Archive for the ‘gluten-free’ Category

Packing up the kitchen, uhm, I mean, the suitcase

I am traveling again. This time to Atlanta – downtown Atlanta, not one of the cute little neighborhoods with fun shops, boutiques, and grocery stores. But to the empty, deserted, hotel and restaurant infested part of the city.

So, as always – and even a little more so than always – I am packing my own food. And, as per usual, it looks like I’m going to be bringing more food than clothes!

The list, so far:

Susan’s Kale Chips 2.0

1 bag of Organic Baby Spinach
1 box of cherry tomatoes
1 gallon sized bag of chopped veggies: broccoli, carrots, turnips, and zucchini
Enough Chocolate Rice and Protein Powder for at least 4 shakes
3-4 avocados
Energy bars
Psyllium Husk
Spirulina
Almond butter

Kitchen utensils:
1 spoon
1 travel sponge
1 large cup
1 travel-sized Magic Bullet Blender

I’m sure I’m forgetting something; as I almost always do!

So, why am I bringing all of this food – particularly since I have lunch and dinner dates planned every day that I am there?

The powders, the spinach, and the avocados (or maybe the almond butter, depending on my mood) are all for breakfast. If I don’t have MY breakfast, the day is pretty much shot for food for me. If I don’t start off with my regular 60+ gram protein BOMB, I can pretty much count on a bad eating day. When I do start the day off with a shake, no matter where I am, I am more sated, I am more grounded, and I am much more likely to be in control of my eating (as opposed to the other way around).

And as someone who is 85% (more or less) raw vegan, it’s hard to get a satisfying meal out. Most restaurants’ idea of a big salad (see earlier post on this topic) wouldn’t feed a rabbit! So instead of being all weird about it, I’ve decided to just go and order a salad (where possible) and eat it. Even if it’s not particularly satisfying, I know that I have PLENTY of nutrition in my room to fall back on. Using this approach, “eating out” with friends will really be more like “hanging out.” Eat a little salad, drink a little water – then go back to my room for my real lunch or, as the case may be, dinner.

Now, even though Atlanta – at least the part I am going to me in – is not that diet friendly, there is a Legal Sea Food, which does have a pretty generous Gluten-Free Menu. Given that gluten-free is the mandatory condition and the raw/vegan is just the preference, I should be in pretty good shape on Saturday night – as that’s where my very understanding friend made reservations. And, believe it or not, Atlanta also has a Raw Restaurant! It’s not downtown, but it’s only a MARTA ride away. As it turns out, I have a chunk of time available on Saturday, so I’ll definitely be checking that out for lunch! And as a service to raw aficionados everywhere, I’ll be sure to let you know!

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Refurbishing Old Favorites: KJ’s Raw “Rice” Salad

One of the things that transitioning to a majority raw diet has taught me is that you need to be able to eat at least some of the things that you used to love when you were eating cooked food.

Sometimes that means just going ahead and eating it, as I did the other night when I had a delicious part-cooked part-raw meal at my friend Meg Maker’s house or as I did last night, when I met some former students for dinner at the Elephant Walk.

Other times, however, it means learning to refashion (or even refurbish) old cooked favorites.

A couple of weeks ago, I started thinking about a salad that a friend of mine used to make in graduate school. It wasn’t a traditional salad, as its base ingredient was cooked sushi rice. I believe the ingredients were rice, vinegar, avocado, crumbled nori sheets, and cucumber. I’m pretty sure that it came from one of the Moosewood Cookbooks and may have been called Sushi Salad or something like that.

Well, I’ve been thinking about that salad a lot, and this is what I came up with:

KJ’s “Rice Salad”

Ingredients:

2 cups cauliflower, “riced” in the high speed blender or food processor
1 small cucumber, peeled and diced
1/2 – 1 small avocados, diced
1 medium carrot, finely grated
6 – 8 stalks of baby asparagus, snapped into pieces (optional)
1 tomato, diced (optional)
2 Tablespoons of raw organic dulse flakes (or crumbled nori sheets)
Sesame oil, to taste
Braggs amino acid, to taste

Directions:

Rice the cauliflower by cutting it small bite size pieces, then hitting the pulse button until you have reached desired consistency.

Add all of your other ingredients in layers, then drizzle on the sesame oil and the Braggs amino acids, to taste.

Gently toss to mix the flavors.

It’s fast, easy, delicious, healthy, and absolutely gorgeous. What more could you want?

Enjoy!

Tip of the Day: Substitute Collard Greens for Tortilla Wraps

The thing that surprises me the most about having adopted a raw diet (28 days raw as of today), is just how many vegetables there are in the world that I just ignored. And I am someone who regularly filled up the basket at the Coop on fresh veggies!

When I was eating cooked food, I usually bought the fixings for a nice spinach salad, broccoli, brussels sprouts, green beans, beets, zucchini and kale. Now, in addition to all of these vegetables, I am routinely eating butternut squash, cabbage (green and red, especially red), turnips, and my most recent addiction, collard greens.

Prior to last week, I had never even seen a collard green (at least not one that wasn’t swimming in bacon grease)!

Now, not only do I put them (raw) in smoothies, I also use them to make burritos! Wide and sturdy, collard leaves are the perfect size for wraps or tortillas.

All you have to do is cut out (or scrape down the stiff stem in the center) and then fill it with your favorite topping. Lately I’ve been filling mine up with cashew cheez (nut butter) and a beet and carrot slaw. It’s delicious. It’s filling. And it’s aesthetically pleasing.

Tonight I am going to make up an Indian pate with walnuts and spices. I haven’t tried it yet, so I can’t vouch for it, but you can check out the recipe here courtesy of The Raw Foods Witch, Nathalie Lussier.

Year End and Looking Forward

I had a big year last year when it came to my body and, more importantly, to my relationship with it!

I lost that last ten stubborn pounds (some of which have come back as muscle).

I threw my scale away, which was both liberating and scary.

I bought my first pair of size fours in June (and I’m still wearing them)!

I joined an on-line support community for women who want to transform their relationship with their body and their ideas about food. There I learned to love yoga and began thinking seriously about the old adage: “You are what you eat.”

I went gluten-free and convinced my sister to do the same.

I am happy to say that since I stopped eating gluten almost 6 months ago, I was able to get off of two prescription medications that I had been taking for over a year! Note that one of those medications was prescribed to deal with the side effects of the other!

I’ve also had no sign of arthritis in my hands (which routinely reared its ugly head during the winter months).

I am also thrilled to report that my sister no longer has weekly migraines and a number of her digestive problems (which I won’t share with you, here, as they are not my own) have completely disappeared. Congratulations sis!

Although I was eating better and feeling better, I realized that I still had a lot of emotional issues around food that I had been carrying around since I was 16 and weighed a whopping 232.5 pounds.

In other words, I still had no sense of portion control and I still ate my emotions.

When I was bored, I ate. When I was nervous, I ate. When I was stressed, I ate. When I was angry – you guessed it.

And when I ate, I didn’t just eat until I was 80% full, which is what all of the nutritionists tell you. I usually ate until I was at least 120% full, which often turns into 140% full once your brain gets the message from your stomach that you should have stopped at least 15 minutes sooner!

About five weeks ago, I was at a conference where it turns out a number of participants were “raw.” That is, 80% of the food they eat has not been cooked (or heated above 105 degrees).

These women – and they were mostly women – were thin, gorgeous, and literally had this glow about them.

They were confident and charming.

They were totally comfortable in their skin, which was absolutely flawless, by the way.

And, more to the point, they were not obsessed with food. Whereas everyone else were checking their watches and grumbling about what time the presenter was going to let us go to lunch, these beautiful, thin, and centered women were fully present with the material.

They weren’t proselytizing either.

In fact, it wasn’t until the second day of the conference, when I offered the woman next to me something that I was eating, that she even mentioned that she was a raw foodist.

Really?!

Because I love food – all types of food – and I had recently gone gluten-free, I was fascinated and soon she and I would start talking about raw food whenever presenter broke – for lunch or whatever.

Compared to mine (which has improved dramatically over the years), her approach towards eating seemed so sane. So balanced.

And she definitely wasn’t someone who sounded all deprived. She wasn’t saying: I only get to eat raw food (poor pitiful me). She was more like: I only eat raw food (and I frickin’ love it)!

Well, in my search for gluten-free dessert recipes that I could make at Christmas to share with my family, I had actually come across a cookbook online: “28 Desserts You Can Eat Everyday.” It was a raw foods cookbook – again, meaning that most of the recipes used raw nuts, seeds, cacao, fruits, vegetables, natural sweeteners, spices, etc.

Although I didn’t buy it immediately, I did sign up for author’s weekly newsletter.

However, after meeting my new friend, who shall be known as M, the next time one of the cookbook lady’s emails showed up in my in box, I pushed the button.

As it turns out, raw desserts are delicious (and they are way easier and faster to make than cooked desserts). As yet another new raw friend pointed out: I don’t have to wait for them to heat up and I don’t have to wait for them to cool down – they’re perfect!

And then another coincidence occurred: my friend M (the one I met at the conference) just happened to also be going to Tulsa for the holidays! Small world since I live on the East Coast and we originally met in Los Angeles!

M and I (and her mother and my sister) went to the local raw food restaurant that I had blogged about earlier.

Well, as it turns out, M was just as cool as I remembered (as was her mother) and the food was better than I had ever imagined possible.

We had an absolutely fabulous meal and – even better – I didn’t feel at all sick or bloated like I sometimes do after eating out.

In fact, it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that I felt clean, vibrant, and alive!

When’s the last time you felt that way after eating pizza and a brownie with “fudge” sauce?

So, the holidays continued. Every day I made raw smoothies and experimented with raw desserts. Eventually, I even managed to recruit my poor sister onto the bandwagon. She now owns not one high speed blender – but two!

Since December 28th, I have been 70-75% raw.

Starting December 29, I went what some refer to as “high raw” – or raw until dinner.

Yesterday I had my first 100% raw day.

I have also signed up on yet another virtual on-line community (Raw Food Rehab) – this one dedicated to helping people get more raw foods into their lifestyle. I even went so far as to apply to join their 11 week initiative. Here, you get additional support (should you need it) to stay at least 80% raw for 11 weeks.

If you’re interested at all in raw food, this website has an insane number of raw food recipes and forums to get you started and to keep you going.

That’s actually where I’ve been the last few days instead of posting here!

So, if you’re still reading this, you might be thinking: but why? Why would you want to cut most – if not all – cooked food out of your diet? Why would you willingly give up pancakes and eggs for breakfast (or even oatmeal and maple syrup) in exchange for a green smoothie?

The whys are complicated, but I’ll try to give it my best shot.

It’s fun.

It’s easy.

It’s delicious.

Raw is naturally gluten-free, so I don’t have to worry about eating something inadvertently that’s going to make me sick.

Raw is also naturally alkaline, something that I’ve been trying to attain for almost three years.

And, more importantly, it’s broken all of my pre-existing addictions to food.

I eat when I want to eat and I stop eating when I’m 80% full.

My emotions are not tied up with raw food the way they are with cooked food.

The only way I can think to say it is that I am finally eating for nutrition instead of comfort.

My calorie intake is so much lower (even though my nutrient intake is about the same [or even higher!]) – trust me, I keep track of everything using LoseIt – that I’m no longer going to have to spend three hours a day doing cardio just to maintain my current weight.

But, all that aside (and I am sure there are others) I think Michael J summed it up best: You’re so much lighter and joyous in the kitchen and around food than you used to be! It’s been a real pleasure to just be around and watch you play.

So, that’s where I am. And that’s exactly what I’ve been doing. I’ll be sure to keep you posted and share all of my new, fun, and easy recipes!

I hope you have a wonderful new year! I certainly intend to!

KJ’s Favorite Green Smoothie (a/k/a Slime-ade)

For the last two weeks, I have been drinking green smoothies. That is, RAW green smoothies.

For the most part, green smoothies are very forgiving – some of them aren’t even green! In fact, my first one literally looked like a vat of figgie pudding. Well, I assume that that’s what it looked like. Too many blueberries.

Essentially, you put in a lot of leafy greens (spinach, cilantro, kale, romaine lettuce, etc) and whatever else strikes your fancy.

Some people put in a lot of fruit, because they like them sweeter.

I started there, but quickly moved to the less sweet variety.

My favorite to date, is sort of Mexican-y and smells a little bit like a summer garden. Check out the details here.

Over the holidays, I made one every day and split it with my sister. She, who has recently gone gluten-free, actually got a little zing of energy with her first slug. Talk about an instant convert. In fact, before the holidays were over, she had ordered her own high speed blender and packed a smoothie to go for her long drive ahead.

Not everyone in the house, however, was a convert. My parents were not sold – at all. And every time my father saw me with one, he’d just laugh and shake his head (not necessarily in that order).

My father’s snarky asides eventually got so bad that I eventually made him an offer he couldn’t refuse: you stop ragging on me because of my slime-ade and I’ll stop bitching at you about your Vienna Sausages (otherwise known as Viennie Weinies).

Personally, I think he got a pretty good deal. Because there’s a lot more that I could say about the wonders of potted meat than he could about the hazards or fresh, organic spinach.

Holidays – they’re really NOT about the food

This year everyone in my family has a food allergy of some sort.

Unfortunately, none of them (well, other than those of my sister and I) actually match.

She and I are gluten-free. I, however, tend to be particularly problematic, because I also make it a general rule to avoid most dairy, meat, refined sugar, and other forms of processed food.

Her husband, although not gluten-free, has his own issues. Namely, he’s deathly allergic to mushrooms, walnuts, strawberries, and a number of other random things. Notably, he also has come to realize that reducing (though not eliminating) wheat helps his arthritis. As does reducing pork. (Pork?! That must be about all of the chemicals with which most “meat” is processed. I use the quotations meaningfully, as if he’s talking about most processed name-brand sausage, it’s not meat. In fact, I have known vegans who still eat sausage on the basis that there’s practically nothing in there that even remotely resembles flesh. But I digress….)

My mother is on the “white diet.” Meaning that she can’t have anything with fiber. No whole grains, no fresh fruit or vegetables. No tomatoes. No chocolate. No spices. She, hands down, has it hardest and I know that the thing that she’s most hoping for this year from Santa is a fully healed esophagus at the end of two long (and too long) months of pale, texture free food.

And my poor father has been having severe indigestion – agonizing pain that my mother thinks may be related to his gall bladder.

So where does that leave us on a holiday that is typically centered around food? Rich, glutenous foods with lots of spices, grains, butter, sugar, and lightly steamed fresh vegetables?

Well, I brought my blender. And even though I missed having a green smoothie today (the first in a week and, yes, I am feeling it), I got up this morning and had my hemp shake per usual. I did this while my sister and mother enjoyed freshly baked gluten-free corn muffins with Craisins and my father and my sister’s husband went back to bed.

As you might imagine, there’s been a lot of discussion about food. What who can eat and what we’re going to make and when we’re going to make it. But interestingly, unlike other years, no one seems to really be making it and that which is getting made has gone largely uneaten.

There is also a lot of food-related resentment in the house right now. Particularly from my mother, whose diet was imposed on her by medical personnel, as opposed to my sister and I who chose gluten-free freely and with eyes wide open. Mother has also used language which suggests that she thinks that she is being punished. But my sister and I are feeling it too – especially when we offer to make things or do things, which are systematically refused.

My sister, for example, who had just spent the last three days cooking full out healthy meals for my parents asked:

“So what did you have for dinner?”

Mother turned away, looking more like a twelve year old than someone who is all too fast approaching 70.

“Your father had a sandwich and some onion and I had some oatmeal and a piece of toast.”

You could literally see the steam come out of my sister’s ears. But, bless her heart, she held her tongue and proceeded to make my mother some chocolate free pumpkin-butterscotch fudge.

I have no idea what the actual holiday meal will hold. My aunt and her family are bringing over a turkey, the stuffing, and numerous desserts, while my sister and I will make a lot of sides. I’m sure there will be yams, asparagus, and Brussels sprouts and I know that my sister is planning on making a gluten-free stuffing. I may or may not make my infamous almond and date basmati rice (which, is delicious, but, unfortunately for mother, probably has way too much cinnamon).

So this holiday season has really been about boundary setting and trying to make sure everyone (self included) gets their needs met. There has also been more empathy, such as realizing after buying 10 ripe avocados that I really couldn’t (or shouldn’t) make the chocolate pudding I had planned for because mother can’t eat chocolate. But since the avocados were bought, I decided that that was ridiculous. So, in recompense, I made another dessert for mother (crust-less pecan pie bites) that are not only way better for her, but are also right up her alley in terms of taste.

This season has also been about recognizing everyone’s limitations – not just about food, but their physical limitations. We’re getting older – if not just plain old!

The days of the totally magical holidays – resplendent with lights and trees and ridiculous amounts of foods that everyone could and actually would eat – are gone. One way to think about it is this year is about seeing who we are – who we really are – and, in the case of my sister and I – who we are likely to become.

Thankfully we’re still here – with all of our foibles and our dietary restrictions. And hopefully we’ll learn to appreciate one another more fully because of them, as opposed to in spite of them.

My gift to you: Take some time this holiday to focus on your own needs and the needs of those around you. Spend some time meeting the people in your life where they are and try not to cling too tightly to the way you think they should be or how they’ve always been. You’ll all be much happier that way.

Happy Holidays~

The Easiest, Healthiest (and some of the most delicious) Fudge You’ll Ever Make

A few weeks ago, I made the decision to add more raw food into my diet. In fact, I just made the pledge (on twitter @KJLively) that no baked desserts shall pass these lips over the holidays. Somehow, it seems like making a higher pledge (like no gluten, no baked goods) and sticking to it will be easier than making tons of decisions on a dessert-by-dessert basis.

But, not to be a dessert killjoy during the holidays, I have sat up the raw food lab in the kitchen. I have a ton of raw almonds, cashews, walnuts, as well as dates, raisins, bananas, raw cacao powder, cacao nibs, coconut oil, zucchini, and (don’t ask) avocado. For those of you who don’t do raw, you’ll be relieved to know that all this does not go into the same recipe. 🙂

I decided to start simple, with Mint Chocolate Fudge balls, recipe courtesy of the Raw Foods Witch, Nathalie Lussier. You can also download her free cookbook: “28 Desserts You Can Eat Everyday,” in exchange for your name and email. Not a bad deal, if you think about it.

I am definitely making these this year at my parents’ house!

Mint Chocolate Fudge Balls

• 1/2 cup raw nut butter of choice (almond butter, cashew butter, hazelnut butter, etc.)
• 1/2 cup soft dates
• 1/4 cup raw cacao powder or carob powder
• Drop of mint or peppermint oils

Blend the dates separately first, to ensure that they will be smooth in the final product.
Then add the remaining ingredients and blend until the entire mixture forms into a ball of
dough.

Take pieces of dough and roll in your hands to form balls.

Store in freezer or fridge.

Makes 16 small balls

Per 2: 127 calories, 7.8 g fat, 0.7 saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 2 mg sodium, 12.3 g carbohydrates, 3.6 g fiber, 6.9 g sugar, 4.4 g protein

These are super easy – and rich enough that the two (or even one) just might do you!

Note: I put these in the freezer and it dried them out enough that they’re more like cookies – think Newman’s Mint Chocolate Chocolate Chip!

Another “Make-Do Recipe” Does Good

Michael J and I arrived home from a three day cross country jaunt at 4:00 a.m. to an empty fridge, snow on the ground, and workers coming to tear out the basement floor in less than 5 hours.

Needless to say that this morning has been something of a blur – what with the overall tiredness, the generalized burnout, and – now – the buzz of the Sawzall Saw and the all too cheerful chatter of workers who obviously got more sleep than we did.

Before I knew it, it was lunch time; the refrigerator was all but bare. Of course, we could have yet another peanut butter and Ezekial Bread sandwich or ricecakes and hummus (which had been the mainstays on yesterday’s travel fiasco), but the thought left me cold.

In fact, what I really wanted was something warm.

I turned my inner critic off and opened the fridge: couple of cartons of tofu that I had bought for some recipe or another but never used, several packages of Shirataki Noodles, garlic, celery, carrots, and a bunch of broccoli that didn’t look quite fresh enough to eat raw. There were also some sweet potatoes (which would take too long) and some hemp shake fixin’s which would have been great – that is, if it wasn’t cold and the airlines hadn’t lost my blender! (I’ll have more to say about that later!)

As I piled all of the ingredients up on the counter, I got a nostalgic longing for this little hole in the wall Chinese place I used to go to in Indiana. They had this amazing tofu and veggie soup that I ate almost everyday for lunch. I decided to give recreating it a try and though it wasn’t perfect, it was pretty darned good. And, more to the point, it’s definitely going into the rotation as Michael J even had some!

Given that the Shirataki noodles are calorie-free – yes, you head me, so, if you like noodles and didn’t check out the link above, you may want to do that now – I can imagine making this up (or some version thereof) to just have around on those cold nights when I’m coming home late from work and too chilly and too tired to make anything else.

Let me know what you think!

Tofu and Shirataki Noodle Soup

“A very satisfying soup that warms the spirit on an otherwise cold and dispirited day”

1 cup baby carrots, sliced
5 stalks celery, sliced
6 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups of water
3 teaspoons of Better than Bouillon (Organic, Vegetable)
2 Bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried thyme
2 teaspoons dried basil
sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

1 – 2 cups broccoli florets

1 carton of extra firm tofu (drained, and pressed to reduce liquid)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 – 2 tsp of San-J Tamari Sauce (or other gluten-free soy sauce)

2 packages of Shirataki noodles (prepared according to package)

Add first ten ingredients (through salt and papper) in a large stew pot. Bring to a boil, then simmer until carrots are tender (around 15 minutes).

Add broccoli.

Heat oil in a separate skillet; when hot, add tofu and cook until sides are browned. Add Tamari sauce and saute gently for a few minutes to season tofu.

Add tofu and the noodles to the soup pot. Heat until warm throughout. Remove bay leaves and serve

Serves 4 (Generously): 178 calories, 9.8 g. fat, 1.4 g. saturated fat, 272.5 mg sodium, 14 g. carbs, 5.9 grams fiber, 1.2 grams sugar, 13.5 grams protein.

What’s the matter with gluten?

Gluten, for those of you who don’t know, is a protein that is in wheat and barley. Interestingly, 1 out of 40 U.S. adults have some sort of allergy to gluten (and a good portion of those are also allergic to dairy)! Most people don’t know they have the allergy: they just live with the mental cobwebs, the bloating, the inflammation, the digestive problems, the headaches, and the depression – never thinking that the cause is in what they’re eating.

You might be thinking – wheat? What’s wrong with wheat?

What’s wrong with wheat is that it’s in practically everything!

In case you’re not a student of nutrition labels (yes, I am a geek!) so-called enriched flour is one of the most common food ingredients used in food processing. Essentially we were not designed to eat wheat with the fiber stripped out. We were not designed to eat wheat in, essentially, everything we eat.

Did you realize that some ice creams have gluten in them? Soy sauces? Ketchups? Soup mixes? Spaghetti sauces?

Some of the symptoms that people have who have gluten allergies include chronic indigestion, acid reflux, depression, arthritis, and irritable bowel syndrom (among others). Go here, for more information about gluten and wheat allergies.

Happy Thanksgiving

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday yesterday.

I, personally, had a fabulous Thanksgiving. It was probably one of two in my entire lifetime of eating solid food that I wasn’t completely stressed out about food and/or walked away from the table feeling like a bloated tub of lard.

As we head into the holiday season, it’s important to remember that even though most people just plan on gaining ten pounds over the holidays, because that’s what happens to everyone, you’re not everyone! Or at least you don’t have to be.

Keeping that in mind, let me tell you about my day:

I actually came in 47 calories below my daily calorie budget yesterday, which, believe you me, is another first! And I know that if I can make it through Thanksgiving – the most food focused of all the holidays – while meeting my goals and not feeling the least bit deprived, then I can make it through the rest of the season similarly unscathed.

So what was different this year?

I got up yesterday morning, while the house was still quiet. I made some decisions about what I was going to be taking to MJ’s parents’ for dinner, I made one of the salads that needed to chill (recipe will follow), I had my normal breakfast (a Berry Hemp Shake) and then I did an hour of yoga.

By the time I was done, the household was awake. I put away the yoga mat, made some tea and touched base with Michael J and our new housemate. When Michael J went downstairs to his man cave, I continued to talk to Sarah (the new HM) – for a couple of hours really. It was nice. Around 11:30, I made second breakfast (egg white omelet with veggies) and while Sarah took a shower and got ready to go to her holiday celebration, I did a 30 minute workout tape (K-Bells: Total Body Blast). As soon as I was done, Michael J came up and said, “Want to go for a walk?”

Sure, why not?

By the time we got back, we both needed showers and I still had two dishes to make (Spicy Yams and Rice Pilaf with Almonds and Dates), so as you might imagine, things got a little crazy. One of the reasons I was bringing three dishes was that I had volunteered to make some gluten-free options because Michael J and I are both gluten-free, as is Michael J’s brother, who was driving up that day and was, thus, at the mercy of his family for healthy options (which, as it turned out, there were several)!

Although we were rushed (it was already 2:30 and we were slated to eat at 4:00), Michael J and I both sat down and had lunch. Yes, you heard me. We had lunch at 2:30, when we were going to be eating Thanksgiving dinner at 4:00! Because this year, instead of saving calories for the meal itself, I decided to actively spend them before the meal.

Now, granted, I only had a huge bowl of kale and garlic sauteed in coconut oil and a handful of roasted almonds (which amounted to about 300 or so calories), but it was enough to take the edge off. Especially because kale and almonds are both superfoods, meaning that they are nutrient-rich and extremely satisfying.

It was an interesting feeling to show up for Thanksgiving dinner and not be the slightest bit hungry. Not that that stopped me of course, when it actually came time to eat, but it did slow me down.

As it was, I cheerfully skipped the appetizers and when it was time for dinner (served closer to 5:00 than the slated 4:00), I ended up following Michael Pollen’s advice and “treated meat as a condiment.” I think I may have had three ounces of turkey (which was scrumptious by the way), quinoa salad, a spoonful (or two) of the rice pilaf, a spoonful of yams, some broccoli, and some green beans. It was a beautiful plate. I wish that I had taken a picture of it.

Full of crisp harvest colors and surprisingly free of anything mashed or looking even remotely like gravy or butter, it really was a culinary work of art. And it tasted even better than it looked!

Now, dessert was a little tricky. Mainly because Michael J’s sister-in-law sat an individual sized bowl of chocolate pie filling in front of me topped with homemade whipped cream that had been made especially for those of us following gluten-free diets. And, being a total sucker for homemade chocolate pie, I went for it. And, God, it was good! As were the Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Chocolate Brownies!

But let me tell you, after being relatively sugar free now for over two months, I could literally feel the sugar leeching into my blood stream. And I have had worse cravings today than I’ve since I went gluten-free. I have a friend who says with increasing regularity that “sugar is the devil.” I’m beginning to believe her!

Overall, it was a very nice holiday. I had a great time exercising and even a better time getting to connect with friends and family. Even though my own parents and sister are far away, I also made sure to talk to them a couple of times throughout the day. And while it is true that I spent a good part of the afternoon cooking, the day really was more people-focused than food-focused, which is nice (and, I realize, a lot easier if you’re going to dinner instead of hosting it). Thanks, Mrs. Y doing all of the heavy lifting!

So based on the wonderful day I had yesterday, I will do my level best to make this season more about health and people and less about stress and food.

I am definitely going to make it less about sugar!

There are other things that I am going to publicly commit to that will – hopefully – make me more accountable to myself over the next six weeks (and beyond). But for now, I will leave it as this: Happy Holidays, everyone!

Recipe: Rice Pilaf with Almonds and Dates (Gluten-Free)

1 tablespoon of butter
1 tablespoon of olive oil
(Note: I substituted 2 Tablespoons of Nutiva’s Extra Virgin Coconut Oil for the butter and olive oil)!
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 red, yellow, or green bell pepper

1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon, ground allspice or nutmeg

1/2 cup dates
3 cups cooked brown, white or basmati rice
(Note: I use brown basmati rice, because it’s so much more aromatic than the other two)!
2 tablespoons of fresh parsley
1/4 cup hot water
1/2 cup chopped roasted almonds
salt and ground black pepper to taste

In a large heavy skillet, heat the butter and oil. Saute the onions and garlic on medium heat until just tender. Finely chop the bell pepper, and add it to the sauteing onion. Stir in the turmeric, cinnamon, and allspice/nutmeg. Finely chop the dates, and add them to the onions. Stir in the rice and the parsley, sprinkle on the water, and heat uncovered for a few minutes. When the rice is hot, stir in the almonds, add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

This was taken and modified from the Moosewood Cooks at Home! If you don’t have this one, I would highly recommend it!

Serves 4 generously; could easily be a meal served with fresh garden salad, dressed with fresh lemon juice!

Per 8 ounce serving: 290 calories, 5.3 grams of protein, 8.5 grams of fat, 75 mg sodium, 0 mg cholesterol

Eating Out: Asking for Something Wonderful and Getting It

If you are eating out and you have special dietary restrictions – even if you’re just trying to lose a few pounds – the conventional wisdom is that you should always ask the server to have your food prepared in ways that suit your needs.

I’d heard this a thousand times, but I’d never actually done it. It always seemed scary and a little rude. “Why should I have them do something special for me? I’ll just have salad and water. Poor, pitiful me, etc, etc.”

Have I ever mentioned that martyrdom runs in my family?

Last night I realized that I was going to have to shake off the sackcloth and ashes because not only were MJ and I were going out with friends to celebrate the completion of three work related projects, but I also have four additional work-related dinners out planned over the next two weeks. You heard me: five dinners out in a two week period!

What a potential nightmare for someone who is trying to avoid wheat and dairy, let alone not gain 15 pounds in the process!

So last night, I screwed up my courage and asked the cute young server with a super hip haircut if I could just get them to throw some roasted veggies and a salad for me – essentially taking the sides and making them into a meal. I figured that wouldn’t be too much trouble, right?

She looked at me blankly and I said, “I’m on a gluten-free/dairy-free diet.”

“Oh,” she replied. “Let me go talk to the chef. He knows what’s got gluten in it and what doesn’t for everything on the menu.”

Even though the restaurant was hoppin’ – it was a Saturday night after all – a very tall man dressed entirely in white with a strong accent came out to the table. “What can I do for you?”

I explained the situation, while my table mates looked on with interest.

“I can make you whatever you want. What do you want?”

Great! All except for the part that I hadn’t thought it through to quite that level of detail.

I started the bit with the roasted veggies and salad and he looked absolutely disgusted.

“I can make you something wonderful,” he said. “What would you like?”

I actually put it back in his hands. “That sounds great. Why don’t you just whip me up something wonderful.”

He actually smiled. “Do you like shrimp?”

“Yep.”

“I will make you something wonderful.”

And you know what? He absolutely did: a rich tomato based seafood stew with a spicy gluten-free thickening agent that could be added at the table. There were baby mussels, salmon, scallops, and shrimp. Not only was it delicious, it was also absolutely gorgeous. I was completely satisfied and didn’t feel deprived at all. In fact, I actually felt a little special, because when the server sat it down at my place with a flourish she smiled and said, “And here’s something wonderful for you.”

So, assuming that you’re at a restaurant where real people are cooking real food, don’t limit yourself for fear of asking. Because even though it was busy, I actually got the impression that the chef (who came back by to check on my satisfaction) and the server actually had as much fun making it – and serving it – it as I did eating it!

I can only hope that the other four nice restaurants in the area will be just as accommodating! I’ll be sure to keep you posted on my culinary adventures!

As promised: Simple Peanut Sauce

Makes 1 cup

“Peanut sauce is quick to make and delicious with cooked vegetables or with pasta.”

1/3 cup of peanut butter
1/2 cup hot water
1 tablespoon San-J Organic Wheat Free Tamari sauce (or any other gluten-free soy sauce).
1 tablespoon vinegar (cider or seasoned rice)
2 teaspoons of sugar (or organic agave nectar)
2 (to 6) garlic cloves, minced
1/4 to 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated
1/8 teaspoon of cayenne

Whisk all of the ingredients together in a small sauce pan, then heat gently until the sauce is smooth and slightly thickened. Add more water if the sauce becomes too thick.

Per tablespoon: 38 calories, 1 gram of protien, 2 grams of carbohydrates, 3 grams fat, 38 mg sodium, 0 mg cholesterol

We served this over brown rice spaghetti, topped with chopped scallions with a generous side of roasted vegetables.

I’ve also served it over acorn squash with excellent results – and it’s not too bad straight off the spoon either!

Recipe taken (and modified from) one of my favorite cookbooks of all time: The Peaceful Palate.

Time Saving Tip: Rice Pasta

Last night, we forgot to start the rice (to go with the Caribbean Black Beans) and before we realized it, it was 8:00 and we were both way beyond hungry!

On a whim, we decided to try serving them over rice pasta. I mean even though it’s pasta, it’s rice, how bad could it be?

Well, in fact, it turned out to be pretty darned good. Not only that, it was colorful, because we used the open bag of Mrs. Leeper’s Rice Vegetable Twists.

So, if you’re like us – that is, one of those people who sometimes forget the put the rice on some 50 minutes before you need it – keep a bag of rice pasta on hand. It’s fast, easy, and (dare I say it, lest you figure out what a food geek I truly am?) fun!

Eating Your Way to Health: Reducing Inflammation

Great article from U.S. News and World Report on creating a diet that reduces inflammation in your system!

Inflammation, normally part of a healthy immune response, is increasingly thought to play a leading role in encouraging a number of major killers, including cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, and Alzheimer’s. Dangerous chronic inflammation occurs when the immune system stays turned on and starts attacking healthy cells and tissues-triggering, say, cancer-causing genetic mutations or the bursting of artery plaque. What you eat, though, helps determine how much inflammation you produce. Certain foods promote it, while others are inflammation-fighting superstars, says nutritionist and family physician Ann Kulze, author of Dr. Ann’s 10-Step Diet.

Check out their recommendations of what to go for and what to avoid here. Admittedly, I don’t usually read US. News and World Report, but you’ve got to love any list that actually tells you to “go for” more wine and chocolate – within reason of course!

Now the funny thing about seeing this article this morning (as well as the one on pomegranates that I posted a few days ago), is that all week I’d been thinking about writing about these berries that I had started eating, which 1) are classed as superfoods and 2) reduce inflammation. Serendipity or synchronicity? Or both?

Just as a quick reminder, superfoods are foods that have high concentrated nutritional value that many physicians and holistic health practitioners believe also have healing properties.

While exploring warm wheat-free breakfast options (as drinking frozen hemp shakes in Northern New England gets increasingly challenging as you roll into winter) I came across a hot cereal recipe comprised of gluten-free oat bran, flax meal, and organic shelled hemp seeds. It was suggested that you also toss in some goldenberries, goji berries, and mulberries to “make it a tropical treat.”

No problem I thought. I like tropical treats. But what the heck is a goldenberry?

Well, it turns out that a goldenberry is one of those superfoods that reduce inflammation. As are goji berries and mulberries.

While you can buy them directly from Navitas Naturals (which has one of the most beautiful websites I’ve seen in a while), I admit that I tend to order things through Amazon for the convenience, since I tend to also be ordering things from Nutiva at the same time and, sadly, because it’s cheaper.

Just as an aside, it never ceases to amaze me that all of the healthy stuff is always about 15 times more expensive than the crap out there. Just think how many bags of Cheetos you could get for one bag of goji berries. Not that you’d want that many bags of Cheetos, mind you, even though they are technically gluten-free! 😉

The good news, however, is that the goldenberries, goji berries, and mulberries are so dense with nutritional value that you really don’t need that many in order to feel satisfied. Notably, since I’ve started eating a handful or so of them straight out of the bag (I’ve never gotten around to making the cereal that I bought them for!), I’ve actually stopped eating other calorie dense, quasi-expensive gluten free nutrition bars and organic nuts that I had been snacking on during the day. And finally, assuming that the legions of doctors and health care practitioners out there singing superfood’s praises are on to something, you’ll probably save a bundle over the long term by reducing future medical bills and lost productivity due to the experience of chronic illness!

Even if you’re not a fan of raisins or other dried fruits, check these out. The goji berries are reminiscent of dry cranberries, the mulberries figs or nuts, and the golden berries sweet tarts. They’re really quite delicious! And seriously, check out the nutrition on these things: in addition to sugar, which granted there is a lot, there are also a ton of vitamins, fiber, and even protein!
golden-recipe

Recipe: Caribbean Black Beans

Serves 4 (generously)
Total cooking time: 30 minutes

1 1/2 cups chopped onions
3 (to 6) garlic cloves, minced or pressed
2 Tablespoons of olive oil
1 Tablespoon grated fresh ginger root
1 teaspoon fresh thyme (or 1/2 dried)
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
4 1/2 cups drained cooked black beans (three 16 ounce cans)
3/4 cup orange juice
salt and ground black pepper to taste

Saute the onion and garlic in the oil for about 5 minutes, until the onions begin to soften. Add the ginger, thyme, and allspice and saute, stirring often to prevent sticking, until the onions are very soft, for about 5 more minutes. Stir in the beans and orange juice and cook on low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens slightly. Use a heat diffuser or a double boiler if necessary to prevent scorching (I didn’t have any trouble with it). Mash a few of the beans with the back of the spoon (or a potato masher) for a thicker consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve over rice.

Per 8 ounce serving (not including rice): 252 calories, 5.3 grams of protein, 13.1 grams of fat, 26.1 grams of carbohydrate, 1.61 mg sodium, 0 mg cholesterol.

Taken (and modified) from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home.

Not low calorie, but guaranteed to stop your wheat cravings in their tracks!

Pamela’s Dark Chocolate Chocolate Chunk Cookies.

This is the only one we tried, but it was so good that I don’t have an compunction recommending the others as well!

Although the texture was a little dry, the chocolate was amazing!

There are 4.5 servings per box and I ended up with a serving and a half!* MJ, the aspiring-gluten-free cookie monster, decided they were just as tasty as the “real” thing. In fact, his exact words when I asked if I could have one of the cookies on his saucer were: “No. The consequences would be too dire.” He says that he meant that they would be too dire for him (and that really wasn’t a poorly veiled threat), but I’m not so sure 😉

If you’re gluten-free (or trying to get there) but you can’t imagine giving up cookies, etc., these could get you at least halfway there. But beware, at 170 calories and 9 grams of fat per serving, proceed with caution. But to tell you the truth, they’re so rich that one cookie (or half a serving) will just about about it!

Let me know what you think.

* One serving = 2 cookies
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Gluten-Free Pasta (Product Review)

Let me start this off with a used to be simple-truth: I don’t eat pasta.

But the minute that I realized that I had a wheat allergy, all I wanted was pasta. Go figure.

So, the other day at the grocery store, I picked up three gluten-free pastas: Tinkyada Brown Rice Elbows, Mrs. Leeper’s Corn Pasta Elbows and Vegetable Twists.

Tonight, MJ and I tried both Mrs. Leeper’s pastas with an Italian meat sauce, made with local buffalo.

Yum!

After all of the horror stories that I had heard about wheat-free pasta alternatives, I was a bit leery, but it was delicious. Additionally, it was much lighter than the whole wheat pasta that I had been eating on the rare occasions that I had to eat it. And, even more to the point, I didn’t feel terribly bloated or gassy after I was done! (TMI, I know.)

This is definitely going into the rotation.

We made enough so that we can toss some (cold) into the hot sauce tomorrow. Apparently if you nuke it, most wheat-free pasta turns to mush! I’ll let you know, because we purposefully made more than we were planning on eating as an experiment.

So, if you’re gluten-free and missing carbs, you won’t miss them with this pasta. It truly was divine. And I’m sure that the 2002 Vintage Orpheus Petite Sirah from Lolonis didn’t hurt!

Cooking directions: 7 to 9 minutes. I went closer to 7 so that I’ll have a better chance of reheating without causing it to disintegrate! Regardless, you can always just make what you want.

It really was surprisingly good! In fact, it’s fair to say that I enjoyed it far more (in terms of texture and heaviness) than regular pasta!

HUGE shout out to Hannaford Supermarkets!

I am so impressed.

MJ and I live several miles away from the store where we typically shop and it’s a pain to have to run in on the weekends when we’re out of something.

This weekend, we took a field trip to the local Hannaford, which is still 10 minutes away, but is a heck of a lot more convenient than heading back into town to go to the coop.

Last year Hannaford underwent a fairly serious renovation and reportedly added more organic and healthy products to the their product line. However, since our normal grocery store is on my way home from work and Hannaford is in the opposite direction, we never made it down there. Our mistake.

A few days ago, I was looking online to see if any store in my area carried a particular brand of gluten-free bread. The store finder turned back two stores within 15 miles, one of them Hannaford.

Let’s just say that I was shocked by how much good stuff they had in there! I was also thrilled to see that they had an entire gluten-free section marked out and carried a better selection of gluten-free bread, snacks, cookies, ice cream, and prepared foods than most coops or health food stores in the area!

But the thing that impressed me the most – and if I was a mother with small children I would never shop anywhere else – was at the checkout lines there were only organic snacks, ranging from gluten-free, no processed sugar cookies and brownies to almonds, cashews, and walnuts! Does your kid want a cookie but you don’t want the sugar crash? No problem.

Then to make things even better, as I was flipping through the Healthy Choices magazine (free) that they publish monthly, there was a picture of an interracial couple! Pretty liberal for mainstream advertising!

Then, the icing on the cake, I got home and found that Hannaford has a list of all of the gluten-free products in the store! In addition to a section on the website dedicated to people with gluten-allergies, they also have similar pages for those people who need to reduce cholesterol, manage diabetes, prevent osteoporosis, etc!

I swear, if I gave out an award (and this might encourage me to make one up) they would most certainly get it!

Way to go! If you have a Hannaford near you with a Nature’s Place Section (and you have special dietary needs) I heartily recommend checking them out!

And even if you don’t have one near you, print off those healthy recommendation lists and take them with you next time you go shopping!

Seriously! Bravo!

P.S. Where do you shop for healthy food? What big name stores carry the most variety and best quality health food options in your area?