and it turns into health food. Can’t beat that. This is a very versatile recipe, and is perfect for using up leftovers. I personally use leftover roast from my Garlic Pork Roast, or Pot Roast. If you don’t have leftovers, it’s till very tasty using ground beef or ground turkey. Heck, you can use leftover turkey from thanksgiving, and your kids will love you! I also use leftover vegetables, my kids prefer corn and green beans. If you don’t have leftovers, cook up some frozen or fresh veggies. You can use canned, if you must.

SHEPHERD’S PIE

1 lb. ground beef or turkey, or leftover shredded roast.
2 cups assorted cooked vegetables: green beans, carrots or corn.
4 TBS butter
4 TBS flour
2 cups beef broth, or broth from cooking the roast.
4-5 cups mashed potatoes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook ground meat, if using, until brown. Spread meat (either the ground meat, or leftover roast) into a 9×13 pan. Spread vegetables on top of the meat. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Add the flour and cook while whisking until light brown (you are making a Roux). Add broth, 1/2 cup at a time, whisking vigorously after each addition, removing all lumps before adding more broth (click on roux link for additional help). When all of the broth is added, whisk continually until thick. Pour over the meat and veggies. Spread mashed potatoes on top. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, until hot and bubbly.

printable version

REAL food alert: Many canned and boxed stocks and broths have preservatives or MSG. Double check the ingredients list to make sure there are no ingredients you aren’t comfortable with. Better yet, Make your own broth, or use the liquid from cooking the roast.

ALLERGY alert: This can be made gluten-free by subbing gluten-free flour. If the gravy does not sufficiently thicken, use 1 TBS cornstarch+ 3 TBS cold water, and add it while the gravy is boiling. Stir until thick.  Be sure you double check your stock/broth to make sure it’s gluten-free. This can be made dairy-free by subbing 100% vegetable margarine or oil for the butter.

VEGGIE alert: You could make this vegetarian by using veggie broth, and subbing the meat for cooked beans. Make it vegan by also subbing the butter for oil or 100% vegetable margarine.

For a freezer meal, assemble everything except mashed potatoes. cover snugly with heavy foil. Freeze. To serve, defrost and top with mashed potatoes.

Slow Cooker Garlic Pork Roast

I’m almost ashamed to even call this a recipe. It’s so easy, with two ingredients. I bet many of you will just pass it by, thinking it can’t taste good in it’s simplicity. Well, my four kids would probably wrestle you to the ground and give you noogies if they heard you. It is one recipe that pleases every.single.kid of mine. This is one of my week-long recipes. From that, I mean that I use the leftovers once or twice during the week in various recipes. I will buy a pork roast, of any kind, when it’s on sale, make this roast in the slow cooker, serve it for dinner with potatoes and steamed green veggies. The leftovers, I’ll shred and use it in Shepherd’s Pie or add some green chilis to it and make burritos with Homemade “Refried” Beans. If it’s a big enough roast, I’ll make all three in one week. What’s better than having half of your dinners planned and prepped in one shot?

SLOW COOKER GARLIC PORK ROAST

Pork Roast, any type, any size, as long as it fits in your slow cooker
5-6 cloves of garlic

Remove the husks from the garlic cloves. Place the roast in your slow cooker. Add the garlic cloves. Put on the lid. Turn the slow cooker on. Wipe the sweat from your forehead from working so hard. Cook on high 3-6 hours, or low 5+ hours. The time will vary depending on your slow cooker and the size and cut of your roast. I tend to stick it in first thing in the morning, turn it on low and let it cook all day. It’s difficult to over cook this. It is done when you cut into the center and the liquid that comes out is clear, not pink. Pork has a pinkish hue, so don’t go by color. You can also check temperature with a meat thermometer. It should be 145-160 degrees when it’s fully cooked. If you are cooking a very large cut, you can cut it into smaller hunks part way into cooking to speed up the process.

revised: one reader had a 2 pound roast and it was overcooked at 5 hours on low. Ideally, a large roast (3 pounds and up) will cook for the time posted above. Also, if you are using a tenderloin roast, they tend to overcook easier. If you are cooking a smaller roast, definitely cook on low, but check after 3 hours. Slow Cooker cooking is not an exact science, every cooker cooks differently and exery cut of meat will vary as well. This involves some flexibility the first few times you use a recipe.