Stuffed Yams

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I am saddened to say that for about the first 40 years of my life, I only had yams once a year. Typically on Thanksgiving and usually swimming in Karo syrup, brown sugar, and pineapple juice.  Just a little slice because I liked the brown sugar.

Now however, I could eat them every single day.

They’re delicious, what’s not to like? It turns out they’re extremely good for you and if you eat even one little cup once a week it has been shown to reduce the risk of lung, skin, and prostate cancer dramatically.

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They’re versatile.

You can stuff them with whatever you like or just have them with a drizzle of heart healthy olive oil and salt and pepper. You can slather them with dairy free butter and sprinkle them with brown sugar…my personal favorite, and they’re even good plain.

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Have you ever been confused by the whole Yam Sweet Potato thing? We call the orange ones Sweet Potatoes. I don’t know why, but that’s how I was raised. I always thought the yellow fleshed ones were the Yams. Turns out I was wrong. If you don’t believe me, you can go here and scroll down for a visual and an explanation. So technically, that Sweet Potato pie that looks like pumpkin pie, is really made with Yams. Doesn’t sound as good though…Yam pie.

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Call them whatever you like, and make sure you don’t miss out on them for 40 years like I did simply because the sound of Sweet Potato or Yam grosses you out.

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Try stuffing them with all kinds of different things.

Then serve them with your favorite gluten free beer.

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You might just be surprised.

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Here’s how I prepared them tonight:

Lay the potato(s) on a sheet of heavy duty aluminum foil. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with kosher salt, garlic powder, and oregano. Roll them up tight and place them in the oven seam side up. Bake at 350 degrees for one hour. Remove from oven and cool enough that you don’t burn yourself when you unwrap it and cut it. Once cooled, unwrap and slice vertically. Using a fork, rough up the flesh, sprinkle with kosher salt. Set aside.

On a gas grill or in a grill pan, grill boneless, skinless chicken thighs. The amount will depend on how many people you are serving. I placed 1.5 chicken thighs on each potato.

In a separate pan, saute onions, bell pepper, kale, and sun dried tomatoes. (Or any combination of any vegetable you like)

Layer the chicken on the potatoes first, then add the sauteed vegetables. Top with sliced buffalo mozzarella (made from buffalo milk), sprinkle with kosher salt, a few grinds of pepper, and dried oregano. Place under a pre-heated broiler until cheese is bubbly and begins to brown. But not too much or the mozzarella will become tough.

Serve with gluten free beer.

Fig Pillows & An Eye Opener

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Remember the book I told you I started the other day? Well, it’s packed full of all kinds of interesting information. I have only made it to Chapter 5 (there are 16) and I am already loving it. Much of the medical information I already knew or at least had heard of, but nonetheless, it’s all still very interesting. Xenoestrogen in particular. Lorraine Pintus, the author of Jump Off The Hormone Swing, refers to Xenoestrogen as Estrogen’s evil twin sister. “She looks like estrogen but she comes into your body from a foreign place.”

If you’re a male and you’re thinking this post isn’t for you, hold on a minute, because even though we’re talking about “estrogen”, it involves you too. Everyone is exposed to xenoestrogens through our environment. They are in the air we breath (chemicals, pollution) the water we drink (plastic bottles, pollution), the food we eat (non-organic foods, animals being given hormones and being fed GMO products), and the products we use (anti-aging creams, lotions, cleansing products, makeup, laundry detergents).

Lorraine says everything from diabetes to infertility are being linked to the “evil twin sister”. Also, many women who suffer from sever PMS and perimenopause symptoms are estrogen dominant. Xenoestrogens are a big part of that dominance problem.

If you would like to learn more about xenoestrogens in particular,  here are a couple more websites. Or, you can just Google “Xenoestrogens” and you’ll find all kinds of information.

http://flowinghealth.org/xenoestrogen_patient_handout.pdf  http://endojourney.wordpress.com/2009/07/31/a-list-of-xenoestrogens/ .

So, without getting completely obsessive and hyper about it, let’s look at it logically. Lorraine uses the 80/20 rule, which I think is a great idea. 80% of the time we can pretty easily control what we use, how we use it, what we eat, and what we are exposing ourselves to. If you leave your house, which we all do, then it makes a lot of sense that 20% of the time, you can’t control it, nor should you worry about it. Life is meant to be enjoyed. So approach this with the attitude of, I’m going to take control of what I put in and on my body and expose myself to, as much as possible. A little awareness and action is better than none.

Lorraine lists a website in her book with a database of all of the common cosmetics, cleansers, and lotions we use. What’s so cool about that you might ask? Well it has a number rating for each item based on how toxic it is. Yep. And let me tell you, it was an eye opener. Even the “natural” things you are buying might shock you. The ratings include reproductive organ toxins as well as cancer toxins, allergies & immunotoxicity, and overall health hazards.   http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/

Here is a quick look at their toxin number rating system:

0-2 Low Hazard          3-6 Moderate Hazard          7-10 High Hazard

Just to give you an idea, here is a list of things that I use on a regular basis that I researched on their website and their toxicity number level:

Organix Shampoo & Conditioner  = 4-5

Aveeno Positively Radiant Brightening Cleanser = 5

Simple Smoothing Facial Scrub = (new on the market, not listed yet)

Dessert Essence 100% Pure Jojoba Oil = 0

Yes To Cucumbers Sensitive Skin Calming Night Cream = 2

Kiss My Face Olive & Aloe Lotion (I use it for body lotion) = 5

Colgate Optic White (They didn’t have the specific one, but all of the other whitening toothpastes are the same score) = 5

Bare Minerals Foundation in Medium = 2 

Bare Minerals Mineral Veil SPF25 = 7

Bare Minerals Blush = 2

Bare Minerals Eye Shadow = 4

Almay Line Smoothing Concealer for the Eye = 9

Maybelline Lash Stiletto = 4

(If you have trouble looking up your specific item, just type in the brand name click on the brand, go to the left and click on what item it is..and then scroll down the list to see if it is rated.)

So, before you go gather all of your toiletries and cosmetics to check how awful they are for you, remember the goal is to minimize your exposure to unhealthy things, because truthfully, it is impossible to avoid them 100%.

When you’re finished looking everything up  you can go to the upper tool bar on the website and click on whatever you like to find lists of products from different companies that are non toxic. You can order them online, or print them out to see if you can find them locally.

And just in case you aren’t freaked out enough by the toiletries you’re using, here’s another website she listed so you can look up all of the chemicals in the other every day products you use.

http://www.niehs.nih.gov/

*But even before you do that, you may want to self medicate with a nice cup of soothing tea and my Fig Pillows. Because we all know that pie crust pretty much makes anything better.

Fig Pillows with Fig Glaze & Almonds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

*Makes 30

2 Portions of Gluten Free Pie Dough

GF Flour For Dusting & Rolling

Trader Joe’s Fig Butter

Powdered Sugar

Almond Milk

Pure Almond Extract

Raw Almonds, finely chopped

Roll out one portion of dough and slice into 30 squares with a sharp knife.

Add about a teaspoon of the fig butter to each square. Then, roll out the second portion of dough and slice into 30 squares.

Using a flat knife (I use a frosting spatula), take one square of plain dough, pat it out just a little with your fingers.

Take the patted out piece of dough and cover the fig jam carefully pressing down around the sides. Score each side with a fork, poke once in the middle so air can escape, and place the fig pillow on a parchment lined baking sheet. Continue with the remainder of the dough until they are finished.

Bake in a preheated oven for 22 minutes and remove to a cooling rack.

While the cookies are cooling, make a glaze with the powdered sugar, fig butter, almond milk, and pure almond extract (about 1/2 tsp.), and finely chop about 1/4 cup raw almonds.

Leaving the fig pillows on the cooling rack, drizzle with glaze and sprinkle with nuts.

Presto! Fresh Flavor By The Spoonful – Anytime

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Not really sure what to call these…I’m sure there’s a name for them…little flavored pestos, citrus zest cubes, citrus juice…yummy goodness to toss into pasta, top roasted vegetables, season fish, slather meat, throw into smoothies, and add into whatever is your favorite food for the day. I’m not a trained chef or cook, or a trained anything, really. So for now, I don’t have a name for them until one of you can tell me what to really call them. If you can give me a great and unique name for them, then that is what I will call them forevermore.

So, as I was making a batch of pesto the other day, I thought, “Now why couldn’t I do this with all kinds of things? Herbs, fruit, juice, roasted garlic? The things I like to cook with on a regular basis. But in smaller batches, so I could just pop one out of the freezer and toss it in a pan or defrost it quickly to season a beautiful piece of meat or flavor my favorite Clementine Cookies?” There’s no reason why not!

I love freezing little servings of things. People with food allergies need to be a little more organized in that area if they want the convenience of having something fresh and homemade to eat on a whim. I freeze small servings of soups, lasagna, whatever we’re having that allows a little leftover, usually. It’s nice to be able to grab something delicious when my husband is traveling and I don’t feel like cooking, or heaven forbid, if I’m sick with something that only allows me to make it to the freezer, microwave, and back to bed. It’s also nice to have fresh herbs on hand at all times, and if you buy organic, you know they don’t last long. I try very hard to steer clear of sprinkling my food with fresh herb pesticides so this is turning out to be a really great way to have “fresh” herbs on hand all the time.

I can’t wait until summer when I have pots and pots full of plump, fresh, herbs to whiz together and stash away in the freezer for winter!

You Will Need:

Organic Beef, Pork, Poultry, and Seafood Herbs

About 5 Heads of Organic Garlic

Olive Oil

Citrus of Your Choice, I Used Clementines

Juice of Your Choice, I Used Pomegranate

Food Processor

Ice Cube Trays

Tin Foil

Fine Point Permanent Marker

Start off with all of your favorite herbs. Remove the woody ends and check for soil that was left behind. I didn’t remove the rosemary leaves from the stems for the pictures, you will want to do that before you put them in your food processor.

Next, label the herb piles and grab a piece of paper. Make a list of which herbs are in each pile. For Example: 1. Poultry – rosemary, sage, thyme, and olive oil, 2. Clementine Zest…etc. Once you begin to grind up the herbs and olive oil, you will mark each ice-cube tray so that it correlates with your list of ingredients.

This is incredibly easy. I think I did the entire pile of herbs, including photography and clean up in an hour. An extra bonus was that my house smelled fantastic when I was done.

Here’s what you do: 

1.  Place the herbs in the food processor. Whiz them up until they are small bits.

2.  While the processor is running, add a small amount of olive oil…maybe a teaspoon or two at the most,

to bring the mixture together a bit.

3.  With a small spoon, add the herb mixture to the ice trays. Label with the corresponding number on your paper.

EASY!

Below are the herbs, garlic, zest, and juices that I used.

Dill, Parsley, and Thyme

Oregano, Rosemary, and Thyme

Oregano, Sage, Tarragon, and Thyme

Rosemary, Sage, and Thyme

Rosemary and Lemon Thyme

For the roasted garlic you will need about 5 heads of garlic, tin foil, olive oil, sea salt, and a sprinkle of herbs. Slice the tops off the garlic heads with a sharp knife, remove any loose paper. Place on a layer of tin foil and drizzle with olive oil, herbs, and sprinkle with sea salt. Place another piece of tin foil over the top and wrap them up tightly. Roast in a 350 degree oven for about an hour. When they are easily squeezed out of their skin, they are done.

Allow them to cool and then squeeze them out of their skins. Pack them into the ice-cube tray.

The zest and juices are incredibly easy…pretty much a no brainer.

Once everything is in the ice-cube trays and labeled, cover tightly with plastic wrap and freeze overnight.

Once they’ve sat overnight, loosen them by twisting the trays just like you would for ice cubes. Using a fork, carefully loosen each one and place it in a small plastic freezer bag and pop them in the freezer until you’re ready to use them. Remember to label the bag and pay attention to which ones you’re removing!

Berry Scones and A Side Of Fat Thighs

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Just kidding, just kidding. Everyone knows that bacon is the new white meat. The healthy, New Year, slim down meat choice.

No? You didn’t know that?

Well, it is today.

The original recipe for the scones came out of Delicious Living magazine. I tweaked it a bit to make it somewhat healthier. It called for brown rice flour, tapioca flour, and potato starch. I try not to use the starch flours if I don’t have to. Instead, I used Bob’s Red Mill All Purpose Gluten Free Flour that is mainly made with garbanzo beans, sorghum, and fava beans. I also added brown rice flour. The Bob’s Red Mill flour is kind of an aquired taste. It can come across very beany depending on what you’re making. I’ve found it works well in sweet breads, but that is about the only place I like to use it.

The recipe also called for apricots but I used mixed dried berries instead with strawberry dairy free yogurt instead of plain yogurt.

Gluten Free & Dairy Free Berry Scones

1 1/2 Cups + 5 Tablespoons Bob’s Red Mill GF All Purpose Flour

1/2 Cup Brown Rice Flour

2 1/2 teaspoons Baking Powder

2 teaspoons Xanthan Gum

1/4 Cup Sugar

1/2 teaspoon Sea Salt

1/2 Cup Dairy Free Butter

5 Eggs

1 Container Dairy Free Strawberry Yogurt (I used the coconut milk yogurt)

3/4 Cup Dried Mixed Berries, chopped

1 teaspoon Pure Vanilla Extract

1/2 teaspoon Pure Almond Extract

Almond Milk

Raw Sugar

Preheat oven to 350 for electric, 325 for convection. Measure out the Bob’s flour, brown rice flour, baking powder, xanthan gum, sugar, and salt into a large bowl and whisk to combine.

Add the butter and gently blend through the flour mixture with a pastry blender or your fingers until it resembles course crumbs. In a separate bowl, whisk together 4 of the eggs, yogurt, dried fruit, and the extracts. Add to the flour mixture and mix just until combined.

Dust a piece of parchment (measured to your baking sheet) on your counter with a bit of the Bob’s flour and turn out the scone mixture. Pat into a circle or square about 2 inches thick in the middle.

Whisk the remaining egg with about a teaspoon or so of almond milk. Brush over the top of the scones and sprinkle with a generous amount of raw sugar.

Bake for about 35 minutes until golden and the center is done.

Serve with all natural bacon and a cup of good tea. It’s worth it, fat thighs and all.

The Last Dinner Of The Year – 2011

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Most years we’re snoozing by 10:30 on New Year’s Eve. I know, I know, not much fun, right? Well this year, we’re going to do things differently. First, we’re beginning our evening with an ending…the last dinner of the year. Then, it’s time to get bundled up and head into the city for First Night. A celebration downtown with all kinds of eclectic things going on outside and inside. We may still end up home and in bed by 10:30, but not without celebrating, even if just a little, and bidding goodbye to the last year that has been filled to the brim with blessings and change.

Pork Chops with Balsamic and Apple Reduction & Mixed Berry Rustic Tart

Pork Chops with Balsamic and Apple Reduction

2 -3 Boneless Chops

1 Medium Onion, sliced

2 Tablespoons Butter

1 Sprig Rosemary

2-3 Sprigs Thyme

3 Tablespoons Apricot Jelly

1/2 Honey Crisp Apple, diced

About 1 Cup Aged Balsamic Vinegar (mine was 18 year aged, thick and sweet)

About 1 Cup Chicken Stock (I used turkey stock because that’s what I had in the freezer)

About 1/2 Cup Gluten Free Flour

Sea Salt & Pepper

Rice, cooked, your choice of type

Place the butter, onion, rosemary, and thyme in a large skillet and grill onions on medium low until they begin to caramelize.

Add the chopped apple and saute for 5 minutes.

Add the apricot jelly and cook for 3 minutes.

Add the balsamic vinegar and simmer for 7 minutes until it reduces slightly. Remove from the heat and set aside. In another skillet, drizzle a generous amount of olive oil.

Place the flour, salt, and pepper on a plate and toss with a fork or your fingers. Coat each chop lightly.

On medium heat, brown the chops on both sides.

Remove from pan onto a plate and set aside. Add the chicken/turkey broth to the pan, bring to a boil and deglaze.

Add the balsamic reduction and the chops. Bring to a boil. Reduce to simmer and simmer for about 7 minutes.

Place chops on bed of rice and spoon balsamic reduction over the top.

Mixed Berry Rustic Tart

Preheat oven to 350 degrees for a convection, 375 for an electric oven.

1 Pie Dough Portion, equaling 1 crust

1 1/2 bags Mixed Frozen Berries, about 3 or 4 cups

About 1 Cup Sugar

About 1-2 Tablespoons Gluten Free Flour

1 Egg

Dollop of Almond Milk

Flour For Rolling

Raw Sugar For Sprinkling

Place fruit in a medium bowl with the sugar and flour and toss. Set aside.

Cover a baking sheet with tin foil. Measure a piece of parchment to the sheet. Flour the parchment and roll the pie dough into a rectangle on the parchment paper.

Pick up the parchment with the dough and place on the lined baking sheet. You’ll want to line your baking sheet because the fruit juice will leak all over. Trust me, you do not want to have to spend the remainder of your evening scraping baked on fruit juice off of your baking sheet.

Mound the fruit mixture in the middle of the dough.

Using the parchment to aid you, pull up the sides of the dough.

Pinch the edges together and smooth out a bit.

In a ramekin or small bowl, whip and egg and a little almond milk with a fork. Brush onto the dough and then sprinkle with the raw sugar.

Place in a pre-heated oven. About 45 minutes for an electric oven and about 55 minutes for a convection oven. Remove when fruit is bubbling and crust is golden.

Happy New Year!

A Cheesy Lunch

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Do you ever have one of those days where it’s hard to get out of bed, it takes forever for your face to wake up, and all you can think about is comfort food? Well, I probably don’t even need to say it, but I’m having one of those days. I woke up thinking about the cup of sipping chocolate I had at Chocolate Apothecary a few days ago.  They made mine with almond milk and it was To. Die. For. Then, I had leftover pesto pasta with spicy sausage for breakfast. We still have no snow and have been dealing with clouds, clouds, and more clouds, with an entrance of pea soup fog every now and then. Perfect weather for comfort food.

On my way to the grocery store to purchase items forgotten yesterday for baking, I at least was able to stop myself from pulling into Starbuck’s for a hot chocolate. But only because I knew it would be a disappointment after the perfect cup at Chocolate Apothecary.

I returned home to begin my candy making and while I was licking the chocolate spoon and scraping the bowl (pepita and cranberry bark – recipes coming soon) I thought to myself, “Self, wouldn’t a grilled cheese sandwich and a goat cheese salad be delightful for lunch?” And believe me, I was right. Maybe my whole day will be like this, I don’t know, but I do know that life is much too short to not have one or two little indulgences every now and then.

Gluten Free Dairy Free Grilled Cheese Sandwich

2 Slices Gluten Free Bread (I prefer homemade or Udi’s)

Dairy Free Butter

Daiya Cheddar Style Cheese

Salt

Butter both slices of bread on one side. Sprinkle with the tiniest amount of salt (dairy free butter is not salty enough), place in a skillet, add the cheese, top with remaining bread. Cook on medium low (this dairy free cheese melts nicely, but you need to give it time) until golden on one side. Flip. Cook until golden and cheese is melted.

Goat’s Cheese Salad Dressing

(This will make extra, it keeps nicely sealed tightly in the fridge.)

1/2 to 3/4 package Goat’s Cheese

About 1/2 to 3/4 Cup Olive Oil Mayonnaise

About 1/4 cup or so of Rice Wine Vinegar

Ground Pepper

(You can also add fresh or dried herbs, chives, parsley, etc. depending on what you are serving with the salad.)

Place all ingredients in a bowl, smash the cheese with a fork and stir to combine thoroughly. Place salad in a large bowl, spoon some dressing over it and toss until salad is coated.

Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice

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I’ve spent most of the morning surrounded with ribbon, tissue paper, gift wrap, and the absolute cutest gift tags you’ve ever seen. I’ve also watched 3 holiday movies, compliments of the Watch Instantly feature on Netflix. Yesterday I had to make a little trip to the doctor  because I was feeling under the weather. I was given and antibiotic and ordered to take it easy for a few days and rest. I can hear some of you snickering already. Yes, yes, I know, I’m not a good “rester”.

I’m sure I looked like a reindeer in the headlights when I heard the doctor, who oddly enough had gray hair and a gray beard and was quite jolly, say the dreaded word. “You want me to what? I just finished a marathon house “do over” and I’m way, way, behind on Christmas. Rest? It’s Christmas time for Prancer’s sake. There’s shopping to do, presents to wrap, and cookies to be made!” Jolly old Santa, uh….I mean the doctor, didn’t feel one bit sorry for me. In fact, he went one step further and scolded me for waiting so long to come in. He even wrote me on his naughty list and prescribed some black and white pills (resembling coal… possibly?) and sent me on my merry little way, causing a very large disruption in my plans for the day.

So, here I am at home (not out shopping or baking), trying to earn my way back onto the good little girl list. I’m doing my version of resting. Staying in my pajamas, wrapping gifts, and sneaking a holiday smoothie in.

You might think it’s too chilly this time of year for a smoothie, but it’s not. This one is spicy and soothing, you might even say naughty and nice, and just what Santa….um…the doctor ordered.

Pumpkin Spice Smoothie

About 1 Cup Almond Milk

About 1/2 Cup Pumpkin Puree

About 1 Tablespoon Sugar

About 1 Tablespoon Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

About 1/2 Banana

About 1 Heaping Tablespoon Pumpkin Pie Spice

About 1 Cup Ice

Place all ingredients in order in a Vita Mix or heavy-duty blender and blend until smooth.