Go With Your Gut

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Over the weekend I ordered a hot chocolate at a specialty shop downtown. I like to go to that particular shop because I know that their sipping chocolate is dairy free and they will make me a hot cup with almond milk.

Or so I thought. 

If possible, I usually watch people make my food and drinks. Because honestly, no one cares as much about my food allergies as I do. But on this occasion I was on a date weekend with my husband who has been traveling a lot. My focus was on him and we were chatting away, not paying attention to my favorite cup of sipping chocolate. As we walked out the door with my to go cup, I first put my nose to it and inhaled deeply as I always do. Ahhh…chocolate. Is there anything better on certain days?

Hmm…it smells different.

I stopped in my tracks. Took a couple of sips and again realized…something is different. I looked at my husband and said, “Do you think I should go back in and double-check if they made this with almond milk? I asked her to make it with almond milk right off the bat.” For whatever reason, I hate to be an alarmist. I hate to be one of “those” paranoid people who whine, or throw a fit when they think their order isn’t prepared properly. But my husband looked at me and said, “Just go back in really quick and ask. What’s wrong with asking?”

So I popped back in and nicely asked and… you guessed it. She made it with cow’s milk! I told them I was allergic to cow’s milk and that I had asked for almond milk. They apologized (kind of) and gave us a tiny little vegan caramel to share. How generous…and of course, made me another  sipping chocolate with almond milk.

Luckily, those two or three sips only resulted in mild stomach issues and a little swelling. There’s a theory that if you abstain from your sensitive foods and allergens that you can eventually add them back into your diet at some point once your gut has healed. Not so with me. My body now recognizes gluten and dairy almost immediately, where several years ago it would take 12-24 hours to appear.

This “accidental” exposure has happened to me numerous times with gluten and dairy. Seriously, more than I can count. It can make even the most anti-alarmist a little paranoid and skeptical. It has even happened in restaurants where I order off of the gluten-free menu and make sure there’s no dairy in my entrée.  As a matter of fact, sometimes when we are extremely busy, which we have been, we eat out a couple times a week. Even though I’m careful, very careful, I can tell after a few restaurant excursions that I am slowly being fed allergens in one form or another even if they tell me I’m not. Swelling joints, stomach issues, headaches, and if it’s really bad, shingles appear. Then I know for sure.

When we were standing at the counter waiting for my sipping chocolate, my  husband looked at me, shook his head, and said, “Always go with your gut.”

Wise words.

Always. Go. With. Your. Gut.

Who cares if people think you are an alarmist, paranoid, or just into the latest crazy diet fad? It’s your health and it’s important. A good reminder.

Here’s a very interesting article that popped into my email this morning. I am set up on Google Alerts for gluten and dairy intolerance articles. This article is very simple and informative in the way it explains the body’s response system to allergens, antibodies,  and how the inflammation process works. 

*Photo courtesy of DrOZFans.com

Double Fail – Back To The Drawing Board

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Well, I told you I would post the good, bad, and the ugly, over the next few weeks while I experiment with different bread recipes. I have found that gluten-free baking is much easier than gluten-free bread baking. Two totally different worlds. Most of us with gluten allergies are already aware that gluten-free bread takes a lot of trial and error. And I think pretty much all of us are still searching for that gluten-free bread that reminds us most about the bread we used to eat in taste, texture, and size.

But don’t worry, I’m not going to give up. I have tons and tons of ideas, torn out recipes, cook books, and I’m not afraid to fail numerous times before I come up with something we can all like.

This is a recipe that I was trying to adapt from Cooking Light. It’s one of their dinner roll recipes that has a gazillion steps.

Attempt #1. – The first attempt was pretty bad. Colorless, didn’t rise, and was crumbly and dense in texture. I used a mixture of brown rice flour, white rice flour, potato starch, and Mama’s All Purpose Almond Flour. They went into and came out of the oven looking exactly the same.

Attempt #2. – It all seems like it’s going well until the dough kinda starts to feel like that salt dough our parents made for us to play with when we were little.

But, I press on, rising, kneading, doing exactly as the recipe asks of me. Unlike the first attempt in which I was in a hurry and distracted. This time I’m using a combination of white rice flour, brown rice flour, sorghum flour, and potato starch (basically the same combo I use for the awesome cinnamon roll recipe I have posted in the past).

The well kneaded dough ball looks promising. However, I can’t get past that gnawing feeling in my stomach that it feels like play dough. This was my favorite part because it reminded me of when I used to make homemade bread and rolls from scratch before becoming gluten-free. The kitchen smelled yeasty and wonderful. But still, the play dough thing has me worried.

Fingers crossed that it will get a good rise.

Hmmm…feels spongy and I suppose it raised a little bit…

Maybe if I make them into cute little shapes and bathe them in olive oil, herbs, and vegan parmesan, they’ll like me better and rise like they’re supposed to?

It’s not looking very promising…

Despite trying to win them over with cute shapes and high quality olive oil, they simply didn’t want to cooperate. This is the finished product. Even worse than Attempt #1. I think there were too many steps and too much contact with the dough. A “typical” gluten-free bread recipe is pretty straight forward. Put all of the ingredients together, beat on medium-high in a heavy-duty mixer, shape as best as you can, let them rest and rise maybe 30-40 minutes, and bake. Pretty straight forward and without a lot of the hoopla of regular bread making. The problem though, is that most gluten-free breads start out like a batter that you spread in a pan or french bread tube. It’s not typically the type of dough you can shape. That was another red flag throughout this recipe.

Back to the drawing board.

Double Chocolate Chunk Rum Balls

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What’s better than a booze laden rum ball? A double chocolate chunk booze laden rum ball, that’s what.

Chocolate Rum Balls

(These need to snuggle up together in the refrigerator and rest for at least 5 days before serving.)

1 1/2 Cups Pecans, finely chopped

2 1/4 Cups Finely Crushed (I used my food processor) Gluten Free/ Dairy Free Dark Chocolate, Chocolate Chunk Cookies (Pamela’s) About 2 Boxes

1/2 Cup Powdered Sugar

2 Tablespoons Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

2 Tablespoons Dark Corn Syrup

1/2 Cup Dark Rum (I used Meyer’s Dark Rum)

Extra Powdered Sugar

Place all ingredients in a large bowl and mix until fully combined.

Pour powdered sugar onto a dinner plate. Roll dough into teaspoon sized balls and place on plate of powdered sugar.

Sprinkle powdered sugar on the bottom of a medium-sized plastic or glass container. Roll rum balls around in the powdered sugar on the plate to cover and place in the prepared container.

Continue to do this with the remaining dough, layering parchment paper between each layer. Cover the container so it is airtight, and store in the refrigerator. Allow them to rest for at least 5 days before serving.

Breakfast For Dinner

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Sometimes, you just need breakfast for dinner. I’m weird like that. I like leftover dinner for breakfast and find it hard to come up with a time of day where bacon and pancakes don’t sound delicious. Especially pumpkin pancakes with apple maple compote. Oh yes.

Now that I have a food blog I’ve been introduced to the wonderful worlds of other food bloggers. Amazing food bloggers, I must say. When I first started my blog I had no idea how many hundreds and hundreds of talented and really innovative food bloggers were out there. I’m subscribed to about one hundred of them right now and have the fantastic privilege of getting a fresh email every time they post. There are some really talented people in this world. And the bloggers I’ve run across are friendly. Can you imagine? In this fast paced, grumpy, world, I can look through someone’s blog, comment on their photos, recipes, stories, and ask questions if I want. And the truly amazing part is that they are thrilled to hear from people and always return a comment. Wow, huh? Pretty fabulous.

This recipe is adapted from HoneyandJam.com who adapted it from 101Cookbooks.com. In the world of blogging, especially food blogging, people are thrilled to have you tweak and try their recipes in different ways. This recipe for the pumpkin pancakes stopped me in my tracks. If there was sound involved you could envision me clicking through my very full email box oohing and ahhhing over all of the cool things people post and then clicking on the pancake post and everything coming to a screeching halt. You know, like when you scratch a record needle off of a record (those of us that are old anyway, remember that) or come to a knee shaking halt on the freeway in the fast lane? Well, that’s what it sounded like in my head when I took one look at Hannah Queen’s pancakes. Oh and as a side note, she’s only twenty one years old. Remember to check out her blog, it’s amazing. She’s a baker and a photographer and her photos are stunning. Make sure you look at her pancake photo, mine simply doesn’t do them justice.

Once again, this recipe is adapted (gluten and dairy removed) from HoneyandJam.com.

Pumpkin Pancakes with Apple Maple Compote

1 Cup Mama’s Almond All Purpose Flour

1 Cup White Rice Flour

1 teaspoon Baking Powder

1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda

1/3 Cup Granulated Sugar

1/2 teaspoon Sea Salt

1 Tablespoon Pumpkin Pie Spice

1/2 teaspoon Xanthan Gum

1 1/2 Cups “Buttermilk” (Almond milk with 1 Tbs. lemon juice, let sit 10 minutes)

1 Cup Pumpkin Puree

2 Large Eggs, lightly beaten

2 Tablespoons Dairy Free Butter, melted

Combine flours, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, sea salt, pumpkin pie spice, and xanthan gum in a medium bowl with a whisk. Add the buttermilk, pumpkin puree, eggs, and melted butter. Stir just until combined.

Cook as you would a “regular” pancake and top with the apple compote below.

Apple Maple Compote

Hannah recommends using 1/2 apple per person. This is very easy and leftovers would also be delicious over a bowl of oatmeal.

Apples (I used Honey Crisp)

Dairy Free Butter

Cinnamon

Real Maple Syrup

Place the butter in a hot skillet, slice the apples on top, add a generous sprinkle of cinnamon.

Saute the apples in the butter and cinnamon until aldente, add enough syrup to cover the apples and allow to bubble for a few minutes. Pour over warm pancakes.

Rockfish In A Pocket – Asian Style with Tangy Sesame Salad

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I am not a lover of fish. It’s not necessarily that I don’t like it, because I do. But…it just doesn’t seem like a real meal to me for some reason. So when I do make it, I like to add things to it, some excitement, so that it seems like it’s more “meal-ish”. I know it sounds weird, but what can I say? I was raised in a meat, vegetable, and potatoes household. A biscuits, bacon, pancakes, homemade soup, steak, turkey dinner and pie kind of household. You know, real food.

This meal actually shocked me. I really liked it. Every flavor was distinctive. Even the tiny amount of clementine zest and ginger added a unique and powerful dimension. Maybe the addition of a starch, the rice, made it feel like more of a normal meal to me, I don’t know. But either way, it was quite tasty and it received great reviews from my husband.

Tangy Sesame Salad

2 Cups Napa Cabbage, thinly sliced

1 Cup Shredded Carrots

1/2 English Cucumber, peeled, cut down the middle and thinly sliced

1 Green Onion, sliced down the middle and thinly sliced

1 Heaping Tablespoon Cilantro, chopped

For The Dressing:

1/2 Cup Rice Vinegar

3 to 4 Drops Dark Sesame Oil, about 1/2 teaspoon

1/8 teaspoon Grated Fresh Ginger

1/2 teaspoon Gluten Free Soy Sauce

Prepare the salad ingredients.

Prepare the salad dressing. Whisk until fully incorporated.

Place the vegetables in a medium bowl, toss, cover, and refrigerate. Cover and refrigerate the dressing. Don’t dress the salad until the fish is finished cooking or the salad will become limp.

Rockfish In A Pocket – Asian Style

Preheat Oven to 350°

4 Non-Oily Fish Fillets (I used Rockfish)

1/2 of a Large Red Bell Paper, thinly sliced

2 Green Onions, thinly sliced on an angle

1 Clove Garlic, peeled and thinly sliced

1 teaspoon Grated Ginger

1/2 teaspoon Clementine Zest

Olive Oil

White Rice

For The Sauce:

1 Tablespoon Gluten Free Soy Sauce

1 Tablespoon Sweet Chili Sauce

1/2 Tablespoon Rice Vinegar

1/2 teaspoon Sriracha Sauce

Get the rice going first so it can cook while you are preparing the fish. Rinse and pat the fish dry with paper towels. Set aside. Prepare the pepper, onion, garlic, ginger, and clementine zest and set aside. In a small dish, add the soy sauce, sweet chili sauce, rice vinegar, and sriracha sauce.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside. Cut 4 pieces of parchment for the fish pockets.

Place two fish fillets in the middle of one piece of parchment. Drizzle with a tiny amount of olive oil and rub it over the fillets. Take 1/2 of the clementine zest and grated ginger and rub into the fillets, dispersing it as evenly as possible. Spread 1/2 of the sliced garlic over the top.

Layer 1/2 of the peppers and onions over the top.

Stir the sauce well and drizzle 1/2 of it over the fillets.

Place another piece of parchment over the top of the fish, joining the long edges together by folding them over.

Continue rolling the sides and pressing along the edge with your fingernail or the handle of a butter knife until there is a sharp edge and the folded parchment reaches the fish.

Then roll the short edges the same way until it is completely folded and sealed.

Repeat with the remaining fillets. Place both pockets on the parchment lined baking sheet.

Bake for 20-25 minutes. While the fish is baking, toss the salad with the dressing.

Remove the pockets from the oven. Carefully slit open the top and pull apart. Be very careful, the steam from the fish is very hot.

You can eat this two ways. you can place the pocket on a plate and put the rice in it to soak up the juices and eat it that way. Or, you can put rice on your plate, place the fish on top of the rice and then pour the juices over it, which is what I did.

Oh, and in case you were ever curious about the “behind the scenes” recipe writing in food blogs…here’s how I do it. Recipes scribbled on napkins, minus a picture of the incredible mess I made. A glamorous hobby, huh? Complete with a soy sauce stained pen. ;)

A Little of This and a Little of That

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Get Up and Go Smoothie

You can pack a lot of really great things into a smoothie glass. A smoothie has a lot of positives. It’s can be a  healthy and tasty breakfast or snack for people on the go. For those of you who are terrible about eating breakfast, it only takes about 8 minutes to make and you can drink it while you’re getting ready in the morning. It’s not messy to drink in the car on the way to work or while you’re chauffeuring little ones around because it’s thick and you can put a straw in it. If you have a hard time getting your fruit or veggie servings in, a smoothie is a great way to do that. The options are endless and the only thing limiting you is your gag reflex. I know a lot of people that can drink a smoothie packed full of spinach, kale, and beet greens. I’m not one of them. I can handle a small amount of greens and herbs in my smoothies, but major amounts of cold, pureed, kale and spinach for breakfast make me shudder. Don’t be afraid to venture out a little bit though, you never know, a morning smoothie might end up being your new “go to” healthy drink.

What I used:

*This recipe makes 1 – 16oz smoothie

• A Vitamix Blender (I highly recommend it, it’s worth every penny)

•1 – 8oz Can of Pineapple Tidbits in 100% Pineapple Juice

•1 Cup Frozen Mixed Berries (Blackberries, raspberries, & blueberries)

•1 Very Ripe Frozen Banana (Stash your overripe bananas in the freezer)

•1/4 Cup Slivered Almonds

•1/4 Cup Fresh Parsley

•1 inch of Fresh Peeled Ginger (If the skin isn’t tough you can leave it on)

•Juice of 1 Small Lemon

•1/4 Cup of Ice

Lemon, pineapple, ginger, and parsley are all considered “detox” foods and are fantastic for digestion and inflammation. You can read more below on the health benefits of all of the ingredients in this smoothie. Even if you only add a smoothie to your daily routine 3 to 4 times per week, you are packing your diet full of vitamins, minerals, and adding all kinds of other major benefits to your health.

Health Benefits of Pineapple

Health Benefits of Berries

Health Benefits of Bananas

Health Benefits of Almonds

Health Benefits of Parsley

Health Benefits of Ginger

Health Benefits of Lemon

Banana Plum Tart

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A few days ago I bought a bag of fresh Italian Plums at the outdoor market. I had eaten several but wanted to set aside a few to make something…I just wasn’t sure what that something was. For the last couple of days I’ve been mulling it over and going through what I have on hand that I might be able to pair with them to make something nice. I also remembered that I had stuck a bunch of very ripe bananas in the freezer. If you’ve never done this, you should. You don’t need to bag them or anything, I just stuck mine on the shelf. When they thaw they are amazing. Very intense banana flavor, like a banana liquor, and the texture is perfect for smoothies and baking.

This recipe is adapted (very loosely) from a tea cake recipe I used to make in the “olden days” when I could eat gluten and dairy. It was in the Better Homes & Gardens Old Fashioned Home Baking Cookbook. An absolutely amazing cookbook that I would highly recommend. If you’re into adapting recipes to fit your needs and aren’t the type that sticks to a recipe, you’ll love it.

Banana Plum Tart

Preheat oven to 350°

8-10 Very Ripe Italian Plums

1 Frozen Very Ripe Banana

2 1/2 Cups Mama’s Almond Flour

1/2 Cup Sugar

3/4 Cup Dairy Free Butter

1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon Baking Powder

1/2 teaspoon Baking Soda

1/8 teaspoon Sea Salt

1 teaspoon Xanthan Gum

1 Egg

3/4 Cup Almond Milk, with 1 Tablespoon Fresh Lemon Juice

About 1/4 Cup Dark Brown Sugar

Spray a round tart pan with non-stick spray and pour about 1/8 cup sugar in the pan.

Wiggle the pan around to disperse the sugar, coating as evenly as possible. Set aside.

Wash and dry the plums. Cut in half, remove the pit, then cut into quarters.

Set the banana on a plate to partially thaw. (This shows two bananas, you will only need one.)

In a large mixing bowl, stir together flour, sugar, and xanthan gum. Add the dairy free butter.

“Cut it in” with your fingers until it resembles course crumbs, I prefer this over a pastry blender. What fun is cooking and baking if you can’t touch it? Do it quickly though, you don’t want the butter melting in your fingers.

Set aside about 1/2 cup of the mixture.

Into the remaining flour mixture, add the baking soda, baking powder, sea salt, and cinnamon. Stir or whisk until combined and set aside.

Measure out 3/4 cup Almond milk and add the lemon. Allow to sit for 10 minutes. This makes buttermilk. Or at least the scientific equivalent.

When it has set for 10 minutes, add the egg and beat with a fork until thoroughly combined.

Mash the partially frozen banana with a fork. The reason you want it partially frozen is because if you allow it to thaw completely it gets very runny and mushy.

Add the egg mixture and banana to the dry mixture.

Stir just until combined, do not over mix. Baking ingredients don’t like to be fiddled with and over-mixed, it makes them tough and cranky.

Spread two-thirds of the batter over the bottom and sides of the tart pan with a spoon.

Add the Italian plums in a pretty pattern.

Use the remaining one-third batter to dollop over the plums.

Sprinkle with the reserved dry topping and brown sugar. Why more sugar? Because frankly, dark brown sugar just makes everything taste better and it makes a perfect friendship with plums and bananas.

Bake for 40 minutes or until a knife inserted into a couple different places comes out clean.

Allow to cool completely (or for at least 30 minutes) before removing it from the pan.