Archive for June, 2010

Walmart Remodel and Gluten-Free Section!

    Our grocery shopping list is a computerized printout of grocery items that we customarily purchase arranged by store isle and product. On the day before our every-other-week shopping expedition Don places a copy of the listing on the kitchen counter. There will be items that he has already marked that he, as chief cook, has noted that we need. I am required to add the items from my kitchen notes and we shop from this consolidated list.

    When Walmart started the remodel several shopping trips ago Don noted with satisfaction that they were leaving the grocery section alone – it’s perfect, it matches our list, so of course it doesn’t need to change. I kept telling him they would get to it. So theoretically I could have said ‘I told you so’ but that would have only caused him more stress. So I settled for ‘you’ve been in denial!’ which is marginally less obnoxious.

    The bad news is we have to completely change the list. The good news is that there is now a GLUTEN-FREE SECTION! And they have TINKYADA pastas and BOB’s RED MILL products. That was all I could check out since Husband was pushing the cart so fast the wheels were almost smoking. He tends to do that when he is irritated; usually with me for tossing items in the basket that are ‘NOT on the list.’ You may have gathered the impression that our marriage resembles an ongoing stand-up comedy routine and that would be fairly accurate.

    We are taking our comedy routine on vacation so it will be a couple of weeks before I can get back over to the store and really scope out that new gluten-free section. We are taking the notebook PC and we will have internet access along the way. So I will have time to write about new products and recipes that I have been neglecting.

Mom (Gretchen)

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Rhubarb-Date Pecan-Crumble Cake

This recipe is submitted to the SOS Kitchen Challenge hosted by Ricki at Diet, Dessert, and Dogs and Kim at Affairs of Living
    The choice of rhubarb for the June SOS Kitchen Challenge was – well, challenging. First, I have never tasted rhubarb. And possibly because I have never purchased rhubarb I have never noticed any at the farmer’s market or grocery stores. After reading the descriptions and warnings I went off looking for a huge bundle of poisonous green leaves hiding red rhubarb stalks. This is what turned up after searching several stores:

Rhubarb from the Grocery Store

Rhubarb from the Grocery Store

    This was a surprise, although a good one – the poisonous leaves were already eliminated and I refuse to speculate on that. After a thorough washing it was time to dice. I had a recipe for an applesauce coffee cake that was my baseline for this attempt and dicing the rhubarb into 1/2” – 3/4” pieces was the first step. But what’s with all the string? This is way stringier than my beloved celery.

Not Sure About All That String

Not Sure About All That String

    Most of the string was stripped off during the dicing process while I worried about whether losing it would affect the color. That turned out to be the least of the issues. (It was great to discover that rhubarb does not stain the counters and surroundings like beets.)

Somewhat Under Control

Somewhat Under Control

    So into the saucepan it went; along with some chopped dates to sweeten it up, a bit of water and agave syrup for the cake. It simmered gently until the rhubarb was coming apart.

    I had failed to note that the original recipe included tofu and my system can’t handle that. So then began the mental scramble that usually results when substitutions are necessary. There were also flour modifications in keeping with my whole ‘no-grass-plants-allowed’ mindset right now. It became an all-out juggling act.

Putting It All Together

Putting It All Together

    Plus my square pans are all 8” so several cupcakes took up the extra batter and crumble topping. The crumble topping is messy and umm, crumbly. Maybe next time a layer of batter, crumble for filling, and the batter on top, kind of like the once popular sock-it-to-me cake.

Fresh Out of the Oven

Fresh Out of the Oven

Wet Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups rhubarb, chopped, 1/2”-3/4” bits
3.5 ounces pitted dates, chopped
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup agave syrup
1 teaspoon ground chia seed
1/2 teaspoon fruit pectin
1/4 cup coconut oil
1 teaspoon vanilla

Dry Ingredients:
1 1/4 cups quinoa flour
1/3 cup buckwheat flour
2 tablespoons tapioca flour
2 tablespoons coconut flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 cup milk, optional (Almond Breeze)

Pecan-Crumble Topping:
1/2 cup quinoa flour
1/4 cup agave syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup margarine (Earth Balance)
3/4 cup chopped pecans (use your favorite nuts or crispy cereal for crunch)
(I thought about crumbling a rice cake but already had too much going on)

Put the rhubarb, dates, water, and syrup in a saucepan and simmer slowly for about 10 minutes. The rhubarb should be very soft by then. Remove the pan from the stove and allow to cool. Stir in the chia seed, pectin, coconut oil, and vanilla and set aside.

Sift the dry ingredients into your mixing bowl and set aside.

Prepare the crumble topping by mixing the flour and cinnamon together. Cut in the margarine (or cold coconut butter) with a pastry blender. Lightly stir in the syrup with a fork. Then add in the nuts.

Turn the oven on to 350*F.  Lightly oil or spray a 9” square pan and set aside.

The rhubarb mixture should be fairly cool by now.  Stir it quickly into the flour mixture.  If the batter is really thick then add the 1/4 cup of milk.  Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and spread out evenly to the corners.  Then carefully spoon the crumble mixture on top and spread evenly also while pressing gently into the surface of the batter.

Bake for about 35 minutes.  If it still seems a little too moist then turn off the oven and let it remain to bake for 5-10 more minutes in the residual heat of the oven.

Allow the cake to cool thoroughly.  As with many of these stronger flours it will be better the longer it cools.  It is really best if you can make it a day ahead.

Mom (Gretchen)

Postscript: The Sit ‘N Stitch ladies were at Barb’s house today and I brought this over for taste testing.  This little cake went over very well.  So the question is: if people appreciate the taste of nutritious food then why doesn’t the food industry provide it?  It could be done . . . .

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Less Sugar, More Health

I have been searching for a way to reduce my consumption of sugar, especially in the form of candy. I have been aware I needed to do this…and that is the first step in making permanent change. Candy is a cheap fix…and always has been attractive to me to eat. I remember walking to the local neighborhood drugstore, selecting, buying and eating four different ones one right after the other, when still a young teenager.  I still can binge from time to time as a “mature” adult. This past Easter season, I was addicted to Reese’s Peanut Butter Eggs. I could not get enough of them and was eating at least two every day in the weeks leading up to Easter.  No joke…and it didn’t help when they went on sale.

However, in hindsight, I find I experience less joy long-term in this habit, more of medicating through low energy and fatigue periods and no progress on health. I am recognizing that my desire for optimal health is slowly working its way to the motivational level to take action on points of difficult change, focusing attention to take the next step. I decided to start cutting out sugar once I read about the connection between sugar, adrenal fatigue and anxiety a month or so ago. Experiencing a recent bout with anxiety reinforced my efforts to get serious.

However, it was more intervention and being mindful that made this next step happen. I had a craving for candy and I usually stop in a drugstore to get it. As an aside, I love drugstores. I shop in them all the time and worked in one during my senior year in high school. So many solutions to life’s beauty and health problems! Anyway, I had recently discovered a new beverage, SoBe Lifewater Zero Calorie, which I had been drinking occasionally on the go when I needed to take supplements. I checked the refrigerator case and there was one in my favorite flavor, so I grabbed that instead. I have been doing this for the last couple of weeks and it is working. I look at candy bars and know there is a better choice plus it also satisfies my craving for something sweet. I don’t drink this on a regular basis; I save it as a treat.

Health purists may not see this as a victory but I do. It works to modify a habit until I can achieve a higher stress threshold or corrective nutrition for my body to ease the cravings. Progress is all in the small steps of action and discovery. The “sugar” content consists of erythritol (sugar alcohol) and PureVia, a stevia-based product.

BodyEcology.com lists a few things that make erythritol a standout as a sugar alcohol.

  • Fermented – It is made by fermenting the natural sugar found in corn.
  • Heat stable – Up to 160 degrees C.
  • Non-caloric – While most sugar alcohols are low calorie, erythritol has zero calories.
  • Non-glycemic – Does not raise blood sugar – erythritol is considered suitable for people with diabetes because it does not raise plasma glucose or insulin levels.
  • The easiest sugar alcohol to digest – More than 90% of erythritol is absorbed in the small intestine, so minimal amounts reach the colon where other sugar alcohols end up causing diarrhea and other symptoms. Studies have shown that erythritol is even easier to digest than xylitol.
  • Noncarcinogenic– Studies have shown that erythritol, like xylitol, does not have carcinogenic properties.
  • An antioxidant – Erythritol helps to fight free radicals, responsible for the aging process. It is considered to be even more efficient than other sugar alcohols because it is so readily absorbed and yet not metabolized (it is excreted unchanged).
  • Does not promote Candida – We do recommend most sugar alcohols over even natural sugars because sugars feed candida, contributing to systemic fungal infections.
  • Generally recognized as safe (GRAS) – Erythritol has the status of GRAS from the FDA and is widely used in many other countries like Japan, the European Union, Mexico and Canada.

Rita 🙂

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Carrabba’s Italian Grill

    Carrabba’s Italian Grill  is a fabulous restaurant that I first experienced in Austin and now their location list shows 31 states! According to their history the first location was in Bryan, Texas and Chicken Bryan is still a menu favorite with customers.
    My sister Amanda and brother-in-law Eric moved to Bryan several years ago. Eric graduated from Texas A&M and he brings the concept of school loyalty to a whole new level. When I took them out to lunch at Carrabba’s in Austin he was delighted to discover that a really great restaurant had originated in Bryan.
    The downtown Austin Carrabba’s location (6406 N. I-H 35) is just a mile away from where I worked as a data analyst for several years. That was during the part of my life when chicken salad, hold the croutons, was my standard for eating out and Insalata Carrabba is an experience, way better than ordinary chicken salad!
    When my brother Chaz was in Austin for a conference I took him to dinner there after we had spent all afternoon at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. I was tired and only wanted soup and a small dinner salad. The Mama Mandola’s Sicilian Chicken Soup came to the table with the pasta as expected. Once the waiter realized that I was picking it out and putting it on my unused bread plate he quietly told me that the soup was cooked without the pasta and could be ordered without. That was when I discovered that there were real gluten-free options available!
    Carrabba’s website has a gluten-free menu that you can download -> GLUTEN FREE MENU and while there is no gluten-free pasta or bread* there are plenty of options to keep me going back. Whenever we travel I check out the web site to see if we will be passing near any of their other locations.
    They have a disclaimer as to the perfection of their gluten-free options and the extent of their expertise in that arena. However, they have consulted with the Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG) and I feel confident that it is safe enough for me to eat there and enjoy menu options such as the Chicken Marsala.

Mom (Gretchen)

Note: *I would really appreciate if they could introduce gluten-free bread. Not that I love bread so much but their olive-oil-herb dip is so insanely flavorful.

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Creamsicle Milk on Memorial Day

    It was hot, it was humid and we spent half of Memorial Day doing the parking for the local Georgetown Memorial Day ceremony.

    Twenty volunteers met Sunday afternoon to go over the plan. Don and several others put out the signs, traffic cones, and yellow ‘caution’ tape late that evening. I am usually non-functional in the morning so I had my clothes, hat, badge, shoes, and socks lined up and breakfast staged on the counter plus a Chocolate Mystery Muffin from Ricki Heller’s Sweet Freedom recipes ready for a mid-morning snack.

    We had to meet at the parking lot by 7:30 on Memorial Day morning. There were the usual complement of stand-by emergency vehicles, cars, golf carts, bicycles, and people arriving from all directions. Several of us had radios for communication. When 1200 people all try to arrive at the same time it gets hectic, traffic backs up a bit, and people get really creative with the parking. At my end of the lot there were two spaces containing five (5) vehicles, 3 golf carts, a Smart Car, and a motor scooter.

Five Vehicles in Two Spaces

Five Vehicles in Two Spaces

    By the time 500 vehicles had been crammed into 300 spaces then funneled out again and the music and speeches were over we headed home, closed the garage, and did not venture out for the rest of the day. For refreshment I literally created this flavored milk drink on my run through the kitchen on the way to the bedroom to change into comfortable clothes.

Creamsicle Milk
8-10 ounces of milk in a glass (Almond Breeze)
9 drops liquid stevia (from Sprouts)
4 drops pure orange extract

Pour. Add sweetener and flavoring. Stir. Sip slowly and gratefully.

Mom (Gretchen)

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