Wednesday, March 31, 2010

My Favorite Snack is Gluten-Free!

Surprise, surprise, my all time favorite snack is accidentally gluten-free. Initially I thought this snack would be a no no, but it turns out there are gluten-free lime chips. Corazonas no less! It's nice to know I won't have to go without my favorite snack food.

And for lunch? I love me some lime chips with black beans and cheese. I heat up some canned organic black beans, squish some of them with a fork, mix in 1 to 2 tablespoons of Monterey Jack, keep heating until they reach that slightly soupy slightly refried bean consistancy, and boom you got my favorite snack which apparently turns out to be gluten free.

Not all Corazonas are guaranteed gluten free so don't go eating them randomly without checking, especially the one with oats in it if you're a celiac. But the corn tortilla chips with lime are gluten free. Since it's my favorite snack, I did check and had thought they were not gluten free because I was looking up the kind with oats in them. But they apparently had enough people writing in with this question that they added a specific marker on certain bags of their chips. YAY! Now I can have my favorite snack and/or lunch food without worrying about it. I just love when things work out that way.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Do you really cook all that food?

No! Sometimes Carlie does, sometimes Patch, other times I do (tho usually with one of their help to stir something or chop some ingredients) and sometimes I find a yummy treat somewhere like today at Whole Foods Market in Chandler, AZ.

Today I had gluten-free black bean soup and a mix of vegetables seasoned with sage. I'm going to try making a warm version of the vegetable mix myself. Maybe some day I'll make some black bean soup as well... I'm very curious to try making bean soup, and I really love black beans. If I put rice in it, it would have that perfect protein mix going for it as well. Although rice in soup has always struck me as odd.

The mixed vegetables had sage, salt, pepper, and olive oil on butternut squash, zucchini and a couple other kinds of squash. It may also have had some citrus.  I think it would be great with some cheese gnochi or some kind of ravioli. It was tasty cold, but I really wished I had some way to heat it up since the day was so cloudy and the soup was so nice and warm. Somehow eating cold vegetables and hot soup was an odd combo. It was a good thing to eat before heading next door to Bodhi Body tho. I felt better able to sit and get my first I.V. treatment than if I'd gone in there hungry.  Tomorrow I go in for my food allergy tests. Let's hope they agree to do my celiac tests so I can finally stop eating gluten 100% and see if it helps. I'm already feeling better bit by bit these days... not sure which parts of the treatments are working, but the supplements and I.V. definitely have had the most obvious immediate results.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Home Cooked Italian YUM

I LOVE Italian food and Carlie makes some mouth watering pasta dishes. She has lived with Patch and I for the last 8 years and our stomachs are forever grateful. She comes from a family that is half Irish, and half Italian but she is one of those that looks 100% Italian, and from the way she cooks, you would believe it. After I read some of the recipes and comments in the "Gluten-free Italian" cookbook to her, she mentioned that if we could get the hang of cooking with gluten-free pastas we could make just about any of the meals she usually makes because there is no gluten in tomato, cauliflower, nor meat. 

True, although I have noticed the occasional use of wheat-flour in some strangely unexpected places, so we'll keep our eyes open for ways it might try to sneak into our diet. It will depend on how intolerant of gluten I am, but I have read that as little as a tablespoon a day can cause flare ups in some people and we may therefor have to be super vigilant about the ways gluten sneaks into our foods. I believe our new grocery store mantra will be, "When in doubt, leave it out!"

Other than being vigilant by reading the ingredients on pre made and packaged foods, she's right! Preparing Italian food should be pretty much the same as before. 

I found premade gluten-free lasagna noodles at Whole Foods and picked a box up. We are likely to end up making our own pasta some time soon, because frankly, home made is almost always better than pre-packaged, but it's a lot more work to make your own, and we don't have a pasta machine so we will be using prepackaged most of the time. Thankfully the Gluten-free Italian cookbook I bought on amazon does have a pasta recipe that looks like it will make great ravioli. Mmmmmm I can't wait to make interesting fillings for ravioli.

Tonight we made brown rice risotto with chicken. We LOVED IT! And want to make it again. Makes enough for 6-8 people depending on if you serve it as an entire meal as we did, or a hearty side dish.

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 small yellow onion
1 small red onion
1 tsp garlic powder (0r 2 cloves of chopped garlic if you ahve them)
10 - 12 ounces skinless, boneless chicken breast cubed (1 inch cubes)
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon rosemary
4 tablespoons diced bacon (or prosciutto if you have it)
2 cups brown rice
2/3 cup cooking sherry
3 cups gluten-free chicken broth, heated (I use swansons 100% natural)
3 cups hot water
6 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
4 tablespoons grated parmigiano-reggiano
fine sea salt
black pepper 

in large skillet, on medium heat cook chicken with 1/2 herbs till no longer pink in 1 tablespoon olive oil
in large saucepan, on medium heat, warm 1 tablespoon olive oil and 2 tablespoons butter. Cook chopped onions and garlic until soft, but before browned. (about 5 minutes) add the rest of the herbs and the bacon or procsciutto. Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Add the rice and stir until well coated with oil. All the grains will appear shiny. Stir in the cooking sherry and bring to a boil. Stir and bring down to a strong simmer cooking until all the sherry is either soaked into the rice or evaporated, then stir in 2 cups of the hot broth. Simmer and stir often until the liquid is almost absorbed. Repeat with remaining broth a cup at a time. Repeat with 1/2 the hot water, and cook until rice is tender to the bite (about 35 minutes) adding the rest of the hot water as necessary until the rice is tender and the risotto is creamy with a slightly soupy consistancy. It should not be dry or sticky.

Turn off the stove, stir in the parsley and 2 tablespoons butter. Taste, and adjust seasoning as necessary. I added more pepper and garlic powder, but not more salt to mine. Seperate into bowls and sprinkle a tablespoon of the parmigiano-reggiano on top of each. Buy a good cheese, it makes all the difference in the world.

We put the leftovers in a sealed container into the fridge so we wouldn't eat it all up in one sitting. It was tempting, but portion control is part of losing weight while still being able to enjoy delicious food. When split into 6 servings, this ended up being 9 points on weight watchers.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Berry Pavlova with Sorbet

Recently a couple of dear friends stopped by to prepare and eat food that tastes good and is relatively healthy.  I say relatively, because it depends on how you define healthy food. The entire meal included cheesy treats, potatoes and squash with lime, and kale salad. 2 hours later, we all shared Pavlova. An entirely gluten free meal which included grains, vegetables, fruits, protein, fats, and starch. Yes, we included desserts in the picture of a healthy meal. Desserts are fine in small amounts, but I definitely gained weight this week trying out so many different gluten-free junk foods and desserts. So I'm back on my weight watchers plan, keeping my food journal which I didn't keep up with last week. I did plug the Pavlova in, and and for one serving of this minus the sorbet it is only 3 points. Not bad for a dessert! We did have 2 scoops of Roman Rasberry Sorbet on the side. We will be eating this again soon as a nice summer treat.

Anyway, with no further ado, let me share this delicious dessert from the

4 egg whites
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vinegar
1/2 tbsp cornstarch
1 1/2 cups light aresol whipped cream
1/2 cup rasberries
1/2 cup blackberries

Preheat oven to 250 degrees F (130 C) and place rack in center of oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and draw a 7 inch circle on the paper.

In a bowl whisk egg whites until they hold soft peaks (medium high with your beater's whisk attachment)
start slowly adding the sugar (a tablespoon at a time) and continue to beat until the meringue holds very stiff peaks. (test ot see if the sugar is fully dissolved, so keep beating until it feels smooth between your fingers) Sprinkle the vigegar and cornstarch over the top of the meringue and fold in with a ruber spatula.

Gently spread the meringue inside the circle drawn on the parchment paper, smoothing the edges, amking sure the edges of the meringue are slightly higher than the center. (You want a slight well in the center of the meringue to place the whipped cream and fruit after it's baked)

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the outside is dray and takes on a very pale cream color. Turn the oven off, leave the door slightly ajar, and let the meringue cool in the oven. When completely cooled, the meringue will feel firm to the touch if gently pressed, but outside will crack a bit, and you will see the inside is still soft and marshmallowy)

The cooled meringue can be made and then stored in a cool dry place in an airtight container for a few days.

Just before serving gently place the meringue on a serving plate. mound soft whipped cream in the center of the meringue. Add berries on top of the whipped cream, and chow down! Serves 6 to 8

Seriously, if you want a dessert, try this. WE ALL LOVED IT!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Cheesy Treats of Goodness

I attempted a new gluten free recipe "Roman Gnocchi" from the Gluten-Free Italian, and realized as I set out to do it that I did not have the correct ingredients. So these delicious wafers of cheesy goodness were created instead. They are flat, round, crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. I like them best when warm, but they're great cold too. This makes about 6 servings or 40 little snacks.

Cheesy Treats:
1/2 cup polenta
1/2 cup Bob's Baking Flour
4 tablespoons butter
2 cups lowfat milk or rice milk
3/4 cup Grated Parmigiana-Reggiano

Melt 4 tablespoons butter in a large pan and gently stir in gluten-free flour and polenta. Slowly add 2 cups milk stirring briskly for about 5 minutes until mixture pulls away from the sides of the pan. Stir in 1/2 cup Parmigiana allowing it to melt into mixture. 

Spoon small dollups of dough onto baking trays, allowing an inch or more between them sprinkle remaining cheese on top and bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Mixture will melt down into cheesy treats of goodness with golden brown edges. We enjoyed the texture with slightly crispy edges and warm soft middle. 

We ate this with my lime potatoes and some lemon kale salad from Whole Foods which has deliciously sweet dried cranberries, pine nuts, lemon juice mixed into a dark leafy green kale. I recommend a nice glass of water to go with this because the cheesy treats are very rich.

Afterwards we ate a really delicious gluten-free desert which a dear friend was kind enough to make for us. It was basically a huge meringue with whipped cream and fresh berries. If I can get permission to share the recipe from her, I will post an entire entry for this amazing dessert. I LOVE meringue, so perhaps I'm biased, but I loved the texture of this. Of course anything made by a friend's loving hands tastes better.

I love that my friends are supporting me in going gluten-free. I suspect it is because those who have stayed in touch with me through these migraines truly hate seeing me in pain and are willing to do whatever it takes to help me get rid of the migraines.  I feel very loved and supported that they would not only come over and try my latest creations, but also bake a gluten-free dessert for me.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Gluten-Free Cupcakes and more at Whole Foods

Yesterday I had my first full appointment at Bodhi Body Integrative Medical Center and my first shopping trip at the Whole Foods Market on the 101 and Ray Road. It's a bit of a drive from my house, but well worth it to find a doctor who is willing to look at the whole body situation, and try to find the root cause of the problems. I left with a list of tests feeling empowered, hungry, and hopeful.

We then went next door to Chandler Whole Foods Market to pick up a few things and see if they have a gluten-free section. Turns out, they do! Not only do they have a gluten-free section, and put up gluten-free markers next to the products sprinkled throughout the store which they know are gluten-free, but they also have an entire gluten-free bakery!

We came across the bakery section by accident while looking for meringues and buying a few things to eat for lunch before going home.  A very helpful deli employee stopped and asked if she could help us. I asked if they had a list of gluten-free products, and she wasn't aware of what gluten was, but went to ask. She came back with a THICK stack of papers listing every gluten-free item in that particular Whole Foods, and informed me that I could log onto Whole Foods website to find up to date lists. Just be sure to plug in the specific store you're planning to go to. She then pointed us towards the gluten-free baked goods case.

We picked up some of the cupcakes that she said were flying off the shelves. YUMMY! If you're having a major sweet craving, not bad at all. Just be prepared for a cupcake of the denser variety, not the fluffy puffy variety, but more like pound cake.  Personally I usually prefer the lighter fluffier texture in my cupcakes, but I know plenty of people who like a nice thick batter for theirs and if you're expecting it, this really hits the spot for a sweet treat. So sit down with a big glass of water when you eat these, or milk if you prefer, and prepare your mouth for the sweetest of sweet cupcakes, and texture of something approaching pound cake. I think you will be pleasantly surprised to find that yes, it tastes like those store bought cupcakes you were hoping for! Not only that, the mounds of frosting on top took me back to the sugar rush of childhood birthday parties when parents would bring trays of cupcakes in to class.

I think I'll buy some of the 365 gluten-free baking mix and try for some fluffy cupcakes some time. I have been tossing around some ideas with friends who like to bake and I think I have an idea that will work. I'm not ready to mix flours myself... but eventually I may delve into that technique as well. When I finally get the texture I'm looking for, I'll share it here. In the mean time... I will be cutting the 3 leftover cupcakes into quarters and allowing myself the occasional sweet deliciousness for as long as I can make them last. (I'm keeping them in the fridge with the hopes they will last longer. I'll let you know how they hold up.)

By the way, the meringues are delicious as well. We opted for the citrus flavor. Tiny little clouds of joy. I have always loved meringues, so I was happy to be reminded that they are gluten free since meringues are made with egg and sugar. We checked the ingredients list anyway to be sure no one had glutenized the recipe by dusting them with flour or some other horrific mutation. They hadn't! HOORAY!

Now before you think I was just shopping for junk food and desserts, let me tell you of the awesome experience we had in the deli. Patch works in a deli at another store, so she is very aware of all the hard work the people working in the deli do, and is also very aware of the difference between good, great and phenomenal customer service. This was phenomenal! Not only did they direct me to the currently most delicious of gluten-free salads in their cold case, the lady who assisted me helped us to read the tiny print on the ingredients of the foods I was interested in. Yes, they have all the ingredients of every item in the case listed. It is a food allergy avoiding heaven!  I ended up with a citrus kale salad with cranberries and pine nuts. She even picked around the tomatoes leaving a few on the side Patch would eat from. Now that's above and beyond the call of duty!

By the way, I didn't ask her to pick out the tomatoes. I balked at the sample with a piece of tomato on top offering it to Patch, and she noticed. I have had some bad reactions to tomatoes in the past. We'll see if my food allergy test tells me why. The salad was slightly tart if I didn't get a cranberry in the mouthful, but it was so good. We also got some potato latkes, a favorite  food memory of mine. Patch picked up some warm food as well, we payed, and headed outside to sit in the shade of a tree and enjoy our gluten-free lunch before heading home. This is the time of year I most love living in Arizona. The time after our brief winter and spring rain, and before the blistering heat of summer.

It was an exhausting day, but utterly worth every moment. And now not only do we have the supplies for the meals we've been hoping to make, but we also are armed with the knowledge that any gluten-free foods we can't find at Fresh and Easy or the locally farmed produce market down the street, we can always stop by Whole Foods on a day I'm visiting the Bodhi Body center. Now I'm off to attempt creating gluten-free Roman Gnocchi and Pavlova with a dear friend.  Hooray for Whole Foods, hooray for happy discoveries!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Fried Polenta Sandwhiches

Yesterday Carlie opened the fridge and noticed a tube of polenta. What shocked me was that she had never tried polenta before. What kind of Italian has never tried polenta?!? I teased her about it, but insisted she had to try the stuff and she agreed.

It was such a nice day. I had several delicious gluten free meals. In fact, a friend asked if I'd gone 100% gluten-free. I haven't, because I'm hoping to get tested for gluten intolerance and celiac disease along with food allergies this coming Wednesday. But I had almost no migraine all day, and was able to sit outside in the shade on the patio enjoying time with Carlie and some educational reading.  She admitted that she had been avoiding my gluten-free cooking because she knows we're going to go gluten-free soon and she's enjoying the "bad stuff" as long as she can. I told her I had been trying to ease us into this new lifestyle and that I was worried it would be even harder for her if she didn't start eating gluten-free now and then.  

I opened up The Gluten-Free Italian by Jacqueline Mallorca and read parts of it to her.We enjoyed some of the ideas so much, that we couldn't help but put together our own version of her fried polenta sandwiches. Here's what we ended up making:

Fried Polenta Sandwiches:
1 tube ready-made/formed polenta

Thin slices of Italian cheese (we have some amazing cheese selections on hand due to Patch working at AJ's deli) 
deli sliced ham
gluten-free flour
1 egg
gluten-free bread crumbs 

You can buy pre-made gluten-free bread crumbs or you can make your own.

Slice Polenta into 1/4 inch slices. slice cheese into thin slices with a mandolin slicer or potatoe peeler. lay cheese and ham slices on a piece of polenta then lightly press another piece over it, and repeat until several sandwiches are put together.

Dip each mini sandwich into gluten-free flour. Beat the egg and then dip each flour dusted sandwich into the beaten egg mixture, and then into the panko-style gluten-free bread crumbs. Then fry till each side is golden brown.

This recipe left us with an awesome crispy outside, and a warm and soft inside to the polenta. It made me think of a gourmet grilled cheese sandwich somehow. Next time I'll have to try this with the cheeses and prosciutto recommended in the book! Meanwhile Patch bought the ingredients for an Italian recipe I thought we'd all like, and Carlie has decided to go through the book herself and mark the recipes that call to her. Plus we're in the search of a good gluten-free lasagna so that she can make her family recipe of lasagna which is SOOOOOOO good.

Obviously this is not a vegan nor even a vegetarian meal, but it could easily be made into one by replacing the ham and/or cheese in the recipe with some sliced vegetable you like such as tomatoe, mushrooms, eggplant, etc. 

By the way, I loved these fried sandwiches so much I could see them becoming a frequent fixture on the dinner table. I'll have to take a picture of them then, because they smelled so good that when Carlie handed me the plate I just wolfed them down without stopping to take a picture of their golden-brown goodness.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Rustic Lime Potatoes and Gardening Thoughts

I've been looking at a lot of recipes which include butternut squash so that I could use up the rest of the squash leftover after the making of corn chowder. I hate tossing out produce even tho we do have a compost bin to put them in, and knew the squash would go bad if I didn't use it this morning.

All left over produce in our home be it rinds or uncooked unused fruit and veggies eventually end up in our garden. We use home made compost to help add nutrients to the dry, desert soil. Last year we only managed to grow a few tiny mutant carrots and a lot of pumpkin that the dogs ate before we could harvest it. This year we are hopeful for more success since there is now more healthy nutrients in the soil from a year of composting. Even the hybrid plum/nectarine fruit tree which we planted last year is starting to blossom and sprout it's leaves! Perhaps we will taste home grown plums and nectarines this year.

Growing our own fruits and vegetables will really cut down on the cost of eating whole, organic foods not to being the most locally grown you can get. Gives me a chuckle to think of all the gas saved and elbow grease spent..  It also allows us to choose NOT to put harmful chemicals on our food. Knowing where my food is coming from has become more important to me as I realized that I had eaten a lifetime of pesticides etc. And although part of me felt like tossing my hands up and saying it's too late now, I've seen enough people regain their health after improving their way of eating that I just have to give it a try.

This morning, I was wanting to use up the leftover squash tho, so all the compost bin got were the rinds and some seeds. Maybe some of the seeds will take sprout in the compost and I can transfer them into the garden. It's happened before, so who knows.

But enough of that! In looking at the various squash recipes in the gluten-free vegan, I found myself inspired. One recipe called for orange juice. We are out of oranges, but we do have lime juice on hand because I love the flavor of limes. I hear there is a lime flavored olive oil that would probably be great in this recipe...I'll have to keep my eyes open. I wasn't sure how much lime to put into this meal because I didn't want to overwhelm the sage and thyme, but it came out great. The following is the delicious meal I had for breakfast. I'd say this would make a great side dish for a main meal.

Rustic Lime Potatoes:
(serves 4-6)
4 medium red potatoes
1/4 cup lime juice
1/2 medium butternut squash
macademia nuts
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 teaspoon sage
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Clean and cut red potatoes into large chunks. I cut each potato in half, each half into fourths and then halved the larger cubes. Seed, peal and cut butternut squash into chunks of a size similar to the potatoes.

Preheat oven to 350. Mix olive oil and herbs in medium mixing bowl. Add potato and squash chunks and stir until herbs and oil coat thuroughly. Add 1/4 cup lime juice and mix well.

Pour entire mixture onto a baking sheet and bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until soft. Stir periodically making sure all sides stay well coated. I stirred after 5 minutes, and then about every 10 minutes. Poke largest chunks with a fork to test for firmness. I felt it was done properly when the texture was soft but not squishy as this is how I like my potatoes.

Serve with macedamia nuts sprinkled on top for a nice little crunch, their delicious flavor, and of course the added protein. I use them sparingly; these little babies do have quite a bit of fat in them. They'd be eve better. chopped up and sprinkled on top

Carlie has been avoiding my gluten free meals almost as if she's afraid they're going to be tasteless or somehow "too healthy" tasting, but we spoke about it today as we read a gluten-free Italian cookbook, and she decided to give my breakfast a try. She went back for seconds, so it must have been good!

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Corn Chowder for a Rainy Day

Despite the aches and pains I get, I love the rain. More accurately, I love staying in on a rainy day and eating comfort foods like corn chowder. However corn chowder, as much as I love it, does not love me back. Until today that is.

Today we pulled out the Gluten-free Vegan Cookbook by Susan O'Brian and made her corn chowder recipe. YUM! It was pretty labor intensive what with chopping up potatoes, butternut squash, leeks, onions, garlic and more, but Lauren filled me in on the tips and tricks to which produce can be bought at Trader Joe's already chopped up and ready to just toss in the pot. Next time I may do that, because WOW, if Lauren hadn't helped me chop veggies I would not have been able to make this meal. Patch or Carlie could, but for me just walking around the kitchen  was pretty much enough to wipe me out even with rests sitting on the island chairs. Luckily for me, by the time I ran out of energy the food was ready to kick back and enjoy.

It was tasty, warm, slightly salty, slightly sweet goodness. Still, we both agreed it was missing something. For one thing, protein, plus we wanted just a bit more green and a bit more bite. We would add lentils and green onion stalks to the recipe. I think it would really make it perfect. I'll try it out in the near future before it gets too hot for a good chowder and let you know.

Still, I could see using this recipe as the base for many a good meal to come. Later this morning I am making buttermilk pancakes with fruit for my friends, and some baked red potatoes and butternut squash on the side. I think they'll be pleasantly surprised at the vegan, gluten-free faire. 

Side note, I have had an itchy red rash on my face for DAYS and it's really annoying. I'm going to try a cold compress with some baking soda on it see if it calms down a bit. Hopefully it will be less bothersome in the next few days, but perk back up in time for my appointment with the doctor so she can actually see it in action. this is one of those weird symptoms I get that doctors rarely see the damn rash or hives or whatever it is. Much like a car no longer making that weird noise when you take it to the mechanic, it likes to fade away in time for doctor appointments. I'm hoping the changes of diet I'm starting to implement will eventually take care of this annoying symptom.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Bread and Pancakes? Oh my!

Now you can have your bread and eat it too! That gluten free pancake and baking mix I mentioned turns out to be very versatile and delicious. Apologies in advance for the poor quality cell phone photos of my creations. Next time I'll try to get out my good camera and at least get photos that more accurately represent the food. These just don't do justice to the scrumptious fluffy nature of these two "bready" delights.

First I decided to use it to try and make gluten free Irish Soda Bread for St Patty's day. The recipe I had called for specific measurements of various gluten free flours and gums, but I had a premix to work with, so I made adjustments and ran into some problems to hurdle along the way. At first it was too much liquid so that the batter looked like oatmeal, not like bread. I suspected it might work out if I poured the mixture into a muffin tin, but instead I set aside some of the semi liquid batter placing it in a sealed container in the fridge hoping to use it the next morning for gluten-free buttermilk pancakes.  I then adjusted the recipe by adding more of the pancake and baking mix to the remaining batter. Soon it took on the texture of sticky bread dough, and I decided to give it a shot.

I was pleasantly surprised by some friends who called asking to drop by providing me with more taste testers! The bread turned out so good that even my friends and loved ones who are meat and potato type people went back for seconds. These weren't vegans, vegetarians, or granola/healthy type people, they were card carrying junk food addicted carnivores like me. OK, there's not really a carnivore card, but there IS a bumper sticker and t-shirt! All joking aside, the bread was soft, tender, and had that Irish Soda Bread flavor I was craving.

Below is the recipe I ended up with for these Mini Soda Bread Biscuits. Be forewarned, they do include milk and eggs. I mistakenly left out a couple of very important binding agents from the original method, so these did not have the perfect soda bread texture I was expecting, instead they were much more moist and tender, which ended up being a wonderful thing if you're expecting it. I am planning to create a vegan version next time Milo can come over, because these were too delicious not to try and share with my vegan friends. This recipe was inspired by Gluten-Free Girl and her Irish Soda Bread Buns. I would eventually like to get all the ingredients and try it her way...but since I was working with what was in my pantry, I came up with this version instead:

Mini Soda Bread Biscuits:

20 ounces gluten-free flours (I used Pamela's Gluten-free Pancake and Baking Mix)
2 1/2 ounces (1/4 cup) sugar
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (you can also melt some later to cross on top if you'd like)
1 1/4 cups buttermilk (I actually made my own buttermilk from an online recipe)
2 eggs
1 cup dried fruit (this was made with Craisens, but currants are traditional)

Get out butter and other ingredients first, this gives the butter time to soften. Mix flower, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Using a fork, mix in 4 tablespoons softened unsalted butter. You can also use your hands, but this melts the butter a bit and I prefer mine with small balls of butter covered in flour and find the fork works best. Continue until the mixture looks grainy or as Gluten Free Girl said, like course meal.

Make a well in the flour and butter mixture. Set aside half the buttermilk, and mix 2 eggs into the half you are about to use. Pour half in and mix until evenly spread through the flour. Add th rest of the milk gradually until the dough is the correct texture. I found the full amount of liquid to be too much. I would have preferred a thicker mixture with a slight amount of flour making it easier to portion out into 8 to 16 segments. I found about 1/4 cup made for 16 biscuits. Mix in whatever dry fruit you wish.

Preheat oven to 400 and place mixture on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper. Put biscuits in over for 5 minutes. (thank the powers that be for oven timers!)

5 minutes into cooking time pull them from the oven. Using a tablespoon or so of melted butter if you so desire, dip a knife into the butter and make an x on the top of the biscuit. I found this part to be a lot of fun. And the butter kept the knife from becoming covered with bread dough. Replace in over and cook for 15 minutes or until slightly golden brown. These are AMAZING fresh out of the oven.

Today, I brought the leftover batter out and found it had risen a bit while in the fridge. I'll have to remember that trick for when I try to make muffins. But this time I added a bit more milk and it stirred up into the perfect pancake batter consistency which turned out to make for buttermilk pancakes that I believe anyone would like to eat. The recipe is the same as above, but with more liquid. Rice milk and lemon juice or vinegar could replace buttermilk. My first two spread further than I expected, so pour sparingly and give it a chance to grow to it's full size before pouring another. These would make great silver dollar pancakes because of the slightly crispy outside and soft fluffy inside. Perhaps tomorrow when I'm cooking for friends I'll try pouring them silver dollar sized like Mom used to make.

I'm going to save the rest of the batter to share with friends who are coming over Friday and see if they even notice that a different type of flour was used. I was pleasantly surprised at the light and fluffy texture of warm buttermilk pancake almost melting on my tongue. They went wonderfully with the plump boysenberries I sprinkled on them. No added butter or syrup was needed as far as I'm concerned they were perfect with just the added sweetness of the fruit and the nuttiness of the peanut oil they were cooked in.  Again, these are gluten-free but not vegan. If I come up with a yummy vegan pancake mix once I start working from scratch with various gluten-free flours I will of course share it!

I haven't cooked in years, so all things considered I am very proud of myself. This gluten-free food prep isn't as hard as some people make it sound. Of course, the trick is going to be learning to eat nutritious foods at the same time. It's one thing to prepare foods that taste good, a whole other thing to also make sure they meet all of our dietary needs. That's the goal: better health through yumness!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

You Can't Plan for Everything - change of plans

Today was supposed to be the day I spoke with my Dr about Celiac disease and hopefully got tested, but you can not plan for everything. Unfortunately at 1am I was woken up by a scorpion walking on my neck. Not being awake and not realizing what was going on, I moved to brush whatever was crawling around on me OFF of my neck and out of my bed. I don't like bugs. Of course as my hand touched the scorpion he reacted by defending himself and STUNG me in the neck. I guess I'm really an Arizonan now! I am sad to say my doctor has canceled my appointments until the scorpion's toxin is out of my system. I wish I hadn't mentioned it when confirming this afternoon's appointments at lab and office, but for all I knew it might shift my lab results and we wouldn't want that. At least now I don't have to spend the day fasting and baking at the same time! I always feel better about food I prepared if I get to taste it before serving it to others.

Needless to say, I will primarily be using the day to rest. We have seen a few scorpions since moving to Phoenix, but we know that if you keep your house closed up properly, they usually aren't inside the house. Unfortunately, this one found a way into my bedroom. For a moment as it's toxins spread through me during those first 6 hours, I missed the familiar natural disasters of California. Thankfully I turn out not to be allergic to them, and Banner Poison Control informed me that I will be fine, because it doesn't get any worse after the first 6 hours. It will take a few days to get out of my system, and until then I should try to rest and remain still as movement tends to make it hurt more. I can confirm this is true. Still, I am determined to make some gluten-free bread today.

I was really disappointed about not being able to get my lab tests today as I was hoping to start my gluten free life after the test. At first much frustrated venting ensued, but now I've got a plan. Instead of being frustrated that I still have to hold off on complete dietary changes, I am going to use the time to help Patch, Carlie and myself become used to shopping for gluten-free ingredients and start intentionally preparing some glulten-free meals that are delicious. It is my hope that this will  get us used to the idea of eating in this new way. Patch has never liked change, and this is a big one. So now instead of instantly shifting over, we'll mix them in here and there between our normally glutenous diet. This continued occasional gluten will insure that I won't risk a false negative on the upcoming tests, but we will start on the path towards new habits. Already Patch has begun making note when she finds something which says gluten-free, so we are heading in the right direction!

The first gluten-free premixed product I'll try will be the pancake and baking mix which Patch brought home from AJ's which apparently has a large gluten-free section. For those of you in Phoenix or Chandler areas, check it out: I'm excited to try this product and will first use it to make the gluten-free Irish Soda Bread which Gluten Free Girl posted on her blog today. Perhaps we can dip it in the gluten-free vegan corn chowder I plan to make tomorrow for lunch with a vegetarian friend.

Happy St Patty's day everyone, wish me luck on making my first gluten-free bread!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Tuberous Treats

Recently a friend of ours took us up on the offer to come over for a visit. She happens to be a vegan who is gluten intolerant with latex allergies. For those who don't know, latex allergies coexist with a slew of food allergies including peanuts, bananas, melon, mango, and more. I have never been able to cook a meal for her, because there are so many things she can't eat that she usually finds it safer to bring her own food with her. 

Still, I know there are many things she can eat, and I have felt deprived of being able to feed a loved one. So when she said she might be coming over, I became excited. Maybe this could be an opportunity to play with recipes from The Gluten-Free Vegan by Susan O'Brian. I ran off a list of ingredients in some meals i'd been thinking of trying, found out which things on the list were out, and adjusted the menu. I'm not vegan myself but several of my friends are so I've been doing research. Here's an article from Weight Watchers and getting proper nutrients as a vegetarian. If you're wanting a bit more protein tofu or seitan could easily be mixed in to Patch's Amazing Tubers.

I decided to make various Tuberous Treats* including Patch's Amazing Tubers, Corn Chowder, and maybe Stuffed Butternut Squash. Just sounds like a hearty, warm, meal of comfort food doesn't it? 

Tubers are various types of modified plant structures that are enlarged to store nutrients. They are used by plants to survive the winter or dry months and provide energy and nutrients for regrowth during the next growing season and they are a means of asexual reproduction.[1] Two different groups of tubers are: stem tubers, and root tubers.

Amazing Tuber  Recipe:

olive oil
2 cloves garlic
sea salt 
6 carrots
2 red potatoes
2 purple potatoes
2 sweet potatoes or yams
1 parsnip
1 leek
1 white onion
1 red onion
1 zuchini
1 small butternut squash
1 sunchoke
1 celery root

Cut tubers and roots (except the onions and potatoes) into chunks, boil in lightly salted water for 5-10 minutes, until slightly soft and flavors have partially combined. 

Slice onions, mince garlic and caramelize with leek in 1 tablespoon olive oil 

In large mixing bowl, combine olive oil, sea salt, pepper and sage to taste. peal and cut potatoes and add to bowl. Strain tubers and add to large mixing bowl. Add 1/2 garlic onion and leek mixture, and stir all together till all is well coated with sage mixture. 

Spread the coated "Tuberous Treats" in a baking pan and bake at 425 for 35 minutes stirring 2 or 3 times to keep mixture coated. When all tubers are tender, mix in remaining garlic onions and serve warm. This is a great way to use up those locally grown CSA vegetables because you can put in whatever produce comes in  that week's share!

*note: Seitan, while delicious in vegetarian meals, is not gluten-free. Thanks Lynn for pointing that out :)

Monday, March 15, 2010

Pineapple Coconut Yum

Today Patch was feeling up to cooking. I encouraged her to wait another day because I don't want her overdoing it, but she was determined. I can't say I blame her, I know what it's like to be forced to rest when you want to be up and at 'em.

She prepared a sweet rice dish which is full of calories and full of yum. When she has made it in the past I have both craved and portioned it out so that the leftovers last for as long as possible and so that I don't use up all my weight watchers points in one sitting. It makes a great breakfast, snack or dessert. So now you've been fairly warned that this may add pounds to your midsection if overindulgence is the key word of your day.

That said, it is gluten-free goodness that she's been making for quite some time without ever trying! I like to notice when things we normally eat are accidentally gluten-free so that Patch can be encouraged that such a change won't be impossible.

Pineapple Coconut Rice  (Gluten, caesin, and soy free)
16 oz coconut milk
1 oz pineapple juice
8 oz rice
8 oz pineapple
4 oz shredded sweetened coconut
2 oz craisens (dried cranberries)

mix coconut and pineapple juice and bring to a boil. stir in the rice and bring it back to a boil, cover and turn to low, simmer rice in coconut milk 20 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and stir in the reset of the ingredients. Serve warm, or chill and serve.

I prefer this dish reheated on the 2nd day, and patch prefers it served cold. She says that's the way it is "supposed" to be. So the chef has spoken, but with a wink I say, it's your stomach, do whatever tastes right to you!

Related resources: <<--the down low on rice and gluten <-- breaking down vegan ingredients

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Gluten-Free Gormet Pizza Delivery?!?! YES!

Since I am currently living on a set income due to my disability, I can't often eat out and when I do, I want it to taste good. I do however have a weakness for pizza. So I was especially excited to receive this coupon offer for Z Pizza, a pizza place you can probably find around you that makes gourmet pizza using great fresh ingredients, and it DELIVERS! I was so excited... but it turned out they do not deliver to my area.

Still, we were set on trying a gluten-free pizza and hoping it would be satisfying and delicious so that I can know that if I have to go gluten-free, I won't be losing out on the beloved doughy, cheesy goodness of a pizza. I hear there are other places in the area that cook gluten-free pizza as well, but this was a good one, so I'd eat at Z-pizza again. The crust was crispy around the edges from being cooked on hot bricks, and a bit more doughy otherwise. We tried the pesto sauce, mozzerela and parmesan cheese, with carmelized onions and red peppers. DELICIOUS! I would be happy to splurg on a pizza from there any time. Especially knowing that all the incrediants are organic. Being able to order Gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, or meat lover all from the same place is great too. The place was crazy busy and difficult to pick up the pizza from, so I would give the overall experience, taste, and joy of eating healthy ingrediants that taste like they're bad for you a 4 out 5!

I often feel a bit light headed while eating pizza, and doze off afterwards or feel very lethargic with an upset stomach. This time I didn't go into a "pizza coma" until I snacked on the bread sticks (not gluten free) I think next time we order pizza from z-pizza I'm going gluten-free all the way, see how I feel after a completely gluten-free pizza meal.

Here's a coupon if you want to try Z- Pizza yourself:

Friday, March 12, 2010

Just say yes to the juice, babeh!

Being raised in the suburbs of southern California by two working parents, one of whom was a teacher, I was no stranger to both eating and preparing home cooked meals. That said, I was also radically acquainted with, in fact one could almost say I was addicted to, fast and packaged food and beverages. 

Knowing diabetes and obesity ran on my father's side of the family, my mother worked diligently to keep my sister and I away from processed sugars and fatty foods for as long as possible. In my case, a whole 5 years. Although I do not think it would ever have occurred to her that the "healthy whole grain" breads we ate could actually be the cause of my morning stomach problems, I now have cause to wonder. Still, she and our neighbors enjoyed trading secrets to make healthy food children would love, recipes without sugar, and produce from their gardens for as long as I could remember. I fondly remember helping garden and even picking tomatoe bugs out of  one family's yard. They grew zucchinis which my mother cooked into moist and delicous bread, and the father made his own peanut butter. There is nothing like fresh, warm nut butter!

Of course according to my mother this blissful bubble of good foods was all ruined the day my father put sugar on my cereal. At first I cried because I thought it was salt and did not want salt on my breakfast cereal. Soon I caught on, and my sugar addiction began. But until I was about 5, fresh squeezed juice, fruits as snacks, buttered toast, and healthy eating was a big part of the daily routine.  Eventually I took to morning bouts of nausea and stomach pain. The doctors told her that I had an "overly acidic stomach" and should avoid citric acid such as the juices we usually had for breakfast. Man did I miss my apple juice, strawberries, and oranges!

After over a year of intractable migraines, friends dying from or surviving cancer at unprecedented rates, and a strange group of symptoms and physical challenges myself, I have gone through every medical treatment the neurologists can think of, and am STILL in constant pain. Chronic pain isn't new to me as I've been living with Fibromyalgia Syndrome for over 19 years, so I have developed coping mechanisms. However, over a year of migraines is insane! My doctors were running out of options, and I decided that I would try anything healthy that people had found worked for them so as to avoid botox injections. Botox injections are a current favored treatment for migraine pain which has to be repeated on a regular basis in order to keep the pain away. I hold nothing against people who choose that route, but for me, it seems dangerous to intentionally  inject toxins under my skin, and I'd rather avoid it if possible.

At the same time that a friend mentioned celiac disease, another sent me two movie recommendations about Gerson's Therapy. I particularly enjoyed the documentary entitled "The Beautiful Truth." Because of watching the videos we ordered a book by Dr Gerson's daughter about the treatment, and began pouring over the information it contained. An eye opener to be sure! I am happy to say that my MRIs came back negative for brain tumors, and I have not been found to have cancer. We celebrate that fact gratefully. But Dr Gerson first developed the diet for himself because of the same sort of intractable migraines I have been lived with since November 2008, so we have been pondering his thoughts on salt and the wonders of apple/carrot juice to name a few.

About two years ago, a dear friend of mine got a new juicer and, knowing that I enjoy fruit juice and was working on eating healthier, asked if I would like his old one. Since then it has not been used often enough, until now. I have to step outside while the juicer runs so that Carlie can run it for me because the noise feels like it is drilling through my skull and that my brain has melted by the time the juice is ready. But organic carrots and apples when juiced are sweet and wonderful! I have found my replacement for caffeine free coke, and this one is healthy! We bought some juicy blood oranges and tangelos on sale at the neighborhood market where local farmers sell their goods and will be trying other juices soon.

I am feeling inspired, energized and hopeful. I was able to exercise today and found I had lost another 2 pounds just since I started drinking apple/carrot juice instead of a sweet soda. If healthy eating tastes this good then this is something I can do.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Gluten-Free Eating in Arizona

Today I was speaking with someone about a friend who was having a difficult time finding gluten-free foods in their part of Arizona. I mentioned a few ideas which my family and I will be making use of in order to stay gluten-free while eating locally as much as possible. One part of that is to eat less processed foods, and focus more on whole, home cooked meals. There are a plethora of "Gluten-free yummies" as I have begun calling them already for sale in such places as Fresh and Easy, Trader Joes, Whole Foods, and more. In my research I found plenty of locally grown or made items which are gluten-free including produce from Customer Supported Agriculture, Buying Clubs, grocery stores, health food stores, and other such options which you can find at Arizona Local Foods.

We are blessed in this part of Arizona with a temperate climate which allows for a longer growing season than many other places. Although people think of the desert as arid and empty of life, in actuality there is a large bounty which can and is grown right here. We have planted a garden with some of our own favorites, and a hybrid fruit tree which has just started to blossom as we approach spring.  Living in the Laveen area, we are especially blessed to have neighbors who raise livestock, produce their own milk products, honey, sunflower oil, organic coffee, cactus products, fruits, vegetables, and much much more!

As I continue moving towards healthier living through food, I have been keeping my eyes open for places we already enjoy that just so happen to sell gluten-free foods in our area. We are fortunate, in a sense, that we had a roommate who was gluten-intolerant and who introduced us to some places she could eat, such as RA, our favorite sushi bar in Ahwatukee, or Green in Tempe where I tend to meet up with my vegan friends. I also am really looking forward to trying Gluten-Free Creations Bakery, which was recently recommended by a friend and looks delicious.

But what if you aren't into negotiating the waters of gluten-free sushi and you don't enjoy vegetarian or vegan foods? I mean, sometimes a person just wants a good steak right? Tonight I came across a list of restaurants in Arizona which are pretty big on our standard styles of eating out and which happen to have some gluten-free foods on their menu or are willing and able to prepare gluten-free versions of their foods. The celiac handbook has an entire such list online at!

So never fear my fellow Arizonans! Be you central to a larger city, or living in one of the many beautiful areas not quite so populated, there are options out there. I hope you will share with me what gluten-free delights you find as you go and I will continue to share the results of my foraging as well. If you would like to recommend a gluten-free treat, restaurant, etc. please do comment, I look forward to hearing from you!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Accidentally Gluten-Free

The other day Patch and I were discussing gluten-free living and she seemed very worried that switching over would be difficult. As the main person who shops and one of the two main cooks, she was understandably nervous. Besides, Patch has never been one for change. She mentioned wanting me to shop with her so that she does not accidentally buy the wrong things. That would be wonderful since I do love spending time with Patch foraging through the aisles of a grocery store, but my migraines make it very difficult to go grocery shopping as the lights in most stores are intolerable even with wrap around sunglasses and what my friends call the unibomber look. (hat, sunglasses, hoody)

Because I have not yet been tested for Celiac and gluten intolerance, and won't be until at least the 17th of this month, we have not yet officially begun the change to a gluten-free diet. We have however begun reading packaging and noticing which of the foods we regularly eat do or do not have gluten.

So it was interesting to find out that the meal Patch made for us the other night was accidentally gluten-free! And nice to know that something so delicious and so part of our normal style of eating could be part of my gluten-free future. Patch has been kind enough to share her recipe so others may enjoy such a delicious meal in the future.

Pork Loin and Potatoes: (sorry, no measurements of the herbs, Patch came up with this completely by feel)

Pork Loin rubbed with olive oil, salt, pepper, sage, and savory.  roasted on a sheet pan in oven at 375 for 20 minutes, then 425 for about 35 minutes while the potatoes cooked. Let rest for 10-15 minutes after removing from the oven

Potatoes cut into hearty chunks and placed in bowl, olive oil and 4 tablespoons onion soup mix stirred into the potatoes, make sure they're all covered well then place them in a shallow baking pan and bake at 425 for 35 minutes stirring occasionally (2 or 3 times)

Onion Soup Mix Recipe: (Gluten, caesin, and soy free )

Mix and store in air tight container. 

We had this with a side of perfectly steamed broccoli and it was a truly delicious meal. I hope to repeat it some day! Who's kidding who, I ate the leftovers daily for 3 days and wanted to make more when it was gone! The pork loin was tender and juicy, the rub meshed well with the sauce on the potatoes, and the only thing I'd change is to use a low sodium soup mix on the potatoes next time

If you're new to this like we are, and unsure which ingredients in your pantry just happen to already be gluten-free, check out this great list from the Celiac Sprue Association:

Friday, March 5, 2010

Why a food blog?

My name is Sean-Michael and I have been living with chronic illness and pain for more than half of my life. At age 19 I was in a car accident which caused pain in my joints, muscle pain, and over two years of severe migraines. Approximately six years of pain, weakness, gastro intestinal distress and fatigue later I was finally diagnosed with Fibromyalgia Syndrome and Sleep Apnea along with a continuing constellation of other symptoms some of which were not adequately explained by either of the above diagnosis.

After 15 migraine free years, I once again developed chronic migraines for no reason that doctors have been able to discern. Since November 2008, I have been living with daily migraine pain.  It has felt like a year of constant fruitless doctors visits. Still, we are attempting to create a sanctuary of peace, low light and joy for myself and those I love here in our home. Patch and Carlie have been nothing but supportive and wonderful through all of this, taking everything in stride and being rock solid as usual. About 5 years ago we moved to the desert in the hopes that the dry heat would help my sore joints and muscles. We have been blessed with friends and family who do not hesitate to share anything they've learned along the way which may help bring me relief. Some have helped a bit, some have been fruitless, but due to their most recent suggestions we have begun research into two different ways of eating which may bring me to an even healthier place: gluten free foods and Gerson Therapy.

A documentary called Gerson's Miracle convinced me that changes were in order, but I was also hopeful that I would not have to take measures as drastic as that.  We ordered the book Healing the Gerson Way, and almost immediately I was informed that many of my symptoms may be related to casein and gluten intolerances. Being wired and unable to sleep from the Prednisone, I took a Celiac survey online which made me realize that an astounding amount of the symptoms overlapped my own! Although a gluten-free diet sounded daunting and I worried that my future might be limited or negatively impacted by these new changes, I also worried that continuing to eat foods with gluten might negatively impact my health even further. Suddenly I had many questions such as "Should I begin changing my diet immediately or is it necessary to wait until after being tested for Celiac Disease before starting to live gluten-free?" "What tests should my doctor do to find out if I have Celiac Disease?" and more. Here are a few resources I have found particularly helpful in my quest for understanding:

Tests for Celiac:
• IgA anti-gliadin antibodies
• IgG anti-gliadin antibodies
• IgA anti-endomysial antibodies
• Tissue transglutaminase antibody (IgA and IgG in questionable cases)
• Total IgA antibodies
• HLA DQ2 and DQ8 genotyping for celiac disease (used occasionally to detect genetic suspectibility).
• Intestinal biopsy (rarely needed if gluten antibodies are positive -- based on my interpretation of the recent study)

Although I would very much like to begin changing what I eat right now, I have been informed by doctors that I must not change what I eat until after I have been tested for Celiac Disease or gluten intolerance. I must also wait for those tests until the most recent prescription of Prednisone is out of my system. Both things would risk false negatives on the lab results. 

This blog is a place for me to share about my attempt to find more health in my life without losing any of the satisfaction of a good meal through changes in what I eat. As someone with a healthy appetite who is practically addicted to sweets and carbs,  the concept of such changes is daunting at best. But I have found hope and inspiration in reading through blogs like and  Through talking with friends who have already made such changes, I have become convinced that good taste and the enjoyment of a full stomach must not be sacrificed in the pursuit of health. 

Tonight's meal was meat (pork loin) and potatoes ala Patch with a side of broccoli.  The entire meal could have been prepared gluten and casein free if we chose. It was DELICIOUS!  So come, pull up a chair at our table with your favorite food and join the conversation. Let's break bread together, be it gluten-free or otherwise!