Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Gluten Free Lower-Your-Cholesterol Cookies

My husband turned 40 this year and went in for his 10-year checkup with the doctor. Apparently men can get by without the "yearly" exam most of us women are privileged to have. Amazingly, he's pretty healthy, except one small glitch. He has high "bad" cholesterol. So he came home and told me his doctor told him to change his diet a little bit and he should be just fine. I kind of thought that 8 years ago when he told me he ate out for lunch with buddies from work every day at places like Astro Burger, McDonald's, Pizza Hut, and Arby's. Duh.

Of course first we turned to the internet to find out what foods are low in cholesterol and if there are any that can actually lower cholesterol. We discovered that soluble fiber (oatmeal, raw fruit, vegetables, and beans) are good for lowering those numbers as well as fish, nuts, and olive oil. My mom's dietician actually told her that olive oil literally pushes the fat out of your arteries. You will probably be seeing quite a few recipes with olive oil coming soon. What does this have to do with a gluten free diet? Not a whole lot, I'm just using my soapbox to complain about having to throw another food issue into my meal planning. Gone are the days of cooking with sour cream (I've started using Fage plain greek yogurt instead) and hamburger. At least until the doctor says it's okay.I decided to pull out my new favorite bible, Ina Garten's Back to Basics cookbook and look for some ideas on cooking with some of these heart-healthy ingredients. I highly recommend it, not only for the recipes, but she has all kinds of tips sprinkled throughout the book about things like setting a table, flower arranging, and what kitchen tools you should have. Ina has a great sense of style and knows how to put flavors together for maximum effect. And the photography is fantastic. I've never seen roast chicken look so good. It's not a health food cookbook by any means, but she makes easy, simple recipes look so delicious that I always turn to it for inspiration. Ina has a recipe for Raisin Pecan Oatmeal Cookies that intrigued me. I happen to love oatmeal cookies and I thought I could make a version of these that had little if any fat and also make them gluten free. If I had had egg beaters in my fridge I may have used those, but I haven't ever baked with them before and I didn't want to fail just in case they're not great for baking. I have issues.

Gluten Free Raisin Pecan Oatmeal Cookies
adapted from Ina Garten's Back to Basics cookbook

1 1/3 cups pecans
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups Grandpa's Kitchen or King Arthur Gluten Free flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp kosher salt
3 cups gluten free oats (Auguson Farms)
1 1/2 cups raisins, regular or golden

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the pecans on a sheet pan and bake for 5 minutes until toasted. Cool, chop coarsely.
In electric mixer, beat applesauce, brown sugar, and white sugar. Beat until combined. Add eggs one at a time, then add vanilla.
Sift flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt into a bowl. Slowly add to the sugar mixture until well combined. Add oats, pecans, and raisins and mix till combined.
Using a mini-ice-cream-scoop (2T) drop mounds of dough onto sheet pans lined with a silpat or parchment paper. Flatten slightly with a damp hand. (Don't skip this step...the cookies will stay in their scooped shape if you don't.) Bake 12-15 minutes, until lightly browned. Transfer to a baking rack and cool completely. Store in an airtight container.Needless to say, as with all of my recipes, I ate more of these than Jeff did. He didn't say he didn't like them, I think he just forgot they were there for him. They were really good when they were fresh out of the oven, and they were also really good for breakfast. Yes, I did eat cookies for breakfast, but I figured they have so many healthy things in them that it wouldn't hurt! I think my cholesterol will be lower than his when he gets it checked next. What do you think?

Happy eating!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A Gluten Free Emergency...Kit: The Backpack Method

The other day I was reminded by the gals at How Does She? that my 72-hour kits needed some attention. And after the events in Japan a few weeks ago I must admit surviving a disaster has been at the top of my list of to-do items. This is a great post about how Missy organizes her family's 72-hour emergency supplies, which is pretty much the exact same way I have organized mine over the last few years. She has better pictures and more in-depth explanations than I do, but I won't be jealous or even a little bitter about it if it helps even one person out. (If you haven't ever heard of the backpack method, take a minute to read this post, it will answer a lot of questions you may have.) A friend of mine told me she had heard someone speak about this and then shared the information with me. I wish I knew who came up with this system, because it's genius and I want to give them credit. Suffice it to say I did not invent this idea. But I love it nonetheless.

Here's the basic idea: group like items together and take up as little space as possible while making sure everything stays dry. The important thing to remember while you're putting one of these together is EMERGENCY pack. It's not gourmet camping pack or even staying at grandma's pack. It's what will keep me ALIVE until I can get to a shelter with water, heat, and food. It's the bare essentials in case of disaster. When I pulled the packs (old backpacks, a couple of $5 WalMart scores) out of the garage to rotate the emergency food, I realized that one of the most difficult tasks I have undertaken is to have emergency food set aside that is gluten free. I know without a doubt that if, heaven forbid, I am ever involved in a disaster with my family the last thing I will want to do is have diarrhea amongst the rubble because I've had to eat wheat.In my pack (keep in mind I am the adult and I have a few more things than my kids do) I have a grocery bag with clothes (sweat pants, sweatshirt, socks, hat, gloves, underwear) that I could wear if it was cold or warm, cutting off the sleeves and legs of the sweats if need be. I have an emergency item ziploc bag (yes, it all fits!) with bug bite cream, waterproof matches, hot hands, toothpaste, toothbrush, sunscreen, tylenol, band-aids, pen with tape that I could write on, neosporin and a pocketknife. My kids packs have most of the same things I have, including wet wipes and a whistle in case they get lost. They don't have the medicines, though.
I have a few other things in the front pocket and side pockets: emergency candles, flashlight and extra batteries, first aid kit, two silver blankets (thermal? solar? I'm not sure which.), more hot hands, a poncho, water cleaning drops, and some cash. I also have a bigger pack of wipes, since I'm sure I'll be wiping more people off than anyone else. I have some diversions, and my kids have some fun things for them to do in their packs as well as a waterproof poncho. Which reminded me that my pack didn't have a poncho...I'm not sure where my poncho ended up, but I guess I'll have to get another one.
I have three day's survival food for each person in a large ziploc bag, and each meal is contained in its own ziploc bag. Things like hot chocolate mix, hot cider mix, kool aid packs, granola bars, trail mix, nuts, and vienna sausages. (Why vienna sausages, you ask? They are cheap, have a long shelf life, and small.) In years past I have put Zone Fudge Graham bars in my packs, and you can get them at Costco for about 75 cents each. But they don't last long, and need to be replaced in 6 months' time. This year I added some small cans of Spam for one of the days for everyone. The goal is protein and calories, and as long a shelf life as you can find. Everybody gets three hard candies and three sticks of gum. I have five water bottles, and each of my five children has three, because they can't carry any more than that. That's a nice spot on my carpet, by the way.

This is where it gets tricky. After six years of rotating out hard granola bars and expired food, I'm seriously thinking of buying some MREs so that I only have to worry about the food every five years. It's probably cheaper, now that I think about it. But still, I thought, what if I can't find one that I can use? I love these two options from Costco, because the fruit has a two year shelf life and the trail mix at least has M&Ms for fun, but they don't last as long as I thought they would (only about 6 months). I found these at WalMart last night. They last a little longer (about a year) and I would for sure eat all three of these foods. Jack Links beef sticks (this could be questionable, but I checked the label twice and couldn't see anything wheat-related. If anything, I'll carry it for everyone else to eat.), dried cranberries (for vitamin C, fiber, and flavor) and Nature Valley has just come out with an Almond Crunch bar that is gluten free. And there's always this if you want protein and calories. (I have a small peanut butter in my pack also.) My husband's pack has a package of beef jerky that everybody else can eat. I've also got the cups and spoons and some boullion cubes for added meal options. These are also questionable, but I know there are some gluten free varieties out there, I just didn't have any on hand when I made up the packs. These are actually probably due to be thrown away so that will give me an excuse to buy some.

So I did some research to answer my burning question: is there actually an emergency food option that is gluten free? Emergency Essentials actually has two or three that would work for my backpack: Vegetarian Chili, (the nutrition information lists Textured Vegetable Protein, which I have always heard is gluten, but the label only says soy.) Southwestern Style Chicken with Black Beans, (the best option, I think: nothing questionable on ingredients) a Chocolate Shake, and refried beans. Emergency Essentials has all kinds of preparedness items if you are interested in ordering something.

I hope that has jogged your memory into thinking about emergency preparedness, and some of these gluten free options aren't ideal, but they will keep me alive until I can get back to my Namaste spice cake mix and Frosted Corn Flakes.

Happy packing!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Inspiration from Jamie

I'm still going on about my Whole Foods finds. I know you're probably wondering how much money I spent there on all of these things. Honestly, I don't even know. It's one of my weaknesses, shopping. And I must admit that as a gluten free eater sometimes when I see a food option I just buy it, no questions asked. You never know when you're going to find your new favorite product because you were willing to try it out for $6.

This find isn't necessarily a food find, but it's just about as good. As I said last week, I was in Whole Foods looking for inspiration. Wandering up and down the aisles is usually what gets the juices flowing for me, but while I was in the checkout line I spied this:A copy of Jamie magazine, UK edition. Jamie Oliver, in case you live in a cave and don't ever watch TV, is an English chef who is all about fresh ingredients and local cuisine. He hosts a show called Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution where he goes and tries to help American communities eat healthier. And he makes food look amazing. So talented and knowledgeable, this guy is. I have never actually seen a physical copy of this magazine, ever. I hope that means I don't get out much, but being somewhat of an Anglophile and a foodie, I grabbed it just to see what the food forecast is like across the Atlantic. First and foremost, this is truly a British publication. All of the ads are for UK products, most of which I've never heard of, but some were welcome reminders of old friends. (My favorite cheese, right there in print!)The paper it's printed on is even different. It's a matte finish rather than glossy and a little bit thicker than regular magazine stock. It has beautiful photography and very British recipes. For example, you could learn how to make fish pie (sounds gross to me, but I'm a fish hater...apparently it's a very traditional British dish), damson, pear and walnut muffins (what's a damson, you ask? I think something like a plum, but I'm not even sure about that), cassoulet, or Oxtail stew. One thing that caught my eye were these buckwheat crepes with poached pear and apple cider. They looked like a recipe that I could easily make gluten free, and I'm always looking for ways to use buckwheat that are delicious. (I have failed several times with buckwheat, that's why it's on my radar.)

I'll be honest and say not all of these recipes are ones I would ever make. But that's not the point. The point is that sometimes you need to think about food in a different way than you always think about it when you get bored with what you're eating. Sometimes imagining yourself in another country through the pages of a magazine are just the trick. And sometimes it's just plain fun to read a beautiful magazine that's all about a local cuisine and peek into another culture. Thanks for the trip, Jamie!

Happy eating!

Sunday, April 17, 2011

If Corn Comes in Colors, Does It Pop In Color, Too?

Back to business this week. The huge elementary school event is over, and now I can fully focus on food. Which is, of course, my favorite thing to focus on. I have yet another discovery I made at Whole Foods the other day. I saw this bulk package of what looks like Indian Corn popcorn, and I thought my kids would get a kick out of it. I was assuming that even though the kernels were different colors they would all pop up sort of the same color. I've been wrong before, and I was wrong again. Not only do they pop up different shades of yellow and white, they also have a subtle taste difference as well. One is a little more sweet, one is more of a true corn flavor, and one is lighter and fluffier. My kids and I were eagerly watching the air popper to see if they would all come out the same. It was a super fun treat to eat "colored" popcorn together.And here's a little confession of mine: I actually like plain popcorn better than buttery, salty popcorn. I think it's a leftover from childhood, when I would make myself popcorn and be too hungry for it that I wouldn't take the time to melt butter for it. I can eat way more plain popcorn that buttery popcorn, too. Which may not be a good thing, but when I'm in one of those moods to just mindlessly snack on something crunchy, this does the trick for me. No microwave popcorn for me, thanks. And popcorn is one of those "naturally gluten free" foods that I love. No weird ingredients and no new texture or taste to get used to.

I like this corn so much I may never go back to regular! Ok, I probably will because I'm sure I'll run out at some point, but I'll always pick up a bag of this on my Whole Foods trips. Happy eating!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Macey's Cooking Class...I'm So Behind!

Tonight I will be teaching (I use the term loosely) another gluten free cooking class at Macey's Grocery Store in Sandy (7800 South 1300 East) at 7 p.m. I have been super busy putting on a week-long event at our elementary school and I almost forgot to remind everyone out there about it. Stop by and say hi if you're in the area and get a treat. We will be making Gluten free Breakfast Casserole, Gluten Free Blueberry Scones, and Gluten Free Lemon Poppyseed Muffins...brunch ideas for Easter! See you there!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Need Gluten Free Inspiration? Go Shopping!

As I mentioned last week, I have really been uninspired in the kitchen lately. I know it's just because the seasons are sort of in-between and it's not hot enough for good summer meals but not quite cold enough to sit home and eat stew all day. It seems as though the only thing that's really in season is cauliflower, and I've found my favorite recipe for that one already. So, to jog my imagination and get a few ideas of new things to write about, I took a trip to my nearest Whole Foods. I went with enough time to just wander around the store and read labels, look deeper into the shelves for different things other than my old standbys. It was freeing to think outside of my preconceived box for a while. For those of you who may not know, Whole Foods is like a health-food/natural food grocery store. Everything in it is either organic or natural, and they have a really great selection of gluten free foods that are sometimes hard to find.

I know Whole Foods isn't accessible to everyone, and I'll admit the closest one to me is 20 minutes away, but I'm going to show you some items that I think you could find at the nearest health food store or maybe even a grocery store. If all else fails, I'll try to add information on ordering online, where it's available.I have seen these little square crispy things in the deli several times since I've shopped at Whole Foods, and I've always walked right by without tasting them because they look like crackers. I thought for sure they would have wheat in them, so I didn't even check the label. Well, they looked so good and I was pretty hungry so I checked the label. Guess what's in them? Parmesan cheese. That's it. They bake Parmesan cheese until it turns crispy and cut it up like a cracker. Genius! They are really flavorful, like a really salty crisp cracker, and you can still taste the Parmesan in them. These would probably be really easy to make at home. Giada has an easy recipe for them here. I thought these would be great with a spread or tapenade or some sort of dip. I found this roasted red pepper pesto in the refrigerator section that looked really yummy. It was so good. The ingredients are roasted red peppers, olive oil, garlic, parmesan cheese, olives, lemon juice, walnuts and parsley, all finely chopped with a food processor until it turns into a great spread. If you have a nut allergy this isn't for you, but you may be able to find an alternative that is nut free. I think I might have even liked the pesto better than the crackers, but they were great together. I love little snacks you can eat in between meals that are flavorful and fill you up enough to tide you over but you don't feel like you are eating junk.

I have a lot of other great finds that I'll be writing about this week. Happy eating!

Friday, April 8, 2011

I'm Dying Here...Conflicted and A Little Nervous

Well, I've officially hit a wall. I have no inspiration and no new recipes to share. Not for a lack of trying, mind you. Last night I made Pasta e Fagioli soup and the reviews were lukewarm, especially from me. The soup had it's little photo shoot and after I ate it I thought, hmm, I wouldn't make this again, so why write about it?

Which leads me to write a post I have been putting off since January. I am terribly conflicted about this bit of information, so I am hesitant to share it. When I finally get to the point, you'll see what I mean.

For my birthday in January we went to a restaurant in Salt Lake City's downtown called Biaggi's. It's in the Gateway shopping center, and my kids love to watch the trains go by and go to the "big city." But the real reason we went there was that I was dying to get my hands on their gluten free menu. They have a full gluten free menu with appetizers through dessert, which is really saying something. Of course I want to support this restaurant, because they are making such an effort to accomodate gluten free eating. However, and this is a personal however, I was disappointed in my experience there. If I express it in list form, it may be easier for you to understand.

Things I Like About Biaggi's:

1. The gluten free food they serve is delicious.
2. They have quite an extensive menu to choose from.
3. The ambience and service was great.
4. I had no concerns about my meal being completely gluten free. My waiter was very careful.

Things I Don't Like About Biaggi's:

1. You have two choices of gluten free pasta: penne and a spinach noodle. Spinach noodles just don't look yummy to me. Green strings in sauce seem a little swampy.
2. I paid $14 for the Chicken Alfredo Penne Pasta. I recieved about 1 cup of pasta with exactly three pieces of chicken in the dish. Although it was yummy, it didn't have quite the value I was expecting.
3. When you order a $14 dish of gluten free pasta, you are only ordering gluten free pasta. No salad, no vegetables, and no dessert. Not that I couldn't have ordered them separately, but it seems cheap to make someone pay for lettuce and oil and vinegar when they are paying $14 for pasta already.
4. Since the only appetizer our table recieved was french bread and dipping sauce, I obviously didn't eat that. But I had a long time to wait before my cup of pasta arrived. Even The Dodo (a small local restaurant) will bring me carrot sticks and celery with hummus when there isn't anything for me to order. But I wasn't sure I wanted to spend $5-$6 on something to tide me over, because I was expecting a lovely, filling dinner.

So, my recommendation is this: Biaggi's is a great gluten free option for lunch, when the prices and portions are smaller, or for people who don't mind paying $25-$30 only for their own dinner. One day when I don't have five children in tow, I may be that person. But I left this restaurant hungry and disappointed. Yet I still want to commend Biaggi's for their gluten free efforts and service. Not many restaurants are there yet. So I want to support them, but I'm not sure I can recommend them carte blanche. I feel the trust I have with my readers is immeasurable, and I would hate to steer you wrong on anything that I myself don't love wholeheartedly. I think Biaggi's can easily get there, and yet they are a family style restaurant, where everything is ordered separately. If you know ahead of time what to expect, I think you'll be pleased. But going in with high expectations is a recipe for disappointment. You can have the gluten free world on a platter here, but you just have to pay for it.

There. I did it. Can you see the conflict? Can you see why I waited 4 months to write about it? Biaggi's, I love you and I don't. But I can't send my readers to you without giving them a completely honest review of what to expect there. My relationship with them is just too important.

Happy eating!

Friday, April 1, 2011

It's Good to Be the Mrs.

I got a set of these darling little measuring spoons at Alt Design Summit in my swag bag, and I can't bring myself to remove the cute little tag on them. It was too perfect that my name was attached to a cooking thing at a blog conference. If you would like to buy some for yourself or as a gift, you can find them here. No April foolin'.

Happy eating!
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