Friday, February 27, 2009

Video Friday

This video was recorded right after Christmas at my future in-laws house in Maine. Henry wasn't completely comfortable with his new boots...

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Cinnamon Chicken?

Yup. You read that right: cinnamon chicken. I was a little weary to combine the two ingredients, but really, it turned out quite well.

After reading in various periodicals that cinnamon is both an appetite suppressant and quite good for you, I was ready to try it on chicken. Here's what an article in Women's Health magazine had to say: "Research has linked the copper-colored stuff with reduced blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels in people with type 2 diabetes, and a recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that adding a little more than a teaspoon to rice pudding even helped tame blood sugar in people without diabetes." Even more of a reason to add more cinnamon to my diet.

Cat Cora, of Food Network fame had this recipe published in the latest issue of Health magazine. I modified it slightly (mainly just by using boneless, skinless chicken breasts, omitting the wine and by halving the recipe) and then served it over some delicious tinkyada brown rice pasta. Here's a play by play of what I did.

Cinnamon Chicken (gluten-free, dairy-free)

serves two for dinner

1 tsp cinnamon, salt & pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
3/4 cup water
3/4 cup chicken broth
3 tbs tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried oregano

First, mix the cinnamon, salt and pepper in a bowl and rub chicken with cinnamon seasoning. Then heat the olive oil in a deep skillet over medium high heat. Brown chicken for 4-5 minutes. Lower heat to medium high, add onions and garlic and cook for about three minutes. Then add 1/4 cup of broth to pan and scrape down chicken and onion bits. When the stock has evaporated, add the water, rest of broth, tomato paste, oregano and more garlic. Cover and simmer for one hour. You should be left with two perfectly cooked chicken breasts and lots of tasty sauce.

Henry couldn't keep his eyes off of it.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Broccoli Soup

I remember in college that I would sometimes indulge in the Velveeta-yellow, broccoli and cheese soup that my cafeteria offered. It was good and filling and on a cold New England day it was downright perfection.

On a chilly day last week I had a craving for that soup, so when I saw two packages of frozen chopped broccoli on sale for $1 at the grocery store, I knew I had to attempt it. And I'm sure glad I did.

This soup, with no cheese, no dairy, no nutritional yeast flakes (often found in vegan dishes to mimic "cheesiness") is somehow creamy and almost cheesy. I attribute it to the rice flour roux, blending of the soup and long simmer time of the recipe. I ate it right out of the pot. Then I had it warm for dinner. And the next day I had it cold for breakfast. I've gotta make these cheap dishes more often.

"Creamy"Broccoli Soup (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan)

serves 4

1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons rice flour
2 packages of 10 oz frozen, chopped broccoli slightly thawed
2 cups water plus one vegetarian bouillon cube (or vegetable stock)
freshly cracked salt and pepper (about 1 teaspoon each)
1 teaspoon ground garlic (or 2 cloves of fresh garlic)

In a saucepan on medium heat, add the olive oil. Then add the onion and saute for at least five minutes. Next, add the rice flour to create a roux. With a whisk keep mixing the flour/olive oil/onion mixture until it gets light brown (about five minutes). Then one and a half boxes of the broccoli, salt, pepper and garlic and saute a bit more. Then add the water or stock. Bring to a boil and turn the heat down and continue to simmer. Next, I used my immersion blender and blended the soup until creamy, then I added the rest of the broccoli to make it more of a hearty soup. If you like it creamier, then blend all the broccoli. Simmer for another twenty minutes, adjust seasonings and serve.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Photo Phriday: Baby Skype

While skyping with my sister, bro-in-law and niece this past weekend my sister pointed out that the meal she was eating was made up of two of my recipes: kale and pulled pork. Which of course meant that I had to take a picture of it with my adorable niece in the background.

Hooray for skype for keeping families connected!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Sweet and Sour Pork

Going out to eat for Chinese food is often tricky in the gluten-free world. Many foods are made with soy sauce, which in most cases, is made from wheat. Fortunately, restaurants like P.F. Changs have gluten-free menus and do a great job at making their food available to all. But it's still nice to have a few Chinese (well, Americanized Chinese) dishes in your repertoire. Here's one of my favorites -- made just a bit healthier.

This is a typical sweet and sour pork recipe. It doesn't call for anything particularly fancy, except for agave which is my preferred sweetener (but you can certainly use sugar). Also, my sister recently made the recipe with tofu instead of pork -- making it easy to convert vegan as well. Also, instead of being served over rice, the A-man and I opted to serve it over lightly sauteed shredded cabbage; a now favorite option of mine.

Sweet and Sour Pork (gluten-free, dairy-free)

Serves 2 for dinner

About 2 pounds of pork tenderloin (or drained, extra firm tofu), cubed
1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup canola or grapeseed oil
1 cup cubed fresh or canned pineapple
1/2 chopped yellow onion/pepper/carrot (optional)

for the sauce:
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup agave
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
2 teaspoons gluten-free soy sauce

In a wok or skillet over medium heat, add the oil -- make sure it doesn't smoke. Meanwhile, add the cornstarch to a large ziploc bag then the pork and shake until evenly coated. Fry the pork until crispy in small batches and drain on paper towels. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan add all of the sauce ingredients and whisk together. Bring to a boil and then let simmer for a few minutes. Adjust agave and vinegar if desired. Add the pork back into the wok, then add the pineapple and vegetables, then the sauce. Stir to combine and serve over rice or lightly sauteed shredded cabbage.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

You Know You Have a Chocolate Addiction When...

1. You require a square of dark chocolate after breakfast.

2. You immediately go to the grocery store to buy more chocolate when you see that you only have one bar left.

3. You always have chocolate in your carry on luggage during trips in case you can't find any vegan dark chocolate during your layover.

My name is Liz. And I have a chocolate addiction.

Fortunately for me, the one holiday that condones this addiction just passed. So, in order to get this out of my system, I must purge my Valentine's Day recipes.

This is the first time in six years that the A-man and I have spent Valentine's Day together and we celebrated with cooking, eating, talking about our future together and... doing yard work (he's going to give me hard time for pointing that last one out). But truly, I felt grateful that we were able to spend the day, and the weekend together and that we were both able to bask in the glory that is chocolate goodness.
We had a wonderful chocolate souffle:

The recipe for the souffle was downright easy. While I was attempting to put together an eggplant tartine, I asked the A-man to prep the egg-whites and yolks for the souffle. He did that, and because the eggplant dish took so darn long to make, he finished the souffle for me. We used Sara Moulton's recipe verbatim and what do you know -- it's naturally gluten-free and if you use vegan chocolate, dairy free as well. It was light, yet decadent. Just sweet enough. And the perfect ending to our hours-long to make meal. We topped ours with fresh raspberries.

The next night we enjoyed delicious chocolate covered strawberries:

This is the simplest dessert out there. Because of my addiction, I dip a lot of things in chocolate, so I've become pretty in tune with what works and what doesn't, and strawberries -- they're at the top of the list. I usually take the easy route and place my chocolate (in this case 3/4 cup dairy-free chocolate chips) in a glass bowl and add about a teaspoon of shortening. Then I microwave for one minute and stir and continue to microwave at thirty second increments. Be careful because once it burns, it's gonzo. The shortening seems to give the chocolate a better gloss and makes it less likely to turn chalky once it hardens. Then I dip the strawberries (make sure they are super dry or else the chocolate won't stay) in the chocolate and place on parchment paper and place in the refrigerator for at least twenty minutes.

And then I eat them all.

I'm working on that last part.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Banana Nut (Coconut Flour) Muffins

I've spoken about the health benefits of coconut flour here before: it's high in fiber, low in carbs and just plain delicious. And I've certainly made it known that I adore banana bread: my mother's banana bread is something I dream about. But I had yet to combine the two -- I didn't know what I was missing.
I made these last night and based the recipe from the Tiana Organic Coconut Flour website. I added more banana (a tip my mother always told me when making banana bread), reduced the egg by one, used agave instead of sugar, omitted the almond extract and doubled the vanilla. Well, and made them muffins instead of bread.

The result is a tasty breakfast or dessert muffin that's both moist and sweet.

Banana Nut Muffins (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian)

makes 12 regular sized muffins

2 ripe bananas, mashed
7 eggs
1/2 hemp milk (or cow's, almond, coconut...)
1/2 cup agave nectar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 coconut flour, sifted (this is a must -- coconut flour clumps easily)
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup pecans or walnuts, chopped

Preheat oven to 325 F. Spray muffin tin with cooking spray. Combine the bananas, eggs, milk, agave, vanilla and salt in a bowl. In a separate bowl, combine the sifted coconut flour and baking powder. Slowly add the wet ingredients into the dry and mix until all lumps are gone. Then, fold in the nuts. Pour evenly in muffin tins and bake for 20-25 minutes. Let cool for a few minutes before transferring to a rack.

This is a picture of a photo shoot gone wrong. Normally taking photos of food gives me an opportunity to work with Henry on his ability to "sit" and "stay." Today, Henry could not deal with having the muffins at eye level and stole a half while I was attempting to photograph it.

Oh Henry.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Vegan Stuffed Mushrooms

I really didn't know how these were going to go over. I like mushrooms, but I know they're one of those foods: the kind that people hate, avoid and dig out of dishes. I grew up with one of those people. My sister hates mushrooms (she dislikes bananas too in case you ever wanted to bake her something), so I was a little worried when I decided to make them for a party on Saturday night.

Fortunately, they were gobbled up. Even after explaining that they were vegan and gluten-free stuffed mushrooms. Phew.

These mushrooms are naturally vegan (no fake cheese used) and naturally gluten-free (no breadcrumbs of any sort are used -- I found they're just not necessary), so no strange ingredients to buy: just vegetables and spices (and a little fruit and nut).

Vegan Stuffed Mushrooms (gluten-free, dairy-free, paleo)

20 ounces (or about 18 total) stuffing mushrooms
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 red pepper
1 green pepper
1 small yellow onion
1/2 red onion
1/4 cup dried cranberries (optional)
1/4 cup pecans (optional)
1 teaspoon garlic powder (or fresh garlic)
1 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste

Remove the stems from the mushrooms and chop. Then roughly chop the peppers and onions. Add the olive oil to a skillet over medium heat and add the mushroom stems, peppers and onions. Add the garlic powder, oregano, salt and pepper and saute for at least thirty minutes until carmelized slightly. Meanwhile, chop to pecans. During the last five minutes of cooking, add the pecans and cranberries. Then, add the mixture to a food processor and pulse until the mixture has combined into a paste. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and stuff the mushrooms with the filling and place on a oiled cookie sheet. Bake for twenty minutes, or until the tops are slightly browned.

These are best served at room temperature.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Photo Phriday: Devil Horns

If you bottle up the energy that Henry and my parents dog Elsa have when they are together, I think you could fuel a car for a cross country trip. This picture, taken about a month ago, catches them during their chasing game. I think Elsa's ears look strangely like devil horns in this shot.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Cha Cha Cha Chia... Seeds!

I first heard about the wonders of the chia seed from my favorite food/dog blogger Ricki of Diet, Desserts and Dogs who grinds them and often uses them as a replacement for eggs and to thicken smoothies. Then, Elana of Elana's Pantry wrote about a chia pudding she made that tasted similar to tapioca pudding. I was so intrigued by these little seeds that decided to do some research.

Apparently, the chia seed can hold 12 times it's weight in water, making it a great food to ingest both before and after any tough workouts. Also, it's incredibly high in soluble fiber, making it a food that actually slows down the conversion of carbohydrates to sugars in your stomach, making it an optimal food to keep your energy high. And, in 2 tablespoons of chia seeds there are 7 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein, 205 milligrams of calcium, and 5 grams of omega-3.

I think I found a new superfood. In fact, on days I practice Bikram Yoga, I eat some of this chia pudding beforehand. Originally, I used to get ridiculous headaches and become easily dehydrated when I did difficult workouts (i.e. those that make me sweat buckets). Now, and (mind you, I've only been doing this for over a week) after sweating A TON, I haven't had the headache/dehydration problem when I have eaten chia beforehand.

My recipe for chia pudding is basically Elana's recipe, slightly modified. So really, all credit goes to her. But here's how I do it:

Pre-Workout Chia Pudding (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegan, vegetarian)

makes four servings

2 cups hemp milk (or almond, rice, etc.)
3 tablespoons chia seed
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
1 tablespoon agave nectar (only use if your milk is unsweetened)
1 dash of salt

Place all of the ingredients into a large container with a tight fitting lid (I have a half-gallon tupperware-type container that works well for this) and shake vigorously for about one minute. Place in the refrigerator and let sit for at least a half hour, or overnight.

Monday, February 2, 2009

A Fresh Start: Green Drink

It's a sunny day outside, the birds are chirping and the temperature is above thirty -- a good reason to celebrate around here during the winter. January was a big mess: between traveling, my Grandmother's passing and a major project coming to an end, my fitness and eating healthy routine has been on the back burner. I still got workouts in and I still ate decently, but the sporadic nature of it all has worn down my immune system. I wake up each morning with a sore throat and have been taking sudafed for three days straight. What I need is to get back to my routine and eat a load of vegetables, and I have.

I offer you: the Green Drink.

Don't let the, er, greenness, of it deter you. I was a bit weary myself as I was putting it together, but as soon as I tasted it the only word that came to mind was: fresh. Okay. And yum too. Talk about a drink that makes you feel good: it certainly has a lot of fiber, a few servings of vegetables and a whole load of vitamins in it. And really, it tastes good. And really, I drank it for breakfast along with a scrambeled egg and I'm not hungry at all right now (at 12:20pm). Fiber mixed with protein is an amazing thing.

Super Simple Green Drink (gluten-free, dairy-free, vegetarian, vegan, paleo)

Serves one.

1 green apple, cored (and peeled: this is not needed if you are normal and can eat apple skins without having an allergic reaction like lucky me)
2 handfuls spinach
1 small cucumber
1 stalk of celery
6 ice cubes
1/2 cup of water

Place all of the ingredients in a blender and blend the heck out of it until it forms a liquid. I didn't have to chop any of my ingredients beforehand because I use a blender that sounds like a vacuum cleaner (vitamix), but for regular blenders, I would recommend doing so. Drink right away. If left alone the drink separates a bit, but just mix it again briefly before drinking.

Per your comments, and in attempt to feel my best on my wedding day (and really don't you want to feel your best at all times), I started to get back into yoga -- Bikram Yoga -- that hot kind of yoga. I took a ninety minute class on Sunday morning and I think I have a favorite new form of exercise. I was sweating buckets by the end of class and my muscles were sore this morning; I never get that from normal yoga and I think I like it.