Saturday, February 19, 2011

Gluten Free Chinese Food?

My teen-aged daughter loves Chinese food. When I say she loves Chinese food, I don't mean that she likes to have it every so often. I mean that she has a passion for it. She was saddened to read that her beloved soy sauce contained gluten. It was a very sad moment in time for her. At that moment, I knew I had to find a way to give her a gluten free alternative to one of her favorite foods.

I began to research for options and learned that there is a gluten free, organic soy sauce available! Luckily, I was able to find it locally so I did not have to wait for shipping.

My daughter had also requested that we buy tofu and try that, so I read all the labels and found an acceptable tofu. Later that afternoon, my husband and I went on to prepare a beautiful meal for my daughter consisting of fried tofu, fried rice, and a nice green salad. She was thrilled!

The recipe I used is adapted from another website. The changes made were very simple, I read all of the labels to make sure there was no gluten in any of them, used gluten free soy sauce, and organic sugar instead of the agave nectar. We have stopped using agave because it appears to be no better for our health than high fructose corn syrup.

For the pork fried rice, we used a Food Network recipe to guide us. There really were not any substitutions needed for this recipe. I just made sure to double check all of my ingredients to ensure there is no gluten.

Even though I have been great about removing all gluten from our home, I am still super cautious about reading all labels not only when we make a purchase, but also again as I go to use the product. Maybe I am being overly dramatic here, but I am so terrified of being "glutened". I do not want to return to the physical state that I was in prior to removing the gluten from our diets. I guess I can never be too careful. Perhaps my being so diligent in reading labels will serve as a good reminder and help my daughter make better food choices when I am not there to guide her. I don't know, but it is what I do to feel confident that we are eating purely gluten free.

So, the meal was a complete success. I don't know how I feel about the tofu, I am still reading about soy products and trying to determine if we should avoid that as well. Additionally, it is one of the things that can potentially irritate the bladder, so I am not sure that I want to eat tofu often if we have it as a meal again in the future. Still thinking on that one. We shall see. I suppose Rome was not built in a day. I can take a little bit of time to evaluate things and get some more advice from my urologist.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Gluten Free Croutons

In trying to move towards eating healthier, I have gone back to trying to have at least one salad a day with our meal. Usually this is at dinner time. My mother used to have us eat salad each night with dinner. Many nights she would place hot peas and carrots over the salad with ranch dressing. It was something we knew would be there at almost every dinner meal. I had gotten out of the practice of eating salads, but the truth is, I love to eat them.

As an adult, I prefer to eat salads with spinach leaves, but I also enjoy other salad greens. I tend to avoid the iceberg lettuce of my youth and choose salad greens that contain more vitamins through darker leaves as well as a richer taste. We also try to add many different bright colors to our salads - bright red tomatoes and bell peppers, and orange carrots. My daughter loves to eat turnips and radishes on her salad. The more colors that are in my salad, the better it seems to taste. I love the crispness and the light crunch from the different vegetables as I chew them. It seems therapeutic to me to sit down and eat a nice leafy salad filled with vegetables. It is peaceful and tends to calm me.

Although, we have also taken to adding nuts and seeds to our salads, I still missed my croutons. Even though I have never been one to add a lot of them on my salad, I enjoyed adding a few or even taking a few saltines and crumbling them up on top of the salad for that extra little texture and flavor. But now, being gluten free, I felt deprived of that special little touch on my salad. For a while I simply told myself to quit complaining. My health is certainly much more important than a silly little crouton.

And then, today as I looked at the heels of bread from our fresh baked loaf of gluten free bread, I remembered making croutons each night when I worked as a waitress at the country club in Mississippi. I mentioned this to my husband who quickly took the crusts that are less than popular in our household and cut them into small squares. Then he melted a little butter in the microwave. Placing the gluten free bread cubes into a small glass casserole dish. Dabbing the melted butter onto the squares with a brush, before sprinkling a little garlic powder onto the bread crumbs was all that the bread crusts required before he placed them into the oven on 250° for about 15 - 20 minutes or until crunchy.

Tonight, our salads had beautiful, golden, buttery, garlic flavored croutons on top of our salad. And all was good.


NOTE: These croutons would also be wonderful on a nice hot soup.

Anasazi Beans

I believe I have mentioned previously that I love the flavor of beans. So naturally, when I came across a new type of bean that I had never eaten before, I became quite curious and had to try it. Anasazi Beans do not require soaking and cook in about 2/3 of the time that it takes for other beans to cook. These beans come from the Anasazi Indians who were cliff dwellers. The beans were discovered within the ruins in the early 1900's.

Anasazi Beans

2 1/2 cup Anasazi beans (rinsed)
6 cups water (make sure beans are well covered)
1 ham hock (smoked)
2 tsp. garlic powder
1/4 medium onion, diced (I used Walla Walla Sweet)
2 bay leaves
1/8 tsp. Cayenne Pepper (optional)
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper

Directions:

Saute onions in skillet until limp, translucent, and slightly brown along the edges. Place in crock pot along with beans, water, salt,pepper garlic powder, cayenne pepper, bay leaves, and ham hock.

Turn crock put on high. Cook for 3 hours checking regularly to ensure there is plenty of water (should always cover the beans by at least 1/2 inch of water).

Anasazi beans are delicious served with a slice of gluten free corn bread, a few gluten free tortillas, or rice.

Tonight, we ate our Anasazi beans over a bed of jasmine rice, sprinkled with hemp seeds. We also enjoyed eating a buttered slice of the gluten free potato, rosemary, garlic bread that we picked up last night at our local CSA. Delicious!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Local Foods, Fresh Eggs, GF Bread

One day my husband I were talking about the cost of cage free organic eggs in the grocery store. We had just paid $4.60 a dozen for those eggs. It seems because the word "organic" was printed on the egg carton, the price was nearly doubled. Reviewing our grocery purchases of late, nearly all of our grocery purchases had doubled or tripled what we were used to paying. Our budget was way overextended and we needed to find somethings that can be done to lower the costs of our foods.

As always, when I am looking for answers, I began to research. Finally, I came upon the answer. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) is the best way to lower costs of foods without having your own little farm in your backyard. I reviewed the different farms in my area and came across one that is not too far from where we are currently living. They have fresh cage free, organic eggs for $2.35 a dozen. That would surely lower our egg costs I thought as I continued reading the list of foods offered through this program.

Cheese, milk, fruits, vegetables, and gluten free bakery products! A local bakery is offering gluten free products through the local CSA. I noticed that they even offered whole grains and beans. I was so excited. I simply had to place an order. Not all CSA's are set up to where you can choose your own supplies, many of them have a program where you pay a certain amount of money (your fair share) and receive a box each week of whatever the farmers are offering.

This particular program is not exactly like a CSA. It is more flexible. You simply review their offerings by Tuesday morning of each week and place your order, paying online. Then you go pick up your order each Thursday evening. This organization brings several farmers and local organic merchants together. The prices are much lower than what we would be paying in the store.

I am excited to say that we placed our first order and today was our first pick up day! When we arrived, we were presented with two reusable shopping bags of food. The person who was there distributing the food gave us a few extras because it was our first order, organic tuna, about a pound of brussel sprouts and a butternut squash. They were so pleasant to deal with and there was no standing in line. We are sold!

For this to work best for us economically (we still do need to drive about 35 miles each way), we have decided that we will only order every two weeks. Even so, we are predicting that we will be saving quite a bit on our groceries. Due to this, my grocery planning will need to be at least two weeks in advance so I can adequately account for our needs. We are looking forward to spring and summer when even more fresh organic and local fruits and vegetables will be available through our local CSA.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

GF Chicken Tetrazzini

Chicken Tetrazzini was one of the few foods I enjoyed eating in the school cafeteria at lunch time. I remember those nice cheesy bites of chicken, creamy sauce, and noodles were so delicious to me as a child. Growing up, my family did not eat a great deal of pasta. My father was strictly a meat and potatoes man. We did on occasion eat spaghetti, but not often. I believe that must be why I have such a love for pasta, it was something new to me, something special when I became an adult and moved out on my own.

I remember the first time I made Chicken Tetrazzini in my own home. A lady from church had provided me her recipe to use after I tried it at one of the church potluck dinners. I remember being so excited to be making this dish for myself. Back in those days, I could not afford the white wine and many of the other ingredients she suggested, but I enjoyed it nonetheless. Today, I am thankful to be able to make the recipe as she shared it with me, with only a few small adaptations I have made over the years such as the addition of both peas and spinach and converting it to gluten free. This recipe is very rich and uses a good bit of butter, but it is simply delicious.

Chicken Tetrazzini

1 whole chicken or 4 cups chicken cubed
3 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
3 cups milk
1 stick butter
1 1/2 cups very dry white wine or sherry
Zest from one lemon
2 tsp. lemon juice
2 tsp. Sea Salt
1 tsp. Fresh Cracked Black Pepper
2 cups Fresh Spinach leaves, chopped
1 cup fresh or frozen baby peas
1 onion, diced (I prefer to use a sweet onion such as Walla Walla or Mayan)
8 oz. Sliced Brown Crimini Mushrooms
4 cloves garlic (minced)
1 tbsp Fresh Thyme, chopped
1 tbsp Fresh Rosemary leaves, crushed
1 bunch flat parsley leaves, finely chopped (about 1/3 cup)
2 tsp. Paprika
1 1/2 cup grated Asiago, Parmigiano-Reggiano, and Romano cheese blend
1/4 cup Gluten Free Bread Crumbs
1/3 cup Gluten Free All Purpose Flour (I used Bob's Red Mill All Purpose Flour)
1 pkg (12oz) Gluten Free Rice Spaghetti Noodles

Directions:

1. Place whole chicken into large pot full of water on stove, boil until cooked, approximately 1 hour. Very carefully, remove chicken from water, reserving the water as it is now a wonderful homemade chicken broth. Place chicken on a glass pie plate with edges or other glass container to cool.

Once chicken has cooled, remove skin and bones. Chop up chicken into bite sized pieces. You will need 4 cups. Place the 4 cups of chopped chicken into a bowl and set aside.

Strain reserved chicken broth from above to remove fat and other particles. I usually strain mine through twice to remove all of the impurities from the broth. A paper coffee filter works nicely for this, as does this.

Note: If you buy larger chickens like I do, package up remaining chicken to be used for a different recipe and place in refrigerator.

2. Pre-heat oven to 425°. Place 2 tsp butter into a skillet and melt on medium-low heat. Place mushrooms in skillet to sweat, turning periodically. When the mushrooms turn a nice dark golden brown color, add the onions, thyme, rosemary, garlic, and an additional 2 tsp. butter to the skillet with the mushrooms and saute on medium heat until the onions become translucent.

3. Add the wine to the skillet and cook until the wine evaporates. Place the vegetable mixture into the bowl with the chicken. Set aside.

4. Using same skillet, place 2 tsp. butter into the skillet along with all of the spinach. Cover with glass lid. Let spinach wilt, lifting lid occasionally to turn the spinach leaves. The wilting process only takes a few minutes. Stir in wilted spinach in the bowl with the chicken mixture.

5. Place pot of water on to boil.

6. Melt 4 tsp. butter in same skillet. Add flour and whisk for a few minutes, then add milk, whipping cream, strained chicken broth, salt, and pepper. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil, continuing to whisk so the liquid will not scorch. Once at a boil, turn temperature down to a simmer. Continue to whisk. The liquid will start to thicken a bit. Cook on simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Add to chicken mixture, stir in well.

7. The pot of water should be boiling by now. Drizzle some olive oil into the pot (approx 4 tsp.). Drop in noodles (do not break in half). Set timer according to instructions on the box for al dente. Strain and rinse immediately with cold water.

8. Place noodles in a separate bowl and toss with olive oil (approx 2-3 tsp) to keep noodles from sticking.

9. Mix noodles and chicken mixture together with parsley flakes, and gluten free bread crumbs until all ingredients are well incorporated.

10. Grease a nice big casserole dish well. Pour chicken and noodle mixture into casserole dish. Top with grated cheese blend and then sprinkle with paprika.

11. Place casserole dish on top of a cookie sheet and into the oven. Bake for 20-30 minutes or until the cheese is a nice golden brown color.

We enjoy eating our Chicken Tetrazzini with a nice green salad drizzled with a fruity vinaigrette dressing, and some steamed broccoli with red bell peppers on the side.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Jambalaya

Since we are not making dinner tonight, I decided I would go ahead and post the recipe from the Jambalaya that we made this weekend. This is my own recipe that has been altered just a tad to make it gluten friendly. I have used it for years. The changes made were minimal, so there is virtually no real difference in taste, but lots of difference to my health. For this I am thankful!

NOTE: Most people use celery in their Jambalaya, however, my sweet husband does not care for it in his food so I omit the celery. Instead I add extra bell peppers. You can raise the recipe to 1 whole green bell pepper plus 3-4 celery stalks if you prefer.


Jambalaya

4 chicken breasts (skinned, bones removed, boiled, diced - reserve broth)
4 cups chicken broth (use packaged broth if needed)
1/2 pound Andouille sausage (sliced into bite sized pieces)
1 1/2 pound shrimp, medium (peeled and de-veined)
1 large can (28 oz) diced tomatoes
4 tsp butter
1 medium onion (medium diced)
1/2 bell pepper, green (seeds removed, diced)
1/2 bell pepper, red (seeds removed, diced)
1/2 bell pepper, yellow (seeds removed, diced)
4 cloves garlic (minced)
3 bay leaves
2 teaspoon Gluten Free Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. Tony Chachere's Original Creole Seasoning
2 tsp. Sea Salt
1 tsp. Thyme
1/2 tsp. Oregano
4 cups cooked white or brown rice

Directions:

1. Boil chicken. Reserve chicken broth. Remove chicken from pan and dice into bite sized pieces. Place chicken and broth into a large crock pot.

2. Cut Andouille sausage into bite sized slices. Place into skillet on medium. Cook until there is a slight char on the edges. Place cooked Andouille sausage into the crock pot with the chicken and broth.

3. In skillet, combine onions and bell peppers in skillet with 4 tsp butter. Saute until limp, translucent, and slightly brown along the edges. Add the garlic and cook for just a little bit longer, maybe 1-2 minutes. Dump into crock pot.

4. Add Gluten Free Worcestershire sauce, thyme, oregano, Tony Chachere's Original Creole Seasoning, sea salt, and bay leaves along with can of tomatoes to crock pot. Turn onto high. Cook for 4 hours checking to ensure it has not dried out. Keep water level just above ingredients by at least 1/2 inch. Add water as needed.

5. Remove bay leaves.

6. Serve over cooked rice.

Many people like to add hot sauce such as Tabasco to their jambalaya. I tend to season the meal lightly and allow each individual the opportunity to spice it a bit hotter in their own bowl. This way it works well for everyone.

Good to serve with corn bread. While I do not have a recipe for this yet, we have simply used the Bob's Red Mill Corn Bread Mix to make ours.

To make the rice, we use jasmine rice in a rice steamer. We substitute chicken broth in place of the water. You can use minute rice, boil in a bag rice if you prefer. I find the chicken broth adds a richer flavor for the beans and rice. You could use a vegetable broth instead if you are vegan or water if you are trying to lower the cost.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Fondu Night!

Our potluck get together with friends went really well last night. As luck would have it, we also have a fun night of fondue planned with a few couples for a pre-Valentine's Day celebration this evening. Luckily, fondue can be done gluten free.

Traditional Cheese Fondue

½ lb grated Gruyere cheese (rind removed)
1/2 lb grated Emmentaler cheese (rind removed)
1 clove garlic
1 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3 ½ teaspoons cornstarch
1 tablespoon kirsch
pepper and nutmeg to taste

Directions:

1. Grate the gruyere and Emmentaler cheeses. In a medium bowl, mix the Gruyere and Emmentaler cheese with the cornstarch and toss.

2. Rub the inside of a medium saucepan with the peeled garlic clove. Throw away the garlic. Pour the wine and lemon juice into the garlic rubbed pan, and bring to a simmer over medium heat.

2. Stir the cheese mixture into the wine one small handful at a time. Make sure each handful is completely melted before adding another.

3. Season with the nutmeg and pepper. Stir in kirsch (be careful to only use amount given, does not taste very good if you toss in extra - I learned this the hard way once).

4. Using a plastic spatula, pour into a to a cheese fondue pot. To keep warm, place a few tea lights or a fondue burner underneath the fondue pot stand.

Things to Dip into the Cheese Fondue:

--apples cut into cubes
--pears cut into cubes
--grapes
--GF Crusty bread cut into cubes
--cooked chicken cubes (I quick cooked mine in a skillet with just salt and pepper)
--Potato cubes - roasted ( I use fingerling potatoes roasted with olive oil, salt, pepper, and rosemary)
--Steamed broccoli, cauliflower, peppers
--Cooked pieces of ham and sausage

Provide each person with a fondue fork and a small plate. I also served a nice green salad with the meal so the participants were provided a regular fork as well. The wine that we used to make the fondue went really well with meal.


Chocolate Fondue

12 0z Baker's Chocolate - semi-sweet
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1 Tbsp. Brandy

Chop up the chocolate into tiny pieces. Over a medium heat carefully heat up the cream until it is simmering then lower the heat and add the chocolate. Stir until all chocolate is melted. Take off heat. Add Brandy and stir until smooth - no lumps of chocolate.

Using a silicone spatula pour into a fondue pot, keep warm with a few tea light candles, in my experience, the fuels are too hot so using a couple tea lights is better and does not burn the chocolate.


Things to dip into chocolate fondue:

--GF Pound Cake - we loved this recipe by Gluten Free Easily. It was easy to do and tasted just like a gluten one would in our opinion. Our non-gluten free friends did not even notice a difference!
--Strawberries
--Pineapple
--Banana slices
--Orange segments
--Cherries
--Peaches
--Mango
--GF Muffins
--GF Cookies
--GF Marshmallows
--GF Cheesecake

While fondue night is fun and easy to do, it can be a mess to clean up. Do yourself a huge favor and remove the cheese from the pan and wash it immediately after the meal. Don't wait until the next morning to do this or you will have a mess to contend with.

Our Daily Bread

Happy Valentines Day!

After celebrating last night with friends, today is going to be a quiet day at home. Mostly a day of rest and left-overs. There has been a lot of cooking going on, and there are a few left overs that need to be eaten. I dislike it when there is food waste, so today is left over day. Having said this, we are out of bread so it is time to make a fresh loaf.

My husband and I decided to try a few gluten free bread recipes from around the web to learn more about the process of baking gluten free and gain a little more experience baking with different ingredients. This morning we chose to make a loaf of bread from the Gluten Free Cooking School, Finally, really good sandwich bread.

The recipe is really quite simple to make. My husband and I teamed up on it, but it really does not require a team effort, we just like to cook together. The clean up was simple, and the bread came out of the oven smelling awesome. It slid right out of the pan onto the baking rack with ease. And about 10 minutes later, we sampled our warm, fresh out of the oven bread with sweet, organic butter and pear jelly. Oh my gosh! This bread is so yummy! Almost tastes like the stuff we ate before going gluten free. We are pleased.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Red Beans and Rice

Living in the south, I learned to make a lot of southern recipes. Many of the recipes I learned were very economical and already gluten free. One of my families favorites is a recipe handed down to me from my dearly departed mother-in-law, Pat. She was a wonderful cook and beautiful woman. Over the years, I have adapted her recipe to make it my own. Red Beans and Rice is a hearty dish best served on a chilly day although you can eat it any time of year.

Tonight we have friends coming over for a potluck style meal. We are making both Red Beans and Rice and Jambalaya. I will post my personal recipe for my Jambalaya soon.

Red Beans and Rice

3 cups red beans (rinsed, sorted)
1 pound smoked beef sausage
2 tbsp butter (for vegetables)
2 tsp butter (for sausage)
1 onion chopped
1 bell pepper, green - chopped
3 celery sticks - chopped (*This is part of the original recipe but I omit it)
4 cloves garlic - minced
3 bunches green onion
2-3 bay leaves
1 tsp thyme
3 tsp Tony Chachere's Original Creole Seasoning
2 tsp Sea Salt
2 tsp GF Worcestershire Sauce

Directions:

Place rinsed and sorted red beans (kidney beans) into large crock pot with plenty of water (about 3/4 full including beans). Turn on high. Cook for approximately 4 hours checking every hour or so to ensure there is enough water in the crock pot. Stir and keep covered.

Once beans are wrinkled and fairly soft - combine onions, bell peppers, green onion, celery, and butter in skillet. Saute until limp, translucent, and slightly brown along the edges. Add the garlic and cook for just a little bit longer, maybe 1-2 minutes. Dump into crock pot with the beans.

Chop smoked sausage into bite sized pieces and place into skillet with about 2 tsp butter. Cook on medium temperature. You want to brown the edges to get a nice char on both sides. Dump into crock pot with beans.

Season the beans with seasonings listed above. Stir. Cover. Cook until beans are tender (approx 2-3 hours) checking regularly to ensure there is plenty of water.

Serve over white rice with a side of GF Corn Bread. Some people like to have a hot sauce such as Tabasco handy to add to their own bowl. I tend to make my Red Beans milder and let those who like things more spicy add it themselves so all can enjoy.

For the GF Corn Bread, I do not have a recipe for this yet. We simply used the Bob's Red Mill Corn Bread Mix to make ours. Very delicious.

To make the rice, we use jasmine rice in a rice steamer. We substitute chicken broth in place of the water. You can use minute rice, boil in a bag rice if you prefer. I find the chicken broth adds a richer flavor for the beans and rice. You could use a vegetable broth instead if you are vegan or water if you are trying to lower the cost.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Gluten Free, Or Not?

I have been reading a great deal about the food my family eats for several years now, although my preoccupation with foods increased tremendously with my IC diagnosis, and even more so since we have removed gluten from our diet. What I am finding is that is can truly be so difficult to decipher the labels on the packages unless you know what you are reading.

Welcome to Label Reading 101! While I am not an expert in nutrition, I have learned from those who are in my opinion wonderful resources for label reading and understanding. Nothing is more frustrating than purchasing something only to find out there is poison lurking within the packaging. For me, gluten is a poison. I have to be careful or I become quite ill.

What is Gluten Free? How can I tell what I can eat and what I cannot? It seems that the food manufacturers hide so many things within that label. I have come to believe that learning to read an ingredients label is much like learning a foreign language. I have come across the following resources that have been very helpful:

My very first resource was located after a search around the internet yielded many different web sites with a lot of information, but the more I read, the more confused I became. Finally, I found Karina's site, The Gluten Free Goddess. On her website, she has something she refers to as a "cheat sheet" for those new to the gluten free lifestyle. This cheat sheet helped me to begin developing a good foundation for where to find gluten. The Gluten Free Goddess is packed with recipes both gluten free and vegan, as well as many tips on how to bake using gluten free ingredients.

Dr Vikki Petersen has become my new hero. She and her husband co-authored a book called "The Gluten Effect". I have been reading her blog, The Gluten Doctors and have found her to be a very compassionate woman who lives a gluten free life with her husband and children. Her posts are insightful and tend to challenge the main stream way of thought. She has a very thorough list of gluten foods and ingredients to avoid on her clinic site.

Lisa Lundy is a mother of children with multiple allergies including the need to avoid gluten. I was drawn to her website through a You Tube video which shared her story. She is quite a inspirational and talented lady! Lisa has a very informative website, The Super Allergy Girl (although it can be overwhelming at first because it does have SO MUCH information) and a cook book, The Super Allergy Girl Cookbook; Gluten-free Casein-free Nut-free..

Of course, I have adopted several gluten free websites through my research, however, these are my top picks for easy to read information that provided a clear cut guide to what I could and could not eat. It is nice to have resources to help navigate the mysterious food labels out there. For that I am thankful.

Tonight for super my family and I enjoyed a delicious, quick, and easy to prepare dish I found on The Gluten Free Goddess website, Sweet Potato and Black Bean Enchiladas! We absolutely loved them! No meat either. My husband and daughter were a bit cautious about trying this dish, but decided after trying my Mexican Stuffed Sweet Potatoes the other night that it would be okay to try. I am so glad they did. This recipe makes you feel SPOILED!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Beautiful Morning

I live in Tacoma, Washington which is not far from Seattle. It rains here A LOT. I had a nice little surprise when I woke up. My birds (sweet little parakeets) were happily singing away to the sunshine peeking in through the mini blinds. It was not raining, in fact it looks beautiful outside. Then I noticed that I am not hurting...anywhere. I am not tired. I do not have a headache. What a wonderful and welcome way to wake up.

I enjoyed a piece of toast from our homemade loaf of bread with a generous amount of almond butter spread on top of it along with a glass of freshly made carrot-apple juice. What more can I ask for in a morning? I am finding myself quite happy and content today. I believe I am going to get out of bed and enjoy the sunshine and my pain-free existence.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Mexi-Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

Tonight I was feeling very tired and wanting to rest, so I put together a quick and easy dinner for my family that was really yummy! Mexi-stuffed sweet potatoes are just that. I was able to quickly assemble this meal with very little time spent in the kitchen and clean up was a breeze. My family really enjoyed this unexpected adventure in sweet potatoes with a kick.

This recipe is a great way to use left over chicken.

Mexi-Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

4 Sweet Potatoes (Pre-baked)
2 cups Pre-cooked, Shredded chicken
2 tsp. Cumin
1 tsp. Mexican chili powder
1/2 tsp. Ground Coriander
1/2 tsp Salt
2 tsp. Cilantro (roughly minced)
1 15oz can black beans or cooked from dry beans(drained and rinsed)
1 small can mild green chilies (diced)
1 cup Spinach leaves (washed, patted dry, and cut chiffonade style)
1/2 cup tomatoes (diced)
1/2 cup purple onion (finely chopped/diced)
Sour cream (optional, we used homemade plain yogurt)
Shredded rice cheese
Gluten Free Corn Tortilla Chips
Salsa

Directions:

If you baked the sweet potato earlier, re-heat it in the microwave or oven.

Mix shredded chicken, cumin, chili powder, coriander, salt, black beans, and green chilies together well. Head on stove until hot.

Split potato and open it by simultaneously pushing the ends of the potato towards the center of the potato gently. Using a fork - dig around the insides of each sweet potato pulling it away from the skin until it is all fluffy.

Place a generous amount of the shredded chicken mixture (approx 1/2 cup) into the potato to fill and make a small hill on top of the potato.

Top the stuffed baked sweet potato with spinach, diced tomatoes, diced purple onion, and shredded cheese. Add a teaspoon full of sour cream or plain yogurt and sprinkle fresh cilantro over the top.

Serve with a small handful of gluten free corn tortilla chips and a small ramekin of salsa.

We washed our Mexican Stuffed Sweet Potatoes down with a freshly made juice made with those cute little seedless watermelon and blueberries.Frosty and delicious! I have got to remember to bring my camera to the kitchen so I can share some of the pictures from these creations.

The Price of Bread

Currently, we are shopping at 7 different grocery stores to get everything we need to support our gluten free diet. Luckily, all of the stores are rather close together. I am working to locate a better system in order to purchase all of the wonderful things our bodies need without spending so much time shopping.

I am also hoping to find a way to lower expenses. In reviewing my grocery budget, I have noticed that we are spending a lot more than normal due to our transition to a gluten free diet. I am accepting being over budget for now while we restock our pantry and learn a new way to eat. Hopefully, we will be able to bring the costs down to a reasonable amount in the very near future.

Gluten free shopping is so expensive. My husband and I bought a loaf of gluten free bread at a local bakery for $7.50 several days ago. That is for just one loaf of bread. It was delicious, but the expense was tremendous. We will not do well paying such high prices on unemployment. At this point, we either need to make our own gluten free bread, or go without bread altogether. After having a talk with my sweet husband, we went to the grocery store and picked up a package of Bob's Red Mill Bread Mix for almost $6.00. Of course this is not much less expensive than buying a ready-made loaf of bread from the bakery, but it is where we are starting today.

The bread turned out nice, it was much better than expected to be honest. I guess it is time to start doing more research on how to make gluten free bread so that we can afford to continue eating it. I am scared because I have read in a few places that it is very difficult or tricky to bake gluten free bread. I so badly want to make my families meals enjoyable for them. I do not want them to feel like they are being punished because of my special dietary restrictions.

So the journey begins...

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Juicing and Cookies

I have been reading a lot about food for the past several weeks. My goal is to find the best choices and information for my families dietary intake. Right now I feel as though my world is revolving around food because of the amount of research I am doing. If I am not reading about food, then I am reviewing potential recipes for meal ideas. From there, I am spending hours trying to shop for groceries while reading each and every ingredient label. Both my husband and I read each label and approve the package before it is placed into the buggy. Between the two of us, I believe we are doing quite well avoiding all traces of gluten.

After reviewing all of the benefits of a raw, whole foods diets, my family went shopping for a juicer. We searched high and low and finally decided on a Jack Lalanne's Power Juicer. I really liked how easy it appeared to be able to be taken apart to be cleaned. And, it seemed to be very user friendly. I am hoping that my daughter will be encouraged by this enough to make her own juiced beverages.

Of course, having purchased a juicer means we need to buy something to make juice with so we purchased a large bag of carrots. Upon arriving home, my husband unpacked the juicer for me to wash and dry. Then he washed the carrots and made us each a nice big glass of carrot juice. Now, as he is handing me the glass of carrot juice, my mind flashes back to a year ago when we bought some packaged carrot juice from Costco. I drank a few sips of it and gave it to my husband refusing to drink anymore. I gently reminded myself that carrots are full of good things, and that fresh is always better than store bought, pre-packaged foods. So, I cautiously took a drink of the freshly made carrot juice. It was pretty good! I was rather surprised.

While the carrot juice straight was rather good, I do believe I will prefer a blended carrot juice rather than straight carrot juice. So, my sweet husband agreed next time he will add other fruits and vegetables to my juice and experiment until we find ones we all enjoy. My daughter did not like straight carrot juice, but agreed to try a blended carrot juice later. My husband, of course, loved the straight carrot juice and finished his glass, along with my glass. Thankfully, the juice did not go to waste.

Later that evening we enjoyed fresh out of the oven Gluten Free Sunflower Butter Cookies. When I was a young girl, I was involved in a church group known as Missionette's which is very similar in many ways to a religious Girl Scout or Camp Fire Girl group,. One of the things that I needed to do in order to earn my cooking badge was to collect a lot of recipes (I am sure there was a particular number of recipes that I was to collect, but that information escapes me all these years later). One of the recipes that I collected was for Peanut Butter Cookies without flour. I remember thinking how odd it seemed to make cookies without flour, but the recipe was so simple, I kept it and used it often. My children have enjoyed these cookies for years.

Now that I am no longer able to eat foods with gluten, I am reminded of those peanut butter cookies that did not require flour. I decided to make them with my youngest daughter this evening because I had a touch of a sweet tooth and was feeling a bit gloomy about not being able to purchase many of my favorite things when we were shopping earlier today. It seemed as though everything I touched in the Costco had some form of gluten in it. I had managed to become slightly depressed. While I know it is not a good thing to feed depression with sugary foods, I decided it would be alright tonight.

I looked into the cabinet and was reminded that we now have several Nut Butters. Peanut butter, almond butter, and sunflower butter. The sunflower butter was the least expensive so I decided to try that one in this recipe.

Gluten Free Nut Butter Cookies

One cup peanut butter, almond butter, sunflower butter, or other nut butter
One cup sugar (I used organic pure cane sugar)
One teaspoon baking powder (aluminum free)
One egg (I use cage free)

Pre-heat the Oven to 350°.

Mix all ingredients together until creamy and well blended. Once all ingredients are mixed together well, put a little butter or cooking spray on your hands (this is to keep the dough from sticking to you - ICKY). Roll dough into balls about 1 1/2" to 2" across. Place on greased cookie sheet two finger widths apart. Once you have an entire cookie sheet filled, take a fork and mash down gently twice to make "#" on each cookie. Place in oven and bake for approx 8-10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on baking rack.


I am so happy to be able to keep a recipe from my past and continue using it. Although there was no conversion needed for this recipe, I am hopeful my other tried and true recipes will be easily converted to gluten free.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Gluten Free Diet - Day 7

Today is the end of our first full week of eating gluten free. We made it. I was worried that it would be difficult to remove the gluten from our diet, but am starting to realize that with just a little thought and advanced preparation, eating gluten free is not all that difficult.

For breakfast this morning, we had gluten free boxed cold cereal with Rice Dream rice milk. Breakfast was very late, almost at lunch time because of yesterdays late night homework-a-thon. This caused me to have breakfast for lunch.

For dinner, I decided to try my hand at baking fresh hot buttermilk biscuits to go with my husbands tasty omelets. I decided to use my normal recipe but simply to substitute the wheat flour with GF All Purpose flour. I noticed that the consistency reminded me of sugar cookies. The dough was not super sticky like I was accustomed to with wheat flour. I baked them for the same amount of time. The only change was that I used gf flour and that the biscuits were baked 25 degrees lower.

My family has decided that these gf biscuits are actually more light and tender than the ones made with the wheat flour. They were very yummy! What a wonderful way to end our first full week of living gluten free!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Gluten Free Diet - Day 6

Another day free from pain. I want so badly to believe that this new diet is what is making me not hurt. I want to believe that I have found the answer to why I have been so sick. I am also scared to believe. I am so afraid that it is just a coincidence and that I am going to wake up in a day or two back in pain. But I realize that fear won't get me anywhere so I keep pressing forward.

This morning, I started with a small glass of cold almond milk, sunflower butter on the last of the cinnamon bread, and thin slices of a Fuji apple. I have a school project that I am working on, so I have been rather preoccupied trying to get that done.

At lunch, my husband put together beautiful taco salads using left over ground chicken, white beans, spinach, organic corn chips from Trader Joe's, and rice cheese. I have really grown to enjoy the taco salads my husband makes me for lunch, but for some reason this one really hit the spot. Maybe because I was so hungry from all of that homework.

As the day continued, it became apparent that my homework was going to take the entire day and night. Thankfully, I had made plenty of salmon croquettes the night before so we were able to have left over salmon croquettes with a spinach and pear salad my daughter prepared and spiral sliced sweet potato fries my husband was craving. Dinner was delicious, and my homework was taking forever to complete.

Finally, at 4:30am on Day 7, I was finally finished with my school homework and able to go to sleep. It had been a very long day.