Archive for April, 2009

Gingerbread Muffins

There was an interesting looking recipe for scones on the back of the sorghum flour bag. Those scones sounded good. After measuring out all of the dry ingredients my thinking took a sudden left turn and I suddenly decided spices were in order and butter and yogurt were out. The first batch only had the cinnamon spice but I decided upon tasting the result that this recipe needed to go a little farther and morph into gingerbread by adding ginger and cloves. Unlike some other recipes that are best right out of the oven these were much better the next day. The moisture becomes evenly distributed and the spices mellow.

Gingerbread Muffins

Gingerbread Muffins

Gingerbread Muffins
12 Muffins

1 ¼ cups sorghum flour
½ cup tapioca flour
1 ½ tsp. cream of tartar
¾ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. Xanthan gum
¼ tsp. salt
6 Tbsp. Sucanat
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ginger
½ tsp. cloves

¾ cup coconut milk (Goya – 9 gr. fat /2 oz. serving)
½ cup unsweetened applesauce
2 tsp. vanilla

½ cup seedless raisins, optional (provide a good bit of the iron)

Prepare the muffin pan and set aside. Sift the dry ingredients together and set aside. Whisk the coconut milk, applesauce, and vanilla together. Pour over the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Stir in the raisins. Divide the batter into the muffin cups, about ¼ cup per muffin.

Bake the muffins in a 350*F oven for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave them in the oven for 5 more minutes before removing the pan to a cooling rack. Transfer the muffins to a sealed container when they are just cool to the touch so that they retain their moisture.

Kcal 180  Protein 3  Fiber 3  Fat 3  Carb 35      
Vitamins A 0.00%  C 0.00%  Calcium 1.79%  Iron 6.80%



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Take a walk on the “live” side!

I am talking about eating nutrient-dense whole foods. These foods provide the essential nutrients that your body needs to conduct the business of life at the cellular level.

First, let me introduce you to a great nutrition site: The World’s Healthiest Foods, maintained by the George Mateljan Foundation as a not-for-profit resource for information on food and promotion of health.

George Mateljan is the man behind Health Valley Foods where he helped the once-fledgling organic produce industry by buying and incorporating organic foods into his products. Now that he has sold this company, he is dedicating his passion for food, nutrition and health into this new effort.

According to the WHF site, nutrient dense foods give you the most nutrients for the fewest amount of calories. Find out more here.

The World’s Healthiest Foods list contains foods that are nutrient-dense, whole (not processed), familiar, readily available, affordable and taste good. Review the list here.

Second, let me give you a few suggestions in where to stock up to enjoy whole foods on a regular basis.
1) Buy fresh fruits and vegetables in season.
2) Buy from locally grown sources, like found in a farmer’s market or through a coop agreement with a farm.
3) When cannot buy local or in season, use the retail health food stores and buy only organic.

Third, if it scares you to hold a raw vegetable in your hand, take my advice and just learn how to prepare it. I am!
1) Take cooking classes, preferably with a whole foods chef. Here’s my plug for Monica Corrado, located in DC area (she’s great!).
2) Read a whole foods cookbook and experiment in your own kitchen. Here’s one that is a textbook in my Holistic Nutrition program and the one Monica uses: Nourshing Traditions by Sally Fallon
3) Get your mother to create a recipe and then follow it! Gee, I am SO smart…:)

Last, start where you are and just ADD whole foods to your current food choices. Then, you might want to begin substituting whole foods for processed foods, especially the refined sugar ones. Eventually, you might want to be eating whole foods most of the time, whatever is comfortable and convenient. That’s the route I am taking…

Remember they say, you are what you eat…so eat nutrient-dense whole foods…and enjoy the “live” ride!

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On the Road

   Travel is one of the greatest challenges for anyone with dietary constraints and gluten-free is not universally understood as yet. Restaurants are beginning to take notice and the better ones have staff trained regarding most permutations of food allergies and sensitivities. If your food server does not speak ‘gluten’ then you are better off with a plate of salad sans dressing. Even a topping of grilled chicken, seafood, or veggie might be contaminated with a grilling sauce.
   Any person who travels at all knows by now that they must travel defensively and plan to take care of themselves. This is really true whether or not you have food sensitivities. It doesn’t matter if you have only the most common of health needs; it will cost you a great deal extra unless you provide for yourself ahead of time. Cost can be in terms of currency or in terms of physical misery.
   A personal travel strategy is to pack at least one Larabar for every day of the trip. These are made of dried fruit and nuts without any gratuitous ingredients or preservatives. They are perfect for me but may not work for everyone. Another strategy has been to get a dry salad-to-go and add canned chicken or other protein back at the hotel room in order to have a gluten-free meal. Not exactly fancy dining but safe is better than fancy. And always in the car, purse, or carry-on baggage there is a plastic knife, fork, and spoon. For a longer trip the checked baggage will include one of those paper thin silicon cutting mats and a very small sharp knife.
   Rita suggests that one of her ‘shopping points’ for evaluating potential travel lodging is the presence of a small refrigerator and microwave in the room. Even inexpensive motels may provide these amenities but you need to ask and be sure that your room reservation includes these items. When necessary she will upgrade to extended stay facilities with a fully equipped mini-kitchen.
   A list of addresses and maps for grocery stores and restaurants obtained via an internet search is priceless. Also check to see if the grocery has a website giving some indication of which one might have the greatest variety. Once arriving at destination my first stop is usually at a grocery store for fresh fruit, cheese, nuts, gluten-free canned soup, and/or baked goods depending on the duration of the visit and the selection at the store. Others traveling with you will be grateful to pick up a few items so they will not be at the mercy of a vending machine. Restaurants that post an online menu and highlight their special diet options are very high on my list. I usually print out those menus along with the maps.
   If traveling by auto a small cooler allows for greater variety and certainty. Celery is one of my favorite health foods and it holds up surprisingly well. A stalk or two every day seems to provide just the right something that my system requires.
   Another intriguing notion for travel by auto is to bring a Crockpot. At least one family with gluten sensitivities finds that is a sure and economical way to maintain a gluten-free lifestyle and it makes me curious to try it.

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Participating in a Sugar Study

   Rita’s class assignment – a Holistic Nutrition group study on the substitution of refined sugar products with whole foods – sounded interesting, but I REALLY need some sugar along with the caffeine to get going. My morning chai latte is useless without a tablespoon of sugar in addition to a packet of stevia sweetener (a serious sweet tooth here). As part of tracking results the study participants are registered at Food Prodigy which makes it easier for us guinea pigs to enter our food intake and allows Rita to keep up with each participant. The World’s Healthiest Foods is the class reference list where I found a group of natural sweeteners. Sucanat is evaporated sugar cane juice. Our local grocery store, HEB, has started carrying it in the bulk foods isle and I had purchased some for experimenting. Chai latte is just as good with Sucanat when replacing the white sugar!
   Several friends are also very interested in nutrition and Barb has not only agreed to participate in Rita’s study but she shared with me a recipe for Cinnamon-Pumpkin cookies that she had picked up at a lecture. There is always pumpkin in the cupboard, sometimes 2, 3, 4 cans depending on the season and also Sucanat – check, spices – check, buttery margarine sticks – check, raisins – check, eggs – check. One of these days I will get around to egg replacer so most of these goodies can be vegan as well as gluten-free. I added the bits of molasses, orange extract, coconut flour, and extra cinnamon. Only the cinnamon stands out but the other items contribute to ‘flavor layering’ which subtlety increases the yum factor.
   After I analyzed the nutrient profile to enter these into Food Prodigy for my tracking I realized that they have a pretty good health profile for a cookie!

Oven Ready!

Oven Ready!

Pumpkin-Spice-Raisin Cookies

3/4 cup margarine*
1 cup dried sugar cane juice**
1 teaspoon molasses
1/2 teaspoon orange extract
2 x-large eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin

1/2 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup garbanzo flour
1/2 cup potato flour
1/2 cup brown rice flour
1 teaspoon xanthan gum
1 teaspoon coconut flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup raisins

   Sift all of the dry ingredients together and set aside. Put the margarine and Sucanat into a medium bowl and cream together adding the molasses and orange (or vanilla) extract. Beat in the two eggs and then the pumpkin. Stir in by hand the dry ingredients until all of the flour is absorbed. Add the raisins and mix well. Drop the cookies by scoop or spoonful onto your cookie pan. This dough does not spread during baking so pat them down to the size that you want. Bake at 375*F until lightly browned. Baking time depends on the size of your cookie.

   The bigger the cookie the better – my scoop is about 1.5 tablespoons and this made 40 cookies that took 14 minutes to bake. Parchment paper makes for less effort in placing the cookies on the pan and for removing them from the pan.

Analysis for one cookie:
Kcal 95, Protein 1g, Fiber 1g, Fat 4g, Carb 14g  
Vitamins A 15.4%,  C 0.7%,  Cal 0.6%,  Iron 3.9%,  E 4.0%                                   

* Earth Balance margarine non-dairy, no hydrogenation, no trans-fat, no cholesterol
** Sucanat is rich in minerals (calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium) trace elements (chromium, copper, zinc, and other) and vitamins.

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My Celery Obsession

   People seldom think about celery. You never see it featured on a menu. There is no cook book entitled ‘101 Ways to Prepare Celery’. However celery is one of my very favorite veggies and my grocery list is not complete without celery.
   My first memory of celery is from my grandparent’s kitchen in southern Louisiana. Gumbo was a production number that required all hands on deck including very small ones. The first round of garlic, onion, bell pepper, parsley, and celery was minced very fine. It would eventually ‘melt’ into the mixture of roux and broth over several hours so that no individual particles were visible. On the second round the very same vegetables were chopped and added so that they would be tender but not melted at serving time. Celery was my favorite. I loved the smell of it and I would nibble the tiny little center leaves that were too hard to chop without involving fingers as well.
   As a ballet student calorie became part of the vocabulary and here celery was a star. It was crisp, crunchy, and delectable and something about it made my body flush water (now I know this was the potassium) and I felt better for it. I would watch cats and dogs eat grass and wondered if that was their version of celery.
   The first thing that I do to my bunch of celery at home it is pull it apart, wash it and separate the tender light green stalks from the coarse outer stalks and the darker green leaves. The pale sections get wrapped in a damp towel and stashed in the veggie drawer of the fridge. The remainder is finely diced, slivered and simmered in a stainless steel saucepan with a small amount of water until tender. This is stored in a glass refrigerator container until it is needed. Sometimes I keep a bit out and eat it warm with a sprinkle of sea salt and ground pepper – quality control, of course!
   The cooked celery is a major part of my Rice and Beans recipe – I often add lots more celery than the recipe calls for. I do this partly because it stretches my lunches out over another day or so but also because I really like the taste and texture. On short notice it may serve as a hot vegetable at dinner.
   The crunchy raw stuff goes in salads of all kinds including fruit salad, vegetable salad or tuna salad. It gets packed in a lunch bag stuffed with peanut butter or with a very small container of blue cheese dressing. Occasionally it is stuffed with pimiento cheese but peanut butter is still the first choice. If I feel bloated a few small pieces of plain raw celery for a bedtime snack washed down with a glass of water usually takes care of the problem. Love the stuff . . . .

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Other Cuisines

   Internet research reveals that there are wonderful cuisines across our planet that have never used wheat. Recipes from Italy, which we usually associate with gluten based pastas and breads, are greatly varied with lots of gluten-free dishes. A trip to Australia and New Zealand last year revealed a part of the world that is much more aware of gluten sensitivities than we currently are the United States. Asian cuisines with a focus on rice, beans and other vegetables are another rich source of gluten-free options.
   Recipe Man at Tasty and Easy Recipes  has a collection that is worth checking out for gluten-free options – and they are easy. The recipes are not specifically labeled ‘gluten-free’ but the ingredient lists for many of them are gluten-free. This Flourless Date Nut Mousse Cake makes my head spin just thinking about it.

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