Archive for March, 2010

Sweet Potato Pie ‘Cheesecake’

    After the inglorious wrestling match last week with the almond ‘feta cheese’, and BTW, the result was pretty tasty – it was just the blistered thumbs that haunted me. The ‘cheese’ did have a very strong almond flavor that seemed to diminish after a couple of days. But it was tangy and tasty enough that I bought more almonds. While putting them away I noticed that the previous almonds were smaller, dark, and dry looking. This new purchase is light-colored and fatter.  The ‘cheese’ is definitely worth another try. 

   Dreams of a rich nut-based pumpkin pie have been swirling in my head. In the meantime I had raw cashews and sweet potatoes on hand. Well, why not? I soaked the cashews for a good long time and loved the fact that they come without skins! Also I have an adorable 5-inch springform pan that was in need of a good recipe. It worked out very well. But as you can tell from the ingredients that although everything is on the ‘healthy, good for you list’, this is a pretty rich dessert. I plan to try it again using eight small individual-serving-size ceramic ramekins. I picture those topped with a spoonful of chopped nuts that are glazed with a tiny bit of agave and cinnamon. 

   When using sweet potatoes as a baking ingredient a soft smooth puree works best for these recipes. I achieve this by boiling a few whole, well-scrubbed sweet potatoes until a knife slides in easily. I pour off the water (sometimes saving this orange colored liquid in a jar for other uses) and leave the potatoes to cool in the pot with the lid on. That way they steam in the residual heat. When they are cool they go through a ricer, sometimes called a food press, the kind used for making your own baby food. And sometimes they wait in the refrigerator overnight before being pureed. 

   The ingredients that are noted ‘slightly warm’ were passed briefly through the microwave. You want them to blend and almost melt together. 

Sweet Potato Pie ‘Cheesecake’ Ingredients:
1 cup raw cashews, soaked for 24 hours (1 1/3 cups expanded)
2 Tbsp agave syrup
1 tsp pure Mexican vanilla
2 Tbsp coconut oil, slightly warm
2/3 cup sweet potato puree, slightly warm
16 drops liquid stevia sweetener
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 tsp ground allspice
1 Tbsp tapioca starch or arrowroot starch 

Grease your baking pan/ramkins with coconut oil. The ‘batter’ is prepared in a blender. 

Drain the water from the cashews. If they have been refrigerated then warm them in the microwave for about 30 seconds. Dump them into the blender jar. Add the agave syrup and the vanilla. Start the blender and begin to break down the cashews, pulsing and pausing to scrape down the sides as needed. 

When the nuts are in very small pieces then add the warm coconut oil, sweet potato puree, stevia, and sea salt. Dial up the blender speed and begin to puree the mixture; again pulsing and pausing to scrape down the sides as needed. 

Finally add the allspice and tapioca starch to the blender jar and finish pureeing for a few minutes until the mixture is smooth, thick, and fluffy. Pour and scrape the mixture into your baking pan. Smooth the top with the back of a spoon. 

A 5-inch Springform Pan

A 5-inch Springform Pan


Turn the oven temperature to 350*F (180C) and place the pan in the oven. Set the timer for 30 minutes. The air in the batter will expand and the mixture will rise somewhat during baking similar to a standard cheesecake. The dessert will be cooked when a very thin knife slips easily in and comes out clean. If there is wet, uncooked mixture on the knife then put it back for about 10 more minutes. Then turn off the oven and leave it in the oven to cool for an hour. Remove from the oven. When the pan is no longer warm you may place it in the refrigerator to chill. 

It Really Looks Like a 'Cheesecake'!!

It Really Looks Like a 'Cheesecake'!!


It unmolded neatly onto a plate just like you would expect from a cheesecake. How sweet is that? 



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Mt. Olive Sugar-Free Pickles

   We always had bread & butter pickle chips in the fridge when I was growing up. On special occasions we had the tiny little sweet gherkins as part of a relish tray. The pickle used in potato salad and in tuna sandwiches was a sweet pickle relish. Even then the sweet tooth was in full force. Come to think of it, Mother was the one who bought all of the groceries so maybe that was her sweet tooth I inherited! I could never relate when my school friends had their heated discussions about the relative merits of dill versus sour pickles.

Mt. Olive Sugar-Free Pickles

Mt. Olive Sugar-Free Pickles

   When I came across this sugar-free, nearly calorie-free version of those beloved pickles I immediately became a fan. The spears are usually the only ones available and I keep a reserve jar in the pantry as well as the open jar in the fridge. If I am having a ‘sweet-tooth attack’ usually one or two of these will kill the craving . . . like dead! The juice never goes to waste – pickle juice can stand in for the vinegar in a salad dressing. And, seriously, when the pickles are all gone I drink the juice. It may sit in the fridge for a while but it never goes down the drain.

   Pickles will never replace chocolate but when you are trying sooo hard to avoid sugar you may want to have something like this handy. Given that artificial anything is not good for you I like to pretend that these are my version of a nicotine patch for sugar fiends. I wonder sometimes what other people do in similar circumstances and how they rationalize it.

   You can find the Mt. Olive website here  (maybe a little too much cute).
   And the product page here.


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Nut ‘Cheese’ Experiment, Lesson Learned

   Veganism has been on my mind for some time as partly an environmental issue and partly a health issue. It sort of loops in fits of start, stop, long pause and then start again. Meanwhile the recipe collection has been gathering more and more vegan entries.

   Reading recipes has been a past time ever since I could read. Even in elementary school I had shoe boxes crammed with recipes on a shelf in my closet. I still have some of those recipes (in nicer boxes) plus an ever expanding file on the PC hard drive; same fetish, different media.

   Thanks to being indoors recently due to weather and allergies some of the ones that are more intriguing and time consuming have made it to the kitchen. As a cheese lover the concept of nut ‘cheese’ made me wonder if that was even possible, how close was it to that flavor I so loved, and could it happen in my own kitchen?

   The process started several days ago with the purchase of raw almonds. Three days ago they went into a pan of water to soak so as to be able to remove the fibrous skin. The next day they were drained and skin removal began. It took at least an hour, likely more, and there were blisters forming on my thumbs – this was from about 1.5 cups of dry almonds. After all of the creamy white blanched almonds were done I put them in the fridge while I contemplated my sore thumbs.

   Finally, two days later, with thumbs on the mend, I made notes from several recipes, gathered ingredients and assembled the blender. (Note to self – really, really have to look into purchasing a high powered blender) It was a wrestling match, pushing down the mixture, resting the motor, keeping it from ‘walking’ on the higher speeds, and adding water after much agonizing over initial proportions. The basil was nicely distributed but when did I add pimiento? Rats! I had chipped up my favorite silicone spatula.



   Finally the mixture achieved an acceptable level of smooth. Between several layers of clean fabric, packed all into a strainer, it was set aside to drain (with silicone chips removed).

   Two hours later – no ‘draining’ observed . . . . Will this even be edible? Three hours later – the fabric is damp. It is probably time to put it in the fridge to mellow? Ripen? At least it smells fresh so hopefully this wasn’t a big waste of time.

So far . . .

So far . . .

   There are whole, natural raw almonds left in the bag. Most resources on the internet describe a very short time in hot water being the key to popping almonds right out of their skin. If (if) I try again, I will opt for this method over the long cold soak.

In the meantime I’m consoling myself with something sweet and more antihistamine chased with an almond milk chai latte.


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Southern Homestyle Corn Flake Crumbs

   Homestyle corn flake crumbs? Did you ever make them ‘home-style’? Pour corn flakes into a baggie and run the rolling pin over them which gave you multi-sized, crushed flakes ranging from large crumbs to powder?
   These gluten-free flakes from The SoyNut Butter Company are nicely uniform. I have used them occasionally as a substitute in cookies and crumb toppings when the pantry turned out to be bare of rolled oats that were gluten-free.

Southern Homestyle Corn Flake Crumbs

Southern Homestyle Corn Flake Crumbs

   Andrea and I were discussing crumb coatings one afternoon while at the fitness center and she shared with me her coating recipe for all manner of applications. This works for cutlets or patties of any type: chicken, pork, fish, bean patties, tofu, or whatever you have in mind. It bakes up nicely or sautés in a skillet. Andrea’s original recipe called for cracker crumbs but this works very well. We had it on baked tilapia one evening and it is savory and crunchy – a wonderful touch.

Andrea’s Oven Bake Recipe
1 pound of cutlets
1/4 cup gluten-free corn flake crumbs crumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon dried basil, crushed
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil

Mix all of these ingredients together with a fork. Dip or roll your cutlets/patties to coat. Place on a baking sheet and bake at 400*F – 425*F or sauté in a skillet on the stove top.

   This product is available in Texas from H-E-B which carries most of the gluten-free items in my pantry. They can also be ordered online direct from The SoyNut Butter Company or through Amazon.

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Edge Chat Book Review: The New Glucose Revolution has gone Gluten-Free

The New Glucose Revolution Low GI Gluten-Free Eating Made Easy: The Essential Guide to the Glycemic Index and Gluten-Free Living by Dr. Jennie Brand-Miller, Kate Marsh and Philippa Sandall

It can be interesting when you look back as to how you got started tracking down information. I had read that Kelly Osbourne, who has been in the news recently about weight loss, was using a glycemic index-based eating plan. She bemoaned the loss of favorite carbohydrates, but of course, loved the results she got. As a somewhat reformed carboholic, deleting offending gluten items from my meals, I am still drawn to sugar, candy and other “gluten-free” but not nutritious sweet stuff. My weight has stabilized to a lower number with the dietary changes I have made but I certainly would like to reach what now seems like an unobtainable goal at present. So, I am strategically scanning for anything that might get me there. I googled “glycemic index gluten free” and this book came up. I had some birthday money with Amazon (thanks, Mom!) so I bought it.

For those unfamiliar with the Glycemic Index (GI), here’s a description:

Not all carbohydrate foods are created equal, in fact they behave quite differently in our bodies. The glycemic index or GI describes this difference by ranking carbohydrates according to their effect on our blood glucose levels. Choosing low GI carbs – the ones that produce only small fluctuations in our blood glucose and insulin levels – is the secret to long-term health reducing your risk of heart disease and diabetes and is the key to sustainable weight loss.  

When I became aware of my non-celiac gluten intolerance, I did as everyone probably does and mourned the isles of food at the grocery store that I could not eat anymore. However, I believe now that I have been given the chance to re-evaluate what I put in my mouth. I have moved from the Standard American Diet (SAD) to gluten-free to a whole food/raw food/Eat Clean diet. For me, this book only validates where my nutrition instincts led me.  

Chapter 5 contains the everyday guidelines I was looking for:

1) Eat seven or more servings of fruits and vegetables (at least five of veggies and two of fruit)  
2) Opt for gluten-free whole-kernel grain breads and cereals with low GI
3) Eat more legumes (dried beans, peas and lentils)
4) Include nuts and seeds regularly
5) Choose lean meats, omega-3 enriched eggs and low-fat dairy products or calcium-enriched alternatives
6) Eat more fish and seafood
7) Opt for monounsaturated and omega-3 polyunsaturated fats, such as olive and canola oil and those found in fish, nuts/seeds and avocados.

For healthy weight loss, I believe a consistency in applying the guidelines while making low GI choices will help me remove most of the sugar from my diet (stronger craving at monthly cycle) and help increase my energy level for daily exercise. In a future post I will detail my experience, share recipes and report on the strengths and weaknesses, specifically for GF, to this way of eating.


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Sausage-Shrimp Pasta

   When Don decided to take a year off from playing golf I feared that he would be restless, bored and unhappy; au contraire. The man has not been this busy in many years. He is involved in several different volunteer activities that center around his interests in public safety, emergency preparedness, and security. He is constantly on the phone with various management, law enforcement, suppliers, and television personnel. Some weeks there are more meetings than there are days. So much for that concern . . . .
   Occasionally my Chief Cook gets so busy that he has little time for meal preparation and so I fill in. I myself am involved for the foreseeable future in editing a book for one of my cousins. So earlier this week Don and I needed dinner and this one was pulled together from the pantry, freezer, and spice rack. Ordinarily it would serve 4-6 hungry people. For us it makes two dinners plus leftovers. I served it immediately after another one of ‘those’ meetings and never got a picture. By the time we had the second meal I totally forgot about it and now it’s all gone!

24 ounces of prepared GF pasta sauce from a jar*
1 – 1.25 lbs. very lean GF sausage**
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon marjoram
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 pound of small, cleaned, frozen cooked shrimp (optional)

8 oz. GF pasta***

Wipe a 9X12 baking pan or 4-quart casserole dish with olive oil and set aside.

Sauté the sausage in the olive oil over moderate heat in a large saucepan. Add the pasta sauce and the seasoning. Allow it to simmer on low heat for about an hour if you have the time to blend the flavors. Defrost the shrimp (if necessary dump it in a colander and run hot water over it) and drain them – add to the sauce at the very last minute.

Cook the pasta according to package directions except undercook it somewhat because it will also bake in the oven. Drain well. Dump the pasta into the baking dish. Pour the sauce (with the shrimp) over the pasta and stir enough to distribute the sauce through the pasta.

Bake in a 375*F oven for 20-25 minutes just until the sauce is bubbling.

    * Classico Tomato-Basil Pasta Sauce
  ** Honeysuckle White Ground Turkey with Italian Seasoning.
*** Tinkyada Brown Rice Pasta

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