Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Mustard chicken and veggies

I started out following a recipe for mustard roasted chicken and ended up changing--well, mostly everything--about the recipe.  So, here it is: a super tasty one-pot meal. 

While the recipe calls for chicken, it tastes just as good with any other meat, or even beans.  The recipe calls for soy sauce, and you will NOT want to add more salt the dish until you taste it.

1 1/2 lb diced cooked chicken
3 stalks of celery, chopped (including the greens on top of the stalk)
4-6 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 red onion, chopped (or two onions if you find it's your favorite part, too)
1/2 granny smith apple, peeled, cored and chopped
3 packed cups of fresh or frozen spinach
1/4c yellow mustard (Annie's is perfect)
2tbs gluten-free soy sauce, or to taste
freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
1 1/2 tbs caraway seeds
2tbs dried thyme
chicken or veggie broth, to desired thickness (It can be a hotdish or a stew, however you prefer)
cooked rice, noodles, potatoes or even sweet potatoes to serve over

1. After chopping the apple and the veggies (minus spinach), sweat them in a large pot.  You won't want to cook them totally through just yet.

I just love all the colors!

2. When the onions are nearly translucent, add chicken or other protein, mustard, soy sauce, spices and broth.  Stirring occasionally, simmer until veggies just barely yield to a fork. 
3. Stir in spinach and cover again.  Let it simmer until spinach is de-thawed and/or wilted.
4. Enjoy!

 This post is linked to Party Wave Wednesday 11/27/13 at Holistic Squid

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The things that make you YOU

In the past year or so, I have gone through some pretty amazing transformations, health-wise.  Daily stomach aches are a thing of the past, as they have been for a while now.

However, in the past month (or three), stress has taken a pretty heavy toll.  I had been so busy with school, all the while trying to process a shift in a friendship, that I had neglected myself.  I buried myself in schoolwork and housework and a million little errands and obligations, and when I finally surfaced I found myself sulking about and suffering through stomach aches all over again.  My nervous system was running on overdrive.  When my alarm clock went off in the mornings, I would wake up and my heart would race or I would start shaking.  Obviously, something had to change.

When I visited my naturopath last week, in addition to homeopathic support, she gave me words of wisdom.  The words that most resonated with me were these:

Don't give up the things that make you YOU.

So that's what today's post is about--slowing down, clearing out the hustle and hurry from day-to-day life, and making space for the things that matter most.  The things that define you, that will make up the most memorable parts of your life.  We all have things that we have to get done, but it is important that we not to let to-do lists compel us to hurry our lives away.

For me, this means putting away homework and all of the various forms of digital distractions at each meal, so that I can to sit down and actually enjoy my food.  It also means that in addition to my daily to-do list, I need to keep another (equally important) list of things that I need to do for myself during the day.  Sometimes this means crochet, curling up with a good book, taking a hot bath, going on a walk, journaling or practicing yoga.  Today, it meant blogging before bed and taking a break from homework for twenty minutes of Qoya (which, over the past few months, has re-taught me the joy of dancing that I seem to have lost during a phase of adolescent self-consciousness--but that's another blog post).  When I have too much on my plate, rather than let anxiety drive me crazy, I practice asking for help and saying 'no' to new commitments. 

Another thing that helps me 'just be' is to take a few minutes, when I first wake up in the morning, to think about the way I want my day to go and the things that I would like to accomplish.  I breathe in and think about the situations that might come up over the course of my day, breathe out and visualize my ideal response or the way I would like things to go.  In, input; out, outcome.

These few simple changes in my daily routine have made a world of difference for my peace of mind.  After instituting these new principles in my daily life, contentment is once again attainable, and I find myself making better use of my work time.  With the additional help of homeopathic remedies prescribed by my naturopath, the stomach aches and the morning shakes are gone.  I've also started to meditate, via journaling, on the best way for me to address the recent changes in a friendship, and found that the same principles hold true:  I do not have to jump ship; rather, I need to establish a new set of boundaries.

As always, I would love to hear from my readers:  What makes you YOU?  Do you make a rule of taking time for yourself?  And if you don't already, in what ways might you begin?  Do these changes necessitate introspection or an outreach for help?

This post is linked to Party Wave Wednesday 10/30/13 at Holistic Squid and Tasty Traditions 10/30/13 at Cultured Palate

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Tasty Thai Curry

The other day, while looking for a quick dinner idea that would use up some leftover chicken, I came across a recipe for Thai Red Chicken Curry on  I applied some of the commenters' suggested changes, and made a few adjustments myself.  With a little chicken, lots of veggies and a few pantry staples, this curry was easy to make, super filling and very tasty. Here's what I did:

A bit of coconut or palm oil for the pan
1 onion, diced
1 large white sweet potato, peeled and diced (red would be good, too)
1 peeled, diced zucchini
1 red pepper, diced
1 green pepper, diced
1 1/4 pounds of cooked, diced chicken
2 tablespoons red curry paste
1/2 teaspoon coriander
2 tablespoons unsweetened fish sauce (I used Red Boat)
2 teaspoons gluten-free tamari soy sauce
2 tablespoons creamy, unsweetened almond butter
1 can coconut milk (I used Trader Joe's Light Coconut Milk, since it is free of chemical crap and allegedly BPA-free)
freshly ground black pepper
salt, to taste
slivered almonds or cashews, to top

In a large, relatively deep frying pan, sweat onions in coconut/palm oil.  Stir in curry paste, coriander and sweet potato, and cook until the sweet potato is partly cooked through but not yet yielding to a fork. 

Add chicken, veggies, coconut milk, almond butter and fish sauce.  Stir in a good 10-15 cracks of pepper.  Then, cover and cook until veggies are slightly soft.

Upon serving, season to taste and top with almonds or cashews.  Extra points if you eat it over cauliflower rice!

This post is linked to Party Wave Wednesday 7/31/13 at Holistic Squid, Tasty Traditions 7/31/13 at Cultured Palate and Sunday School 7/28/13 at Butter Believer

Sunday, July 21, 2013

"Balanced" Oatmeal Blueprint

With the improvements I've been seeing in my digestion, my naturopath has given me the OK to slowly wean off of the specific-carbohydrate diet and add in small amounts of oatmeal and cooked, dried fruits. 

This has been a roaring success.  Seriously, you've never seen anyone so excited to eat oatmeal before. I credit the extra carbohydrates with further improving my digestion, helping me to feel full without having to eat an entire jar of coconut butter in a day, and raising my body temperature.  This morning, about an hour after eating this bulked-up and balanced bowl of oatmeal, my temperature was a steamy, above-average 98.8.  Did I mention that I'm loving the oatmeal?  :)

The oatmeal recipe (more a blueprint, really) that I'm sharing with you today is balanced because it contains all three macronutrients, in the optimal proportion of more carbs than protein, and more protein than fat.  The additional ingredients bulk it up, too, so that one bowl is all I need for breakfast.  It's incredibly filling and soul-satisfying.

So, for a one-bowl balanced breakfast of goodness, you will need the following ingredients:

1/2 cup oats (I used gluten-free)
1 to 1 1/2 cups water
one fruit, peeled and diced
1/4 cup dried fruit
3 tablespoons of gelatin (Great Lakes brand is perfect)
1 tablespoon oil of choice (I just eyeball it.  No need to break out the measuring spoon)
a dash of cinnamon or a splash of vanilla, if desired
a pinch of salt (optional, but warming)
1 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (optional)
1/4 teaspoon baking soda (optional)


1.  If desired, soak oats overnight in 1 cup of water and 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar.  In the morning, stir in baking soda to cut vinegar.
2. Whether or not you soaked the oatmeal, put your oats, fresh and dried fruit, oil and gelatin into a small saucepan.  Then, add enough water (up to 1 1/2 cups total) to cover the mixture.
3. Bring mixture to a boil, and then simmer until water is absorbed, stirring occasionally.
4. Stir in cinnamon and/or vanilla, if desired, and enjoy!

Some of my favorite combos are:
  • granny smith apple, raisins, coconut butter and cinnamon.  It tastes like apple crisp, except not crispy.  I guess you could add some toasted pecans or something to remedy that, but this oatmeal is so filling that I couldn't imagine adding any more food into the bowl.
  • 3/4 cup mixed berries, cut-up dried figs, ghee and vanilla.  This mixture is powerfully reminiscent of the blueberry pancakes at Cracker Barrel.
  • peach, cut-up dried dates, coconut oil and cinnamon.  I don't have a comparison for this one, but it's really good.
There's just about a million other combinations of fresh and dried fruits, oils and flavorings that you could add to this, so have fun experimenting, and share your favorite combos in the comments!

This post is linked to Sunday School 7/21/13 at Butter Believer and Party Wave Wednesday 7/24/13 at Holistic Squid

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Kale and navy bean salad

Kale has always been a little intimidating to me; for some reason, it always ends up tough and bitter when I try to cook it.  Recently, though, I read through several recipes that used an acidic medium, rather than high heat, to break it down.  For this reason, when I came across a bag of the ever dark and forbidding kale at Trader Joe's on Monday, I decided to give kale another go.

The result?  A salad so good, I ate it for lunch both yesterday and today.  Because of the salty, sour vinaigrette and the starchy white beans, this salad reminds me of an Italian pasta salad.  It's a perfect follow-up for How to eat your veggies, and like it too! since the recipe is both a) a veggie recipe and b) delicious. 

To make a big bowl of this kale and navy bean salad, you will need the following Ingredients:
  • 10 oz. raw kale, shredded with stems removed
  • 4 cups of cooked navy beans
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar or coconut vinegar
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons seasoning of choice (I used 21 Seasoning Salute, also from TJ's)
  • 4 oz. shredded Romano cheese from goat's milk (optional)
  • 1/2 cup almond slivers, cashews or sunflower seeds
  • unrefined salt, to taste
  1. In a smaller bowl, whisk vinegar, oil and seasoning into a vinaigrette
  2. Place kale, beans and cheese in a large mixing bowl.  Pour in the vinaigrette a little at a time, stopping every now and then to toss the salad, until the kale is visibly coated.  You might not use all of the dressing.  Conversely, if you like salad dressing as much as I do, you might opt to whisk together a bit more, keeping in mind the 2:1 olive oil to vinegar ratio.
  3. Cover and refrigerate about 8 hours.  If you plan to eat the salad for lunch, refrigerate overnight and divvy it up in the morning.  If it's dinner fare, you can toss it together in the morning so that it's ready by evening.
  4. Top with almonds, cashews or sunflower seeds just before it is served.
Voila!  Perfect summer fare.  I promise not to tell anyone if you gobble it up for breakfast.  ;)

This post is linked to Party Wave Wednesday 7/10/13 at Holistic Squid, Whole Food Friday 7/12/13 at Allergy Free Alaska, Tasty Traditions 7/10/13 at Cultured Palate and Sunday School 7/14/13 at Butter Believer

Thursday, May 30, 2013

On Stretch Marks, Weight and Metabolism

Whew.  How's that for a lofty title? 

Stretch marks, weight and metabolism.  It seems everyone, these days, has something to say on these three hot topics.  Being a seventeen-year-old student, I am certainly no expert.  Still, I find that my favorite blogs are those that provide information in conjunction with stories of personal experiences, and thus, it is my hope that what I have to say here might be of interest to someone.

I have already posted the story of how I initially changed my diet (which you can find here), but of course, there is much more to health than that.  While I have never been overweight, many of my habits have been less than healthy. 

Until a little over a year ago, my family's diet was a small step up from the infamous, standard American diet (often affectionately nicknamed SAD).  We cooked at home, but many ingredients were already highly processed:  canned soups, processed cheese, sugary condiments, shortening, etc.  Corn was a vegetable, and baking loads of sugary treats was my hobby.  I knew that my diet was unhealthy, but I didn't know what was healthy, and I felt like I didn't have any options.

In the realm of physical exercise, I was likewise clueless.  I had never been big on sports, so when recess went away, so did my physical activity.  I knew that I should do something, but here, too, I felt trapped.  I wasn't allowed to just hop on a bike or take a walk on my own, and my sister whined and moaned whenever we went together.

School occupied most of my time, so I resolved to improve my diet and fitness over the summer.  I worked a few more vegetables into my diet and watched workout videos on YouTube, but the real catalyst was my appointment with a naturopathic doctor.

When I look back, it's astonishing to see how much has changed in just one year.  Now, I am the one responsible for constructing a grocery list, and each week we fill our cart with fresh, whole foods.  I practice yoga or pilates for an hour almost every day.  My mom has lost around 15 pounds, though she still snacks on cookies and visits the gym less than once a week.  All in all, it seems that my health must have improved dramatically, along with my improved habits.

Well, sort of.

In some really important ways, my health has improved.  Many of the digestive troubles that prompted me to begin this journey, in the first place, have been resolved.  As far as fitness goes, I have more muscle now than I have ever had before.

Other problems persist--moodiness, low energy, trouble sleeping and skin problems among them.  These problems, I understand, are at least partly due to a small-intestinal bacterial overgrowth, which I am working with my naturopath to resolve.

However, there's something else that makes me think that there is more to the story:  a little over a month ago, I noticed that I have been gaining weight.  Enough weight, in fact, that brand new stretch marks, red and angry, blossomed up around my upper legs. 

I'm not going to lie.  At first, I freaked out a little bit.  I don't keep a scale in my house, so it was easy to think that my jeans were tighter because they had shrunk in the wash.  My first clue that I was gaining weight was rosy-red stretch marks.  I blamed the weight gain on a lack of enthusiasm in my workouts, and traded in my hour of yoga for pilates and cardio exercises.

Several weeks later, I had less energy and even more stretch marks.  It wasn't fair, I thought.  How could I gain weight on cauliflower while my family members lost weight on cookies?

And then, I was struck with a thought:  if I was eating the least and exercising the most that I ever had, then I shouldn't also weigh the most that I ever had.  Something just wasn't adding up.

I read a couple of books that got me thinking about metabolism--Nourished Metabolism, by Elizabeth Walling, and Diet Recovery 2, by Matt Stone--and then wrote down everything that I ate for one day.  Without having realized it, in my difficulty following the specific-carbohydrate diet, I had only consumed around 1100 calories--one half of my recommended daily intake--that day.  No wonder my body was so confused!

Because I wasn't eating enough calories, in a proper balance of carbs, protein and fat, my body responded as it would to a famine.  It began to conserve and store energy, which resulted in weight gain and poor mood, energy and immune functions.  By anyone's standards, 1100 calories is not enough for an active teenager.  Even so, many diets, while perhaps not quite as restrictive, cause the same metabolic damage.

According to Walling and Stone, healing a metabolism isn't as difficult as I had originally supposed, either.  All a person has to do is eat, exercise when she feels like it, rest and relax. 

As I am at the beginning of this journey, I haven't much advice to bestow.  At this point, I am just relieved to learn that the progression towards health is such a forgiving process.

This post is linked to Party Wave Wednesday 5/30/13 at Holistic Squid and Sunday School 6/2/13 at Butter Believer

Monday, May 20, 2013

Alternative Medicine: Naturopathy

With all of the seemingly obscure, alternative medicine-related terms floating around the blogosphere, I thought it might be useful to write a series of blog posts, each focusing on one facet of alternative medicine.  Some of the practices that I intend to spotlight are osteopathy, ayurveda, traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture, and chiropractic medicine, but today's topic is naturopathy. 

Naturopathy is holistic [1], meaning that it considers a patient as a whole, and not just as a sum of parts.  In addition, the patient's physical, psychological and social health are all taken into consideration [2]. 

Naturopathy is governed by six primary principles, which are as follows:

  • First do no harm.  Naturopaths do not administer treatments to suppress symptoms. They avoid unnecessary intervention, and work to minimize any negative side-effects of treatments.
  • Identify and treat the causes.  Symptoms are caused by diseases or by the body's attempts to heal itself.  Thus, the symptoms of a disease can best be removed by treating the cause of the disease.
  • Treat the whole person.  Health is not just a physical state, and diseases can be caused by a combination of mental, emotional, genetic, environmental, social and other factors.
  • Healing power of nature.  Given the proper tools, the body has the capacity to heal itself.
  • Prevention.  Naturopathy focuses on maintaining health, not just on treating disease.  Heredity and risk factors for particular diseases are counter-acted by the adoption of habits for healthy living.
  • Doctor as teacher.  A  naturopathic doctor also focuses on teaching his or her patients, thereby promoting a sense of self-responsibility. [3]
So, what does a naturopath actually do? 

Naturopaths treat both chronic and acute diseases.  Some of the treatments prescribed or administered by naturopaths include nutritional counseling, herbal remedies, homeopathy, acupuncture, and hydrotherapy.  Naturopaths typically counsel each patient for an about an hour per visit, although an initial consultation could take as long as an hour and a half.  During the initial visit, the additional time is spent discussing the patient's family history, lifestyle, diet and environment.  The naturopath may also administer or order a laboratory test for the patient to take [4].

"Real" naturopathic doctors have earned a doctorate degree in naturopathic medicine, from an accredited school of naturopathy.  In the U.S., naturopathic doctors are only legally recognized and certified in fifteen states, plus the District of Colombia, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands [4].  Depending on the state, naturopaths may not be allowed to treat patients with drugs, minor surgery or acupuncture.  In states that do not recognize naturopathic physicians, the term "naturopath" is not reserved for doctors who have completed naturopathic training.  For this reason, it is best to check a naturopath's qualifications before making an appointment [5].

For those interested in learning more about naturopathy, Oregon's Board of Naturopathic Medicine has published an in-depth description of the principles and practices of naturopathy here.  You can also read about my own experience with a naturopathic doctor here

Did I miss something?  Do you have a personal experience to share?  Tell me in the comments below!

This post is linked to Natural Living Monday 5/20/13 at Mama Rosemary, Family Table Tuesday 5/21/13 at The Polivka Family, Living Green Tuesday 5/21/13 at Green Idea Reviews and Like a Mustard Seed, and Party Wave Wednesday 5/22/13 at Holistic Squid

Friday, May 10, 2013

How to eat your veggies, and like it too!

There's one piece of advice that you'll hear from health gurus of all philosophies, whether they espouse Paleo, vegetarian, vegan, or traditional food diets:  Eat your veggies.  So, if it's so universally known that vegetables are the ultimate health food, then why isn't everyone loading up on the greens? 

Vegetables are difficult to make friends with, but is it any wonder why?  We lovingly craft the perfect pie crusts to frame fruits, vegetables' sticky-sweet cousins; we celebrate proteins with customized spice rubs; and we fry grains and other starches for optimal crunch.  These foods are easy to love, so we focus on loving them.  Steamed broccoli just isn't going to cut it.  In order to compete for room on our plates, vegetables just need a little more love.

How to love on veggies

1. Dress up your salads
Once equipped with a variety of simple and delicious salad dressing recipes, you might find yourself making--and enjoying--salads more often.  I know I do!  Here are a few ideas:
  • My brother loves a simple vinaigrette made with apple cider vinegar and olive oil, but I prefer a dijon mustard vinaigrette.
  • Play around with different vinegars: lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, coconut vinegar, balsamic vinegar (have you ever heard of blueberry balsamic?  AMAZING)
  • Play around with different oils: olive oil, toasted sesame seed oil, pure orange oil, flaxseed oil, avocado oil, and nut oils are all flavorful options.
  • Add other "goodies," like nuts, seeds or spices; Chef Amber Shea's spiced tahini vinaigrette is next on my list of things to try.
2. Dip them in something good
As I write this, I am munching on carrot sticks and a split-pea hummus modeled after the Sunshine Spread recipe from Oh She Glows.  I basically lived off of this recipe during Easter Break!  In order to make it SCD-compliant, I soak the split peas for about 12 hours in water and apple cider vinegar, then rinse and cook them for about an hour. In my new favorite variation, I add a couple of roasted red bell peppers, a few cracks of black pepper, and about twice as much tahini as called for in the original recipe.

3. Sautee with other "goodies"
Here are some of my favorite examples:
  • Chop up half a cabbage into long, skinny strips, and wilt it in a pan with onion, garlic and fresh or dried thyme.
  • Pan-fry green beans with chopped baby portabella mushrooms and pre-cooked chestnuts (which you can buy at Trader Joe's), until the beans are al dente.  The chestnuts add a pleasant, nutty sweetness.
  • I haven't tried it yet, but once I am done with the SCD diet, I will be making the Detoxinista's recipe for sweet potato noodles.
4. Roast it
This is my family's favorite way to eat carrots and sweet potatoes:  sprinkled with Italian herbs and roasted until the edges turn dark and candied.  I have also had pretty good luck with roasting other vegetables, such as eggplant and zucchini.

5. Give it a sauce
Nothing says "comfort food" quite like a rich sauce.
  • In the warmer seasons, I roast a spaghetti squash at least once a week.  We eat it with marinara sauce.  (Eden Foods sells jars of organic crushed tomatoes that make a pretty good sauce when properly seasoned.)
  • A good curry, too, warms me from the inside out.  If you find a good recipe or a jarred curry sauce that you're pleased with, it's great served over cauliflower "rice".

Got more ideas?  I'd love to hear them!  Comment below with your Pinterest name or email, and I will add you to my brand new Veggie Love board.

This post is linked to Party Wave Wednesday 5/8/13 at Holistic Squid, Whole Food Fridays 5/10/13 at Allergy Free Alaska, Fresh Bites Friday 5/10/13 at Real Food Whole Health, Thank Your Body Thursday 5/9/13 at Thank Your Body, Sunday School 5/12/13 at Butter Believer, Family Table Tuesday 5/14/13 at The Polivka Family, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday 5/14/13 at Simply Sugar and Gluten Free, Tasty Traditions 5/15/13 at My Cultured Palate and Real Food Wednesday 5/15/13 at Kelly the Kitchen Kop

Friday, March 15, 2013

Super easy SCD ideas

I recently began following the specific carbohydrate diet (SCD) to heal a bacterial imbalance, and was dismayed to find that the diet seems to disallow many of my former staples--canned coconut milk, gluten-free tortillas, sweet potatoes and others.  To further complicate matters, I have also been advised to limit my fruit consumption to one fruit per day, and to avoid even the natural sugars that are SCD legal, like honey and dried fruit. 

So, what does somebody eat when nearly all carbohydrates are off-limits?  Protein and fat, of course.

Today I'd like to share with you some of the easier, SCD-legal, dairy- and egg-free snacks and meals that have worked well for me.  Hopefully I can provide someone with ideas that will help their day run a little more smoothly.

Fruit and nut-based
If you're going to consume only one fruit per day, you'd better make it count!  I like to use fruit as a vehicle for protein and healthy fats, especially at breakfast.  Often, I also sneak in some extra veggies in my attempts to round it out.  Here are a few of my favorite combinations:
  • Scoop up sunflower seed butter with apple slices.  Melted dark chocolate is also delicious, although not SCD legal.
  • Top frozen strawberries with a liberal amount of tahini (ground sesame seeds) and coconut flakes
  • Blend up an orange, half of an avocado and a handfull of baby spinach.  I like to top this with nuts or seeds; the crunch masks any orange-bits that a regular blender might be unable to fully integrate.  The nuts also provide more protein.
  • Smash a banana with a few tablespoons of tahini and a splash of coconut water or milk of your choice.  Sometimes I also blend this mixture with baby spinach.  Top with coconut flakes and eat like pudding.
  • Dice a ripe, juicy peach or mango and pour full-fat coconut milk (not canned, if you follow SCD) over it.
I've also been told that cantaloupe is delicous with thinly sliced prosciutto, if you can find a "clean" brand. 

Since I have begun following a specific-carbohydrate diet, I have not done much legume-eating.  Lentils, peas and some beans are SCD-legal, although many SCD followers choose to eat a more paleolithic-inspired diet.  The following are legume-based recipe ideas that I have yet to try:
  • Veggies dipped in homemade hummus, made with soaked navy beans instead of chickpeas.
  • A lentil-based "oatmeal," like the recipe on Stir, Sift & Savour, but cooked with a apples or a sweet squash rather than raisins. 
Meat or fish-based
If one does not consume eggs or dairy products on the specific carbohydrate diet, meats and fish become an especially important part of the diet.  Some of the ideas and tips that I use are as follows:
  • Mix some wild-caught, canned salmon with sliced pickles, celery and tomatoes, and season with salt and pepper.  Scoop into half of a pepper, and top with your nut/seed of choice.
  • Roast two chickens or a large turkey at the beginning of the week and use the leftover meat for salads.
  • For especially busy days, seek out some "clean" sausages or pre-cooked shellfish and store them in the freezer. 
  • Find new, minimally processed condiments to make luch more interesting: olive oil-packed sundried tomatoes, calamata olives, guacamole, fresh salsa and jarred curry sauces are just a few examples.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Gluten, dairy and egg-free sourdough recipe

Got a sourdough starter?  No?  You might want to check out my previous post for instructions on attracting wild yeast and rejoin the rest of us when you're ready to roll.

Are we all caught up?  Ok, great!  Now here comes the part of the recipe that most heavily draws upon the ratios and instructions established in its parent recipe, which belongs to the author of the Art of Gluten-Free Baking.  The differences between the original recipe and my version of the recipe are a result of my experimentation and preferences.

To make the bread, you'll need the following Ingredients:

15 ounces of your favorite gluten-free flour
1 can (14 oz) of full-fat coconut milk plus up to 1/4 cup water as needed
30 ounces of your starter
2 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda (optional)

As with the sourdough starter, you can use any type of flour you please as long as it doesn't already contain xanthan or guar gum.  I often use Nourishing Foodways' flour blend, or mix together about 7 parts wholegrain and 3 parts starch, as per the Gluten Free Girl's mix.  The same flours that attract the most yeast--the flours that contain the most protein and fat--will also make your bread taste more sour. 

While coconut milk may seem like an odd ingredient, I find that it adds flavor and helps keep the bread soft and airy--qualities infrequently ascribed to gluten and egg-free baked goods.  I imagine the additional fat is what boosts the fluffiness factor, but I don't really know.  I like to use Aroy-D brand coconut milk, which you might find in the ethnic food aisle of your grocery store or at, because it contains no additional additives.  Coconut milk containing guar gum, such as Thai Kitchen brand, will also work in this recipe.

The baking soda is entirely optional in this recipe.  Add it if you wish to reduce the sourness of the bread; it will neutralize some of the lactic acid created by the yeast.  I wrote the recipe with a conservative 1 teaspoon of baking soda.  If you choose to add more, be aware that excess baking soda will also change the taste of the bread (and probably darken the color).


First measure your flour, by weight, into a large mixing bowl.  Stir in the salt, xanthan gum and baking soda, if you are using it, and add the sourdough starter and combine with an electric mixer.  While a hand mixer will work in this recipe, it is far more cumbersome than a stand mixer.

Next, slowly pour in the coconut milk while the mixer continues to beat the dough. 

You'll want to keep adding liquid until it looks like the above picture.  It'll be super sticky and will cling to an upside-down spoon, but it will not hold its form.  I generally end up adding a whole can of coconut milk and a bit of water, but the amount of liquid needed may vary with the air humidity in your area.  If you think you've made the dough too thin, don't stress out!  Just add more flour until the dough feels right.  This recipe is extremely forgiving.  (Seriously.  Once I started out with about half as much sourdough starter as I needed and then added liquid until I had the right consistency.  The bread came out perfectly.)

Then, beat the dough on medium-high for three minutes, scraping the bowl occasionally.  As you can see in the picture directly above, the dough will loosen a little, slapping the side of the bowl while it beats, and it will look a bit like thick cake batter. 

 Pour or spoon the dough into either two greased loaf pans or two greased 12-muffin tins.  Cover and let the dough raise for four to twelve hours, as is most convenient for you.  The dough will continue to raise a bit even as it bakes.  Loaves will require about an hour at 425, and rolls will require forty minutes to an hour at 375.  Before you remove the bread from the oven, carefully extract one loaf or roll from its pan and tap its underside with your fingernail.  If the loaf is ready to be removed from the oven, it will sound hollow.

Allow the bread to cool completely before you slice into it.  After the first day, you may wish to store the bread in a plastic bag to keep it from becoming dry and crumbly.  Generally, the bread freezes well.

Don't be afraid to experiment, and be sure to comment with your results.  Most of all, though, enjoy your bread!

Linked to Wellness Weekend 3/7/13 at Diet, Dessert and Dogs, Whole Food Fridays 3/8/13 at Allergy Free Alaska, Sunday School 3/10/13 at Butter Believer,  5 Ingredient Monday 3/11/13 at the Daily Dietribe, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday 3/12/13 at Simply Sugar and Gluten Free, and Party Wave Wednesday 3/13/13 at Holistic Squid

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Cellular Respiration-or, if you prefer, The Makings of Really Good Bread.

This post comes a little later than I had expected, but I wanted to be sure that I got it right.  This being my first recipe post, and me being a bread lover, it seemed most appropriate to share a bread recipe.  A gluten, dairy and egg-free sourdough bread recipe, to be precise. 

Ain't she a beaut?
What's there left for it to be made of, you might ask?  (Or, at least, that's what one of my friends asked me via Facebook as I documented my work.)  Well, not much, and therein lies the magic of this recipe; it can be as simple or as complex as you please.
Before I get into the details, though, it is important to note that I did not develop this recipe entirely on my own.  Rather, I offer a variation of the sourdough bread recipe from the Art of Gluten-Free Baking, along with additional tips and tricks that I have discovered along the way.  Now, on to the recipe sharing!
The first thing to do is grow a sourdough starter.  Sourdough bread, like most other breads, is leavened by yeast.  Unlike most other breads, however, sourdough utilizes wild yeasts.  A sourdough starter is, figuratively speaking, the net with which one may catch wild yeasts from the air.
Now, here's where the simple part comes in: a sourdough starter can be made with just flour and water--about one cup of each should do.  It is important to use filtered water, since tap water often contains chemicals like chlorine, added to keep out micro-flora like our yeast friends.  As far as the flour goes, yeast seem to like fattier, more protein-filled flours the best, but any type will work as long as it contains starch.  I like to mix a big bag of 2 parts navy bean flour, 1 part teff flour and 1 part brown rice flour, as per Nourishing Foodways' flour blend, and use that to feed my yeast.
Mix your flour and water together in a wide-mouthed jar or a pot, and let it sit on your counter.  You'll want to cover it with a loose-fitting lid or a clean dishtowel; the idea is to attract wild yeast while keeping any bugs out.  I also added a fourth cup or so of honey into mine, to further entice the little yeasties, but it isn't necessary.
Continue to feed the starter with a one cup each of water and flour, once or twice a day as you think of it.  Within a few days, you'll notice bubbles pucker and pop when you stir the starter.  It will begin to smell rather like sour cream, and the air in the jar/pot will feel warm.  Congradulations!  This evidence of cellular respiration signifies the maturity of your sourdough starter!  In other words, you are ready to begin baking.
You can't really see the bubbles in this picture, but you'll notice them when you stir your starter.
When you use your sourdough starter, you'll want to make sure there is always a little bit left so that you won't have to go through all the trouble of attracting yeast every time you want bread.  At this stage, don't feel too bad if you forget to feed the starter for a day or two at a time.  It should be pretty stable, especially if you feed it whole grain or otherwise oily and protein-y flours.  If you know that you won't be able to feed it for a length of time, or if you do not wish to bake with it for a length of time, you can store it in the refridgerator and feed it a minimum of once a week.
Seeing as how this post has already become quite lengthy, I will walk through the rest of this recipe in my next post, which I will publish posthaste!  Until then, by all means, waste no time in starting your own sourdough starter.
Linked to: Sunday School 3/3/13 at Butter Believer, Slightly Indulgent Tuesday 3/5/13 at Simply Sugar and Gluten Free, and Party Wave Wednesday 3/6/13 at Holistic Squid

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Learning Curve

Prior to any dietary restrictions, my mom did most of my family's grocery shopping.  She could run in and out of the grocery store in about 35 minutes, zipping through the aisles in record time. 

Now, I always accompany my mom on trips to the grocery store.  Expert label-reader that I am, it still takes a good deal of time to comb through a store--actually, several stores--to find allergen-free foods.  And then, as complicated as grocery shopping can be, it's only half the battle.  Sometimes, the real struggle takes place in the kitchen.

There's a learning curve, but after a period of transition, the process of shopping for and preparing food becomes streamlined.  Here are a few of the lessons that have helped me in the past few months:

1. Focus on fresh, whole foods.  When it comes to finding allergen-free food, the outer ring of the grocery store is your best bet.  In a conventional grocery store, you're much more likely to find peanut, soy, or whatever else-free meats and produce than cookies and crackers.  In this way, food allergies are a blessing in disguise:  they give you an extra kick to eat healthily.

2. Find new favorites.  Rather than try to replace old favorites with an exact allergen-free equivalent, which can be disappointing, sometimes it's best to find new favorites entirely.  You might be amazed what variety of fruits and vegetables your local grocery store offers.  You also might be amazed to realize which ones you haven't yet tried. 

Another good place to search for new favorites is the ethnic food aisle.  My favorite things from the ethnic food aisle are canned coconut milk, red and green curry paste, puppodums, rice paper wraps, dried legumes and grains. 

You could also purchase more exotic ingredients, such as blueberry balsamic vinegar or flavored extracts, online.

3. Keep snacks around.  It's a good idea to keep some quick-preparing pantry staples on hand.  Gluten free crackers aren't always very tasty, but you'll sure be glad you thought to purchase some when the fridge is empty.

4. Don't be afraid to mess up.  This one is key.  Especially with baking, mistakes happen.  Not everything that you make is going to taste good, but that's okay.  It's part of the journey.  You won't learn anything if you never try anything new. 

5. Figure out what works for you.  Some people like foods that others might not, and some people are willing to put more time into their food than others.  Every body is different, so take all advice with a grain of salt.

Well, that's it for today!  I'll be back next week, possibly with a recipe for gluten free sourdough.  See you then!

Friday, February 8, 2013

My Story

As a kid, my favorite food was always bread.  I loved nothing more than to stuff myself with a thick, yeasty pizza crust every Saturday night.  Little did I know, my favorite food didn’t love me back.

When I was in fifth grade, I developed a hereditary skin disease called psoriasis. I wore long-sleeved polo shirts and long pants, rain or shine, to cover the angry red splotches that peppered my arms, legs and torso. A flaky crust of dried skin blanketed my scalp, choking out some of my hair. After trying a dozen different creams and lotions to no avail, I visited a dermatologist.  The doctor was specifically a children’s dermatologist, but as a fifth grade student, I found his brusque approach intimidating.  I was thoroughly overwhelmed when the visit closed with a blood draw.  While the medications prescribed by the dermatologist were effective in temporarily easing my symptoms of psoriasis, the rash always returned.

In middle school, the clues continued to emerge:  breakfast left me feeling unsettled, and all too often, my stomach ached terribly, inexplicably, in the middle of the afternoon. When I moved on to high school, the discomfort came with me. By my sophomore year of high school, digestive discomfort plagued me more often than not.

I was determined to get to the bottom of the issue. Every night before I went to sleep, I scoured the internet for individuals with experiences similar to my own. I was shocked to find that many of the symptoms of Celiac disease exactly matched my own. Here was an explanation for not only my digestive discomfort, but also my psoriasis, migraines and moodiness. Repeated searches supported my hypothesis. I was going to have to give up bread. 

At first, the idea of going gluten free terrified me.  The more I thought about it, though, the surer I became that it was the thing to do. 

Rather than repeat my experience with conventional medicine, I decided to visit a naturopathic doctor.  This doctor, barefoot and wearing a colorful sundress, personally greeted my mother and me at the door of the clinic. We visited with her whilst filling out paperwork, and then she sat down with us for nearly two hours, asking me questions and explaining the inner-workings of the body.  The doctor prescribed only dietary changes and supplements, but a short while after visiting the naturopath, miscellaneous and seemingly unrelated aches and pains disappeared. Within two weeks, the after-dinner stomachaches ceased.  My psoriasis, though not yet completely gone, was as minimal as it had been since before fifth grade.

As the naturopath explained it, the main principle of naturopathy is that the body has the capacity to heal itself, and that all systems of the body work together. The skin, for instance, might expel unwanted toxins that could not otherwise be expelled from the body. This is why, in the long run, the topical medications prescribed by the dermatologist were ineffective in combating my psoriasis. However, when the pressure is removed from one system of the body, a healthy balance is restored to the body as a whole. In my case, this was accomplished by changing my diet. As it turned out, a blood test revealed that I was allergic to not only wheat but also eggs, dairy, pineapple and halibut. 

Others often react with pity when they hear of my dietary restrictions, but I don’t feel sorry for myself.  Instead, I feel sorry for those who eat whatever they please and later suffer the consequences.  I cannot recommend a food allergy test highly enough.

 Over time, I imagine that the contents of this blog will come to reflect my interests in food and health, perhaps coupled with a bit of scientific research. 

As for now, thanks for reading, and I hope you’ll join me in my quest for health.