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corn free powdered sugar (refined-sugar-free )

published 3 years ago, mid-January

My youngest daughter and my nephew were born three days apart. How cool is that?  Both children suffer from their own unique food sensitivities. But, it’s corn in particular that gives them a pretty hard time.  Alas,  my sister-in-law and I were in cahoots – both eliminating corn at the same time. Going corn-free can prove to be a pretty significant adjustment  — it’s in just about everything  (powdered sugar, baking powder, some vanilla extract, salad dressing,  and some over-the-counter medicines (like Motrin), not to mention anything in a box or package.

My sister-in-law’s birthday was upon us and I reckon she was feeling a bit sad that she wasn’t going to be able to have a proper birthday cake.  Birthday with no cake? Nonsense!  Just because we have a more limited diet doesn’t mean we  should go without. I used this recipe to make frosting for her allergen free cake so that she could celebrate in style.  The freedom that comes from a recipe like this is remarkable. Not only do you win because it’s corn-free, you win because it’s unrefined sugar.  At the end of the day, sugar is still sugar so I’m not necessarily suggesting you walk around eating frosting by the spoonful. But, it does make you feel pretty special to have a go-to allergen free recipe that you can use with confidence.

1 cup unrefined granulated sugar (I used Maple Sugar but Sucanat works well too)
1 Tablespoon Arrowroot starch (see note below).

1.) Place the sugar and arrowroot in your blender with the lid firmly in place.

2.) Pulse on high for about 25-30 seconds.

Some notes:

1.) Do be choosy about where you obtain your arrowroot starch/flour from. It’s most often cross-contaminated. I buy mine from a company who certifies through the  GF Certification Program.
2.) For most frosting recipes you’d need more than one cup of powdered sugar. Don’t be tempted to double/triple the recipe. The blender will struggle to grind it to a fine powder if there is there’s too much in the canister.
3.) If you don’t have a blender, a spice grinder works just as well.
4.) They’ll be quite a bit of dust (aka powdered floating particles). I’ve found it helpful to let the particles settle for a few minutes before removing the lid. Again, this is where it’s imperative that you choose a GF arrowroot. If it’s not, there’s a great chance the gluten-containing particles could make you sick once they become airborne.
6.) Coming soon:   chocolate (non) buttercream frosting

slow cooker applesauce (sugar free)

published 4 years ago, at the end of December

I hope each and every one of you had a wonderful holiday. We’ve been snowed in for a few days here on the East Coast. It’s been so much fun: doing puzzles, crafts, reading books and playing with the kids. My husband is on vacation all week (woot woot) and it’s a free for all – we are eating up each and every moment with Daddy!

These past few weeks of December, my slow cooker has been getting a fair amount of usage. It was a challenge to find time to make hearty nutritious dinners between Christmas concerts and general holiday hoopla. In the late afternoons, the house would fill with the most delicious smell, as the scent of root vegetables and chicken cooked in wine wafted from the kitchen.

Is there anything more comforting than that?

I have been making applesauce each autumn ever since we read The Apple Doll by Elisa Kleven. At the end of the book, she shares the secret to achieving her grandmother’s perfect applesauce: using three different varieties of apples. According to Klevin, the applesauce is more balanced this way. There really is no hard fast rule as to which varieties work best. I use whatever I have on hand. Today that was Fuji, Honeycrisp and Gala.  Last time, local Macoun apples (from my CSA) were the shining stars.  So darn good.

The beauty of this recipe is that you can’t go wrong. Any combination works. Happy experimenting!

Ingredients:
4 Fuji apples
4 Honeycrisp apples
4 Gala apples

Instructions:

1.) Peel, core and chop the apples into 1/2 inch pieces.
2.) Place apple chunks in the crock pot (mine has a single temperature setting)
3.) Set crock pot for 8-10 hours. (I set mine overnight)
4.) When finished, stir with a wooden spoon to break up the apple chunks. (At first the apples will appear as they did when you put them in the pot. As you stir, they will break apart).

Makes 1 quart (4 cups).

Notes:
1.) It’s not necessary to add water to your crock pot.
2. ) Feel free to sprinkle a touch of cinnamon over the top before cooking.

cranberry port sorbet

published 4 years ago, at the end of November

I know that you’re thinking. Ice cream for Thanksgiving dessert? That’s preposterous. How could this possibly usurp pecan pie or pumpkin bread pudding? Any attempt at breaking with this sacred tradition would most certainly lead to mutiny led by none other than Uncle Eddie.

Typically, you couldn’t catch me trying something new and untested on my Thanksgiving guests. Besides being a bit skeptical about the reception of this dessert, I couldn’t afford getting sidetracked when I had innumerable pre-dinner tasks to accomplish. Curiosity got the better of me on this one though – I had to try it. It was super easy, it just simmered away as I chopped, diced and prepped everything else. You can actually make it up to a week in advance (I made mine 3 days in advance).

Simply put, this is one of the better deserts I’ve had in a long time. It’s both tart and mildly sweet. It’s light and fresh.  Just what you want after a full Thanksgiving meal. In my opinion, this dessert is perfect for any holiday get together or dinner party straight through to New Years.

This recipe is adapted from Martha Stewart Living Magazine November 2010 (I’ve removed the refined sugar and switched out the lemon with orange)

12 ounces fresh or thawed frozen organic cranberries (3 1/2 cups)
3 cups filtered water
2/3 cup maple syrup or honey
1 cup ruby port
3 strips orange zest (each about 3 inches long)
1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice

  1. Bring all ingredients to a boil in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until cranberries are tender, about 20 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes. Remove zest.
  2. Working in 2 batches, puree cranberry mixture in a blender until smooth. Strain through a fine sieve into a bowl. You’re going to have to work the cranberry pulp with your fingers pretty good here – pressing to extract juice; Don’t forget your apron! Discard solids (there aren’t too many left – it’s mostly juice at this point). Refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours. (You can also set the bowl in an ice-water bath to chill more quickly).
  3. Freeze mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions. Transfer to an airtight container. Will keep one week in the freezer. Remove about 25 -30 minutes before serving.
  4. Serves 12

Go Ahead Honey, it’s Gluten Free: pureed leeks

published 4 years ago, at the end of October

This recipe is linked up to October’s Go Ahead Honey, it’s Gluten Free. It’s a wonderful monthly blog carnival created by the lovely and talented Naomi over at Straight Into Bed Cakefree and Dried. This month, Diane at The Whole Gang is hosting and she has chosen Scared Silly as her theme. She explains these recipes are ones “using foods you were once  scared to eat. Only after you tried them did you realize it was silly to be scared of them”.

Personally, I’m not necessarily scared silly about eating leeks. But, they tend  to be problematic in the sense that a fair amount of home cooks have misgivings about how to prepare them. Up until very recently, the only place I have felt comfortable using them is in my chicken soup. Surely, they must have more versatility than that. A quick internet search confirmed my sullen suspicions: an innumerable amount of recipes for potato leek soup. Not too compelling is it? It’s such a shame, really. They truly are a beautiful vegetable.

Leeks (like shallots) are not only underutilized but also underrated, in my honest opinion. The lend a very subtle, sweet flavor to your food and provide a milder flavor than onions. Which is why, I presume, I prefer them in my soup.  In my quest to give leeks their due, I learned that they contain some considerable phytonutrients. Along with her cousins garlic and onions, leeks possess heart protective qualities.  Low in calories, they boast a fair amount of manganese, vitamin C, iron and folate.  How do you select a leek? Great question. You want a nice-sized, plump yet firm leek. The dark green colored portion of the stalk, which is edible but supremely tough, should be trimmed away and discarded.  As such, it is important to select leeks that have a generous white-portioned stalk. Avoid ones with wilted, browned/bruised, cracked or (worse) dried-out outer layers.  Most importantly, this puree is going to taste best when leeks are in peak season: late summer through very late autumn. Since they tolerate cold weather well, it’s not surprising to see them in winter.

The other day, I was reading one of my old French cookbooks that made a faint reference to a leek puree (no recipe though).  On a whim, I used the leeks from my CSA box to see if I could replicate the idea in my head. Around that same time, I was contemplating how to get more vegetables into my toddler. Seriously? YES. She ate half the bowl of puree. And with 2 ingredients, I feel great about giving it to her.

This recipe is for the many people who cannot tolerate potato for one reason or another. My diabetic father is a case in point. Potatoes wreak havoc on his numbers because they are a simple carbohydrate. Meaning, the potato causes a spike in his blood sugar. Thankfully, he’s never been a big sweets/desserts person. But, he does love a good hearty meal. I empathize with him and his inability to enjoy certain foods, especially around the holidays. As a result, I am consistently in search of new ways to give him the semblance of eating carb-rich foods like the rest of us.  Last year, I made him celery root (celeriac) puree instead of mashed potatoes. This year it’s going to be leek puree.

This Thanksgiving,  my hope is that he’ll be savoring each bite with the sentiment that he’s not missing out on one single thing. My friend who taste tested this recipe for me had these profound words to offer, “how is it that I have been missing out on this my entire life? It’s amazing.” My sentiments exactly. It’s not what you would expect. It’s mild, creamy, and more-ish. Seriously, one bite and you’ll be smitten too.

Ingredients:

3 cups chopped organic leeks (this ended up being 3 leeks)
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
sea salt to taste – (I used a 1/4 tsp)


Directions:

1.) Cut off the leek roots and the green stalks. Discard. You only want the white and very pale green parts here. Making a shallow slit down the length of the stalk, remove only the very outer layer of the white portion and discard (usually it’s quite damaged and tough). Using a sharp knife, make a deep vertical cut so that the leek opens and faces up. Soak in a bowl of cold water for 5-10 minutes to get all the sand out. Trust me on the sand part – the last thing you want is sandy puree.

2.)  Meanwhile, get your vegetable steamer ready. Remove the leeks from the water and pat dry with a towel. Cut into  1/2 inch to 3/4  inch segments (so it all cooks evenly). Steam on medium-high heat for 20 minutes. Try to only remove the lid once while steaming to give it a quick redistribution stir. You know it’s done steaming when it’s wilted and the color becomes translucent. If you taste one – it literally melts in your mouth. It’s also so soft that you wouldn’t hesitate giving it to small child (no choking hazard). If the leeks look or taste too stringy or fibrous they are not yet fully cooked.

3.) Remove from heat and place in a heat proof bowl with high enough sides so it doesn’t splatter. Using an immersion blender, stream the 1/4 cup oil in with one hand as the other hand uses the blender to puree the leeks. Season with salt. Side note: I’ve also used my Kitchen Aid Pro-Line blender for this recipe. Although I prefer the results using my immersion blender, the blender version works just fine.

4.) Serves 2-4 people.  PS – I’m definitely doubling this for Thanksgiving :)

vegan pumpkin chocolate chip cookies

published 4 years ago, mid-October

You’re going to think I am crazy. This morning, my daughter woke up at 3:30 am. Teething. And I just knew that I was awake for the day. As I sit  there in the dark, my mind  started preparing a mental list of all the things I’d like to do over the next couple of days.  I came downstairs and made a very tall cup of tea. Then I started to fiddle in the kitchen – in complete silence. It is amazing what two hours of complete silence can do for your soul.

I started down the track of pumpkin spice cookies. And I ended up with these. I had wanted to stay away from chocolate  (which  is not such a good idea while I am nursing my daughter – it makes her miserable). But, in the end, I caved.   So everyone else in the house got to eat them but me. Alright, I caved on the chocolate. Then I caved on eating one. Just one. I couldn’t very well pass along a recipe that had never even ventured across my taste buds,  now could I? In testing this recipe, I knew I hit the jackpot when I came home from a quick errand and only 4 cookies remained on the wire cooling rack. Coming from my darling (yet particular) husband that serves as a very enthusiastic endorsement on these cookies.

Side note: I used Honeyville Almond Flour here. Also, this is not a super sweet cookie. If you like it that way, up the sugar to 1/2 cup. This post is linked to Amy’s Slightly Indulgent Tuesdays. SideNote #2: feel free to use your own spice combo/mixture here. If you like ginger and nutmeg, go for it!

for the dry ingredients:
2 cups almond flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup Enjoy life chocolate chips

for the wet ingredients:
1/3 coconut palm sugar (you can sub your granulated sugar here 1:1)
1/3 cup  oil  (I used coconut, slightly melted)
1 tblsp vanilla
1/3 cup pumpkin puree (canned or hand-prepared)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In two separate bowls, mix wet and dry ingredients – all except the chocolate chips.
  3. Fold dry ingredients into wet (less dishes to wash:) )
  4. Add in the chocolate chips, and using a spatula stir to combine well. The batter may seem too dry at first. But, keep stirring.
  5. Spoon onto cookie sheets lined with unbleached parchment paper  – I dropped them in about 1 tblsp measures about 2 inches apart. I used a mini ice cream scoop here – it worked great. Then I ever so slightly flattened the cookies with the back side of a spoon.
  6. Bake 8-9 minutes.
  7. After removing them from the oven, I gently transferred the cookies to the cooling rack by sliding the parchment  paper right off the cookie sheet onto the cooling rack. Let them cool here at least 10 minutes before handling.
  8. Makes about two dozen cookies.

frozen hot chocolate

published 4 years ago, mid-August

Life has shifted into high gear this summer. As a result, some weeks have passed since my last post. My mother-in-law, whom I adore, was here from South Africa for almost a month. With her she brought updates of how our family and friends are doing as well as stories about the World Cup and  the excitement buzzing in and around the country. We took her up to Newport for 4th of July and into New York City another weekend. We truly had such wonderful quality time. A day after her departure, my sister came to visit from Colorado with her daughters. My children were consumed, spending every waking moment with their cousins. Arousing oneself at 3am, ahem…”just to see if anyone else was awake and ready to play” was not uncommon either. As tired as we were, we had to laugh. We couldn’t blame them for trying to make the most of every second together.  It was too sweet. We said farewell, settling back into our routine. In came the dog days of summer, out went our air conditioner.

Hot. Muggy. Sleepless. Cranky. For 14 days. Straight.

We finally emerged from the basement yesterday after the repairman left. We’ve been quarantined there for the duration of our sweltering misery. As much as this whole ordeal has been difficult, I watched in horror as the Pakistani people suffered through floods, devastation and death. Truth be told, I have no right to complain about my air conditioner. Compared to them, my ordeal has been a walk in the park. Nothing like a swift kick of perspective to put me in my place.

To celebrate our new-found life above ground, I made us this creamy and decadent frozen treat. It ended up being a great way to “ease” ourselves back into the kitchen while warding off this heat and humidity.

Side note #1: you can use more ice (if you want to eat it with a spoon à la Wendy’s Frosty). Just a word of warning though: the more ice you add, the harder it is for your blender to process. I found 4 cups of ice was just enough before it went into “too thick” mode. Side note #2: My chocolate bar has very little sugar in it so adding 4T of honey was just right. Be cognizant of the amount of sugar in your chocolate bar and adjust the level of honey accordingly. Side note #3: Go ahead and make this vegan by swapping out the honey  for your  sweetener of choice.

Ingredients:

1 bar (3.5 oz) 70% cocoa chocolate (I used Alter Eco brand. I heart them.)
2 cups filtered water
1 cup cashews, soaked for at least 4-5 hours
4 Tblsp raw honey
1 cup coconut milk
1 tsp GF vanilla

4 cups ice

1.) Soak 1 cup raw cashews in about 2 cups filtered water for at least 4-5 hours. Drain and discard the water. Rinse the cashews thoroughly. Set aside.

2.) Place a saucepan over medium low heat. Break your chocolate bar into small pieces and melt stirring with a spoon (not a whisk). Be careful that it doesn’t burn.

3.) Add 2 cups filtered water to your blender. Add the cashews. Blend about 45 seconds, until the cashew milk is creamy. Add the honey, coconut milk, melted chocolate and vanilla. Blend about 30 seconds. Add 4 cups ice and blend about 15-20 seconds. If you let it sit more than 10 minutes you may have to add a little more ice to return it to frozen consistency.

Makes 4 good sized servings.

trip to south africa: recipe for chicken sosaties (kebabs)

published 4 years ago, at the end of June

Hluhluwe Game Reserve

In honor of the 2010 FIFA World Cup, I am posting about our holiday to South Africa. Yebo. It’s an entire year later. But, amidst other life changing events such as the birth of our daughter and a move cross country – I concede that it has taken me a year to get to it.  As some of you know, my husband was born and raised in South Africa. He only came to America in his twenties for business. We happened to meet during that fateful work trip and the rest – as they say – is history.  Sigh.

When he and I lived in England, we were  fortunate enough to make it back to South Africa for yearly visits. Relatively speaking, it’s a short trip from the UK. Since we’ve lived in the US (and since we’re now a family of five) it’s become much more difficult. He’s gone back a few times without me and the kids, simply because there are multiple flights and time zones and almost always 36 hours of travel involved. Last year, however, we seized the moment and took a family trip over while my husband was in between jobs.  When else can you take a 5 week vacation?  My love happens to be the only person in his entire family that does not live in South Africa. He has very close relationships with his family and friends so we tend to stay for an extended period of time when we make the journey.

I took my first trip to South Africa in the late nineties and you may think it sounds cliche – but it changed me. Fundamentally. Africa is such a beautiful place. And I feel extremely blessed to have had the opportunity to see it, feel it, smell it, taste it – take it all in. My husband is from a divided world. First world and third world are wrapped up into one big bundle. Up until my visit to Africa, I truly believed the life I led in the US was a simple existence. My time there was both eye opening and humbling. It was what I expected yet so far from it. And I learned quickly that things operate much differently over there. Nothing is rushed. When you’re there, you’re on Africa time.

Over the last 12 years, I have fielded all sorts of questions. Did my husband grow up with lions in his backyard? Does his family wear traditional tribal garments? Unlike what most people envision, the cities of South Africa are rather cosmopolitan. (Rural areas are a different story). So, what is it like there?  Napkins are called serviettes. Stoplights are referred to as robots. And they drive on the other side of the road. There are shark nets in the ocean.  And there are hills,  not unlike those of San Francisco. It is incredibly lush and green. And hot. Like Florida hot. There is no shortage of avocado and papaya trees. And it’s not uncommon to see and hear monkeys hanging out (with their young) along the side of the road. Yet just up the street from them you’ll find the shopping mall.  It’s the dichotomy of the surroundings that makes it so beautiful.

We felt it was important to show our children the place where their father spent his childhood and introduce them to the people who figured so prominently in it. We  fit a surprising number of activities into a very short period of time. We brought our children and their cousins into the bush on safari. We had the privilege of witnessing the beautiful wedding of some dear friends. Any chance we could we went frolicking in the ocean waves. And we accepted every braai invitation that came our way (see next paragraph).

Braai, (pronounced bry – as in the name Bryan), is an Afrikaans word meaning ‘roasted meat’. It is a ritual and it is beloved.  It involves grilling meat for hours over an open flame. I should probably clarify because there are significant distinctions between the American BBQ and the African braai. First: no gas grill. Ever. I once casually asked about using gas and I don’t recommend it to anyone. I was almost excommunicated. Second: very few sides are served alongside the meat. No pasta salad. No watermelon. No chips and guacamole. It’s all about the meat. Finally, games or activities are rarely played. Swimming? Quite possibly. Volleyball? Heck no. To be fair, any sporting type events usually precede the braai in the form of boat related activities (i.e., waterskiing, tubing, fishing, etc).

When we braai, we hang around the grill, have a beer and catch up on what’s been happening in life. Since we’re strictly using charcoal here – this takes hours. Which is fine because we’re on Africa time. The men gather around the braai and sometimes I snicker to myself and half-heartedly expect to catch a glimpse of them engaging in neanderthal-like banter, pounding their chests, “me love meat, me hungry.” Grunt. Personally, I have never seen so much meat in my entire life. It’s fascinating. Steaks are almost always represented. No braai is complete without boerwors (traditional farmers sausage). But, my family is particularly fond of sosaties (kebabs marinated in a curry-like sauce).  Hungry? See recipe below.

the braai

During my first few visits to South Africa I was able to eat out quite often – that was before my diagnosis. And I thoroughly enjoyed the food.  There is a huge Indian influence on the East coast of South Africa. And then you have the wonderful Malay (Indonesian) cooking of Cape Town.  Since so many different cultures colonized South Africa (as it was directly on the trade routes) there truly is an amazing melange of food influences: from the indigenous tribes to the Dutch, Portugese, French, English, Indonesian and Indian.  Some of the most well-known food items from South Africa are koeksisters, mielie meal, biltong and potjie (pronounced poy-kee).  Potjie is a fragrant stew slow-cooked over a open fire. The meat that emerges from the cast iron potjie pot is just fall-off-the-bone goodness. Little interesting factoid: the potjie is the original Dutch oven.

Another mind blowing statistic? South Africa has eleven official languages. The people of South Africa are some of the warmest people I have met in my travels. I have been welcomed into their family, into their country with open arms. I know the World Cup is going to be wonderful for the people, for the country as a whole. I am a bit sad that we are not going to have the chance to witness this historical event in person. But, we are watching the coverage on television being sure to catch as many games as possible. Side note: I have so many photos from my first visits to South Africa on film (not in digital form). As such, I sadly cannot include any of my first impressions of the country here.  Perhaps I can achieve that  goal by this time next year :)

This is my own American version of sosaties. I chose to make them a bit more family friendly by omitting the spice (read: heat). My children have yet to fall in love with spicy hot food so I erred a bit on the wimpy side! If you like it hot, feel free to add in some spicy curry powder or a pinch (or two) of cayenne.

chicken sosaties

1.) Toss 1 pint grape tomatoes with 2 tblsp grapeseed oil and some salt and pepper. Roast at 400 for about 30 minutes.

2.) Meanwhile, crush 1/8 tsp saffron between your fingers and place it in a heat proof glass bowl. Pour in 1 cup hot water. Let sit for 15 minutes while preparing the rest of the ingredients.

3.) In a medium saute pan add
2 -3 tblsp oil and
2 medium sizes onions, minced
Simmer for 5 minutes then add
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 cardamom seeds, crushed
(easy way? smashed under the blade of your knife)
3 garlic cloves, minced
Simmer for another 5 minutes. Then add in the roasted tomatoes and saffron.

4.) Gently crush the tomatoes with a wooden spoon, fork or a potato masher. Simmer for 5 more minutes. Stir in 1 cup coconut milk. Turn off the heat. Let cool while preparing the chicken.

5.) Thread  1  1/4 to 1  1/2 lbs chicken onto skewers . You could use thighs or boneless chicken breasts here cut into 1 inch pieces. I managed about 5 pieces per skewer. And I ended up with 5 skewers.

6.) Place kebabs into a 2 inch deep glass baking dish and pour the marinade over it. Turn the kebabs to ensure the marinade is coating all sides of the meat. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
Bring to room temperature before grilling. Set on a hot grill until done. Ours took about 15-20 minutes.

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