Monday, November 8, 2010

Mamma Mia

Here I go again.  My, my, how can I resist you Pizza!

I think that's how the song should have gone personally.  It really should be re-recorded like that using one of those kid songs systems where the CD personalizes all of the music for your child.  So that you have Abba singing, and then all of a sudden a deep, male voice comes on and growls PIZZA....*

*The above moment of insanity was brought to you by my utter and dire love of all things Pizza.

On Halloween, since I don't go trick-r-treating because 1) I'm too old and 2) It's too allergy dangerous, I made myself some treats at home.  One being this delicious looking pizza!

Mmmmmmmmm.  Tasty looking no?

This time, I made the pizza crust using my allergy-free Sorghum Crust (any all-purpose GF flour would do) for a yummy, healthier, whole wheat feel.  I prepared the crust as directed, then I topped with soy-less tomato sauce, 1/4 lb lean ground beef, and part-skim mozzarella cheese.  I seasoned the lovely with black truffle salt, pepper, basil and oregano.  Result:  Awesomeness personified!!!

It was just as good as my BLT pizza too.  I'm thinking there's an awesome fall pizza in my future too, so stay tuned folks!  For directions on how to make an almost allergy-free pizza crust (it does have yeast) go here.

On a final and cautionary note, I wouldn't go around adding the word "Pizza" to popular Abba songs.  After all, "Dancing queen, young and sweet, only 17 Pizza" doesn't really work as well as the original ;)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

There Is No Good Way to Photograph an Orange Popsicle

Feel free to try and prove me wrong people.  I dare you!  Because with the shape of my popsicle molds and the light orangey color to the popsicle I've created, there is no way to politely (um, how do I put this?) photograph it in which it does not look like an appendage of sorts.

But with this randomly hot weather in California right now (November 90's, what?) it's the perfect time for DIY popsicles.  When you go to buy unprocessed, un-corn syruped, natural popsicles at the store, you're likely to pay anywhere between $3.50-$6.00 for a box of 4.  That's a little expensive for something you can make 6 of at home with a minimal investment in both time and effort.

I know that the below is technically a recipe, but it's so easy I doubt that you'll think of it as one!  With a few accessible ingredients like canned pumpkin and yogurt or milk all thrown in a blender, it's a fun and done way to stay cool and have a sweet treat.  As always, you can adapt the recipe to suit your needs- Dairy Free? Use a substituted milk like rice, hemp or coconut.  Lactose Free?  Lactose free yogurt or milk are both readily available and work well.  Be aware if you use milk or a milk substitute that the popsicles will be icier in consistency.  If you use yogurt though, it tastes a little Pinkberry-esque and isn't too sweet (which I loved!)

Pumpkin Pie Popsicles

See, I told you!  And this was the best one...

1 cup canned/fresh cooked pumpkin
6 oz vanilla yogurt (I love Brown Cow,only yogurt that doesn't make me sick!) or milk or milk substitute
1/2 cup agave
nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger combo or pumpkin pie spice to taste (start at a tsp and add more if desired)
splash of vanilla extract (optional)

In a blender, combine all ingredients until well blended.
Pour into 6 popsicle molds and freeze for at least 5 hours (overnight freezing preferred.)
Go do something else.  You're done!  That was fast huh?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Fall or Nothing

First off readers, I want to thank you for your wonderful words of encouragement during my little hiatus.  I don't exactly feel better, but I certainly haven't stopped cooking!

I have been taking it easy though, making easy to put together dinners and actually using other people's recipes to bake things *gasp*, but I can't not cook during The Fall.  Oh fall, how you are my favorite food-time of the year!  Squash, pumpkin products, ciders, mulled wine, cranberries.  Um, can you say yum?!  And since I am obsessed with fall foods, the second Spaghetti Squash started popping up everywhere I had one in my cart faster than you can arrest Lindsay Lohan again.  But I digress-

Spaghetti Squash is extremely, extremely easy to roast up.  You give the outside a little wash, poke some holes in it, and roast it in the oven for about an hour and a half (for the big ones), and voila!  Instant entree, side dish or ingredient.  Nature, how'd you know I like my food so easy and tasty?

So because I'm taking it easy, I made a super easy dish with my squash: A Fake Pasta Bake.  I can make a pasta bake in my sleep.  Its a go-to whip together nutritious meal that will satisfy even the hungriest dinner guests.  But every once and a while, even I need a break from rice (shocking I know) so I use spaghetti squash instead of rice pasta.  To keep it lower in fat and cholesterol, I also substitute 1% cottage cheese for ricotta.  When you're baking Italian food, you can't really taste the difference in the end product unless you are very much the authentic foodie.  To the lay person's tongue cottage cheese for ricotta is a sneaky way of being satisfied without sacrificing your health at the same time.  And once you see this thing, seriously, you'll forget to ask what's in it!

Spaghetti Squash "Pasta" Bake

1 large spaghetti squash (prepared plain; here's how to)
16 oz of low-fat/fat-free cottage cheese
1/4 cup-1 cup of part-skim mozzarella cheese
spaghetti sauce to taste (I don't use that much, but certainly you don't need more than a jar)
olive oil
basil, parsley, salt, pepper to taste
vegetables (optional)
egg (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Take prepared spaghetti squash and mix in a bowl with drizzles of olive oil, sauce, cottage cheese, seasoning, and optional vegetables and/or egg or some mozzarella*
*The egg is to help the bake hold up however it is relatively easy to shape up with mozzarella mixed in instead if you have an egg allergy.
I mixed it in the pan because I'm lazy.  This is before anything went in

Dump mixture into a lightly oiled 9x13 pan.
Top with remaining mozzarella cheese.
Bake lightly covered for 20 minutes, uncovered for 10-20 additional minutes.
Cut and serve; careful it's hot!

Now that wasn't so hard, was it?  Enjoy this treat as much as you can before the fall foods disappear.  You should see the stockpile of pumpkin I have going on!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


I've been a bit under the weather again reader.  It doesn't mean I'm not cooking, I'm just not cooking as fun and/or complicated dishes that require recipes.  Sandwiches on Food for Life GF bread.  Cereal.  Pasta.  Yogurts.  Even Amy's frozen GF Mac&Cheese (I swear that stuff's so addictive it has crack in it!)  Meat and rice dishes.

You see, I've been going through another rough spot with my tummy and energy quotient.  I did get a little ambitious when I made a pot roast with honey, a savory onion noodle kugel (w/ tinkyada pasta), and a gluten-free, allergen free challah for Rosh Hashana, and I do promise to post them up as soon as I can :)  I just had to go on break mode for a bit.

I hate taking breaks from my blog.  Writing and sharing my cooking and baking experiments with you all gives me such joy, but sometimes I need to take a mini-break from my extra-curriculars.  A life pause, if you will.  I need to let myself be under the weather, and maybe even hide under a blanket for a while (metaphorical or literal.)

It's always been difficult for me to take these little life pauses.  Once upon a time, I was very go, go, go!  Active.  Social.  I'm still active, mostly because I'm too stubborn to give in to my endlessly fickle body, but it just requires more push through, more strength, and as a result- give me my blanket to hide under for an hour or two!

I think it's hardest sometimes to let yourself rest- to give yourself permission not to do anything.  Especially when you're a workaholic, activity-aholic like me.  I don't like saying to myself, today I have to place a limit or I have to say enough.  But there can be another side to this.  A break doesn't have to be a negative thing.  It can be recognizing that you have a different kind of strength:  the strength to just be.  Just sit quietly with yourself.  Just be under a blanket and heal up a little bit.  And so dear reader, here I sit at my desk just being (okay, I'm working a little bit. I have a job you know! hehe.)  I may not be the strongest in body as of late, but I am strong in mind and spirit.  And hey, that can be good enough for me today.

Look forward to actually posting some great food soon.  Please excuse my turtle-like pace ;)

Slow and steady...

Friday, August 13, 2010

Who Am I?

No, this is not in reference to the movie Zoolander.  This is a real question reader.  Who am I?

I am a lot of things.  People who know me, know this.  So how do I make myself into a singular pie? That was our thought-provoking challenge this month for You Want Pies With That?, brought to us by the extremely talented Branny of Branny Boils Over.  Technically we're to: "Choose a pie that best represents your personality and use your blog write-up to justify your choice."

This left me thinking, hmmmm, tricky... but in the best of ways.  I mean there's so much to say about myself; it's not going to be easy to let the pie do the talking. And then I re-evaluated.  The pie doesn't have to be a piece for company, it just has to be a piece of me.  The result:  I've made a pie I've always wanted to make, simple and quiet looking with a deliciously bold undertone: Chocolate Ginger Ganache Pie.

Why is this pie like me?
1) I look sweet and quiet from a distance, until you realize I'm subtly spicy and sassy.
2) It's gluten and soy free, just like me (that part was easy!)
3) Two of my favorite things are chocolate and ginger.  Both are in the filling, yay.
4) It's hard to take in all at once.  I admit that sometimes I can be a bit overwhelming, just like the rich   and bold flavors in this pie.  Small doses/slices may be better until a taste is acquired ;)

I wish I were smooth and rich like this pie, but sadly I cannot claim to be either.  The pie is also super easy which is definitely not how I'd want to describe myself! (insert uncomfortable silence here, reader)
Chocolate Ginger 
Ganache Pie
(no gluten, eggs or soy here)
(those little bubbles are the pieces of ginger, yum)
Favorite single crust pie crust, add some dried ginger and bake. (I halved the recipe here)
2 inches of fresh ginger root, peeled
24 oz chocolate (I use allergy-free Enjoy Life chips)
2 1/2 cups heavy cream

Cool baked pie crust, dust with sugar and set aside.
Place chocolate in a heat-safe mixing bowl (like a glass pyrex bowl).
In a saucepan, soak peeled ginger in cream for at least 30 minutes.
Bring the cream to a boil, careful not to scald the cream.  
Remove from heat and remove ginger root quickly.
Pour the cream slowly over chocolate while mixing until chocolate has completely melted.
Grate some of the ginger root into the ganache, as much or as little as you'd like.
Pour ganache in cooled pie shell and refrigerate for at least 4 hours.

Now the metaphors get a little complicated when you start to slice the pie and give it away to co-workers and friends.  Remind you of life a little?  But I think I'm going a little too far with that ;) Let's just say I'm proud that this pie represents me, and I'm ready to eat my personality.  (insert second uncomfortable silence here, reader)

When you're done feeling awkward about my last sentence, check out what the other amazing bakers did here.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

I Roasted a Chicken and...

I didn't set fire to my kitchen, char it to inedible, poison myself, or break anything.  I know, I know- I'm pretty talented ;)

Why oh why as cooks are we intimated by random tasks?  I have a friend who is terrified of learning knife skills; she thinks its impossible.  I have another friend who never bakes because baking doesn't work for her.  I have another friend who only bakes because she "can't make anything good that isn't made of sugar."

So what's my silly thing?  I don't roast.  I don't roast anything.  On Thanksgiving I make everything on the menu- everything except the Turkey that is.  I'm terrified of not cooking meat correctly in its whole state or as a large piece.  I think this stems from very particular conversations that my mother used to have with me about cooking raw meat and all the germs and viruses that could kill you if you don't cook the meat enough.  But then again we tended to eat slightly over-cooked meat because of this fact, and because I became used to slightly over-cooking meat, I never got used to the proper way to make it tender and juicy without stewing, braising, or baking with liquid.  The result?  Roastophobia.  Well folks, Roastophobia ends now.  My Schlemmertopf killed it.

Before you say, Gesundheit, I'm sure you've seen a Schlemmertopf before. Its those giant clay bakers lurking on the top shelves of cookware stores that you're never really quite sure of.  They look like this
How did I meet my future friend?  My aunt, a fantastic cook and gardener extraordinaire purchased one some years back.  From the time I tasted the wonderful poultry she prepared for us in that crazy, clay oven, I knew one day I would have one too (thank you Sur La Table gift card.)  My Schlemmertopf killed my fear of roasting because that sucker is fool-proof; the fool in this situation would be yours truly.  Now it's true, I took the easy way out; I bought this giant clay thing because I was too chicken to roast a chicken without it BUT I would like to point out that its a very good investment.  See, what makes the Schlemmertopf system so wonderful, is that it cooks through baking and steaming the meat in its own juices.  That means you don't need oil, butter, cream or any liquids if you don't want to use them.  Health conscious, dairy free and kosher cooks unite!  This also eliminates the time-filled tradition known as the great baste walk:  the walk one does every 15-20 minutes between the oven and other parts of their house in order to baste their meats while they roast for however many hours they roast for.

Why this sudden interest in roasting meat you may ask?  Due to not being able to purchase chicken from any butcher in town because of a rise in soy feed (read all about my troubles here) I have found a couple of Grass-Fed chicken farms that sell at the local farmer's markets.  Trouble is, they only sell whole chickens.  I need to eat chicken reader; I can't only be eating red meat and cheese for protein, its just not healthy!  And thus, let the roasting begin.

First, I rinsed the chicken, pulled the skin off of it, made she it was fully gutted (gross!) and then rinsed it again.

Then I stuffed it with one white onion (cut in half), several rosemary sprigs, and a couple cloves of garlic. I salted and lightly peppered the chicken, and covered with a combo of Herbs de Provence and sweet paprika.
I also cut two large turnips in half and threw them next the chicken so they could roast up.

Then I followed the directions recommended by the manufacturer, which is placing the covered baker (prepped with a pre-soaked top) in a cold oven. For 10 minutes, you put your oven on low.  After those 10 minutes you bake at 425 F for 90 minutes.

When I removed the giant oven within an oven from my oven, I was very careful to open it away from my face, as it is propelled by a large amount of steam.

The veil of steam parted to reveal something I've never produced before:

A Perfectly Roast Chicken!!!!!

I took the turnips (which were delicious) and smashed them with some parmesan and garlic for a side dish.  The chicken fell of the bone, juicy and tender in the best and most perfect way.  I ate every part of this wonderful and simple dish.  And I plan to make all my meat in it for years to come!

Monday, July 26, 2010

I Like to Hang Out with the Fungi in the Room

Because when it comes to the truffle, better known to some officially as "an edible body of a group of fungi in the genus," known to me as my g-d that tastes good, that's the only thing I need to be around at a party.

Luckily, genius fellow food blogger Erika of In Erika's Kitchen understands the truffle lovin' better than anyone and celebrated by holding her 2nd Annual Trufflepalooza.  13, count them, 13 courses of delectable, scrumptious truffle laced and braced dishes were passed along the milling guests in the crowd. With each new course from the Corn Veloute generously topped with Black Truffle, to the creamy and perfectly cooked Risotto with Truffles, to the Filet Mignon with Truffle Butter (to die!) I got closer to heaven.  I couldn't pick a favorite dish; everything was spot-on!

Truffles are naturally gluten-free folks, and a good portion of the menu for Trufflepalooza also turned out to be GF (go Erika!)  And man, do I love truffles.  The scent, the flavor, hell I'll even take the look of them despite the fact that they resemble giant pieces of coal.

Winter Truffles, pictured courtesy of Sabatino Tartufi Website

The black summer truffles, which were in their prime, in addition to truffle products, were from Sabatino Tartufi.  Having brought back truffle products from Italy, I can definitely say that Sabatino Tartufi provides products of that exact same high-quality, cravable, and lust-inducing spell that you would expect from the Italian gourmet around the corner.  I am an especially big fan of their Truffle Honey; if I had it in my apartment, it would not last long.

In short, my truffle-induced coma was happily embraced.  I can only hope that Erika continues to have these for the rest of our lives.

Please check out her blog,, for the recipes that were used for this and last year's Trufflepaloozas.

Peace, love, and truffles :)

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Peaches & Cream Summer Dream

Another month has flown by which means Hello Pie!  This month's You Want Pies With That challenge comes from the dangerously talented Erin of Milk & Honey: "'Summer Fruit Pies'For July, how about we highlight summer fruits...berries, cherries, peaches, etc. All the goodies that are season now that we can enjoy before they're gone again." 

Um, yes please.  I love, love, l-o-v-e summer fruits, so this inspirational theme was a no-brainer for me.  I decided to go with the amazing, the loyal, the lovely peach.  One big reason is because they're insanely good right now; I picked up a few at the farmer's market and was hooked on this season's crop.  The pie below is fairly easy, it just requires a step-by-step process.  As long as you have good kitchen supplies, the different elements should come together seamlessly and hopefully with delightful results.

Peaches & Cream Summer Dream Pie

1 1/2-2 c of GF cookie crumbs, (shortbreads put in a processor or blender until fine work nicely)
1/4-1/2 c butter or non-dairy spread, melted
cane sugar to taste
8 oz cream cheese
1/2 c powdered sugar
1/2 c sour cream
splash vanilla (optional)
2 lbs fresh peaches, pitted and peeled
2 tbs tapioca flour/starch

Preheat oven to 350 F.
Mix cookie crumbs, butter and sugar to taste together to form your crust; if the crumbs look too dry add more butter.
Press mixture firmly into pie plate or tart pan.
Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown and set.

Cream the powdered sugar, sour cream, and cream cheese until smooth.
Splash with a little vanilla extract for an extra hit of flavor, and/or set aside.

Puree peaches.
Pour puree into a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring frequently to make sure the puree doesn't burn.
Add the tapioca flour/starch to puree and stir in until the puree thickens up a bit.
Set aside to cool.

Once crust is room temperature, pour cream layer into shell.
Layer peach puree layer on top.
Refrigerate for 4 hours-overnight.
Slice and decorate with other fruit purees, whipped cream, or fresh herbs.
Serve this twist on a summery creamsicle to guests with a smile on your face.

Among other things, this pie is surprisingly refreshing.  You wouldn't necessarily think that's the case considering the layer of cream cheesy goodness tucked under that fantastic fruit puree, but it really does heighten and brighten the senses, just like summer does :)

I can't wait to see what the other pie mavens came up with!  Can you?  You don't have to if you visit YWPWT and check them out :)

Monday, July 12, 2010

Martha Stewart Made Me Lazy

Greetings friends!  I keep promising to post the back log I have, and what better way to get rid of the eyeball pie, then to tell you a very true and sad fact.  Martha Stewart made me lazy.  I know, I know, the crafty g-ddess herself should actually elevate you to new levels of domesticity.  After all, she's quite the perfectionist.  And she uses fancy things like doilies.  Surely a woman of her caliber would only push me to work harder towards a culinary standard than anyone else.  But nope.  She made me lazy.  And this is why:

I love risotto, which stands to reason as rice is my favorite food.  I could probably eat risotto every day (I've occasionally tested this theory and know it to be true) and I welcome the bites of beautifully cooked arborio rice on my tongue.  But I work.  A lot.  I usually only cook one day a week for the rest of my week, and I was feeling particularly useless at that moment when I looked up a recipe for a simple baked risotto.  Yes, I was really so tired that stirring rice around for 25 minutes didn't sound doable, but I really wanted a fresh made risotto.

Enter a recipe I found on Martha Stewart Living here.  As you know, its in my genetic make-up that I can't follow a recipe as is, so instead of onion I used lots of yummy shallots, and further added diced butternut squash and thyme to make a rich, fresh and bright flavor.

Result?  It was okay.  The flavors worked very nicely and it was beautifully fragrant, but I found the rice to be much softer than I prefer it.  I don't like mushy risotto, and that's what happens when you oven bake it apparently (which I should have guessed.)  Also, I think that in the end, it would've taken about the same amount of time for me to actually prep and stir regular risotto.  I'm not sure this recipe saved me so much obvious time that I would go for this version instead of my regular go to. Especially when my go-to allows for a bit more of an al dente texture on the rice.

But, if you don't mind a softer rice and you need to step away from the stove for 30 minutes, by all means, be lazy.  If Martha says it's okay, then it has to be ;)

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Um, This is Embarrassing...

What I'm about to share with you dear reader is a little secret that I know you'll keep just between us:  sometimes, no matter how good your intentions are you occasionally make an eyeball.

Yes, I said eyeball.  At this moment in time, you've stopped to say, Suz, what the hell are you talking about.  Well I'll show you-

See.  Eyeball.

This occular disaster is unfortunately my horrific contribution to this month's challenge for You Want Pies With That?  Now I have no one good excuse, just a lot of little ones that really don't make up for the above picture.  You see, I had the honor of choosing the theme with my wonderful co-winner Sara of Cupcake Muffin.  We chose a pie inspired by your favorite frozen drink to sip at the beach.  And even though I specifically threw in the clause that the pie itself did not have to be frozen, I did not heed my own warning.

You see, I made another frozen pie for one of these challenges, and it was probably the most annoying/trickiest pie I've ever made.  Until now.  I should just stop making frozen pies because really I have no knack for it!

I made a pie inspired by a blueberry margarita.  Although not the first flavor of margarita you'd expect to find, I love the smooth sweetness with the tang of tequila.  Plus I love freshly muddled blueberries in any cocktail really.  And even though the result of my pie tastes really delicious, I tell you, what an ugly duckling it turned out to look like.

I made individual pies, because drinks come individually.  The crust, you can't see because it froze in the glass recepticle its sitting in.  Then the white layer is vanilla ice cream blended with salt and lime, to mimic the salted rim of a margarita and lime wedge.  The inside is a homemade blueberry granita that mimics the texture of a frozen blended drink.  Actually, I love the flavor combo and I LOVE the granita; I think I'll make it much more often than I do now.

Due to the fact that this didn't work at all in the process of making it even look that good and construct it, I'm not really going to instruct you on how to make it.  Let's just say it involved an attempt at constructing a parchment paper structure to make the center freeze round (it didn't work), softening a lot of ice cream, cutting myself with a knife trying to pry out the crust, which just made a hole around the crust for the softened (ahem melted) ice cream to freeze over, ruining the entire structural integrity of said pie.  Oh, and my fingers turned blue :)  But that part didn't bother me, go figure!

So sometimes you aspire to greatness, and other times you make an eyeball.  Oh well.  Who doesn't like eyeballs?

Please be gentle with your comments ;)

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Pizza, Pie?

First of all, I'd like to start this post by saying WOOHOO!  YOU WANT PIES WITH THAT IS BACK, BABY!  You think I'm excited about that?  That doesn't even compare to the excitement I harbored for this month's challenge:  Pizza Pie.  Now whether you believe a pizza is technically a pie or not is not the point here folks.  The point is that Erin from Milk & Honey finally chose a theme that encourages the savory (though sweet and creative pizzas are also encouraged.)  Some of my favorite pies are savory ones, so I welcomed this theme with open arms (and open mouth.)  And I mean, I have an excuse to make pizza!!

Towards the end of April, I made a vow to start working on bread products with the two allergen free flour mixes I'v been perfecting.  So far I've made rolls, a double-crust pie, and now, a pizza dough!  I used the recipe that the genius Jeanne of Four Chickens adapted and it worked insanely well.  I've been trying to find or make Gluten-Free pizza since 2007 folks, and this is the first time I really felt, damn, that's finally pizza, free of everything I can't eat.

But where would a pizza be without it's toppings?  For this Pizza Pie Challenge, I decided to go all out and make a pizza that would make my toes curl, my eyes roll and my tongue dance with delight, and I have three letters for you all: B.L.T.

This B.L.T. pizza is a mix of the sweet, salty, and savory that I love so much.  It's a twist on a classic, as instead of lettuce I used leeks (yum!)  The fresh bacon, leeks, and tomatoes along with perfect spices on this amazingly stable and allergen free crust totally rocked my world.  I can't wait to see what the other awesome creatives came up with here!

B.L.T. Pizza
(Bacon, Leek, and Tomato)

1 allergen-free crust prepared via Four Chickens blog or your own favorite
2 slices bacon or turkey bacon
1/2 pint of fresh grape tomatoes, rinsed, drained, and cut into small circles
1 stalk of leeks, just the steam cut into slices and quartered
3 cloves of garlic chopped or diced (I like smelly pizza, feel free to reduce)
a few oz shaved fresh parmesan cheese
a few oz Kerrygold vintage cheddar cheese
thyme, basil, black truffle salt, pepper to taste
olive oil

Prepare crust according to recipe.
While par-baking the crust prepare toppings as follows:
Fry bacon in olive oil until desired crispiness, remove and drain on paper towels. Tear bacon into pieces.
Throw leeks and garlic into bacony oil and saute until soft.  Remove leeks/garlic and drain.

(stacking process)

Remove par-baked crust and brush lightly with olive oil.
Arrange grape tomatoes on crust followed by leeks/garlic, bacon, desired amount of parmesan and slices of cheddar.
Sprinkle to taste with fresh thyme, basil, black truffle salt and pepper.
Put in the oven and cook for 6-8 more minutes and remove.
Cry tears of joy in anticipation of eating something so good you may just foodgasm.

Of course, even though the crust is allergen free, the dairy and meat I chose to put on the pizza compromises the allergy status of it, but there's no reason you couldn't tailer it to your own needs.  Now stop looking at my pizza and go be creative!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Food Allergy Awareness Week

Marked by the joyous celebration of Mother's Day, us food allergics rang in Food Allergy Awareness Week.  FAAW which is taking place right now (5/9-5/15), is an opportunity to examine your communities in a different light.  I'm guessing that some of you who already read my blog are allergics yourself.  But what if you're not an allergic?  Maybe an allergic-curious?  There's an angle for you!  The FAI's suggested giving up a food for the week.  This sacrifice is I believe, is the FAI's way of getting you to feel what it might be like to be an allergic for a small portion of time.  Maybe those who don't understand or can't imagine what it would be like without mentioned food will become more sympathetic to others.

I think that having people give up a food for a week in support of the allergic community is a good idea, but I would go one step further and suggest people give up one of the top 8 allergens instead.  The top 8 allergens are: Wheat, Milk, Fish, Shellfish, Eggs, Soy, Tree Nuts, and Peanuts.

As someone who is not able to eat 6 of the top 8 allergens, and is now having to limit my intake of eggs (thanks to the chickens pumped full of soy), I feel I can comprehend a great deal on the topic of sacrificing a common food.  Its not just the sacrifice of not eating a food though.  For me, eating one of my allergens quickly becomes a dangerous situation.  I've had horrifying allergic reactions, including losing consciousness.  Last year, someone accidentally put a pine nut in my salad and I was deathly ill for 3 days straight with my body doing some very unpleasant things which I will spare you from reading the details of.

I love the idea of someone trying to give up one of the 8 allergens for one week's time.  It encourages support and empathy and a special compassion for those suffering from food allergies.  But if one of the participants are accidentally fed the ingredient they are avoiding, what will happen to them?  Nothing.  So on top of asking you readers to give up a top 8 allergens, I ask you to really get to know your allergic family members, friends, teachers, community leaders, and bloggers.  Ask them what its really like to live with food allergies on a daily basis.  Read about food allergies and try eating out once while trying to avoid one of the top 8.  Educate yourselves and others and taper back from judging the mother of a peanut allergic child who is begging you not to pack a peanut butter & jelly sandwich for your child (a small inconvenience to you can save her child's life.)  If you work in the restaurant industry, learn about proper allergy safety, cross contamination, and sanitation.  Remember to be sensitive instead of snippy to those with special food needs.

As a very food allergic person, every day there's a sense of danger where there should be a sense of normalcy.  Please take a moment to think about how a food allergy can affect someone's life this week.  After all, awareness of each others' needs allows for the danger to turn into normalcy one day.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Keep Your Eyes on the Pies

"Anyone can cook!"  Perhaps my favorite line in a Pixar pic, said exuberantly by Chef Gusteau in the brilliant movie, Ratatouille.  Those of you who think "cartoons" are for "children" might want to take a minute and stop strangling your inner child and examine that Ratatouille is a movie that shares the shear joy of cooking with everyone- big, small or rat.  I've cheesily repeated that line to myself while meditating over quite a few experiments in the kitchen.  In fact, I have a stuffed Little Chef in my kitchen to remind me to keep on keeping on, even when allergen free goods seem impossible to compose.

Now I'm no rat, but when I started baking Gluten Free, a lot of weird things started happening.  Huge failings.  Hard as rock rolls.  Cookies and cakes that never cooked all the way through.  I-guess-you-could-call-them-muffins muffins.  I had given up on conventional, traditional baked goods for a time.  I experimented with other baked goods and alternative ways of creating traditional goods.  For example, I abandoned the usual pie crusts, and tried using fudge, cookie dough, GF crumbs, hash browns and mashed cauliflower (for the savory.) 

I secretly missed double crusted pies.  I mean, making pie was one of my favorite things to do pre-GF.  My favorite was fresh apple pie in the fall, and without that regular crust, it just didn't taste the same.  Well one day not too long ago, Shauna of the Gluten Free Girl tweeted about the amazing Jeanne at Four Chickens.  I saw that Jeanne had made a pie crust, and not only did it look beautiful, it looked too easy to make.  It seemed so simple to me that I figured, how can this possibly work?  Well, it worked!  And it worked like a charm.  Jeanne actually has many recipes for all the bready, baked goods I haven't been able to crack yet with no recipe, including choux pastry and pizza crust.  Her blog is amazing and I urge you to go check it out! 

It's time to recognize that many talented bloggers have joined the ranks of Little Chef who inspires me to strive for greatness each time I set foot in my kitchen.  If they can make magic in their GF kitchens, I can certainly make magic in mine.  Remember, anyone can cook.  And anyone means you too.

What's better than making inspiring food?  How about making it for someone who inspires you?  Like on Mother's Day.  This would be the perfect, bright addition to any Mother's Day feast.

Double-Berry, Double-Crust Pie
No nuts, soy, gluten, eggs, or dairy-
can you believe it?

Crust Ingredients:
Pie Crust as prepared using Four Chickens blog (note: I used my own allergen free flour mix instead)

Filling Ingredients:
2 pints of blackberries, washed and drained well
1 pint of strawberries, washed, drained well and quartered
1/2 cup of fair trade sugar
2 tbs tapioca starch

Click on the link above and follow Jeanne's directions. 
When it's time to make the filling, combine all filling ingredients and set aside while making crust.
Complete pie crust according to directions.  *Make sure when rolling it out use lots of tapioca starch so the dough does not stick to the rolling board, rolling pin, or you!
Before pouring the filling in the bottom crust, drain the extra liquid from the filling thats formed so your pie is not soupy.
Bake for about 35 minutes and let cool.
Refridgerate for a 30 minutes to set the fruit juices in the pie.
Remove and set to room temperature to serve.
Cut and serve, maybe even a la mode :)

Some notes about the above recipe:
  • It doesn't contain eggs unless you make an egg wash, and you can use a non-dairy shortening to make it egg and dairy free!
  • The pie crust had to be rolled very thin in order to cover my Emile Henry 9" pie plate.  There was no leftover crust; it had to be used to cover everything.
  • The crust will be very sticky while you're rolling it out.  I put the note above about using tapioca starch in order to reduce this.  I covered my hands with the starch and the ball of crust that I was rolling out.  I also rolled it out in between two pieces of parchment paper; this helped a lot.
  • The flour I used to make the crust was a combination of white rice, tapioca and arrowroot.  This mix held up and I'm guessing any all purpose GF flour would too.
  • I sprinkled some extra sugar on top of the crust before I put the pie in the oven.  The crust isn't really sweet or flavorful by itself, so make sure your filling is robust!
  • If you cut into a berry pie and see a soupy mess, cheat!  Take a ladle and try to dry it up a bit.  But I highly recommend drinking the soupy mess.  It's usually delicious.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Soy Vey!

How can I be getting sick from eating plain chicken and rice pasta?  This question riddled me for the past 2 months.  I paired down all of my eating and creative recipes (to the detriment of my blog, sorry followers) to lots of plain chicken, rice pasta, Food for Life english muffins (yum!), cheese, and turkey bacon.  I did this to figure out how the heck I was still getting so ill.  I kept thinking I was under-cooking the chicken, giving myself continuous food poisoning.  Then I over-cooked the chicken on purpose and still got super sick.  Then after one particularly awful night, I stopped cooking chicken completely.  Had I become allergic to chicken all of a sudden?  Oh no, please don't take away my chicken, body!  But I wasn't always getting sick when I ordered chicken at a restaurant.  What gives?  So I checked with the butcher at my market.  What are they feeding the chickens?  Now they feed them soy, exclusively.


Apparently I'm so allergic to soy these days that now I have to switch chicken providers somehow.  While I search for a new way to find safe poultry that I can cook, I'll be trying to manage the fact that chicken's always been my safe and healthy choice.  I have to except that if I choose to eat chicken out, that I'm rolling the dice depending on where the chicken is from.

Though this presents an obviously annoying challenge, new opportunity comes with it.  Opportunities to try new things, things I might not have tried before.  And after a lovely discussion with a very friendly butcher, I will be making my first buffalo burger tonight.  I've never eaten, let alone cooked buffalo, though it can't be difficult as you cook it as you would beef, just subtract some time for the leanness.

I'm excited to try a new meat, but I know that its still red meat.  And yes, its lower in cholesterol and naturally a better choice, but I still shouldn't eat red meat every day.  In the meantime, the poultry products from Applegate Farms have not started bothering me yet, so I'll supplement some meals with turkey hot dogs and turkey bacon from them.  Of course, I will be eating more dairy to keep my protein as high up there as I can.  I'm not sure what will happen to my cholesterol in the long run.  I can't imagine this will be very good for it, but I have to consciously and unfortunately make that choice now.  I choose to make my calories so I can keep my energy up and hopefully my cholesterol won't get much higher in the process.

In the meantime, soy-free feed for chickens any one?

I don't know why this never occured to me before, reader.  I'm so careful with my choice of foods.  I know that not all feed translates into the meat that hits the table, so they must be feeding these chickens a crazy amount of soy.  I guess this just teaches me that you have to think of everything.  I must admit, since I cut out that chicken, I've been feeling 50% better.  That's a big deal for someone like me who hasn't reached 100% in a few years.  If you've been having mystery problems too, maybe you're just like me and this will help you too.

It makes me sad of course that this company is now pumping their chickens full of one of the top 8 allergens in the US.  I'm not for canabalistic feeding, but there's probably other answers out there.  I gather those answers aren't as cheap as soy nor as beneficial to American farmers.  It's not that I don't see how great soy can be for non-allergics, but how can non-allergics not see what soy does to a big chunk of the population?

Soy vey indeed.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Suz's Guide to Sick Food

While children believe in the Easter Bunny, Santa and the Tooth Fairy, I'd like to think there's a special imaginary being out there for those of us who suffer from digestive issues.  I like to call this being, the Tummy Ache Fairy.  Since getting back from London (which was both fantastic and uncomfortably cold), I have had another visit from the Tummy Ache Fairy.  My fairy, like myself, is strong and forceful and so, my aches are of the aggressive nature.

You may be thinking, "Has our dear blogger Suz finally lost her mind?  Has all this health hockey finally tossed her over the deep end, now that she's seeing imaginary creatures?"

I would answer to that, "I never said I saw them, silly!"

But it dawned on me that those who are plagued with their own Tummy Ache Fairies and Digestive Elves of all kinds might also have the common problems that come with feeling sick in that area:  What do you eat?  How do you eat?  If you're constantly feeling this way, you can't avoid eating forever, can you?  How can you get calories in you?  

Now I'm not a nutritionist or a doctor or a nurse.  I'm just a woman recommending 5 of my favorite calm, easy, and sensitive products that have helped me in times of sickness.  After all whether your body wants to admit it or not, it needs food and the calories it provides to function.

What's the one thing you can always have when you're feeling crappy?  That's right folks, soup.  And even more simply, broth.  Sometimes you need to start small and sip your way back into eating.  And broth is also a clear liquid, for those of you having digestive related procedures that require you to ditch solid foods for a day.  

Imagine, which makes soups and broths of all kinds, could possibly be one of those companies I couldn't live without.  A wide variety (if not all) of their soups and broths are gluten-free.  They also have several flavors that are vegetarian, Kosher, and even low sodium if you have multiple diet restrictions.  I use their organic broths which have minimal, relevant ingredients, in several of my recipes to aid in the cooking of meat without adding unnecessary fats or marinades.  Broth adds flavor to otherwise bland dishes.  You can cook plain rice or quinoa in it instead of using water, and I sometimes use it as a substitute for tea (which I've been told to stay off of) when its cold outside and plain hot water won't cut it.

I am very sad for you if your grocery store does not carry Tinkyada pasta, because it is the best substitution for glutenous pasta I've found.  When you need to eat something plain and easy to digest, pasta or rice is definitely a good option.  But when it's combined into rice pasta, you've got a winner!  In addition to all the awesome qualities and abilities of Tinkyada pasta, it's super easy to cook.

If you're sick, the last thing you want to do is slave over a stove.  With this pasta, all you have to do is boil water, then boil the pasta for 1-2 minutes and shut off the stove, keeping it covered for 20 mins.  Nothing is easier than that!  Result:  you have a perfectly good option to feed yourself without your stomach revolting against you.  

Those of you who knew me in college, know that for about 2 years of my life I ate nothing but couscous and cheese, beans or meat.  I loved couscous.  Aside from the fun of saying it, what isn't to love?  It is a delicious little grain that is delicious plain or doctored.  Plus it is cheap.  Plus it takes no time to make.  But alas, gluten lives in couscous, and so I said goodbye to it years ago.  

Lundberg is another one of those companies that continuously impresses me with their GF, rice products.  They make an excellent quick-fix boxed risotto, rice cakes, and a line of brown rice couscous!  The brown rice couscous is as easy to prepare as regular couscous, and has the wonderful fluffy texture that I missed from eating regular couscous, but without that pesky gluten getting in the way.  When the idea of eating is not making you happy, boil up some of this mild and easy to digest heaven.  It's a food that's sure to bind some of your troubles away and settle your tummy.

Now I'm not one for sodas usually.  I've never loved carbonation, considering I'm usually already a little bloated myself.  But there are times, especially when I'm feeling sick, that I really, really crave that can of ginger ale or sprite.  Since I ditched corn for the most part a few months back, I haven't been partaking in soda, even when I've wanted it.  That is, until I saw Hansen's hanging out on the store shelf.  And then I instantly remembered- when I was a teenager, we bought Hansen's canned juice blends all the time (I think these blends have been discontinued but man they were good!).  Recognizing the brand, I then saw something else.  They use natural cane sugar instead of corn syrup to sweeten their sodas.  Now, I know that sugar is sugar folks, and you can argue for the pros and cons of it all you want.  But here's what I know.  I know when I read the ingredients on a can of Hansen's sodas I'm going to find ingredients I recognize, can pronounce, and regularly occur in nature.  I can't say the same for when I read any other soda label out there which is usually rife with corn syrup, 20 chemicals I don't recognize plus food coloring.

Hansen's doesn't have any preservatives, caffeine, or artificial elements to it.  And so I trust when I'm sick, it will make me feel better instead of worse.  Plus, the sugar really helps replace what you may be putting out, and helps with energy levels.

Alright, up until now you probably thought I was giving really good suggestions for foods to eat when you don't feel well.  But hot dogs?  I may have lost you at hot dogs.  For some reason, don't ask me why, I often feel I can handle hot dogs when I'm having tummy aches or sick issues.  To me, there's something comforting about them.  Maybe they take me back to my childhood.  Whatever the reason, hot dogs are a good choice because they are a source of protein and fat which is good to get into your body when you're not eating a whole lot.  Another plus, is that although not super salty, they do have a salty flair to them which is very good for the sick.  Can't have saltines?  Who cares!  I'm having hot dogs.

Applegate Farms makes great organic beef, chicken and turkey dogs that are nitrate, casein, and gluten free.  The taste, however, is fully there, and they're a fantastic meal solution for someone who can't cook because they don't feel well.  Microwaves are not hard to operate even when you're not 100% folks.

I hope the above suggestions are helpful to any of my fellow frequently sickies and that you find they're also good suggestions for when you're well too.  Just as all of these foods are good plain, they're also great doctored up for when you're not needing to see a doctor.  And no, no one sent me free samples or paid me to tell you about how much I love these products and how much they help me when my diet is under construction.  I did that all on my own.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Eat More Food

"Eat more food?" I asked with my heart sinking into my poor, distended gut. "Eat more food," said the nutritionist who sat across from me.

Eat more food.  Isn't that the kind of advice that everyone wants to hear? Eat more food.  That sounds easy.  Hell, I bet you most of America would agree it even sounds fun!  But I almost cried.

I've been overweight for as long as I can remember.  I was teased constantly growing up, and I had always thought that with proper diet and exercise, one day I could control my weight.  What I didn't know is that my body wasn't, isn't, and may never be normal, so the normal principles of weight loss don't necessarily apply to me.  As many of you know, I've been getting into fights with my body.  I was hoping that it would cooperate after all the allergies, the gluten, and the vices were cut out of my lifestyle.  My body decided it had other plans.  Different plans.  What I suspected to be thyroid related plans.  And after several doctors over several years told me its not your thyroid, I tested positive for thyroid antibodies, which assures me that I'm not crazy after all.  The presence of these antibody suckers does indicate that I am in fact experiencing some sort of autoimmune disfunction. Perhaps signs of early hypothyroid.  The first thing I thought of, admittedly selfish mind you, was maybe my metabolism will finally kick into gear.

Because of me having been overweight for most of my life, I always thought my metabolism was extremely slow.  I had one pediatrician tell me I had no metabolism, and that was that.  Through sources such as articles, journals, and medical professionals, metabolism is another one of those things medical science doesn't know enough about.  Which is why I was shocked to find out there was a metabolism test that I was going to take with a nutritionist, in order to see how many calories I was burning a day.

The metabolism test I took consisted of being at rest and breathing into a tube for 10 minutes.  The breath goes through the tube into a small machine that looks like it came from the late 1980s, which then estimates about how many calories you're burning in a day.  I expected a slow metabolism.  After all, I can't lose weight so it only seemed to make sense. Why haven't I learned that my body doesn't make sense?  My metabolism was a lot higher than I expected.  So high that the nutritionist said I need to eat 800 more calories a day, which brings me to the eat more food above.

Lately, eating has been more difficult than usual.  I think it's this weird new no appetite feeling my body's been showing up with.  I tried to eat enough, at the right times of day, despite the fact I haven't really been into it.  I guess I wasn't doing a very good job, because I wasn't eating enough according to the woman who was a size 0 telling me to eat more food.  And so now I'm here, the opposite place I'd ever imagined myself to be as a mysteriously overweight woman: eating more food.

It's not the fun foods that you would want to add to your diet like chocolate or butter, or more chocolate (hey I like chocolate!)  It's more like, eat more protein, more dairy, and more caloric vegetables and fruits without adding a lot more fat.  This is super hard with my food restrictions as everything I happen to eat is naturally low in calories.  I like chicken and turkey, peas, apples, bananas, and romaine lettuce.  I like baking with agave and applesauce, and eating pudding or yogurt for dessert.  So sue me!  But eating them in what I always thought were appropriate quantities is not helping my crazy-ass metabolism (aka C.A.M) so now I have to just eat more of them.

At this point, I'm willing to try just about anything to see if it works.  This is week 2 of my eating more food.  I'm not going to lie, I feel miserable about it.  It's not my favorite thing in the world to force myself to eat, especially when I'm not hungry.  But like everything else, this will take time to get used to.  I just hope it really works eventually, because I'm running out of other ideas.

I hope you don't mind me sharing these things with you reader.  To me, coping with these problems seems to go hand in hand with pre-Celiac, Celiac, or hyper-allergic individuals who still experience further symptoms despite altering their diets.  All of these things relate back to our autoimmune systems, an all encompassing storm of crazy that seems to rain down if one tiny thing gets of kilter.

I also hope this will explain why I may not post recipes for a few weeks, as I'm eating a lot of baked chicken, chicken/turkey/beef burgers, fruits, veggies, tinkyada pasta, and yogurt.  I'll find other upbeat things to write about though, don't you fear!  I'm actually going back to the UK for a couple weeks of work and hope to try out some awesome gluten-free foods while I'm in town.  I promise to tell you all about it!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Math+Science+Crying=Experimental Baking

So as you can imagine, when I first faced my one serving of sugary or medium-oxalate carb a day, I didn't quite follow all the rules.  I would sometimes conveniently forget that a cookie was made with rice flour, or think it's only a small amount compared to eating a cup of rice.  I justify sometimes.  Don't we all?

But I'm a determined person.  I'm a willful, ambitious woman and I apply that directly to any challenge that faces me (as long as you give me from 1 hour-1 day to be frustrated with said challenge, wherein I may possibly cry.) After justifying, the determined person in me woke up and thought, I don't have to bake with rice flour just because it works.  I can bake with other mixes of flour too.  And thus began my journey into a haze of alternative flours, poofing up before my very eyes.

When I'm experimenting with Gluten-Free baking, I find I get a lot of fails before I hit my successes.  I've seen train wrecks, rocks, and mush come out of my oven time and time again.  And I've learned the age-old, visual disclaimer the hard way:  just because it looks good, does NOT mean it tastes good.  I've thrown away some really valiant tries, and I've frozen some interesting products to be eaten with courage at a later date.  For the better part of 2-3 months, I've been divining what will be my new flour mix: a rice free, corn free, soy free, nut free, bean free mixture that will work well with regular recipes, with substitutions, and with different types of baked goods.  Seems like a lot to ask for, doesn't it?

Now let me take you back to school with me for a moment.  Remember when you sat in class and muttered those famous groans, When am I EVER going to use this stuff?!  Oh, I remember very clearly because I was always very vocal regarding school lessons and practical life applications. The only hope I had for my future, grown self was that I would in fact never use mathematical sciences daily as a part of my career.  To say I never excelled at mathematical science would be the understatement of the century.  I'll be the first to stand up and tell you I was all for biology and anatomy, but was destroyed by chemistry and physics.  Ironically so, experimental baking is ALL chemistry and physics.  Oh, cruel fates!

Since my brain doesn't function with numbers (I was so much more of an English kid), I'd rather think of baking experiments as logic puzzles which haven't been solved yet.  For all you middle-school science fair attendees, I approach the trials with informal if/then statements (hypotheses) and solve them through trial and error.  Of course numbers are involved with baking no matter what because you find you need more of this or less of that, but if you only look at measurements and do equations on recipes first, you'll end up with a mess on your hands.  My first flour mix used 6 different flours; I ended up with a mix that uses just 3 flours (nice and economical.) I could take you through all the tedious reasons why mixes 1-5 didn't work, but I'd rather not "show my work" and dwell on past failures.  Instead, I'd like to celebrate mix 6, which did work.  I've used mix 6 on three separate weekends now, altering the same recipe (my control) checking to make sure that the substitutions didn't disturb the ability of the mix to absorb or not absorb what I was doing to it.  This weekend I'm running trials on how the mix functions in an originally gluttened recipe and how it functions as a vegan mix, but I'm confident that both trials will hold up nicely.  I'm not quite ready to share mix 6 with you yet, but it's not far off in the distance.

So class, what have we learned?

  • 1) Don't quit if your experiment backfires, literally or figuratively.
  • 2) You may occasionally cry during this process.  Have tissues handy.  Wash hands.  Try again.
  • 3) Don't be afraid of experimenting with baking because it's just like a middle school science fair project, and we've all been forced to do one of those.
  • 4) If a dunce like me can apply the principles of school to life and make delicious baked goods, I guess mathematical science isn't 100% evil (maybe just 98.5% evil.)

Class dismissed.  Go make a mess in your kitchen :)

Tip:  When testing baked goods, make smaller batches of smaller goods.  I tested wholesome cakes with muffins.  Check out the blueberry!

If anyone would like to buy me a new camera, 
well please do...

Friday, January 29, 2010

How Did I Get High Cholesterol?

If you've ever watched a health report on TV, an informercial regarding health, or a show exploring health epidemics in America, they usually have at least one or two interviews with an ordinary citizen who has said malady that is being discussed.  We'll call this citizen Joe.  Poor Joe has this or that, but never saw the signs before it was too late.  I secretly always thought to myself, Come on Joe.  You really didn't know you had high cholesterol when you ate rare steaks, burgers, bacon and cheese at every meal?  It doesn't take a dietician to know where that one was headed.  But the truth is, what was very obvious to me about Joe's diet was not obvious to him. Furthermore, what was never obvious to me just became a problem of my own.

I never thought I would have high cholesterol:  I eat a healthy diet, I exercise regularly, I don't eat a ton of read meat...  Wait.  Didn't I start eating cheese with much more regularity about 2 years ago?  Didn't I stop using egg whites for baking instead using whole eggs in recipes?  Didn't I get down with dairy on a serious regular basis 2 years ago too?  I was focusing on all the goods things I was feeding my body that I never bothered to check that many of my healthy, organic dairy products were coming with a decent amount of cholesterol.  Tricky...

My good cholesterol is actually extremely good, which is due to my love of olive oil and avocados but that bad cholesterol is definitely creeping up on me and I'm still under 30.  Dammit...  Part of this is also due to family history.  I come from a long line of cholesterol factories so I guess it was bound to happen, but on top of all my other restrictions I really REALLY don't want to add another.

Funny enough, eating a low-cholesterol diet isn't that hard to do.  Especially if you're cooking for yourself.  Partly, you have to read labels (which I happen to be excellent at), check portions, and add more fiber to your diet. Be conscious of what you're putting into your body.  You're also supposed to exercise a ton and lose some weight, but we all know I'm working on that.

Switching to egg whites is easy.  Eating pudding or yogurt instead of ice cream is doable.  I am having issues with the cheese though.

Which brings me to dinner two weeks ago.  Noodle-less lasagnas are a favorite of mine.  Mostly because when I make a noodle-less lasagna it's a giant unbreaded eggplant parm.  Yum... Eggplant parm...  But I digress.  I so wanted that a few weeks back but I couldn't help but think to myself, You should really limit your cheese now.  Maybe a lasagna isn't the best dinner to start with.

Bullshit!  my mind cried.  When have I EVER let a restriction tell me I can't make something?  That's right, the answer is NEVER and so lasagna shall be no exception.  I had to skimp.  I had to substitute.  I had to be frugal with the cheese.  But you know what?  It wasn't as cheesy, but it was just as tasty.  I love the flavor of eggplant and I don't need to drown it in cheese to trick myself into eating it.  Know your limitations before you try this.  I'm not claiming it tastes just like real lasagna, or that it will fool your neighbors and friends into thinking you got it from a restaurant.  This is a lower-cholesterol, lower-fat, noodle-less lasagna.  Try it, but it may not be your thing.

Eggplant Lasagna
Lower-Cholesterol, Lower-Fat

Fills a 9x13 dish, half if desired
3 medium/large eggplants, sliced length-wise or in thin circles (I like to keep the skin on, cut in circles)
1 jar (25.5 oz) pasta sauce divided; have another jar on hand if you're a lots-o-sauce person, I'm not
1.5 lbs ground organic dark meat chicken, cooked until browned (optional)
16 oz nonfat cottage cheese (aka fake ricotta)
2 cups part-skim, low-cholesterol mozzarella
2 tbs crushed, packed garlic ( or several raw clove equivalent)
basil, oregano, salt and pepper (or crushed red pepper flakes) to taste
olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Arrange sliced eggplant on large cookie sheets.  
Optional: For softer noodle like consistency, brush eggplant with olive oil.
Salt and pepper eggplant.
Cook eggplant 5 minutes on each side.
Remove eggplant from oven.
Take optional ground chicken, which you've browned, and place in a large bowl or skip if you aren't using meat.
In a large bowl, mix cottage cheese, mozzarella, garlic, salt/pepper to taste.
In a greased 9x13 dish, plop a small amount of sauce to lightly coat the bottom of the dish.
Add the rest of the sauce to the cheese mixture, reserving about 2 tsb to dot top on lasagna.

Layering Process:
Layer eggplant slices over the bottom, slightly overlapping to crate the bottom "noodle."
Top lightly with cheese or cheese/meat mixture, spreading evenly.  
Sprinkle mixture with basil and oregano to taste.
Camera's on crack.  I apologize.

Repeat layering process until you run out of filling and eggplant.  This will most likely occur after about 3 layers.  
Top the last layer with any remaining filling (I had a bit more filling then eggplant), very lightly sprinkle with a bit of mozzarella, and dot with sauce.

Place covered lasagna in the oven at 350 F for 30 minutes.
Lower temperature to 325 F for another 30 minutes.
Uncover lasagna and cook for 5-15 more minutes depending on how hot your oven gets or how wet your lasagna is.

The cottage cheese is a little trick I learned from a non-fat lasagna that my mom used to make.  I'm not a huge fan of it from the tub, but when it's cooked in things it really is a very good fake for ricotta in anything, i.e. GF Italian cheesecake.  You'll notice the filling only contains two cheeses (instead of the four types I would normally use: ricotta, asiago, parm, mozzarella) and no egg.  Like I said, if you're watching out for your sneaky cholesterol too, you may want to give this a go.  You can also use it as a template to pump it up for a full-fat, noodle-less lasagna.  As always, I substitute as I see fit; you should do the same.

Friday, January 22, 2010

I Love... Perky's Crunchy Flax (an Enjoy Life cereal)

I kind of worship the folks at Enjoy Life.  I think I've said it a few times before on my blog, but I feel like the company is somehow a good friend of mine due to the way I mention it often in casual conversation.  "But there is a soy-free chocolate that bakes well.  Have you tried Enjoy Life?"  "No, there's a totally safe allergen-free trail mix.  Have you tried Enjoy Life."  I speak of Enjoy Life the same way that other women my age casually mention their significant others or their children.  I however in no way have any intention of dating, marrying, or reproducing with an allergy-free institution.  Go ahead, call me pathetic.  But before you do, have you tried Enjoy Life?

I don't have to rattle off my list of allergies and diet restrictions for you readers as they're on the right-hand side of the page, but those of you who read my blog with any regularity know that I've got a lot going on.  Finding a portable breakfast food easily assembled at the office that requires no special cooking surfaces or equipment is a challenge.  When I knew I had to jump off corn, there went my cornflakes.  When I decided I wanted my one serving of complex carbs a day to be at lunch or dinner, I had to chuck my wonderful rice cereal in the morning.  After being told by my doc that I had a high bad cholesterol (thanks cheese) and that I needed more fiber in my diet, I did some research about Flax.  Flax is a seed, it is approved for low carb diets,  it and does not naturally have a significant amount of vitamin C.  Okay, 3 good things.  Then I saw some articles saying for some it's a little difficult to digest (boo) and heard that the flavor was an acquired, sometimes overwhelming taste (that sounded ew to me.)

Then I started to see a lot of press (traditional + bloggers and tweets) that Enjoy Life had re-packaged/re-named one of their products: a Flax cereal that I may never have considered eating before so many restrictions were in place.  I thought, What the hell, I love Enjoy Life, let's find this cereal.  

I found the box at the Venice Whole Foods, and looked at the cover.  Perky's Crunchy Flax.  I love the word "crunchy" on products.  Unfortunately for many allergy-free products, that claim tends to fall soft (pardon the pun.)  Did I dare to dream?  Then I read some of the nutritional details: 6g dietary fiber, 7g protein and 425mg Omega-3's per serving.  This is a coup for someone like me who can only get her protein through meat, cheese, and the occasional quinoa.  Such a high content of dietary fiber, and it's Gluten-Free?  And Omega-3's for all that fish I'm not eating.  The label passed the test with flying colors.

I was still a little nervous when I got it home.  I know I eat a lot of healthy foods, but I've never been way into the super-food movement and to be honest, I thought of Flax as a possible gross health food.  There I said it.  I, who have very few choices, was judging a food before I tried it.  What an uber-snob I was being!  So I poured a small amount of the cereal into a bowl.  The little balls reminded me of grape nuts.  I know this is going to sound weird, but the cereal looks cute.  I cut up a banana on top of it; I thought it would cut the Flaxy flavor I was bracing for.  I added a splash of Lactaid milk for just a bit of moisture.  The spoon rose to my mouth, my lips parted, my eyes closed, and I silently prayed for a foodgasm.

Success!  Where's this awful acquired taste I'm supposed to be afraid of?  It's not here.  The balls are mild and have a slight positive aftertaste that reminds me of when I was a child eating dried chow mein noodles out of bowls in Chinese restaurants.  The banana matched the small sense of nuttiness perfectly with its smooth flavor and texture.  And was the cereal crunchy?  Hell, yes.  Even when the milk tenderized it a bit, the texture was still on the crispier side and really made me feel like I was chewing my food instead of just squishing it around in my mouth.  The best part?  Because of the fiber and nutrition packed into the cereal, my stomach didn't start growling an hour before lunch like it usually does.  This kept me full until I was supposed to eat again.

So once again I find myself saying, I love you Enjoy Life.  You make an allergic girl facing the world happier product by product.  And even better, now I have a non-complex carb alternative to use when making portable snacks like cereal bars.  Keep testing, creating, and putting out new products.  I'm a greedy bastard ;)