Monday, September 17, 2012

Panda Express Copycat // Rice Crispy Treats

Parents should make it their first business to understand the laws of life and health, that nothing should be done by them in the preparation of food, or through any other habits, which will develop wrong tendencies in their children. How carefully should mothers study to prepare their tables with the most simple, healthful food, that the digestive organs may not be weakened, the nervous forces unbalanced, and the instruction which they should give their children counteracted, by the food placed before them. This food either weakens, or strengthens the organs of the stomach, and has much to do in controlling the physical and moral health of the children, who are God's blood-bought property. (Seven Secrets Cookbook, by Neva Brackett, pg. 45)

I have had guilt issues with working in my kitchen. I know. It sounds ridiculous. I have even had to talk to Paul about it, in depth, and ask him if he thought that I was out of balance. He calmly asked me, "How else would you feed your family?"

Simple. I would go out and buy pre-packaged foods, eat at restaurants at least once a day, and almost completely avoid kitchen work.

We made these rice crispies over the weekend. Originally a home-made concoction, the food industry has made it into a pre-packaged food. They pump it full of chemicals and refined grains and sugars that were never meant for our ingestion. It also contains animal products.

I don't think that's what God gave me time for. I also don't think that it is just by chance that I have been able to learn so much about health and nutrition. Sometimes I feel like the knowledge He gives me about how to properly care for my family pours in so quickly that I had better act fast. Otherwise I will forget how to implement what He has taught me in my home.

I have pondered a lot about whether or not I should share my belief in God on this blog. After some time, I have decided that it is such a deep part of who I am, that it is inseparable -- my joy for living, and my belief in God.

I've finally concluded that I don't want my family to have to leave my home in order to get the nourishment that they need. There are already too many reasons that my children are called to be elsewhere, away from the safety of home. Trying to get sustenance, because there is none at home, should not be one of them. Home should be a haven. It should be a place where my children know, no matter where they are, if they are hungry, tired, and worn out from the world, that they can come home. At home there will be food, GOOD food, clean places to play, and cozy, warm places to sleep.

Here is a satisfying meal of "orange chicken" we made yesterday that is usually picked up from a fast food restaurant. They use animal products that have been pumped with antibiotics and chemicals, probably use MSG, and lots of refined oils and sugars and who knows what else.

I have watched how eating at home blesses my children. I have been able to see measurable results in all of their lives. Megan, especially, whom I have discovered, has a severe allergy to milk. Which, if consumed, triggers sinus congestion within hours and ultimately causes severe and chronic ear infections. If I didn't provide dairy free alternatives at home, she would be limited in the foods she could enjoy throughout her life.

My children at the breakfast table with a new bench we bought for them. Now we can fit over 7 people at our table! We also have a nook which fits an additional 4 people. Enough room for family and friends to enjoy wholesome, home-made food together.

Is the time I spend in the kitchen, worth it? Absolutely.

And it's not just my family that has been blessed by this kitchen work. Members of my extended family, good friends, and many others, have at one point needed help with finding foods that were more healthful. Each individual has their own story; their own particular needs for their family.

At times, I have been a bit shocked. Amazed at how much helping others find delicious recipes that aid in fueling superior health has blessed my life.

My Mac N' Cheese was spurred on by Carly, whose children didn't like the original recipe found in Seven Secrets Cookbook. We went back to the drawing board, worked with combinations, and created a better recipe. Cauliflower Bechamel was found and improved because of my sister, Catherine, whose family allergies prevented them from being able to consume dairy, soy, and nuts. And thus an allergen-free cream sauce was born.

Sometimes I am so elated about the health benefits of whole foods, and good recipes made from them, that I don't know what to do with that passion. That passion largely comes because I can see that God has provided all the materials necessary to enjoy a bountiful, whole foods lifestyle. He cares about what I eat, and has provided a way to make it enjoyable.

I believe that God cares about what I eat. I love being in nature because I cannot help but feel God's presence. He is in the tall trees, the cool air, and in every living thing around me.

This blog has helped me to channel that passion. Being able to share what I work so hard to find in my kitchen is like therapy. Instead of food preparation being a lonely, one man show, it's now a friendship. Having you interact with me about these foods, health principles, and concerns about nutrition in general has been wonderful.

While I dipped cauliflower in the "popcorn" coating, there was a lot of moaning and comments from my children, "Ew! What is that?" But by the end of the meal there were multiple return trips to the stovetop and, "Mom, is there any more orange chicken (cauliflower) left?" Nope. There were no leftovers of this large meal.

Now THIS is an easy meal I would serve to guests!

Copycat Panda Express Orange Sauce
From CCK

We served this over seasoned quinoa and steamed snow peas, with a side of orange slices. Start by making the Cauliflower "popcorn" nuggets, because they take the longest to bake. While they are baking you can prepare the orange sauce and steam some rice or quinoa.

1/2 cup vegetable broth (120g)
2 tbsp cornstarch or arrowroot (30g)
3-4 tbsp orange marmalade (45-60g)
2 tbsp minced garlic (30g)
1/2 tsp powdered ginger
2 tbsp plus 2 tsp rice vinegar (45g)
2 stevia packets, or 2 tbsp sugar (Liquid sweetener will work if you’d prefer; just maybe use a bit more cornstarch for thickening.)
2 tbsp soy sauce (or gluten-free soy sauce) (30g)
1 tsp sesame oil
optional: green onions for garnish, crushed red chilis for a spicy variation


Whisk broth and cornstarch or arrowroot until dissolved. Now turn on the heat to low-medium and add all other ingredients. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Once it’s thickened, remove from heat. Makes 300g (about 1 1/4 cup). Serve over whatever you wish: rice, veggies, soba, tofu, etc. As noted above, here are the directions if you wish to make chicken-style cauliflower (it works with tofu as well): combine 1/2 cup any type of flour with 1/2 cup water, dip florets of one head cauliflower into this mixture, bake 20 minutes at 425F, then pour the sauce on top and bake another few minutes.

Cauliflower "Popcorn" Nuggets


raw cauliflower
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup water
parchment paper
roasting pan


Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Cut the cauliflower into bite-sized pieces, removing the majority of the stem/stalk. Place in a large bowl and set aside.

Combine flower with water, and mix with a fork or whisk until well combined. Pour over the cauliflower. Gently and carefully, toss the cauliflower with flour/water mixture until all the cauliflower has been coated. The flour coating should cover all of one large head of cauliflower. You only want the cauliflower thinly coated, not gobbed with flour/water.

Cover your roasting pan with parchment paper. Spread out cauliflower onto the parchment paper evenly, so they bake evenly.

Bake for 30-40 minutes. Pour the orange sauce on top and baking another 10-15 minutes.

We doubled the batch. It was gone in two days. We changed out the nut butters because we didn't have macadamia nut butter -- an idea we got from Janae.

Holiday Variation: I was just totally thinking that the caramel sauce would make AWESOME popcorn balls!

“Nicer” Krispie Squares
From Dreena Burton

This recipe mimics the flavors and textures of Rice Krispie Treats using more natural ingredients. These squares taste phenomenal, with the buttery richness of the macadamia nut butter and the sweetness of brown rice syrup.


1⁄2 cup macadamia nut butter (I use “Nuts To You” brand)(If you don't have Macadamia nut butter you can use 1/4 cup cashew butter and 1/4 cup peanut butter, or 1/2 cup cashew butter)
1⁄2 cup brown rice syrup
3 tbsp unrefined sugar (can reduce or omit, to taste)
1⁄4 tsp sea salt
1⁄4 tsp agar powder
1 – 1 1⁄2 tsp pure vanilla extract
4 cups natural brown rice crisp cereal


Line an 8×8-in (20×20-cm) pan with parchment paper. In a large saucepan on low-medium heat, combine macadamia butter, syrup, sugar, salt, agar powder, and vanilla. Stir continually as mixture heats until agar powder is fully dissolved (reduce heat if mixture starts bubbling).

Remove from heat and stir in cereal, making sure to fully incorporate with nut butter mixture. Transfer mixture to pan and press in evenly (use an edge of parchment paper to press without sticking). Refrigerate to cool completely, then cut into squares. Makes 16 squares.


  1. Wow, that cauliflower dish looks awesome. Seriously! I have so many dishes I need to try now - you are keeping me on my toes!

  2. So, I tried the orange sauce and cauliflower nuggets...and it wasn't really our thing. No big though, I know we can't like all the same stuff! I appreciate new recipes to try out all the same :)

  3. Did you use the "popcorn" coating cauliflower recipe? Just the plain, roasted cauliflower has never worked out for us. But with the popcorn coating, it did. Also, how long did you cook it for?

    Yes, we all have different tastes. I am learning that all the time. I am glad you told me about your experience -- good to know!! I always value feedback.

  4. Okay, two things:
    1) I've been too lazy to reset my google account password so that I can comment on blogs. I don't know if that shows my age or my true inertness.
    2) I've been remiss in checking your blog, and am thoroughly enjoying my catch-up time. I can't wait to make the orange "chicken". Thanks for all your wonderful recipes and insight!

    1. I just love reading your comment! Thanks for sharing, even if you are labeled as "unknown."

      I am so, so, so glad you like what you see. Welcome to Plant Infusions!

  5. I'm in such a dinner rut!!! Ashleeeeee, heeeelllllpppp! I have not visited any blogs lately but I am coming to yours for rescue. This looks yummy, even though Katie didn't care for it. She and I have different tastes as well. I will try this after I buy some cauliflower. Will continue in my search for something to make tomorrow for which I already have all the ingredients.