Monthly Archives: September 2013

A Healing Process, and My Own Journey

 

Yes, those are Lego Hobbits. In a wheat field. Hopefully it’ll make sense in a moment.

Those who know me know that I’ve followed a gluten-free for over 4 years. I’ve been dairy-free for over three. I’ve also followed many other diets involving elimination of foods. (Paleo. Anti-candida diet. High-raw/plant-based. Low-FODMAPs. I even went through allergy testing and removed those “potential allergens” for a while.) I struggled with digestive issues before this time and during this time. It seemed I could not find relief, no matter how strict I was, no matter what I eliminated. Those who have similar stories can empathize, but needless to say, it was exhausting. There were many, many days I wanted to just throw my hands up and give up entirely.

What I didn’t know was, for me personally, this process of restriction caused more issues than it solved. Wanting to be healthy caused me to be anxious about everything I put into my mouth. I demonized foods. I ended up many times not eating enough to support my activity levels or allow my body to heal itself. I began to fall out of love with cooking, which was the whole reason for my starting this blog over 5 years ago.

However, starting about 5 months ago, I began to turn a corner. I have been on a personal journey towards understanding that perhaps what I’d been doing wasn’t helping my healing process. In short, I’m now eating enough food to heal my body and my metabolism, and I’ve been incorporating a wider and more varied amount of foods. I’m also learning to chill out about my food choices. As I’ve gone through this process, my body has thanked me by rapidly improving my digestion and my general well-being. I have more energy and better digestion than I’ve had in many years.

But here’s where the (potentially) unpopular stance begins. A wider variety of foods in my diet means that I’ve incorporated grains. Sugar. Some beans. Occasional treats that I would have never ever allowed myself before, like a small piece of candy. In the past few months, I’ve reintroduced dairy into my diet. (Attempts to do this in my past have always failed.) And most recently, I’ve begun testing gluten as well.

Full disclosure: I do not have celiac disease. I don’t even carry the genes for celiac disease. I never received any positive diagnosis for gluten issues, in spite of varied tests I’ve had conducted over the years. Going gluten-free for me was a move that was spawned because of family members with celiac disease and gluten issues. I was hoping it would solve all my troubles. I seemed to get better in some ways, but in others, like my digestion, I didn’t.

However, for years now, getting even the smallest amount of gluten caused me to react. My reactions weren’t extreme – not to the level that my family members experienced, for instance – but I still noticed I had trouble with it. But now that I’ve had several straight months of improved digestion, my trials have been successful. I feel fine. No brain fog. No heartburn. No diarrhea or constipation. It would seem I have no real issue digesting it. (Mind you, I haven’t gone full-out and had a gluten feast. I don’t intend to, truthfully. I’m increasing amounts as I go through my trial, but as I mentioned before – I am someone who enjoys a varied, healthy diet, and a diet heavy in gluten, or any single thing, isn’t all that varied or healthy.)

So it may be that my future path is one where I am not 100% gluten-free or dairy-free. Where I don’t have to restrict any food in order for me to be healthy. What does this mean?

For me personally, it means I’m feeling healthier than ever. I’m less anxious about food (and in general), and my body is responding positively. I’m falling back in love with cooking and with food. I have more energy. I’ve researched, and I’ve listened to my body. I truly believe this is the best path for me at this moment in time.

As for this blog, it will remain gluten-free and dairy-free. After all, this is how I eat most of the time anyway. I eat a healthy diet based in whole foods. It’s how my body works best. And honestly, I don’t crave eating things with gluten in them, for the most part. It’s rare when I really want a sandwich, pizza, or pasta. (Most people I know think that’s strange.) I love that my gluten-free journey has taught me that there are dozens of different flours I can use for baking, many of which are gluten-free. Also, I love sharing delicious recipes, and I wholeheartedly believe that gluten-free living doesn’t mean you should sacrifice on taste. You will continue to see recipes for both healthy, gluten-free foods and gluten-free treats. And even healthy gluten-free treats.

I’ll still continue to fully support the gluten-free community. After all, I know many people suffer from celiac disease and gluten intolerance. It’s a shock to deal with the drastic changes associated with removing gluten from your diet. I know that support is one of the greatest gifts someone who is dealing with this transition or living the gluten-free lifestyle can receive. There needs to be increased awareness of celiac disease as well. I have always been a huge supporter and will continue to do what I can to be there for the gluten-free community.

And of course, I am not promoting that you or anyone else eat gluten or dairy, simply because I choose to do so. If you have celiac disease – there are many, many studies out there that state that even small amounts of gluten can cause continued damage. But even if you don’t have celiac disease, and gluten makes you feel ill, then by all means, don’t eat it. I am not a doctor or a nutritionist, and I don’t wish to prescribe that any person do/not do something for their health. It’s not my place, and it’s not my goal.

My mission here is to support those that need support, with as much information as I can find. I’m also here to share my passion for tasty, nutritious food, and occasionally, cookies. ‘Cause everything is better with cookies.

“You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

Cheater’s Ratatouille, or Pesto Zucchini, Tomato and Eggplant Bake

I love ratatouille. It’s an awesome dish that seems to just sing the highest notes of the end of summer and the start of fall. (Yes, I realize it’s now officially fall. Around here, however, it’s still in the mid-90s, and so it’s still very much feeling like summer.) It’s fresh, but comforting.

But alas, it takes some time. Especially if you want it to look pretty. (My recipe was more on the tasty side, less on the aesthetics.) Let’s face it – we don’t always have that kind of time.

That’s where this cheater’s version comes in. It’s not exactly ratatouille. It’s streamlined – just zucchini, tomato, and eggplant. Plus a not-so-secret ingredient:

Pesto.

I love to make pesto. It can be easily made dairy-free (like this Basil-Walnut Pesto) or you can go for the traditional basil, Parmesan, and pine nuts version. Or any version you desire, really. But often I make a great deal on the weekend, and then scramble to find ways to eat it up during the week. This “ratatouille” is one such way to make great use of pesto. If the pesto is already made, then it’s a cinch to put together – just layer the vegetables, smear some pesto in between layers, and pop in the oven.

Then, as soon as it’s not mouth-scalding hot, then devour!

So while it’s not a traditional ratatouille, it’s a flavor punch for sure. So call it ratatouille, or call it a pesto zucchini, tomato and eggplant bake if you prefer. Whatever you decide, be sure to call me to dinner when you make it.

Print Recipe

Cheater’s Ratatouille/Pesto Zucchini, Tomato and Eggplant Bake (gluten-free, dairy-free if using vegan pesto)

1/2 lb sliced zucchini

1/2 lb sliced tomato

1/2 lb sliced eggplant

Salt and pepper

1/2 c pesto (for vegan/dairy-free, try this Basil-Walnut Pesto)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly oil a 1 1/2 quart baking dish. Alternately layer zucchini, tomato slices, and eggplant in a single layer. Sprinkle with salt and spread a few spoonfuls of pesto evenly over the vegetables. Repeat with another layer of vegetables, salt, and pesto. Keep repeating until you use all of the vegetables and pesto.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft and bubbly.

 

Gluten-Free in 1, 2, 3: The Basics of Going Gluten-Free

Going gluten-free?

Whether you just learned that you should follow a gluten-free diet on the advice of your doctor or nutritionist, either from a diagnosis of celiac disease or gluten intolerance, or have you simply made the decision to go gluten-free, suspecting gluten may be at the root of your health issues, I’m sure you are overwhelmed by the amount of information you need to learn.

I understand. I’ve been there. And yes, it’s okay to throw a little temper tantrum or pity party. Mourn the loss of your Grandma’s cake. It’s alright to grieve. It’s a life change, after all.

But it’s also good to get a game plan. Here are a few basics to help you get started on your gluten-free journey.

1. Simple, unprocessed food is best/easiest. Fresh meat, vegetables, fruit, dairy, and plain rice can be excellent staples. The best part? No label-reading. Which brings us to our next step…

2. Learn to read labels. There are a lot of words that can mean “gluten” on a product. Of course, buying something labeled or certified “gluten-free” can help, but there are also many products out there that aren’t labeled as such that are still okay. Here is a good list of what to look for on your labels.

Go through your kitchen. Either toss (or place in a designated section of your refrigerator and pantry for the gluten-eaters) any items containing gluten. If you have any open condiments in jars, such as peanut butter, butter, jelly, mayonnaise, etc, either mark them for gluten eaters only or toss – if a knife has been in there with bread crumbs on it, it’s no longer safe.
Menu planning is your friend. If you even loosely plan out your meals, and make a grocery list from that plan, you can feel prepared and more in control of your meals, ensuring they are gluten-free (and keeping the 5pm what-will-we-eat-for-dinner panic to a minimum). Bonus points if you schedule in some food preparation in advance (think hard-boiled eggs, cut up veggies, fruit, slow cooker soup to freeze, etc.) for times when your schedule doesn’t allow for cooking.
Join a community. You aren’t on this journey alone. There are many gluten-free/celiac communities all over the United States. There are forums out there. Thankfully, there are a good many gluten-free bloggers out there too – we’re all here to help. Reach out and ask questions. Together, we’ll find the answers!

Want some more gluten-free living tips? Check out my Living Gluten and Dairy-Free page!

Learn more about living gluten free! Visit http://udisglutenfree.com/

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Udi’s Gluten Free. The opinions and text are all mine.

Homestyle Meatloaf

Meatloaf. It’s one of those polarizing meals, it seems. Most people either hate it or love it. Personally, I think that has a lot to do with what meatloaf you grew up eating – some people had some unappetizing versions that haunt them forever. (Or maybe it was those bad memories of the song “I Would Do Anything For Love” that’s so haunting?)  In my mind, though, there is only the ultimate comfort food version of meatloaf, packed full of flavor, warming, and the perfect neighbor to a big pile of mashed potatoes on your plate.

My Mom wasn’t a great cook, but she had a few dishes she made that were definitely family favorites. Her meatloaf evokes fond memories for me. While my version is likely quite a bit different than hers, one thing remains a constant – the ketchup topping. I’ve opted instead to use a corn syrup free version – and sometimes might even make my own – but it’s still ketchup. Sure, there are more refined ways to top a meatloaf. But in my opinion, meatloaf isn’t about refinement. It’s about comfort. And by the way my family manages to devour the entire pan, I’d say comfort wins.

Homestyle Meatloaf (grain-free, dairy-free)

1 small onion

1 celery stalk

3 cloves garlic

1 carrot, peeled

1 T olive oil

1/2 lb spicy ground pork sausage

1 lb ground beef

1 lb ground pork (or another pound of ground beef)

1 egg plus 1 T chia meal

¾ c almond flour (can substitute gluten-free breadcrumbs or oats)

1 t kosher salt

1 ½ t freshly ground black pepper

2-3 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves picked and chopped (1 t)

2-3 leaves fresh sage, leaves chopped (1 t)

1/3 c minced fresh parsley leaves

2 tsp plus 1 dash Worcestershire sauce

1/3 c ketchup (I like to use either Annie’s or Organicville, or sometimes even make my own)

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

 Cut onion, celery rib, garlic, and carrot into large pieces. Place in a food processor and blitz until the vegetables resemble a coarse paste.

 In large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add vegetable mixture and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat.

 In a large bowl, combine the sausage, ground beef, ground pork, eggs and chia seed meal, almond flour, vegetable mixture, salt, pepper, herbs, and 2 teaspoons Worcestershire. Form into a loaf and put into loaf pan. Mix remaining ketchup with dash of Worcestershire sauce, and cover loaf with sauce.

 Bake loaf for one hour.

Review and Giveaway: Against All Grain by Danielle Walker

UPDATE: This giveaway has ended. The winner is Donna F. Congrats, Donna! If you didn’t win, but wish to get a copy of this book, here are some ways you can purchase your copy!

Last fall, Danielle of Against All Grain contacted me, asking if I’d help her out while she was writing her new book. I’d followed her blog for some time (okay, it was more like ogling all of her gorgeous photos and tasty-looking recipes), so I was more than happy to help. Along with a ton of other bloggers, I wrote a guest post for her. It was small potatoes compared to what she was putting together. This book was bound to be epic.

And now, almost a year later, Danielle has realized her dream. Her book was released on July 30th in the United States, and she’s been touring all around the country, busy with book signings and all sorts of appearances. While I can’t possibly imagine how insane that must be (although seeing her frequent Instagram posts gives you an idea), I can imagine how tasty the recipes she has created just by browsing through this book.

Of course, after making some of them, I no longer even have to imagine. For instance – her Real Deal Chocolate Chip Cookies (page 258). They’re grain-free, but still that lovely, slightly soft texture with a perfect level of sweetness. Excellent for tucking into a lunchbox for a treat.

And then there are her Fruit Juice Gelatin Shapes (page 214). These were possibly one of my favorites. They’re easy, and they’re a great way to get a bit of gelatin into your daily life (or into your kids). In fact, I’ve been making them on a weekly basis – sometimes with all juice, and sometimes with a mix of herbal tea and juice. I love them as a quick pre-workout snack when it’s too early for me to manage much more to eat.

Danielle has shared many more amazing-looking recipes in this book: Marinated Artichoke Hearts, Seafood, Chorizo, and Chicken Paella, and N’Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, just to name a few. And of course, all of the photos are simply gorgeous.

Want to win a copy of Against All Grain by Danielle Walker? This week, I’ll be giving away one copy to a lucky winner!

How to enter:

This giveaway is open to anyone 18 years of age and over, and a resident of US or Canada.

This giveaway will end on Saturday, September 21, at 11:59pm CT.

Best of luck to you all!

Pear Buckwheat Cake

It’s been a while since I’ve made a rustic cake like this. Something that could be as welcome at a breakfast or brunch table as after dinner. Something your grandmother might make. Something unpretentious; something that just says “Hey, it’s late summer, sit down and enjoy some pear cake.”

I’d picked up some small pears at the farmer’s market, and they sat around in my kitchen for about a week. I knew I wanted to do something with them, but wasn’t sure what. I wasn’t up for making jam. (Although I need to sometime before pear season is over – I’m out of habanero pear from last year!) I opted instead for cake. After all, who doesn’t like cake?

Buckwheat happened to be the perfect compliment to the subtle sweetness of the pears. Now, I am not really a fan of store-bought buckwheat flour. It’s really strong in flavor. However, if you take raw buckwheat groats and grind them (I use my Vitamix), the flour that results is much lighter in flavor – something that’s more readily accepted by the gluten-eaters. It also doesn’t overwhelm the pears. And even if your flour isn’t powder-fine (mine wasn’t), there’s no residual gritty texture once the cake is baked. Buckwheat flour isn’t for everything, but in this cake, it was lovely.

Of course, if you don’t have access to raw buckwheat groats, you could simply substitute sorghum flour or superfine brown rice flour. I haven’t tried these substitutions myself, but since they are similarly weighted flours, I imagine they would substitute pretty well. Don’t have pears? Apple slices would make an equally delicious cake. The beauty of a cake like this? It’s opportunistic. What you have available is what you use. (That’s often how many recipes appear here, to tell the truth!)

Print Recipe

Pear Buckwheat Cake (gluten-free, dairy-free)

6 T vegan butter, softened

¾ c plus 2 T sugar

1 large egg

1 t vanilla extract

¼ t almond extract

½ c buckwheat flour (raw buckwheat groats ground)

¼ c sweet white rice flour

¾ c arrowroot starch

¼ + 1/8 t guar gum

2 ½ t baking powder

Pinch salt

½ c coconut milk

1 T grated lemon zest

About 1 lb pears, peeled, cored, and thickly sliced

Confectioner’s sugar, for serving

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a 9-inch springform pan and dust with sweet white rice flour.

Beat the butter and ¾ cup sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer until creamy. Add the egg, vanilla and almond extracts and beat for about a minute on medium.

Whisk together the flours, baking powder, guar gum and salt in a bowl. Add the flour to the butter mixture a little at a time, alternating with the coconut milk, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and beat for at least another minute or until everything is well mixed. Add the lemon zest and mix in.

Scrape the batter into the prepared springform pan and spread out evenly with a spatula. Arrange the pear slices in a circle on the top of the batter, starting at the edge of the pan and standing them on end with the narrow point in the batter. Fill the center with as many slices as you can fit. They should be close together. Sprinkle the top with the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar.

Bake for about 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the cake (not the pears) comes out clean.

Allow the cake to cool on a wire rack, removing the outer ring after about 10 minutes. Once completely cool, serve, dusted with confectioner’s sugar, if desired.

Benefits of Gelatin

During my journey towards healing my digestion, I’ve tried many things. Lots of supplements. Tons of various elimination diets. Truthfully, the biggest factors that contributed to my healing were time and patience (the latter of which I admit, I am often lacking). However, I did find a few things seemed to soothe and help more than others. One of the foods that seemed to make the biggest impact was gelatin. A healing bone broth does wonders when your digestion is impaired.

I figured it was high time I share a bit more about what’s actually helped during my healing process. After all, why keep these oh-so-important tips to myself?

So today, over at The Balanced Platter, I’m sharing 5 Benefits of Gelatin. Head on over and check it out!

Pork Chops with Orange Sauce

 

A few weeks ago, we stocked our freezer full of pork. A friend and I split a locally raised, pastured pig. I couldn’t have been more excited. We have all sorts of bratwurst, pork roasts, chops, bacon, and more. We’ve really been enjoying the pork bounty. But after a few dinners of pork chops cooked simply, I wanted to change it up a bit.

Enter orange sauce.

I won’t lie – one of my favorite Chinese take-out meals was orange chicken. I realize that the gloppy, heavy, sweet version at most take-out joints isn’t really all that authentic. I loved it nonetheless. Especially when there was a good number of chiles in it to add a little heat. It was sweet, salty, and spicy. What more could one need? I’ve even made it gluten-free in the past.

So when I was looking for a new way to enjoy pork chops, I opted to use that orange sauce and transform them. What resulted was an easy meal that definitely delivered on flavor. Paired with rice, green beans, and some pickled cucumbers, this was an awesome weeknight meal.

Print Recipe

Pork Chops with Orange Sauce (gluten-free, dairy-free, refined sugar-free)

1/4 c freshly squeezed orange juice (from about half of a large orange)

2 T fresh orange zest

3 T chicken broth

1 T wheat-free tamari or soy sauce

2 t rice wine

1 t rice vinegar

2 t sesame oil

2 T honey

1/4 t black pepper

1 T olive oil or coconut oil

4 dried red chiles

2 t minced fresh garlic

2 t grated fresh ginger

1 t arrowroot powder whisked with 2 t cold water

4 bone-in, thick cut pork chops

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

In a small bowl, whisk together the orange juice, zest, chicken broth, soy sauce, rice wine, rice vinegar, sesame oil, honey, and pepper. Set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the olive/coconut oil over medium heat. Add the chiles, garlic and ginger. Saute, stirring, for about 20-30 seconds. Pour in the orange juice mixture and bring to a boil. Reduce to low and add the arrowroot slurry and continue to cook for about a minute, or until sauce thickens. Remove from heat and set aside.

Heat a large oven-proof skillet (I prefer a cast iron skillet) to medium-high heat. Season the pork chops with salt and pepper. When the skillet is hot, add the pork chops. Allow to brown for about a minute or two, and flip the chops over. Put the pan in the oven and bake the chops until they are cooked through (145 degrees F read on a thermometer poked into the center of the chop), about 5-6 minutes. Remove from the oven.

Brush the sauce over the chops immediately, turning the chops in the pan and brushing both sides. Transfer the chops to a plate and brush more sauce over.

Serve with rice and desired vegetables.

Serves 4.

Dairy-Free Coffee Panna Cotta

I’m definitely a fan of coffee in desserts. Okay, let’s face it: I’m really just a fan of coffee. I love using it in unexpected places – in rub mixes for meat, for example. I’ve used it before in brownies. I love it in ice cream, and lately, I’m really digging starting my morning commute with a jar of cold brew coffee. I figured I’d go ahead and continue with my coffee routine, and make this unbelievably easy dessert with a coffee flair - panna cotta.

Panna cotta is one of those desserts that are excellent for dinner parties. They’re make-ahead, and really only take a few minutes to prepare. Then, they keep in the fridge until ready to serve, and you can whip them out, add any finishing touches you desire, and you’re ready to go. I don’t know about you, but that’s the way I like to do things. I’m not very good at playing hostess and putting together something complicated in the kitchen at the same time. I have to concentrate in the kitchen. So when I have guests, I try my hardest to plan my meals so that I can do as much preparation as possible before they arrive, making things easy for me while I’m hosting.

Anyway, back to this panna cotta. It’s creamy. It’s not overly sweet. In fact, it’s a perfect treat after a late summer dinner – creamy and cool. The coffee flavor is definitely there, but it’s not overly strong. In contrast to many of my favorite foods, this isn’t one of those in-your-face flavor punches. It’s gentle, a little rich, somewhat subtle, but especially satisfying.

You can certainly serve this with garnishment – some shaved chocolate or a chocolate or vanilla sauce. I preferred to keep things simple for the time being, and served mine unadorned.

Print Recipe 

Coffee Panna Cotta (gluten-free, dairy-free, grain-free, refined sugar-free)

2 T + 1/2 c strong brewed coffee, cooled

1 1/2 t unflavored gelatin

1/4 c coconut palm sugar

1 1/2 c full-fat canned coconut milk

Pinch of salt

4 panna cotta molds, bowls, or dessert dishes

Pour the 2 tablespoons of coffee into a bowl and sprinkle over the gelatin. Let stand until softened.

Pour the remaining coffee into a small saucepan along with the coconut palm sugar, coconut milk, and salt. Stir until dissolved, and place over a medium heat. Allow to warm until just before it comes to a boil (when there are bubbles just starting around the edges). Remove pan from heat.

Scrape all of the softened gelatin into the pan and whisk until it has fully dissolved.

Divide the mixture equally among the 4 molds or dessert dishes. (You may wish to first pour the mixture into a pitcher or measuring cup for ease of pouring.) Place in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours or until set. Allow to sit out at room temperature around 30 minutes before serving.

Serves 4.