Friday, May 25, 2012

Gluten Free Tollhouse-style Chocolate Chip Cookies

 I know what you're thinking - what is this recipe for cookies doing on a healthy food / bento blog?

   Now that school is out for my 2 boys, I have a little more of a relaxed schedule for the summer.  I'm only going to pack lunches on Monday through Thursday. I thought I'd add something new for a change - on Fridays I think I'll post one of my favorite gluten-free recipes. I've been cooking gluten-free for 8 years now, and I've created a lot of recipes over the years, so this blog seems like a good place to share them.

   I'm opening the vault for this one - my family's all time favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe!

   I have worked on perfecting this one for many years. I used to make these with bean flour, and they were very good... if they were cooked thoroughly! Undercooked bean flour dough is bitter and nasty! And we all missed tasting the raw cookie dough. When I changed the bean flour to a combo of coconut flour, millet, and a brown rice blend, I knew I was on to something! Coconut flour is pretty much magic! And you can eat it raw :D

  This recipe has also gone through several evolutions of me trying to make them healthy. I had some success with that, but I finally decided that a few buttery, sugary, chocolatey cookies have a place in a healthy diet every once in a while  : )

  So here you go -

Kristie's Gluten Free Tollhouse-style Chocolate Chip Cookies

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup oil ( I use canola oil)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white sugar ( I use evaporated cane juice)
1 and 1/2 tsp. vanilla
2  large eggs
1 and 1/2 cups brown rice blend flour* ( see note at end of recipe)
3/4 cup coconut flour
3/4 cup millet flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp. xanthan gum
about 8 to 10 ounces semi sweet chocolate chips ( I used mini chips this time, but normally I use regular size)

   Cream butter, oil, sugars, vanilla, and eggs. Add flours, salt, soda, xanthan, and baking powder. Mix well ( I use a stand mixer for this). Stir in the chocolate chips. 

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Scoop out the dough with a spoon or a cookie scoop. I love my cookie scoop! I bought it at a restaurant supply store:

   Bake these for roughly 7 minutes - the time will vary according your altitude and oven, even what type of cookie sheets you use. You can tell if they're done by how they look - they should be a little gooey in the center... touch them right in the center - if they feel soft, but no dough clings to your finger, then they should be ready. 

   When in doubt, take them out!   They will set up a little and become firm as they cool. 

  Here are some right out of the oven - you can see that they're gooey right in the center, but starting to brown.

 If you like crispy, Chips Ahoy type cookies, just let them cook a little longer until firm in the center.

    If your family doesn't love these chewy, melty bits of heaven, then I'll refund all your money : )

Now, a note about flours:

  * Brown Rice Flour Blend - I mix this myself, and I have a grain grinder that I only grind gluten free grains in. I grind my own brown rice into flour and mix it with potato starch and tapioca starch. The ratio is 3 parts brown rice flour to 1 part tapioca starch, and 1 part potato starch. ( for example - 3 cups brown rice, 1 cup tapioca, 1 cup potato ) I mix a very large batch since I use it for so many things - 12 cups brown rice flour, 4 cups tapioca starch, 4 cups potato starch.  BTW, be sure to get potato starch, not potato flour - potato flour is too dense and will not work for this recipe.

  If you can't eat gluten and are missing hot chocolate chip cookies, I hope you give these a try. Please let me know what you think of them!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Sunny Day Bento

  All I had to work with for lunch today was leftovers, so I thought I'd dress them up a little with some cuteness. And it is a very sunny day today, so I took my picture outside with my body blocking the sun as much as possible : )

  Today I will not be doing my usual cardio for exercise, since I kind of hurt my back turning compost out in the garden yesterday... but my meals are as follows:

breakfast - some gluten free cookies, 1 cup of milk, and some scrambled egg whites with one yolk.
That's right, I said cookies. A moment of weakness, I guess :)

snack - tuna salad, celery, and  a delicious sample of a cooking experiment of chocolate made with coconut oil ( more on my coconut oil experiments another day)

lunch - the bento shown above... It's made from garlic mashed potatoes ( 1/2cup), green beans, kalua pork, and ducks and sun made from yellow squash, tulips made from red bell pepper, and tiny details from nori and carrots.

afternoon snack - protein shake

dinner - taco salad

  Since I did a LONG post yesterday all about eggs, I didn't show you what I had to eat for lunch.
So here it is:

  It was made of quite similar food - kalua pork, green beans, and a starch; but this time it was brown rice.

   Basic food can be dressed up if you keep a supply of fresh fruits and veggies on hand. This time it's carrot butterflies, purple potato and radish flowers, and fresh berries. I added a boiled egg, and sliced turkey with lite cream cheese wrapped around a pickle. It was so good!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

How to make cool eggs for bento

    I am by no means an expert at bento, but I do have a few people who ask me how to make molded eggs, hatching chicks,  and tamagoyaki    ( rolled egg omelettes) from time to time. So this post is for friends and egg-lovers alike!

  I will show you what little I have learned this past year, and I will put links to some other tutorials from some bento masters at the end of this post, who I hope to be like someday when I grow up : )

First, I'll show you how to make perfect molded eggs.

Have you seen those cute eggs shaped like stars, bunnies, hearts, and fish?

 Did you buy yourself some egg molds, hoping the package would tell you how to make them, then realized that you don't know how to read Japanese, and you have no idea how to use the darn things?

Then did you ask Google for help, and it took you far too much reading to find just the info you were looking for?

  Been there, done that! I hope you can learn from my trials and errors. I have a way to make molded eggs that is ( nearly) foolproof. It all starts with how you boil the eggs:

  First, make sure you are using large eggs.  Only large will fill out the egg molds completely, (especially that star one)
   Then put the eggs in a pot of water on the stove.  For about 8 - 12 eggs, add 2 - 3 Tablespoons of salt. that's right, I said tablespoons! For the 3 eggs shown here, I added 1 Tablespoon.

   This extra salt does not flavor the eggs at all - as the water boils, the salty liquid penetrates the shell through osmosis and provides sort of a cushion of liquid between the egg and the shell. This makes it much easier to peel.

 So bring it to a boil, and set your timer for 18 minutes. That may seem like a long time, but the magic of osmosis seems to need that long to work. I've tried it for 15 minutes, but the shells always stick to the eggs and they're awful to peel! I've never had a rubbery egg cooked this way - they turn out great.

  After the timer goes off, I pour my eggs out into a colander in the sink. I tap, or crackle the shell a little against the side of the sink.

 Then I quickly run each egg briefly under cool water. The contrast of the cool water against the hot egg seems to loosen it from the shell.

  You don't want to keep it under the cold water too long, since the egg needs to be hot to fit into the egg mold - but don't worry, a brief pass under the faucet should do it.

   Now open the egg mold. BTW, you can find the all the egg molds that I have here. ( Scroll through the pages to see all the egg molds, they're not in order)

Gently and carefully squeeze the hot egg a little to fit it into the mold better. Don't go too fast or the egg will crack. The egg is still very pliable when its hot.

   After it's tucked into its mold just right, you can close the lid. If the mold you're using doesn't lock closed very well, try using rubber bands to keep it tight.

   When the molds are all filled, put them into an ice bath. I put this bowl into the fridge for about a half hour or so.

  I drain the water, put the lid on the bowl, and store the eggs in their molds in the fridge. I've tried popping them out of their molds and storing them in the fridge naked, but they soften and lose their shape after a day or so.

  When you're ready to take one out, run it under hot water for a second. It helps loosen it from the mold. Open the mold and wiggle the egg a little until it comes out easily.

          Ta-da!       Here's how the star turned out. And here's how the heart turned out:

 Next, I'll show you how to make a hatching chick. 

   Some will tell you that you can do this with a small paring knife. I've tried it, and when I opened the egg, the poor  yolk/chick inside looked like it had been the victim of a brutal massacre! Yikes!

So I found the perfect solution. I bought this set from All Things For Sale. It comes with a tiny egg zig-zag cutter that is perfect for the job! Since we eat a lot of eggs in our family, it's been worth the money. It looks like this:

  It has a triangle shaped edge that cuts through the egg white but leaves the yolk intact. It's very easy to use, and a lot faster than using a knife.

  Just press it into the egg, traveling around until you reach the point where you started. If it doesn't match up to your starting point exactly, just face the crooked part towards the back so no one sees  : )

  Now you just open it up,  punch eyes from nori ( dark green/black  papery sheets used to wrap sushi) with a hole punch,  and add a scrap of carrot for the beak. A wet toothpick makes this easier.

 And there you have it! This chick just turned out okay... I've made better. And I bet you can make better too : ) But it gives you an idea of the process.

 Are you sick of eggs now, or are you hungry for more?

   If you would like to learn how to do egg sheets, here's a link to the best tutorial I've found on the subject:

  Lia from Bentolicious does it best!

  And if you want to make tamagoyaki ( rolled or folded egg omelette) here's a great tutorial:

Biggie, from Lunch in a Box has a great one, and Lia, from Bentolicious, has a tutorial on how to make very fancy tamagoyaki. I haven't tried this one yet, but it looks so cool! Maybe over the summer I can practice it. Like I said, I want to be like these moms when I grow up : )

I hope you enjoyed this "egg-cellent" post all about eggs, and if you have any great tips of your own that have to do with eggs, please share them in the comments! I'm still a beginner, and I'd love to learn more!

Here's the bento cutter set that has the cute egg cutter:

Here's some useful egg molds:

 * you can find more tools to help you make fun things out of eggs in  My store Check it out!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Three Little Speckled Frogs

  " Three little speckled frogs,
Sat on a speckled log,
Eating some most delicious bugs - YUM, Yum"

 Have I lost my marbles?  Ha, ha - maybe! I used to be a preschool teacher, and my lunch today just reminded me of the words to a song we used to sing back in my preschool days ...

   Its just that I bought some cool new green rice last week and wanted to try it out. It's called Jade Pearl rice, I believe. I thought I would try making some frog onigiri  this morning with it, thinking the rice would come out looking very jade green when it was done. Well, it started looking very anemic about halfway through the cooking, so I kept throwing in various green foods hoping to color it up a bit. I tried spinach, green peas, and dried parsley, but all it did was make my frogs looks very speckled, so I might as well sing:

" One jumped into a pool,
Where it was nice and cool,
Now there are two green speckled frogs ( croak, croak)"

 Here's a picture of what my husband is getting for lunch today:
   ( I'm glad he's such a good sport about eating cute food! )

   Both of our lunches contain leftovers - we had sweet and sour chicken and rice last night. Both lunches also have ham-wrapped asparagus, tomatoes, carrots, and purple potatoes.

   You may notice mine has a little carved mushroom tucked in the corner. I've been practicing making garnishes from that new Book of Garnishes I recently bought. I quickly realized that I'm going to need a lot more practice before my garnishes look as good as they do in the book! Some of my experiments turn out, and some ... not so much.

  Here's an example of one that turned out good ( hint: look at the carrots)

  At least 2 out of the 3 carrots looked good!  : )

You may have noticed I haven't updated my blog in nearly a week. That is partly due to the fact that my garnishing experiments haven't all turned out to be "photo worthy" but me being the frugal person that I am, ate them anyway. My husband will eat anything if it tastes good. But I didn't think you wanted to see a bunch of massacred zucchini strips, mangled mushrooms, and bits and pieces of carrots and peppers that I threw into rice and spaghetti sauce!

  Another reason is that I am working hard with my son to help him finish up his school work for the year. I homeschool him, and he belongs to a very awesome online school which is part of our regular public school district. I supervise while he does the lessons that are online, and we supplement with whatever he wants to learn about in addition to that. He's fired up to finish early this year, so for the past week and for the coming week I will be spending a lot of time with him instead of making as much  photo - worthy food : )

  But I continue in my quest to eat clean and exercise, no matter what!

Here's what's on the schedule for today:

breakfast - oatmeal with blueberries

snack - protein shake

lunch - the froggy bento seen above  * Added to What's For Lunch Wednesday

snack - apple with protein peanut butter

dinner - TBD... there will be only 3 of us here for dinner tonight, so it will be something very simple. I think soup and sandwiches, or soup and salad

Today's exercise is cardio - I did 20 minutes early this morning, and plan do do more at lunch. Since I have been adjusting well to my new dose of thyroid meds I have been feeling really great and can even run a little again! Woo hoo! My knees don't hurt anymore!

  If we finish up our school stuff early today, I hope to add one more post later this afternoon ( I hope I'm not jinxing it by telling you that) I have some interesting stuff that deserves its own post : )

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Fun with Forbidden Rice

  Today has been a strange day so far. I am unbearably tired, my joints all ache, and I feel terrible. It seems as if all my low thyroid symptoms are back. I called the doctor, and he increased my dose of the meds so hopefully I 'll be back to my normal self again soon : )

  So the lunch above is for my husband - I'm not up to packing anyone else's lunch today. I was excited to see forbidden rice in the bulk section of Winco yesterday, so I bought some. I heard that it turns purple when you cook it, but it still looks pretty black to me. I used a cookie cutter that I laid over a bed of brown rice and filled it in with the forbidden rice. The "I Love You" is cheese, and the rest is filled out with some leftover chicken chunks and chicken nuggets, broccoli, red pepper hearts, and a couple of fish soy sauce bottles that came from All Things For Sale.

  I'm going to think up some more cool things to do with this forbidden rice! It tastes a lot like wild or brown rice - kind of a nutty taste that I like a lot.

  Here's what's on the schedule today:

exercise - well, I did try yoga at least. My joints are too achy to do anything else right now, but maybe by the end of the day I'll have the energy back to go to the gym ( hopefully)


breakfast - 3 gluten free waffles ( these are pretty high in fiber, made with coconut flour and brown rice and millet flours), 2 baked egg muffins, and a grapefruit

snack - one plain waffle

lunch - TBD... I'm thinking tomato soup and a sandwich, no bento today for me

snack - a protein shake

dinner - stir fry broccoli beef and fried rice

* Added to What's For Lunch Wednesday

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

2 Yummy bento salads

 I have been busy doing non-computer things lately, and this is the first time I've had a chance to get on the computer this week. Here's what I had for lunch yesterday - I made sesame chicken nuggets from the wonderful book, " Yum Yum Bento Box", and I roasted some sweet potatoes on Monday as part of my weekly food prep. I had a salad to go with that with some very good homemade dressing.

  Speaking of weekly food prep, this week I made chicken breasts, which I cooked in the crockpot with some broth and Mrs. Dash to season it; some brown rice and sweet potatoes for my 2 carbs; and some beef strips which I will cook tomorrow for beef and broccoli stir fry. I also bagged up a bunch of broccoli, and some green and yellow zucchini. I made a big bowl of salad greens, and stocked up on lots of produce so I can practice making garnishes - I just got a new book all about the art of garnishing, and there are lots of good ideas in there that I can't wait to try for bentos.

  Here's what I just ate for my lunch today:

  It's a chef salad - I also got a new set of mini cutters, which are mostly butterflies, and I used a few to cut the carrots for my salad. I got this set here on Amazon. It's just perfect for bentos, and I can't wait to think up some more ways of using them!

Here's my food and exercise plans for today:

breakfast - 1 apple and 2 scrambled eggs

snack - a right light shake

lunch - the chef salad bento, above, along with some nuts and 2 muffins ( healthy ones - I was super hungry!)

snack - TBD, probably some oatmeal with protein powder

dinner - chicken and wild rice soup, and a corn muffin

exercise: so far I have done 20 minutes of cardio, and plan to do 40 more. I am feeling really good since taking the thyroid meds. Today, however, I am unusually tired. Sigh. My friends have told me to be patient until the dose gets adjusted to be just right... so I'll be patient. I hate being tired when I need to get so much done!

Friday, May 4, 2012

Star Wars Bento - It's a Trap!

  Happy Star Wars Day! If you're not a nerd you may not realize that today is Star Wars Day - May the fourth... get it? ... no? Well, think about it for a bit...

   I thought I could try to make R2D2, or Darth Vader - but I sat around brain storming with my husband and kids and we unanimously agreed that I needed to make Admiral Ackbar.

   I sort of combined Star Wars Day with Cinco de Mayo - this lunch is spanish rice, taco meat, cheese, refried beans, and fruit. I laughed all the way through creating this one!  Yoda looks a little like the grinch, and Admiral Ackbar is SO hideous - I couldn't convince my son to have this for lunch today, but my husband is a good sport and he'll eat it  : )

  Here's a slide show to explain how I made it:

It's time for another awesome blog hop! I'm not the only one doing a Star Wars Bento today - check out all my friends' blogs to see what they're having for lunch today:
Just click on the links at the end of our posts to see the next one, and the next one, and the next one..
Here's my friend Rachel's lunch:

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Tuna sandwich bento

  I just could not get the light right for this picture - it's such a sunny day today! I wish I could say I was eating this on a picnic in the park or something, but I had a bunch of errands to run so I actually ate it in bits and bites in my car as I drove around town. One thing I did new in this lunch that I will definitely do again is wrap my sandwich in waxed paper! I wanted to keep it away from the veggies and egg so it wouldn't get soggy ( should have used an Easy Lunch Box), but I'm liking sandwiches wrapped like this - it was so easy to grab while in the car and the crumbs stayed inside the paper. I just wrapped my sandwich like a present and then cut it in half and tucked in my bento. It was super delish!

  So yesterday I ate all 5 of my planned meals, and I even did 55 minutes of cardio! Woo hoo, it's been a long time since I had the energy to do that! I hope the thyroid meds keep working because I feel pretty awesome :D

  Here's what I ate/have planned to eat today:

breakfast:  potato, spinach and egg frittata; a banana, and a little of my son's baked oatmeal

snack: plain greek yogurt with stevia, vanilla, and berries

lunch: the bento shown above... vegetables really do taste better when they look cool, BTW

snack : protein peanut butter cup - I will have to post the recipe for this one soon - it's made of protein powder, peanut butter, cocoa powder, and water. Sounds gross, but tastes heavenly!

dinner: I am serving freezer leftovers tonight, and giving myself a break from cooking. I have single servings of chili, smoky chipotle beef and rice,  and kalua pork and rice in our freezer and it deserves to be eaten! I plan to make a big salad to go with it, and go to bed tonight with a clean kitchen : )

 I have already done yoga and a tough leg workout this morning, and I think I may just have the energy for a walk before or after dinner.

  I am gearing up for another super fun bento this weekend - me and my bento friends are doing a Star Wars Blog Hop this Friday! I'll be playing with some ideas I've had brewing in my head tomorrow, then you can tune in on Friday to see what we all come up with. I'm hoping to make a bento that my son would actually want to eat, ha ha. He's not into any of my flowers and bunnies. Luckily I have a husband who's willing to eat my cute food : )

*Added to What's For Lunch Wednesday

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

I'm gonna be in a cookbook!

  Okay, I know I promised I'd tell you some exciting news 3 days ago... but I can explain! Over the weekend I learned the reason why I have been SO unbearably tired, gained 15 lbs. in the past 2 months, and have sore joints and brittle fingernails. I have hypo-thyroidism. There's good news and bad news about that - the good news is today I've started taking medication and will soon be back to my old energy levels and can start losing weight again ( hopefully!) The bad news is I have to take a pill every day for the rest of my life. Eh, I can live with that!

  Now on to the exciting news!!!! I'm gonna be in a cookbook!!! 3 of my lunches and recipes will be featured in the upcoming book, "Cooking With Trader Joe's: Easy Lunch Boxes" authored by the amazing and talented Kelly Lester, who is the CEO of This cookbook will come out the end of this summer, and will feature many amazing bento artists and others who love to pack lunches. All our lunches feature food from Trader Joe's, and will be packed in Easy Lunch Boxes. Living in Utah, we don't have any Trader Joe's in the whole state, but now that I've learned about their company, I really wish we did!
  Over the weekend, we had family pictures taken for the cookbook. (Yes, our whole family gets to be in the book!) I was so tired and puffy-eyed, but thanks to our friend who is an amazing photographer, he made me look pretty good. I'll post some pics here soon (if I have permission to).

  So I've been busy, and tired, and distracted lately! But now I'm back to the business of making great lunches and snacks, and cooking and eating healthy, and blogging about it.  The above lunch is from yesterday - I made gluten-free chicken nuggets, veggies, purple potatoes, and fruit. I actually felt like eating it, ha ha!  Here's what I made for my husband:

  He got the cool radishes. Also,  since some of you have asked, I'll show you a picture of a typical lunch I make for my kids - they are teenagers and older, but I still like to pack them lunches when they'll let me. This lunch I made for my daughter, who is home from college for the summer. ( I wouldn't put the cute sauce cups and broccoli tree in my son's lunch, but I'm not above putting carrot flowers and radish stars in their lunches anyway)

  This lunch contains a chicken BLT with Pesto Cream Cheese ( the recipe will be in the cookbook, BTW) some veggies and ranch dip, and a healthy brownie cut in half. I like using Easy lunch Boxes for the kids, and I usually save the more traditional bento boxes for me and my husband.

  Starting tomorrow, I will be going back to posting all my meals and exercise, and adding more good content to my blog. I feel pretty good today, actually. It can't be the meds working already - it must be psychological, I think. But I'm happy to get to the bottom of my recent health problems so that's probably why I feel so great.  :D


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