Thursday, July 31, 2008

Chocolate Chip Soda Bread (dairy free, chocolate free options)

I bet you thought I forgot about the soda bread, didn’t you? Well, I most certainly did not.

I wanted something that was more dessert-like but still a bread. Since yeast is right out for me, I turned to a traditional Irish Soda Bread recipe and went from there. I used some whole wheat flour for flavor and texture and almond milk for flavor as well. I added chocolate chips but dried fruits will work, too.

Let’s break it down. Start by preheating your oven to 375 degrees.

You’ll need:

· 2 C all purpose flour
· 2 C whole wheat flour
· 1 T baking soda
· 2 T sugar (I haven’t had a lot of luck using sucralose for this but you might do better with saccharine)
· 2 tsp salt
· 1 T butter or margarine
· 1 ½ - 2 C milk or dairy alternative such as soy, rice or almond milk (you’ll start with 1 ½ C and if you need more you’ll go as high as 2 C)
· 6 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips (You may use carob or dried fruits such as cherries, cranberries or raisins if you prefer)

Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Make a sort of well in the center and add 1 1/2 cups of the milk and the butter. I like to have the butter softened for this. Not melted, but soft. Mix lightly and quickly with a fork. You are looking for a dough that is soft but not too sticky. If you need to add more milk, you can add up to half cup additional milk until the texture of the dough is right. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Turn the dough out onto a floured board (Don’t have a board? Use your counter or table.) and knead for about one minute.
Place the dough onto a cookie sheet (I like to line mine with parchment paper or a silpat) and shape into a circle about 1 ½ “ thick and score a cross into the top.

Bake for 40 – 45 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Be sure to brush the top and sides with butter or margarine while it is still warm to keep the crust from getting hard.

That’s it! It’s simple and not nearly as time consuming as it sounds. It makes a very nice snack bread or even a breakfast bread. While I don’t recommend putting slices in your toaster, putting a couple slices under the broiler would be nice. Then, served with just a bit of butter or margarine and possibly some honey, you’d have one really great snack.

So, let’s go eat that!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Finding Alternative Uses for Ingredients

In the spirit of making the most of the food we eat, I think it is a good idea to make our food multipurpose whenever possible. What do I mean by that? I mean, as often as you can, find some way to use a food or an ingredient beyond what might have been intended or what is common.

Let me give you an example. If you are fond of oatmeal, Cream of Wheat, cornmeal mush or some other hot cereal for breakfast, you probably already know now much the flavor and texture benefit from adding a bit of cream or milk. Nothing can turn oatmeal into a rich, decadent treat like a nice dollop of whipped cream.

Of course, if you are lactose intolerant or allergic to dairy, this isn’t such a grand idea, is it? Or is it? You know, you can still have your creamy oatmeal. Obviously, a dollop of non-dairy whipped topping can drop right into your bowl and you’re good to go. However, if you’d rather add the cream or milk into the cereal, why not try some non-dairy creamer (whichever type you like best)? Most kinds are available in at least a few flavors and that’s fun, too. Good in your coffee (Try it in tea if you like your tea with milk. If you’re a tea expert, please don’t be angry. I really mean no insult to the tea and I’m just looking for an alternative.) and good in your oatmeal.

Another example is what I did with the ribs the other evening. I’m allergic to tomatoes so barbeque sauce is sadly right off my list. Furthermore, my husband has found that the sugar in most sauces is too much for him due to his diabetes. Now, that might make you think that there really isn’t a lot of point in trying for ribs anymore, right? Nope. We just looked for an alternative and found…

Salad dressing.

Yep, the same Greek salad dressing I used in our pouch dinners not so long ago made a great marinade and grilling sauce for our ribs. The ribs were full of flavor and totally without any ingredient that could offend my immune system or his pancreas. Perfect!

So, my challenge to you is to examine your refrigerator and your pantry shelves. What do you have that can be used in some other way? How can you get your food to do double or even triple duty and increase the variety in your diet?

Find it, tell us about it and let’s go eat that!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Creamy Almond Onion Soup (dairy free)

I want to begin with some overdue kudos, if I may. Recently, Corrine of "A Gourmet Love Affair" ( gifted me with the lovely honor of a "You Make My Day" award. How exciting and flattering! In the spirit of this award, I'm passing it on to some other food bloggers whose blogs are filled with good information, great recipes and are run by all-around good folks.

"Peanut Butter and Julie" (
"Life After Gluten" (
"Play With Food" (
"Fishmonger Ran" (

Go check out their blogs and see why they make my day!

Now, how about that soup?

Ordinarily, I would associate a steaming bowl of onion soup with a very cold day. However, my local grocery store had some really beautiful sweet onions the other day and that changed my mind about it. After all, who am I to turn down good sweet onions when they beckon that way?

However, I didn’t really want the usual French Onion soup with the cheese and all. Though I do make it from time to time, I admit, it is never all that much fun for me. My husband and son love it but since I need to use soy cheese and I haven’t yet found a suitable substitute for the yeast-risen bread, it just isn’t the same dish for me and, sadly, I’m not wild about the alternative results. This time, I set out to do something a little different and I must say, I was pleased with the results.

Here’s what you’ll need to make soup for four or five:

· 2 large sweet onions
· 2 – 3 T margarine or butter
· 1 tsp salt
· 24 oz chicken stock or broth (you may use beef or vegetable instead, if you prefer)
· Standard White Sauce – for this, you’ll need 2 T margarine or butter, 2 T flour (you may use an equivalent amount of cornstarch, rice starch or quick-cooking tapioca if you want to avoid wheat flour), 1 ½ C plain almond milk (you can use regular milk or another substitute but you’ll lose the almond part of this dish), dash of ground black pepper, 1 tsp celery seed, salt to taste
· Parsley and/or slivered almonds for garnish

Cut the tops and roots from your onions and halve them. Slice them about ¼ “ thick.

In a large stock pot, melt the margarine or butter and add the onion and salt. Allow the onions to cook over medium high heat, stirring occasionally. You want to get a light golden color and a bit of caramelization. There will be a bit of a crust on the bottom of the pot but we’ll get that in the next step.

Once the onions have caramelized a bit (but don’t burn them), reduce the heat to medium low and add the broth. Stir well and scrape the crust from the bottom of the pan. You really don’t want to lose the flavor there. Cover and allow this to simmer for about a half hour, stirring occasionally, until the onions a very soft.

In the meantime, you’ll need to make a standard white sauce. To do this, melt 2 T butter or margarine in a saucepan over medium heat. Add in 2 T flour (or alternative), celery seed and pepper and stir until smooth. You will smell a light toasted smell but careful not to burn this. Add the almond milk all at once. Stir until smooth and simmer until thickened and bubbly. This will need nearly constant stirring so don’t walk away. Your onions and broth are largely taking care of themselves now so you’ll have time to do this. Taste once you have added the milk and add a bit of salt if needed. Once the white sauce is ready, turn off the heat and keep stirring until it has stopped bubbling. If you aren’t ready to add it to the soup right away, stir it occasionally to keep it from forming a skin.

When the onions are very soft, slowly add the white sauce, stirring constantly. The soup is ready! Garnish with fresh snipped parsley and/or slivered almonds.

If you like thicker, creamier soup, you can either cut the onion and broth part of the recipe in half or double the white sauce recipe. It depends on how much soup you want to make. For smoother texture, you can run the onions and broth in the blender before adding the white sauce. Personally, I prefer the texture of the onion pieces but it will taste great either way. This soup is very nice on its own but is also good served with nice crusty bread or rolls.

Let’s go eat that!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Almost Asian Stew

Okay, this isn’t precisely Asian and it isn’t exactly stew, but once you actually sit down with a bowl of it, I think you’ll see my reasoning behind the name. I'd have a picture for you but the last time I made this for the family, we dug right in and ate it before we remembered anything about taking a picture. I'll have to remember next time around.

This is another dish that is very flexible and simple to adapt to a variety of tastes and specific diets. You’ll be steaming vegetables for this and if you don’t have a steamer or one for your microwave, don’t fret. A regular microwavable cereal bowl and some plastic wrap to cover it will work just fine.

So, here’s what you’ll need for dinner for about four people:

· 1 – 1 ½ lbs. stew meat (I like beef but pork could be used) or boneless, skinless chicken breast cut in 1” cubes
· 8 oz beef or chicken broth (or stock or bouillon equivalent)
· 3 T low-sodium soy sauce
· 1 clove garlic, minced
· ¼ - ½ C each – broccoli flowerets, red bell pepper, yellow bell pepper, carrots, celery, green onion, snow pea pods
· 1 package chow mein noodles
· Toasted sesame seeds to garnish

In a skillet (at least 12” with a lid), brown the meat. If your skillet is not non-stick, you may need just a little oil but don’t use much. You’ll keep cooking in that same skillet so a bit of sticking is fine but a lot of oil is not and won’t make for a nice broth later.

Once the meat is lightly browned, add the broth and one cup of water. Drop the cooking temperature to low. Add the soy sauce and garlic. Cover and let the meat simmer for an hour. Check every 15 – 20 minutes and add water if your liquid seems to be cooking away. Add the green onions in the last 20 minutes or so.

Prepare your vegetables by cutting them into roughly ¾” – 1” pieces. I like to cut the carrots and celery on the bias because it looks nice. Carrot slices should be no more than ½” thick or they will take too long to cook.

If all the diners are able to eat all the vegetables, steam them in one bowl in your microwave. If you’re using a bowl and plastic wrap instead of a steamer, leave the plastic open along one side an inch or so to vent. This should take 3 -4 minutes on high power. You want the vegetables soft-ish but they should still have just a bit of snap. I guess you’d call it al dente. If not everyone can eat all the vegetables, steam them in separate bowls and everyone can add just the vegetables they want to their own bowl of stew when the time comes.

Cook the noodles according to package directions.

Dish up a serving of noodles into a soup bowl and ladle some meat and broth over them. Add some of the vegetables and toss lightly. You can sprinkle toasted sesame seeds over the top before serving.

Ready for the variations?

You can use any fresh vegetable you like in this. A handful of shredded cabbage (uncooked), added in just before serving, gives some nice texture. Cauliflower would be a good addition, too. If you like ginger, you could add ½ - 1 tsp when you add the broth to the meat. It isn’t required and goes with personal taste.

This could be made with seafood though you wouldn’t want to simmer it so long, of course. If you try fish or seafood, go with a vegetable broth.

If you are fresh out of chow mein noodles, go ahead and use spaghetti. I’ll never tell. If noodles don’t really get you excited, you can serve this over cooked brown rice, instead.

If you’d like a gravy rather than a broth, you can add a tablespoon of flour, cornstarch or tapioca to the cooking liquid in the last 15 minutes of cooking, stirring constantly to avoid lumps.

To help streamline this dish and avoid a lot of messing about in the kitchen after a long day, the vegetables can be cut and made ready for cooking in advance. The cooking isn’t really labor intensive, though you will still need to allow enough time for the meat to simmer and become tender.

Now I’m hungry. So, let’s go eat that!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Mint Chocolate Pesto (non-dairy and no sugar options)

There is nothing secret about my sincere affection for chocolate. I am a confirmed chocophile. Unfortunately, much of the chocolate that is prepared and ready to eat as is contains milk or milk products. Not cool if you have a dairy allergy or a sensitivity to dairy. So, what is an allergic chocophile to do? Try this nifty little desert pesto.

Here’s how it goes. You’ll need:

· 1 square unsweetened baking chocolate (or equivalent amount of carob)
· Scant ¼ C blanched, unsalted almond pieces
· 1 T sugar (or substitute)
· 2 C whole mint leaves
· 1/8 C canola oil (or other light oil, NOT olive)

As you may have noticed, this is a variation of a standard pesto recipe. Of course, we’re substituting mint for basil and chocolate for garlic but the basic concept is the same. So, here we go.

Put all ingredients into your food processor. You can use a blender for this but I find it is easier to work with the processor. Either way, it will work just fine. Mix until the chocolate and mint is fairly smooth. The almonds will still be chunky but that’s alright. If you want a really smooth spread, go ahead and puree until the almonds are completely broken. Personally, I like the texture.

This is best served chilled though it can be eaten right away. I like to serve this with plain croissants or, as in the picture, whole wheat tortillas I’ve cut into pieces and fried crisp. To make the tortilla chips, heat canola or other light oil in your skillet (about ¼” deep) , cut the tortillas into eight pie wedges and lightly fry them golden brown. They are really good served warm with the chilled chocolate mint pesto.

As you could see in the ingredients list, there are a couple substitutions possible. You can substitute carob or artificial chocolate for the baking chocolate. However, if your alternative is sweetened, omit the tablespoon of sugar. If almonds are a problem, try walnuts, pecans, peanuts or hazelnuts. You could omit the nuts entirely and have a much smoother spread. If wheat is a problem for you, try this spread on rice crackers or cakes.

This can be made the day before which is a nice option when you’re planning a party. The recipe above makes about ½ cup but it is easily doubled.

Next time you’re in the mood for a little something chocolate, let’s go eat that!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Not-Just-Camp-Cooking Pouch Dinners

If you’ve ever done any camping, you almost certainly wrapped some meat and a few vegetables in foil and cooked them in the coals of your fire. It’s a common and simple campfire cookout. But it’s much more than that, really. It is an enormously adaptable dinner that can be easily assembled for a variety of dietary considerations. With a bit of creativity, you can really elevate this meal from its humble campout status to something pretty special.

We’ll start with the way I made it for dinner last night and talk about the many variations from there. To do it the way I did, you’ll need:

· ½ lb lean beef, cubed - I like to use stir fry or chop suey beef since it is already trimmed and cut quite small for quick cooking.
· Red-skinned potatoes – approximately one per person
· Carrots, bell peppers, green beans, celery, onion, broccoli flowerets
· Greek salad dressing

First, I sliced the potatoes (though I did not peel them) fairly thin. You want to keep vegetable pieces reasonably small and thin to reduce cooking time. I also cut the other vegetables into roughly 1” pieces.

Once my vegetables were ready, I laid out pieces of foil. The pieces should be about 18” long so you’ll have room to fold it tightly over the food. Once the foil was ready, I began assembling. I like to lay out the potato slices first. This gives the packet a firm base and puts the potatoes in closer contact with the heat for faster cooking. Once I had a good layer of potato slices in the center of the foil (laid out in a rectangle allowing plenty of room on all sides for folding up later), I added my carrot slices, beef pieces, onion pieces, green beans, bell pepper pieces and broccoli flowerets. You’ll notice I put the vegetables I don’t want to overcook on top.

Over all this, I poured 2 – 3 T Greek salad dressing (this was a bottled dressing from the grocery but you can make your own) and carefully folded the foil. I like to ‘lock’ the foil together by folding two sides together and rolling it down to the food and then closing either end.

Since I was making three pouches and each needed different ingredients, I marked the pouches with toothpicks poked through the foil. My son’s pouch had no meat but more green beans, as is his preference. My husband’s had some of everything but only a few potato slices since starchy foods are not so good for diabetics. Mine had meat and only those vegetables to which I was not allergic.

Once the pouches were ready, I placed them on the grill which I had at about medium to medium high heat. Every grill adjusts differently so get yours going accordingly. Do close the grill’s lid to keep your heat in. These pouches cooked for about an hour. You can carefully undo the foil to check for doneness and rewrap them to continue cooking. Just work carefully and use your tongs. We like our vegetables to be a bit ‘al dente’ so an hour was fine. If you like yours softer, you’ll want to leave them on the grill longer. The cooking time can be reduced if you steam your vegetables in the microwave for two or three minutes before adding them to the pouches. However, this will change the flavor slightly. Not a bad thing but it will be different.

Now for the variations. You can add any vegetables you like to these pouches. You can even add some of your favorite fruits. Instead of beef, you can substitute chicken, pork or turkey. Ground meat can be used to make a patty instead of cubed meat. Just make sure you check the temperature of your meat to insure doneness. The salad dressing is not required and you can just salt and pepper the food and allow it to cook in its own juices. You can also use a different dressing (though creamy dressings aren’t really the thing for this meal) or add some other liquid. Wine, vinegar or fruit juice would work well.

At this time of year, I like to cook these on the grill to avoid all the extra heat in the house. However, these can certainly be cooked indoors in your regular oven (at about 375 degrees F) or in a toaster oven.

The really lovely part is that everyone can have just what they like and it doesn’t require a lot of additional preparation. Kids love to put their own pouches together with the vegetables they like best. If you are concerned about the amount of foil you’re using and would like to conserve a bit, you can make this meal in a covered pan. However, this really works best when everyone eating can share the same ingredients. Otherwise, plan to use separate small pans.

With as many variations as you can dream up, this simple form of campout cooking can become a staple meal in your household. It can be dinner for one or for a crowd with minor adjustments and leftovers reheat well the next day.

So, let’s go eat that!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Fried Tofu Sticks

Having established that soy protein is a good option to replace some of the higher fat proteins we tend to eat, it seemed only right that I offer you a tofu recipe right away, yeah? How about some fried tofu?

In the past, when someone said ‘tofu’ we’d automatically think of pale, gelatinous cubes scattered among our otherwise innocent salad greens. It wasn’t all that appetizing to many. The texture was squishy and the flavor was largely non-existent. Fortunately, tofu has become more mainstream and we are more accustomed to seeing it in stir fry and casseroles. Still, for lots of people, tofu’s rubbery texture is off-putting and doesn’t really inspire us to try it in new and different ways.

Alton Brown of the Food Network did a great show on tofu and I wish I could remember all his clever tricks and recipes. However, I can recommend his cookbooks as being entertaining and informative. I do remember that he talked about marinating the tofu to give it flavor before frying it or using it in other recipes. It’s a smart idea and one I’ve used here. Here’s how it goes:

You’ll need:
· Extra firm tofu – The grocery store near me carries Mori-Nu tofu in shelf-stable packages of 12.3 oz each but whichever brand and package size you find will be fine.
· 1 C orange juice
· ¼ - ½ cup rice wine – seasoned or not, your choice
· 1 tsp each – garlic powder, onion powder, celery seed, celery salt
· 12” skillet – non-stick is not necessary
· Oil – you can choose whatever type you like best – enough to be about ¼” deep in your skillet
· All-purpose flour – about 1 C for dredging
· Salt and pepper to taste

To make the marinade, mix together the orange juice, vinegar, garlic, onion, celery seed and celery salt in a container with a tight-fitting lid. It is best if this is wider than it is tall since it makes it easier to get the tofu in and out and maximizes its contact with your marinade.

Drain the tofu and slice it into strips that are about ½ inch thick. Carefully place the strips into your container of marinade. Cover it tightly and place it in the refrigerator for at least two hours. Longer is better and I try to leave it in at least six hours. You could prepare this in the morning before going to work and it would be just right for cooking when you get home in the evening.

When you are ready to cook, heat your oil (I used canola for this since I wanted to really taste the orange) in the skillet on medium to medium-high heat. While the oil is heating, lightly dredge the tofu strips in the flour that you’ve seasoned with the salt and pepper. A regular dinner plate works very well for this. Since the tofu is soft and rather fragile, I suggest you get right in there with your fingers to do the dredging.

Carefully place the strips into the hot oil, a few at a time. Cook until the strips are golden brown, flipping them with a fork. Again, the tofu is a bit fragile so tongs are sort of overkill here. When they are browned on all sides, remove to a plate covered with paper towels to drain and cool. I like these served with honey for dipping.

These strips are best eaten warm since the crisp coating won’t really stay crisp once it is cooled. However, if you don’t mind that, refrigerate the leftovers and have them on a salad for lunch the next day.

Ready for some variations? The marinade is VERY adaptable. Change out the juice, the vinegar and spices for any other flavors you like. You can even use a ready-made vinaigrette dressing. If fruit juice is too sweet for your taste, use more vinegar, a bit of water and some soy or teriyaki sauce. If you do that, consider a sweet and sour sauce for dipping. Try lemon juice, vinegar, garlic and oregano in your marinade and serve Italian dressing for dipping. How about lime juice, vinegar and cilantro and then serve with salsa? Let your imagination go! If you’d like a crisper coating, you can make a batter and deep fry your strips.

The tofu will take on a lovely flavor and though it remains soft, the crisp exterior is a nice contrast. It makes a fun finger food for kids and a funky new appetizer before dinner. Try combinations of flavors that will compliment your dinner courses.

So, now that you know how to serve up a protein-rich soy snack, let’s go eat that!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Soy Facts Versus Soy Hype

So, have you heard? Soy protein will reduce your cholesterol, prevent breast cancer, help you lose weight and, for all we know, it does laundry and windows. The fantastic claims about soy protein seem to be endless. And to think, we’ve been feeding this wonder food to cattle for years. Hunh.

Okay, so how much is real and how much is hype? A bit of reading will help clear this up and I’ll give you some links for you to check out.

Let’s start with the claims about soy isoflavones and lowering cholesterol. According to the Mayo Clinic and WebMd sites, this particular claim about soy is hype. That’s unfortunate because it seemed such an easy answer. However, they qualify this pronouncement. They report the American Heart Association study shows that while there weren’t any cholesterol lowering benefits directly attributable to the soy, substituting soy for proteins with higher saturated fats is a worthwhile part of a heart-healthy diet. Have a look at the article.

So, can soy prevent breast cancer? This one is less clear cut. While it does seem that women who have had, throughout life, a soy-rich diet may be less susceptible to breast cancer, women who have not but have begun taking soy isoflavone supplements experience no particular benefits. In fact, according to an article appearing in Shape Magazine and on the WebMd site, there may even be an increased risk of developing breast cancer in women already considered at risk. Confusing? Just a bit. However, I want you to have a look at the information yourself .

In the end, what does this mean for those of us using soy as a substitute for other proteins and dairy products? In my opinion, it doesn’t need to mean a lot. It seems it is safe to say that soy should be approached in the way we see all foods. Everything in moderation. Substituting soy for some of your higher fat meats from time to time seems like a good idea. Using soy milk and cheeses should be okay in the same way. Of course, you should consult your doctor regarding any possible risks just as you would for any other major dietary change.

Knowing all this about soy protein is great but how do we eat it? There are obvious ways, of course. Aside from the soy milk and cheese we’ve already mentioned, there is the more straightforward source of the bean itself. Edamame is very, very popular in our household. In fact, we have to keep an eye on our son because he can power through a pound of steamed edamame (in the pods) by himself if no one stops him. What about tofu? Many of us are familiar with the rubbery cubes tossed in with the salad greens or when it is mixed in a great stir fry. This is not a food to be underestimated. Tofu is very adaptable to other flavors and a variety of uses. Try it as a substitute for plain yogurt in a dip or a smoothie.

Soy appears in a lot of foods in other ways and if you do have a soy allergy or are cooking for someone who does, you really need to be aware of this. Vegetable oil and shortening is usually soy based and is found in many, many packaged products in your grocery store. Many margarines rely on soy, as well. Again, you need to be very vigilant about reading labels.

I have several tofu recipes I’ll post over time and I am confident there are many more out there. Whenever you come up with a great new use or find a good recipe, I hope you’ll let us in on it.

Until then, let’s go eat that!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Creamy Dill Dressing

For most special diets, the more time you spend in the produce area at the market, the better. Unfortunately, this isn’t the case if you have multiple food allergies or sensitivities. Instead, the array of fruits and vegetables that you shouldn’t have can be a little frustrating.

This, however, is the time when you should remember to make the most of the foods you can have by choosing the freshest available and preparing them in a variety of ways. Mostly, I prefer to eat many fruits and vegetables uncooked. That doesn’t mean there isn’t some preparation involved, though. Salads and slaws are big favorites in our house and all sorts of fruits and vegetables can go into them if you combine them with the right dressings.

For a spinach salad or cabbage slaw, I like a dressing with a bit of a vinegar kick. This is easy when you use a simple vinaigrette. But what about something creamy? If you are avoiding dairy, many of the creamy dressings available are off-limits. Not a problem. Read on and we’ll make a really nice, fresh-tasting creamy dill dressing that is easily adaptable with a non-dairy option and even a no-sugar-added variation.

For about a ½ cup of dressing (which is easily enough to do a cabbage slaw or spinach salad for three or four), here’s what you’ll need:

· 3 T sour cream or non-dairy sour cream substitute
· 2 T apple cider vinegar
· 1 T honey
· 1 T fresh dill

Mix together the sour cream, vinegar and honey until well blended. Gently stir in the dill.

That’s it! The dressing is ready to go immediately but if you can make it up in advance and allow the flavors to mix at least an hour, that’s always a good thing.

Now, how about alternative ingredients? No problem. If dairy isn’t an issue, use regular sour cream. There are several non-dairy sour cream substitutes available if you are avoiding dairy. However, I have yet to find one that did not rely heavily on soy as an ingredient. If you have problems with soy as well as dairy, I’m afraid you will be better off with vinaigrette. Of course, always watch for new products! Soy is a such a common allergen, I am confident someone will come up with a non-dairy alternative before long. For a no-sugar-added option, switch out the honey for whichever sugar substitute you prefer. Be prepared to add a few drops of water if the dressing seems too thick. Of course, you can try a different vinegar for a flavor variation, as well. Also, if dill is on your list of things to avoid, try another fresh herb such as thyme, cilantro or even mint. This will take some experimentation to find the combination you like best but the basic recipe remains the same.

This is a nice baked potato topping, too. The vinegar gives it a bit of a punch over plain sour cream. It is also a nice dipping sauce for veggie sticks (and we all know how kids love to dip their vegetables!) or even crackers and chips.

See how many ways you can use this basic dressing and tell us about it. Let’s go eat that!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

The Soda Bread That Turned Into Cherry-Lime Chutney

Folks, I have a confession to make.

This was supposed to be a post about a really fun chocolate chip variation on Irish soda bread. Unfortunately, when I tested my recipe for the bread, it didn't come out quite the way I had figured. It was fragrant and had a beautiful color. There it sat on my cooling rack, looking like something ready for Food Network. Seriously, this was a lovely loaf of bread. Lovingly, I brushed the crust with margarine while it was still warm. Later, I realized how fortunate it was I hadn't forgotten that step.

You see, when it came time to slice that bread, it showed itself to be, er, very FIRM. Had it not been for the margarine I brushed over it, I'd probably have ruined my bread knife on it. I briefly considered borrowing a band saw because I figured if I could just get it sliced it would probably make very good emergency roofing material.

Undaunted, I reminded myself that I am a Food Brave, creative cook and turned to my fridge and pantry for something else to try. I found some really lovely Bing cherries and a nice lime in the fridge and some almonds on the pantry shelf. I was in business! Cherry-lime chutney was born! Here's how it goes.

For about one cup of chutney, you'll need:

· Fresh cherries - pitted and diced large. About 2/3 of a cup.
· The zest of ¼ - ½ of a lime
· 1 lime, peeled and chopped into pieces
· 1 T chopped almonds, blanched and unsalted
· 1 T sugar
· 10 – 12 mint leaves, minced but not too fine

I cut the cherries into quarters and then cut the quarters into thirds. These were really big cherries so you may want to do yours differently. You’re looking for pieces that are about ¼”.

I zested (lightly rubbed it over a fine grater to remove just the colored bit of the rind) about one quarter to one half of my lime and added that to the cherries. Then, I peeled the lime. I chose to do this with a knife and then, I cut out the sections of the lime from between the whitish skin segments. Personally, that whitish skin is flavor and texture I don’t mind sacrificing. However, if you don’t mind it, you can just peel the lime in the usual way, separate the sections and cut them up. The pieces should be about the same size as your cherries pieces. Add them to the bowl with your cherries and your zest. If there is any lime juice hanging around on your cutting board, get that into the bowl.

Add the almonds and sugar and give it all a good stir. Then, roughly mince the mint leaves (make sure you rinse them clean and pat them dry in a paper towel first) and toss them in, as well.

There! All done. The flavor will be much better if this is covered and allowed to sit in the refrigerator for at least an hour before eating. This chutney is really good with chicken or on a croissant or bisquit.

As always, there are substitutions you can make. If limes are a problem for you or just don’t float your boat, try lemon or grapefruit. Orange is a bit sweeter so if you choose orange, cut back your sugar to ½ - ¾ T. The almonds are optional. You can leave them out or substitute some other nut or seed. Unsalted sunflower seeds would be nice. Do opt for unsalted nuts or seeds, whatever you choose. This recipe can be done with other fruits, too. Choose one that is sweet and tends to be juicy.

As you can see, this recipe isn’t exactly friendly to people needing to avoid sugars. The cherries are pretty sugary in themselves and I’ve added sugar to help draw out the juices. You can try leaving out the sugar which will help. However, do be aware of and follow your doctor’s instructions regarding fruit sugars if you are diabetic.
As for the soda bread, never fear. I think I know which of my alterations to the recipe caused the problem. I'll have another whack at it and when I get it the way I want it, I'll make sure to pass the recipe on to you.
So, until then, let's go eat that!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Allergies Versus Sensitivities and Reading Labels

I hope all of you had a great weekend. For those of you in the U.S., I hope your holiday was a good one. We're all relaxed, refreshed and ready for our weekly routines, right? Um, sure. Well, ready or not, let's go.

So far, I’ve approached food as if we’ve all already identified our allergies, sensitivities and we’ve been advised as to particular dietary needs. However, I have had a few friends ask me about the differences between allergies and sensitivities and what a person should do if they suspect an allergy but don’t know for certain. I’ll address the second part of this question first. Those of you with other types of dietary needs, please bear with me for today while we talk about allergies a bit.


It’s important. If you suspect a food allergy, it is important to get your advice from a qualified health professional. Allergies can be mild and easily managed or they can be severe and deadly. Dangerous anaphylaxis can result from ingesting a food to which you are severely allergic. Thankfully, this is not a common reaction but that doesn’t mean you need to take that risk. Get proper medical evaluation of your situation and follow the advice and instructions your doctor gives you.

Having said that, let’s look at the first part of a question. What is the difference between an allergy and a sensitivity? Briefly, an allergy results in an immune response in which your body produces an excess of immunoglobulin E as a reaction to the presence of something (in this case, a particular food) that would otherwise be benign. In other words, your immune system identifies the food as a dangerous foreign substance instead of nourishment and launches a major and, for you, uncomfortable defense. The excessive reaction is what gives you the hives, swelling, itching and swelling. The swelling can sometimes become quite dangerous, especially if it occurs around the the mouth and nose or in the throat.

A sensitivity may have similar symptoms to a mild allergic reaction but isn’t really an immune response. When you eat something that ‘doesn’t seem to agree with you’, you’ve experienced a sensitivity. This can be quite uncomfortable but not on the same level as an allergy. Have a look at this article ( I found at WebMd online. Again, this DOES NOT replace a visit to your doctor! It does, however, give you a pretty good idea of the difference between allergies and sensitivities and some of the ways in which your doctor may evaluate your situation.

As you probably noticed in the title of this entry, I also wanted to talk a bit about reading labels. I realize this seems like a forehead-slapping subject. I can hear some of you now. “Well, duh. Of course we read labels. What do you take us for? Sheesh.” Well, as simplistic as it seems, I do think it is worth addressing given the number of allergens that can hide in the most unlikely foods. I’ll use one of my allergies as an example.

As I have mentioned before, I am allergic to yeast, both brewer’s and baker’s. The obvious things to avoid, then, are baked goods that rely on yeast to rise. Simple, yeah? Well, not so simple, really. Yes, I do avoid bread and many other baked goods (I admit I sometimes mourn my donut-less existence but since I’ve found a solution that I will mention before I close this entry, I’ll muddle through, somehow). The thing that really surprised me was the myriad of foods that use yeast as a flavoring. Would you expect to find yeast or yeast extract in a can of beef broth? I didn’t but there it was. I was beyond surprised to find the package of bologna which listed yeast as an ingredient. Light, fluffy bologna? Nope, but it’s still in there. So, it is really terribly important that you read the labels on ALL the foods you buy.

Most ingredients lists include a line at the bottom which highlights the presence of known, common allergens. This can be very helpful but, don’t rely on that. If you have any allergies or sensitivities that are less common, your particular Waterloo may still be there, even though it isn’t listed in that special allergen warning.

Of course, there's more to it. Even after you’ve ascertained which foods and brands work with your dietary needs, you can’t just forget about it. Recipes used to prepare these foods can and do change. Remember to check those labels. Most of the time, you’ll be okay but checking only takes a moment and can save you a lot of trouble later.

As often as possible, I'll offer alterantive ingredients for all of the recipes I post so as to accommodate a variety of dietary needs. Unfortunately, there will be some recipes that simply won't work for certain needs. However, I'll do my best to keep a variety of recipes so no one is entirely left out.

Now, to close this entry on a positive note, let me tell you about my alternative donuts. Here’s what you’ll need:

1 tube of refrigerated, ready-to-bake biscuits (check that label! These often contain diary and nearly always contain soy)
Powdered sugar
Skillet (at least 12”)
Canola or other vegetable oil (I DON’T recommend olive oil this time), enough to fill skillet about ¾ “ deep
Thimble or small melon-baller

Get your skillet and oil ready on medium heat (you’ll probably have to adjust this as you go but this is a good place to start).

Separate the biscuits and make a hole in the center with the thimble or melon-baller. Save your ‘donut holes’ to cook with the donuts.

CAREFULLY place the donuts and holes, a few at a time, into the hot oil. Don’t overload your skillet as this will drop the temperature of the oil and cause the donuts to be oily. Also, you want plenty of room to flip your donuts without risking splashing that hot oil around.

When the donuts are golden, flip with a fork and allow the other side to cook. This can happen very quickly so DON’T leave these.

When fully cooked, remove the donuts to a rack or plate lined with paper towel and sprinkle with powdered sugar. Let them cool a bit and eat warm. These are still quite nice at room temperature but I think they have a nicer flavor while warm. You can mix up a glaze or frosting with powdered sugar and milk (or diary substitute), as well.

These donuts are a great to make with kids because they are quick and the kids can handle the thimble to make the holes and the powdered sugar or glaze. Children SHOULD NOT handle the skillet full of hot oil, however. Please take over the cooking process, yourself.

I think that’s all for today so, until next time, let’s go eat that!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Cool Mint Smoothie (dairy and non-dairy)

We’re coming up on July 4th and everyone is looking for some new recipe to show off to friends and family. Of course, if the recipe doesn’t require cooking, that’s a big bonus because it is just too hot to deal with hot ovens and so forth, right? Goodness knows, I’m a big fan of cold dishes this time of year. After all, today’s forecast high for my neck of the woods is 113 degrees F. Yikes!

Fortunately, I’ve come up with a very cooling, satisfying mint smoothie for a day just like this. It’s simple, goes together in minutes and feels WONDERFUL on a hot day. Want to try it? Here’s what you’ll need:

Just a quick note - I used soy products here but if dairy is okay for you, simply use regular vanilla yogurt and lowfat milk.

· 1 cup plain soy milk
· 1 6 oz. container of vanilla soy yogurt
· 4 T honey
· 1 tsp vanilla
· 1 tsp peppermint or spearmint extract
· 6 (or more if you desire) fresh mint leaves – optional
· 1 – 1 ½ cups ice cubes

Wash the mint leaves and pat them dry. Mince fine. Add all ingredients to your blender, beginning with liquid ingredients first and adding the ice last. Puree until ice is entirely crushed. Serve with a mint sprig for garnish.

This makes two rather large smoothies or four small ones. The mint is particularly refreshing on a hot day and the sugar is kept to a minimum. However, if you’re needing to avoid the sugar, use sugar-free yogurt and a sugar substitute in place of the honey. Yes, the flavor will be slightly different but that’s not really a bad thing, just different. No big deal.

"Hey, I Can Eat That" will be on a brief break for the long weekend but I'll see you all back here on Monday, July 7th. Until then, have fun, eat well, keep cool and let’s go eat that!