Recipe- Caesar Salad Dressing

Sunday, February 28, 2010

I'm totally exhausted after a super weekend, but I promised to share this recipe with my sister, as well as this one, so here goes:

Caesar salad dressing

3oz Bertoli extra light tasting olive oil
1 oz lemon juice (usually one full lemon)
2 cloves garlic
dash of Worchestershire (don't use this anymore as it's not gluten free)
dijon to taste (I usually add several tablespoons)

Crush the garlic and add all the ingredients to a jar with a lid. Give it a GOOOD shake and stick it in the fridge. Let it "simmer" if you can, because it becomes thicker and better mixed as time goes on.

A nice dark leafy salad with all kinds of veggies, avocado, mmmmmmmm. Nothin' better. All the chicks in my family LOVE this stuff and rarely buy salad dressing. Just easier to make your own. You can also substitute another "acid" for the lemon juice like balsamic vinegar for a totally different taste.


Why on earth would I spend more to buy organic produce?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

So, you're surfing the Internet, looking for why anyone in their right mind would choose to buy what looks like the same product and spend waaaaaay more money. There are a zillion Web sites out there that speak to the health benefits of leaving the world of pesticides and chemicals behind. I'm here to tell you my opinion, and where my thinking comes from. It's not "the right" opinion, and might sound crazy to you, but it's just the way I think. Here goes.... 

You know when you go to a really fancy restaurant? For most of us, it's a rare occasion. You get dollied up, and you are greeted by someone who shows you to your table. It's nicely lit, candles flickering, and a sommelier comes to help you choose the wine. The waiter comes over- he is nicely dressed in a crisp white shirt- and he describes in mouth-watering detail what you can enjoy that evening. You can tell just by the way he speaks that he is not just selling- he's sharing his love for the food. The special is based on what is fresh, local, and beautiful. You painstakingly select something you are dying to try, and you wait while it is gently cooked, prepared, and beautifully plated. You chat, you laugh, you wait in anticipation- enjoying the company of those you love. When you get it, you notice that it is not a huge portion, but you don't care. You lean over, close your eyes and breathe in the aroma. You delicately cut and savour the first brightly-coloured bite...your palate is alive. You enjoy every last morcel and when you are done, you are surprised that you do not want anything else, despite the appearance of the portion size. Even when the bill comes, it's worth every penny, because it is an experience.

Now, let's contrast that with a trip to your local fast food joint. You rush in, flourescents blazing in your eyes, and some pimply-faced kid behind the counter says (between flirting with his short-skirted coworker) "Yo, what can I get you". You order your food, which is wrapped in plastic or paper and slopped on a tray. You find a spot, brush the leftover french fries off the table, and sometimes don't even remove your coat. You shove bite after bite of tasteless, greasy slop into your mouth. You may not even finish it and you don't even care. Whatever- it was five bucks. You throw the rest in the garbage and rush out. You feel bloated, sluggish, and still unsatisfied.

To me, organic farming helps me to recreate that first experience. The farmers who lovingly coax the sprouts from the seeds, who coddle the tiny plants, protect them using age-old techniques passed down through generations and proudly present their end product, remind me that I must respect what has been created. I may not buy as much because it DOES cost more, but I don't...waste...a...thing. It's too precious. And although my life is hectic, and does not always allow for it, I try to remember to savour the flavours, enjoy the beautiful bright colours and breathe in the aromas in every last bite. I try to be thankful, and I focus on the nutrients I'm giving my body. In the end, respecting the food and treating it as precious means less waste, and really not that much more money.

So think about it- where are you dining tonight? I'm going to Chez Dropsie. Get the candles...

Look out for gluten-free saboteurs (and other info on reading food labels)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

When you're working with wheat, it's easy to see that some products use the whole grain, and others do not. In the case of gluten free products, the wheat replacement is such a mix of several ingredients that it's really tough to identify which are "healthy" options and which are not. Some of the options for that ever-so-carefully engineered mixture, can include: bean flours (chickpea, garbanzo, fava bean), rice flours (white and brown), teff, buckwheat, tapioca flour, corn starch, potato starch, potato flour, sweet rice flour, almond flour, corn flour, amaranth flour, tapioca starch, soy flour, coconut flour and more. Once you figure out exactly the mix of flour, you must then add a "binder" like xanthan gum, chia seeds, or guar gum. Some mixes will produce products with a gritty feel and sour taste. Some will fall apart; others will be springy and dense (a hallmark of gluten free bread). Some (very few!) will be light and fluffy like wheat-based products.

As in the world of SAD (Standard American Diet), gluten-free foods have both healthy options and options that are void of nutrition. When choosing anything labeled gluten free, I always scope out the ingredient list. As with wheat-based products, you want to look for dead give-aways that the product is a health saboteur: hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils, glucose-fructose, dextrose and other sugars (if you're going to eat something with sugar in it, at least make sure it's near the bottom of the ingredient list, so it's not one of the largest components of the recipe). Now, with gluten-free products, it's not as easy as avoiding the dreaded enriched wheat flour (a.k.a. flour-that-once-had-nutrition-which-was-stripped-out-and-partially-reinserted), you must now learn a whole new way of scoping out the label.

Here's how I decide whether to buy a gluten-free product: first, I find myself scanning the percentages of daily nutrients. Normally, non-health-food-store foods will tell you the amount of vitamin C, vitamin A, iron, and a few other key ones. You will also see the amount of protein and fiber in the product. Sometimes a product you buy at a specialty shop like a health food store will show you a bit more- you'll get to see how much manganese it gives you, and other nutrients that don't get much fanfare. Of course the label will also give you calories and fat content, but truthfully, I don't worry about those. It's not how many grams of fat or calories I worry about—it's where they come from.

So right away, I can see that many gluten-free products have zero protein, fiber, and listed vitamins. Seriously! This is a HUGE red flag, which often means the product has been made with starches so that the mix is white, fluffy and crunchy. However, this also means it is completely VOID of nutrition. Nothing. Zilch. Totally empty calories. Totally NOT worth it.

So after I look at the % of daily nutrients, I look at how many grams of protein and fiber a serving size of something has (also look for the serving size too, you want to know how much you're dealing with- sometimes it's for half a bun, or 1/4 cup of pretzels, etc). Without any protein or fiber, I also question how much starch has been used in the product.

My next stop is on the ingredient list. As you may or may not know, the ingredients are listed by order of quantity in the product—from largest to smallest. What I don't want to see first on that list is a starch. First and foremost, I want to see a flour- brown rice flour is an easy one, but I also love chickpea (garbanzo) flour or other bean flour, and almond flour. There is going to be a starch. That's life with gluten free cooking. Just look at the order of ingredients and do your best to choose a product that has more flours than starches. What I'm trying to avoid here is eating something super starchy (akin to white bread- shudder) that will affect my blood sugar, cause an insulin spike (because starch is quickly converted into glucose in the blood) and leave me feeling low and bloated. Yuck.

Good luck on your quest for the perfect foods. Write to me if you have any questions and I'll try to help you find some answers. :)

**UPDATED*** Properly combining foods

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

***Update***My sister is helping me clarify what I've written in crazy-Kirsten-speak below. Here's a more succinct synopsis:
Not everyone will pick up all these rules right away- you don't have to be perfect. Take small steps, make small concessions, and your body will thank you for your efforts by better digesting your food.

The most IMPORTANT parts are:
  • eat fruit ALONE and ONLY on an empty stomach. Wait 1/2 an hour before eating anything else (45 min for banana).
  • do not eat protein with grains (by protein, I mean chicken, tuna, beef, pork, eggs, fish etc.—does not apply to plant-based protein and by grains, I mean potato, rice, quinoa, wheat, legumes like chickpeas and lentils, etc.) 
Reasons:  Fruit digests in 1/2 hour, so let it go on its own and don't complicate it with something that takes longer to break down. When you eat fruit for dessert for example, it's ready to pass in 1/2 hour, but it's stuck, rotting on a pile of food that takes longer. This makes GAS, bloating, cramping, etc.
Here's what Natalia Rose (author of "The Raw Food Detox Diet") has to say about mixing starches and protein: "whenever you eat a flesh food [animal protein] the stomach sends up the acid flesh/protein-digesting enzyme 'pectin', which initiates protein digestion. When you eat a starch food (a concentrated carbohydrate), the stomach sends out an alkaline medium to digest it. The acid and alkaline substances neutralize each other so digestion is severly hindered, causing fermentation". Remember science class? Acid+base=essentially WATER. I'm thinkin' that isn't working so well on breaking down my egg and toast. Woops. Apparently, this can take up to 8 hours in the stomach!!!!!!!!

So there are other rules, but I'm really only interested in starting here. I'm not big on overwhelming myself, or Mr. Pick-it-up right now, so I'm sticking with these two. Wanna try it with me?? Let me know if you're joining me and how it's going!!

So, because my sister eats mostly raw foods, she follows a particular book, I believe it's the Raw Food Detox Diet, and there is a heavy emphasis on combining foods.

Now, I haven't read the book, but eating with her for a week leaves me understanding the following: fruit should always be eaten on an empty stomach, and with NOTHING else. A half hour after eating fruit, you might choose to follow that with grains, or a protein (but not both) and/or veggies. Veggies go with everything (except fruit) so you can eat them with your grains, or with your protein, and I think you can eat veggies with nuts/seeds. The fruit exception applies only if it's dried fruit, which can be combined with nuts/seeds à-la-trail mix. Seems like a lot of rules...yeah, it's tough to remember at first, but then it becomes second nature. Why oh WHY would you bother, you might add? Well, each type of food is digested by a different mixture of stomach "juices". If you mix two non-complimentary foods, the stomach juices could actually be working against each other and cancelling each other out (think acid, base and pH levels). This results in poor digestion (i.e. bloating, gas, stomach pain, etc.). So I'm giving it a try. No, I'm not perfect, no I don't understand nor remember the rules fully. However, I am following the fruit thing first in the morning (which I usually do anyway) but instead of putting fruit on granola, etc. I'm having the fruit alone, waiting a half hour (45 minutes if it's a banana) then having a follow-up snack.

So, this week started out rough- just getting used to eating more raw fruits and veggies than normal- but wow, things have definitely ended on a high note. Between doubling up my probiotic (which is a high-quality supplement and a dose of 50 billion per capsule) and taking the Glutagenics my new naturopath prescribed, I am ROCKIN ...BIG TIME. Let's just say (saving you the gory details) that things are going very well in the "guts" department.

With all the troubles I've had over my lifetime, I recently had an internist tell me he thinks I have "irritable bowel syndrome". ARGH. I HATE that diagnosis. That is the biggest cop out, catch-all I could possibly come up with. YES, my guts are "irritated"...but WHY? Something is irritating them, dammit, so don't just sluff me off, help me figure out WHAT is irritating them, or I'll start irritating you! :)

So with a combination of various practicioners, I am determined to figure out what is bothering my guts, and eliminate them. This week I also had virtually no meat (just fish one night) and no dairy except cream in my coffee. Again, this was just a question of eating at my sister's, but it really "did me good". I'm kind of scared to reintroduce anything now, because I'm finally almost pain free. However, I don't really know yet what's bothering me, and won't for a few weeks till my allergy tests come back, so I just need to soldier on in the interim and try not to be too scared.

So all in all, things are GREAT. Don't know if it's gluten, wheat, dairy, idea what my triggers are, but I'm finally optimistic that I can continue to improve and feel good.

Yay me! :)

Bakery goods

Saturday, February 13, 2010

So one of the things you obviously miss when you can not eat gluten, is bread. That's pretty much the only thing I can't eat whose absence still rips my heart out on occasion. Sometimes Mr. Pick-it-Up will buy a french loaf (still warm) and start chunking butter onto it and gnawing at it right in front of me. Although he apologizes, his eyes glaze over and he sails away on a sea of ecstasy, so I can never really vouch for the level of sincerity in his proclamation. It's really sad that a man who simply cannot live without bread, butter and peanut butter should end up married to someone with a (potential) gluten intolerance. Seriously. That's a gigantic kick in the butt by lady luck. He must have really made someone mad in a past life, and that person must be having quite a chuckle at his current "situation". Forget the fact that I also don't eat red meat- have I mentioned that before?

So where my sister lives, there are a lot of granola munching, tree-hugging folk who appreciate the beauty of food that is organic, non-genetically-modified, free from ingredients most reasonably intelligent folk cannot pronounce, etc. So when we visited her local grocery store to find out what the gluten-free selection might be, I wasn't just shocked, I was bowled over, inspired and GREEN with envy. There is an entire section of fresh-baked (yes, I said FRESH- not FROZEN) bread, muffins, cookies, granola, pizza crust, scones, etc. all based on brown rice flour. Oh...sweet....mercy.... I died. Seriously. This is UNHEARD of in my neck of suburbia though this is making me re-think a little trip out to yuppy-land near me as this might be quite common where the hip and beautiful people live. Anyways, I bought a seedy bread, some cheese and herb buns, some fresh granola bars, and today, PIZZA CRUST. Now, I actually order gluten-free pizza from my local joint at home and I can say that it may as well be baked on the box itself. However, I'm pleased to have something to eat that resembles the pizza that "normal people" eat. But the pizza crust I had tonight actually made me smile, and I did not in any way feel jealous of my sister and the kids for eating their spelt/corn crust that we found there too. Mine SERIOUSLY rocked. We put pesto on instead of red sauce for the base, and found a nacho-flavoured soy cheese that was SO incredible. I put some organic mushrooms, peppers and tomatoes on it, then topped it with some torn fresh basil shreds. HEAVEN. I seriously was having an "I-remember-when-it-didn't-suck-to-eat-like-me" moment.

I hope all of you have that same feeling when you sit down for dinner tonight...or tomorrow...and the next night...

Answers coming

In 2-3 weeks I will receive my results from my food allergy testing. Do you have ANY IDEA how exciting that is? My "new" naturopath explained that there are different levels of testing. The first level is the "anaphylactic" level. The other levels (not sure of the "order") are for stuff like Celiac-indicating immune reactions (IgA) and the one she tests are IgG (I believe). So, IgG is a measure of an intolerance, and the test gives you a "mild reaction" to "strong reaction" gradient so let's say you have two things you mildly react to, you might choose not to eat them on the same day. Gives you a framework. My sister, for instance, mildly reacts to almonds. So she chooses not to drink almond milk, so that she can eat a handful of almonds for protein/calcium, etc.

I am SO SO SO excited to find out. One thing she is testing is gluten, but as it's IgG, not IgA, it's not the strongest indicator of Celiac. However, if I have no reaction on the IgG scale (as I understand it) chances are it's not the issue. Anyways, it's lots to think about and I'll share more as I learn it. Maybe I could find a way of posting my results so you could see how the test looks. :)

I may also be able to continue being treated by this naturopath by phone. I really liked her. Really to the point, but without being cold. Great listener. I think she and I will get along fine. In the interim, she prescribed a supplement called Glutogenics that is supposed to help with the inflammation in my intestines. So far so good! That and a double-dose of the probiotic I'm taking seem to be calming things down after a week of ++ symptoms. I think one of the things I have an intolerance to is corn. It just so happened that last week, I had tortillas and tortilla chips a few times and my reaction to that was a strong indicator (I think) of an intolerance.

Okay, gotta run, talk soon!

Got raw?

Thursday, February 11, 2010

So, I'm visiting my sister right now. Shannon has jumped into healthy eating with both...lips? Anyways, she is embracing the raw diet (mostly) and I'm learning.

Right now, I'm drinking a juice of organic kale, romaine, lemon, apple and ginger. As I watched the whole lemon drop into the juicer, I was expecting some serious pucker power from the pith. I am happy to say that it's really super good!!

I'm not sure I...scratch that...I KNOW I could never go fully raw- I love warm food too much. But I am a definite proponent of raw fruits and veg (both of which I eat in large quantities throughout the day) and I can definitely try to embrace the raw more often. I have gotten into the habit of cooking veggies a little too much at dinner because the kids find them easier to eat (thus increasing the uptake!) but if I've overcooked them and murdered the nutrient content, I'm kind of shooting myself in the foot. There IS a balance, that's for sure.

I learned also that corn, that I always considered on par with rice, potato, etc (the starchy part of my meal) is actually a veggie if you eat it raw. I never considered eating raw corn. We had it with our salad for dinner and it was awesome- sweet and crisp and really really good.

I'll let you know what else I discover while I'm here. I head to the Naturopath today and I am going to have a consultation and also get my finger pricked and my food allergies tested. They do a standard panel that runs the gamut of "regular" foods that you can be reacting to. I suspect that there will be quite a few things that I'm producing antibodies to, but it may be while before I have the results. I'm looking forward to having some closure on the gluten issue, if possible. Though I haven't knowingly eaten gluten for months, I suspect that I'm contaminating my food often enough that I'd still have some of the IgA antibody in my bloodstream. We'll see.

Take care and I'll update soon!

Bob's Red Mill- Gluten-free Homemade Wonderful Bread

Sunday, February 7, 2010

So I've temporarily acquired my mom's bread machine so that I can try a few of the GF bread mixes on the market. One I tried was the brown rice bread from El Peto.'s okay. For the first few months after going gluten free, I didn't eat any bread. Then I got really tired of never having a piece of toast so I'm on the quest for the easiest bread I can find/bake/buy.

So the El Peto one turned out okay, and I get two loaves in one box, so it's actually cheaper to go that route than to buy frozen. And, to be honest, I made myself a turkey sandwich and the bread didn't fall apart. Props, El Peto. Well done.

Now, Bob's Red Mill GF Homemade wonderful bread mix is about 7.50$ for the mix to make one loaf. But, I got suckered into the name and decided I'd give it a whirl (thinking if it WAS so wonderful, perhaps I wouldn't mind paying that kind of money so I could have a sandwich). I prepped the bread maker, and the recipe called for one whole egg and enough whites to make up 3/4 cup total. So, I had about 10 organic eggs and I was up to three eggs used with no end in sight. I decided that I'd top up the cup using flax— which I've used dozens of times to sub in for an egg in a recipe (one TB flax meal with three TB water, let sit till gloppy then rave on). HOWEVER, I'd never used it to replace an egg WHITE. I don't know if that's what did it, but about an hour into baking, the mix spilled over the top of the bread pan and onto the element. It stank up my whole house with burnt, and has potentially ruined the bread maker. I'm not sure the smell of burnt will EVER come out of that machine...did I mention that it's borrowed?

I did actually scoop out some of the bread and put it in a silicone bread pan and popped it in the oven. The result was okay (minus the aroma of burnt that still lingered in a very minor way- it was infused right into the mix). It really wasn't any better than the El Peto one, so really, for the odd occasion when I really do miss bread (okay that's always, but maybe the occasion where I decide to DO something about it) I'll stick with the El Peto one.

I actually used most of the salvaged loaf for stuffing since I currently have a lovely organic chicken in the oven. I hope my guests don't notice the peculiar aroma...

Gluten-free, mostly organic, home-made tabouleh salad (and the magic of quinoa)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Don't even TRY to tell me you can look at this, and NOT drool. Seriously. Here's how I did it:
1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup water
1/2 organic stock cube
large bunch flat-leaf parsley
2 large tomatoes (or several smaller ones)
3 inch section of cucumber (or again, smaller equivalent)
juice of 3/4 lemon
splash of olive oil
large garlic clove

First I cooked the Quinoa (you can get a BIG bag of organic quinoa now at Costco)

1/2 cup quinoa
1 cup water
1/2 stock cube (normally these are LOADED with sugar, salt and MSG- check them- you'll probably have to get organic ones in order for them not to be toxic)

Bring to a boil, then simmer, covered for 15 minutes.
Fluff, uncover and cool.

Then, chop the washed parsley and put it in a container with a lid (helps for shaking). Cut up your veggies and add them to the container (you may want onion in this mix- I'm thinking the little green onions or sweet red would be good...or fresh chives— I just didn't have any). Crush the garlic, squeeze the lemon, add the oil then put on the lid and shake it all up.

IF you can wait, it'll taste even better once you let it settle. I couldn't wait- no way! I put it on a bed of leftover spinach salad from last night. OH MY WORD..that was SO GOOD. Fresh, with a bite—it tasted like....July.

I thought I would have to give up tabouleh because it is usually made with wheat, but quinoa is such a great substitute.

Here is the nutritional content of the quinoa (pronounced Keen-wa) I just added to the salad (to be shared among several servings, but still):

Nutritional value per 100 g (3.5 oz)

Energy 368 calories
Carbohydrates 64 g
Starch 52 g
Dietary fibre 7 g
Fat 6 g
polyunsaturated 3.3 g
Protein 14 g

Thiamine (Vit. B1) 0.36 mg (28%)
Riboflavin (Vit. B2) 0.32 mg (21%)
Vitamin B6 0.5 mg (38%)
Folate (Vit. B9) 184 μg (46%)
Vitamin E 2.4 mg (16%)
Iron 4.6 mg (37%)
Magnesium 197 mg (53%)
Phosphorus 457 mg (65%)
Zinc 3.1 mg (31%)

Recipe for sweets...

Thursday, February 4, 2010

So far, I realise I don't have much of a pattern for my blog. But I am just getting into the swing of it, and rather than think too much about what to post, I'd rather just pick something I like. Today, it's one of my favourite recipes for a little sweet something.

Kirsten's Balls. :)

1 cup raw almonds
1 cup dates
1/2 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
2 Tb water
and if you're feeling sassy
a small piece of nice dark chocolate

Pulse the almonds (and chocolate if you're using any) in a food processor until floury. Add in dates one at a time and coconut. Add in the water to help the mixture clump together and blend one last time. Roll into balls and keep in the fridge. Voila. Easy, yummy and a healthy version of candy.


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