Monthly Archives: June 2013

LIVE CHAT: Monday, July 1, 8PM ET – Gluten-Free Summer Travel

How do you navigate a gluten-free diet when traveling? Bring your own snacks? Find gluten-free restaurants along the way? Whether you’re a seasoned traveler, or a gluten-free newbie, this free LIVE CHAT over at Udi’s Gluten-Free Living Community is a great opportunity to share ideas and learn more about how to successfully handle a gluten-free diet while on the go. Tune in by visiting Udi’s Gluten-Free Living Community next Monday, July 1, at 8PM Eastern to join us! There will be prizes given away, courtesy of Udi’s.

Lemon Sugar Cookies and Finding My Way Back to Center

Going through life, I’ve learned a few things. I’ve learned to let go. I’ve learned to be okay with less than perfect. I’ve learned that it is better to be happy with the “right now” instead of dwelling on the past and worrying about the future. I’ve learned that sometimes, simple is best. And sometimes, I don’t need to “healthify” every single thing that passes my lips.

This is a big deal in my world. I am definitely what you might call a “healthy eater”. Around the time I went gluten-free, I started becoming more aware of the food I was putting into my body. My health wasn’t so great – gluten was starting to take its toll on my digestive system and my energy levels, among other things. So gradually, along with removing gluten (and then dairy) from my diet, I also removed processed foods, and for a while, even grains, beans, and sugar, in an effort to regain my health. I’ve been gluten-free now for right at 4 years, and in the past year, I’ve finally turned the corner and really have started to feel “better”. I’ve been able to eat things in moderation that previously would set off my oh-so-delicate digestive balance for days, sometimes weeks. So gradually, I’ve expanded my “allowed” foods. I eat grains, I sometimes eat beans, and sometimes, I even eat sugar.

What I really didn’t expect when going through this process was the mental hurdles I’d have to jump. Over the past 4 years, being at odds with my body which seemed to want to reject anything, trying to stay away from “offending foods”, and feeling deprived and overindulging in “off-limits” things anyway (never gluten, but sometimes sugar or grains – and I paid the price for it) caused me to become somewhat “scared” of foods. Some foods were bad. Some were outright demonized. Any amount of sugar was certain to give me diabetes, or at the least, send me down into a spiraling-out-of-control sugar binge. I’d get cancer if I consumed anything with preservatives. I’d cause damage to my intestines if I ate grains, and at best, I wasn’t honoring my body if I didn’t give it 100% nourishing, whole, organic, healthy foods. And all the while, I was afraid my digestive system would get worse if I deviated from the world of natural, whole meats, vegetables, nuts and the occasional piece of fruit. While I certainly would never have put these kinds of restrictions on someone else, I found that I’d landed myself smack in the middle of this world. I didn’t like it. It made me a little crazy, and definitely sucked all of the joy out of food.

And the joy of food is why I started really cooking, and why I started blogging. I wanted to share that joy with others. Especially those who must eat gluten-free; I wanted to share that we can still enjoy breads, cakes, cookies, and other things and be happy and satisfied on a gluten-free diet. We are blessed with such a variety of amazing things to eat, and eating and enjoying a meal together is a lovely, sacred thing. We ought to be able to embrace that pleasure. Obviously, I was losing sight of that.

So I’m finding my way back to center. I’m learning to balance. As I’m finding that my body is healing and that I’m tolerating more and more foods, I’m learning moderation again. I certainly still eat a healthy diet – I want to nourish my body and give it the fuel it needs to power through my day, and I do the best when I’m not at war with it. But I also know that part of health is pleasure, fun, and acceptance. Pleasure and fun come from enjoying all sorts of delicious treats, and acceptance that sometimes, those treats won’t be what is defined as “healthy”, and that’s okay. Sometimes, I will eat sugar. I will eat candy. And cookies. I won’t have to over-indulge, because these things are no longer forbidden. While I still can’t eat gluten, I can eat so many other amazing things. I am grateful. I’m still learning how to be in this new place of acceptance, but so far, I love it here.

I invite you to join me in this place. After all, in this place, there are lemon sugar cookies. They’re simple, sweet, and a delight to enjoy as an afternoon treat. They are gluten and dairy-free, so they won’t upset tummies, but I made no attempts to “healthify” them. Because sometimes, you just need a real cookie. And that’s okay.

Print Recipe

Lemon Sugar Cookies (gluten-free, dairy-free)

1 stick (1/2 cup) vegan butter, softened

3/4 c + 2 T organic sugar

1 egg

1/2 t vanilla extract

1 t lemon zest (from 1 lemon)

1 1/2 T lemon juice (from 1 lemon)

1/2 t baking powder

1/4 t baking soda

1/4 t kosher salt

3/4 c brown rice flour

1/2 c sweet white rice flour

1/2 c arrowroot starch (can substitute tapioca starch as well)

1/2 t guar gum (can substitute xanthan gum)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter with the sugar. Add the egg, vanilla, lemon zest, and lemon juice and beat in until well-combined.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the baking powder, baking soda, salt, flours, and guar gum. Add this to the mixing bowl and beat in.

Spoon into mounds on a lined baking sheet. Bake 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned on edges.

Makes about 2 dozen.

Coconut-Macadamia Banana Bread

Who wants to bake banana bread this time of year? It involves turning the oven on, and it’s so warm in the house already.

Apparently, I do.

I wanted to make a breakfast treat of some sort, and the idea of making more biscuits or muffins just didn’t do it for me. I started rummaging around for inspiration, and came across this worn piece of paper with a banana bread recipe on it – one I’d been working on for a few years now. It’d been far too long since banana bread was made around here, and so I opted to remedy that situation.

And so today, in spite of it being summer, I bring you this tropically-inspired banana bread. It has a subtle coconut flavor, a delicious crunch of macadamias, and the slightest hint of coffee, upping the richness factor. And as any good banana bread should be, it’s moist and tastes delicious with a pat of butter (vegan or regular). I enjoyed a slice as soon as it was cool enough, and another the following morning, toasted in a skillet. It’s different than the average banana bread, but still manages to keep the essence of what makes banana bread great – it’s comforting and humble and delicious.

Print Recipe

Coconut-Macadamia Banana Bread (gluten-free, dairy-free)

1 1/2 c mashed banana (3-4 bananas)

2 eggs, room temperature

3 T coconut rum (regular rum works too)

1 t vanilla extract

1/3 c coconut oil, melted

1 T finely ground coffee

2/3 c + 2 T coconut palm sugar

1/3 c brown rice flour

1/3 c teff flour

2/3 c tapioca starch

1/2 t guar gum

1 t baking soda

1 t kosher salt

3/4 c chopped macadamia nuts

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Oil a 4″ X 8″ loaf pan and set aside.

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the bananas, eggs, rum, vanilla, coconut oil, coffee, and coconut sugar. Blend until well-combined.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours, guar gum, baking soda and salt. Add to the food processor and blend until well-combined. Add the macadamia nuts and pulse a few times to stir in. Scrape the batter into the loaf pan and spread out.

Bake on the middle rack for about 50 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing.

 

Quinoa Tabbouleh, Texas Style

In keeping with my “Hey ya’ll, it’s SUMMER” theme around here as of late, I bring you a fresh, bright, delicious salad, full of quinoa, cucumbers, tomatoes, parsley, and basil, and a lovely slight heat of fresh jalapeno.

But before we get to that, I have something to confess.

Here it was, Sunday evening. Sunday dinner often revolves around roasting or preparing a whole chicken (usually spatchcocked – it’s easy and delicious that way.). We receive a monthly package from our local rancher, Rehoboth Ranch, which consists of whole chickens, ground beef, a roast, and breakfast sausage, so in an effort to utilize this delicious sum of meats, I try to implement this routine. It works well – we eat the chicken one night, and I use the rest of the meat to top a salad later in the week. (I also save the bones for stock, which, by the way, I am so behind in making…)

Well, this past Sunday, I opted instead to grill the chicken, as it was warm and I didn’t want to turn on the oven to roast it. I made a yummy rub of chipotle chiles, jalapeno, coconut oil and lime and rubbed it all over the chicken and under the skin. This is gonna be tasty, I thought to myself. I heated up the grill, placed the chicken over indirect heat (well, semi-indirect – I had the chicken over low heat, and the other burners on high), and went inside.

And proceeded to distract myself by making some ice cream, and forgot about the chicken. Was it for 15 minutes? 20? I don’t know. I realized it’d been far too long, and I ran outside to check. Too late. My chicken was blackened. Really blackened. Sigh. Operation grilled chipotle lime chicken: FAIL.

I managed to salvage some of the meat, as it wasn’t completely burnt and dry – just the skin was totally black. So much for the rub flavor. That was completely gone. (Guess I’ll have to try that again some other time.) It definitely wasn’t the best chicken I’d ever cooked, let me tell you. I offered up apologies to the hubby more than once. It looked like hell.

The moral of this story? Don’t try to do too much at once.

There was still a highlight to Sunday’s meal, however – this salad. I’d been craving a tabbouleh-like salad for a while, and started to gather ingredients for a traditional version of the dish, when I saw the jalapenos I’d picked up at the farmer’s market, and then eyed the limes. Immediately I made a bit of a detour from my original plan, and instead decided on a more Texas-style version. I’m sure I’m biased, but I believe my version might just be better than the traditional. The jalapeno doesn’t add a ton of heat – just a nice kick. And the lime really brightens, making it sing. And of course, now that it’s summer, I managed to grab all of these items (okay, save the lime) either from my garden or the farmer’s market, so they’re super-fresh. I think that makes such a difference in a salad – the fresher, the better! Even if you don’t have access to a garden or farmer’s market, chances are, the produce at even your local grocery is fresher this time of year, making this an ideal choice.

If you’re tasked with bringing a side salad to a dinner or barbecue this summer, this is a great option. It’s perfect to make ahead of time and will keep (and dare I say, improve) when refrigerated for a few hours before serving. Personally, I was just glad to have it to gobble up, instead of just my overly-blackened chicken. Gotta celebrate the successes when you can, right?

Print Recipe

Quinoa Tabbouleh, Texas-Style (gluten-free, vegan, sugar-free)

1 c quinoa, rinsed

1 1/2 c water

1/2 t salt

2 T lime juice

1/4 c extra virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced

1 jalapeno, seeded and diced

2-3 T diced leeks (you can also substitute green onions/scallions)

1 large cucumber, seeded and chopped

2 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped

1/2 c chopped fresh parsley

1/2 c chopped fresh basil

Salt and pepper to taste

Cook the quinoa by placing it, the water, and the 1/2 teaspoon of salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Allow to cook, covered, for 15 minutes. Fluff with fork and remove to a bowl and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, whisk together the lime juice and olive oil. Toss the quinoa with this mixture. Add in the remaining ingredients and toss, combining everything well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Refrigerate for at least an hour before serving.

Serves 4-6.

 

Watermelon Lime Soda

I rarely drink sodas (or cokes, as we typically call them down here in Texas…). I used to, years ago, but now drink mostly water, coffee, and tea. Every now and then, however, a carbonated beverage is a much-needed refreshment. Especially when it’s hot.

And ladies and gentlemen, it’s officially hot.

We’ve had a mild spring this year, but this week has brought in tons of humidity and sunshine, and our temps are in the upper 90s. Ah, yes. Texas summers. I’ll be wishing for October’s cooler breezes all too soon.

But in the meanwhile, let’s make the most of summer’s pleasures. One such pleasure is watermelon. I could eat my weight in watermelon. And why not? It’s sweet and definitely cools you on a hot day. Most of the time, it’s sufficient for me to simply cut it open and announce to the family that there is watermelon, and it’s gone in a flash. Once in a great while, though, I can sneak some for a special treat. Like a soda.

Watermelon soda.

With lime. You know, just for fun. And because I have a ton of limes at the moment.

This soda is made with a cane sugar syrup made with unrefined cane sugar, but you can always opt to substitute some agave nectar, honey, or maple syrup to suit your needs. I bet you could also use stevia with a little experimentation. I also happen to think this soda would benefit nicely from the addition of rum or tequila after the kiddies go to bed. In fact, I might make another batch just to test that out.

Hmm. Watermelon-lime-a-ritas, anyone?

But I digress. Here is the “virgin” variety. Don’t be daunted by making the lime simple syrup – it only takes a few minutes. And it’s so worth it. You might just need more lime simple syrup in your life, in fact. Along with a watermelon lime soda or two.

Print Recipe

Watermelon Lime Soda (gluten-free, vegan)

5 cups watermelon chunks

2 cups sparkling mineral water or seltzer

Lime simple syrup, recipe below

Lots of ice

 

Lime Simple Syrup:

1/2 cup turbinado/raw sugar

1/4 cup water

Juice of 2 limes (about 1/4 cup)

Zest of 1 lime

 

To make the simple syrup, combine all of the syrup ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

Meanwhile, juice the watermelon by either placing the cubes in a juicer, or placing in a blender and pureeing, then straining out any seeds through a colander.

In a pitcher, combine the watermelon juice, cooled simple syrup, and seltzer water. Serve immediately over glasses filled with ice, garnishing with limes if desired.

Makes 4 servings.

 

Strawberry Salsa at The Balanced Platter

 

It’s berry season! At the farmer’s market, I’m finding tons of strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries everywhere I turn. I try to exercise some restraint, but this past weekend, I came home with some of each. I consider it a victory – I haven’t come home with a dozen pints just yet.

Most of the time, I just open the fridge, and there the berries are, staring at me. They are usually just munched on a little at a time, every time the fridge is opened. (So, in other words, they’re there for like, three days, tops.) But once in a great while, they actually make it into a recipe. Most recently, they made it into some salsa.

Strawberry salsa? Why, yes! If you haven’t tried it before, you’re in for a real treat. You might just make it every week until strawberries are out of season. It’s that tasty.

Head on over to The Balanced Platter to check out my recipe for strawberry salsa!

The BEST Coffee Ice Cream Ever…And It’s Dairy-Free!

A good coffee ice cream is pure heaven. It simply must have strong (but not bitter) coffee flavor, balanced perfectly with just the right level of sweetness, and have enough cream and richness to really feel silky and to satisfy. And now, since I am dairy-free, it has to be friendly to my belly.

Naw, I don’t have high standards. I just know what I want.

And now that it’s getting to be the time of year where a cool version of my most-necessary-beverage-of-all-time is highly appreciated. And dessert is always welcomed. In other words, I need ice cream, stat.

Good thing this coffee recipe delivers. I know, that’s quite the confident title too. Best coffee ice cream ever?

Well, I’ll let you be the judge. But I’ll let you know that it’s full on coffee flavor, sweet but not too sweet, and the coconut milk used makes it creamy and silky and delicious. It’s also pretty easy to make. I opted not to use egg yolks, so there’s no need to make a custard before chilling, and it’s vegan. The only downside I can see is that it’s gone too soon. In fact, I think it’s time I make more!

Print Recipe

Vegan Coffee Ice Cream

2 cans full-fat coconut milk

1 c agave nectar (can substitute maple syrup, sugar, or honey, if desired)

1 c whole coffee beans (use decaf, unless you want a caffeine buzz with your ice cream!)

A pinch of salt

3/4 c water

1/4 t guar gum

1 t vanilla extract

In a medium saucepan, combine the coconut milk, agave nectar, coffee beans, and salt. In a small bowl, whisk together the water and guar gum and add to the saucepan. Heat the mixture until it’s just about to boil, whisking, and remove from heat. Allow to steep for 2 hours.

Strain the coffee beans from the mixture using a fine-meshed sieve with a large bowl underneath to catch the cream. Whisk the vanilla extract into the cream. Chill the cream mixture in the refrigerator for 2 hours or until cold.

Process ice cream in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Freeze for several hours or until firm, or serve immediately for soft serve.

Makes 6-8 servings.

LIVE CHAT: Wednesday, June 5 – 8PM Eastern – Summer BBQs and Parties, Sans Gluten

As summer ramps up, we will be hosting or attending a lot of parties and barbecues. Chances are, gluten will be lurking in all sorts of places. I will be co-hosting a Live Chat at Udi’s Gluten-Free Living Community on Wednesday, June 5, 2013, at 8PM Eastern time to discuss how to navigate the summer parties successfully while on a gluten-free diet. Join us - it’s free, and there will be prizes, courtesy of Udi’s, including their gluten-free hot dog buns, hamburger buns, chocolate chip cookies, loaves of sandwich bread and vanilla muffins! Hope to see you there!