Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Green Goddess Dressing

You see, Green Goddess is much more than a dressing. Since I've started making it, it's made its way into a variety of applications. It makes a fantastic dip for just about anything on its own, but toss it into a blender with some white beans and you've got something rather special indeed. I have seen it as a dressing for cold pasta, and served with grilled jumbo shrimp; I think scallops would be at least as delightful.
In researching the dressing, I came across a lot of different recipes with a surprising amount of variation: Different proportions of mayonnaise, plain greek yogurt, sour cream and vinegar; with or without anchovy; and while nearly all call for parsley and chives, others called for basil, tarragon, thyme, mint and even chervil. Despite Martha's greatest efforts to market it, however, chervil remains an elusive ingredient for most of us. While they call for parsley and chives, the original evidently did not include tarragon; this will not stand. For reasons I cannot justify, in my mind Green Goddess must have tarragon. Must. So I added it. And I stand by that decision. Fact is, you could tweak this recipe ten times till Tuesday, and you'd still end up with a delicious, refreshing dressing, so have at it. I opted to use a variet of herbs from this years herb garden. I have a combination of basil, mint, chives, Italian parsley and tarragon.

3/4 c. GF real mayonnaise
1/4 c. GF sour cream
1/4 c. each chives, parsley and tarragon, finely chopped

a small handful of fresh mint, about 6 leaves
a small handful of fresh basil beaves, about 6 leaves
1 small garlic clove
1 Tbsp fresh squeezed lemon juice
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

In the bowl of a food processor, mince the herbs and garlic. Add the sour cream, mayonnaise, vinegar and lemon juice, pulse to blend. Season with salt and fresh ground black pepper. Pulse to combine. Transfer to and air tight container.  Cover and refrigerate. Best if made several hours or up to a day ahead.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

No Bake Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars

Happy Summer Solstice! Welcome to the first official day of summer and the heat came with it. I have to admit I feel a bit like summer break has been going on for quite a while in our household, but I know that many of my friends’ children are just finishing up the school year and that is certainly reason to celebrate.

What exactly is the summer solstice? On this day, the Earth’s and the moon’s axial tilt is most inclined towards the sun, and therefore we have the longest period of daylight today. So how are you going to make the most of it? I recommend making something delicious. In fact, I recommend making these no bake peanut butter bars. I made them for the first time today and boy are they delicious. And the vote was unanimous, from my kids, that they are thumbs up delicious. Recipe adapted from

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon GF vanilla extract
2 cups smooth GF peanut butter
2- 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
11.5 ounce bag milk chocolate (or semi-sweet) chips
Gluten Free Pretzel sticks, I used Synders of Hanover GF

Put butter, brown sugar, and peanut butter in a large microwave safe bowl. Microwave until butter and peanut butter are melted, one to two minutes (time will vary by microwave). Remove from microwave and add vanilla and confectioner’s sugar. Mix all of the ingredients together until they form a ball of dough that leaves the side of the bowl. Put in a 9×13 pan and press down.
Pour chocolate chips in a small microwave bowl and microwave at 30 second intervals, stirring after each interval until melted. Pour over top of peanut butter mixture and spread evenly. Break pretzel sticks up into smaller pieces and sprinkle on top. Push gently into chocolate. Allow to cool completely at room temperature or place in the refrigerator until chocolate hardens. Slice into squares. Makes about 24 squares.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Gluten Free Sugar Free Almond Cake, In honor of Fathers Day

Gluten-Free Almond Cake

AlmondWhen it comes to baking, my biggest challenge is creating recipes that are both gluten free and relatively healthy. I stumbled upon this recipe from of all places. It is pretty simple to make, has only 4 ingredients, but such a rich and wonderful texture and taste. And it’s super high in protein since it’s made of almonds. With a few minor adjustments to the original recipe, this is another guiltless but tasty dessert!
Almonds are great – they are full of goodness! They contain high quality and highly absorbable protein, as well as magnesium, phosphorus, iron, vitamin E and vitamin B complex. Almonds are rich in calcium as well, making them an excellent substitute for dairy products.
For this recipe, you will need ground almonds. These can be purchased from most grocery stores and health food stores, I buy mine from Trader Joes, or you can grind them up yourself to a fine powder.

You’ll need:
  • 4 eggs (farm fresh are preferable)
  • 3/4 cup good sugar (such as agave nectar, succanat, or cane sugar if the other 2 are not available)
  • 2 cups finely ground almonds
  • 2  teaspoons vanilla extract
1. Pre-heat oven to 325 degrees F (165 degrees C). Prepare an 8 inch round baking pan by lining bottom with either parchment paper, or lightly greasing it using a good fat such as coconut oil.
2. In a bowl, beat the eggs until thick and tripled in volume. Add sugar slowly, beating until very thick. Slowly fold in extract and then almonds. Pour batter into prepared pan.
3. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden on top and slightly browned on edges. Cool in pan for 10 minutes then turn out.
- Can add slivered almonds and/or powdered sugar on top

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Being Athletic and Gluten Free

So a bit more about me. I am an athlete, more specifically a long distance runner and workout enthusiast. I love to hit the weight room at the gym, building my muscles feels powerful. Running is my excape from my life.  It is my stress reliever, my savior, my anti-depressant, my friend, my me time. I too am Gluten intolerant and the mom of 2 children with special needs.

So what is Gluten? Gluten is a combination of two proteins: gliadin and glutenin. Both are found in the endosperm of the wheat, barley and rye plants. Gluten is the protein that nourishes wheat during germination from seed to plant. The glutenin in wheat flour gives dough its elasticity and allows leavening; glutenin also contributes to the chewiness of baked goods. For many people, these proteins do not digest appropriately and the body reacts with a variety of symptoms.
Some of the most common symptoms of a gluten intolerance are unexplained aches, fatigue, headaches, joint or muscle pain, bloating or other digestion problems. Gluten intolerance, also known as celiac disease, is a condition which has been gaining recognition as a contributing factor in many health issues. New evidence suggests that as many as 1 in 10 people are gluten sensitive, or gluten intolerant. Many autoimmune illnesses may also be associated with gluten intolerance such as, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, rheumatoid arthritis, thyroid disorders and diabetes. About 1 percent of the North American population is estimated to have celiac disease. Celiac disease is currently described as damage to and mal absorption of nutrients in the small intestine. Gluten may inflict damage on other areas of the body as well.
Whether you are an elite or a recreational athlete, your diet typically relies on adequate carbohydrate intake. The majority of this energy is derived from the gluten containing grains. When these foods are eliminated from the diet, there is a chance that an athlete may not be able to refuel correctly, or they may become deficient in important nutrients such as B-vitamins, forms of iron and fiber.
Some athletes are afraid to follow a gluten-free diet because they are concerned about their carbohydrate/energy intake. Carbohydrates before, during and after training or competition are essential in maintaining energy levels, regulated blood sugar, prevention of fatigue, and quick recovery after an event.
In fact, some athletes believe that following a gluten-free diet has performance enhancing advantages. The reason is that athletes choose high glycemic, refined or processed carbohydrates as a quick recovery food, most of these choices contain gluten. When these foods are eliminated from the diet the benefits outweigh the risks, elevated performance results from a diet that is low glycemic index, high fiber, and adequate in lean protein.
The rationale behind why many athletes follow gluten-free diets is basically to ease unappealing digestive symptoms during competition. Improved digestion leads to improved absorption of nutrients, which can then translate into improved performance. Based on anecdotal evidence, it appears that there is potential for improved performance in athletes who eat a gluten-free diet even if they are not diagnosed with an allergy or celiac disease.
Carbohydrates are an important source of energy, especially during exercise. The recommended intake of carbohydrates is up to 15 g/kg of body weight yet; type of sport, energy output and climate may affect the recommendation. Breads, pasta, cereal, rice, and fruit are the common food products that an athlete is likely to choose. Unfortunately, those diagnosed with celiac disease are unable to eat the wheat based items. Typical healthy carbohydrate substitutions within a gluten-free diet include all varieties of rice, organic corn, flaxseeds, quinoa, tapioca, potato, amaranth, tofu, nuts, and beans.
Following a gluten-free diet does show some advantages:
1. With gluten removed, the body's immune system can rest and absorption can be restored. The body can then function at optimal levels and repair muscles more efficiently.
2. The hypoglycemic effect that results from intense exercise is minimized.
3. A gluten-free diet helps to maintain a stable blood sugar level during exercise, which is optimal for an increase in muscle strength and stamina.

Tips to Live Gluten-Free

1. Emphasize the foods which are naturally gluten-free, such as vegetables, fruits, starchy vegetables, legumes, and certain whole grains.
2. Choose fresh vegetables or frozen without sauce, fresh, dried or frozen fruits, all varieties of fresh corn, potatoes, and squash, dried beans and lentils, whole grains such as certified gluten-free, breads, cereals, pastas, granola, oats, millet, quinoa, amaranth, sorghum, teff, corn tortilla, tapioca, all varieties of rice, eggs, organic tofu, all natural nut butters, cold pressed oils, and vinegars.
3. Read food labels. The Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act states that 'wheat' must be on the food label if wheat is used in the food. This is not true for barley and rye; food manufacturers do not have to label foods that contain barley or rye. If you are unsure about a products' ingredients avoid it. Labels must be read every time that you purchase food. Manufacturers can change ingredients at any time.
Follow these steps to ensure that every packaged food that you buy is gluten-free:
Look for 'GLUTEN FREE" clearly labeled on the packaging. If it is labeled certified gluten-free, then it is safe.
Read the allergen statement. If the product contains wheat, put the food down and look for another option. If the product does not contain wheat, then...
Look for a statement regarding the facility in which the food was processed. If the food was processed in a factory that also processes wheat, put the food down and look for another option.

Avoid Cross-Contamination

Tiny amounts of gluten hidden in foods will cause damage to the intestinal lining. Avoid cross contamination in your home and when eating outside of your home.
If you live alone, throw out or give away anything that contains gluten or could have been contaminated with gluten, such as peanut butter or mayonnaise. If you live with others, place vividly colored stickers on gluten-free foods.
Discard wooden cooking utensils, cutting boards and non-stick pans that may be contaminated with gluten.
Use soap and water liberally. Clean dishes and utensils very well to remove gluten. Keep your sponge clean.
At the market avoid bulk bins with shared scoops.
Flour sifters and mesh colanders should not be shared with gluten-containing flours.
Deep fried foods cooked in oil shared with breaded products should not be consumed.

Living with Allergy/Intolerance

It is natural to mourn old food habits for a period of time after being diagnosed with celiac disease or gluten intolerance. Stay focused on all of the foods that you can eat. Appreciate how your diet, health and sport may improve.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Another way to cook pasta – Pasta "risottata" with fava beans, zucchini and tomatoes

After this past few weeks, I needed to eat something to soothe my mind…Pasta especially pasta in bianco (with  parmigiano, butter and parmesan) I am not Italian, but I have a love of food and cooking ethnic food from around the world. There are indeed many ways to cook pasta, one less known method is called “risottata“, meaning like a risotto where broth is added gradually. I did not come up with it, it’s a very old Italian method of cooking pasta! so, no pasta is not always boiled in salted water, drained and served topped with sauce. There is an interesting and funny article in English about the different cooking methods and cooking time of pasta on Identit√† Golose.

Pasta risottata being cooked a long time, takes longer than the usual way of boiling it in water. The risottata method allows it to keep its starch, therefore develop a particular creaminess......can you just imagine the deliciousness of the pasta while having absorbed all that flavorful broth? It’s really my newest favorite way to cook and eat pasta. You need to try to believe it. For this cooking method, you need short pasta (pasta corta) such as small penne or fussilli or a small shell, or anything that size.
The recipe is quite simple, the greatness of the pasta comes first from the risottata method, then the combination of the ingredients make it a real treat.
Ingredients for 4
  • 16 oz brown rice pasta fissilli
  • 1 1/2 pounds fresh fava beans, pod removed
  • 4 zucchini, diced in small cubes
  • 1 can diced organic tomatos in rich juice
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/4 chopped red onion
  • 1 garlic clove
  • olive oil and butter
  • Parmigiano Reggiano, freshly grated
  • salt and pepper
Heat 1 T. oilive oil and 1 T. butter in a pan and add garlic, stir for a few minutes, then add zucchini, cover and let cook until the zucchini start to be cooked but firm, then add tomatoes, salt and pepper.  Set aside.
In the meantime, blanch fava bean grains in boiling water for about 2 minutes depending on the size of the grains. IF the grains are small and tender, one minute is enough. Drain and peel beans. Add to the pan with the other vegetables.
In a pot, heat olive oil, add red onion and saute. Add pasta and proceed like you would for a risotto, adding gradually broth to cook it. When the pasta has reached the desired consistency (it will need to be slightly creamy), add vegetables and parmesan. Stir well and serve hot.