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Spring in a Bowl – GF Asparagus Soup

Spring Asparagus Soup

Spring Asparagus Soup

I’m finding some of the most wonderful veggies in the markets and farmers markets these days. One of the wonderful things about living in AZ is that while most people are still shoveling themselves out of snowstorms, we’re wearing T-shirts and shopping local farmers markets for fresh, beautiful veggies. I picked up a few bunches of asparagus, I couldn’t resist, and since I was out all day I decided to whip up a quick soup. You can do this in about 30 minutes with very little prep work, just about all the work is simmering, and the outcome is a wonderful vibrant soup with a beautiful color to match.

Spring Asparagus Soup
1 bunch of fresh asparagus
3 cups vegetable broth
pinch of salt, pinch of turmeric

1. Break off the woody ends of the asparagus, then chop the rest into bit-sized pieces.
2. Place asparagus and about 1/2 cup broth in a sauce pan, bring to a boil and then lower heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.
3. Add the rest of the broth and the spices, then simmer another 20 minutes until asparagus is soft.
4. Blend in batches (let it cool a bit and be careful).
5. Enjoy!

I know I’ve made something like this before, but I just had to share again since it’s so easy and I couldn’t resist the fresh flavors. I actually made this two days in a row. On the second day, I sautéed a sweet onion and added it to the soup just before blending. I also added a pinch of smoked paprika since I had it. Yum! I highly recommend this since it’s quick, easy and oh so tasty. Serve with GF crackers, bread or just eat it as is. You can also garnish with a few slivered almonds for crunch and taste.

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GF Oatmeal Chocolate-chip Cookies-Yum!

GF Oatmeal Chocolate-chip Cookies

GF Oatmeal Chocolate-chip Cookies

With a bag of GF oats and a craving for a cookie, I began scouring the Internet for a recipe that included only what I had in the house. I found a few recipes online and did what I do best – I reworked the recipes and viola… quick, irresistible GF, oatmeal chocolate-chip cookies.

Gluten-free, Oatmeal Chocolate-chip Cookies

4 1/2 cups gluten-free old-fashioned oats (I used Bob’s Redmill)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon gluten-free baking powder
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup Baker’s sugar
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons GF vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, grind 1 1/2 cups oats into a fine meal. Mix together ground oats, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg and baking powder.

2. In another large bowl, beat butter and sugars until fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Still mixing, gradually add oat mixture until combined. Fold in chocolate chips and remaining oats.

3. Scoop dough in mounds onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, 2 inches apart (about 11/2 TBS each). Bake until cookies are golden brown at edges about 12 minutes, turning halfway through for even cooking. Let cool on pan for 2 minutes, then transfer to rack.

Enjoy! This makes about 4-5 dozen cookies, depending on how big you make them.

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Beet greens and a pinch of smoked paprika

Beet greens with smoked paprika

I love finding beets at the farmers market and today was no different. I bought some lovely white beets today and couldn’t resist roasting them in the oven right away. But what to do with all those greens attached to the top of the beets? Normally, Daughter’s bearded dragon and our two dogs get the greens. Today, I decided to saute the greens and see how they were. I’ve never actually had beet greens before, but everyone assured me they were wonderful and you know what? They were right! They were not as bitter as I thought they would be. Instead, they were crunchy, mild, and bursting with fresh flavor. Something like a cross between collard greens and spinach is the best I can describe it.

I roasted the beets in a 350-degree oven for about 45 minutes with olive oil, salt and pepper. That’s it. Nothing fancy, but the sugars in the beets begins to caramelize and sweeten the beets until they are so yummy and buttery in flavor. The white beets are deceptive since they look just like a potato when cooked, but taste like a beet.

I sauteed the greens with just a touch of olive oil, salt, pepper and a pinch of smoked paprika. Oh my, what a flavor and kick. The paprika was given to me by a good friend in California and I’ve been using a little at a time with greens or beans. I knew the paprika would add just the right flavor and I was right. It gave it a smokey, earthy flavor. (Make sure to use just a pinch if you try this. A little too much and it’s very overpowering) I originally thought the greens would be more bitter and the paprika would mask it, but there was no need to worry. They were lovely, crunchy and perfect. Unfortunately there wasn’t more…

The moral of this story? Don’t be afraid to try something new. You never know. I’m hooked on beet greens now and can’t wait for Saturday’s market. I’m looking forward to candy cane, white and golden beets, as well as the load of greens they’ll provide.

Enjoy!

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Bringing in the New Year!

Life is beautiful, just look around…

Although we make many resolutions each year, that doesn’t mean we follow them, right? I posted on my writing blog about the things I will NOT be doing this year. On this blog, I will post the things I WILL be doing.

1. I will cook more at home. It’s so easy to get into the rut of picking up something on the way home, or eating out because it’s easier. But for people with food issues, that can be dangerous. We know that we are most safe when we prepare our own, so what is the problem?

2. I will experiment more, try new food and actually attempt to bake something besides cookies. I never was much of a baker before, but these days it’s important to find something I love.

3. I will eat right and that means fewer grains and more protein. I have learned to read my body and I know that more protein and less grains are what make my body happy. It likes to feel “clean” and this is how it’s done. This is how I lost 25 pounds, this is how I have more energy, and this is how I stay happy.

4. I will post more often on this blog and publicize it as much as possible. A good friend of mine has offered to help me set up my own site and I think that will be my new project.

5. I will spend more time with family and friends. The Internet is a time-suck, no way around it. And so I will be spending less time wasting time online and more time with people who make me laugh.

Hope you all have a happy, safe New Year celebration and I hope to talk more with all of you next year. Please make suggestions for things you would like to read or try on this blog. I’m happy to test anything, just throw it out! And if you have a recipe you’d like to share, let me know! Join the Facebook Page and become part of the Gluten Free in AZ crowd!

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Pancakes are on the menu!

Pancakes hot off the griddle

It’s raining here in Phoenix, with a cool breeze and a chill in the air. Know what that says to me? Comfort food. I want a warm cup of tea and something comforting in my tummy. Normally, I would have said that I wanted pancakes, only to remember that I can’t have them. But not anymore…

Oh wow. That’s all I can say, wow! Now that Bisquick has a new Gluten Free mix, I know what I’ll be eating for breakfast. Yes, I know I’m eating low carb, and yes I know I’m trying to lower the amount of grains I eat. But you don’t understand! This stuff is gold, pure gold.

Yes, the box is smaller than the non-GF version and cost $4.99 at Fry’s, but trust me…it’s worth it.

Following the directions on the box, I made one batch of pancakes (using 1 cup of mix, 1 cup milk (almond milk), 2 Tbs olive oil and 1 egg. I also add 1 TBS lemon juice…trust me, it’s what takes these from good to great!) I got about 10 pancakes out of that, about 3 inches in diameter. Just enough for now and a few left for tomorrow morning. They were golden brown, fluffy, light and tasted like the best pancakes I’ve ever had, even before going GF…seriously.

Cook them up and watch how everyone loves you. Daughter couldn’t stop smelling them and saying, “If I could eat these every day for the rest of my life, I’d be happy!” I had to stop her from eating 8 of them for dinner! Now I know what to make after a sleepover. We used to make pancakes but had to stop when we went GF.

I like mine with just a spray of I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter or nothing at all. Daughter likes her plain also…we’re not syrup people. But if you are, go for it. Let me know what you think after you’ve tried this.

The company site has recipes for coffee cake and pizza crust using this mix. I’ll be trying those out in a few days. Can’t wait…

Enjoy!

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Tell me your GF tips and win $25 Fry’s gift card!

Feeling all alone in your GF world?

Ever notice how everyone cringes when you mention that you eat gluten-free? The thought of giving up their bread/pizza/buns/pasta, fill in the blank, makes them automatically scrunch up their faces in a grimace.

“I could never do that!” they spit out. “I feel sorry for you.”
My favorite is…”What do you eat?” as if there is nothing else out there but pizza, bread and bagels.

When I first realized I would be gluten free for the rest of my life, I did feel that way for a moment. Being vegetarian for 25 years meant that I had already given up a huge portion of the menu and now, going gluten free meant I was giving up another 1/4, leaving just about 1/4 to 1/8 of any menu available to me. Asking questions became a necessity, ordering special meals became an everyday occurrence.

A few tips of the trade, and a few great websites to visit would have made things easier. I found the gfvegetarian yahoo group first and they were amazing. All my questions were answered and I felt as if I were not as alone as I feared. Great ideas, recipes and support helped me get through the toughest beginning stage. I found our local Phoenix Celiac list group on yahoo groups also and that made a huge difference, and meeting them at a restaurant helped even more to get a closer connection. I have made wonderful friends who understand (and I’m not the only one at the table asking for GF anymore.)

Check the right side of this blog for websites I recommend and search for new sites. There are new ones popping up every day. Look for organizations in your area, etc.

Oh yeah, the $25 that I mentioned up at the beginning (you didn’t think I forgot, did you?) My very good friend and fellow blogger, Sara at savingforsomeday, graciously handed over a $25 gift card from Fry’s, which celebrated the grand opening of the new Tatum and Shea Super Duper store with valet parking, covered parking, organic section, wine bar, gluten-free section, etc. If you’re just starting out or an old pro at GF eating, this will come in handy for sure. How, you may ask, can you get your hands on this? Simple-leave a comment below with your best tips and insights for the anyone starting out a GF diet. Let’s help out the beginners with things we wish we had known up front. 

If you are not GF or just happened to stumble upon this site, welcome! Although the recipes on this site are GF and vegetarian, they are also tasty and fabulous and can be enjoyed by even the pickiest meat eater and wheat eater. I’m sure you know someone who is GF. Tell me what you know or want to know about eating GF and I’ll try to address it here. I’ll use Random.org to choose a winner from the comments and contact you for your mailing address. Simple.

Finally, let me say that this is in no way supported by Fry’s. It’s my way of saying thanks for reading and supporting this blog, and for following each week with ideas and comments.

My eating GF tips:

1. Read labels. Do not eat anything that has a label without reading it first. And even if you’ve read it before, read it again. Companies have a tendency to change their processing without telling anyone. Don’t trust anyone.

2. Look for hidden gluten. Soy sauce, TVP, semolina, etc. Find a list at Celiac.com  and follow it.

3. Find support. You can’t do this alone. There are organizations in every city these days. Even if you just connect on the Internet, it really does help. Let people tell you where they’ve been before heading out.

4. Get used to cooking for yourself. Even though I loved to cook before, I cook even more now that I have gluten to worry about. I feel safe when I cook for myself. Mistakes can happen wherever you go, be prepared.

5. Speak up. Don’t worry about offending people, most of them are very understanding. If you’re not sure about something and don’t want to speak up…don’t eat it! Why risk it? It’s only food, not the end of the world. I’ve gone through an entire dinner with an iced tea and side salad. Nothing else. Eat when you get home, you’ll be proud of yourself. Any hostess would rather you not eat than get sick. If you can, tell them before the event. If you’re really confident, bring your own food.

6. Don’t cheat! Too many people feel as if they can cheat and in reality…it’s just not an option. Tell yourself…it’s just food. Is that pizza really important to you? Why do you have to taste that guy’s breaded calamari? You can’t live without it? Of course you can, you did before you got there and you will when you leave. Let it go.

7. Don’t go overboard on all that fabulous GF food that is now offered. It usually means there is more sugar and other ingredients to pump up the flavor. Just because something is GF doesn’t mean it’s good for you. There are zillions of GF cookies, cakes, buns, etc. to keep you going for a long time. Don’t get sucked in.

8. My favorite GF items, after picking through the losers, are as follows: (remember, you’ll probably have to do your own taste test since everyone is different)
*Bread:  Udi’s everything. They have the best bagels, sandwich bread, whole grain bread and muffins. Closer to the real thing than any other I’ve tried. Most other breads have to be toasted to get close to “normal.” The only other bread that comes close is French Meadow. Udi’s is at Whole Foods and Sprouts, French Meadow is at Sunflower.
* Cookies: Kinnikinnik makes K-Toos that are so close to Oreo’s that they’ve fooled the wheat eaters I know. They make a great vanilla one too.
* Donuts: Kinnikinnik has little cinnamon donuts that are so much like those wonderful cake donuts that we used to love dunking in coffee. Also, Gluten Free Creations, a wonderful shop in the Phoenix area, makes their own donuts that are fluffly and light.
* Veggie burger: Sunshine Burgers rock the vegetarian/gluten-free burger market. They are organic and use just a few ingredients. If you eat cheese, I recommend it highly. Use a crispy lettuce bun and you’re in heaven. (I recommend the Garden Herb, but try them all and decide for yourself.)

These are just a few tips. I have hundreds, and I’ll update and add more each day. Let’s hear what you’ve got-and good luck!

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Ratatouille…It’s Oh So Good!

Ratatouille with cauliflower

I had a strange craving for ratatouille tonight. Why? Who knows…it’s one of those cold-weather dishes I usually reserve for nights when it’s chilly outside and I want a warm, hearty meal. But why not make it in summer? It’s got zucchini, eggplant and yummy tomatoes, what could be better?

Daughter loves cauliflower, and since I had half a head in the fridge (the cauliflower’s, not mine) and since I didn’t have any peppers, the cauliflower went into the dish as an excellent substitute. I didn’t miss the peppers at all and quite honestly, it’s the best ratatouille I’ve ever made and I’ll do it with cauliflower from now on. Can I still call it ratatouille? Hmmm…

The end result is a sweet, crunchy, hearty dish that melts in your mouth. Trust me, this is fabulous and there is a lot left over to share with friends or eat for lunch for a few days. Not only that, it’s GF, vegetarian and vegan if you leave off the shredded Parmesan Daughter sprinkled on top. Serve it over rice or noodles, or rice noodles if that’s something you like, but trust me, this dish stands up all by itself. For a little protein, I’m thinking of throwing in some tofu or Quorn next time, just for a change. Although, this needs no improvement at all.

Hint: chop all the veggies about the same size, It’s easier to cook that way and better to eat when everything is uniform. The pan may look full before you add the tomato sauce, but once the veggies cook down, you’ll have plenty of room.

Ratatouille with cauliflower
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
1 large eggplant, chopped
1 large or 2 medium zucchini, chopped
1/2 head of cauliflower broken into bite-sized pieces
1 28 oz. can Trader Joe’s Low Fat Tuscano Marinara Sauce (or your favorite)
1 Tbs tomato paste
2 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp of basil, oregano, garlic powder, salt and pepper

1. Use a large saute pan and saute onion until translucent in 1 Tbs. olive oil.
2. Add zucchini and cook another 5 minutes.
3. Add eggplant and cauliflower and toss with salt and pepper and 1 Tbs olive oil
4. Stir and let the veggie simmer until they reduce in size and soften.
5. Add marinara, tomato paste and spices.
6. Simmer for about 15 minutes until all the flavors come together. Test for salt and pepper and serve as is, or over rice.

This is even better the second day once all the flavors have set together overnight. Too good for words… My Daughter loves Parmesan cheese on everything and this was great with a little shredded Parm on top, but not a necessity.

Enjoy!

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