As the holidays approach many of us will start planning holiday meals. If one of your holiday traditions is spending three days in a “food coma” from overindulging stop and think, is it really worth it? Is it really enough fun, to make yourself sick over?
This year I would like to offer a few alternatives and substitutions that are just as good without all the fat and sugar. Trust me, they may be different but they still taste very good.
Begin your meal with a salad or a light soup. I like to begin with a salad of spring greens, walnuts, dried cranberries and maybe a little goat cheese with a light vinaigrette dressing or a light and easy sweet potato soup made with sweet potatoes and onion cooked in water or veggie broth, with cinnamon and a dash of cayenne pepper and puree until smooth in the blender. Sometimes we have both.
Cook your turkey in a healthy way. Don’t add extra fat by stuffing the cavity with butter or frying it. Season the bird well and bake in the oven.
Make your own cranberry sauce. If you can boil water, you can do this. You can control what goes into it, including what you use for sweetener.
Forget the green bean casserole and serve lightly steamed fresh green beans. Add some sliced almonds and a good squeeze of lemon juice.
Leave the “candy” out of the yams. I like to serve fresh sweet potatoes. There are many ways to do this. First there is baked. You can fancy them up a bit by making them “twice baked” either sweet or savory by what you add to them. You can mash them. You can cook them with apples and spice them up with cinnamon and nutmeg. Follow this link to my recipe for Orange Spice Sweet Potatoes.
Serve a healthy relish tray. This was always included in the holiday meal when I was growing up and is still best part of Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner for me. Include lots of raw fresh veggies and fruit with a few of your favorite pickles and olives if desired. If you want dip, consider making one without cream cheese or sour cream. This may be done using white beans or mashed cauliflower.
How about ice cream for dessert? I like to serve pumpkin fruit cream made from frozen bananas, pumpkin puree, almond milk, pumpkin pie spices and a wee bit of molasses.
Okay so the cookies in the picture aren’t bar cookies. They aren’t even from the same recipe. But my camera is not working so I thought this photo would be better than none at all. You will have to imagine soft, cake like bars with that pumpkin-chocolate goodness. Sounds good doesn’t it?
Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bars
2 eggs of equivalent substitute
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup stevia sweetener such as Truvia (R) or Stevia in the Raw (R)
1/2 cup agave nectar
1 Tablespoon molasses
1 cup pumpkin puree
1 cup flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill gluten free baking flour)
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup chocolate chips (dark chocolate is really good with pumpkin)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Prepare a 9 x 13 baking pan by spraying with pan spray.
Lightly beat eggs. Add stevia, agave and molasses and pumpkin.
Stir to blend well.
Add cinnamon, baking powder, soda and flour, stirring as you add.
Finally stir in chocolate chips.
Pour into baking pan smoothing out the batter with a spoon. Bake 30-40 minutes.
Remove from oven and allow to cool. Cut into bars or squares and enjoy!
This time of year I know when most people think of pumpkins they think of Jack o Lanterns. Me? I think of soup, pasta sauce, cake, cookies, pie. I do love my pumpkin in both sweet and savory dishes.
If you have never tired fresh pumpkin consider buying a pie pumpkin (they are smaller) and give it a try.
Never cleaned and cooked a pumpkin? Check out Time to Kill the Fatted Pumpkin for step by step instructions.
Have you ever used pumpkin in a savory dish? Here are a few of my favorites:
Oh yes it is. But at my house every day is cookie day and one of our favorites is chocolate chip. I live with a Cookie Monster. Whenever Bob walks by freshly baked c0okies cooling on the counter at least a few get devoured. I usually have homemade cookies on hand, at least in the freezer.
Of course they are gluten free and I do try to health them up a bit, but we’re not talking about nasty tasting “health cookies” here. These are real cookies and they taste good.
It’s National Ice Cream Day. But what do you do if you cannot eat the sugar, dairy or eggs in regular ice cream for health reasons?
No More Ice Cream? Oh No!!!!
What does an ice cream lover do when forced to give up sugar, dairy and eggs for health reasons?
Well, in my case the first thing I did was cry — a lot.
Then I tried moderation. I really love my ice cream, so cutting back was having it once a week instead of every day. That didn’t work.
So I gave it up. I stopped eating ice cream and I even gave up making the wonderful family recipes developed by my mother.
It took awhile to try the ice cream made with frozen bananas because I was sure there was no way that stuff tasted like ice cream. When I finally decided to try I burned out two blenders before I found a Ninja to help me learn how to do it right. Together we discovered wonderful frozen desserts that are gluten-free, low in fat and sugar and if you use almond milk or another dairy free alternative, vegan. I call them fruit creams with flavors such as not only the luscious cherry included here, but also chocolate, strawberry, blueberry, cherry chocolate, egg nog, pumpkin and peanut butter chip.
Cherry Fruit Cream
Delicious fruit cream full of cherry flavor. Of course you may pit and freeze your own cherries, but buying already frozen is easier. If you want chunks of cherries in your cream you may cut one half cup of the cherries in half and add after you turn off the blender.
1 cup frozen mashed banana
1 cup frozen sweet cherries
½ cup almond milk or other milk of your choice
1 teaspoon almond extract Directions:
1. Add all ingredients to blender container.
2. Blend on high speed (# 3 if using a Ninja) until thick and creamy. You may need to stop the blender and scrape down the sides a few times during processing.
3. Serve now as soft serve or put in a carton and freeze until firm.
Want to have some Frozen Fun?
The best thing about ice cream is that is fun to make and of course fun to eat. I put my love of ice cream and summertime fun into a Kindle book called Frozen Fun. For more dairy free recipes as well as my mother’s old fashioned recipes with milk, eggs and heavy cream visit the Kindle Store to buy your copy today.
With Independence Day coming up on Tuesday many of us in the U.S. are thinking about food, planning what we are going to serve. Summer always makes me think of picnics and when I think of picnics I think of fried chicken. Not just any fried chicken, my mom’s fried chicken. She made the best. I have many of her recipes including fried chicken. This is one of those recipes I thought was out-of-bounds for me when I started living gluten-free for health reasons. When I realized how simple the answer was I was embarrassed that I couldn’t see it sooner.
You see, there really is no secret to making gluten-free fried chicken. Unless there are other problem ingredients, you can still use you favorite recipe, with one small change. You use gluten-free flour. Now you will get different results with different flours, so you will want to experiment a bit. The first time I tried this I made two batches of chicken nuggets, one with brown rice flour and one with sorghum flour. You can also use a blend if you wish. You do not need xanthan gum for this. I have since fried actual pieces of chicken and it works great as well.
If you don’t have a favorite fried chicken recipe you are welcome to try mine. My mom’s recipes were just lists of ingredients, often without measurements so I usually just guess at how much I need of each ingredient. Feel free to adjust my measurements below for how much chicken you have. This recipe may also be used with basically anything you want to bread and fry.
Mom’s Fried Chicken
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts cut into tenders or nuggets (You may also use bone-in chicken pieces or a cut up whole chicken).
1 t. Mrs. Dash
1 t. paprika (this helps with browning)
1/4 c. milk
1 eggs beaten or 1/4 cup liquid egg substitute
Vegetable oil for frying
Combine milk and egg in a small bowl or flat baking dish.
Combine flour and spices in another bowl or baking dish. Mix well.
Dip chicken pieces in milk/egg mixture, then in flour. Repeat.
Pour oil about 1″ deep in a skillet. Heat oil till a small drop of water dropped in pan sizzles.
Carefully add chicken pieces to hot oil. You do not want to splatter hot oil or your skill or for it to run over the edges of the skillet.
Cook on medium heat until lightly browned on both sides.
Reduce heat and cover skillet with lid.
Continue to cook, turning a couple of times till the thickest pieces are done.
Take cover off and cook for about 5 minutes more to crisp things up.
For fried chicken, I think brown rice flour makes a very nice thick, crispy crust. Bob thinks sorghum flour has more flavor. Experiment with your favorite gluten-free flours until you find the one you like best.
You may adjust the seasoning in your flour to meet your family’s taste. If you prefer spice, add cumin or chili powder, for Italian flavor add rosemary, oregano and basil. You may also add garlic powder if you wish. Experiment to find what you like best.
If you run out of flour or egg wash, just mix a bit more up. You don’t want to have a lot of leftover flour or egg wash. Do not reuse you flour of milk/egg about it has had raw chicken in it — just throw it out.
Fried foods are not something we eat regularly now. I might make fried chicken once a year for Bob’s birthday. But my mom’s fried chicken still holds a special place in my memory and I wanted to use this as an example of how easy it can sometimes be to make those old favorites gluten free.
Approach those old favorite recipes with an open mind and there’s no telling where they might take you.
May is National Salad Month, but I think a nice fresh garden salad makes any meal a celebration. When you think of a garden salad, or green salad what comes to mind? A bowl of iceberg lettuce with maybe a little purple cabbage or grated carrot mixed in and one slice of tomato on the side? Do you sometimes get bored with that?
Not Your Ordinary Garden Salad
We all get tired of a plain old green salad. Try the following suggestions for greens, veggies, dressing and other ingredients to jazz up that ordinary salad. Add a little protein to your salad and make it a meal.
Be Daring in Your Choice of Greens
With hundreds of varieties of salad greens, why get stuck on iceberg lettuce? New time try something different. Use the list below to help you get started.
Arugula (also known as rocket, roquette, rugula and rucola). Low in calories and high in vitamins A and C the leaves have a distinctive peppery flavor.
2. Belgian endive is a leaf lettuce which is related to chicory and escarole with crisp, tightly packed leaves and a slightly bitter taste..
3. Dandelion greens are high in vitamins A and K, calcium and iron. The newest leaves are said to be less bitter. Before you go harvesting the greens in your back yard be sure you are not using herbicides, insecticides or other harmful chemicals on your lawn.
4. Escarole is a type of endive that is less bitter than other types and it good either eaten raw or lightly cooked.
5. Iceberg or head lettuce is what many people think of when they hear the words lettuce or salad. Iceberg lettuce is known for it’s crisp sweet tasting heads. It also keeps longer than some of the other lettuces. The large leaves may also be used like a tortilla to make lettuce wraps.
6. Mesclun (also known as Spring Mix) is the French name for a mix of a variety of tender young lettuces. These often include chervil, arugula, lettuce and endive.
7. Cabbage may not be an ingredient you think of for salads but the mild flavor make it a perfect bed for spicier salad ingredients.
8. Radicchio is a red lettuce in head form (resembles red cabbage) that is bitter and peppery but adds a nice accent flavor to salads when added in small amounts.
9. Romaine has long, deep green leaves. It also has a deep flavor and sturdy leaves that work well in a salad. Romaine lettuce is a good source vitamins A, C, B1, B2, manganese, folate, chromium, dietary fiber, as well as the minerals potassium, molybdenum, iron, and phosphorus.
10. Spinach is a source of Vitamin A. It is rich in iron, calcium and protein. Spinach gives a good splash of dark green color and it’s own flavor to a green salad. It is also very good lightly cooked in a little olive oil with garlic.
11. Watercress has small spicy leaves that are a good flavor addition to a salad.
Salad Dressing: How to Make a Basic Vinaigrette
The formula for a basic vinaigrette is 3 to 1. That is 3 parts oil to 1 part vinegar. If you want to make 1 cup of dressing use ¾ cup oil and ¼ cup vinegar. If you want to make a small amount try 3 tablespoons oil to 1 tablespoon vinegar.
I use olive oil for the benefits of the Omega 3 Fatty Acids, but any good vegetable oil will work. Even your basic canola or sunflower oil may be used. You can also get fancy and use flavored oils or add a little sesame or flax seed oil to your regular oil for flavor.
The vinegar is also up to you. Regular apple cider vinegar works, but I prefer balsamic or red wind vinegar. Flavored vinegars like raspberry also work nicely for some dressings. You don’t even have to use vinegar at all. Citrus juice such as orange, lemon, grapefruit or lime may be substituted.
A basic vinaigrette starts with the vinegar or other acid in a small bowl . Add salt and pepper or other seasonings as desired. While beating the vinegar with a wire whisk add the oil, slowly in a small stream. Continue beating until all the oil is incorporated into the dressing. Why do you do this? You are creating an “emulsion” or a blending of the oil and vinegar so they do not instantly separate. This may also be done in a blender.
That’s the basic vinaigrette. Plain and simple. Of course you can fancy it up. Add whatever you want — mustard, honey, finely chopped garlic or onion, any herbs and spices your heart desires.
Making only as much dressing as you will use immediately is a good idea. Olive oil tends to solidify when it gets cold, so some dressings do not store well in the refrigerator. I think you will also find the flavor of fresh salad dressing can’t be beat.
Now get out there and celebrate National Salad Month. Be daring in your choice of greens, make your own dressing, add a few of your favorite fruits and veggies and maybe a little protein and take that salad way beyond your ordinary garden salad!
When I think of spring and summer something that always comes to mind is deviled eggs. They are always a part of my Easter table as well as picnic food throughout the summer.
The other day I was talking to a friend about an upcoming potluck in our little community. I said, “We might end up with six plates of deviled eggs.” She laughed and then I said, “But I think everybody has their own special recipe so that might be okay.” And we continued to talk about how many different ways there are to devil an egg.
At my house the filling is moist (I use an olive oil based mayo), tart (we add vinegar) and bright yellow (lots of mustard). Our garnish of choice is paprika sprinkled over the top. Your preference might be sliced olive, pickle or something else.
Here is my basic recipe, but I go by color and taste rather than exact measurement so feel free to adjust to suit your own tastes.
1 t. vinegar (more or less)
1 t. prepared mustard (more or less)
2 T. mayo or salad dressing (more or less)
1. Hard boil eggs using your preferred method. Cool and peel.
2. Cut eggs in half the long way.
3. Carefully scoop our the yolks using a spoon and put in a small bowl.
4. Arrange whites on your serving plate. If you have a deviled egg plate, use it.
6. Mash yolks and add vinegar, mustard and mayo to taste. Continue mashing and stirring until yolks are very smooth.
7. To put the yolks mixture back in the whites you can use a small spoon. When I worked in a restaurant I learned to use a pastry bag for this and love that method. If you don’t have a pastry bag you can use a plastic sandwich bag with one corner cut off on the diagonal. This is much easier, quicker and less messy than the spoon method.
Makes 12 deviled eggs. I like to use the whole dozen and make 24.
I used to hang out online with people who were trying to be live frugally. I always thought I could pinch a penny till it squealed, but some of these people were extreme in their methods as well as the beliefs that were driving them to save as much and spend as little as possible. Those groups and I eventually parted ways and the general attitude toward food was a major reason. Many believed it doesn’t matter what you eat and food was an area where you could really cut your spending.
If you know me at all you know I am all about health and wellness. I do have a budget. I do make a shopping list while checking the grocery ads. I’m the person who stands in the grocery aisles actually doing the math trying to figure out the best deal. But our budget is built realistically to purchase fresh fruits and veggies, minimally processed meats and other healthy, naturally gluten free foods. This comes from our belief that you can spend money on healthy food or you can spend money on doctors. We prefer to spend on food.
In addition to my other responsibilities I am essentially a homemaker, making a safe and healthy home for Bob and I. Grocery shopping, meal planning and cooking are part of my “job.” And, strange as this may sound in todays world, I actually like to cook. So taking the time needed to cook from scratch instead of grabbing convenience foods is something I don’t mind doing. At least most of the time. When my other responsibilities are piling up and I barely have time to breathe I do mind and the crock pot gets called into service.
So why am I talking about all this now? Well it’s January, and the beginning of a new year is a time when people seem to be talking, thinking and planning about food. Many resolutions will be food or weight related. Others will be looking at ways to save money and cut the budget.
While all this is going on there are a few things I would like you to consider:
Food is fuel. If the body does not have adequate, quality fuel it will not function properly.
Staying healthy saves not only on doctor bills, lost time from work but also on pain and suffering.
If you really do want to lose weight ask your healthcare professional to help you come up with healthy, reasonable plan. Don’t be taken in by all the fad diets and cleanses being promoted this time of year.
Don’t forget to move. Get up out of your chair, walk, climb stairs, play with the kids, dance, whatever strikes your fancy, just move.
Remember the phrase “all things in moderation.” You will pay for that starvation diet and obsessive physical training later — with your health. Those things are not sustainable and never last anyway.
Remember being healthy is a way of life. Find a balanced lifestyle plan that works for you and live it.
January is National Soup Month. This is great for those of us who are trying to eat healthier this year, especially those of us who live where January is typically cold and snowy.
Soup is a good way to start on the path to healthier eating. But remember not all soups are created equal. Some are healthier than others. I believe the healthiest way to be sure I am eating a healthy soup is to make it myself. That way I know exactly what is going in the pot and don’t have to worry about something not so good for me slipping by me.
So what are a few ingredients I want to include to make my soup healthier?
Start with a low sodium broth — check the label or make your own. Don’t forget vegetable broth. You can also use water.
Add lots of veggies. Try to include some dark green leafy veggies such as broccoli, spinach or kale. An easy way to include veggies is to use a bag of a frozen blend such as a California blend or stir fry vegetables. And don’t forget cabbage soup — just don’t overcook the cabbage.
Add whole grains such as brown rice, quinoa, buckwheat groats or barley (barley is not gluten free).
Add beans and lentils for extra fiber.
Make cream soups without cream by adding some pureed pumpkin, squash or carrots.
Watch the garnishes. Try to slow down on the croutons, sour cream and cheese or replace them with healthier options.
Spice it up. Herbs and spices are always a good way to add flavor to anything. If you use packaged blends be sure to read the label for added sugar, salt, gluten, etc.
Start on your path to a healthier way of like with a bowl of nice hot, healthy soup for an easy way to work in those much needed vegetables.