Olive Oil and Parsley Focaccia (Gluten and Grain Free)

IMG_0817When I gave up gluten the one thing I got asked the most was how do you not eat bread? I think it’s one of the hardest things for people to go without. Because I felt so much lighter and happier not eating it, giving it up wasn’t a problem for me.

There are so many options available today that weren’t available when we first went gluten free fifteen years ago. This is super exciting. Not just because of the plethora of choices but also because it means more people are eating like us, yay!

IMG_0811Over the years, I’ve made a few recipes, but none were as delicious as this focaccia recipe from The Joy of Gluten Free Sugar Free Baking by Peter Reinhart and Denene Wallace. It’s dense but not filling. My husband loved it too, and he’s not even gluten free! Making bread is somewhat of a labor of love, but this recipe is worth the time! What’s your favorite gluten or grain free bread?

Rosemary Herbed Oil

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
2 teaspoons fresh minced rosemary
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Focaccia Dough

3 cups blanched almond flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
4 egg whites, at room temperature
1 cup unsweetened almond or other milk

Preheat oven to 400. Line a 9×13 inch baking dish with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Mist the bottom and sides with cooking oil spray (I use coconut or grape seed oil spray).

Make herbed oil by combining all the ingredients in a small bowl, whisking to combine. Set aside.

Mix together almond flour, baking powder, xanthan gum, and salt in one bowl. In a separate bowl, with an electric mixer, beat the egg whites for three to five minutes or until they start to form stiff peaks. Add milk to flour mixture and stir until batter is smooth. Gently fold in the egg whites with a spatula, being careful not to deflate the egg whites so dough stays slightly fluffy.

Transfer dough to pan and gently spread it into an even layer using the spatula. Dip you fingers into the herbed oil then with your fingers dimple the top of the dough. Drizzle the herbed oil over the surface of the dough.

Bake for twenty five minutes. Rotate and bake for another twenty minutes until golden brown and springy when pressed in the center.  Let cool before cutting. Store in the refrigerator in an air tight container or bag.

Homemade Mayonnaise

IMG_1274The idea of making my own mayonnaise was not something that ever really inspired me. Maybe because I tend to be satisfied when things are plain, and I don’t eat many sandwiches. But when I was out to eat recently and had a lobster roll made with homemade mayonnaise (that didn’t upset my stomach), I got excited about the idea of making my own mayonnaise.

Don’t get me wrong there are some great options on store shelves these days. Take for example, egg free Vegenaise products. I thought their grapeseed oil mayonnaise looked great until I read the ingredients and saw soy protein and brown rice syrup (as a sweetener). Then there’s the exciting offerings from Hellmann’s Real Mayonniase. Hellmann’s is a classic, and they now make a mayonaise with olive oil. Only it’s not made with just olive oil, there’s more soybean oil than olive oil in the ingredients, and it contains sugar. Enough reason for me to skip the mayo!

IMG_1265Unless, of course it’s made with really real ingredients like this mayonnaise recipe from the Slim Palate cookbook. For my version, I made the mayonnaise with “magic oil”.  That’s what my daughter Kelly calls it. Because it’s magic, she laps it up with her fingers off the plate after sprinkling a little sea salt ontop of the oil. Then she says, “Mom, this oil is magic.” What can I say, it makes her feel good. She senses immediately that she is more alert and focused. It also helps that she listens to her body and knows when it’s happy with the food she’s eating :)

It’s a subtle thing that most of us won’t notice while we are eating, but the right oils make a huge difference in how we feel and with inflammation inside our body. In case you want to know more about magic oil, check out Body Bio’s article on magic oil here.

For this recipe you will an immersion blender, but if you don’t have one it can be made in a mini food processor. Don’t worry it’s actually super easy to make, I promise! Be sure to pour the oil in slowly and be patient as it magically thickens into creamy mayonnaise. Trust me, it’s totally worth the effort and that’s from someone who doesn’t love mayo!

Creamy Mayonnaise

1 egg yolk, preferably organic cage free
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon water
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
salt to taste
1 cup Body Bio Oil, extra virgin olive oil, or avocado oil

Place egg yolk, lemon juice, water, mustard, and salt in a flat bottomed glass dish or bowl that is at least the width of the immersion blender.

Place immersion blender in the bowl so that it’s base is touching the bottom. Turn it on and slowly pour in the oil. Blend while slowly pouring in the oil until the ingredients are fully emulsified.

Makes about one cup.
Store in and air tight container in the fridge for 1-2 weeks.

Dairy Free Mango Icecream

IMG_1248The other day in honor of National Ice Cream day, I made some mango ice-cream. It was the perfect day for it too. Ninety five degrees, sunny and humid outside. And it was a Sunday. I was trying to mimic an ice-cream that we used to buy, So Delicious Passionate Mango flavored ice-cream made with coconut milk, agave, mango puree and passionfruit juice (and of course the obligatory guar gum and carob bean gum). Doesn’t that sound delicious, so delicious?! It was one of my daughter’s favorites, until they discontinued the flavor.

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To recreate it, I made mine with just three ingredients, frozen organic mango, raw honey and homemade cashew milk. I was missing the passionfruit which my daughter must have noticed since it didn’t turn out like the So Delicious version. My sister who was over for Sunday dinner loved my mango ice-cream so much that she texted me the next day asking if she could stop by for some more!

For the base, you can use any milk you want. Almond, cashew or coconut milk all work well. A can of full fat coconut milk makes delicious ice cream. What’s your favorite dairy free ice-cream?

Dairy Free Mango Ice-cream

2 cups unsweetened cashew milk
1 1/2 −2 cups frozen organic mangoes
2 −4 tablespoons raw honey, depending on how sweet you want it

Put all the ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth. Taste to make sure it’s the right constancy, smooth and pretty thick.  Add more sweetener if needed. Pour into ice-cream maker and let the magic begin! Store in air-tight containers in the freezer for up to five days.

Easy Grilled Zucchini

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Whether or not you have a plethora of zucchini growing in your garden, grilling it is one of the tastiest ways to eat zucchini. One thing I love about cooking and eating vegetables is making them different ways – raw, roasted, grilled, sautéed, or steamed (which I rarely do).  One vegetable two or three different ways feels like two or three vegetables instead of the same boring one. Pretty cool, huh?

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Grilling is a true summer treat even though plenty of people do it year round.  Our grill sits on our deck which is enveloped by just enough trees to give us privacy but still let the sunshine in. I love the light at the end of the day between four and eight o’clock. It’s a relaxing peaceful light. Grilling dinner is a great excuse to be outside and bask in that light while being serenaded by birds, all making the chore of cooking hardly a chore at all.

To keep the zucchini from falling between the slats of the grill, I slice it length wise like the shape of a fish fillet.  There’s no need to marinade the zucchini ahead of time. It can be sliced and ready to go in minutes.

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One tendency with vegetables is to cook them too long as if we are worried about killing something in the vegetable as we do with meat.  When it comes to vegetables, my rule of thumb is don’t overcook unless  you like the resulting mushy texture.  I like to cook them for less time then longer if need be.  You can never undercook a vegetable, but you can easily over cook it.  Grilled zucchini tastes great with some pesto drizzled over top or simply some slivered fresh basil with a little extra olive oil.   What’s your favorite way to eat zucchini?

Easy Grilled Zucchini

2 large zucchini – green or yellow
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon herbs de provence or italian seasoning
1 clove garlic minced
Coarse sea salt
Fresh basil

Heat grill to 400 degrees. Cut ends off zucchini and slice lengthwise into strips about 1/4 inch thick.  Place on a platter, plate or in a ziploc bag.  Pour oil over zucchini and sprinkle with herbs, salt and pepper. Cook for 3-5 minutes on each side until tender with prominent grill marks on each side.  Garnish with fresh slivered basil or pesto.

Serves 2-4

Perfect Roasted Asparagus

IMG_1108Roasting vegetables is one of the yummiest ways to eat them.  I’ve had parents tell me they can’t get their kids to eat vegetables.  Then, as soon as they tried roasting the vegetables, bam, all of the sudden their kids love green beans and asparagus.  It’s like magic!

The other day on Facebook, I posted a funny picture of my dog Sofie sniffing and trying to reach the bone on my dinner plate.  On the plate was part of a pork chop and roasted asparagus topped with cashew cheese.  But the photo was far from a fancy or creative food styling plate.  It was a half eaten meal.

Yet, a friend commented about how her asparagus never looks as good as mine did in the photo.  Surprised but appreciative of her compliment, it inspired me to post my simple, super easy trick for perfect roasted asparagus.

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The trick is to not let the asparagus cook too long. That way it stays green and has a slight crunch to it.  I don’t like when asparagus gets mushy and stringy. How long you cook the asparagus is up to you.  Start with the recommended time, and then you can always cook it longer if you want the asparagus to be softer.  Keep it simple and cook with love :)

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Perfect Roasted Asparagus

2 bunches green asparagus
2 tablespoons grapeseed or coconut oil
1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
fresh ground pepper
fresh squeezed lemon juice

Preheat oven to 450.  Cut or break off tough bottoms of asparagus stalk, about two inches from the end of the stem.  For an extra special touch, use a vegetable peeler and peel another inch or two of the bottom of the asparagus stem.  This helps make it tender.  ( I rarely do this, but thought I mention it anyway).

Place asparagus on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Roast for 5 -7 minutes, depending on your oven.  Pour lemon juice over top once it’s done cooking.

Serves 4

Celebrating Freedom

Image 1Happy Birthday America!

Independence day, as so poignantly displayed by fireworks exploding in the sky, sparks feelings of exuberant freedom.  It reminds us of the liberties we are so blessed to enjoy because of our ancestors passionate quest for independence. Celebrating our heritage with friends and family is one of the highlights of the year.

But freedom isn’t just about being able to do whatever we want.  Real freedom is about being true to ourselves and doing things that free our spirit.

Sometimes there’s an illusion of freedom with indulgence.  Often the center of celebration focuses on food and tempts us to indulge because it’s our right. When really choosing not to indulge can give you more freedom.

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Opening up to the same feeling of independence through things other than food can be extremely satisfying and much more rewarding, so much so that you forget all about the food.

Now I’m not saying to not enjoy some good food this holiday.  I’m just suggesting to shift the perspective away from food as a way to celebrate our freedom.

One way to start by freeing yourself from any emotional burdens.  Forgive someone even if you don’t like their behavior, past or present.  Let go of expectations and comparisons and find your own sense of contentment and peace within.  Celebrate accomplishments based on your own measurements that align with your core values and desires.

Have some fun today and let your spirit run free!

Dance.  Sing.  Play.  Honor. Hug.  Love.

xo

Almond Flour Pancakes (Gluten and Dairy Free)

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Pancakes make the perfect breakfast for a Sunday morning or any time during the lazy days of summer.  My husband loves pancakes more than anyone else in our house.  He grew on pancakes for weekend breakfasts.  In fact, his dad still insists on making pancakes or waffles when we spend the night at their house.  Unlike the fluffy Bisquick pancakes I had as a kid, his dad’s pancakes are thin with crispy edges and smell amazing! Hot off the griddle, there’s almost no better comfort food!

For years, my daughters and I envied my husband (their dad) gobbling stacks of his dad’s pancakes. One daughter couldn’t eat them because they gave her migraines.  The other daughter has celiac disease so they were not an option for her, plus she only recently started eating eggs again.

When she was able to tolerate eggs, I made this recipe.  It opened up a whole new normal for weekend breakfasts.  Best of all, the pancakes came close to looking like his dad’s even though they are made with a completely different set of ingredients.  As an added bonus, this recipe won’t leave you feeling like there’s a brick in your stomach or ready to go back to bed!

What’s your favorite weekend breakfast?

Almond Flour Pancakes

1 cup almond flour
1 tablespoon honey
2 eggs
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons coconut or other milk
pinch of cinnamon
1 -2 tablespoons coconut oil, for cooking

Stir all ingredients except the coconut oil together in a small bowl.  Let sit for 5 minutes.  Heat oil in a large non sick frying pan or griddle over medium high heat.   Once a drop of water sizzles in the pan, it’s ready for pancakes.  Add batter, two tablespoons per pancake.  Cook over medium heat about three minutes per side, flipping once pancake is formed.  Add more oil to the pan as needed.  Serve with fresh berries and melted honey or maple syrup.
Fun extras:  add 1/2 cup frozen blueberries or chocolate chips to the batter :)

Creamy Cashew Cheese (Vegan and Paleo)

IMG_0984As soon as it hits your tongue, you will know it tastes nothing like real cheese. But nut cheese is still a delicacy to be revered.  It’s complexity of texture and flavor leave you wanting more but in a different way than a hunk of havarti.  That is, in a good way.

Dairy cheese is both comforting and addicting, making it one of the hardest things for many people to part with.  Yet, dairy can be the root cause of many nagging issues like sinus problems, chronic pain, skin irritation or acne, tummy troubles such as constipation, bloating and gas.  Years ago when I decided to give up dairy, many of these issues improved for me, and I’ve seen the same thing happen with many of my clients too.

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The first time I had nut cheese I was at a raw foods restaurant in Miami.  It was one of the most amazingly delicious meals I’d ever eaten.  Then I had it again at Pure Food and Wine in New York.  Let me just say their lasagna is to die for;  I dream of going back for more!

Nut cheese was just one of those things I loved but assumed I’d have trouble duplicating. Finally I got up enough courage to make some.  On my first try, I used macadamia and pine nuts.  It was a recipe from Silvana’s kitchen.  Silvana called it dairy free ricotta, which sounded delicious especially for the gluten free lasagna I planned to make.  But I gotta be honest, I didn’t love it.

Then I remembered the cashew cheese I’d fallen in love with at Natural Products Expo. Directly across from our booth was the booth for Treeline cheese, which makes vegan cheeses made from tree nuts and cashews.  Their cheese is an amazing work of art.

So I decided to give making nut cheese another try, this time with cashews.  Mine turned out more like a dip, but it is a delicious topping for a burger, zucchini pasta, grilled chicken or salmon.

IMG_1059The nutritional yeast gives it it’s cheesy taste.  Nutritional yeast is not to be confused with active yeast for baking bread.  High in B vitamins, it’s a very popular ingredient in vegan cooking to boost protein and nutrient quality of foods.

IMG_0966After you get over the fact that you have to soak the cashews, its actually super easy to make.  There is no real science to exactly how long you need to soak the cashews.  At least two hours and up to twelve is a good guideline.  I usually place mine in water in the morning when I’m making breakfast.  Then I process them for milk or cheese later in the afternoon.

Ingredients

1 cup raw cashews
1/4 cup filtered water (for better taste)
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon raw organic apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt

Soak the cashews in a glass container or bowl, covering them completely with water.  This step is super important because it makes the cashews blendable and gives smoother results.  After anywhere from two to twelve hours, drain the cashews and rinse.

Add cashews and all the other ingredients to Vitamix or other high speed blender.  A food processor will work too.  Blend or process until smooth.  Makes about a cup of cheese.

Add more water if want it to be runnier for a sauce. Add more nutritional yeast if want your cheese to be thicker and more spreadable.
For a delicious salad dressing, blend with a tablespoon of dijon mustard and a clove of garlic.

Use as a sauce in wraps or sandwiches, a dip for veggies or as a topping for grilled chicken burgers or salmon.  Chill in a cute little mason jar or other container for several hours before eating.  Keeps for up to a week in the refrigerator.

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Purple Asparagus, A Rare Gem

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Purple asparagus is not something you see everyday.  Actually, I’d never seen it before until last Sunday when I was at the West Reading Farmers Market.   A few purple stalks were delicately placed in the bunch of organic green asparagus I bought from B&H Organics.

It was love at first sight.  Purple asparagus is so beautiful in it’s uniqueness and depth of color, like a rare gem.  Being a sucker for organic fresh produce from local farmers, I bought two bunches.  It cost a small fortune, but was well worth every penny.

Mostly, I was excited to indulge in and play with a beautiful “new” food.  Finding a new ingredient always adds pizzazz to my usual repertoire of repetitive choices and builds joyful anticipation over planning a meal around the new thing.   This creative spark shifts the perspective on making dinner from a chore to a creative endeavor that pampers the soul.

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Unfortunately like purple green beans or snow peas, the purple color disappears once you cook purple asparagus.  So if you want to preserve the purple color, serve it raw with some hummus on a veggie tray or in salads.  I ate some of my purple asparagus raw dipped in cashew cheese,  some raw in my kale salad and then some cooked in a stir fry.

It was delicious every way I tried it.  To me, it’s flavor varied a bit from regular old green asparagus.  Purple asparagus has a unique nutty, slightly sweeter taste than it’s green counterpart.

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The purple color is not only pretty — it’s what makes purple asparagus a nutritional powerhouse.  The color comes from a high level of a particular antioxidant in the asparagus.  It is known for it’s anti-inflammatory benefits as well its detoxifying properties.  Another interesting fact about it is that purple asparagus has double the protein of green asparagus.  But you can’t go wrong either way, green or purple.  They are all edible magical miracles :)

Flourless Blonde Brownies (Paleo, Gluten and Dairy Free)

IMG_0856I’ve been having so much fun baking ever since we successfully reintroduced eggs back into our diet (my daughter Kelly and me).  Gluten free and grain free baking is extremely difficult without eggs.  It can be done, and we have some favorites like my Black Bean Brownie recipe.  But with eggs, cookies are fluffier, and bread well let’s just say it’s a miracle.  Bread without eggs is nearly impossible.

For our gluten free, grain free baking, I use a lot of nuts.  Almond flour is the main ingredient in many of my recipes because for years Breaking the Vicious Cycle, was my bible.  That is going back ten years ago before all the amazing cookbooks and blogs that have been published because of the Paleo movement.

Since my sister’s two kids both have nut allergies, peanut and tree nut, I like to have a few recipes that I can make that we all can eat.  Or at least that we can eat around them without worrying about them having to use the epiPen because of a crumb or cross contamination issues.

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So, I adopted this recipe from Breaking the Vicious cycle using sun butter instead of peanut butter.  I like sun butter a lot.  It’s my favorite go to nut butter.  For this recipe, I also added some chia seeds for a little extra dimension and nut free crunch.  These brownies are naturally sweetened with honey in classic SCD (specific carbohydrate diet) style.

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Flourless Blonde Chocolate Chip Brownies
(Nut free, gluten and dairy free)

1 cup organic unsweetened sun butter
1 egg
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup chia seeds
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup Lily’s or Enjoy Life dairy free chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease an eight inch by eight inch pan with palm shortening.  In a medium bowl, mix the sun butter together with the egg, baking soda, and honey.  Stir until smooth.  Add chocolate chips and chia seeds gently mixing until evenly combined.  Pour into pan and bake for 20 minutes.  Let cool before cutting.  Keep in an airtight container in the fridge or freeze.  YUM!