Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Christmas Humor In a Cookie - The Christmas Turd

T'is the season to revisit cookie recipes! This one is easy, and ALWAYS makes a big impression. Whether it is a good or a bad impression depends on your family's sense of humor. :)



I remember my grandmother lovingly making those buttery-chocolaty good cookies called "Church Windows" every year (which always were gluten-free by the way;). My mother carried on the tradition, and influenced by my father's potty humor, I would often exclaim the "log" (which you would cut into the beautiful church windows) really resembled something that should be out in the lawn after Fido did his business.

Later, I would expound on those thoughts and create a delectable treat with an unappetizing name. I give you, "The Christmas Turd."

Enjoy!

The Christmas Turd

Stuff to grab:

Non-Butter Butter - (No pun intended) - You'll need about 1/2 cup. Good butter substitutes include palm kernel oil, coconut oil, Earth Balance (we use the "soy free" version). If you use coconut oil, use a bit less since it's melting point is so low.

Salt - Just a pinch, and not really necessary if you have a salt added to your butter substitute.

Chocolate Chips - Be sure they are the non-dairy kind. Look closely on the bag for milk fat, milk, milk powder. It may also be within another ingredient's ingredients. For instance, the ingredients may list "chocolate," then beside it "(cacao, milk fat, sugar, vanilla)." The items in the parenthesis are the chocolate's ingredients. Oh... by the way, use the whole bag (12 to 16 oz.), unless you got the club store size.

Vanilla - 'Cmon use the real kind! Your family will thank you. One teaspoon should do it.

Mini Marshmallows - Any color, including white, will do for this recipe. Choose the multi-colored if you want to make it festive, AND you don't mind ingesting the red dye #5. You'll need the whole bag, so make these after the kids are asleep. Darn those little snack snatchers! Since I try really hard to avoid corn syrup, I try to get the Elyon brand of mini marshmallows when I can.

MARSHMALLOW UPDATE FOR CHRISTMAS 2015! - I am always looking to make healthier food options for my kiddos, and I can honestly say that the old church window recipe threw me for a loop since there are ZERO commercially produced colored marshmallows. So like I have had to do for the last 7.75 years, I improvised with white marshmallows.

BUT...

If you are longing for the old multi colored window, I found a perfect recipe on brittanyangell.com. She used freeze dried fruit pulverized in a coffee grinder, well washed before hand! Here is what you can substitute for the traditional colors:

Freeze Dried Strawberries - Pink
Freeze Dried Mango - Orange
Turmeric Powder - Yellow
Spirulina Powder  - Green

You could even try freeze dried blueberries for blue which is not even normally in the mix if you are feeling especially artistic.

I have used turmeric and spirulina in frosting (Color Me Natural) and the colors have turned out fantastic and they tasted even better! I'd also use a larger pan, dust, cover with a piece of parchment, and roll them out using a small rolling pin to create a smaller marshmallow. You'll also need to cut them with a starch covered pizza cutter, and let them dry a day. Then toss them in a bowl of starch all together and shake off the excess.

Is this a lot of work? Yes, but can you put a price on re-creating a memory? ;) If you are not the sentimental type, just skip that last part, buy a bag of 'em, and keep reading.

Flaked or Shredded Coconut - This is for the "snow" that your turd will lay on, so one small bag should do it. Bob's Red Mill has an all natural version that doesn't have the anti-freeze in it. YES I DID SAY ANTI-FREEZE!! Sorry guys, the "regular" coconut has propylene glycol in it, which is just another form of the chemical you don't want your dog drinking out of your car's radiator. If you are wondering why you shouldn't eat the stuff, Dow said in the safety data sheet for propylene glycol
that:

"Effects of Repeated Exposure: In rare cases, repeated excessive exposure to propylene glycol may cause central nervous system effects."


Unfortunately the data sheet has been pulled. Yeah internet police for protecting me from myself. Still, the quote was taken directly off their data sheet, and my central nervous system is taxed enough with 4 kids. I don't need any more "effects," thank you.

The awesome news is that more and more people are reading labels and leaving the crap on the shelves! There are tons more options as far as coconut is concerned. My new favorite is dried coconut from Aldi which comes in chunks. I can grate it any way I want, including with my Pampered ChefTM Micro-plane which makes fluffy little snow like curls, and there is no funny stuff! If you want crunchy "snow," pick up Let's Do Organic's brand of dried coconut. It has a crispy texture and is a little bigger than the grated kind. You could even make candied coconut, if you are so inclined, which is similar to making candied ginger.

Large Double Boiler - Or just be VERY careful with a bigger saucepan

Large Mixing Bowl and Large Spoon - Grab the biggest one you have, you won't be sorry you did.

Wax Paper - for forming your, um, gift...

Wrapping Paper and Ribbon

Printer and Paper - Unless you are really good with penmanship.


You made me get a boatload of stuff, Now What?

Ok, take your "butter" and melt it over a VERY low flame, or a double boiler. Add the chocolate and stir occasionally as it melts. ...IN THE MEANTIME ... Get your coconut "snow" on strips of wax paper about a foot long. sprinkle a 6 inch scat trail right in the middle of the wax paper. This recipe makes about 6 to 8 healthy, um, logs.

Now take your melted chocolate off the burner for a few minutes to cool enough so that it does not feel like it's going to burn your skin if (I really mean WHEN) you take a taste. This is so the chocolate doesn't melt the marshmallows. Remember, you want the little marshmallow lumps in the "gift" to add texture! They can't do that if they are melted into a gooey mess. If you are using homemade marshmallows this step is especially important since these tend to melt really fast!

Fill your large mixing bowl with the marshmallows and then take your chocolate mixture and dump about a 1/4 cup of it over the marshmallows. If they look like they are melting, take 5 and let the chocolate cool. When it is ready, pour the whole thing in and stir until they are coated. Plop the mixture by the spoonfuls on your trail and squeeze the log into the perfect poo shape. Sprinkle with a little more coconut "snow" and wrap the wax paper around the "gift" and chill it in the fridge.

Now head over to your printer and print out multiple copies of this poem. You can use it as many times as you would like (freely distribute), as long as you don't modify it and also include my name and websites. ;)

This poem has been updated and is now copyright 2015



Take your log out when it is hardened and wrap a copy of the poem around the wax paper, then wrap it in festive Christmas paper. Tie each end with ribbon and trim the extra paper and place it in a large zipper bag and put it back in the fridge. Then on Christmas morning watch your family's shocked faced as they realize what they might have sitting on their laps. Don't let the gag go too long, you don't want to create any family feuds. :)

 Now, let's go make some Christmas cookies!!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Good Gluten Free Bread Options

A friend of mine asked me, after trying one of those brickabread gluten free blocks, “is there any good gluten free breads?” I said, "Of course!" Well I didn't say it, I typed it. We were FBing.

If you've asked yourself the same question, you need answers, and fast. Here are a few tasty options...

Rudi's
Their hot dog buns are fantabulous! Their breads are soft and chewy, unlike almost every other gluten free bread. After freezing a loaf, they can be a bit crumbly (see http://glutenfreefantasy.blogspot.com/2011/07/rudis-breadthumbs-up.html), but not nearly as much as that older brickabread stuff! It makes great French toast and sandwiches. The bagels are my second fave!

Udi's
No, that isn't a typo. The Udi's brand is almost just as good as the Rudi's brand. It almost makes me think that they are one in the same. The difference, Udi's hot dog buns are not so, well, hot.

Rice Cakes
This is what I used before I started writing for Rudi's and getting free bread. ;) Its an inexpensive alternative and easy to manipulate. Doesn't make good french toast though, and you can just forget about folding them in half. :)

Lavash
I recently discovered a millet based lavash bread at our local food Co-op. :9 It was great! Soft and chewy and while it didn't roll, it folded nicely to make a great little snack!

One other thing, don't be afraid to break out of the bread mold (pun intended). We as Americans have been trained by advertising for the last 50 years or so that bread is part of lunch. It doesn't have to be. We make whole meals out of carrot and veggie sticks with peanut butter! Hubby hates it when I do that, but... Now, let’s go have some fun!

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Nutritional Supplements for Those with Celiac Disease

UPDATE!

I was reading an article at Mercola.com and he had a very interesting quote from Green Med Info:

"The selenium that is found in foods like brazil nuts, mustard seeds, and fresh produce grown in selenium-rich soil is infinitely different from the biologically inert forms being put in some multivitamins. In fact, i.e., sodium selenite/selenate can cause cancer, whereas the selenium found within food, or laboratory chelated forms like selenomethionine have all been shown to prevent and combat cancer.
The basic principle that explains this difference is that when you isolate a nutrient or vitamin out of the food complex within which it is naturally found, and where it is inseparably bound to thousands of known and unknown food factors (e.g., enzymes, protein chaperones, glyconutrients, etc.) it is no longer as beneficial to life. This is especially true in the case of vertebrate mammals who are equipped to get their minerals from the plants they ingest or through the biotransformation of inorganic minerals to organic ones by microflora in their gastrointestinal tracts.
The primary reason that sodium selenite/selenate are preferred by some vitamin manufacturers over safer, more beneficial forms like chelated or yeast-grown selenium is because it is more profitable to use raw materials of lower quality."

It seems this further proves my point. If you are not taking a vitamin or mineral where it naturally occurs, you are likely doing more harm than good. I'll now say it is almost ALWAYS better to get your nutrients from raw foods.

Thanks Mercola.com for bringing this to light. Dr. Mercola also warns about supplements containing magnesium stearate, or stearic acid, and titanium dioxide. Both of these fillers cause immune system problems and stearic acid can acutally cause a nutrient barrier in the intestines which blocks your body from absorbing the very nutrients you think you are getting with the supplement. You can read the whole article here: Is Your Multivitamin Toxic?

________________________________________________________

It would seem reasonable that if Celiac Disease drained your body of required nutrients and damaged your intestinal lining you should take supplements that help meet your nutritional need as well as aid in the healing process. Celiact, a supplement designed especially for those with Celiac Disease, has done just that. It has 5 components of the supplementthat that address different Celiac needs:

  • Multivitamin
This includes vitamins A, E and K for vision, immunity and blood clotting, the anti-oxidant Vitamin C, and B vitamins, including folic acid and B12, which may reduce the risk of anemia.
  • Bone Health
Calcium, magnesium and vitamin D all work together to help build strong bones. Many of those with Celiac Disease suffer from bone loss due to lack of absorption of these essential nutrients.
  • Gut Healing
Zinc, glutamine, and citrus bioflavinoids work to heal the damaged intestines according to the maker's site. Zinc helps "patch up" holes, while glutamine provides nourishment for the lining of the gut. The bioflavinoids are said to reduce inflammation.
  • Probiotics
Lactobacillus Acidophilus, Bifidobacterium Lactis, and Bacillus Coagulans are the three cultures available in this supplement. Some research says that probiotics help crowd out the bad bacteria, fungus and other pathogens in the gut.
  • Digestive Enzymes
These help break down food to allow it to be more easily absorbed.

More information on this supplement can be found at celiact.com. What I did not find at this site is a list of ingredients. I like to stay away from magnesium sterate and steric acid for the potential gut disruption they cause, and I will not buy a supplement with non-bioavailable (cheaper) forms of vitamins. While it's more convenient to take one supplement to meet the needs of those with Celiac, it makes sense to only take those supplements needed, and to take the most bio-available form of those supplements. For instance, the sublingual form of vitamin B is the most readily absorbed for most of us, and when your gut is damaged, sublingual bypasses the gut to go directly into the bloodstream through the tissues in the mouth.

It is possible, and probably most beneficial, to try to get these same vitamins through your food. Liver, for instance, is very high in vitamin A. Digestive enzymes can be found naturally in fresh pineapple, papaya and papaya seeds. The reason it is so important to try to consume these nutrients in foods is that the components required for proper absorption are usually already built in to the food. That means if you eat spinach, you will not only get calcium, you get the vitamin C that aids absorption.

Fresh and raw foods often are the best way to consume your "supplements." Don't hesitate to browse your produce section and make a salad of things like kale, papaya, broccoli and red cabbage. Iceberg has gotten a bad rap, but it's fiber and water content can help digestion, just don't make it the "base" of the salad as most of us do. Add things like raw apple cider vinegar and olive oil to dress it up and help aid the absorption of the fat based vitamins contained in the veggies. Papaya seeds can be dried and ground like peppercorns and give a sweet and spicy feel to the salad.

Now, go play with your food! You'll be healthier for it. :)

Friday, August 5, 2011

Growing Gluten Free - Yes You Can!

I am a sucker for growing things. I love to watch a pumpkin blossom turn into a tiny green globe, only to swell into an orange fruit (yes it's technically a fruit) that I will bake and mash up later for a better-than-you-could-ever-get-out-of-a-can, gluten free pumpkin pie. I get so excited seeing those little seedlings sprout up in their cozy cubes of soil.

Many of the things I have grown however have not turned out so well. Most of the tomato plants I grew two years ago got a severe mold infestation rendering them...well, fruitless. This is why to limit disappointment I've tried to grow foolproof plants that stand the droughts and take the rain. Here are some of my successes:
  • Spearmint - Most herbs are pretty easy to grow, and spearmint is no exception. The fresh stuff is also way better than you can get on any grocery store. It's great in tea, hot or iced. You can also snap off a sprig and chew it like gum to freshen your breath!
  • Pumpkins - Even with the drought we had, these little beauties still sent out loads of little fruits just right for making pies. You can save the seeds fairly easily (make sure your seeds are not patented) and use them again next year as well.
  • Oregano - I planted a packet of these back in 2002 and we still have a nice bunch of it in my herb garden. I let it reseed itself by making sure not to take too much of the new growth at each harvest. It then sends up little seed making pods. When they dry out in the fall I crumble them to release the seeds and sprinkle the contents on my oregano bed.
  • Cucumbers - Given the space and the hill we have, I plant them at the top and let them cascade down. Hubby likes not having to mow the spot too. Bonus!
  • Sunflowers - The seeds are great for roasting and they are truly a plant you can't goof up. Plus the quick growing stalk gives you something to marvel over every week.
Going gluten free opened me up to tons of fruits and veggies I wouldn't have tried before. Some of them I can grow. Those that I fear I might destroy, wasting my efforts and breaking my heart, I buy at Whole Foods.

Papaya, acorn squash, ginger, star fruit, kiwi, asparagus, bok choy, mango, butternut squash and fennel are all new and exciting foods I've grown to love since going gluten free. My "limited" choices opened my eyes up to the limitless possibilities these wonderful foods contained. Enjoy your GF gardening journey!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Rudi's Bread...Thumbs Up!

So here is the low down on the Rudi's Gluten free line...

Soft and Chewy?

YES! The Rudi's brand are soft and have a wonderful chewy texture reminiscent of wheat bread. They spring back up instead of cracking when squeezed.

Crumbly?

Yes and no. When I first got the bread it was not crumbly, but it didn't pass what I call "The Fold Test." I loved making sandwiches as a kid by folding the bread in half. I have found no gluten-free bread that will pass this test yet, and maybe I never will, but Rudi's White Bread came the closest to passing by far.

After I froze the Rudi's, more of the moisture was taken out and the bread did become crumbly, but not too much so, and it still had a pleasant light chewy texture to it. This is in stark contrast to the gluten-free gummy glob of goo that is supposed to pass for bread. Rudi's is nothing like these bread bricks, and is very much like, well, bread!

Tasty?

YES! Rudi's made this bread rich in flavor and gave it just a touch of sweetness. They use sugar, honey and molasses to sweeten their breads and rolls. You won't find any high fructose corn syrup here.

Cost?

The better quality gluten free breads often cost a little more than the "more" you'd pay for the frozen brick GF breads, but the cost is worth the difference. Expect to pay anywhere from $5 to $7 a loaf depending where you live. If you are near a Costco's, you can pick up two loaves of Rudi's for about $7, That's $3.50 a loaf! Since I'm not a member at Costco's, I'll be hitting up my buddy Vince at my local Whole Foods for a case discount. :)

Funny Stuff?

NO! This is a big pet peeve of mine. Food manufacturers have long been putting fillers, preservatives, colors and even flavor enhancers in their products. These chemicals have been approved individually (and I think the FDA process for that is a bit dubious) but I bet if you put all them all together in a barrel it would have to be halled off to a toxic waste facility.

Well, evidently this is a pet peeve of Rudi's as well because you won't find any of that stuff in a loaf of their bread. They stick with the basics, and as an organically based bread company with an entire wheat based organic line, you can bet they know their sources. You will find things like potato, rice, egg, honey, molasses and flaxseed in their breads. Nothing with poly-this or nitrate-that is anywhere on the label.

In future posts I'll go into detail about each of Rudi's gluten free products and how they fared in each of my tests. I'll also fill you in on what my family said about each. Now lets go have some fun! Grilled Goat Cheese Sandwich anyone? :)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Tomato Paste vs. Sun Damage: And the Winner Is...

Tomato Paste!

Yes ladies and ...well maybe just ladies. The study of 20 women, who by the way subjected themselves to having small chunks of their skin removed for analysis, showed that when they ingested tomato paste containing the phytochemical lycopene, they suffered much less skin damage compared to those getting just olive oil. Show some respect for their contribution to science and eat your tomatoes.

Tomatoes have long been a fav of mine, and you can bet after this news I'll be loading my little blondies up with the stuff. Especially the one with hair so light you can see through it.

Here is a quick recipe to protect all you farmers while you are growing your red ripe sun damage fighting fruit:

Aunt Christine's Easy Gluten Free Pizza Sauce


  • Spaghetti Sauce - about a 1/2 jar
  • Tomato Paste - 1 of those little cute jars :)
  • Olive Oil - enough to get your buds in gear, about a tablespoon or more
  • Basil - I put in lots ... about a tablespoon or more
  • GARLIC - I put it in caps so you'd know to put a lot in. You can press fresh, use powder or granulated, just don't use garlic salt. You'll make the sauce toooooooo salty especially if you put in as much garlic as I do.
  • Salt - just a smidge
  • Oregano - yeah... You can also add other spices like thyme, hot pepper flakes, or Cayenne pepper.
  • Paprika - The WHOLE jar! Well, actually just enough to make it nice and thick. Go to your local club store and get the big container so you can make it more than once.
  • A Medium Sized Bowl,
  • Some sort of stirring implement - Please don't use your hair dryer, or anything else that plugs in for that matter. 
  • and Freezer Bags or Containers - this is to store the extra, there WILL be extra. :)
Place the paste, sauce, oil and all spices, except the paprika, into the bowl. Stir till they are well blended and all the little spices are happy and mingling. Taste it. does it need some more garlic? You know it does. adjust the spices so they are just right.

Next dump some paprika in, be bold! Stir...Do you like the consistency? Stop. Is it too thick? add some of the leftover spaghetti sauce. Is it too thin? Check your fears at the door and dump in a few tablespoons. Go ahead, step out in faith. It'll be OK I promise. :)

Now, when the consistency is perfect, get some containers or those "oh so bad for the environment" zipper bags. Put about 1/2 cup of the sauce in each bag. If you like a lot of sauce on your pizza or you have a family of 17 children (18, 19? how many do the Duggers have now?) you can put more into each container.

And contact the NIH and tell them how very much you appreciate them taking a chunk out of skin cancer by studying lycopene. Those 20 women will thank you.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Is Wheat Free Easy?

 I read a recent post on the wildly popular naturalparentingtips.com newsletter saying that there are many options, so going wheat free isn't hard.

To him or her I say "YEAH RIGHT!!"

For someone who cut their teeth on takeout and fast food (and is currently reaping the health benefits thereof) going wheat free is not easy. I long to buy the chewy bread and bagels, enjoy the hot mac and cheese, and relish the ability to order the fudge brownie delight at my local eatery.

But I don't. Why? Because I like not having seizures. Plain and simple. Oh, I also like being able to drive. :)
While processed food makers are falling all over themselves to fill the huge chasm between whole foods and franken foods, I've learned to cope. I get most of my daily intake from single and two ingredient foods such as peanut butter, puffed corn, fruits, rice cakes and veggies. This assures me I don't violate my food rules.
But I do indulge in multi-nationally derived pseudo food on occasion, like cookies made from rice flour, and bread made with some kinda modified food starch and mold inhibiting cultured corn syrup. This keeps my dopamine pathways, the ones that were carved in childhood, happy. Well, happy enough. :)

Friday, April 1, 2011

Yes, I Expereinced Nerological Improvement from a Vibration Machine

OK, it is no secret that I've had some seizures believed to be a result of my gluten intolerance. The grand mal, or tonic clonic seizures as they call them now, were by far the scariest for the onlookers. For me, I just got a real good nap and a little bit of tongue soreness from biting it during the process. The partial seizures were much scarier to me. I knew I was losing control, I could see and feel it. This included, yes I'm going to say it, my bladder. Aside from the "aura" that happened before I lost consciousness, the grand mal seizures were just exhausting. That is except the time I must have bounced my head off the filing cabinet. :)

Years before I had my first tonic clonic seizure, I'd get "dizzy" spells. Sometimes this included flashing lights before my eyes, sometimes it was just an odd feeling. Imagine my surprise when I started to get some of these "aura" symptoms after a bought of a horrendous flu this past winter. After 3 days of suffering with a 103 fever, I experienced flashing lights so strong it looked like someone was turning on and off the lights rapidly. I also had a slight “dizzy” feeling that had shadows of the past. These symptoms also were joined with two nasty cold sores. I think there might be an opertunistic virus that is dormant in my nervous system.

This got me thinking about some way to improve my nervous system function. I happened by Dr. Mercola’s website and saw a vibrating machine that said it improved circulation, endocrine function and (drum roll please) neurological function. Before I even looked at the price tag, I decided to give it a try.

“Whoa… wait a minute…it’s how much?!?”

This thing was 5 grand. No matter the wonderful promise of great health, I needed to find a more budget conscious alternative. After looking for local gym memberships that included this machine as part of their workout equipment and learning they were over $350 a month, I went to the net for an inexpensive “trial” product. I looked on three different websites for four hours...
Vibration Exerciser - Mini Crazy Fit (Black) (25.5''H x 9.5''W x 20''D) 

I finally found this one, which had excellent reviews from people at my fitness level, and the price tag was a mere 200 bucks. Nice.

When it arrived I was getting over yet another cold and feeling particularly run down. I got on for the recommended 10 minutes and I was surprised at the result. Before I got on I was ready to take a nap, after I was ready to take on housework. It was a big difference. I’ve used this little gem every day for 2 weeks and while the energy difference is less noticeable, it is still evident. It improves my mood, my outlook and my energy. If I use it right before bed, it even improves my sleep.

I do isometric exercises on this to protect my back, of which I recently had surgery on, but I have not gone any further than this. I have not consulted my doctor, which I know I should do, but the last time I called him he immediately suggested anti-seizure meds. I doubt something like this would be acceptable to him.

There is no doubt in my mind that this machine is doing something good for me on a neurological level. What that exactly is, I cannot be sure, but I do know I got the best night sleep I’ve had in a long time by jumping on this right before jumping in bed. :)

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Christine's End Zone Guacamole


What it's All About:


Oh my gosh do I loooove guacamole. Before I was daring enough to buy an avocado from the produce department, I'd get my fix from the "fresh" made stuff at WholeFoods. Their stuff is good, but honestly guacamole needs to be made then eaten right away for best taste. The only way to do this is to wield your paring knife and attack the little prune-looking fruit (vegetable?). Don't be afraid, the mushy green stuff inside is not as scary as the green slime you had to clean out from behind Jr.'s bed. (Oh,that's where he hid those peas.)

With the game coming up on only...um...24 hours or so, I think this would be great for cheering on your team. The pepper and pear combo give a fresh sweet taste that is sure to have it gone ASAP and it's colored especially for this years Super Bowl. You'll see what I'm talking about later. :)

A note about my recipes: You may notice my recipes don’t include a ¼ teaspoon of anything. This method of recipe writing frees the reader to use their instincts, follow their gut, and find their inner chef. I mean, would anyone really notice a dash more salt in a vat of soup? Alright, go ahead and put it in, just taste it as you go OK?

Stuff to grab

  • Onion - about 1/2 medium to 1/4 large onion minced.
  • Green Pepper - 1/4 each minced. You can slice up the rest for a veggie tray.
  • Pear - One ripe Bartlett should do it. Cut it in 1/4 inch cubes.Yes, I did say a pear, don't worry. You'll understand later.
  • Ripe Avocados - You'll need 3 if you are only using one pear, get 5 or 6 if you are using two. What is ripe you say? Look for black skins that yield to gentle pressure. If there is any green or wrinkled skins, let the produce department handle those later.
  • Vinegar or Fresh Lemon Juice - About 2 T of white or apple cider vinegar, or the juice from 1/2 of a lemon. This keeps the avocado from browning too fast.
  • Salt - Just a pinch to bring out the sweetness of the pear
  • Red Hot - as much or as little as you like. I put only a dash in so my kiddos didn't notice. :)
  • Black Bean and Corn Salsa - About 1/2 cup should do it. See I told you there would be team colors in there! If the store doesn't have black bean and corn, you can always open up a can of corn and black beans and add it to regular salsa. Be sure to drain them and only add as much black and gold as you want in the Packer's end zone.
  • Garlic Powder - about 1 teaspoon, more if you love garlic.
  • A medium sized bowl and a fork for "smashing"
  • Heavy Knife - It's for muscling out the avocado pit. :)
Before you touch the avocados or pear, be sure you have all your onion and pepper minced into your bowl, the finer the better. Now cut the pear in 1/4 inch cubes and toss it in.

Take your avocado, don't be afraid, I'm here to walk you through this. Slice the avocados in half, one at a time, checking for dark brown spots to cut out. There is a big round pit in there, so don't be alarmed if you hit something. Follow around the pit to continue the cut and twist apart. The pit should now be in one half of the avocado. Now get your big chef's knife and give the pit a whack. In a ripe avocado it should stick in the knife and come free from the fruit (vegetable? nut?).

Put down your weapon of defense and get the paring knife. hold the half in your hand and, being careful not to cut through the leathery skin, make crosswise cuts in the fruit (veg? aw never mind!), then scoop out the good green stuff with a spoon into the bowl. Remove any dark spots you missed before and lightly "mash" with a fork.


Ingredients layered ready to make each other really happy!
Now add your vinegar or lemon juice, spices, salsa and hot sauce and give it a stir, tasting as you go. Don't act like a food processor while you do this or you'll miss out on the chunks of avocado.

Serve with black and gold chips from Gianegle (that is "Giant Eagle" for those not in Pittsburgh). Act like the chips are the Steelers devouring the defense of the Packers.

Oops, I think I just gave myself away. :)
 
 
Be sure to post pics of your creation on Facebook! Now Let's go kick some butt on the field!
 
 
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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Mom's Sushi Rolls

What it's All About:

No, I am no kinds of oriental, but my Dad's trips out of the country, and my Mom's friendships with interesting people yielded an interesting childhood. I was encouraged to try things like grilled octopus and rotting Chinese cabbage.

 
This brings me to sushi. Way before Cali hooked onto the craze, my mom was rolling up sushi in our kitchen. And those that attended my high school World Cultures class circa 1988 may remember her sushi fondly.

 
By the time sushi it the grocery stores, it was old news to me. My mom had made it for at least a decade. Here is her recipe for this yummy gluten free food.

 
A note about my recipes: You may notice my recipes don’t include a ¼ teaspoon of anything. This method of recipe writing frees the reader to use their instincts, follow their gut, and find their inner chef. I mean, would anyone really notice a dash more salt in a vat of soup? Alright, go ahead and put it in, just taste it as you go OK?

Stuff to grab

 
  • Seaweed paper -   Here is the same stuff my mom used in 1982. Well, not the same exact stuff, that would be gross. Edozen - Seaweed Sushi Nori - (10 Full Sheets) - 0.88 Oz - for Sushi or Hand Roll
  • Sushi Rice - You'll need about a cup per roll. Sushi rice is much stickier than Jasmin or other types of white rice, which helps your roll to hold together. This is the same type of rice my mother used.
  • Bamboo Mat - This flexible, yet sturdy mat keeps the rice tightly packed into the roll. You can pick one up cheaply and it is worth it to get a sushi roll that won't fall apart. You can find this essential for less than 5 bucks. Helen's Asian Kitchen Bamboo Sushi Mat with Paddle
  • Sharp Knife - Non-serrated please
  • Tamanoi - Otherwise known as sushi rice mix powder, this goes a long way. One package flavors up to 16 cups of rice. Make sure you seal the leftovers as the powder is damaged by moisture.
  • Fillings -
Mild Version:
  • Sea Stick - 2 should do it. They are pre-cooked and you can find this in the deli or seafood section of your local grocery store. Because this is a processed food, be sure to ask them for an ingredient list.
  • Avocado - 1/2 should do
Hot Version:
  • Chinese Giant Pickled Radish - You can get these at an Asian market and Mom says there is no substitute for this spicy root veggie. It's flavored with ginger, garlic and other spices, as well as fish, fruit and sugar.
  • Wasabi Powder - Mix this with water to make a thick paste, about the thickness of icing. You can get this at many grocery stores in the specialty food section.
Cook the rice according to the package directions. Sprinkle the Tamanoi on top of the rice and stir in. Use this sparingly unless you really like vinegar.

 
Grab your bamboo mat and pull out a sheet of the seaweed paper and place it on the bamboo mat. Spread the rice on the paper about 1/2 inch thick leaving about a 1 inch space on one edge for sealing. cut your fillings in 1/2 inch thick sticks. Making sure that you place the fillings in the same direction as the bamboo sticks in the mat, place sticks of radish, sea stick and/or avocado about 1/3 of the way from the rolling end. Spread Wasabi sauce over the filling.

 
Roll the mat and paper around the filling, making sure to apply even pressure as you go. As the edge of the mat reaches the rice, roll back the mat and roll the paper into the rice. When you get to the edge, dampen slightly and seal. You should trim off any excess, but we just wrapped the extra around the roll. it was better than trying to figure out how to trim seaweed paper on the mat without cutting the mat. Now remove the mat and place your roll on a cutting board and carefully slice the roll with a sharp non-serrated knife. Have a serving plate ready to set them on.

 
 Notice there is no raw fish in this recipe. The Chinese dish Sashimi is raw and while you can put sashimi into a sushi roll, it is not necessary to enjoy this gluten free specialty food.

 
Now Let's go have some fun!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I Did ... IT!!!

After being almost entirely gluten free for the last 3 years, I broke down yesterday. I ate a wheat based cookie. It was a healthy one, no trans fats, organic flour (it was a Newman's product), but let me tell you the experience was not healthy.

Despite the sugar and cinnamon I love, the cookie did NOT taste good! After the hard swallow it took to get it down, I notices a slimy feeling in my mouth and throat. While I did not get a stomach ache per se, I definitely did not feel right afterward. I began to get tired and lethargic, and this was just one small cookie!

Whether it was the emotion from the symptoms, or the symptom from the emotions, I felt irritable as well. Some would say I'm normally like that, but this was worse than normal.

I hope this encourages you celiacs to avoid gluten based stuff no matter what. Some of you don't "feel" symptoms, but still experience damage to your intestines. The fact is I wanted to enjoy this cookie, and I did not. From the first bite, to the last swallow, to the minor gastric symptoms (like I said it was a small cookie) it was not a pleasant experience. Don't do it!

I'm going to the store and getting me some K-toos.  :)