Friday, December 31, 2010

The New Year's Resolution Battle Royale!

This time every year, companies start pumping out ads pummeling you to make New Year’s Resolutions.  Shave off that belly flab!  Get control of your finances!  Conquer your closet!  It feels like you should mount up, spear in hand, and do battle with your life!

Benjamin Franklin said, “Be always at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let each new year find you a better man.”  The first recorded celebration of the new year was in babylon 4000 years ago, and it seems that we’ve been doing battle with our vices (and by extension, ourselves) ever since.

So, do you need or want to change?  For most of us, the answer is, "Yes."  But how do we do it?  That's the part that trips us up.  After all, approximately 50% of New Year’s resolutions fail.  Why is this?  Well, usually the goals are not realistic or life just gets in the way.  We forget.

All is not lost.  Do not despair.  Change is hard, but it is possible.  It's just tricky.

So here are the FoodWise tricks to making and keeping your resolutions in 2011!

  1. Make your goals measurable.  Use numbers and action words.  Instead of saying “I want to lose some weight", say “I will exercise for 30 minutes 3 times per week".
  2. Get an accountability buddy.  Having a friend or family member who you talk to about your successes and failures makes it more likely you will follow through.
  3. Keep a journal.  If you don’t know which actions are working and which are not, how can you change?  You need specific feedback about your successes and failures.
  4. Don’t be afraid to revise.  If you realize that exercising 3 times per week isn’t realistic, don’t stop.  Revise it to 2 times per week.  Something is better than nothing!
  5. Finally, REMEMBER!  Where March begins in your planner, write yourself a little note asking about your resolutions.

Change has always been hard, but it doesn’t have to be a battle royale.  Take it one small step at a time and soon all those little changes will add up to great things!  Treat yourself kindly, allow yourself to fail -- and then try againYou can do this!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sausage and White Bean Cassoulet

Cassoulet, naturally gluten-free

I adore the holidays.  Have I mentioned that?  The house remains bedecked in twinkle lights and even though Christmas is over, I keep finding bits of ribbon and tissue paper strewn about the house.  With all this festive magic has come a constant stream of guests, dinner parties and food.  There has been food everywhere, constantly. 

Except for when there hasn’t.  Interestingly enough, between bouts of frenzied cooking and baking I let our pantry get shockingly bare.  I usually grocery shop once a week, but during December I let the time between trips stretch to two weeks or longer.  I’ll admit we did a fair bit of eating out, but I also took the empty cupboards as my own personal challenge to create delectable meals without the benefit of fancy ingredients.

Enter: the cassoulet. 


Cassoulet is defined as a casserole of white beans, various meats, vegetables and herbs slowly baked or simmered.

I’d never prepared this dish, but the description seemed straight-forward, so away I went.  Oh. My. Goodness.  The combination of sautéing the aromatics and then slowly simmering the vegetables in wine created a complex, deep flavor.  It tasted of winter and warmth and comfort.  Even though I’d never eaten cassoulet in my life, it tasted like home.

Lightly sautéed chard

As we enter into the darkest days of winter, let this stew keep you warm and fed.  I love that the ingredients are items most of us keep on hand and they are relatively in-season: root vegetables, canned tomatoes and beans, and sausage from the freezer.  Share cassoulet with your friends and family and know that you are home. 

Cassoulet and chard, lightly dusted with parmesan cheese

Sausage and White Bean Cassoulet with Tomatoes and Potatoes

1 lb. chicken Italian sausage
½ Tbsp. olive oil
½ onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup red wine
3-4 medium carrots, roughly chopped
1 - 14 oz can white beans, drained and rinsed
1 large red potato, roughly chopped
14 oz diced tomatoes, in juice
1 tsp thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tsp oregano
½ tsp salt

  1. Heat a cassoulet or oven-proof stock pot over medium heat.  Add sausage and brown.  Remove from pan.
  2. Saute onion in olive oil until soft and brown. 
  3. Add garlic and cook until fragrant but not brown, about 15 seconds.
  4. Deglaze pan with wine, scraping bottom of pot with a wooden spoon.
  5. Add carrots, beans, potato, tomatoes, thyme, bay leaf, oregano and salt.
  6. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to medium low and simmer for about an hour or until all ingredients are soft but not mushy. 
  7. Serve lightly dusted with parmesan cheese and your vegetable of choice.  I chose lightly sauteed chard.


Monday, December 20, 2010

Sick and Tired

I'm sick. It the kind of sick that's all on the inside. Stomach in knots, limbs shaky and weak, I could throw up at any moment. In fact, I have. I've been laying on the couch and sleeping for the last 24 hours, trying desperately to get better because I have a little community show tonight!

Did you know that I sing? I'm a new singer, as in, I started singing about a year ago with absolutely no musical background but somehow I ended up singing in an ensemble. We are performing tonight. After months of work, our show MUST go on! We are putting on four scenes from operas by Barber and Menotti, as well as some choral numbers, and yours truly is the equivalent of a back-up dancer. I do a bit of singing but mostly I'm on stage supporting our real talent. I love it. Every minute.
Sunshine relaxing on the couch with me

So, what have I been eating to recover from this stomach bug? Carbs. It's all I want. I poached a chicken breast in instant broth, and then added noodles. I was trying for protein, but mostly I picked around the pieces of chicken and ate the noodles and broth. I also cooked yams in the microwave and ate them mashed with a touch of butter. Normally when I'm sick I like poached eggs, but we've been without eggs for days and the store seemed so far away.

What do you eat when you're sick? What makes you feel better!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Scalloped Corn

Ingredients for Scalloped Corn

I’ve lived a lot of places in my life but in my heart, I’m a midwest girl.  Traditionally, holidays have been about how many carbs you can cram into one meal.  Mashed potatoes, scalloped potatoes, sweet potatoes, rolls, stuffing, the list goes on.  Quite frankly, I can live without every single one of those dishes for my holiday feast as long as I have scalloped corn.

Have you eaten scalloped corn?

Creamed Corn -- the base of the recipe.

I don't have any idea where the recipe came from, but I know that my great grandmothers were making it long before I was born.  Growing up, there wasn't a Thanksgiving or Christmas without it.

Place butter on top before pressing it into the middle of the dish with your finger

So simple it can be thrown together in five minutes, scalloped corn makes an excellent side dish for practically any meal.  Is it healthy?  No, not really.  But if fulfills a certain nostalgia from my childhood and I hope it can grace your table as well.

GF crackers in a ziplock bag being crushed with a rolling pin

In the gluten-filled version, you can use saltine crackers.  The proportions are 1 can creamed corn to one egg and ¼ package of saltines.  Or you can make it gluten-free!

Scalloped Corn!

Scalloped Corn

2 cans creamed corn
2 eggs
2 oz GF crackers (non-flavored work best)

  1. Lightly beat eggs in a medium bowl.  Mix in creamed corn.
  2. Place crackers in a sealed zip lock bag.  With a rolling pin, crush crackers until they form a medium-fine crumb.  Add to corn mixture.  Add salt if using unsalted crackers.  Add pepper to taste.
  3. Place in an 8x8 baking dish and dollop butter on top.  With your finger, gently press the butter into the center of the corn mixture.
  4. Bake 45 minutes to 1 hour or until the scalloped corn has firmed up but still jiggles slightly.
Serve warm.


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Happy Holidays to You!

Oops -- I forgot to put out the veggie tray!

We hosted our Christmas party on Saturday night. Do you have a Christmas party or are you a happy attendee to others' joyful holiday hootenannies?

We used to host an annual party, and even in our smallest one bedroom apartment, our friends would pile in and we’d toast the season while flopped on the floor with pillows and blankets. Life hasn’t changed much. We’ve graduated to a two-bedroom apartment, but the whopping 200 square feet of additional space is mostly office and our living areas have remained distressingly small. Here’s to residing in the city!

Two years ago my father passed away unexpectedly, and for the last couple of seasons I just haven’t had it in me to throw a holiday party. Sure, we’ve hosted birthdays and barbeques and graduation parties, but nothing around the holidays. If you ask me what I’ve done for the last two Thanksgivings and Christmases, I really couldn’t tell you.

Well, not this year. This year we are celebrating in style! I’m not religious but I LOVE the holidays. I love singing carols and creating a magical festival of lights to chase away the mid-winter blues. I’m sure I’m not the only Seattleite to suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder!

Other than stringing lights over every available surface, my favorite thing about throwing a holiday party is the food. Tiny plates of hors d' oeuvres, dollops of dip and itty-bitty sweet morsels. Perhaps I love parties because of the cute cuisine?

At my parties, as I do every day, I cook full-fat, full flavor. No lowfat egg-nog or reduced-sugar cookies grace my table. Ever. In a culture seeped in the non-fat myths of the ‘80s, the concept of smaller portions of full-fat food seems novel and challenging. I always work with my clients on food choice and eating out, but around the holidays eating away from home becomes especially difficult... and it's precisely because of holiday parties like mine!

So here's what I tell my clients: Make a choice. You have a choice to eat or not eat something. You have a choice to eat a little healthier throughout the day so you can indulge a bit at the party. Take a plate, choose what you want to eat and how much, and then WALK AWAY FROM THE TABLE. If you want seconds, choose to have seconds. The food does not have control of you, you have control of the food. We live in America; there will always be more cookies than you can reasonably eat. So have one. Then stop.

Of course, deciding to limit yourself and following through on that decision are two very separate acts. This is why I still have a job. My job is to counsel you on how to live and eat for your health, not just tell you what to do or eat.

But I digress… So what did I serve at my party?

This picture was shot as guests were arriving and does not do these cookies justice!

First on my list was GF snickerdoodles.  I adore snickerdoodles and haven't had them since I stopped eating gluten.  In high school we had a snack bar that baked cookies from scratch.  Their chocolate chip cookie was fabulous but their snickerdoodle, as big as a saucer, melted in my mouth like butter.  Yes, I have considered the possibility that butter was the main ingredient in said snickerdoodles.

In my quest for a GF snickerdoodle, I remembered that the Gluten Free Girl was doing a month of holiday cookies and lo, I found a recipe!  She directed me to Irvin Lin.  I followed his recipe exactly, except I used only butter, no shortening.  Oh. My. Goodness.  These are bliss!  Even three days later they are still moist and tender and hold together well.  I've haven't cooked much with millet flour and I believe the millet adds to the chewy goodness.  Finally, I can barely taste the xanthum gum, which is a miracle.  I ALWAYS taste the gums and I find their flavor difficult to tolerate.

Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Cranberry Pumpkin Bread
Next on my list was pumpkin bread.  I used the recipe I posted a few weeks ago with only two modifications: I used 2/3 can of pumpkin and added 1/2 cup of dried cranberries.  It turned out lovely, with the slightly spicy bread playing counterpoint to the sweet and tart cranberries.  For the recipe, click here.
Gluten-Free Chocolate Mint Bars

Next on my list were Chocolate Mint Bars.  I tried to make these last Christmas and utterly failed, though not because of the recipe (it's perfect).  No, I tried to double the recipe, and in the process I quadrupled the chocolate.  The entire mess ended up a mass of dense, dark, bitter grossness that was impossible to cut.  I was visiting Michigan at the time and during the holidays we store extra food on the porch when we run out of room in the fridge.  After a night outside in the cold, trying to cut these bars was like trying to chop frozen clay.

Not so this time around!  This time, they were perfectly wonderful and delicious!  The recipe is from Gluten-Free Baking by Rebecca Reilly.  I followed the recipe exactly.  

Goat Cheese Stuffed Mild Peppadews
Peppadews are the brand name of pickled sweet piquante peppers.  Piquante actually means sweet, slightly spicy and pungent.  I stuffed these peppers with goat cheese and displayed them on a bed of lettuce.  It thought they resembled Christmas ornaments!

Bacon-Wrapped Dates

My final creation was bacon-wrapped dates.  Yes, you heard me right -- your dietitian served bacon-wrapped dates at her party!  This was my husband's idea, but I got on board mighty quick and so did everyone else.  This was the only dish that was gone without a trace by the end of the night.  The recipe is insanely simple, but what I learned from the first batch is that you should wrap the bacon so it goes around the date about 1 1/2 times because it (the bacon) shrinks during cooking.  The shrinkage doesn't change the flavor one bit, but does make the final product less cute.  And as I said, I'm all about the cute cuisine.

Bacon Wrapped Dates
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F
  2. Wrap the dates in bacon so the edges are overlapping
  3. Place the dates crease side down on a baking sheet
  4. Bake 20-25 minutes or until the bacon is crisp


These weren't the only dishes we served, but they're really the only ones worth mentioning.  We had a selection of cheese and crackers (gluten-free of course), bread and olive oil, veggies and hummus, and chips and salsa.  Whew!  We had enough food.  

What are you serving at your party this year?  What have you had at friends' and relatives' parties?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Don't Get Mad, Get... Hangry?

From iStockPhoto

Hangry: When you are so hungry that your lack of food causes you to become angry, frustrated or both.
~The Urban Dictionary

Do you get hangry?  I know I do!  For years I suffered the emotional ups and downs of low blood sugar, getting pissy at the drop of a hat and taking out my frustration on inanimate objects.  Now, in the year 2010, there’s a word for this phenomenon: Hangry.  I've been hearing it, using it, and it's about time I wrote about it.  So here's the skinny on hangry.

Some symptoms of low blood sugar are:
  • Irritability if a meal is missed
  • Fatigue or a weak feeling if a meal is missed
  • Dizziness when standing suddenly
  • Frequent headaches
  • Poor memory or concentration
  • Tiredness an hour or so after eating
  • Heart palpitations
  • Occasional shakiness
  • Afternoon fatigue
  • Occasional blurry vision
  • Depression or mood swings
  • Overweight
  • Frequent anxiety or nervousness
  • Craving for sweet
Source: Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine by M. Murray and J. Pizzorno

Typically, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) is diagnosed with a glucose tolerance test, but most people who report suffering from low blood sugar have never had this test.  Is it really necessary?  The answer is no, as long as other diseases (including diabetes) have been ruled out as a cause of your symptoms.

Treating low blood sugar is very, very simple and you can do it all with a few basic modifications to your diet!

Step 1: Eat a planned snack between meals
To prevent your blood sugar from dropping too low, EAT!  Consuming food every 2-4 hours will prevent the fatigue and frustration that comes with getting too hungry.  In fact, if you suffer from hypoglycemia daily, you may consider switching to 5-6 smaller meals.

Step 2: Carry a bag of trail mix or a bar with you at all times
Nip your "hanger" ("han-grrr"?) in the bud by always having food available.  This way, if you need to wait for an hour to be seated at a restaurant you'll be prepared!

Step 3: Include protein, fat and carbohydrates with all meals and snacks
You need ALL the macronutrients.  Really.  Fat will keep you full longer.  Protein will prevent your blood sugar from rising too quickly.  Carbohydrates will feed your brain.  A mocha and a scone do not a complete snack make, gentle reader.

Step 4: Eat fiber -- lots of it
Fiber slows digestion and absorption of carbs, thereby preventing your blood sugar from rising rapidly (and falling rapidly).  Plus, fiber will keep you full longer!

Step 5: Be careful when drinking alcohol
Alcohol can wreak havoc on your blood sugar because it is always metabolized first over food, and this causes a rapid increase in insulin secretion.  Insulin takes glucose out of your blood, which leads to a rapid drop in blood sugar.  When you drink, consume alcohol in moderation and always eat a well-balanced meal or snack with it.  Drink slowly and (if possible) avoid sugary drinks.

The easiest way to avoid a drop in blood sugar is to eat frequently.  My favorite snacks are:
  • Peanut butter with crackers/toast/apple
  • Hard boiled egg on toast or with fruit
  • Nuts and fruit
  • A small serving of a well-rounded meal
  • Hummus or bean dip with veggies or corn chips
  • Quinoa salad that includes pines nuts and veggies
  • Cheese with fruit
  • Yogurt with granola and nuts
  • One protein bar (keep it between 100-200 calories)

With a little bit of planning, you can save your friends and loved ones from your "hangrrr".

What do you do when you get hangry?  How do you avoid it?

Source: Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine by M. Murray and J. Pizzorno

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Coconut Vanilla Pudding (Dairy-Free!)

Coconut Milk Vanilla Pudding

If I were to sing a song about a few of my favorite things, puddings and custards would be right at the top of the list.  Is it their smooth, silky texture?  The pure, sweet vanilla flavor?  It’s difficult to pinpoint what's so delicious about pudding, but I think my favorite part is how it reminds me of childhood.

You see, when I was a little girl my grandmother made custard and served it over graham crackers and pears; then, as a teenager, my best friend’s French mother made us profiteroles filled with pudding.  These days, I prepare these same dishes for my husband and friends.

GF creme puffs filled with coconut vanilla pudding

Why would I make a dairy-free version, you ask?  For the challenge, of course!  There are plenty of non-dairy puddings out there, and they're all full of additives and flavors that aren’t quite right.  Why should we put up with sub-standard fare when homemade pudding is incredibly simple to make?

So, without further ado, I give you... coconut milk vanilla pudding!  This is a tried-and-true recipe from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook modified for our non-dairy and vegan friends.  I served this pudding in creme puffs for dessert (and ate the rest out of the serving bowl).

How will you eat your pudding?

Coconut Vanilla Pudding (Dairy-Free)

¾ cup sugar
3 T cornstarch
3 cups coconut milk
4 egg yolks, beaten
1 T coconut oil
1 ½ tsp vanilla

  1. Combine sugar and cornstarch in a saucepan.  Stir in coconut milk and cook over medium heat until thickened, stirring constantly.  Cook and stir for 2 minutes after mixture has thickened and then remove from heat.
  2. Slowly add 1 cup of the coconut milk mixture to the egg yolks, stirring constantly, then add all the egg yolk mixture back into the pan with the coconut milk. 
  3. Bring slowly back to a boil and cook for 2 minutes longer.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in coconut oil and vanilla.  Pour into a shallow bowl and cover the surface with plastic wrap.  Refrigerate until cool.

Makes 6 Servings

Recipe modified from Better Homes and Gardens New Cookbook


Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Winter Storm

Winter is upon us here in Seattle and they certainly weren't lying about El Nina.  Snow in November?  Everyone laughs at us Seattlelites when our poor little city shuts down for a few inches of snow, but if I can co-op a popular saying, it's not the snow it's the ice.  In the pacific northwest it snows, then the snow melts during the day and then it freezes at night, so one little dusting of snow leaves us stranded for days in an impassable ice-covered wonderland.
What's an intrepid dietitian to do?  Cook of course!  What's your favorite snowy day meal?  Mine's chicken soup.  I can make it in my sleep.  No recipe, just chicken, broth, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, basil, oregano and bay leaves.  Cook until done.  I like to add a little rice but that's just me.
Nothing like coming in after a wonderful afternoon of sledding to a nice cup of soup and buttered toast.

What are you cooking today?

Monday, November 22, 2010

Pancakes, the DF/GF way

Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Pancakes

I love pancakes.  Fortunately, they are very, very easy to make, even gluten-free.  I’ve made them out of brown rice flour, sorghum flour, quinoa flour, buckwheat flour and every combination of the above.  You don’t even need xanthan gum because the egg does a wonderful job of holding the batter together!

I’ve also experimented with different milks.  I’ve used almond, oat, rice and hemp milk, but by far my favorite is coconut milk.  The fat in coconut milk coats the grain proteins and helps hold the entire cake together. 

The funny thing about coconut milk is that you don’t really taste the coconut until you put a sweetener on the cake. 

Do you have a favorite pancake recipe?  What do you like to put on them?

Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Pancakes

1 cup GF mix (I used King Arthur for this batch)
2 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
1 T maple syrup
1 egg, beaten
1 cup coconut milk
2 T coconut oil, melted

  1. In one bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt.  In another bowl, combine maple syrup, egg, coconut milk and coconut oil.
  2. Add the flour mixture to the liquid and blend until all lumps are eliminated.
  3. Add ¼ cup batter to preheated griddle and flip when underside starts to brown.  GF pancakes are naturally light-colored and will be a lighter shade of golden than their gluten-containing brethren.
  4. Keep pancakes warm in a 200 degree F oven and serve with fruit, peanut butter and maple syrup.


Thursday, November 18, 2010

Chicken Provencal

Chicken Provencal
Do you have a favorite fall/winter dish?  Mine is Chicken Provencal.  I love any kind of meat that is stewed for a long time, succulent and falling off the bone, but Chicken Provencal has a special place in my heart.  I think it’s the lavender.  I know that lavender isn't traditional, but it adds a certain je ne sais quoi and a hint of fragrance that I find alluring.

Chicken Provencal cooking with herbs and spices 
Herbs de Provence is a blend of savory, fennel, basil, thyme, rosemary, tarragon, marjoram, oregano, mint, bay leaves and, yes, lavender.  When you look at recipes for Chicken Provencal (and I’ve looked at many), they often indicate that you can leave out the herbs de Provence.  Blasphemy, I say!  What is Chicken Provencal without herbs de Provence?  Nothing more than stewed fowl!

However, there are as many ways to prepare Chicken Provencal as there are little old ladies in France.  Here, I present you with my recipe, but feel free to make your own!  Traditionally, Chicken Provencal is prepared with white wine, but a few weeks ago I had none, so I used red.  It was delicious.  Experiment to find a stewed chicken dish that you love, and let it keep you warm on these cold fall nights.

Chicken Provencal with quinoa pasta and blanched kale

Chicken Provencal

1 whole chicken cut into parts with skin on, or 8 bone-in skin-on chicken thighs
2 T safflower oil
½ onion, chopped
7-8 medium garlic gloves or 4-6 large cloves chopped or pressed
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup white or red wine
1 cup chicken broth (instant is fine)
1- 15 oz can diced tomatoes
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 T chopped fresh thyme leaves or 2 tsp dried
1 tsp chopped fresh oregano or ½ tsp dried
1 bay leaf
2 tsp herbs de Provence
½ cup nicoise or kalamata olives
1 T chopped fresh parsley

  1. Move the oven rack to the lower middle position and pre-heat the oven to 300 degrees F.  Salt and pepper both sides of the chicken.  Add half the oil to the Dutch oven and preheat over medium high heat.  Place half the chicken, skin side down in pan and cook until the skin is well browned about 5 minutes.  Flip the chicken with tongs and cook 5 minutes longer.  Remove the meat from the pan, add the rest of the oil and repeat until all the chicken is browned.  Drain off all but one tablespoon of fat.
  2. Turn down heat to just below medium and sauté the onion for 7 minutes or until soft.  Add the garlic, anchovy paste and cayenne and cook for 30 seconds.  Add the wine, chicken broth, tomatoes and tomato paste, thyme, oregano, bay leaf and herbs de Provence.  Remove the skin form the chicken and place the meat in the pan.  Bring to a simmer, cover and cook in the oven until meat is falling off the bone, 1 ½ to 2 hours.
  3. After the chicken is cooked through, add olives and parsley.  Serve over pasta or rice with a fresh green salad.


Recipe modified from the cookbook The New Best Recipe from the editors of Cook’s Illustrated

Monday, November 15, 2010

Flax: Is it REALLY good for you?

Making salad dressing with flax oil

Flax has gained traction in the health industry in recent years due to its high content of essential fatty acids.  One tablespoon of flax oil contains 7.7 grams of omega-3 fatty acids and 2.2 grams of omega-6 fatty acids.  This is huge, considering the recommended adequate intake for omega-3 is 1.1 g/d for women and 1.6 g/day for men.

Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory, meaning they halt the prostaglandins and cytokines that cause the inflammatory immune reaction in your body.  Inflammation is an important part of the immune system, but chronic inflammation is associated with a wide range of disorders including heart disease, autoimmune disorders, arthritis, asthma, cancer, dementia, depression, hypertension and mood disorders.

So how do you use flax in your diet?

Flax Seed
Flax seed is sold pre-ground or as a whole seed, and it can be added to baked goods, hot cereal, salad, smoothies and sprinkled on hot vegetables.  Grind your own flax seed in a coffee grinder or seed grinder.  Store whole or ground flax in the refrigerator for 6 months, or in the freezer for 1 year.

Flax Oil
Flax oil has a mild flavor and tastes wonderful in salad dressing, smoothies, hot cereal and on cooked vegetables.  Never, ever cook with flax oil, but feel free to add it to hot foods after they are removed from the pan.

Flax As An Egg Replacer
Add 3 tablespoons of hot water to 1 tablespoon ground flax and let mixture sit for about 10 minutes or until it thickens.  Use the unstrained gel in place of one egg in most baking recipes.

Ingredients for salad dressing

Flax Oil Salad Dressing

3 T Flax oil
1 T Balsalmic vinegar
1 small clover garlic, crushed
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp sugar

Mix all ingredients together and serve on your favorite salad.


1.      Omega content of flax oil from Barean’s Fresh Flax Oil
“Omegas and inflammation” from Healing Foods by Michael Murray

Friday, November 12, 2010

Coconut Pumpkin Bread: Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free

Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Coconut Pumpkin Bread

I've Got a Fever... and the Only Cure... is More Pumpkin Bread.
The rain has started here in Seattle, and with the wet and the grey comes the urge to bake.  I admit, I don’t bake a lot, and when I do it’s typically the same foods over and over again.  When I want chocolate chip cookies or focaccia or brownies, I go to my tried-and-true recipes because I can bake them gluten-free in my sleep.  

However, the other day I had a craving for pumpkin bread. Not just any pumpkin bread either, but coconut pumpkin bread.  When I bake dairy-free, I’m a huge fan of coconut milk because of its consistency and fat content.  Despite what the media tells you, you need fat, and your baked goods need it too (to attain the proper consistency).

Pumpkin Bread Batter

Gluten-Free Quick Breads
Quick breads are naturally moist, and gluten-free quick breads are a dream because gluten-free bread is almost always moist.  What a blessing, then, to know that you needn't worry how moist your bread will turn out!

Traditional quick bread recipes usually call for only 1 cup of added bananas or pumpkin, but I discovered that 2 cups is much more delicious and doesn’t change much about the bread other than the weight. 

Finally, in this recipe I didn’t specify what flour blend to use because it really doesn’t matter!  Use your favorite blend.  Really!  I’ve been experimenting with the King Arthur flour blend and that’s what I used in this recipe.  I’ll let you know what I think in another post but so far I’ve been pleased with the results.

Gluten-Free Dairy-Free Coconut Pumpkin Bread

Coconut Pumpkin Bread (GF, DF)

1¾ cup GF flour mix, sifted
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon guar or xanthum gum
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon cloves
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ginger
1/3 cup coconut oil
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
15 oz pumpkin puree
1/3 cup coconut milk

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  If necessary, lightly grease 9 x 5 inch loaf pan with coconut oil.
  2. Combine flour, baking soda, guar or xanthum gum, cinnamon, baking powder, cloves, nutmeg and ginger.
  3. Cream coconut oil and mix in sugar until just combined.  Beat in eggs and then add pumpkin puree.  Add the dry ingredients and milk, then mix until just combined.
  4. Place batter in loaf pan and bake for 60-70 minutes or until top is cracked and a toothpick comes out clean.
  5. Let loaf rest in pan for 10 minutes and then remove to a cooling rack.  Wait for loaf to cool before cutting into it.

Recipe modified from Gluten-Free Baking by Rebecca Reilly


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

What should a healthy plate look like?

Quinoa pasta with blanched chard, chicken sausage, pesto and parmesan

I think I must eat pasta with blanched greens a lot because I seem to have too many pictures of pasta with kale, pasta with chard, pasta with spinach.  The reason?  Pasta with greens is easily my favorite quick go-to meal.  If I can help it, I only dirty one pot and I get vegetables into the mix.

In my nutrition practice, no two patients are treated exactly the same way and each receives unique dietary counseling based on their specific diet and lifestyle needs.  That being said, I almost always discuss the healthy plate model for eating because everyone needs to and should eat more vegetables.

What should a healthy plate look like you ask?  Simple.  Cover one-third to one-half with veggies and split the remainder of the plate between the starch and protein.  This is fabulously easy if you are eating baked chicken with mashed potatoes and a salad but what do you do for mixed dishes like pasta?

Again, easy.

Put your veggie under the pasta and use it as a base, then place your pasta on top.  Doesn’t that look like more food?  Well, it actually is more food.  Eating veggies provides fiber, along with vitamins and minerals.  The fiber will keep you feeling full longer without the weighed down malaise of consuming too many noodles.

Some veggies to try with pasta:

Green beans
Snap peas
Mixed frozen veggies

If you would like to know how to blanch greens, please click here.

What are you cooking with your pasta tonight?


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Island Soul Caribbean Cuisine

Little Islands
On Saturday, I went out with the girls for a night on the town and we decided to try Island Soul Caribbean Cuisine down in Columbia City.  I'd reviewed the menu before going just to confirm there was gluten-free food available that I could eat but honestly, I wasn't that concerned.  Anymore, my expectations for gluten-free restaurant dining includes salad and a little meat.  That's it.

Oh, how I was in for a treat!

Once we were seated, tropical drinks in hand, our server walked right up to the table to discuss the menu, particularly all the gluten-free options available!  Was this a dream?  Had someone warned her?  Nope.  This is standard practice at Island Soul.

Island Vatapa

Have I mentioned that every single lady present at our table is a dietitian?  We are a particular group and don't take attestations of gluten-free cuisine lightly.  Our lovely waitresses experienced only momentary doubt when she determined our identities and then sallied boldly forth into the breach!

Oh. My. Goodness.  This may be the Caribbean cocktail talking but the food was luscious.  We started with sweet fried plantains, coconut prawns (not GF) and little islands of corn meal cups filled with black beans and went from there.

Curried Goat

I had the Curried Goat, which was perfectly spiced with hints of cinnamon and falling off the bone.  Halfway through our mean, the chef came out and was appalled to find we hadn't ordered collard greens and insisted on sending some out.  If you go to Island Soul for no other reason than the greens, it will be worth the trip.

Collard Greens

After interrogating our chef, I found that he boils his greens for 2 1/2 hours with nothing other than rice wine vinegar, a little garlic and olive oil and then adds other vegetables at the end.  That's it.  I cannot wait to try this at home!

Please, go!  My pictures don't do the restaurant justice.  Sadly, this is one area where my trusty phone is woefully deficient.

Disclaimer: It is up to you to confirm that dishes are truly gluten-free and that the kitchen is adhering to safe production practices.  As always, you are responsible for your own health!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Do You Need a Special Recipe Book To Bake Gluten-Free?

Being a dietitian, I have a TON of cookbooks.  I love the promise of new ideas and the thrill of preparing novel food.  I have cookbooks dedicated to pasta and dim sum and African food and vegetarian fare.  I have not one but TWO cookbooks on cupcakes and an entire tome dedicated to pesto.  Yes, pesto.

I started eating strictly gluten-free for health reasons in March of 2008 and at that time, I went crazy shopping for gluten-free cookbooks. My wonderful, glorious collection of recipe books was left on the shelf to collect dust simply because none of the titles contained the words "gluten-free".

After 2½ years of gluten-free living, I'm here to tell you that you do not need to neglect your most cherished recipe books while living the GF life.  In fact, it's a mistake!  

How much baking did you do before you started eating GF?  What were your favorite recipes then?  Now that you've thought of them, can you easily convert your formerly-beloved recipes to gluten-free?  The answer to this question is decidedly yes.

In the past week, I've made apple pie, pumpkin pie and chicken pot pie, all from regular cookbooks. In fact, I think my recipes turned out better having cooked them from a standard recipe book because most GF cookbooks are geared specifically toward baking, which comes at the expense of main dishes.  In order to bake the recipes listed above, I only needed a nice GF pie crust, which you can get pretty much anywhere. Once you have a pie crust you like, you can use it every single time just like a regular gluten crust.  Did you grandmother change crust recipes with every single pie she baked? No? Well, neither should you!

Don't get me wrong, I'm not against GF cookbooks.  I own at least five myself.  But finding a cookbook that explains the principles of GF baking and gives you some standard recipes will be more useful to you than purchasing each and every new book that comes out.

Here's where the recipes I baked this last week came from:

GF pie crust: Gluten-Free Baking by Rebecca Reilly (see previous post about this cookbook here)
Pumpkin Pie: Off the pumpkin can.  Yes, really.
Chicken Pot Pie: The New Best Recipe from the editors of Cook's Illustrated

What are your favorite cookbooks?  What favorite recipes can you cook out of them that require very simple conversions?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Vote NO on I-1107!

Have you heard of I-1107? 

If you believe the lobbyists from the American Beverage Association, this initiative is about repealing food taxes.  Last year, Washington State voters approved a temporary tax on soda, bottled water and candy that goes into effect in 2012 and expires in 2013.  Unfortunately, the American Beverage Association will not tolerate even minute and temporary taxation of its massive profits, and it has contributed over ten million dollars to this initiative. This makes it the most well-funded initiative in Washington State history.

How do you define food?  Does bottled water meet your definition?  How about soda and candy?  Would you serve your family a candy casserole for dinner?

In this blogger's opinion, Initiative 1107 is a blatant attempt by the soda industry to redefine their sugary, unhealthy product as food, and it should not pass.

VOTE NO ON I-1107!

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Meatless Meals without the Label

A craze that's been floating around for a few years is the concept of "Meatless Mondays", in which people do not eat meat for one full day during the week. Why? Well, depending on what kind, how much and how often you eat it, high meat consumption is associated with cardiovascular disease, overweight, cancer and higher mortality rates. Eating factory-farmed steaks and chicken can also lead to environmental degradation and unhealthy animals, so it's about more than just our health.

"Meatless Mondays" are a good idea, but they can be very stressful! Words like vegetarian and tofu start floating around the house and suddenly the husband and the child aren't on board. "I need MEAT!" he'll say, and somehow those three little words make a convincing argument... and "meatless Mondays" suffer a quick and quiet demise without ever being given a chance.

I'm proposing something slightly different.  What if you ate delicious, delectable food that just happened to contain no meat?  No hullabaloo, no labels, just food?

Moong Dal with Red Split Lentils, Brown Rice, Yogurt, Potatoes, Peas and Homemade Pickles

There are plenty of cuisines that lend themselves naturally to meat-free eating, one of which is Indian. Spicy scrumptious lentils and veggies have absolute no need for meat, and they make a delightful and filling meal.

This week, I purchased cauliflower at the store for no other reason than it looked good.  I had no meal plan. What could have been a simple steamed side dish turned into a wonderful, flavorful main course of cauliflower, potatoes, peas and mustard seeds.  Once I decided to cook Indian food, I just had to add lentils.  I always have lentils in my cupboard, and red lentils are especially quick cooking and easy to work with.

In preparing this meal, I gave absolutely no thought to making a vegetarian dish, I simply cooked what sounded good.

Potatoes, Peas and Cauliflower... plus delicious Mustard Seeds!

So... what sounds good to you?

What ingredient do you have in your fridge that you can base an entire meal around?  Cooking is more than calories and fat and health and labels.  It's about what feels good and tastes good and feeds your core.  If you have over-analyzed your food, chances are you won't enjoy it.

Love what you eat!  Enjoy what you cook!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


I’ve come to the sushi game late in life.  When I was in Japan at the tender age of 19, I despised Japanese food and managed to go a full five days in a foreign country without consuming the local cuisine.  Really.  Now I’ve learned to love it, along with tomatoes and onions. 

On my small forays into the wonderful world of sushi, I’ve stayed rather conservative, choosing to purchase veggie or California rolls from the grocery store and avoiding raw fish altogether.  Yesterday while at the grocery store, I had the brilliant idea to make my own sushi.

The backbone of sushi is a red seaweed wrapper called nori that comes packaged in flat sheets.  Sea vegetables are notoriously healthy and contain almost all the minerals found in the ocean, including iodine, which supports thyroid function.  Nori is also high in calcium, folic acid, magnesium, iron, potassium, riboflavin and pantothenic acid.  Sea vegetables also contain lignan, a compound which inhibits inflammation.

Sushi can be made with brown or white rice, flavored with vinegar and sugar.  I suggest starting with white sushi rice because it’s slightly stickier and easier to manipulate.

Sushi Rice:
1 cup rise, thoroughly rinsed
1 cup water
1/8 cup rice vinegar
1/8 cup sugar
1 tsp salt

1.     Cook rice in water for 15-20 minutes or until water is completely absorbed.
2.     Combine rice vinegar, sugar and salt and microwave for 5-10 seconds, or until the sugar is dissolved.
3.     Remove rice from stove and combine with the vinegar/sugar mixture.  Cool slightly.

Sushi Ingredients:
You can use practically anything in sushi, including...
  • Sushi-grade raw fish
  • Smoked salmon
  • Crab
  • Cucumber
  • Cream cheese
  • Carrots
  • Avocado
  • Shiitake mushroom
  • Sesame seeds

Making Sushi:

Making sushi is best illustrated in pictures (as I have below), but is made infinitely easier with the flexible bamboo mat shown.

Spread the rice thinly over the nori, leaving a an inch or two for uncovered nori at the bottom to seal the sushi roll:
Spread the rice over the nori

Add the filling to the roll

Start rolling

Use the bamboo mat to help with the rolling

Roll tightly but gently

Seal with water

All rolled up!


Slice and enjoy!