Got apples?  Here’s a simple low oxalate recipe that has been a family favorite since I was a kid.  It’s perfect in the fall when apples are abundant and even better in the winter on a cold snowy night.  I serve it unsweetened as a side dish (it’s especially good with pork) or drizzled with a little honey for the boy’s dessert.   You can peel the apples if you want, or leave the peels on if you’ve got fresh apples without too many blemishes or pesky pesticides.

Fried Apples

6 – 8 medium-sized cooking apples (Granny Smith or Jonathon are good)
2 tablespoons butter or coconut oil
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
A drizzle of honey (optional)

Peel the apples if desired, then core them and cut them into thin slices.  Melt the butter over medium heat.  Add the apples and saute until tender, allowing at least some of the apples to become golden brown.  Sprinkle the cinnamon over the top and add a drizzle of honey if desired.  Stir just enough to coat the apples and serve warm.

Makes 6- 8 servings.

Oxalate Note:  All ingredients in this recipe are low oxalate or very low oxalate.  I prefer fried apples with only a touch of cinnamon, but you can use 1/2 teaspoon and still have a low oxalate treat.

OXALATE UPDATE (Dec. 2011):  Cinnamon has been retested since I wrote this post and found to be high oxalate at 38.5 mg./teaspoon (Thus, 1/4 teaspoon adds about 10 mg. oxalate to the recipe).  You might like to substitute nutmeg (2.3 mg. for 1/4 teaspoon) for the cinnamon or leave it out.   

Serving Suggestions: Serve for dinner as a side dish with pork chops or pork roast.  Serve for breakfast with ham or sausage, as a topper for Paleo pancakes or cottage cheese pancakes, or sprinkled with low oxalate granola.  Serve over ice cream for a lovely fall desert.

Other Diets: This recipe may also be appropriate for gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, vegan, Paleo, and carb controlled diets.  It is also SCD-legal.

I’m not sure how it started but my sons and and their grandmother  have a running joke about eyeballs.  The boys will throw the word “eyeball” into a conversation and Grammy pretends to be totally grossed out (although sometimes it’s not an act!).

Low Oxalate Eyeball (un)Appetizers! (Lesson learned: try a black or red plate, so the eyeballs really show up!)

The boys love this joke so much, I thought it would be fun to really gross Grammy out with some creepy Halloween appetizers.  So here’s your warning:  If the thought of eating an eyeball makes your stomach turn, this is not the post for you.  But if you crave a little low oxalate fun, here’s a sure-fire Halloween party hit for your little ghouls and goblins.  Eyeball (un)Appletizers!

My boys thought these were fabulous!  They had a lot of fun making the eyeballs and even more fun serving them.  They chopped the crab with plastic knifes, made the salad, stuffed a few egg while mommy stuffed the rest, and added the sliced olive pupils.  We served the eyeballs on a plate with a lid, so when Grammy lifted the lid she would see two eyes staring back at her.  Success!  Grammy was totally grossed out by these!  She managed to choke down one before she gagged and couldn’t continue, but the  boys (and their Papa) laughed like crazy and ate a lot! I had two and they weren’t bad (although I admit I took the black olive off the second one–very cool looking but not the best taste combination!).

Hope you have fun making and eating your own disgusting Halloween (un)appetizers!

Eyeball (un)Appetizers

8 – 12 hardboiled eggs
4 – 6 ounces crab or chicken salad (see salad suggestions below)
Sliced black olives* or raisins

Shell the eggs and slice them in half.  Remove the egg yolks and save them for something else (egg salad is a yummy low oxalate lunch).  Arrange the egg halves on a serving plate.  Spoon 1 – 2 teaspoons of crab salad into the hollow of each egg half.  Top each egg with a slice of black olive.  Enjoy!

Makes 16 – 24 appetizers.

"Ewwww!"

Oxalate Note:  Sliced black olives are a high oxalate ingredient with 22 mg. oxalate per half cup.  BUT one slice of black olive has less than 1 mg. oxalate and black olives really do look the creepiest!  Of course raisins will lower the oxalate level and I admit, they do taste a lot better with raisins!  So make your trade-offs depending on what your kids would enjoy most.

Salad Suggestions:  I wanted my eyeballs to really be gross with a somewhat realistic texture and a blood-shot appearance.  The easiest way to do this is to use real or imitation crab, separated into chunks with a fork.  Add enough mayonnaise (or oil of your choice) to hold it together and maybe a dash of salt, pepper (or Old Bay seasoning if you’re wiling to use an untested ingredient), and Voila!  You have a low oxalate crab salad that will make your eyeballs look bloodshot (and really gross!).  Another way to do this is to use shredded or finely chopped chicken or turkey.  Again add a little mayo, pepper, and salt, but this time you might want to add some thin strips of red bell pepper to achieve the blood-shot look.  I used 8 ounces of crab meat to make my salad and had at least a third of it left over after stuffing the eyeballs (which my sons ate as their snack that day without any add-ins).  You can always make a bigger batch of salad and add some chopped broccoli stalks (or the egg yolks) to the left-overs for lunch the next day.

No-bake, low oxalate protein bars are easy to make and yummy!  They are high protein, high fiber and unfortunately high fat, so be careful how many you eat if fats are a problem for you.  What I really like about these bars is that they fill my kids up and keep them full until the next meal.  They also provide me with an easy, on-the-go breakfast choice if I need to get out of the house quickly.  These work well in an insulated lunch box, a cooler, or in your backpack when the weather is cool, but be careful about leaving them out too long in the summer or in a well-heated building.  They depend on refrigeration to keep their shape and pleasant texture.  Too much heat and they will melt into a gooey (yet still tasty) mess.

No-Bake Low Oxalate Protein Bars

1 ½ cups quick oats or rolled oats (GF)
½ cup ground flax seed
1 cup whey protein powder (or use rice or pea protein powder)
½ cup flaked coconut
¾ cup raisins (or dried cherries or apples)
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
½ cup honey (or agave nectar)
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons Sunbutter brand sunflower seed butter
3 tablespoons butter or coconut oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1-3 tablespoons water

Combine the oats, flax seed, protein powder, coconut, raisins and pumpkin seeds in a bowl and mix well.  Put the honey, Sunbutter, butter and vanilla in a separate glass or ceramic dish and microwave on high for about 30 – 45 seconds until the butter is melted and the Sunbutter is gooey.  Stir the Sunbutter mixture until it is well combined.  Add the Sunbutter mixture and the oat mixture and stir until the oats are well coated.  It should have a crumbly, somewhat dry texture that barely holds together when you press it (like the oatmeal topping of an apple crisp).  Add the water a half tablespoon at a time, stirring well each time, until you get a mixture that will hold together more like playdough (still a little dry but could be rolled into one big ball that would stay together).  It usually takes about 2 tablespoons water.

Press the oat mixture into a 9 X 9 inch baking dish OR other convenient dish with about the same dimensions (you could press it directly into a convenient-sized Tupperware).  I often use a Pyrex glass baking dish with a plastic lid.  For easy removal, line the bottom of the pan with plastic wrap plus enough to double back over the top as a cover after you’ve pressed the oat mixture into it.  Put the dish into the refrigerator and let chill overnight or for at least four hours.  Cut into 18 bars (4.5 x 1 inch each).  Transfer into an air tight container (or wrap in the plastic wrap) and keep refrigerated for up to two weeks (Maybe three?  I’ve never had them that long, but there’s nothing in here that doesn’t keep a long time in the refrigerator).

Makes 18 bars.

Oxalate Note:  Each low oxalate protein bar has about 8 grams protein (when made with whey powder), 3.5 grams fiber, 8 grams fat and 5 mg. oxalate.  Rolled oats (11.1 mg. oxalate/half cup), Sunbutter (6.1 mg. per 2 tablespoons), ground flax seed (6.6 mg./half cup) and pumpkin seeds (5.2 mg. per 2 tablespoons) are medium oxalate.  All other ingredients are low or very low oxalate.

Variations:  I’ve been fooling around with this recipe for months and although every combination I’ve tried has been tasty, it’s really hard to get a good, pleasant consistency with even a slight variation.

If you want less sugar, you may remove 1 – 2 tablespoons honey without too much trouble.  You can also use some liquid Stevia in place of the water.  Do not replace the honey with applesauce  unless you want a really sticky (yet still tasty) bar.

If you want less fat, you may leave out 1 – 2 tablespoons butter OR 1 -2 tablespoons Sunbutter and still have a decent bar.

If you want less oxalate, try substituting roasted chestnuts for the pumpkin seeds or try substituting ½ cup coconut for ½ cup oats.  You may also leave out 2 – 3 tablespoons of Sunbutter, although you may have to add an extra tablespoon of butter.

If you can handle more oxalate, then you may substitute 3 – 4 more tablespoons of Sunbutter for the butter, or you may add up to 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds.

The raisins, pumpkin seeds and coconut are interchangeable with other dried LO fruit (try apple, cherry or banana), roasted chestnuts or coconut (about 1 cup total of these add-ins).  I’ve also had luck increasing the protein powder by another fourth cup.

Do not replace the butter or coconut oil with other cooking oils.  The solid nature of these oils when refrigerated is what makes this recipe work.

Other Diets: No-bake low oxalate protein bars may also be appropriate for gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, vegetarian, and controlled carbohydrate diets with the appropriate ingredient choice.

When I was a student at Iowa State University, I liked to attend the Foreign Culture Center’s student potlucks.  I met a young Bengali woman at one potluck who laughed when I asked her for the recipe for her mung beans and rice.  She had never written down a recipe before and thought it strange that I hadn’t learned to cook from my mother.  After a long talk, I learned that she had come to Iowa with her husband while he studied engineering, plus I learned most of the ingredients she thought she had put into her pilaf “this time.”  I also had an idea how to prepare the dish, but it’s taken some research into Bengali cooking techniques to even come close to replicating it.  Strangely enough, I didn’t have to modify her mung beans and rice to make it low oxalate.  She told me she didn’t have any cloves this time, but cloves were usually good (no problem for me—cloves are really high oxalate; glad to leave them out!).  She also didn’t use as much pepper because she thought Americans wouldn’t eat it that way (I thought it was really hot and have reduced the pepper even more—not because it was too high in oxalate but because most of my readers are sensitive to spicy foods or have kids to please).  I think she said she put cardamom in the dish, but I was a newbie to Indian and Bengali cooking at the time, so I wasn’t sure what she was saying and was beginning to get embarrassed after asking so many times.  Since cardamom is often used in spice blends with cinnamon and cloves in Indian cooking and is relatively low in oxalate, I decided to add a little.  Cardamom has a strong flavor, however, so you may want to start with the smaller amount or leave it out.

Hope you enjoy this yummy dish!

Spiced Mung Beans and Rice  (Bangladesh)

1 cup mung beans* (soaked overnight)
3 tablespoons butter (or cooking oil of your choice)
1 ½ teaspoons raw ginger, grated
1 bay leaf
2 cups long grain rice
½ teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon cardamom (optional)
¼  teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup onion, chopped
1 – 2 hard-boiled eggs

Prepare the beans by letting them soak overnight (at least 8 hours) OR place them in a large pot with about 4 cups water and bring them to a boil.  Turn off the stove and let the beans sit for one hour. Drain and rinse the beans.

Heat the butter in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat.  Add the ginger and bay leaf and fry for about a minute.  Add the prepared beans, rice, cinnamon, cardamom and pepper, and fry for about 12 – 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Pour six cups water and the salt into the pot and bring to a boil.  Cover the pot and simmer on low heat for about 30 minutes until the rice and beans are tender.   Meanwhile, in a separate skillet, fry the onion in a little butter or oil.  Place the beans and rice into a serving dish and garnish with the fried onions and slices of hard-boiled egg.

Serves 6-8.

*Note: If mung beans are unavailable in your area, you may substitute lentils.  Lentils do not need to be pre-soaked.

Oxalate Note:  Mung beans are a medium oxalate food with 7.9 mg. oxalate per half cup.  All of the spices are low oxalate in the amount used: 1.5 teaspoons raw ginger, grated (3.1 mg.), 1 bay leaf (0.3), ½ teaspoon cinnamon (4.2), ½ teaspoon cardamom (3.1), and ¼  teaspoon cayenne pepper (1.3).  Onion is low oxalate (3.3 mg./half cup), while the rest of the ingredients are very low oxalate or have no oxalate (eggs, butter, long grain white rice and salt.)  Each serving has about 3.8 mg. oxalate (based on 8 servings per recipe).

OXALATE UPDATE (Dec. 2011):  Cinnamon has been retested since I wrote this post and found to be high oxalate at 38.5 mg./teaspoon.   I suggest you either leave out the cinnamon or reduce the cinnamon to 1/4 teaspoon.  The recipe made with 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon has about 5.7 mg. oxalate per serving or without cinnamon it has about 3.3 mg. serving.

Picky Eater Pleaser:  If you can get your kids to eat this, please let me know your secret!  I don’t have any cheesy pictures of my kids eating Low Oxalate Mung Beans and Rice because they think it looks “yucky” and won’t even taste it (except Aidan will pick the hard-boiled eggs off the top.)  I think I’ll try again with just a hint of spices and introduce them to the dish slowly.

Other Diets:  Low oxalate spiced mung beans and rice may be appropriate for gluten-free, dairy-free and vegetarian diets.

I discovered salsa chicken last year when my boys were going through a high-maintenance phase.  For six months, they melted the minute we got home from daycare. They cried and clung to me and needed lots of hugs and books while they waited for dinner (which of course kept me from making dinner.)  By the time I got everyone to the table I could barely think, let alone be patient, nurturing and kind.

salsa chicken quesadilla
Aidan enjoys salsa chicken in a quesadilla.

This is why every parent needs a recipe like salsa chicken. Whether your kids are toddlers or teens, whether you work at home or away, you need a go-to meal for the days you know are going to be hectic.  Salsa chicken is my go-to meal.  With a little forethought and some preparation in the morning (or night before), I can have a hot, nutritious dinner on the table within ten minutes of walking through the door.  Beautiful!

Salsa Chicken

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs (2 large chicken breasts)

1/2 – 3/4 cup salsa (1/4 of a 16 ounce jar) or Ro-tel* (see oxalate note)

In the morning (or at lunch), put the chicken in a crock pot. Pour the salsa over the chicken and cook on high for 5 – 6 hours or on low for 8 – 11 hours*.  Serve salsa chicken with corn tortillas or long/short-grained white rice, or use it as a substitute for beef in taco salads.

Yield:  4 adult servings (this recipe doubles easily!)

Note: Cooking times vary depending on the size of your crock pot, how hot it gets, and how tightly your lid fits.

Oxalate Note: Picante salsa has 4.5 mg. oxalate per 2 tablespoons.  Most brands of salsa should be similar in oxalate content as long as they only contain tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, chilies, and cilantro (or other low and medium oxalate ingredients).  Our favorite variety has pineapple!   An alternative idea is to use 1/2 cup chopped chilies and tomatoes (such as Ro-tel). As far as I know, Ro-tel has not been tested yet, but chiles are low oxalate (Old Elpaso chopped green chilies have 4.8 mg./2 tablespoons) and most varieties of tomatoes are medium oxalate (Hunts canned tomatoes are 7.1 mg./half cup), so this should be okay as long as you only use about 1/2 cup.

Ten Minutes from Door to Table:

Step 1: The night before, I place the chicken and salsa on the second shelf of my refrigerator along with a glass dish full of corn and all the fixings for a Mexican burrito bar–corn tortillas (or wheat ones for those family members not on a low oxalate diet), shredded cheese, low-fat sour cream or plain yogurt, chopped lettuce, tomatoes, kidney beans, avocado etc.

Step 2: In the morning, I put the salsa and chicken in the crock pot and turn it on.

Step 3: When we walk through the door at night, my boys put away their jackets and shoes while I stick the corn in the microwave.  We wash hands, then the boys put the burrito fixings on the table (with occasional help from mommy), while I put the chicken in a serving dish and finish the corn.  We set the table together, and “Ta-dah” dinner is served!

Pineapple Salsa Chicken: Add a 15 ounce can of pineapple tidbits, drained, to the chicken and salsa before cooking.  Serve this over rice instead of in a tortillas as it tends to be very juicy.

Picky Eater Pleaser:  Serving salsa chicken as part of a burrito bar should give most picky eaters something nutritious to eat.  Aidan likes to make his salsa chicken into a burrito with the works, but Cameron prefers to eat the chicken, cheese and tortilla separate with plain yogurt for dipping. You may also reduce the salsa content to please picky eaters.  My friend Maria drains the salsa “juice” into the crock pot with the chicken, reserving the chunky parts to add later at the table.  This gives the chicken the yummy flavor of the salsa, but keeps the offending peppers and onions out—a good family compromise.

Other Diets:  Salsa chicken may be appropriate for gluten-free, dairy-free and controlled carbohydrate diets.

In honor of the new school year I’ve been experimenting with low oxalate granola bar and energy bar recipes for back-to-school lunchboxes and nutritious breakfasts on the go.  These bars have 4 – 5 mg. oxalate per bar, depending on which ingredients you use and how big you make the bars.  I was able to make them high fiber, gluten-free, dairy-free, a good source of omega-3s, and pretty dang yummy.  An added bonus:  these aren’t only fun for kids to eat, they’re fun for kids to make! They resemble an oatmeal bar cookie more than a traditional granola bar because I chose to use milk (or coconut milk) instead of carmelized butter (or coconut oil) and sugar as my binder, but this is what keeps them easy enough for young children to make.

Cameron stirs his low oxalate granola bars.

My boys were able to measure, pour and mix these granola bars with only a little assistance.  I had to do the final spreading and baking, but the boys did most of the work themselves.  Unfortunately I timed things wrong the first time we made these bars and they were almost cooled and ready to cut at 5:15 when the boys and I came inside from playing.  I hadn’t made dinner yet and the boys “needed one” right then, so I cut a couple bars and we had them with milk.  Then I cut a couple more bars, added some apple slices, fresh veges and cottage cheese and called it dinner.  The hamburgers thawing in my fridge could wait until the next night, but enjoying the boys’ fresh-baked granola bars could not.  After all, it’s the daily ritual of sitting down at the dinner table and enjoying each others’ company that’s important  to me.

Easy Low Oxalate Granola Bars

2 cups GF rolled oats
1/2 cup ground flax seeds
3/4 cup raisins OR dried cherries
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
3/4 cup flaked or coursely shredded coconut
1/4 cup isolated protein powder (whey, rice or pea), optional
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 15 ounce can condensed milk (OR 1 can coconut milk*)
1/2 cup honey or sweetener of your choice**

Pre-heat your oven to 325 degrees and grease a 9 x9 inch baking pan.  Combine the oats, flax seeds, raisins, pumpkin seeds, coconut, protein powder and salt in a bowl.  In a separate bowl, mix the milk and sweetener.  Pour the milk mixture over the oat mixture and stir until just moistened.  Press the granola into the prepared pan, then bake for about 30 minutes until the top is golden brown.  (If you do not have a 9 x 9 inch pan, you can press the granola into 9 or 10 inches  of a 13 x 9 inch pan and leave the rest empty).

Let the granola bars cool completely, then cut it into 14-18 bars (about 1 inch by 4.5 inch each).  Store the bars in an air-tight container for up to one week.

*A Note about Coconut Milk: If your brand of coconut milk is thick and creamy, this recipe should work well.  If it is really “liquidy” this recipe may work better if you add 1/8 cup coconut flour.

** A Note about Sweeteners: Honey, maple syrup, sugar, Splenda or 1 teaspoon liquid stevia are all low oxalate (or very low oxalate) and all work in this recipe, but honey and maple syrup add the best flavor.  If you use liquid stevia, these bars will not brown.  You may want to add a teaspoon of honey to help the bars brown or set a timer for doneness (note: do not use powdered stevia–it is high oxalate).  You may also want to experiment with different levels of sweetness.  When I make these bars with extra raisins and dried apples, I reduce the sweetener.

Oxalate Note:  Many of the ingredients in these granola bars are medium oxalate, including rolled oats (11.1 mg./half cup), ground flax seed (6.6 mg./half cup), dried cherries (5.2 mg./half cup) and some brands of coconut milk (coconut milk ranges from 0-6.6 mg./half cup).  Condensed milk, flaked coconut, salt and honey are all very low oxalate (less than 1.0 mg./serving), while raisins (3.8 mg. /half cup), pumpkin seeds (2.6 mg./tablespoon) and whey protein powder (2.4 mg./half cup) are low oxalate. (Pea powder is 5.4 mg./scoop while rice protein is 6.5 mg./half cup). These bars have about 4 – 5 mg. oxalate per bar, depending on which ingredients you use and how big you make the bars.

Variations:  Try any combination of dried apples, dried bananas, roasted chestnuts or Nestles premium white morsels, instead of the raisins, pumpkin seeds and coconut.  One really yummy combination is 3/4 cup dried apple pieces, 3/4  cup raisins and 1/2 cup coconut. (Your total add-ins should equal about 1.5 – 2 cups.)

Traditional Granola Bars: You may also wish to make a more traditional granola bar or granola.  Do this by omiting the milk.  Toast the oats and pumpkin seeds on a cookie sheet at 300 degrees for about 15 minutes until golden brown.  Meanwhile, put 1/2 cup butter (or coconut oil) in a skillet on low heat.  When the butter melts, add 1/2 cup brown sugar, honey or maple syrup and stir until the mixture carmalizes (liquid stevia and Splenda will not work). Pour all the other ingredients (except the milk) in a bowl, add the carmel mixture and the toasted oat mixture, and stir until just combined.  Press the granola into a greased 9 x 9 inch pan and bake for about 30 minutes for traditional granola bars OR spoon the mixture onto a greased cookie sheet and bake at 325 degrees for about 25 -30 minutes, stopping and stirring the mixture every 8-10 minutes during the cooking for traditional granola.  Cool completely before cutting the bars or storing.

Update on 9/28/11:  You may need to use more butter if you put in extra add-ins or tend to use rounded scoops like I do.  Yesterday, I made traditional granola and had to add an extra tablespoons of oil to make it work.

Other Diets: These bars may be appropriate for gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian and controlled carbohydrate diets with the proper modifications.

Plenty of great food bloggers post low oxalate recipes without realizing it.  Other bloggers post recipes that are easily tweaked to be low oxalate or “lower” medium oxalate.  In this new series, I will introduce you to some of these bloggers and provide you with links to their low oxalate recipes so you can check them out yourself (just click on the recipe title).  I hope this series will also give you the confidence to start finding and tweaking recipes on your own.  Please read my description about the recipe before running over to check it out, however, because each one needs at least one simple change in order to be low or “lower” medium oxalate.

Soft Serve Banana Ice Cream

(Gluten-free, casein-free, vegan and “lower medium” oxalate, could also be used on a controlled carbohydrate diet)

This recipe is from Choosing Raw–a popular vegan, raw foods blog.  It makes a simple, creamy frozen treat that your kids will love (and hey, so will you!).  It’s a guilt-free pleasure with no added sugar.  If you want to experiment, try adding some frozen strawberries, pineapple, mango or vanilla extract.  Just remember that the bulk of your recipe must be bananas or it won’t get the creamy texture.  Also, remember chocolate is high oxalate, so don’t use Gena’s  chocolate sauce.  See my white chocolate sauce recipe at the bottom of low oxalate banana splits, instead, or opt to put sliced strawberries on top.

Oxalate Note:  If you skip the chocolate sauce, this recipe only has one ingredient — bananas, a “lower medium” oxalate treat)

Stuffed Squash

(Gluten-free, casein-free and low to “lower medium” oxalate depending on how you modify it, could also be used on a controlled carbohydrate diet)

Kim’s fabulous blog, Gluten Free Real Food,  is full of great gluten free recipes.  Some are low oxalate.  Many more are easily modified to be low or medium oxalate.  I tried this squash dish with fresh picked butternut squash, red pepper and tomatoes from my garden two nights ago and my family loved it!  You should leave out or reduce the amount of black olives (about 22 mg. oxalate per 1/2 cup) or let the non-low oxalate dieters add them at the table.  You may also want to use less tomato if you are very oxalate sensitive (most tomatoes are medium oxalate) or use a lower oxalate variety of tomato (like Georgia Peach or Early Girl).  When I made this dish I used the full amount of tomato but left out the black olives.

Apple-Turnip Chicken Salad

(Gluten free, casein free, low oxalate with modification, good for a controlled carbohydrate diet)

This recipe is from the blog, Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Sugar-Free.  Angie’s website is beautiful and horribly tempting with way too many high oxalate dishes.  But if you can be strong and sift through the numerous high oxalate treats, you will find a few low oxalate gems.  When you check out this recipe, just skip the chicken stock part in the narrative–this has too many high oxalate veges in it–and jump down to the recipe for Apple-turnip chicken salad.  I used a pink lady apple, a yellow onion, and two fresh turnips.  It was yummy and crunchy, but be sure to leave out the walnuts (walnuts have about 46 mg. per half cup)! Also, make sure to use gluten free Dijon mustard if this is important to you.  I ate this salad on a bed of low oxalate lettuce and greens, but you might also try topping  cucumber “crackers” for a truly low oxalate treat.

My boys have a new favorite low oxalate recipe–Jamaican Rice and Peas!  This is a staple from my vegetarian days that I haven’t made in years, but I had one of those crazy cravings and gave in.  It also seemed like a good learning opportunity for the boys.  What better way to introduce new cultures than through their food?

Low Oxalate Rice and Peas

Aidan loves his rice and peas (here made with kidney beans)

Rice and peas is an everyday staple in Jamaica.  Its subtle coconut flavor and creamy texture are a perfect complement to Jamaican Jerk Chicken and other spicy island treats, but it also makes a filling vegetarian main-dish.  It’s traditionally made with pigeon peas, but black-eyed peas or kidney beans are often substituted.  I make it with canned peas or beans because it’s so easy, but you can prepare  the raw peas yourself if you can’t find canned pigeon or black-eyed peas (use one cup raw peas with three cups water).  I sometimes use the  pepper and sometimes don’t.  Since you use a whole pepper and remove it before cooking, it doesn’t make the rice hot, but adds a nice, subtle pepper flavor.

The night I introduced Jamaican Rice and Peas to my boys, I talked with them about Jamaica and tropical islands.  They were fascinated and asked lots of questions and repeated the things I was telling them over and over.  I think it was the first time it started to make sense to them that people live in many different places, and that people in different places eat different foods than we do.  It was fun watching them learn, and  it was a very pleasant way to make dinner conversation with soon-t0-be-three-year-olds.  I plan to buy a good map to keep in the kitchen, so as we cook and learn together I can point out where the different foods we eat come from.  I hope this will also make cooking and eating together as a family more fun.  It sure was fun last week.  And it was even more fun when Aidan requested “Island rice and beans” again for dinner a few nights later (we ate it as our main meal the second night since I already knew they liked it).

Jamaican Rice and Peas

1 can black-eyed peas, pigeon peas* or kidney beans* (15 ounces) (see oxalate note)
1 can unsweetened coconut milk (13.5 ounces)
1 cup water
2 cups long or short grain white rice–not instant!
1 habanero pepper (optional)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2-4 cloves garlic, crushed
salt to taste (start with 1/4 teaspoon)

Put all of the ingredients into a saucepan, including the liquid from the beans.  Bring to a boil, then simmer until most of the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender (about 30 minutes).  Remove the habanero pepper and serve.

Makes 4 main dish or 8 side dish servings.

Note:  Most Jamaican chefs start by cooking raw peas (which are soupy like non-drained canned beans) which is why I use the canned bean “juice” in my recipe. It keeps things easy and more authentic tasting.  You may like the texture of this dish better, however, if you drain and rinse the beans first, then add an extra 3/4 cup water.

*Oxalate Note:   Pigeon peas and kidney beans are medium oxalate ingredients.  All other ingredients are low or very low oxalate, so this is a low to “lower medium” oxalate dish depending on what type of pea/bean you use. Actual oxalate values are: black-eyed peas (3 mg. per 1/2 cup), pigeon peas*(7 mg. per 1/2 cup, canned), kidney beans* (11.7 mg./half cup, dried), coconut milk (0.0 mg. per 1/2 cup, Chaokoh brand), Uncle Ben’s long grain white rice (trace) OR “boiled” white rice (0.9 mg. per half cup), habanero pepper (0.4 mg. per sauteed pepper), thyme(2.5 mg. per teaspoon), garlic (0.3 mg. per clove), Hain table salt (0.0 mg.)

Picky Eater Pleaser:  Try leaving out the pepper, thyme, garlic and beans at first, so you just have coconut rice (you will have to add 1/2-3/4 cup water).  If your picky eater likes this, try adding back in the beans/peas first, then add each “spice” one at a time each time you make the dish.  Alternately, make “coconut rice” and let family members add their own beans at the table.  You can also use 2-3 fresh thyme sprigs instead of the dried thyme and remove them before serving.

Menu Planner:  Try Jamaican Rice and Peas as a side dish with baked chicken and pineapple, or as a main dish with a tropical fruit salad on the side (mango, banana and pineapple with coconut sprinkles-yum!).

Other Diets:  Jamaican Rice and Peas may also be suitable for gluten-free, dairy-free and vegetarian diets.

I was looking through my grandma’s old cookbooks and came across a cultural gem, Favorite Recipes of Home Economics Teachers–Vegetables, published in1963.  It’s a wonderful snapshot of how America used to eat vegetables–usually in small portions with lots of cheese, mushroom soup, cream sauce, and buttered bread crumbs (according to over 2000 home economics teachers!)  Hard-boiled eggs were also a common ingredient in these recipes, which intrigued me since I had never eaten hard-boiled eggs in a casserole.  I had to try it!

Cameron eats his Eggs and Peas with Onion Cream Sauce

The verdict?  Hard-boiled eggs chopped over asparagus, peas or zucchini is really tasty although I could do without the mushroom soup and oxalate-filled crumb toppings.  I decided to experiment a little and came up with this yummy, low oxalate casserole. The onion in the sauce takes a little extra work, but it’s so good, it’s worth it.  Especially since the rest of the dish is so easy (skip the white sauce step and it’s ultra easy!).

My picky eaters dissected this dish, but after a slow start (Cameron would only eat the peas at first and Aidan ate everything else on his plate but the casserole), both boys agreed to try the eggs and cheese part and loved it.  They both ended up eating healthy-sized portions and wolfed it down the second time I served it.

Eggs and Peas with Onion Cream Sauce

1 medium white or yellow onion, sliced (about 1/2 cup)
1 cup water
8 ounces frozen green peas* (about 1 cup)
8 hard-boiled eggs, cooled and shelled
1/2 cup heavy cream, sour cream OR plain yogurt (see note)
1 tablespoon butter AND one tablespoon cornstarch (optional, see note)
1/2 cup milk
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
2-3 ounces Swiss cheese

Place the sliced onion in a small saucepan with the water, bring to a boil and boil for five minutes until most of the water has evaporated.  Meanwhile put the peas in a 2-quart casserole.  Slice the hard-boiled eggs and place over the peas.  When the onion is tender, place it in a food processor or blender (with left-over water) and puree.  Melt the butter in the warm saucepan and add the cornstarch.  Mix well and cook for about 10 seconds.   Add the cold milk, stir well, and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring often.  When the white sauce boils and thickens, add cream, salt, pepper, and onion puree.  Stir the sauce well then pour over sliced eggs.  Sprinkle the casserole with Swiss cheese, then place it under the broiler for about 3 -4 minutes until it is browned.  Serve immediately.

Yeild: 4 main dish servings or 8 side dish servings

Note: If you don’t want to bother making a white sauce, replace the cream with sour cream or plain yogurt, reduce the milk to 1/4 cup, and leave out the butter and cornstarch.  When making your sauce, simply mix the sour cream, milk, onion puree, salt and pepper in the warm sauce pan, then pour over the egg mixture.  You will have to broil the casserole a little longer, but it’s still quite yummy (especially with sour cream) and only a little runny.

*Oxalate Note: Green peas are a “lower medium” oxalate vegetable with 5.7 mg. oxalate per 1/2 cup.  All other ingredients are low oxalate or very low oxalate.

Variations:  This is also good with steamed asparagus or sauteed mushrooms  instead of peas.  I haven’t tried it with sauteed zucchini yet, but that’s next on my list.

Other Diets: This recipe may also be appropriate for gluten-free (make sure the sour cream is GF), vegetarian, and controlled carbohydrate dieters.

Want to beat this heat and have a little fun with the kids?  Make low oxalate popsicles! It’s been between at least 96-100 degrees every day in Missouri for over two weeks (107 on Tuesday!) and my entire yard, plus the garden and the kids are drooping.  I can’t bring myself to cook much or to eat hot foods, so my boys and I have been slurping breakfast smoothies and making frozen pops instead.

The easiest way to make a low oxalate popsicle is to put your favorite low oxalate juice in a plastic popsicle mold and freeze it at least 6 hours or overnight.  Alternatively, you may use ANY small, food safe container with any kind of wood or plastic stick as your popsicle mold (put saran wrap over the container to keep the stick in place until it freezes).  Be creative for some fun!

If you want to experiment with popsicles, keep a few things in mind.

  • Most popsicle recipes can double as a slushie or a smoothie.
  • Conversely, most smoothie or slushie recipes can double as popsicles (omit the ice cubes from slushie recipes).
  • Most things don’t taste as sweet when you freeze them, so you might want to add slightly more sweetener than you think you need.
  • Coconut milk can be substituted for milk or yogurt in most popsicle recipes if you want a dairy-free alternative.
  • You can also use water or juice as a substitute for milk.
  • Use honey, maple syrup, liquid Stevia, Splenda or confectioners sugar to sweeten pops instead of regular sugar or your pop will be grainy.  Be sure to blend the sweeteners well!
  • You can use whole, “chunky” or fully pureed fresh fruit.
  • Liquid expands when freezing so leave a little room at the top.
  • If you use milk or yogurt, partially freezing the pop in an ice cream maker first will give you a creamier pop.
  • Using Greek yogurt in place of regular yogurt gives a creamier, higher protein pop.
  • Using condensed milk instead of regular milk gives a creamier pop (although I personally don’t like the taste as much.)
  • Hand wash plastic molds!  The heat from dishwashers can release toxins from the plastic which will get into your food the next time you use them.
  • Hold the popsicle mold in your hand (or run under warm, not hot, water) until the popsicle slides out easily.

Here’s a couple fabulous low oxalate popsicle recipes to get you started.  You may want to add more sugar if you aren’t on a controlled carbohydrate diet.  I tend to go really light on the sugar or sweetener because I don’t enjoy overly sweet desserts.

Coconut Cream Pops

1 14 oz. can coconut milk
1 cup milk or water (or go crazy and add more coconut milk . . .)
1/2 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut (not flaked!)
3 tablespoons honey OR 1/4 cup powdered sugar OR 1/2 tsp. liquid Stevia (see note)
1 teaspoon coconut extract* (optional)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Mix all ingredients until well blended.  Pour into popsicle molds and freeze overnight (at least 6 hours.)

Yeild: about 3 cups popsicle mix (This makes 12-14 pops with my molds)

Note: You may want to add up to 3/4 cup powdered sugar to this recipe if you like things really sweet.

*Oxalate Note:  Coconut extract is an untested ingredient.  However, coconut is very low oxalate as are all tested extracts, so coconut extract is most likely okay.  The rest of the ingredients are very low oxalate except for the cinnamon which has 1.5 mg. oxalate per 1/4 teaspoon.

OXALATE UPDATE (Dec. 2011):  Cinnamon has been retested since I wrote this post and found to be high oxalate at 38.5 mg./teaspoon.  If you leave the 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon in, it will add about 1 mg. oxalate per pop–still low oxalate!  We like these just as well without the cinnamon, however, and nutmeg (9.4 mg. oxalate per teaspoon) is really nice in this recipe! 

Melon Pops

4 cups melon (muskmelon or watermelon for very low oxalate, honeydew or cantaloupe for low oxalate)
1/2 cup plain yogurt (optional)
1 cup apple juice (or orange juice or pineapple juice)

Put all of the ingredients in the blender and mix until well-pureed.  Pour the mix into popsicle molds and freeze overnight or at least 6 hours.  Alternatively, make different layers using watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew for a pastel-striped fun pop.  Let each layer set (about 3 hours) before adding the next layer.

Yeild: About 3 1/2 cups mix

Strawberry Lemonade Pops

8 ounces strawberries*
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup lemon juice (juice from 1 good-sized lemon or two smaller lemons)
3 tablespoons honey OR 1/4 cup confectioners sugar or 1/2 teaspoon liquid Stevia

Put all of the ingredients in the blender and blend until well mixed.  Put into popsicle molds and freeze overnight or at least 6 hours.

Yeild: about 3 cups popsicle mix

Oxalate Note:  Strawberries are a “lower” medium oxalate fruit with 7.8 mg. oxalate per 1/2 cup fresh strawberries.  Lemon juice and all  of the sweeteners are low or very low oxalate, so each pop (3 cups mix makes about 12-14 pops with my molds) is low oxalate.

Other Diets:  Coconut Cream Pops, Melon Pops, and Strawberry Lemonade Pops may be appropriate for gluten-free, dairy-free (use water instead of milk), controlled carbohydrate, and vegetarian diets with appropriate modifications.

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