Category Archives: Health and Wellness

Egg Substitutes

People avoid eggs for many different reasons. These may include food allergies, needing to cut down on cholesterol, being vegan and not eating animal products as well as concerns about salmonella. If you avoid eggs for any reason, there are alternatives available.

First you need to know what you want the egg to do.  Eggs serve various purposes in cooking. To be able to choose the right substitute you first need to know what purpose the egg serves in a particular recipe. The following are some of the ways eggs are used in cooking.

Eggs as a binder.  When an egg is used as a binder it becomes the “glue” that holds other ingredients together. An example of this is adding eggs to meatloaf. Eggs may also be used as a glue to make bread crumbs or flour stick to other foods as a coating for frying.

Eggs as a leavening agent. They help baked goods rise. If there is little or no other leavening such as baking powder or baking soda in a recipe then you know the eggs are being used for leavening.

Eggs for moisture. If a cake recipe calls for eggs, but little or no liquid such as water or milk the eggs are being used to provide moisture.

Eggs as the main ingredient. This is when eggs are the recipe, such as an omelet, Quiche or frittata.

Once you know what job you want the eggs to do in a recipe it is time to start thinking about substitutes.

Tofu is probably your best option if you want to make a dish where eggs are the main feature. To make Tofu Scramble used crumbled firm tofu. Remember tofu takes on other flavors so don’t be afraid of adding veggies and spices. Add a little turmeric or nutritional yeast for the yellow color of scrambled eggs. You may also use tofu to make an eggless egg salad, but I like to use chick peas for mine.

Ener-G Egg Replacer TM is a commercial product and is a powder that may be mixed with water or used dry depending on the recipe. It is used mostly for baking, but may be combined with buttermilk and cheese to make an omelet. Read the back of the package for directions and ideas for using this product.

Commercial egg substitute made from egg whites such as Egg Beaters® .  There are other brands on the market as well. These are made from eggs (usually egg whites) so are not suitable if you are allergic to eggs or are vegan. They may also be used for most of the things you would expect an egg to do in any recipe. I use them to make egg dishes, such as omelets, quiches and frittatas, but I use egg substitutes to lower fat and cholesterol content in my recipes, not because I am allergic.

Fruit Puree including applesauce, mashed bananas, pureed pumpkin or prunes may be used to replace eggs. Use 1/3 cup to replace each egg in recipes that use eggs primarily to add moisture.  If the eggs are used as leavening try ¼ cup plus 1 teaspoon of baking powder for each egg to give your baked goods a little more lift.

Flax seed meal makes a great egg substitute for baking.   Mix 1 Tablespoon flax seed meal which is ground flax seed, with 3 Tablespoons hot water for each egg you are substituting. You can buy flax seed meal or grind flax seed in a spice grinder. After adding the water let it sit until it becomes thick and about the consistency of egg whites. Most resources say to only use this for up to two eggs, but I have used it to replace up to four in my carrot cake with no problem. I use this to replace eggs in most of my baking without increasing the leaving and it works fine. Flax seed is also high in fiber and essential fatty acids giving baked goods a little nutritional boost as well. Don’t ask me how this works as an egg substitute. It took me a long time to even try this because I could not see how it could possibly work. You may also use chia seeds, but they are more expensive than flax.

Vinegar, yes plain old apple cider vinegar. Mix 1 Tablespoon with 1 teaspoon baking soda. If you have ever made a volcano for a science project you know it will foam up, so be prepared. This is what I use in my Easy Egg Free Chocolate Cake.

Cooking without eggs is not as scary of difficult as it may sound. It does require a little experimentation so don’t count on getting it right the first time. Remember one substitute will not necessarily work for all recipes. Give yourself time and permission to play and you will find the egg substitutes that work for you.

If you use egg substitutes, what is your favorite?

Tommorrow:  My Eggless Egg Salad Recipe


 

 

Living Changed Pt. 2 and Free Book Day

Yesterday I talked about how making changes can be easier than living with them.  Today I want to talk to those who may be feeling forced to make changes for health reasons that you really don’t want to make.   Maybe your doctor says you have to lose weight.  Or that special diet to treat or prevent a medical condition is just too drastic for you to want to consider.  Well I have experienced this one

Confession of a Drama Queen

Before I began the gluten free lifestyle I was convinced there would be nothing left to eat but twigs and tree bark.  In fact there is a rumor going around that I was spotted in the front yard threatening to eat a tree.  But the last 10 years of living gluten free have taught me that attitude really is everything  and can turn what at first  seems a huge negative into something that is actually positive.

Looking for the Good

It took awhile for me to see that not eating certain foods helps me live a happy and healthy life.  It is a good thing.  While learning the gluten-free lifestyle and making it my way of life took time there is no way I would cheat now.  No bread, cookie or cake is good enough to make it worth the price of poor health.

Staying on the Path

Looking at my way of life as the way to healing and wholeness keeps me on the path.  Focusing on and being grateful for the good in life, even if it means looking really hard to find one good thing, will make it easier to see the good that still exists in our lives and in the world.  We may even be able to see what we saw as “bad” as stepping-stones or lessons.

Now for the free book  — FINALLY!     The Gluten Free Good Life focuses on keeping a positive attitude and gives tips for making adjusting to gluten free living easier.  And today January 21st only, it is FREE!  Yes, I said free.  So go to the Amazon Kindle Store and get your copy.

If you have read the book, please consider leaving an honest review on Amazon.  Remember to mention you received the book free if you took advantage of a giveaway.   While you are there, click on my name and please take a look at my other books which are at regular price.

Want to see me in my kitchen making my naturally gluten free Sweet and Sour Chicken?  Go to https://www.facebook.com/espirational/ at 11:30 am (Central Time) for a Facebook Live cooking demo.  Don’t worry if you missed the live broadcast it will be available for viewing later.

 

The Secret to Cooking Good Healthy Food

Last year a culinary instructor named Todd Mohr gave a free webinar on how to cook like a chef.  It was not what I expected.  Instead of talking about all the “secrets” and difficult recipes we think professional chefs know he talked about how home cooks make things too difficult.  The focus of his webinar was learning basic techniques, cooking methods and spices then using your own fresh ingredients to create original dishes.

My Rocky Beginnings

When Bob and I first started living gluten free I was scared to death.  There were already a number of foods we didn’t eat for health reasons and I was sure there would be nothing left to eat…  So I started with stir fry and kept working on figuring out all those difficult gluten free recipes and exotic ingredients.   I eventually began to convert my own recipes and realized it really wasn’t that difficult, but I kept collecting recipes trying to find new, different and perfect recipes that met our needs.

Already Heading in the Right Direction

When I heard what Chef Todd had to say I realized I was already heading in that direction.  I was already putting together my own ingredients to create new soups and salads. I rotisserie whole chickens and use the meat for various dishes and boil the bones to make stock. Then I realized I had my “magic mixture” which was usually black beans, onion, corn, salsa or canned tomatoes and chili spices and sometimes chicken.  This ends up on baked potatoes, gluten free pasta, spaghetti squash, salad greens and most recently with rice rolled into a gluten free wrap for burritos. Sometimes I add rice for the closest thing to a casserole I do now.  I like to make a big batch to have on hand.

The Gluten Free Wraps and a Discovery

The gluten free wraps were part of a prize package from Toufayan Bakeries which I won through a drawing at the Gluten Away Online Expo.  The first couple of days after the package arrived we enjoyed some wonderful deli style sandwich wraps.  I even made a special trip into town for good deli meat, goat cheese and condiments.

Then I started looking for different ideas and went to the Toufayan website where I found the recipe for Chicken and Black Bean Freezer Burritos. When I realized I already had the basics down all I needed to do was think a little outside the box and wrap the stuff up in a tortilla or other flat bread, I felt a little embarrassed. But this was an excellent illustration of Chef Todd’s point just a few days after listening to him.

When I made these I cut eat one in half and wrapped them in plastic wrap then put in a freezer bag.  I ended up with two bags of these. Quite a bit of work, but good to have on hand for a snack or meal emergency.

Burrito wrap w/ filling.
Copyright 2017

 

Burritos ready for freezer.
Copyright 2017

Do you Make Things too Difficult?

Home cooks do make things way too difficult. We try to impress people with our skills or some sort of secret recipe or knowledge that only we have. Add food restrictions such as wheat or dairy to the mix and things can really get crazy. It is easy to panic and wonder what on earth you are going to eat.

My suggestion.  

  • Focus on techniques. Review or learn basic cooking methods such as baking, roasting, steaming, sauteing, braising, grilling, stir frying, etc.  These I have mentioned can all be done gluten free and dairy free.
  •  Then bring in your own fresh ingredients and seasonings and mix and match to your hearts content.  You might also want to play around with sauces and toppings.

The benefit of cooking this way is that you get to choose your own ingredients.  I think this is the easiest way to cook for special diets.

All you have to do is get started. It is a different way of thinking about food and cooking than many of us are used to. Take that first step and get started. Don’t be afraid to play a little and get creative.  Things will get easier as you go along and you will eventually find yourself thinking, I really made this?  This is so good!

What is your secret to cooking good, healthy food?

National Family Health History Day

Yes today is Thanksgiving for those of the U.S. but Thanksgiving Day is also National Family Health History Day.  Think about it for a minute and it makes perfect sense.  While you have everybody together is a great time to learn more about your family health history.  My brother and his wife and Bob and I had a discussion about this last year.  My brother and I each had information on different sides of the family so until we put together what we both knew, our information was incomplete.  It only took and 15 minutes, it wasn’t depressing and I wish we had gotten around to this sooner.

Don’t turn Thanksgiving into a downer talking about all the death and sickness in the family, but…  this may be a good time to casually ask mom, grandma or your favorite aunt a few questions if you have concerns related to your family health history.  Knowing your family health history does not doom you to repeating it.  In fact being aware of these things gives you the opportunity to adjust your lifestyle to be your healthiest and even prevent certain diseases and conditions.  For example, if grandpa died of lung cancer or emphysema you can choose to not smoke.

Don’t be afraid of your family medical history, it’s what you don’t know that can harm you.

The Daily Walk

Lakewood Driveway
Copyright 2015 by R.A. Robbins

 

“Daily walk” is a phrase that is often used to describe our walk with or connection to God.  And that is so very important.

For me it also has an added meaning that is a little more literal and physical but still a part of nurturing the whole of my being — body, mind and spirit.  I actually go outside every morning after yoga practice and walk around the property where we live.  I have to say that this is not drudgery for me.  I love to walk!  I am a third generation walker, following in the footsteps of my mom and grandma.

Here are a few of the reasons why I walk.

For the Love of It!  Yes, I’m one of those weird people who actually thinks hoofin’ it up the hill every morning is fun.  Go figure.

For My Health.  I walk to stay mobile and to stay healthy.  Like many people my age I have a few aches and pains, but I know it would be worse if I stopped moving.  I also walk to keep my heart healthy.  I walk at a rather brisk pace and recently learned that when I complete my entire route I have walked two miles.  YEAH!  I do not walk with the intention of losing weight, but I have dropped a few pounds recently.  With less of me to haul up the hill I am enjoying walking even more.  I also no longer arrive at the top panting and out of breath.  🙂

Quiet Time Surrounded by Beauty.  I walk in the early morning.  Most mornings are quiet around here.  I might meet an occasional dog walker or person going down to the lake to fish, but many days it is just me.  For about half of my walk I have the magnificent view of the lake.  I can also hear the birds as I walk.  This is a wonderful time to practice mindfulness by staying with the present moment as I walk.

I walk alone but if motivation is a problem for you recruit a friend, family member or even the family dog to go with you.  The most important thing is to move.

Does your “daily walk” include a daily walk? There are many reasons to walk.  What are a few of yours?  Let me know in the comments below.

 

Fighting Against or Living For?

Lakewood Driveway Copyright 2015 by R.A. Robbins
Lakewood Driveway
Copyright 2015 by R.A. Robbins

Two and a half years ago Bob and I moved to the lake.  At first it was “paradise.”  Then some major changes around here brought us back to reality and reminded us that life has its challenges and people are people no matter where you live.

The biggest challenge for me has been staying young and healthy in body, mind and spirit while surrounded by people who are older and believe sickness is an inevitable part of aging. In fact certain illnesses and major surgeries seem to be badges of honor and rights of passage.

During this time I have often found myself feeling that I was fighting against negativity, stereotypes of aging and yes sometimes even people.  I have often talked with Bob about the struggle to maintain my healthy lifestyle.

Then something happened that made me realize I had it all wrong. Instead of fighting against I should see myself as living for something greater.  Instead of fighting against sickness and negativity I should be living for wellness, light, love and focusing on the positive.  It may seem like a very slight shift but if we look at it closely the difference is huge.

The same applies to life in the wider world.  Are we fighting against the negative forces in the world today or are we living for light, love, peace, acceptance, and creating a better world for all?

What are you fighting against?  How can you flip that into living for something greater?

 

Eat Well to Live Well

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:

  1. Food is fuel.  If the body does not have adequate, quality fuel it will not function properly.
  2. Staying healthy saves not only on doctor bills, lost time from work but also on pain and suffering.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Remember being healthy is a way of life.  Find a balanced lifestyle plan that works for you and live it.

National Soup Month

 

Wouldn't veggie chili be good for lunch? Copyright 2014 by R.A. Robbins
Wouldn’t veggie chili be good for lunch?
Copyright 2014 by R.A. Robbins

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Making the Holidays about More than Food

 

Bookcover

It often seems everywhere you look during the holidays there is food.  Unfortunately it is often not food that is friendly to those watching what we eat no matter the reason.  You can go through the holidays feeling depressed and angry because of what you can no longer eat or you can come to the realization that life does not stop because what you eat has changed.  Neither does the ability to celebrate.  There are things you can do this holiday season to focus on other ways of celebrating.

1.  Center your celebration on the lessons or stories of the holidays you celebrate.

2.  Center your holiday party on an activity other than eating.

3.  Go caroling.

4.  Devote your time and yourself to charity and good works.

5.  Go on a holiday light tour.

6.  Attend local festivals and pageants.

7.  Engage in your favorite outdoor activity.

8.  Decorate your house.

9.  Develop your own special holiday tradition.

No matter what holiday you celebrate or in what way, don’t forget the celebrating.  Make the holidays a time of joy — sing, dance, celebrate light and life!  Remember, it isn’t always about food!

More ideas, recipes, and ways to celebrate that do not include food may be found in my holiday book Have Yourself a Healthy Little Holiday, available at Espirational Books and the Kindle Store.  For those looking for gluten free recipes, all of my recipes are naturally gluten free or include gluten free options.  Remember proceeds from Espirational Books go toward keeping Espirational.com and Espirational.org up and running.

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Rogene Robbins is an artist, writer, student of positive thinking and spirituality and home cook who has been living and cooking gluten free for eight years. She focuses on the positive aspects of gluten free living and using creativity to improve quality of life. Rogene is the author of Have Yourself a Healthy Little Holiday and The Gluten Free Good Life available at Espirational Books and the Kindle Store.