Monday, January 30, 2012

Basic Cream Sauce (Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Soy-Free, Nut-Free)

Raise your hand if you miss mac and cheese! How about creamy fettuccine sauce? Enchiladas with cream sauce? Is your hand raised? Mine is! I'm also getting really hungry...

Not that I don't love you all, but I might have to cut this post short so I can go make dinner. I'm thinking shrimp, smothered in basil cream sauce, and served over a bed of garlic sautéed greens. Who wants to join me for dinner?

It's pretty simple. All you have to do is dice a sweet potato, a rutabaga (yes seriously, a rutabaga), and a leek, throw 'em all in a casserole dish, and pour full-fat canned coconut milk over it all. Bake for an hour at 350 degrees F and you're practically there. You can spend that hour making the rest of your meal, enjoying a glass of wine, or dancing with your sweetheart. Or perhaps watching an episode of Downton Abbey, this newfangled British show I hear is all the rage? (I watched the first episode this week and I have to admit it is thoroughly entertaining. I fear I'm hooked.)

Once your hour is up, throw (or gently place) everything in the blender, puree until smooth, and you're golden. A thick, creamy sauce that literally melts on your tongue. Eat it as is or dress it up and turn it something worthy of a fancy title. Pesto cream sauce. Cilantro avocado cream sauce. Roasted red pepper cream sauce. I could go on... But I won't. Because I have shrimp to cook, and you have cream sauce to make. Seriously. This is amazing! Even if you can eat cheese, you'll still want to make this!

Basic Cream Sauce (Gluten/Dairy/Egg/Soy/Nut-Free) (Print-Friendly Option)

Enjoy this rich sauce over your pasta, drizzle it on your enchiladas, or use it as a cheese substitute for lasagna. Alternatively, you can serve it chilled as a dip and enjoy it with veggies or chips. Or if you're like me and you just need a quick pick-me-up, grab a spoon and have a couple of bites on their own. It's seriously that good.

1 large rutabaga, peeled and diced (about 2 cups diced)
1 large sweet potato, diced (about 3 cups diced) - I use the lighter sweet potatoes; the darker ones will taste just as good, but give you a deeper color to your sauce
1 leek, the white part sliced thin (save the dark green part for another day)
1 13.5 ounce can full-fat canned coconut milk
(Optional) Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
(Optional) Fresh basil or parsley, minced

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. 
  2. Place diced rutabaga, sweet potato, and leek in a casserole dish (this fits perfectly in my 8 x 11 inch dish). Pour coconut milk over the top and stir to coat evenly. 
  3. Bake for an hour, taking the dish out briefly after 30 minutes just to stir the ingredients for even baking. 
  4. Take dish out of the oven and puree the ingredients in a blender until creamy. I prefer my sauce thick, but you can add extra coconut milk or other milk to thin the sauce out if preferred. Taste and add salt and pepper if desired (I found it was just as good without salt as with). Garnish with minced fresh basil or parsley. Serve hot, use as a base for casserole dishes, or serve chilled with chips and vegetables.
Mushroom cream sauce: Sauté mushrooms and add them to the sauce after pureeing.
Roasted red pepper cream sauce: Puree roasted red peppers along with everything else.
Pesto cream sauce: Stir in some pesto after pureeing.
Italian cream sauce: Add in sundried tomatoes when pureeing, then stir in diced artichoke hearts.
Cilantro avocado cream sauce: Puree 1/4 avocado and a handful of fresh cilantro with everything else.
Enchilada cream sauce: Add in chopped green chiles, green onions, and fresh cilantro. 

Yield: Approximately 3 cups

This recipe is linked to Go Ahead Honey, It's Gluten-Free. The theme this month is Foods that Heal, hosted by Maggie of She Let Them Eat Cake. 

A little about the health benefits of this cream sauce:

Coconut milk: 
  • High in potassium
  • Good source of medium chain triglycerides, which are burned rapidly in the body, making it a good fat option for those watching their weight
  • BUT, when buying canned coconut milk, there are some disadvantages to take into account, and this article outlines them well. I personally like to buy Native Forest coconut milk, which is an organic brand that I trust.
  • High in vitamin C
  • Good source of fiber
Sweet Potatoes:
  • Good source of beta-carotene, which is absorbed well by the body when combined with fats (coconut milk) in your meal
  • High antioxidant status may reduce the risk of damage due to heavy metals and other toxins in the body (this is great for those of us with digestive problems!)
  • High in vitamin C, manganese, vitamin B6, and fiber
  • High in vitamin K, vitamin A, manganese, vitamin C, and folate
  • High concentration of antioxidant polyphenols helps blood vessels from oxidative damage
And most importantly, these ingredients work well for a lot of people with food sensitivities, making it a great addition to any dinner table!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Experiments in Gluten-Free Baking 101: Pineapple Muffins (Gluten-Free, Vegan)

For today's post, I'm going to do something a little bit different. In honor of a new website called The Balanced Platter, I want to help you all find a little of that balance in your own kitchens. Which, to me, means feeling comfortable adapting recipes to work with your own needs. Having a great recipe is important, but understanding how to play around with ingredients is key to enjoying your favorite foods. I always look at recipes and think about how I would like them to be different for my diet, and I'm sure you do the same.  

When Brittany and I began working on our gluten-free baking guides, it was with the knowledge that there were a lot of you out there feeling pretty confused in your kitchens. We could just hear the questions going through your heads (mostly because they were also going through our heads). "How can I make this recipe without eggs?" "What can I use instead of garbanzo bean flour?" "Can I use a gluten-free all-purpose mix in place of the flours in your recipe?" Our goal was to create a resource to answer all of those questions, and we did that. Of course, this is where I shamelessly plug our books and tell you to go pre-order both parts 1 and 2. You'll get the answers to all your questions, plus recipes for cinnamon rolls, pizza pockets, angel food cake, naan, and even a vegan, yeast-free sandwich bread recipe! Each book contains over 50 recipes, conveniently organized by main flour used. Wondering how to use up that amaranth flour you bought? Just skip to the chapter on amaranth and you'll find a bunch of recipes that you will love! Want to know how to use coconut flour without eggs? We have a number of egg-free recipes in our coconut flour chapter that will delight you and have your kids asking for more.

Now, while I know you'll benefit from having our books as a handy reference for your baking, I also want to teach you what I learn as I continue along in my own baking experiments. Perhaps a year ago, one of my readers asked me how I go about making substitutions in baking. I've been thinking about that question ever since. I knew there was no simple way for me to respond. Writing a baking guide was my first answer. This is my second one. I've decided to start a series here on how I bake. Rather than just sharing my final recipe with you, I'm going to take you through all the steps I go through to get there. I'll let you know what recipe I start with, how I make substitutions, and what my thought process is. If all you want is the recipe, it will be there for you. But if you're interested in how I got from point A to point B, I'll share all the fun details and you can learn right along with me!

First, here are some pointers on adapting recipes:
  1. Start with a recipe you trust. Either use a recipe you've tried before or a recipe from someone you know is a good baker.
  2. Only make one change at a time. If you change too many ingredients at once, you'll have no way of knowing how each individual change affected the recipe.
  3. When possible, make half or even quarter batches (which is easy with muffins). That way, if you don't like your end result, you won't have wasted as many ingredients. 
  4. Use a scale. If you don't have one, buy one. A cup is a cup is a cup, right? Wrong! I have measured a cup of almond flour and gotten measurements from 95 grams to 140 grams. Just imagine how different your recipe will turn out if you measure 95 grams of flour one time and 140 grams the next time. In general, my measurements come out pretty similar, but sometimes the numbers are extremely different and it is important to keep track. When I'm testing recipes, I try to write down the weight of every ingredient so that I can be as exact as possible when retesting. It's also a lot easier to cut recipes in half when you have the weights.
  5. Write everything down, not just ingredients. Keep notes on how your recipe looks, feels, tastes, and any thoughts you have. Don't assume you'll remember what you thought, because you probably won't. Just put everything in your notebook so you can reference it the next time you work on that recipe.
Okay, ready to start? Today we're making Pineapple Muffins. Why? Because I had a can of pineapple tidbits in my pantry that I wanted to use up. This is how many of my recipes come about, and it's as good a reason as any to learn to adapt recipes. How many times have you had to run to the store because you were missing an ingredient? Most of the time now, I just use what I have and try to make it work!

Step 1: Start with a trusted recipe. I decided to use this recipe for quick bread from my co-author, Brittany. I've used it before, and know that she tested it probably over twenty times until she had it perfect. I also know that it's a "basic" recipe, meaning that you can make a lot of changes and it will still work. 

Step 2: Start adapting. Here's where you're supposed to make one change at a time. I have to be honest and tell you that I never follow that rule, even though I'm telling you to. I'm way too impatient. However, I've also had a lot of flops and that's probably why...
  • Brittany calls for 2 cups of gluten-free all-purpose flour. My personal favorite blend these days is a 1:1:1 ratio (in cups, not grams) of coconut flour to rice flour to starch. I've used this successfully in many recipes in place of all-purpose blends. In this case, I decided to use brown rice flour since it's more nutritious than white rice flour. I chose tapioca as my starch simply because I was running out of potato starch, and arrowroot starch is expensive. I often use potato and tapioca starch interchangeably, although there are subtle differences between the two. So for my 2 cups of flour, I used 2/3 cup of coconut flour, 2/3 cup of brown rice flour, and 2/3 cup of tapioca starch. 
  • Brittany calls for 1 teaspoon of xanthan gum. In general, when I'm replacing xanthan gum, I start with 1-2 tablespoons of flax seed meal, chia seed meal, or whole psyllium husks (or a combination of two). Sometimes, I find it works best to make a gel by mixing the ingredient with hot water, but with muffins, you can often just add the psyllium, flax, or chia without any extra water. Muffins hold together pretty well on their own, so I decided to just use 1 tablespoon of whole psyllium husks, added to the dry ingredients. I could have gone with flax or chia seed meal, but whole psyllium husks are really good at keeping baked goods from deflating after baking. Since coconut flour is so dense, I thought these muffins might need that extra little help. 
  • Brittany calls for 3/4 cup milk + 1 teaspoon of vinegar. The purpose of this is to curdle the milk and make a "buttermilk." However, you can replace 1 cup of buttermilk with 7/8 cup of juice in many recipes. I decided to use 3/4 cup of pineapple juice. Technically, I should have used a little less than 3/4 cup, but since I didn't add any hot water with the whole psyllium husks, I figured a little extra juice would be fine. (You'll see that I was wrong about that...)
  • I added 1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon and 1/8 teaspoon of ground allspice to give the muffins a little oomph.
  • I used 1 1/2 cups of yogurt instead of 1 1/4 cups, using So Delicious plain coconut yogurt as the yogurt called for. In all honesty, I only did this because I read her recipe wrong, although it worked out fine. But here's another tip for you. Pay attention when you're reading the ingredients list.
  • I followed everything else in Brittany's recipe as it was written. For the granulated sugar, I used regular old refined cane sugar. It's cheaper, so I tend to use that when testing recipes, and then test out the final version with coconut palm sugar or another unrefined sugar. I did not add in pineapple tidbits in my first version.
  • Brittany's quick bread is supposed to be baked at 330 degrees F for 50-120 minutes (depending on ingredients). For muffins, I decided to go with 350 degrees F and simply baked them until a knife stuck in the middle came out clean, which  took a full 27 minutes.  
  • Results? My first batch was very sweet, leading me to think I could get away with using less sugar on the second round. The pineapple flavor was tasty, but a bit too "one-note" so I decided to increase the spices and add in a little ground ginger. My testers thought they would be tasty with some chopped fruit or nuts, so I threw in some pineapple tidbits. They also took a long time to cook and even then were a tad bit gummy inside, so I used less liquid on my second try. They didn't collapse after baking, but looked like they wanted to, so I added more pyllium husks- not a lot though since I didn't want to affect the flavor at all.  

Step 3: Make them again, using your notes from last time and making new changes.
  • I increased the whole psyllium husks from 1 tablespoon (3 teaspoons) to 4 teaspoons. This time, I added them to the wet ingredients rather than the dry so that they could begin to expand in the liquid a little sooner. 
  • I cut the sugar down from 3/4 cup to 1/2 cup since the pineapple juice was so sweet. 
  • I cut the pineapple juice down from 3/4 cup to 1/2 cup since the muffins took so long to bake all the way through. 
  • I increased the cinnamon from 1/4 teaspoon to 1/2 teaspoon, the allspice from 1/8 teaspoon to 1/4 a teaspoon, and added 1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger. 
  • I added in 1 cup of pineapple tidbits to give the muffins a heartier bite.
  • Results? These muffins were just perfect! They still took a good 25 minutes to bake, but were moist without being gummy, and had just a hint of spice. From there, the only other thing I wanted to change was to test them again with coconut palm sugar. 

Step 4: Test them once last time, making any final changes.
  • I replaced the 1/2 cup refined cane sugar with 1/2 cup of coconut palm sugar. The result was a muffin that was darker in color, with a mildly sweet flavor. They were moist, delicious, and of course healthier than the original muffins made with refined sugar. I found that the texture was best after they had been allowed to cool completely.

My thoughts on future variations: 
  • I would love to try these again with chopped walnuts or pecans added in with the pineapple tidbits. 
  • It would be fun to try these with apple juice and chopped apples instead of the pineapple juice and pineapple tidbits. 
  • Since the original recipe I started with called for 2 cups of all-purpose mix, it would likely work just as well to make these with your own all-purpose mix rather than the flours and starches called for. But I haven't tried it myself...
  • If I took out the psyllium husks and added an egg, they would likely rise more. I might need to reduce the amount of liquid a tiny bit to add in the egg. I would probably reduce the oil rather than the pineapple juice since both oil and eggs are sources of fat. But not having done this, I don't know if it would work. More often than not, I bake without eggs these days since more people can eat my baked goods that way.
Have a recipe you'd like me to adapt? Leave a comment or send me an e-mail, letting me know what recipe you want to change and what your dietary restrictions are. If I can successfully adapt your recipe, I'll feature it in one of my Experiments in Gluten-Free Baking 101 posts. Or if I fail, I just might include that too! It's just as helpful to know what doesn't work as what does.

Pineapple Muffins (Print-Friendly Option) 
Enjoy these sweet treats for breakfast or an afternoon snack. Try adding in some chopped nuts for added protein and a nice hearty bite.  

2/3 cup coconut flour (80 grams)
2/3 cup brown rice flour (88 grams)
2/3 cup tapioca starch (84 grams)
1/2 cup coconut palm sugar (76 grams)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/3 cup mild-flavored oil- canola, grapeseed, extra light olive (70 grams)
1/2 cup pineapple juice (104 grams)
1 1/2 cups yogurt (I used 2 6-oz containers of So Delicious plain coconut yogurt)
4 teaspoons whole psyllium husks

1 cup pineapple tidbits (170 grams)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Prepare a 12 cup muffin tin with liners or by greasing the cups. 
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the coconut flour, brown rice flour, tapioca starch, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and spices.
  3. In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the oil, juice, yogurt, and psyllium husks. Stir the wet ingredients into the dry until no longer lumpy. Stir in the pineapple tidbits. 
  4. Fill the muffin tins about 3/4 full. Wet your fingertips with water or oil and smooth the tops of the muffins. 
  5. Bake for 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let cool for a few minutes before removing to a cooling rack.
Makes 12 muffins.

The Balanced Platter is an amazing new website devoted to healthy living and eating. It was created by Amy Green of Simply Sugar & Gluten-Free, and Maggie Savage of She Let Them Eat Cake. I have found it to be a wonderful resource and I think you will too!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Curry Braised Chicken Thighs with Apples and Leeks

I made this dish three times last week. Partly because I wanted to be sure I had it right before I shared it with you. But also just because it was that good. I've been missing comfort food. You know, the kind of hot meal you eat on a cold winter night while watching a movie? With multiple food sensitivities, comfort food often goes out the door, replaced by lots of fish and veggies. Delicious, yes. Healthy, certainly. Comforting? Not exactly. These Curry Braised Chicken Thighs with Apples and Leeks gave me exactly what I was craving. Warm and mildly spiced, it made my mind and my stomach happy. And that's no easy task!

Curry Braised Chicken Thighs with Apples and Leeks (Print-Friendly Option) 
Enjoy a nice curry sauce without using any starch as a thickener. Flax seed meal is a great alternative to using tapioca or cornstarch, and this makes a delicious, low-glycemic meal your guests will love. 

1 tablespoon coconut oil (sub: ghee, butter)
1 tablespoon ground flax seed meal
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon curry powder
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
2 organic chicken thighs
1 leek, just the white part, sliced thin (save the dark green parts for making broth or soup)
1 apple, diced
1/4 cup water
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

  1. Heat coconut oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. You want the pan to be hot but not smoking. Mix the flax, cumin, curry, and salt together in a large bowl. Rinse and pat the chicken thighs dry, then dredge them in the seasonings. Add to the pan and cook for 3 minutes, until chicken is browned. 
  2. Turn chicken over and pour any seasoning that was left in the bowl over it. Add the leeks, apple, and water. Put the top on and simmer for 15 minutes.  Depending on how hot your stove gets, you may need to turn the heat down to medium-low. You just want the dish to be simmering, not boiling.
  3. After 15 minutes, turn the chicken over again, stir the apples and leeks to ensure even cooking, and put the top back on for another 5 minutes. Add freshly ground black pepper to taste and serve hot. 
Serves 2.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Banana Chocolate Chunk Cookies (Gluten-Free, Refined Sugar-Free, Vegan)

What does the New Year mean to you? To many, it means a chance to reflect on where they've been and where they would like to go. It is an opportunity to make meaningful changes and identify those areas in their lives where they are ready to commit to something new. My friend, Hallie, author of The Pure Kitchen, understands that desire to use this time of year as a stepping off point. A bridge, not to a "better" you, but to a happier you. Because ultimately, that is the goal in life, isn't it? I asked a client recently how she wanted to live her life, and she told me, "I just want to be happy." Isn't that all any of us wants in the end?

How are cookies going to help you be happier? As part of a "New Year, New You" January event (hosted by Hallie and Lexie), I'm sharing a recipe with you today that focuses on healthier sweeteners. I want to help you step away from anything refined or chemical (e.g. regular old table sugar, splenda, equal) and find your way to working comfortably with unrefined sweeteners. What are we talking about then? I like to use sugar alternatives like sucanat, turbinado sugar, maple syrup, raw honey, coconut palm sugar, stevia and more. Sucanat and turbinado sugar are both less processed forms of table sugar, while the other sweeteners are made from different plants or trees (or bees). Today we're going to be using coconut palm sugar, a low-glycemic alternative to refined cane sugar.

Here's the basic story of what happens when you eat refined cane sugar. Sugar is released quickly into your bloodstream, causing your blood-glucose levels to rise (glucose is a type of sugar). This stimulates your pancreas to secrete insulin. You know what insulin is, right? It's that thing they talk about in relation to diabetes. Basically, insulin is your body's way of regulating your blood sugar levels. When insulin levels rise (like after eating a batch of banana chocolate chunk cookies made with regular sugar), it tells your body to get rid of all that sugar circulating around. It's sent into your fat tissues for storage, which can then lead to hypoglycemia or low blood glucose. The result is that you end up tired and craving that very thing that sent you into a tailspin in the first place: more sugar. Because your blood sugar is now way too low, your body wants a quick dose of sugar to bring it back up. You end up going back and eating more of those cookies that didn't make you feel good in the first place and then wondering once again why your cravings got so out of control.

How can you regulate your blood sugar so that you don't vacillate between high and low blood glucose levels?
  • Include a source of protein and/or healthy fats at each meal or snack. Protein and fat counteract the effects of insulin and slow down the absorption of sugar into your cells. These cookies contain coconut oil, a healthier fat than you'll find in most commercial cookies.
  • Choose foods that are low on the glycemic index. The glycemic index is a measure of a food's effect on your blood glucose levels. Refined sugar rates an 80 on that scale. Coconut palm sugar rates a 35. When I bake goodies with coconut palm sugar, my housemates tell me they feel much better afterward. On the other hand, when I bake those same recipes with refined sugar, I notice my housemates going back for seconds and thirds more often. It's that insidious nature of sugar to spike your blood sugar, drop it down, and make you want more. Coconut palm sugar won't do that. 
  • Eat every 2-3 hours to keep your blood sugar from dropping too low. No matter what you're eating, if you go long hours in between meals and snacks, your blood glucose levels are going to drop. Once they get too low, you go from being a nice, normal person to being a crazy lunatic who will eat anything in sight. Because sugar is the fastest way to get your blood sugar up, that's what you're going to want. This isn't about willpower. This is about your body's chemistry. Give your body a steady source of energy so that it doesn't start screaming for a quick fix that you'll regret later.
  • Finally, keep in mind that baked goods (unless they're made with low-glycemic flours like almond flour and coconut flour) are going to raise your blood sugar levels regardless of how you sweeten them. That's because the flour itself is high in carbohydrates, which will break down to sugar in your body. Luckily, sorghum flour (which is the flour I use in these cookies) is a good source of both protein and fiber.
My recipe for Banana Chocolate Chunk Cookies is included below, but be sure to also read my guidelines under that. I've added instructions for how to make lots of substitutions to these cookies, including what to use if you don't want to make them with bananas, how to add extra protein to your cookies, and how to substitute other flours. I've played around with this recipe a lot and it's very adaptable, so don't be shy. Get in your kitchen and experiment!
Banana Chocolate Chunk Cookies
(Print-Friendly Option)

These cookies are a crowd pleaser. When I asked my friend for his honest opinion, he told me they were addictive. I believe his exact words were, "I would get sick eating these. I would eat them until I vomited." Maybe I shouldn't be quoting him on that, but I couldn't help myself. I took it as a compliment.

Yield: 16 cookies

1 cup sorghum flour (136 grams)
1/3 cup arrowroot starch (40 grams)
2/3 cup coconut palm sugar (104 grams)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
6 tablespoons pureed banana (92 grams)
6 tablespoons melted coconut oil (68 grams)
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2/3 cup chocolate chunks (104 grams)

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Set out 2 cookie sheets. You can grease them, but I find it's generally not necessary with these cookies.
  2. Whisk together the sorghum flour, arrowroot starch, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl. Add the banana, oil, and vanilla extract. Stir until completely mixed. 
  3. Stir in the chocolate chunks. I used a dark chocolate bar and just broke it up. Of course, chocolate chips would work just as well.
  4. Roll heaping tablespoons of dough into balls and flatten slightly. If you use some of the substitutions below, your dough may be stickier and you will not be able to roll it into balls. In that case, just drop the dough onto the cookie sheets as you would any other drop cookies. Those will spread slightly. 
  5. Bake for 12 minutes. Let cool on the cookie sheet for a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack. 
Now for the fun part! I have made about ten different variations on these cookies, and I've included everything I've tried below. I found it was almost impossible to mess them up! Not completely impossible though...I did try one variation that resulted in a giant brittle cookie that required an overnight soaking of the cookie sheet to unstick it. Obviously, that variation is not included!

Note: With all of my substitutions, I substituted by volume (cups), not weight. I found substituting by weight often resulted in flatter cookies that spread. If you want to use weight, just keep in mind the consistency of the original batter and add small amounts of flour, if needed, to thicken it. If it's too thin, the cookies will spread more than you might want.

How to replace:
Bananas: Use an equal amount of unsweetened applesauce.
Arrowroot starch: Use an equal amount of tapioca or potato starch.
Sorghum flour: Use an equal amount of buckwheat, teff, garbanzo bean, millet, brown rice, white rice, or quinoa flour. Keep in mind that your cookies will take on the flavor of whatever flour you choose, so pick one that you like! This recipe does NOT work with coconut flour. I am pretty sure the recipe could work with almond flour, but I have not yet figured out the exact proportions. Once I have that down, I'll post the recipe for you. If you want to start playing around with almond flour, here's a tip: skip the oil completely, use more almond flour, and chill the dough for an hour in the fridge before baking.
Chocolate: Commercial chocolate bars are hard to find without refined sugar. You can make your own stevia-sweetened chocolate bars, or you can use an equal amount of something else. Try chopped walnuts, pecans, raisins, or even sesame seeds! 
Coconut Oil: Use an equal amount of any type of mild-flavored oil, such as canola oil, extra light olive oil, or grapeseed oil.
Coconut Palm Sugar: Use an equal amount of sucanat or turbinado sugar. If your sugar is particularly coarse (the crystals are large), run it through your blender quickly to make the crystals smaller. If all you have is regular table sugar, you can use that too. Just don't eat too many!

How to use an all-purpose mix: Choose a mix that does not contain xanthan or guar gum. I tested mine with Bob's Red Mill All-Purpose Mix. Take out the sorghum flour and arrowroot starch and substitute in 1 1/3 cups of the all-purpose mix.

How to add more protein:
As I mentioned above, having protein with your carbs will lead to a steadier blood sugar level throughout the day. For vegans, you can add chopped nuts or seeds to your batter with the chocolate chips. For non-vegans, eggs are a great way to increase the protein in your cookies:
  • Add 1 large egg with your wet ingredients. Cut the banana puree down from 6 tablespoons to 2 tablespoons. Cut the baking powder down from 1 teaspoon to 1/2 teaspoon.
To help you get started with natural sweeteners, Hallie is hosting a giveaway this week for a gift pack of natural sweeteners from Wholesome Sweeteners. Stop by to enter for your chance to win!

Other bloggers swapping out their sugar for natural sweeteners:
Amy from Simply Sugar and Gluten-Free shares her point of view on swapping sweeteners.
Diet, Dessert, and Dogs made a Low-Fat Cinnamon-Walnut Loaf using stevia powder.
Daily Bites made Soft Island Bliss Cookies using honey.
Lexie’s Kitchen made some Candied Walnuts using coconut sugar.
Maggie of She Let Them Eat Cake made Cookie Dough Milkshake using molasses and dates.

This post is linked to Munchie Mondays

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Simple Sautéed Brussels Sprouts

I have a problem with brussels sprouts. It's the fact that there's an s after brussel. It took me a long time to learn this, and an even longer time to accept it. I still don't really. I think whoever decided on the spelling should be posthumously invalidated, and brussels sprouts should be spelled correctly. As brussel sprouts. Which is how we pronounce them. Apparently they were named after the city in Belgium, but since they are not believed to have originated there, I think we should take the name back.

I'm not sure why this bothers me so much. Maybe because I won two spelling bees back in elementary school, and it hurts my pride to know I've been spelling this word wrong for years. Like in this recipe for roasted brussels sprouts from 2010. Maybe I should stop taking so much pride in winning a spelling bee almost 20 years ago. 20 years? Ouch... I would say OMG, but I just suddenly realized I'm too old for that. Although the kids probably aren't even saying that anymore these days. They're saying something else that I'm too old to know about. Sniffle sniffle.

I'm kidding. At least about being upset over my impending thirties. I'm not kidding about taking too much pride in my spelling bee wins (okay, I only won one; I came in 4th the second year).  However, Brittany and I have been feverishly working on our cookbooks for their deadline on January 15th, so I'm a little bit slaphappy right now. I shouldn't actually be writing a blog post because I have way too much book writing to do. But clearly writing about brussels sprouts was important and it had to happen right away.  

Simple Sautéed Brussels Sprouts (Print-Friendly Option)

1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 pound brussels sprouts, sliced thin
Sea salt to taste
1/2 inch piece of ginger, minced
15 drops liquid stevia (or 1-2 teaspoons maple syrup for non-stevia people)

  1. Heat coconut oil over medium heat in a large sauté pan. You want the pan to be hot enough to sear the brussels sprouts, but not so hot that the oil begins to smoke. Add the brussels sprouts and sprinkle with sea salt. I would give you an exact amount, but I know everyone's preferences for salt are different, so just go with your instincts here. Cook for 3-4 minutes, until the brussels sprouts are browned. 
  2. Add the ginger and stevia, and stir the brussels sprouts. Cook for another 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally if needed. Serve hot.

Serves 2.

In more exciting news - although really, what could be more exciting than brussels sprouts - our books' covers have been finalized, and both of our books are available for pre-order on Amazon! I am beyond excited! You can click on the photos below to be taken to the links on Amazon. And if you wanted to order a copy (or two), I certainly wouldn't stop you!

(p.s. The winner of the Flackers giveaway is Carolyn. She has the most hysterically funny blog, which I spent too much time reading last night! I highly encourage you to go read it!)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Flackers (Flax Crackers) Review and Giveaway


Traveling while gluten-free is never easy. Traveling while gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, sugar-free (etc. etc.) is even harder. Yet I've done a lot of it this year, and I'm finally beginning to feel like I know what I'm doing (sort of). It requires planning, trips to the grocery store in every city, and fortitude. It also requires having a few snacks on hand to get you through the times when you don't have any available options. Apples will only go so far, and while baked sweet potatoes work for me, they're not the most convenient snack to carry around. There are no gluten-free snack products on the market that I can eat at this point - at least none that I've found. Except Flackers.

Flackers are raw (sprouted and dehydrated) flax crackers made with minimal ingredients, created by a company called Dr. in the Kitchen. They're not readily available in most stores yet, but I've been able to find them reliably at Whole Foods stores. I first tried them this past summer when I was visiting my sisters in California. Reading the ingredient list, I was surprised to see that they looked like they might be okay for me. So I bought a box and immediately ate a cracker. And another one. And then another one. They were delicious and tasted great on their own (no dips or spreads needed). I waited a minute to see if I would feel the tell tale puffy jaw that I get when I'm reacting to a food, but nothing happened. Woohoo! A snack I can actually buy at the store and have on hand? It's a miracle!

After I got back to Seattle, I had trouble finding all of the flavors, so their company kindly sent me a package of all three flavors to try out. Believe me though, I would be writing a review for them even if they hadn't sent me any because I am so happy to find a product I can eat. I continue to purchase them whenever I find them in stores. For those of you who avoid soy, I'll note that I am also eliminating soy from my diet right now, but that I don't seem to have any reaction to the soy in Flackers. I did notice that of the three flavors, two of them gave me mild heartburn due to chili peppers in the ingredients (I also avoid nightshades), but I had no problem with the Rosemary Flackers.

Ingredients in Rosemary Flackers:
organic flax seeds, organic apple cider vinegar, non-GMO vegetable protein from non-GMO soybeans and purified water, organic rosemary, organic sage

The Giveaway:
Dr. in the Kitchen is offering one reader a pack of all 3 flavors of Flackers: Rosemary, Savory, and Dill. To enter, you can do any of the following. You can receive multiple entries, just leave a comment for everything you do. Please make sure you leave an e-mail address or way for me to contact you!

How to enter:
1. Leave a comment. Simple!
2. Post about this giveaway on Facebook and leave a comment letting me know.
3. Post about this giveaway on twitter and leave a comment letting me know.
4. Follow Dr. in the Kitchen on twitter or Facebook and leave a comment letting me know.

This giveaway will close at midnight on Saturday January 7th.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

How to Make a Vision Board plus Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cookies (Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free, Vegan)

I've written about vision boards a lot over the past couple of years, and I often get asked how to make one, so I thought I would share my personal vision boarding process. I really don't think there is a right or wrong way to make one, but this is what works for me. Of course, you can make it at any time during the year, but I love the idea of starting a new calendar year with a fresh vision board. In all honesty, I have yet to make mine this year because the timing hasn't felt right. I've got a big board, lots of photos and magazines, but a somewhat misty vision. After being gone from home for two and a half weeks, there's a lot of emotional dust that needs to settle before I can be clear on what I want this year. But I can tell it's almost time...

Okay, so you want to make a vision board? Here's what you'll need:
  • A couple of hours of free time (you might be quick and do this in 30 minutes or less, but it takes me a while...)
  • A large piece of paper, poster board, or cardboard
  • Pens, pencils, markers, paint, glitter
  • Magazines, photos, your imagination
  • Glue, tape
Basically, go back to being a kid and get out as many art supplies as you can find! Then what?
  • Spend ten minutes getting your "meditative" brain on. In other words, rather than wracking your brain trying to decide exactly what you want to happen this year, spend ten minutes just being in your body and letting your monkey brain float around. You can try: meditation, yoga, dancing, or listening to music. Sometimes I like to grab some crayons and a piece of paper and just let the colors flow on the paper, without regard to what I'm actually drawing. The act of letting go of the outcome seems to open me up to my own creative process. 
  • Once you're feeling the introspective juices flowing, you're ready to vision board away. No TV in the background please, but certainly put on some of your favorite music if you want! This is the fun part. Tear out pictures from magazine, cut photos, write down words or phrases that come to mind. Just make a big pile of everything that's coming to you, and don't judge or question why something feels right. If you like a photo, but don't know what it represents, put it on there anyway. If you cut something out, but then it doesn't feel right when you place it on the board, let it go. Your vision board can be all pictures, all words, it can be something you draw yourself or just photos you've cut out. It can be literal or metaphorical. It just has to speak to you in some way. 
So what's the point in doing a vision board? 
  • Once you've got all the images you want, turn your board into a beautiful collage. This is like a visual mantra for you this year. I put my board up on my bedroom wall where I can see it when I'm meditating or doing yoga. Of course, the idea is to make manifest all of the visions on your board. The cool thing is that you really never know exactly how that will happen. I like to keep past vision boards on a separate wall, where I can look at them and be reminded of where I've been and where I'm going. 
  • Why do I make vision boards? Because they allow me to clear my mind of all the clutter and simply focus on where I'm going. When I look at my vision board, it reminds me what I'm working on, mentally, emotionally, and physically. And it is that rather than any magical power of the board that makes vision boards work. And I do believe they work. 
Which is why I still need to make my vision board, and why you should make one too. 

Now, for cookies.

Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cookies (Print-Friendly Version)

After tasting these, a friend declared that they reminded him of cinnamon toast crunch cereal. But unlike the super sweet cereal of your childhood, these cookies have a subtle flavor that can be enhanced by the sugar on top. I used coconut palm sugar on the cookies, but play around with whatever type of granulated sugar you like. If you want to stay completely sugar-free, just skip the cinnamon and sugar on top altogether. These would also be delicious as cookie sandwiches with caramel sauce!

3/4 cup dates or prunes
2 tablespoons flax seed meal or chia seed meal
1/2 cup boiling water

1 3/4 cups  (270 grams) sweet white rice flour (see note below)
1/3 cup (50 grams) teff flour
2/3 cup (115 grams) potato starch
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 
3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon stevia

2 tablespoons coconut palm sugar (or any granulated sugar)
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly oil or grease 2 cookie sheets.
  2. Pour boiling water over dates and flax seed meal in a blender. Set aside for ten minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together flours, starch, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, cloves and salt. 
  4. After the dates (or prunes) and flax seed meal have sat for ten minutes, add the coconut oil and stevia to the blender. Blend together until pureed. 
  5. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir together until well mixed, then knead until a dough forms. Roll the dough out between two sheets of parchment paper. You want the dough to be 1/8 - 1/4 inch thick. Use cookie cutters to cut into whatever shape you like. This dough is delicate, so I only roll out about a handful at a time and use a spatula to transfer to the cookie sheet. 
  6. Bake for 12 minutes. Allow to cool a few minutes on the cookie sheet before transferring to a cooling rack. 
Makes approximately 42 two-inch round cookies. Will last for weeks stored in an airtight container at room temperature (I know this because I sent them to a friend; they got lost in the mail and arrived a month later, and were still good!)
    Note: Sweet white rice flour is also called glutinous (not glutenous) rice flour or mochiko. It's usually found in Asian grocery stores or even the Asian section of your local grocery store (that's where I get mine). It is NOT the same as white rice flour, and if you try subbing in white rice flour in this recipe, I have no idea what kind of result you'll get. None. No clue. Don't even want to waste my flour to try it.

    Sunday, January 1, 2012

    12 Goals for 2012

    2011 was a pretty grand year. The fearful pessimist in me wonders if 2012 is bound to be horrible, since I can't really have two great years in a row, can I? But the optimist in me says that I made 2011 what it was, and I can do the same for 2012. The optimist in me says that I can choose how I live my life, and so that's what I'm going to do. No resolutions for me. I stopped making them years ago. But I have some goals, and perhaps you'll find they resonate with you as well. So I'm writing them down and sending these intentions out into the universe. I think 2012 is going to be amazing; don't you?
    1. Laughter. Laughter is my word for 2012. I've always been a bit too serious and lacking in the laughter department. So this year my goal is to be more like my housemates, the laughter twins. I'm not exactly sure how one learns to laugh more, but gosh darn it, I'm going to figure it out!
    2. Don't worry about what was or what will be. Thanks mom, for this piece of wisdom. You know me. Always a worrywart. Always thinking about how things used to be or how things will be. This year I will continue my everlasting quest to focus on how things
    3. Dance. Dancing is like my meditation. It seems to be the only thing that shuts down the wheels in my brain. So I resolve to dance every day, even if it's in the grocery store aisle and everyone's looking at me funny.
    4. Get enough sleep. I've finally come to accept that I need 8-9 hours of sleep a night to feel good. If you're one of those lucky people who runs on 5 hours a night, more power to you. I am a cranky, miserable person when I don't get enough sleep. So for everyone's sake, I'm working on shutting down my Facebook and turning out the light earlier at night.
    5. Post recipes I can actually eat! I have a horrible habit of making things I can't eat. It comes from my love of baking, but for right now, my gut can't seem to handle any baked goods. It doesn't seem to matter what they do or don't contain. My body just doesn't want them. So while I probably won't be able to stop myself from baking (it's a sickness), one of my biggest goals this year is to work more on recipes for the blog that won't make me sick.
    6. Tune out the clatter. Don't we all need this sometimes? Facebook, twitter, US brain is all abuzz with everybody else's business. I should just ignore it all and go dance!
    7. Tune into the world. While I'm busy checking everyone's Facebook status updates for the umpteenth time, I forget to read the news and find out what's going on in the world. There is a world outside of blogging and baking, and it would do me good to remember that.
    8. Believe in myself. This is a constant. I am always working on renewing my faith in myself, reminding myself that no one can hold me back - except my own fear. So I just have to believe and push forward.
    9. Replace negativity with mindful breathing. Too often, I find myself feeling annoyed/envious/angered/jealous of or by others. And when I take a step back, I know that the situation doesn't warrant the negative vibes I'm emanating. So I want to stop myself whenever I'm silently muttering hateful thoughts. Just stop and instead focus on my breath. There's nothing wrong with allowing myself to feel all my emotions, even the negative ones. But there's something right about letting the negativity go and just breathing instead.
    10. Learn to ride a horse. I've been telling people I want a horse for years. I think it's about time I buy myself some horseback riding lessons. Nothing philosophical here. I just love horses. 
    11. Do everything that scares me. Okay, maybe not everything. Some things would be plain stupid. But in 2011, I just scratched the surface of the scaredy cat box. This year, I want to take on every opportunity that terrifies me. What's the worst that can happen? I get over my fears?
    12. Be healthy. I've spent the last few years struggling to feel right. Even last night, I watched as everyone drank champagne while I sipped on the ginger tea I'd made in an attempt to quell my raging headache. I'm determined to go into 2013 feeling happy, healthy, and energetic. Which first requires working on the last 11 goals. 
    Here's to 2012! To following your dreams and making them reality. (And to Elise, because I believe in your dreams too.)


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