Gluten/Dairy Free Chex Mix

Since my college finals days, I’ve been a holiday baker. One of my signature dishes is Chex Mix. This year, I set out to make a dairy free/gluten free version so that Jeremiah’s oldest nephew could enjoy it.

The gluten free cereal part was easy since Rice Chex and Corn Chex are both Gluten Free. We also knew we could get a fake butter – Smart Balance is the brand his family uses. It’s pretty much just a mix of different oils.

The gluten free pretzels was the hardest ingredient to find. We ended up going to Sprouts to get a bag of Glutino – gluten free pretzels. I love Sprouts – they make buying foods for people with specific dietary needs easy. It’s where we picked up the fake butter. Plus, we were able to buy about 1 1/2 cups of peanuts from the bulk area for about $.70. This is way cheaper than the grocery store packaged bags. We couldn’t use mixed nut because Jeremiah has a pretty serious allergy to cashews.

Here’s hoping you and your Gluten Free/Dairy Free family & friends enjoy this recipe.

Gluten Free ChexGluten & Dairy Free Chex Mix by Amber Bourek
3 c. Rice Chex
3 c. Corn Chex
3 T. Smart Balance Non-dairy Butter
2 c. Glutino (Gluten Free) Pretzels
1 c. Peanuts
1 T. Worcestershire sauce
3/4 tsp. seasoned salt
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 tsp. onion powder

Melt fake butter and stir in seasoning. Mix with dry ingredients. Bake at 250 degrees for 1 hour – stirring every 15 minutes.

Notes:

  • I used a the Chex seasoning packet. It is the same ingredients as the seasoning listed above.
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Banana Oatmeal Muffins

Honey, bananas, and Greek yogurt are great healthy recipe substitutions. The recipe has all plus the low fat, high fiber quick oats. Throw in a little flax seed which is currently being researched to prevent breast cancer. You might be surprised to learn this recipe is actually pretty good. I would totally make it again.

Banana Oatmeal MuffinsBanana Oatmeal Muffins from Pinterest
2 ½ c. oats
1 c. low-fat Greek yogurt
2 eggs
½ c. honey
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
2 T. flax seed
1 tsp. vanilla
2 ripe bananas

Food process oats to a finer consistency. Add remaining ingredients and blend until mixed. Pour into 12 muffin cups and bake at 350 degrees for 18-20 minutes.

Notes:

  • I halved the recipe and it still made 9 muffins.
  • I substituted low-fat vanilla yogurt because it was what I had on hand.
  • I added some frozen berries to a few muffins. Feel free to mix chocolate chips or nuts into yours. The plain muffins were also good.
  • I didn’t have any flax seed so I made it without.

Berry-Burst Yogurt

In September, I took a job as the Volunteer Services Manager at Harvesters – The Community Food Network. The position was the perfect match for me – volunteerism and food. Plus, as a donor and episodic volunteer I knew just how great an organization Harvesters was…or so I thought. I quickly learned that this organization was even better than I realized.

Harvesters is the Kansas City area’s only regional food bank. The difference between a food bank and a pantry is something most people don’t know. Each week, Harvesters processes enough food to feed 66,000 people in our 26 country service area. They work with a network of over 620 food pantries, kitchens, and shelters to get the food to where people live. From some of the rural counties we serve, this might even be a few hours from our Topeka facility. Harvesters operates like a business – quickly processing food orders placed online like Amazon might do. The high level accountability and relationship building with local businesses mean that 97% of the food and funds received go right back out to the people served by our community partners. I’ve worked for a lot of great nonprofits by nobody with that little of overhead expenses.

I, like so many of you may be, was shocked by just how many people are food insecure. One in six people in our country are hungry. That means, probably someone you know has or currently is struggling to eat. And for some reason, many people have this perception that if someone isn’t skinny or displaying a bloated stomach than they aren’t really hunger. In fact, major health issues like obesity and diabetes are often the result of food insecurity. When people are limited on funds, they purchase unhealthy, cheap foods that fill up their bellies. Since 1980, the cost of processed foods has decreased by 40% while the cost of healthy foods like fresh vegetables/fruits and lean meats has increase by 40%. Are you as surprised as I am by this? What is even sadder is that one in three kids born in the year 2000 will develop Type II Diabetes (the kind that is caused by what you eat and limited exercise).

One of the coolest things Harvesters does to help address these issues is that it provides nutrition education. We have a whole team of people who spend their days testing recipes and teaching nutrition classes. These dishes are selected for their healthy qualities, tantalizing taste, cost, and ease in preparation. I have to say, I haven’t tasted a recipe yet that I haven’t liked – and you know veggies aren’t my favorite. In addition to teaching classes for both children and adults, we also share these recipes at our Mobile Food Pantries. Each month, Harvesters distribute a ½ million pounds of fresh produce. Nutritious recipes help people utilize the healthy fruits and vegetables they receive.

Check out this Kids in the Kitchen recipe for a delicious breakfast/dessert favorite.

Berry-Burst YogurtBerry-Burst Yogurt with Granola by Harvesters Nutrition Services
1 c. uncooked oats (quick or old fashioned)
¼ c. honey
¼ c. canola oil
1 lemon, zested (2-3 T. juice, 1 T. zest)
1 (12 oz.) package frozen mixed berries (2 ½ c.)
2 bananas, ripe
¼ to ½ tsp. cinnamon
3 c. vanilla Greek yogurt

Combine oats, honey, and oil. Heat skillet to medium temp and add mixture. Stir frequently for 8-10 minutes until golden brown (but don’t burn). Immediately remove from skillet and cool on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet for 10 minutes. Then, break into clumps.

Zest lemon and add with cinnamon to yogurt. In a separate bowl, mash together bananas and berries. Dish up ¼ c. yogurt, ¼ c. fruit, and top with 1/8 c. granola.

Nutritional Information: (Serves 12) 178 calories, 6 g. protein, 27 g. carbs, 3 g. fiber, and 22mg sodium.

Notes:

  • Total cost is $8.31 or $.69 per serving
  • I made it with lemon juice and no zest.
  • I microwaved the berries for a few minutes to thaw. Leftover yogurts were refrigerated.
  • Greek yogurt is expensive so I used low fat vanilla yogurt. Greek yogurt is $1.15 per container. Each regular yogurt was $.40 per container. Just note it might change your nutritional information.

FrootLoops Bars

When I was a child, my Great Grandma Kingston used to always make Rice Krispies Treats for our birthday parties. My Great Grandma Reith would make homemade ice cream. I had party cool great grandmas, right?

I used to help my mom a lot in the kitchen. One treat that I always avoided helping with though was Rice Krispies bars. They were a hot gooey mess to stir and get to stick in the pan. As I got a little older, Kellogg’s started packaging and selling these treats in the grocery store. I tried making them once in college but I learned quickly it was easier to buy the pre-made ones. My rule is if someone can do it better than you for a cheap price, buy it. They are also great treats to ship to service men and women serving our country overseas.

A few weeks ago, I ran across this recipe in the Hy-Vee ad for Simple Cereal Bars. The ad featured FrootLoops, Frosted Flakes, and Apple Jacks bars. I decided if I wanted another treat flavor, I would have to give it a try. The directions suggested making it on the stovetop. My mother used to use the microwave so I thought this might be a bit easier. I selected my large oblong Rachael Ray pan. I also sprayed both the 13 x 9 pan and silicone spoon with non-stick spray. I really think both of these things helped. Recipe challenge accepted and achieved. Pick your favorite cereal and give it a try.

FrootLoops Cereal BarsFrootLoops Bars by Hy-Vee
1/4 c. of butter
6 c. mini-marshmallows
6 c. FrootLoops

Melt butter in a large saucepan on a low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat and pour in cereal. Stir until completely melted. Press into greased 13 x 9 pan. This recipe serves 12.

Notes:

  • My mother likes to make them with Cheerios. I think Golden Grahams might also be good.
  • Look for coupons for your favorite cereal and buy them when they are on sale (about every 6-8 weeks). This recipe takes a whole bag of miniature marshmallows and almost a whole box of cereal. As you know, I’m a big believer in always having a variety of cereals on hand and I love to save $.
  • I put the cereal bars in the fridge to harden before cutting.

Chocolate Chip Snack Cake

Everyone has a word they don’t like. One of my exs over used the word “audacity” so I avoid using the word at all cost. Others struggle to pronounce words. My ex who was bilingual in two languages really struggled with the word “Worcestershire Sauce”. It is a kind of hard word to say if you don’t slow down.

The first word that came to mind when I tasted this recipe was moist. It made me think of my friend and former co-worker Kelly. She detested the word “Moist”, perhaps even more that she hate people inappropriately using exclamation marks. (Can you tell we worked together as grant writers?) One time, a co-worker and myself called her office and said “moist” just to freak Kelly out. Of course she knew it was us by the internal caller id. But we were laughing so hard it still puts a smile on my face just thinking about it. It truly is a terrible word. When you thesaurus synonyms for moist, you get: humid, soggy, clammy, saturated, soaking, damp, wet, and tacky. Not exactly the words I was looking for to express my sentiments. Perhaps the best words for me to describe this cake are – soft, sweet, and delicious. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Yellow cake with sour cream chocolate frosting is my favorite birthday cake flavor.

Chocolate Chip CakeChocolate Chip Snack Cake by Betty Crocker website
1/2 box yellow cake mix
1/3 c. water
1/4 c. sour cream
3 T. butter, melted
1 egg
1 1/4 c. mini chocolate chips
1/2 tsp. vegetable oil

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray 8 inch glass baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. In large bowl, beat cake mix, water, sour cream, butter, and egg with a mixer. Stir in 1/2 c. chocolate chips. Pour in dish. Bake for 22-28 minutes. Cool completely – one hour. Then, melt 1/2 c. chocolate chips with 1/2 tsp. vegetable oil. Microwave it on high for 45 seconds, plus 15 seconds increments til completely melted. Pour into a Ziploc baggie, cut corner, and drizzle over cake. Sprinkle with remaining chocolate chips.

Nutritional Information: (Makes nine servings) 270 calories (120 from fat), 14 g. fat (8 g. saturated fat) 35 mg. cholesterol, 210 mg. sodium, 35 g. carbs, 1 g. fiber, 23 g. sugar, and 2 g. protein

Notes:

  • I used half light and half fat free sour cream. Another great substitute is regular or Greek yogurt.
  • I also used sugar free cake mix. I also think you could have used a chocolate cake for an even richer dessert.
  • You could easily skip the extra chocolate chips on top and it would still be good.

Thin Mint Chex Mix

I love Thin Mint Girl Scout Cookies. I usually buy three boxes when they are one sale. Frozen Thin Mints with cold milk is such a refreshing treat anytime of the year. I also like to find recipes where I can incorporate these sweet treats. This one came from Pinterest. If you didn’t stock pile for the year like I did, you can also substitute Keebler’s version available throughout the year in your grocer’s cracker/cookie aisle.

Mint Chex MixThin Mint Chex Mix from Pinterest

Chocolate Thin Mint Chex
5 c. Rice Chex cereal
1 1/2 c. chocolate chips
12 Thin Mint cookies, finely crushed
1/4 c. powdered sugar

Melt chocolate chips in the microwave for 1 1/2 minute on high, then stir every 20-30 seconds until melted. Coat Chex, add cookies and stir. Add powder sugar and stir again.

White Chocolate Chex
5 c. Rice Chex
1 1/2 c. white chocolate chips or almond bark (add green dye if desired)
3/4 c. powdered sugar

Melt chocolate and add green dye. Coat cereal and stir. Add powdered sugar and stir.

Mix both cereals together and let cool before serving.

Mr. Food’s

I don’t know about any of you but I was a news junkie as a kid. On my days off, I would watch about every newscast during the day – including KTIV Channel 4 for News at Noon with Al Jones. For those of you still in the Sioux City viewing area, Al still does the Noon news. My father was telling me though that he has a co-anchor now. But I digress. In addition to getting the latest in farm news like the price of cattle, corn, and soybeans, you could also catch a segment with Mr. Food’s. Now I am assuming that Mr. Food’s is a syndicated segment that stations can add but I don’t think they still carry it on KTIV. One of the favorite recipes and first cheesecake I ever baked from scratch was a Mr. Food’s Heath Bar Chocolate Chip Cookie Cheesecake (one of my sister’s favorite recipes I promise to share in a future post).

While home for Thanksgiving, my sister gave me a stack of cookbooks and cooking magazines to review. She told me if I wanted any of them, I could have them. One of the cookbooks was Mr. Food’s Quick & Easy Diabetic Cooking. My sister isn’t diabetic so I am going to assume she got it from my grandmother. But I love Mr. Food’s and he has some great recipes in it. This recipe is a slight variation on one in his cookbook. Instead of hot sauce, I substituted sweet and sour sauce. Probably a little less healthy but turned out pretty good.

Buffalo Chicken Strips
Chicken Fingers
1 & 1/2 lb. chicken breast, cut into strips
one small can of French’s Onions, crushed (the ones you put on green bean casserole)
1/4 c. sweet Thai sauce

Cover a cookie sheet in foil. Lightly coat the chicken with sauce, then do the same with French’s onions. Place chicken strips on baking sheet and cook for 10 minutes at 450 degrees.

Note: If you cook with hot cayenne pepper sauce instead of sweet Thai sauce, here are the nutritional facts based on eating three – 1 oz. strips. 196 calories (84 calories from fat), 9 g. fat (3 g. saturated fat), 51 mg cholesterol, 255 mg. sodium, 0 g. fiber, 0 g. sugars, and 20 g. protein.

M&M Pretzels

Perhaps my salted chocolate caramel obsession started with these treats. If you ask me my favorite candy bar, I’ll probably tell you it is 100 Grand bar. But truth be told, I always have a dish of M&Ms in my house. Usually they are plain but on occasion, I have Pretzel M&Ms.

I’m sure you have seen this recipe made with almond bark and Hershey’s Kisses. But this one is the easiest and best tasting.

M&M PretzelsM&M Pretzels by Stephanie Bourek
Rolos candies
Round pretzels (you can only buy them Christmas time)
Plain M&Ms

Unwrap Rolo candies. Layout pretzels on a silicone mat (or foil lined) cookie sheet. Insert Rolos upside down into pretzels. Bake at 250 degrees for 3-4 minutes. Remove from oven and inset M&M candy. Put cookie sheet in fridge for 10 minutes to harden. Make as many as you desire.

Note:

  • Buy Rolos in the checkout line. This will help you avoid having to unwrap each individual candy.
  • My sister has substituted a pecan for the M&M. It makes more of a turtle candy.
  • I just saw in the Hy-Vee ad that they broke another pretzel to turn it into antlers for a Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer looking treat. But they are easier to eat the old fashioned way (looking like wreaths.)

Fireworks

As a kid, I remember seeing jars of seasoning on the tables at Pizza Hut. I didn’t understand what they were doing there. To this day, I don’t think I have ever seen anyone using them on pizza…except on an occasional dare from one child to another. Yet to this day, you always get asked if you want red pepper flakes or parmesan cheese even when you do carry out at any pizza place.

When I worked at SAFEHOME, my friend and co-worker Michele brought in these crackers with red pepper flakes. They had a little bit of kick but I couldn’t stop eating them. I looked online and found a similar recipe. I decided to make it with oyster crackers instead of saltine crackers. Yes, you loose a little of the seasoning but I think the flavor is more manageable this way.

Crackers a la Yvette

1 package of oyster crackers (or one box of saltine crackers)
2 tsp. red pepper flakes

1 (1 oz.) package of dry ranch salad dressing mix
1 c. canola oil

Combine ingredients in a gallon sized zipped bag. Shake every 10 minutes for an hour. Let them sit for a few hours for eating.