Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Coconut Flax bread- gluten, grain, nut and dairy free!

When somebody who loves her baking, including her bread baking, goes gluten or grain  free, alternate baking is sure to go on quite a bit. I've had a few goes at grain free breads and loaves from recipes I've seen on the Internet and from books. I've been uniformly disappointed.
My breads all had the same problems: dense, greasy, and with congealed fat at the bottom. Now I know I can never expect grain free breads to be something they're not. I have to accept never eating fluffy, yeasty bread again. But I knew it had to be possible to make something better.
After talking to The Dungeon Master and thinking of the GF baked goods that HAVE worked, we came up with a few ideas. His suggestion was to try and replicate the
fluffiness and rise from gluten + yeast by whipping my eggs whites into peaks. I also thought of the congealed fatty layer and the greasiness of my breads, and remembered that the GF baked product that I ( and my gluten eating family) have been happiest was Elana's Pantry's Chocolate Almond Joy Bars - which have no butter or oil. I decided to use that as my base. I replaced the almond flour with flax meal, for two reasons: flax binds better than any grain free "flour" I have come across, and I want something up my sleeve for when  bake for nut-allergic people.

Preheat oven to 350. Grease a loaf pan with coconut oil and line the bottom with parchment paper, leaving "handles" so you can us it to pull the bread out. Separate 4 eggs, putting the whites in the bowl of a stand mixer and the yolks in a mid size mixing bowl. Start whipping the white- you will stop when soft peaks form. Meanwhile, in the same bowl as the yolks, mix 1/2 cup each coconut flour and flax meal, 1 TBL honey, 1 tsp each salt and baking powder, and 3/4 cup coconut milk. Carefully fold in the other ingredients, pour into bread pan. Bake 40-45 minutes.

(See my clever parchment handles?)
Toasted with some  cinnamon sugar.

This is a very eggy bread- I think I will have to experiment with baking it in a cast iron skillet like a Dutch Baby. But for now- can you say, days of French Toast?

Thursday, June 16, 2011

What the Primal movement gets right, and why they still get it wrong.

Earlier this year, I started exploring the paleo/primal lifestyle philosophies, due to a confluence of factors; my interest in evolutionary biology, rampant candida, and osteoarthritis is my hand that made it nearly impossible to knit. I'd had several friends have great results reducing inflammation by giving up grains and sugar, so it seemed worth trying. I read The Paleo Solution , I read The Primal Blueprint , I skimmed The Paleo Diet because at that point I didn't need to read the same information yet again. I didn't buy everything hook, line and sinker (I have never bought the low carb thing, especially if I am supposed to count them ) from an evolutionary perspective, it made a lot of sense. I  cut out cereal grains, I even tried eating my curries and stir fries without rices. I cut back on beans. I even cut out desserts for a while. I felt candida went away, and I had no hand pain within days. Knowing that the usual culprit is gluten, I added back in rice and beans ( though I do eat less than before). They don't cause me pain, so I decided I would eat them when I wish. I know  the primal community decries the "anti- nutrients" in beans and the brown rice I still prefer ( according to the primals if you're going to consume a grain, more refined is better) ; however, these foods are staples in my cooking repertoire and they don't make me feel ill, so they're staying.

So first off, what's RIGHT with primal:

Emphasis on real food:
When you eat paleo or primal, your food choices are simple: meat (real meat; if you indulge in lunch meat get the uncured stuff) , vegetables, nuts, oils, and depending on whether you're on the low carb kick, fruit). Just the basics, and getting back to these basics is exactly what a lot of first world citizens need to do.

Emphasis on food that is fed what it evolved to eat:
If you're read The Omnivore's Dilemma , you know that grass fed beef is better for you than corn fed beef, which, in short, makes you fat. Getting people to think about what your meat eats can only be good.

People are meant to eat meat :
With all due respect to my veg*an friends, humans are meant to eat meat. Whether you believe in evolution, creationism, or a combination there of, our biology shows us to be omnivores.

People are meant to eat fat :
Our bodies need fat. Unless you have a condition that makes you physically ill from eating fat, avoid low fat diets like the plague.

It makes it easier to give up grains :
If you've read Fat Land , you know that corn makes you fat and gives you diabetes. And evidence is mounting all the time that indicates that the number of people with Celiac's or general gluten intolerance is much higher than we suspect. High enough to make gluten suspect. Paleo and primal show you what TO eat if you give up grains, instead of just saying "Don't eat!"

So, what is the primal community doing wrong ? (And when I say wrong, I mean the internet communities much more than any of the above mentioned authors)

Over thinking it :
The beauty of the paleo/primal movement SHOULD be that you know what foods to eat, what foods to avoid, you eat when you're hungry and you stop when you're full (Wow, sounds like what ANY healthy eating plan should be! ) Yet you can't browse a primal forum without 75 % of the posts being about carb counts, macro nutrients, calories burned, etc. Why anyone would sign up for any way of eating that they felt required them to keep count of all that stuff is beyond me,

Being judgemental toward seekers
Nobody likes it in a church, and the same is true about eating plans. The best way to convince an interested person that all those primal people are a bunch of (grain free, sugar free ) fruitcakes is to tell people "NO NO NO YOU MUST DO THIS 100% PUT DOWN THE COOKIE OR DON'T BOTHER!"

Bacon butter on pork rinds :
In other words, eating tons of fat. This is crazy, goes against everything that makes sense, and would make my physically ill. I know I just said people need to eat fat; but telling people to try and get 70% of their calories from fat is irresponsible.

Telling people to ignore the numbers
For a group of people who seem so into number crunching, these folks get upset if someone posts poor cholesterol numbers. They will then tell those people why everything their doctor tells them about cholesterol is wrong, that high "bad" cholesterol is really GOOD, and the need to keep downing that fat. High cholesterol is not a reason to tell someone to go off primal, but it is a reason to tell them to rethink how they apply it. More veg, some fruit, less fatty meats. Pretty basic but telling people to do this would threaten the gospel of butter bacon.

Being more primitive than thou:
I got my fill of people who don't use soap or shampoo a decade ago on . If you're posting TO THE INTERNET, FROM A COMPUTER about how primally you live, get over yourself.

In conclusion:
I still mostly eat a paleo lifestyle, however; I'm not low carb, I still eat rice and beans and potatoes, and I still love me some sugary goodness now and again. So I probably can't call myself paleo or primal. Gluten free eater of real food might be just about right. I haven't given up on the community completely, they still have a lot to teach me and who knows, I may be able to teach them something.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Chocolate Almond Souffles

It's been challenging finding baking recipes since adopting a grain free lifestyle. Much of gluten free cooking using long lists of esoteric ingredients; most of the paleo baking recipes use artificial sweeteners ( which I think are THE DEVIL; I would rather live without sweets than let that poison into my body) , stevia, which tastes so much like nutrasweet to me that I cannot consider it natural. or expensive liquid sweeteners. So I turn to classic European recipes, many of which naturally don't use grains. Why dilute the intensity of your chocolate with all that flour, anyway? Sadly, scratching my souffle itch today was made more complicated by my lack of baking chocolate. After reading enough recipes to grok the chemistry of souffles, I put this one together. I made it alongside my fritatta and focaccia, so I had some interesting juggling to do! The best part is I got everything into the oven at the same time.

In a small saucepan, bring 3/4 cup almonds, 1/2 cup milk, and 2 TBL sugar to the boil. Turn off heat and let cool.

Puree in a food processor until it forms a paste.

Butter and sugar 6 oven safe ramekins.

In the bowl of a stand mixer , whip 4  egg white until the form stiff peaks ( I threw the yolks into my fritatta- 2 yolks replaces one whole egg. Add 1/3 cup sugar and whip until it's incorporated. Try not to eat the resulting crack.

 Fold in the almond paste, 1/2 cup cocoa powder, and touch vanilla.

Divide evenly among ramekins.

Bake at 400 for 12-15 minutes.

These are a bit dry, so they do need a sauce. A quick ganache would be superb.

Grain free Flax Focaccia

Or as my daughter calls it, faux-caccia.
In a small bowl, mix together 1/4 cup flax meal, 1 jumbo egg, 1/2 tsp baking soda, and 2 TBL extra virgin olive oil. Pour into a small cast iron skillet that has a generous glug of olive oil coating the bottom. Sprinkle the top with sea salt. Bake in 400 oven roughly 15 minutes, until firm and top is golden brown.

I made the rest of the family a classic focaccia, using the recipe from Rustic EuropeanBreads from your BreadMachine .

Tomato Basil Fritatta with Lemony Garbanzo Salad

This is a protein rich meal what can be made with or without meat.

Start with about 1 cup of dry garbanzos. Simmer for a few hours until they are tender but not mushy. Meanwhile, start the fritatta. Allow yourself about an hour. Slice a small onion, a small red pepper, and anywhere from 2-8 cloves garlic. Saute on low heat with extra virgin olive oil in a large cast iron skillet.

Cook until the vegetables are soft, then you may optionally slice 2-3 hot Italian sausages. I used Isernio's pork sausage. Add the sausage, and continue cooking until they are cooked through.

Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl whisk 6 jumbo eggs, 1 sliced tomato, and a handful of fresh picked basil, sliced thin. Add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

Cook under low heat until the edges begin to set. Place, uncovered, in a 400 oven and bake until center is set.

While the fritatta finishes in the oven, assemble the garbanzos: Drain, and place in a bowl. Drizzle generously with olive oil, then sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Toss in two sliced tomatoes, and another handful of thin sliced basil. Finish with the juice of one lemon.

I served mine on a generous bed of baby lettuce, with the frittata and my flax foccacia.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Summer Fitness Friday 2- The TV Guide

Popular wisdom tells us that watching TV makes us fat. It works two ways- it's a sedentary activity, and we love to eat crappy snacks in front of it. Today, I'll look at ways to bypass those dangers.

Food; or, the revolution will be televised, and also available for streaming.

Use your computer as a force for culinary good. Take advantage of streaming to set yourself up with some  delicious food porn to entertain you while you cook. I love to cook while streaming Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution , but really, any cooking show will do. If it's been a while since cooking excited you, then you need to watch Julie and Julia . The great thing about the Internet is that you can either go to Youtube to find someone making the exact recipe you're making, or watch a
documentary , such as  Food, Inc.about the state of food that will inspire you to cook your own!

Moving: It's only sedentary if you sit
Just because you're watching TV doesn't mean you HAVE to sit. There's no rule. The TV viewing police are not going to come over and glue you to your couch. If you have a treadmill or one of those nifty bicycle wheel things, you can use your equipment while you watch. If not, keep some hand weights by your TV and do a few minutes lifting before you sit down to watch. Tell yourself if you lift until the credits are over, then you can sit down.

Headology: Pick up that yarn!

It's no surprise I'd say that, especially give that tomorrow is World Wide Knit in Public Day . It's really hard to eat and knit or crochet at the same time. This is especially true if you use nice yarn. Yellow Cheeze like powder may wash out of Red Heart Super Saver, but can you really risk it with that hand painted merino?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Buttery Dijon Chicken with Garlic Broccoli and Orange Glazed Fennel

Tonight's dinner- pure bliss!

The chicken:Oven 350. Start with a whole chicken. If you're in the Pacific Northwest, I suggest Foster Farms or Draper Valley Farms . Skinning it or not is up to your personal preference : I skin mine. I'm also saving  the livers and other organs because I hope to make pate . In a cup, soften 1/2 stick on unsalted butter. Stir in about 1 1/2 TBL each Dijon Mustard and extra virgin olive oil.

Crush about 6 cloves of garlic and stir in, along with a few dashes of sea salt:

Stir it all up, and it should look like this:

Slap your chicken into a baking dish, and brush with about half-ish of the sauce:

Bake for 45 minutes, flip, brush with the other half of the sauce, bake another 45.
Turn off the oven and let the chicken rest while you prepare the veg. Get out two large skillets (I use cats iron as much as possible) and put a generous lug of olive oil in each. For the first, chop about another 6 cloves of garlic and  the florets from 2 heads of broccoli.

For the second, slice up a bulb of fennel, greenery and all. Throw it in the pan and pour over about 2 TBL fresh squeezed orange juice and a TSP of sugar or honey. (I used leftover orange glaze from Picard and Troi cake ) Fry them all up until your garlic is crispy and your fennel has caramelised.

Carve your bird,

And serve!

This is the wine we served: Not my first pick for chicken, but I didn't plan ahead:

Oh, and because I do have a cruel streak, contrary to popular belief: This is what happens when you google Picard Cake. (safe for kids and work)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Day of Eating

I thought from time to time I'd post a photo essay of a day's eating for me. I've included everything with calories, but not shown the press of French Roast and the cuppa Jasmine green tea.
 This is a very typical weekday for me.

Breakfast : 1 jumbo egg scrambled with butter, red pepper, onion, and topped with 1/2 an avocado.

Lunch- leftover hamburger patty and onion, with Trader Joe's organic baby spinach, some broccoli, the other 1/2 avocado, and home made balsamic vinaigrette.

Treat, because I always have one : a little bit of honey mixed with almond butter and two squares of dark chocolate, chopped. Today the chocolate was Godiva because I'd gotten some in a Ravelry swap. I like quite a few varieties- many of TJs, Theo, Endangered Species , Equal Exchange , Divine and Ghirardhelli and Guitard. As much as I like to buy fair trade myself I won't turn down a decent, all natural dark chocolate anyone might want to give me (hint, hint, world!)

Sipped on  about 1/2 of this Sea Breeze whilst making dinner. Been drinking the same one since Friday. Yes, I know how to nurse a drink! I'm not much of a drinker; I blame The Host for me craving one.

Dinner- leftover steak the Dungeon Master had grilled a few days before, simmered with onions, mushrooms, and garlic, served with garlic broccoli and a green salad with carrots and the balsamic. You can cover your plate with food like this if most of it's produce.
And that's it. Then we went for an hour long walk to wind down from the day hooray for nice weather!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Friday Fitness- Summer Fitness One

I haven't been posting mys stats lately, and I've got to confess why- stalled progress. I've been going back and forth between 131 and 134 pounds for ALL OF 2011 and managed to shave about 3/4 inch off my waist, but that's it. With summer here, it's time to try and get those last 10-12 pounds off ( hopefully for good!) and I want to invite you all with me.
The "hints" I'm going to share are ones we all know but often find it challenging to put into effect. I'll post one action item from each of three areas: eating. moving and headology . Hopefully remembering what I know I need to do will help me meet my goals : 123 pounds and solid size 4 by my 39th birthday- that's September 3rd- and I'd love to know if any of my readers make progress too.

Eating : You need to eat fat, but reasonably.
For many years, the low fat diet was thought to be the way to do. Don't eat fat and you'll lose fat, right? We know now that's fallacious. We need fat to think, to move, and yes, to maintain a healthy weight. Back int he day, I tried to lose weight by eating a low fat diet- beans, rice, poached chicken breasts, dry toast. By mid afternoon everyday I wanted to kill everyone around me and tore through the kitchen looking for some, any fat. Humans were evolved to use fat as fuel and very few of us can sustain a low fat diet for long.  Avoid  reduced fat foods, eat good fats in conjunction with naturally low fat foods. You know those teeny tiny "100 calorie snack packs" ; made with fillers. Did you know a 6 oz bag of spinach has 60 calories and no fat? And it's real food.
Of course, the more omnivorous you are, the easier it is to get some reasonable amount of fat in your diet (note : reasonable means bacon cooked in butter is STILL a treat, not an every day thing!). Everyone buy vegans can and should eat eggs- one large egg has only 70 calories, they're full of protein and Omega 3s, and the yolks provide choline. Eat whole eggs, not just whites. Even vegans have wonderful sources for good fats- avocado, coconut, seeds and nuts/nut butters- all good things to eat a little of everyday.
Moving: Walk
We all know walking is the best, most accessible, low impact form of exercise we can do. But we don't, and we usually blame lack of time. I try to walk most days but I am sitting here right now, typing this, instead of walking, because I am waiting for kids to finish school work. Poor excuse, I know and as soon as I'm done here we're out whether they're done or not. It's getting nice, folks. make time for an evening walk instead of watching TV, park at the far end of the lot, and do whatever errands you can on foot. If you are really time crunched, do like my very Type A, works on commission I HAVE TO BE WORKING ALL THE TIME friend, and walk around while talking to clients on the phone. He even has a treadmill in his home office for that purpose.

Headology : Pantsology
I think spandex and sweat pants are right  up there with high fructose corn syrup in the " inventions that make people fat" category. Sure, they're great for working out in, and for showing off when you're in awesome shape, but more often in North America, they are just too damn comfortable it's way too easy to eat a little more and not notice when they get tight. Save the sweats and yoga pants for working out ( I sleep in mine because I work out to a DVD right after breakfast) and wear jeans or slacks that fit well- but won't if you eat too much. When a pair gets loose enough to slip off your hips without unbuttoning, get rid of them RIGHT AWAY. Don't give yourself an "out" for overindulging- make it uncomfortable. Always keep a pair of pants one size below what you're wearing (until you hit your target size) you you can feel the encouragement of them fitting better and better.