Non-Recipe: Bag-Bag

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So, I’m trying to organize my life and do some spring cleaning, and I’ve just been keeping all my extra plastic bags in a giant Duane Reade bag, which works, but it’s very bulky and not attractive at all, so I decided to make a bag-bag! It was super easy, too!!

You need:
1 canvas bag
14 inches of thin elastic
a sewing machine / thread and needle / fabric glue / hot glue / staples (just something that will make cloth stick together)

Cut the bottom of the bag so that it’s open. Fold over 1 inch of fabric from the open bottom, and pin in place. Sew near the edge (or glue/staple) so that you leave a track of at least 3/4 inch. Make sure to not go all the way around so you have a spot to thread the elastic. Cut the elastic in half, and thread it all the way through the track you created. An easy way to do this is to use one safety pin to hold the end of the elastic at the opening and a second attached to the threading end of the elastic as a needle. Tie off the ends with a few knots once you’ve made it all the way around.

Check out the top of the bag. It should have a hem around the top a lot like the one you just made. Use a seam ripper or cuticle nippers to take out a few stitches in the hem and thread the other piece of elastic through in the same way. Now ball up some plastic bags, throw them in, and hang up your bag! You’re able to pull baggies out of the bottom and add more to the top whenever you have them. Hooray!!

Note: that bag is a total liar. I tried to switch to wind power, but they don’t offer it in my neighborhood. They gave me the bag anyway.

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Spaghetti Squash and Meatballs

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1 spaghetti squash
oil

1 sweet onion
1 large can diced tomatoes
1/2 c stock
1 sprig basil
salt and pepper

1 lb ground beef
1 clove garlic
1/2 c bread crumbs
1/2 c stock
1 tsp salt

Slice the spaghetti squash in half. Drizzle with oil and bake for 50 minutes to an hour at 375. While that’s baking, dice the onion and saute in a large pot until translucent. Add the tomatoes and stock. Chop the basil, and add that, along with the salt and pepper. You could totally add some oregano or parsley, too, if you’re into that. Let it simmer for at least 30 minutes.

Mix all the meatball ingredients until well combined. Put tablespoon-sized dollops in the sauce to poach. Don’t worry too much about how they look; they’ll break apart when you mix everything anyway. Put the lid on the pot and cook on medium-low for another 30 minutes or so, until the meatballs are cooked all the way through.

Once the squash is cooked, let it cool. Once it’s cool enough to handle, scrape the inside with a fork. The strands will come off looking like noodles. Separate any chunks of squash and mix it with the hot sauce. Again, the meatballs will kind of fall apart, but I don’t mind. If you do, then mix a little sauce in with the squash and serve the rest on top of the squash. It might be fun to serve this in the shells of the squash, if they don’t fall apart, but mine totally fell apart, so I didn’t.

Amaranth Cereal

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1 c raw amaranth2 c water
1 c milk (you can use cow’s, soy, almond, whatever you like!)
1 c chopped strawberries
1 basket blueberries
1 c crushed or chopped pecans
2-3 tbsp maple syrup

Cook the amaranth per the directions on the package. It cooks up a lot like rice, so if it doesn’t say, just cook it like rice. Transfer the cooked amaranth to a bowl and gradually add in the milk until it’s the consistency of oatmeal or grits. You may have to use more or less milk for the right texture. Mix in the other ingredients and serve warm! You could also add chopped apples, cinnamon, honey, agave, bananas, basically however you like!

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Muffins

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1 c canned pumpkin
1 c brown rice flour (or any other gluten-free flour, but I like brown rice best)
1/2 c coconut oil (or olive, Canola, etc. I think the coconut tastes great in this. Olive makes it taste much richer, and Canola’s just neutral, though apparently, we’re not supposed to use Canola oil? Oh, well, I still do, for my own kitchen.)
1/2 c agave (or honey, or brown sugar, or heck, regular sugar! Do whatever you want with this recipe; you’ve got options!)
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg

Just mix it all together! Fill greased muffin tins about half-full, then bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes. These spoil within a few days, so eat ’em up, or keep ’em in the fridge!

Again, I normally don’t like gluten-free pastries and breads, but these are pretty good! When I first started making them, they were always gross and dry, but the addition of an egg and some more oil really helped make the nice and cakey. You can make these with mashed carrot, grated zucchini, applesauce, or probably any number of fruit or vegetable. You might want to add some golden raisins or nuts to this as well.

Marsala Carrots

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1 lb carrots, peeled and sliced into even strips
3-4 shallots
2 tbsp oil or butter (I prefer butter, big surprise.)
1/2 c Marsala wine (or sherry, or cheap red wine, if you’re really in a bind and just HAVE to have these carrots NOW)
1 tbsp brown sugar

Boil the carrots for around 15 minutes to soften them up while you prepare the glaze. Slice the shallots into rounds, like little tiny onion rings. (And now I want shallot rings. Someone make them for me!) Cook them in the oil or butter until softened and lightly browned. Add the wine and sugar and mix well, cooking until the alcohol is gone. (You’ll stop smelling it in the steam.) Add in the carrots and cook for about 5 minutes, until the glaze has thickened and the carrots soak up the liquids. Goes wonderfully with roasted red meat!

Ginger Carrot Rice Pilaf

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2 c raw brown rice
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch piece of ginger, shredded
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp tumeric
1/2 c chicken stock
2 carrots, shredded
1 tsp salt

Throw the rice in a rice cooker, because you just can’t be bothered with cooking it on a stove anymore. (Note: this might be even tastier if you cook the rice in chicken or veggie broth instead of water.) In the meantime, saute the onion in the oil over medium heat until it starts to caramelize. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for another minute or two, to take off the raw edge. Add the spices, stir for a few seconds, and add the chicken stock. Once the stock stops sizzling, add the carrots and salt, and cook until the carrots soften slightly. Mix the vegetables in with the rice using a slashing motion rather than stirring.

For something a little sweeter, omit the salt and add some golden raisins (maybe a 1/2 cup?). Sorry the picture’s kind of green! That was the only tupperware left.

Lemon Chicken

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1-2 lbs thin-sliced chicken breast
1 c flour
oil
lemons

Put the flour in a dish. Dredge each piece of chicken in the flour. Heat an inch or two of oil over medium heat in a pan. Cook the chicken until golden brown, flipping occasionally and squeezing a lemon wedge over each piece. Make sure not to lose too many of those tasty browned bits. Cut up a lemon into thin slices for garnish. It’s just that easy!

Gluten-Free Banana Bread

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2-3 ripe bananas
1 apple, peeled and cut into small chunks (or two pots of unsweetened applesauce)
2 c gluten-free flour (I like brown rice for this, as it’s got a nice nuttiness that goes well with the bananas)
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
3 eggs
1/3 c coconut oil (or any other sweet or neutral oil)
1 c agave

Put the bananas and apple in a food processor and blend until smooth. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth. I mean, or you could pour the fruit into a bowl, and sift in the dry ingredients, mix the rest of the stuff in, but I’m too lazy to dirty another bowl, and it all fits in the food processor, so why not? Pour into a greased cake pan and bake at 350 degrees for 50 minutes to an hour, until a toothpick comes out clean when you stick it in the middle.

I’m normally not into gluten-free sweets or pastries. They always turn out bland, dry, and crumbly. However, this recipe is actually quite moist and springy, like the real thing! I think it’s all the eggs. I’m sure if you made this recipe with wheat flour, sugar, and butter, it’d be delicious, too, but if you’re celiac or just trying to avoid foods with a high glycemic index, try this out! You could totally add walnuts or pecans, too, for extra flavor.

Chicken Meatballs with Pesto

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PESTO
1 lb ground chicken
1 egg
3/4 c breadcrumbs
1/2 c stock
2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
black pepper

MEATBALLS
2 c fresh spinach
1/2 c fresh basil
1/2 c pine nuts
2-3 garlic cloves
1/4 c Parmesan cheese
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 c stock (maybe more, to thin out the sauce so you have enough to cover the meatballs)

Mix all the meatball ingredients together until well combined. Cover and refrigerate while you prep the pesto. Put all the pesto ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend until smooth. Roll the meat mixture into 2-inch balls and place on a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil, making sure none of the balls are touching. (Trust me, this makes clean-up muuuuch easier. That pesto sticks!) Spoon the pesto over each meatball so that it’s completely covered. (You might want to save some or make another batch if you’re having these meatballs with pasta.) Bake at 350 for 45 minutes or until fully cooked. I’m sure there’s an internal temperature to go by, but if you cut one open, you’ll know if it’s still raw. Serve with pasta, rice, or on their own.

I thought these would just be a good way to sneak some spinach into my diet, but these are actually really amazing! They’re very soft, but the bottoms are so crispy, and the spinach pesto (as opposed to basil-based) is very mild but flavorful.

Raw-ish Apple Pie

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6 apples (I like Gala or Honeycrisp for this)
1 tbsp honey or agave
dashes of ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg

1 c pecans (or almonds, walnuts, or any other nuts you would use in a sweet)
1 c dried cranberries

1/3 c dried cranberries
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg

Peel 3 of the apples. Core them and slice them thinly. Arrange them on a baking sheet and top with honey and spices. Bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes or until soft but not too browned. Allow to cool completely before handling.

Meanwhile, crush the nuts a bit. Blend in a food processor with the 1 c of cranberries until it forms a sticky ball. In a greased cake pan, press the mixture evenly over the bottom, like a cheesecake crust. Cut up the other 3 apples (no real need to peel them, unless you’re opposed to tiny bits of peel in your pie) and process them with the rest of the cranberries and the spices. Pour the applesauce over the crust, then artfully (so, so artfully!) arrange the cooked apple slices over the top. Refrigerate, or even freeze, before serving.