Friday, December 26, 2008

A Belated Happy Holidays!

From Henry, the A-man and me. If we were going to send out Christmas cards, we would surely use this photo taken on Thanksgiving. Though, it's difficult to get Henry to stand still when ten sheep are to the right of him.

I'm traveling quite a bit for the holidays, making my posts sparse, but I'm still cooking up a storm! Happy Holidays Everyone!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

A Few of my Favorite Things... (3)

I received a great gift for my Birthday this year from my soon-to-be mother-in-law: a cast iron skillet, a corn tortilla press and some masa harina flour (corn flour with lime in it). I've been having lots of fun with all three, but I have really come to enjoy the cast iron skillet, especially since I threw out my worn and slightly scratched teflon pans not too long ago. There are varying reports on the danger of teflon, but I'd rather err on the side of caution then ingest harmful toxins. Also, the well-respected Environmental Working Group has some really interesting (according to a study, teflon toxicity is linked to hundreds of pet bird deaths) articles on the subject; it really makes you wonder.

There are many other options out there for cookware like stainless steel and calphalon, but cast iron, along with being incredibly inexpensive, has some other perks: it lasts a lifetime, it evenly distributes heat and if seasoned properly, it requires no oil or fat when cooking. has some great tips on buying cast iron (and they also have good ideas for other kitchenware and Christmas Dinnerware if you're still in search of gifts). Lodge also has great tips on cleaning your cast iron and maintaining it.

For those gluten-intolerant folks out there, it should be noted that because of the nature of cast iron and the fact that you don't really "wash" it, there's a big chance that any cast iron passed down from generation to generation most likely could be contaminated with gluten.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

A Few of my Favorite Things... (2)

You know what I absolutely love? Drinking coffee brewed with just a dash of cinnamon and a splash of almond milk. It makes me feel good, it warms my body and it wakes me up. However, I am addicted to coffee: I rely on it too much to make me feel awake, I crave it first thing in the morning and I often get headaches if I don't have my daily cup of joe. And while I love my coffee, I don't like relying on it to get me through my day. Oh yeah, and I have "borderline" high blood pressure -- I blame it on the fact that my dear A-man is constantly in harms way, but I have a feeling drinking coffee isn't helping things out. So, in order to stear clear of heart-attack land (I also have a heart murmur -- yipee!) I think I should cut back a bit, and I'm starting to and it's all thanks to some wonderful, gluten-free, kosher, and thoughtful tea.

I have never described a food or brand as thoughtful before, but The Republic of Tea really fits the bill. Browsing their catalog makes me smile and feel good about purchasing tea from them: their tea bags are unbleached and have no strings, tags or staples in support of the environment, they offer tons of information on every type of tea they sell and I really dig their variety (buy it loose, in bags or as concentrate). Just recently I went on a bit of a shopping spree for Christmas gifts from them. You see, every tea of theirs is certified gluten-free and kosher. Every single one is gluten-free! And they are the first tea company with permission to include the Gluten-Free Certification Organization's certification mark on its packaging.

My goodness; I haven't even spoken about taste yet. Well, you know that cinnamon scented, almond milk splashed coffee that I adore so much? All of the teas that I have tried so far could rival (and surpass) my morning cup of joe in terms of taste (the chai concentrate is gosh-darn amazing). They even have a line of tea called Be Well Red Teas, all with roobois in them mixed with other teas and herbs. The Red Tea line has teas called: Hello Gorgeous which is good for your skin, Get Clean for detoxing and a whole bunch more for those of us wanting to work on ourselves from within.

I consider The Republic of Tea my nicorette, but way tastier and way better for you.

Tomorrow's favorite thing: not your Grandma's cookware?

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Few of My Favorite Things... (1)

I wish I could make like Oprah and give away all of my new, fancy, favorite things to each of you readers, making you cry and scream with excitement like her audience does on her yearly "Favorite Things" show. But alas, I cannot -- not in this economy. In fact, even Oprah had a scaled-down version this year.

So you get a list -- a list of my most favorite gluten-free (okay, and a few that have nothing to do with being gluten-free) gifts for those GFers and health conscious people in your life.

First, I present to you the blender of all blenders; a kitchen tool that Chuck Norris would be if Chuck Norris had to be a kitchen tool: The Vitamix Super 5200

I got an early Christmas present this year from the A-man. He knows we are going to be traveling for much of our Christmas vacation, so he knew I wouldn't be able to "play" with my Christmas present, so he wanted me to open it early. So I did. Last night. And I almost fainted with excitement.

The Vitamix blender is especially good for people with gluten-intolerance because it comes with a "dry blade" which lets you make your own flour! From whole grains! So, I put some raw, whole brown rice into the blender and blended on high for awhile, and out comes flour! I can't wait to try it with millet and sorghrum and tapioca and...

You get the idea. This is also great for people who don't do dairy -- this thing will whip up almost anything you put in it to a creamy-like consistencty. And, if you're a nut-butter lover like me -- you can make your own peanut butter (and cashew, macadamia nut, hazlenut...)! I've only scratched the surface of what this thing can do (after all, I got it last night) but I can't wait to play with it even more. The A-man wants me to keep a tally on my blog of each time I use it and how much money he thinks we'll save over the years grinding our own flour (this is so he can feel okay about spending the amount of money he did on it; let's just say it's an investement). And I can't forget smoothies; the A-man's big on his protein and I have a feeling this thing could turn a steak into a drink. So I'm on to you A-man; it's one of those gifts you give to someone so that you can use it too -- steak smoothies -- I knew it!

On tomorrow's favorite things post: tea for all.

Monday, December 8, 2008


Mini-jam-filled almond muffins to be exact.

In an effort to make a morning treat as healthy and satisfying as possible, I did a little experimenting. First, I tried to make a pumpkin almond (regular sized) muffin and they were, well, absolutely disgusting: the outside was burnt and the inside was a gooey mess with a mealy texture. So, those got tossed. But, being the girl that I am, I didn't give up. I still wanted a high-protein, low-sugar muffin, but my key -- as it is in a lot of my gluten-free baking, was to make it miniature.

And here you have my miniature jam-filled almond muffins. And they're quite satisfying -- just two of these with your morning tea or coffee can fill you up plenty. Also, I made them two different ways: one with egg, and one with ground flax seed heated up with some water (a basic egg replacer recipe) and they both came out well -- the egg-based muffin looked more, well, muffiney -- the other a tad bit grainier, lighter in color and they didn't rise as high -- but still tasty (in photo above, the flax recipe is the muffin on the left, and egg recipe is on the right -- it's the opposite in the photo below).

Mini-Jam-Filled Almond Muffins (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan if you want)

makes nine mini-muffins

1 3/4 cup blanched almond flour (aka almond meal)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 large egg (or 2 tablespoons of ground flax seeds mixed with 6 tablespoons water, microwaved for one minute, or until gel-like)
1/2 teaspoon cider vinegar
1 tablespoon agave nectar
1/4 cup jam of choice

Preheat oven to 325 F and grease a mini muffin pan with shortening or oil of choice.
In a bowl, mix the almond flour, salt, and baking soda until combined. In a separate bowl, mix the egg, vinegar and agave nectar. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and combine. Fill each muffin tin with a scant tablespoon of the batter, then add about a 1/2 teaspoon of the jam, making a small indent in each muffin. Add about a teaspoon of batter on top of each jam-filled muffin and bake for 10-15 minutes in the oven.

*Said in reference to hilarious youtube muffin sensation found here.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Photo Phriday: A Rare Moment

This photo captures perhaps the only moment that Henry got within five feet of my niece this past week. For some reason (well, perhaps the reason is that my bro-in-law decided to chase Henry around the house with the baby in his arms) Henry was scared, and I mean tail-between-the-legs-go-hide-under-the-couch-scared of my niece. It's the strangest thing! This photo was taken within the first few hours that they met, but for the remainder of the visit he stayed far, far away from her.

Oh Henry.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Eating Local: Cal's Cupcakes

Okay, okay. So I know when people refer to eating locally, they usually mean buying produce from close-by farms and eating cheese from local goats, but, can a cupcake count? I know the gluten-free flour and sugar in the cupcake probably doesn't come from Massachusetts, but the cupcakes themselves were made just mere miles away from me! So, while not technically correct, in my mind I'm eating locally...

When shopping at my nearby health food store the other night I was browsing the refrigerated section and noticed a box of four chocolate cupcakes calling my name. Usually I ignore this siren's song because most often they are cupcakes made from gluten, but this time I decided to look a little closer and in bold print the words: gluten and casein free were right there on the label. And remember in my last post how I stated I have a difficult time not buying new gluten-free products? Well, this was the perfect example, but surely not a mistake on my part: these things are good.

Cal's Baking Company, a Hingham, Masshusetts based company is the maker of these gems. Deep chocolate with just the right amount of frosting, they could replace any gluten-filled cupcake you've tasted. Cal's also sells a variety of mixes which I have yet to try, and you can special order sheet cakes and cupcakes (something I will surely look into for the upcoming wedding). I felt a special connection to Cal and her family; the story of her son and husband discovering their gluten intolerance is very similar to mine. Perhaps it is to yours too.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Wallet Friendly Foods: Spicy Tortilla Chip Chicken

The first of the month is bill paying time for me: rent is due, the credit card needs to get paid and it's around the time that my utility payments are due. And with the wonderful news that we are officially in a recession and that we have been in one for over a year, well, I'm trying to cut back a bit (oh yeah, and there's that big holiday coming up that will take a bite out of my bank account).

I'm almost ashamed to admit that I spend close to $400 a month on groceries -- and that's just for me. Mind you, I rarely eat out, often buy organic and free range and make a lot of my food from scratch. My main problem is that I often can't help picking up that new gluten-free food, or trying that funny looking vegetable I've never heard of before. I guess you could say playing with food is my vice. Though, I'd say it's a better vice to have than clothes shopping (which some might argue that it used to be my vice).

Regardless, I need to cut back a bit on the monthly grocery bill, so in an attempt to do so, I've got a recipe to share that's easy on the wallet, uses foods that you might already have and is darn tasty to boot. It's inspired by the recent copy of Cooking Light's recipe for a spicy and crispy chicken sandwich. I omitted the sandwich part and made it gluten and dairy free.

Spicy Tortilla Chip Chicken (gluten-free, dairy-free)

serves 4 for dinner (or me and one A-man)

4 chicken breasts sliced in half lengthwise
1 cup almond milk (or rice, hemp...)
1/4 cup Frank's Red Hot Sauce (or your favorite gluten-free hot sauce)
3/4 cup tortilla chip crumbs (take about 3 cups of gluten-free tortilla chips and ground in a food processor)
2+ tablespoons of olive oil

Place the chicken, almond milk and hot sauce in a plastic bag and let marinate in the refrigerator for at least two hours. Then, in a pan on medium heat, add the olive oil. Place the tortilla chip crumbs in a wide bowl and coat each chicken breast with the crumbs. Then, add to the pan, making sure not to crowd, and cook on each side for about three minutes each. Place the chicken on a paper towel to drain excess oil and serve.

The chicken is tasty on or with a salad, or make a sandwich out of it with red onion and spicy mayonnaise.