Change Isn’t Easy But It Is SO Worth It

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Breakfast This Morning - Veggie Scramble with Gluten-Free Toast, Dairy Free Butter, and Cutie Orange

Ahhhh…the allergen free life. It’s gotten much easier over the years but sometimes you forget what it was like when you ate whatever you wanted whenever you wanted and then, well, felt like total crap. When I’m tempted to fall off of the gluten-free and dairy-free wagon I try very hard to remind myself of how terrible I felt the last time I caved in. Horribly stiff joints, neck pain that requires anti-inflammatories, swelling, sore breasts, chest tightness and congestion, feeling so tired that it felt like someone drugged me, flu symptoms, migraines, irritability, itching, stomach and intestinal issues, and if I really overdo it, eventually a shingles break out which then gets my nervous system all whipped up. Just because someone’s throat doesn’t close and tongue doesn’t swell up does not mean that they aren’t allergic to certain foods or  don’t have food intolerances. Sometimes the symptoms are more subtle, sometimes people are eating their allergen foods daily and just have an overall “feeling yucky” kind of feeling. You know, when you’re not feeling up to par and you can’t figure out why? Some people can tell when they eat something that bothers them but they live on antacids instead of realizing that they shouldn’t be eating that food. They may think that it’s just irritating their stomach but in reality, if they are intolerant or allergic to what they are eating, it’s also taxing their immune system. I can’t say this too many times or loud enough…STOP IGNORING YOUR SYMPTOMS! 

We already know that food allergies worsen autism, can cause and or worsen ADD/ADHD, cause irritable bowel syndrome and all kinds of intestinal and stomach issues, and they are finding out more and more about the link between food allergies and intolerances to auto-immune diseases. Food allergies have also been  linked to arthritis, asthma, canker sores, shingles breakouts, eczema, and fertility problems. As Americans, a lot of us over-eat, over-work, over-stress, under-exercise, and ignore our health issues.

Do I miss certain foods? Of course! But not nearly as much as I thought I would. I probably miss pizza the most because to me, it’s the ultimate “I’m tired and don’t want to cook” comfort food. But, such is life. I can make all kinds of GF and DF pizzas that are absolutely delicious without all of the horrible side effects I listed above. As a matter of fact, I absolutely love proving that I can make almost anything gluten-free and dairy-free and still be satisfied and happy with what I’m eating. If you like to cook and bake, it’s easy. If you don’t like to cook and bake or don’t have the time, it will be a little more difficult, but not much. You won’t have as much variety but there are still all kinds of foods out there that you can enjoy.

If you’re new to this world of eating gluten-free and or dairy-free, I feel your pain. But just know that after a few months, you’ll feel so much better and you’ll get the hang of it. I’ve written a couple of articles filled with tips and advice to get you going in the right direction. You can find them here Arm Yourself With Knowledge and here Where Do I Start?.  I promise it’s not nearly as difficult as people make it sound. Placing yourself in the driver’s seat where your health is concerned is a gift of a happy life to not only you but your entire family. I am thankful every single day that I don’t feel like I used to and am taking charge of my own health, and I want you to feel that way too!

Spicy Toasted Chickpeas

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I ran across this recipe in an article titled, “5 Ideas For Chickpeas”  in Good Housekeeping a couple of weeks ago. I switched it up a bit by using olive oil instead of vegetable oil, exchanging regular flour with almond flour, and I added garlic powder and sea salt as well. The fact that I am posting something about chickpeas (a.k.a. garbanzo beans) in one week, could quite possibly mean that I’m getting old. Now that I’m “older” a lot of the foods that I couldn’t bear to eat in my younger years, seem to be more appealing to me. Up until about a year ago, even the thought of eating garbanzo beans made me shudder. Then along came spicy, garlic, hummus into my life and the rest is history. Why was I so freaked out about the garbanzo bean? It tastes good! Whether it’s blended up for hummus, tossed in a salad, or even toasted like the recipe below. After they are toasted they are delicious! Kind of a soft center with a nice crispness on the outside. Spicy, salty, full of flavor.

There’s been some recent studies released touting the benefits of eating them too. Evidently, people who eat garbanzo beans on a regular basis consume fewer calories during the day and eat less junk food. Two cups of garbanzo beans equal your entire days fiber. Between 65-75% of the fiber found in these beans is insoluble which means it remains pretty much undigested all the way to your colon. And in case you’re wondering, that’s a good thing. In one study, people with high blood sugar consumed 1/3 cup of garbanzo beans daily for one week  and it improved the control of their blood sugar and insulin secretion. Another study showed that the garbanzo beans can be metabolized by a bacteria in our colon to produce fatty acids, these acids fuel the cells that line our intestinal walls. That means it helps to lower our risk of colon problems, including colon cancer. They also help to lower cholesterol, they are packed with 25% of our daily iron, and contain 85% of our daily requirement of Manganese which is a critical element in certain enzyme functions. So see? What’s so scary about the garbanzo bean?

Absolutely nothing, eat up and enjoy!

Spicy Toasted Chickpeas

Preheat oven to 425°

I didn’t measure anything that I put on these little critters. Use your own discretion, I like mine spicy! 

2 Cans Garbanzo Beans, rinsed, drained, and shaken “dry”

A Nice Drizzle of Olive Oil

Several Grinds of Sea Salt

A Very Good Sprinkle of Cayenne Pepper

A Nice Amount of Coriander (more than the cayenne)

A Good Sprinkle of Garlic Powder

About 1 Tbs. of Mama’s Almond Flour

Drain and rinse the beans and shake off as much water as possible. Place them on a clean dish towel.

Gather the corners and carefully toss the beans around a little with the other hand on the bottom of the bundle to remove any excess water.

Place the beans in a bowl and season with the ingredients above.

Stir, making sure all of the beans are thoroughly coated and pour them out onto a parchment covered baking sheet.

Bake for about 27 minutes, stirring once after about 15 minutes. Allow to cool completely, they will get even crisper as they cool.

Rainy Day Blues

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Our son is graduating from high school in exactly 18 days. (Yay!) I have a list a mile long of things in the house I need to get done, other lists that need to be made, groceries that need to be shopped for, yard work that needs to be done…but this rain, oh this never-ending rain that we can’t see to get away from, well, it’s simply sucking the life right out of me. Maybe not completely…just the energy that I need to have to do the cleaning type of things.

I had deep cleaning plans when I got out of bed today. You know how the nicknacks on the top of your kitchen cupboards gather dust and other “stuff” from cooking? Well, that’s been bugging me for a while now. I’m finished filling in at my sister-in-law’s medical practice so I thought, why not tackle that today? As I was eating breakfast I was shuffling through recipes…a terrible thing to do if you are a foodie like me and want to accomplish something with your day. Next thing I knew I was whipping up a gluten-free, dairy-free version of Martha Stewart’s Cinnamon-Streusel Coffee Cake…and here I sit at 12:15 PM with not one thing dusted on the top of my cupboards and pretty much finding anything that will distract me from doing so. I have to tell you though, in the big scheme of things, what’s a little dust? More importantly, I absolutely LOVE that I can flip through a magazine or a cook book and pretty much convert anything to gluten-free and dairy-free.

The coffee cake is absolutely FAB as most things Martha Stewart are. And in true Martha fashion, the recipe has a gazillion steps but is worth every one. I was happy that this recipe didn’t have anything that I couldn’t pronounce or that I would have to order online from Timbuktu. I of course, had to de-dairy and de-gluten it, and then switched it up just a touch with the addition of dark brown sugar, dates, a little less butter (dairy-free), a little less nuts, xanthan gum, and I went without the glaze because it is plenty sweet enough without it. You won’t be disappointed.

~ 2/16/2012~ I made this recipe again a few days ago and edited it a bit. I noticed that I had left the xanthan gum out the first time I posted the recipe. Also, the streusel topping can be cut in 1/2 easily, there’s plenty. Or, you could use the topping on the top and in the middle and leave out the streusel center ingredients below. It all depends on if you want a little streusel with your cake or a little cake with your streusel. Enjoy!

**My Advice: Read through the entire recipe before starting.

Preheat oven to 350°

Cinnamon-Streusel Coffee Cake

For The Streusel Topping and Center (these are made separately see directions below):

1 3/4 Cups Mama’s Almond Blend All Purpose Gluten-Free Flour

1 Cup Packed Dark Brown Sugar

1 1/4 tsp. Ground Cinnamon

1 teaspoon Course Salt (I used sea salt)

3/4 Cup Dairy Free Butter (I use Earth Balance Soy Free)

1/2 Cup Chopped Pecans

1/2 Cup Chopped Dates

For The Cake:

3/4 Cup Dairy Free Butter, Plus More For The Pan

2 Cups Mama’s Almond Blend All Purpose Gluten-Free Flour

1 1/4 tsp. Baking Powder

1/2 tsp. Baking Soda

1/2 teaspoon Kosher or Table Salt

1 Cup Granulated Sugar

1/2 teaspoon Xanthan Gum

2 Large Eggs

1 1/2 tsp. Pure Vanilla Extract

1 Cup So Delicious (Dairy Free) Coconut Milk Yogurt

1.  Make the streusel topping: Mix together 1 3/4 cup flour, 3/4 cup brown sugar, 1 tsp. cinnamon, and 1 tsp. course salt, and 1/2 cup nuts. Cut in the butter using a pastry cutter or gently rub through with your fingers until small to medium clumps form. Refrigerate until ready to use.

2. Make the streusel center: Mix together 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup dates, and 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon.  Set aside.

3.  Make the cake:  Butter (with dairy-free butter) a 9 inch tube pan with removable bottom.

Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, xanthan gum, and 1/2 tsp salt into a bowl.

4.  Beat butter and granulated sugar with a mixer on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes.

Beat in eggs one at a time, then vanilla.

Beat in flour mixture in 2 or 3 additions, alternating with the coconut yogurt, beginning and ending with flour. Scrape down sides and beat until well combined.

5.  Spoon half of the batter into the prepared pan.

Sprinkle the streusel center mixture evenly over the batter.

Top with remaining batter and smooth with a spatula.

Sprinkle streusel topping mixture evenly over batter.

6.  Bake until cake is golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. About 55 minutes (mine took 53). Transfer pan to a wire rack and allow to cool completely.

Remove cake from pan and serve.

Meatless Monday – Sheep’s Cheese Bruschetta & Veggie Salad with Marinated Chickpeas

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This is a new adventure for me. Like a lot of people, we are major meat lovers. In an attempt to cut out some of the red meat in our lives, I’ve decided on Meatless Mondays and Fish Fridays with a couple of chicken or turkey dishes in between on the weekdays. And who knows? Maybe we’ll like this whole meatless thing so much we’ll have a few days during the week where we go “vegetarian”. We’ll save the red meat and delectable desserts for the weekends!

There are all kinds of depressing statistics out there that you can Google. People who eat red meat several times a week have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease and all different types of cancers. It can double your risk of arthritis, Alzheimer’s, and endometriosis. And I won’t even go into the whole organic versus non-organic thing. Hormones, genetically engineered corn feed…EEK! Anyway, as much as I love red meat, it’s time to switch it up a bit and it’s a welcome change. I’ll get to try a variety of new recipes and if I think they’re good, I’ll pass them on to you.

Tonight’s meal was wonderful (if I do say so myself!), and I don’t feel like I was missing out on anything by having a meatless dinner. The salad was refreshing and the marinated garbanzo beans added a lot of flavor. The bruschetta was amazing and the goat cheese mixed with the tomatoes, fresh basil, garlic, and balsamic vinegar? Delectable!

Marinated Chick Peas

1 Can of Chickpeas (Garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained

Drizzle of Olive Oil

Drizzle of Rice Vinegar

1/2 Tbsp. Fresh Basil, chopped

1 1/2 tsp. Fresh Oregano, chopped

Ground Pepper

Place the chickpeas, herbs, olive oil, vinegar, and pepper in a small bowl. Stir and allow to marinate for at least 1 hour.

Veggie Salad

I didn’t write down measurements for this. It will depend on how large your family is, and pretty much everyone knows how to make a salad.

Baby Spring Mix

Baby Spinach

Romaine Lettuce

Red Onion

Yellow & Orange Bell Pepper

Sugar Snap Peas, sliced in half lengthwise

Broccoli

English Cucumber

Compari Tomatoes, quartered

Sheep’s Cheese Bruschetta

1 Box Gluten Free Pantry French Bread & Pizza Mix

1 Tbsp. Dried Basil

1 Tbsp. Dried Oregano

1/2 Tbsp. Dried Garlic

4 Compari Tomatoes On The Vine, diced

2 Tbsp. Fresh Basil, chopped

2 Cloves Garlic, diced

1 1/2 Tbsp. Red Onion, diced

Drizzle of Olive Oil

Drizzle of Balsamic

Crumbled Sheep’s Milk Cheese, about 1/4 block

Preheat oven and mix the boxed bread mix according to the directions, except use olive oil instead of vegetable oil. I also used almond milk.  Stop mixer and add the dried basil, oregano, and garlic. Mix on high for 1 more minute. I placed my dough in a french bread pan. If you don’t have a french bread pan you can try to make a mold out of heavy-duty aluminum foil (it makes 2 loaves) or bake it as directed on the box. This is what a french bread pan looks like:

Once the bread is done, allow to cool for 30 minutes.

Slice into bruschetta size slices and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

Toast the bread on each side until it is lightly golden brown. While it’s cooling, prepare the topping.

Place the tomatoes, fresh basil, garlic, red onion, drizzle of olive oil, and drizzle of balsamic vinegar in a small bowl.

Stir and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Place about a tablespoon of the tomato mixture on each slice of toasted french bread.

Next, add the crumbled sheep’s milk cheese.

Place under the broiler until the cheese is bubbly and browning on the top.

Serve warm with a beautiful salad and your favorite wine.

You Might As Well Make Them Tasty

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Vegetables. Don’t get me wrong, I do like them and typically I eat them with my lunch and dinner. But sometimes, they are just so hard to get excited about. I’m usually much more invested in the main dish and am at a loss as to what to serve as an exciting vegetable side dish. I end up getting into the same old salad rut or eating the same types of veggies over and over. Tonight I’m making chicken wings with an Asian twist. Instead of doing a traditional vegetable stir fry like I usually do, I thought I would mix it up a bit. Nothing spectacular or fancy. Just easy and flavorful and a welcome departure from the norm. I put sesame seeds on this side dish which gave it just a trace of a warm nutty flavor. I think it would also be very good with toasted, slivered, almonds.

Sautéed Broccoli, Carrots, and Cremini with Sesame Seeds

3 Small Heads of Organic Broccoli

4 Large Organic Carrots

10 Cremini Mushrooms

3 Heads of Organic Garlic

About 1 Inch of Fresh Ginger

3 Tbs. Rice Vinegar

3 Tbs. Gluten-Free Soy Sauce

Couple Drops of Sesame Oil

1 Tbs. Papaya Ginger Preserves (This is from Hawaii, if you can’t find something similar, you could use apricot)

1 Tbsp. Sesame Seeds

Prepare the vegetables, garlic, and ginger. In a small bowl or ramekin, add the rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil and preserves. Stir with fork. Don’t worry about dissolving the preserves thoroughly, they will melt when you place them in the hot pan.

Place the sesame seeds in a small saute pan and toast on a medium high burner for about 1 minute. Keep the pan moving constantly and be careful because they toast very quickly and go from toasted to burnt in a few seconds.

Next, heat a good drizzle of olive oil in a large saute pan. Add the carrots and broccoli and saute for about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and ginger and saute for about 7 minutes. Add the garlic, saute for another 5 minutes. Add the sauce and saute until the broccoli and carrots are aldente.

Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and serve.

Can’t Get Enough Chicken Wings

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Yes, I admit it. If I wasn’t gluten and dairy-free, I would probably eat at happy hour in a bar at least twice a week. I love bar food. I love “snackie” type food. Just because I live a dairy-free and gluten-free life, have a food blog, and love to cook and bake, doesn’t mean that my tastes are refined. (If I could, I would add a snicker and a giggle right here.) As a matter of fact, I also liked the fried chicken, the burritos, the mashed potatoes with chunks of hamburger, and the soggy green beans and corn they served us in grade school. Prior to my healthier gluten-free and dairy-free life, I was even known to eat a corn dog from a gas station every now and then. So sue me, I still have a hankering for all things trashy.

This recipe is a healthier version of chicken wings than what you might sometimes find at happy hour though. Fresh ginger, green onion, garlic…an Asian twist served alongside rice and stir fried broccoli, carrots, and mushrooms. Not quite the trashy gas station corn dog I sometimes crave (a lot) or those amazing mashed potatoes with hamburger gravy, but delicious just the same.

Wings With a Twist 

3 – 1.5 lb Packages of Party Wings

3 Green Onions, sliced

1 Heaping Tbsp. Cilantro, chopped

About an Inch of Fresh Ginger, finely grated

Zest of 1 Lime

2 Whole Limes, juiced

1 Jalapeno, diced, seeds and membrane intact

3 Cloves of Garlic, diced

1/3 Cup Dark Brown Sugar

1 Tbsp. Sriracha Hot Sauce

Couple Small Drizzles of Sesame Oil

1/4 Cup Rice Vinegar

1/4 Cup Gluten-Free Soy Sauce

Place all of the ingredients above, minus the chicken, into a large bowl.

Whisk together until the brown sugar is dissolved. Add the chicken and toss well.

Cover, refrigerate, and marinate for at least 3 hours. Toss a couple of times in between.

Preheat oven to 350°. Line a baking sheet with alluminum foil. Place chicken wings in rows and drizzle with remaining marinade.

Bake in a preheated oven for 30 minutes, turning once. Then, broil for about 15 minutes until carmelized, turning once for a total of about 7 or 8 minutes on each side.

I served them with a side of rice and stir fried veggies.

2 Minute Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Chocolate Cake

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OK, so here’s the scoop. About 15 minutes ago my mother-in-law emailed my son a recipe for “Instant Chocolate Cake” made in the microwave of all things! So naturally, after he made his and it got the thumbs up, I de-glutened and de-dairied the recipe. (I am aware that those aren’t real words by the way.) Although you wouldn’t serve this to guests for dessert, it’s tasty enough that I think it could be very dangerous for the waistline! From start to finish you have a cereal bowl sized chocolate snack cake in less than five minutes. A quick and easy way to satisfy that sweet tooth every now and then. Next time I’m going to alter the recipe a bit to see if I can get it more “chocolately”. Maybe by adding dairy-free chocolate chips or increasing the cocoa powder and almond milk a bit.

2 Minute GF & DF Chocolate Cake

In a microwave safe cereal bowl, add:  1/4 cup Mama’s Almond Flour Blend, 1/4 cup sugar, 2 Tbsp. cocoa powder, 1/8 tsp. salt, 1/8 tsp. xanthan gum, 1 egg, 3 Tbs. almond milk, 3 Tbs. vegetable oil, 1/2 tsp. vanilla.

Stir with fork until all ingredients are combined and smooth.

Place in the microwave and cook on high for 1 minute 40 seconds to 2 minutes. DO NOT over cook or the cake will be rubbery and dry.