Saturday, January 3, 2009

It's ALIVE!!!

Greetings, everyone!

It has been a LONG time since my last update and I do apologize. Life in the non-cyber world ran away with me, I'm afraid. I'm back now, though, and I do have some new recipes and information that I hope you'll find interesting.

For starters, I want to tell you about a terrific book that I find really valuable for cooking with alternative ingredients. It's The Food Substitutions Bible by David Joachim. Fabulous! As it says on its cover, there are more than 5,000 suggested substitutions for a really staggering aray of ingredients and equipment.

What if you are fresh out of kefalotyri? What if, like me, you didn't even know what it was? Well, no problem. It can be interchanged, ounce for ounce with pecorino romano or parmesan, just to give you two options. There are even more listed in the book!

What if you are in a pastry sort of mood but don't have pie weights? Try dried beans. Just that simple.

I particularly like that the book is set up in simple, sensible alphabetical order. Just look up the ingredient you need to change out and you'll have a list of alternatives before you. It can't take care of every possible change you might need, but it is a big help. It can trigger all sorts of ideas, too. Once you see how some ingredients can be switched for others, you might be inspired to try some changes of your own.

I picked up my copy at Border's Books and it is available from, as well. Give it a look and tell me what you think!

In the meantime, let's go eat that!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

O Sole Mio! And it's gluten-free!

I’ve never been a big fan of fish. I know the benefits of eating fish over red meat and I know the benefits of keeping the greatest possible variety in one’s diet. So, though not a fish eater by nature, I have been making a real effort to learn to like various fish dishes.

Now, while I don’t really love fish, I do love potato chips. Yes, I already know the potential problems of this particular passion but I maintain that you can eat all things in moderation. Some just need to be a lot more moderate than others and potato chips would fall into that category. Since I do love the salty crunch of chips and I know it can be used as a coating for baked meats, I figured it was a great way to make fish more appealing to me. Let me tell you, it really worked! Even my son liked it (he’s not a big fish eater, either) and ate it cheerfully. Additionally, using potato chips as a coating kept the fish moist, added a lot of flavor, was insanely simple and was entirely gluten-free.

Here’s what you need to do this:

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees F
Filets of flounder – at least one per person
Vinegar and Salt potato chips
1 qt. zip closure baggie
Baking dish or cookie sheet – if it is not non-stick, you can line it with foil or parchment paper or coat very lightly with oil

Fill the zip closure bag with potato chips, close and crush. This is good fun and an excellent way to relieve stress. This is also a job the kids can do. Give them a large wooden spoon and a flat work space and let them go nuts.

Empty the chip crumbs onto a dinner plate. Rinse the fillets and gently coat them with the chips. The chips won’t stick really tightly and you are unlikely to get a thick coating but this is fine. Pat the chips onto the fish and you can add the leftover crumbs once the fillets are in the pan.

Once the fish is coated and you’ve patted any extra crumbs onto the fish in the pan, bake for about 12 minutes or until the fish flakes easily with a fork. This was really good served with a green salad and steamed edamame but it would be very nice with some baked squash, I think. Whatever sides excite you should work very well.

Now for the variations. I chose vinegar and salt chips for a taste reminiscent of fish and chips with malt vinegar. However, you can choose any flavor you like. If you are concerned about sodium, choose low salt chips. If potatoes are a problem for you, try one of the varieties and flavors of corn chips.

This is a terrific meal for a busy weekday evening. It’s quick, simple, flavorful and an enormous improvement over fast food. The flavor of the chips will make it appealing even to the kids. It’s a win all around.

So, let’s go eat that!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Worth a Thousand Words

I thought I might give you a look at the veggie burgers I posted about yesterday. You can really trust they are good if an eight-year-old boy likes them. My son, who is NOT a burger fan as a usual thing, thought they were great.

One other goody to look at... Behold! This arrived in my mailbox. Fabulous, no? Take a gander at my nifty cool apron and spatula! Many thanks to the lovely folks at Foodbuzz for the very welcome surprise. I hereby promise to put them to good use!

Most of you following my blog have already found Foodbuzz but if you haven't, do go have a look. Fabulous recipies, reviews and people abound!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Soy-free, Wheat-Free, Dairy-Free Veggie Burgers

Hey there! I’ve been on a nice little vacation to visit family, complete with a family reunion picnic. You know what that meant, right? Barbeque! And lots of it. It smelled fabulous! Sadly, I can’t do barbeque and while I hardly starved, I still wished I had some sort of alternative.

If you are interested in reducing the amount of meat, particularly red meat, in your diet, you’ve probably tried some or all of the vegetable-based meat substitutes available. Many are pretty darned nice, in my humble opinion. However, they are often off-limits for me since I was diagnosed with allergies to so many vegetables. The substitutes often contain vegetables I need to avoid as well as yeast. They can also be quite expensive. Still, I like the idea of a meatless burger so I set out to make my own. What resulted was a legume-based burger with plenty of seasonings, no gluten, low sodium (with the option of making it sodium free) and simple preparation.

Want to try it? Here’s what you’ll need:

· 2 15 oz cans of beans packed in water – I used Pinto and Great White Northern beans but you can choose what you like
· 2 T minced onion – I use dried minced onion to avoid adding extra moisture
· 1 T celery seed
· 1 T garlic powder
· 2 T spicy brown mustard
· 2 T lime juice
· 2 T minced fresh parsley
· Rice flour as needed to thicken

Drain your beans and using a food processor, blender, stick blender or mixer, make a smooth paste. Add all the ingredients EXCEPT the rice flour and stir until mixed. Add rice flour a little at a time (about a tablespoon) until the mixture is about the consistency of a stiff drop cookie dough. You don’t want it too stiff because it will get very dry as it cooks.

In a skillet over medium heat, heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil and drop spoonfuls of your bean mixture in. Flatten slightly with the spoon to make a patty shape. Don’t make these too large or thick since it will make them very hard to flip. Brown them well on each side (2 – 5 minutes depending on how soft your mixture is) and be sure they are heated through. You may need to add a bit more oil to the pan from time to time as you cook the patties. You should be aware that the patties will not be as firm as a meat burger. Just use a good spatula and you should have no problem. This recipe makes about 10 patties (roughly three inches across).

Serve this up as is or on a bun with any condiments you like. I like mine with mustard but mayo and ketchup or even salsa will be good, too. As you can see, this whips up in minutes but if you know you will be pressed for time, you can prepare the mixture in advance and keep it in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook.

As always, there are plenty of alternatives possible. If you need to go easy on your sodium intake, steer clear of the canned beans and cook dried beans yourself. This does add an additional step but removes a lot of the sodium. You can certainly use regular wheat flour or some other flour in place of the rice flour to tighten up the mixture, if you’d prefer. As I mentioned in the ingredients list, you can use whichever beans or combination of beans you prefer. I suppose you could use peas or lima beans if they tickle your fancy but they will give your patties a greenish color which, personally, I wouldn’t find all that appealing. Still, if you really like the flavor, go for it. If you don’t care for mustard or would like to try a different flavor profile, trade out the mustard for soy sauce, a spoonful or two of tahini and some ginger. If you’d like a bit more kick, add some diced chilies and switch out the parsley for cilantro. For an Italian taste, use oregano, more garlic and sun-dried tomatoes.

These burgers are full of flavor and packed with protein, fiber and nutrients and are very low in fat. Leftovers reheat very nicely in the microwave, too. You really can’t lose.

So, let’s go eat that!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Introducing or Reintroducing Foods

You know, I meant to talk about this after my post about peppermint. Instead, I got all excited about the things I was reading about ginger and nearly forgot about introducing and reintroducing foods into your diet. Let’s rectify that right now.

Okay, so you’ve identified some foods that are problematic for you. You may have done this on your own by trial and error or perhaps you’ve been tested by your doctor or allergist. This is good information and you’re altering your eating habits accordingly, right? But what about all those foods you haven’t tested? What about foods you’ve never encountered before? Are these to be avoided because you don’t know how you’ll react? Probably not. However, let me say this again because I really don’t think it can be said too often. CHECK WITH YOUR PHYSICIAN OR HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONAL , FIRST. If you are cleared to give some new foods a try, great! But how? If you’ve ever fed a baby new solid foods, you have your answer. If not, or if it’s been awhile since you had that pleasure, let me go over it with you.

The process of introducing a new food into your diet can take several days. During this time, it is prudent to be very cautious with your food to be sure that all other foods you eat are known to be perfectly safe for you. Do not try introducing more than one food at a time. If you should have a reaction of any kind, it is important to be able to identify just what you ingested or were exposed to that could cause the reaction. If you are sampling several new foods, it will be impossible to know which might be your culprit.

Okay. So you’ve chosen the food you’ll be introducing. For the sake of our discussion, let’s say you are trying to add peaches into your food repertoire (which, by the way, I recently did so this is real-life experience I’m passing along). Don’t settle down on Day One and eat roasted chicken with a peach glaze and follow it up with a large serving of peach cobbler for dessert. Sadly, that’s just not a wise way to go about things. Rather, begin with a small serving that is about ¼ of a regular portion. That’s right. Start with a quarter peach. If all goes well, Day Two will see you enjoying a half peach. Do eat these portions on consecutive days. You want to see what you can tolerate as it builds in your system. In some cases, you will find that a single, small portion of a food will do very well but eating that same food on consecutive days will not (Yes, I am again speaking from personal experience. My ability to get along with iceberg lettuce, as an example, is limited.). Again, if all goes well, Day three will be ¾ or even a whole peach. Day four would be another whole peach (or the equivalent serving) and Day Five would be one and a half peaches. If you can tolerate an oversized portion such as this, after several consecutive days of eating the food, you are very likely able to tolerate it.

Is this a guarantee? Nope. I’m afraid it isn’t. You will always need to be aware of your foods since, as you probably know from your own experiences, food allergies and sensitivities can develop suddenly. A food that was just fine last month might not go at all well today. Be aware and trust your body.

So, with all that in mind, be Food Brave and let’s go eat that!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

More Food for Thought and Healing

We’re coming again to that season. The season of colds, sore throats, stomach bugs and flu. The cooler weather and shorter days send us indoors and the kids are all back in school. We spend more time closer to more people so it is inevitable that we share more germs. Yay. If you are prone to allergies, you may find you are also more susceptible to the various illnesses making the rounds. That being the case, I thought it might be worth our while to spend a bit of time on the healing foods. Don’t worry, though. I’ll still have some fun recipes to mix in. I’ll just add some information about foods that can enhance your health.

Last time, it was peppermint. Great stuff, right? Headaches, stuffy noses, even stomach discomfort. This time, we’ll talk about something that is equally terrific – ginger. Obviously, if you are allergic to ginger, it won’t be terrific for you. Exercise your good judgement, of course.

Perhaps the most commonly known use of ginger aside from its obvious use in recipes is to soothe and upset stomach. A bit of ginger ale (let the fizz go just a little flat) or a cup of ginger tea can do wonders for a queasy stomach. Did you know that ginger can also help ease the aches of arthritis and even reduce the pain of ulcerative colitis? Ginger has anti-inflammatory properties that can be very beneficial for these conditions. Wonderful, isn’t it? Natural and soothing.

Studies are being conducted to determine if ginger has even farther reaching benefits. While it is too early to say for certain, it seems possible that ginger may be able to help reduce cholesterol levels and reduce blood clotting. Still other studies are examining components in ginger that may have anticancer properties. For more on this, have a look at the article on the University of Maryland Medical Center’s site. You might also like to have a look at these sites. and

Ginger is available in tea bags, tinctures, extracts and oils in addition to the fresh ginger in the produce section and powdered ginger in the spice aisle. However, as with any supplement or herbal remedy, caution should be used. Do you take blood thinners or have a bleeding disorder? If so, be very sure to talk to your doctor before adding ginger as a therapeutic treatment. If you suffer gall stones, ginger might not be for you, either. Again, be sure to consult your doctor. Ginger in larger amounts can cause some heart burn. If so, you might do better to try your ginger in capsule form. Ginger can also interact with some prescription medications. Once more, I’m going to remind you to consult your doctor before you start add ginger to your daily regimen.

Given the remarkable possibilities of ginger, it is worth that talk with your doctor. It is worth trying that cup of tea or that extra glass of ginger ale, don’t you think? Certainly, it is worth keeping on hand for those inevitable upset stomachs. Of course, we can always enjoy ginger’s wonderful flavor in our recipes.

So, let’s go eat that!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

When Foods Can Soothe, Calm and Heal

Living with food allergies and sensitivities is, first of all, learning what you should not eat. After that, you begin to learn not just what you can eat but also what foods can be more than just nutrition. You get to know foods that can soothe, assist, boost and otherwise enhance your body and your overall well-being.
Is this unique to people with special diets? Nope. But I think it is safe to say that those of us who pay more attention to our diets tend to be more aware of the ‘beyond-eating’ aspects of food. So, just as I occasionally address what it is about a food that can be a problem for a person, I think it is worthwhile to take a look at foods that have more to offer than a full stomach.

To that end, today we’ll look at peppermint. This is probably familiar to most of us but did you know that the study of peppermint has gone beyond things our grandmothers told us or what our neighbor’s aunt used to say? Let me give you a couple of links. First, have a look at the University of Maryland Medical Center site and what they have to say about peppermint. Also, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine has weighed in.

Reading both these sites, it becomes apparent that the most common use for peppermint is to soothe the stomach and aid digestion. I can attest to the efficacy of this. Feeling a little queasy after a big, beautiful meal? Say hello to an after dinner mint. Personally, I prefer something a bit stronger and, if possible, sugar free. However, the important part is the cooling, soothing sensation of the peppermint. However, I can also attest to the potential for acid reflux. Overdoing the peppermint can certainly be a problem and if you have GERD, be sure you ALWAYS FOLLOW YOUR DOCTOR’S DIRECTIONS with regard to peppermint. Of course, this is always the case, no matter what your situation. I have never tried enteric peppermint but I’d be very interested in hearing your experiences. Anyone have any light they can shed on this? Let’s hear from you.

Peppermint for headaches is a winner, too. Definitely. The cooling sensation on the skin when applied topically, is wonderful. The scent is calming and a big help when trying to ease tension, whether it is causing the headache or brought on by it. Again, a nice cup of peppermint tea can provide real relief.

So, do you turn to peppermint to calm, soothe or relieve? Tell us about it. How do you use it? How does it work for you?

Of course, for those of us with allergies, some caution should be exercised when trying out a food for it’s medicinal benefits. Proceed with caution and gradually. In fact, I think I see the subject of the next entry here. Next time we’ll talk about the right way to introduce a new food into the diet of a person with food allergies or sensitivities.

Until then, let’s go eat that!