Tuesday, November 24, 2015

A Very Vegan Thanksgiving


Hosts seem to panic when they have to prepare food for guests with special dietary needs. They wring their hands and furrow their brows in worry. It can be especially troublesome when the holiday is very meat centric like Thanksgiving---I mean how many times have you heard the holiday called "Turkey Day"?! If the big bird isn't the focal point of the meal, then what will fill the void?

Well, the answer varies by vegan or vegetarian in question. Some are content filling up on side dishes, others like a protein based entrée such as a bean dish or tofu.  Ersatz meat-looking products are a must for some. 

My best suggestion is open up a dialogue with your guests that have special dietary needs. If you feel their meal requirements are out of your wheelhouse, don't be afraid to say so. This is especially true when someone has a food allergy or celiac disease. If you are honest that the task of assuring each ingredient is free of their off limits food, or you feel the whole cross-contamination thing is too overwhelming--then tell them! Better safe than sorry.

Arrange for them to bring their own food and heat it up in a manner that is "safe" for them. This can alleviate the worries of both host and guest on many levels.  In any case, take their lead. If your guest says "I'm happy munching on the salad and some of the veggie sides." Trust that they really are happy with the salad and sides, and don't spend the whole meal being apologetic, and saying that you're so sorry you don't have more for them, etc.  Most people on special diets have come to an internal realization (even if it was an uneasy one to achieve) that they have to look beyond the food as the focal point at social gatherings. Provide a warm reception and sparkling conversation to make your guest feel included in the meal.

For some great vegan recipe ideas check out Isa Chandra Moskowitz's book Isa Does It. Although she uses wheat flour, I found her baked goods come out well when I sub all purpose gluten free flour blends. Her marble banana cake (half plain-half chocolate) is one great example of this!

The following salad is great because it has a complete vegetarian protein (legumes and rice), so it can serve as an entrée or side dish. Additionally, it is good both warm or chilled.  This is also my tribute to Trader Joe's--a store that clearly marks vegan and gluten free offerings on their packaging.  All the items are easily found at Trader Joe's both in their traditional forms (i.e. raw rice or whole sweet potatoes), and convenient forms--pre-cubed and peeled sweet potatoes and frozen pre-cooked brown rice.  It doesn't get any easier than this!

Lentil and Sweet Potato Salad

1 cup green lentils (it's important to use this variety, as they hold their shape and don't turn to mush when cooked), cooked according to package directions
2 cups prepared brown rice
1 large sweet potato, peeled, cubed and boiled or steamed until fork tender
3 stalks scallions, chopped

1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 Tablespoons honey or 2 Tablespoons agave nectar
1 garlic clove crushed
1 teaspoon dried thyme or 1 Tablespoon fresh chopped thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried sage or 3 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
sea salt, to taste
fresh ground pepper to taste

Gently toss all salad ingredients in a large mixing bowl. 

Whisk together dressing ingredients in a small bowl. Pour over salad ingredients and mix gently to coat.

The salad may be served warm or covered tightly and chilled. May be prepared and refrigerated up to 3 days in advance.

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

How do you aloo?


Aloo means potato in Hindi, and it translates (sorry for the poor pun) into many delicious dishes in Indian cuisine. Although we generally think of rice as the starch of choice in Indain cooking, potatoes are used generously in the largely vegetarian cuisine as a filling in rotis, mixed with spinach or paneer cheese, and in a lovely spice laden side dish called Aloo Chaat.

A few years ago I went on an Indian cooking "kick" of sorts, and found the myriad of spices and flavors really woke up our dinner table. Lately I've become very bored with the dishes I've been presenting to my family. I kind of needed a kick in the pants and the taste buds, so to speak. I perused one of my favorite Indian cookbooks, At Home with Madhur Jaffrey by Madhur Jaffrey. Which presents dishes from a variety of countries in the the Asian Sub-continent, including India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Her chaat recipe was made especially by her mother to ensure the spice blend was just right, even though they employed servants to do the majority of the cooking.

The dish definitely delivered as far as flavor and texture in adding something new to our table. I was cautious that the dish would have too much heat from the cayenne, but my kids were able to tolerate it, and the side dish was a big hit!  Ms. Jaffrey writes that it should be served at room temperature, and not refrigerated, as that changes the texture. Alas, I did have refrigerate the leftovers, and the potatoes did get a bit waxy. As well, the heat in the dish waned, but we still enjoyed it cold. It was a delicious and refreshing change from the typical variety of potato salads.

This is an amalgamation of the two variations of the recipe. In one the spices are tossed with the potatoes alone, and in another they are lightly sauteed with the oil and potatoes.  I sauteed the ingredients, but with less oil than was called for in the original recipe. The result seemed to be a happy medium.  So decide how you Aloo, and try something new!
Aloo Chaat
adapted from At Home with Madhur Jaffrey, p.p. 165-6

1 1/2 pounds red potatoes (or peeled Yukon gold potatoes)
2 Tablespoons olive oil
3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, more to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice
salt and fresh ground black pepper  to taste
1-2 Tablespoons chopped cilantro (fresh or dried--you will need only 1 Tablespoon if you use dried), to garnish

Prepare a large pot of boiled salted water. Cube the potatoes and boil until fork tender, about 20-30 minutes. Drain in a colander.

In the same pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the cayenne and cumin and stir for 30 seconds. Add the potatoes and stir until well coated with the oil mixture. Saute potatoes for 5 minutes. Transfer the potatoes to a large bowl.

Drizzle the lemon juice over the potatoes and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Stir well to coat. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with the chopped cilantro.

Yield: 6-8 servings

Sunday, September 13, 2015

A Sweet and Happy....


The Jewish New Year starts tonight, and I'm busy as a balabuste making and mending, washing and sloshing! I got a jump on my Rosh Hashanah recipes this year as Joy of Kosher asked me to put together a gluten free menu.  It also happens to be allergy free---dairy, egg and peanut free---in order to accommodate all the special dietary needs in my family.

It is customary to eat certain foods that are symbolic of all the things we want in the new year, health, prosperity, sweetness in our lives, etc. (http://www.kashrut.com/articles/simanim/). These are called simanim in Hebrew.  I put them together in an exciting new way with my Simanim Summer Roll (recipe below). For more of my holiday menu, check out Joy of Kosher online.

For super easy video instructions on how to roll a summer roll, check out Lillie's video on youtube:

To save time use bagged, shredded cabbage and carrots, and any prepared fish you have on hand (even jarred gluten free gefilte fish cut into strips works well---but this is usually not an egg free option).
Simanim Summer Rolls
6-ounces skinless salmon fillets
1 Tablespoon sesame seeds
6- rice paper wrappers (8-9-inch diameter)
1 ½ cups shredded cabbage (white or red)
¾ cup julienned carrots
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled and julienned
¼ cup pomegranate seeds, white pith removed

Pomegranate dipping sauce:
¼ cup pomegranate juice
3 Tablespoons gluten free soy sauce
3 Tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon sesame oil

In a small bowl, stir together sauce ingredients and set aside.
Pre-heat oven to 350F degrees. Spray a large baking pan with non-stick cooking spray. Place salmon in baking pan and brush with approximately 3 Tablespoons of sauce (reserve remaining sauce for serving). Sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake salmon for 30 minutes. Cool completely. Slice cooled salmon into ½-inch wide strips.
To assemble summer rolls:
Fill a shallow pie plate, or baking pan, with an inch of warm water. Place each rice paper wrapper in the water for about a minute. It will begin to soften and be pliable like plastic wrap when ready. 
Shake off excess water and place wrapper on a flat surface. Starting at one end, and allowing a 1-inch margin on all sides, layer cabbage, carrots, apple, pomegranate seeds and salmon strips. Fold long edge of rice paper which is nearest the filling over the filling, then fold over sides. Roll up and place seam side down on serving platter. Repeat until all the wrappers and filling are used.
To serve: Slice summer rolls in half, if desired, and serve with dipping sauce in a small bowl.
Serves: 6




Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Back to School...back to snacks.


One of the best forms of independence is when a child with an illness or special need "owns it". By packing their own lunch, a child with a special diet learns not only what they can and cannot have by reading labels before they put it in their lunch box, but also the importance of balancing their meals and snacks with the gentle guidance of a parent. Like training wheels, at first they may need a stronger parental hand to guide them along the path, but with time they will be flying along on their own.

Easily packable choices makes the process move more smoothly.  Send Me Gluten Free is a subscription service that sends you a box chock full of gluten free packaged foods to sample each month.  Send Me Gluten Free allows you to choose a subscription that can range from month to month, or three months to a year. The boxes currently are $20 or less, and price varies depending on the length of your subscription. Check it out at www.sendmeglutenfree.com, and use this great coupon code available to my readers: 20% off any subscription length with the code BLOG20.

Lillie was thrilled to receive the Send Me Gluten Free box because she knew everything in the orange box was safe for her in terms of not containing gluten. Most, but not all the items were kosher. After leaving behind the ones that were ok for our family, we were left with a lovely selection of snacks including Ips Chips protein chips, Free for All Kitchen  Brownie Thins and Biena flavored chick peas.

Rubbermaid Lunchblox Sandwich Kit. Has it's own ice pack that fits the form of the 4 containers to form a block, composed of 4 square "blox" containers.  One is sandwich sized and the remainder for snacks or sides. They are also the perfect size for a salad and dressing in smaller container. Or, as Lillie did one day, put cereal in one. I think it encourages kids to add fresh cut fruits and veggies or even dried ones to their lunch. Grab one of the varied choices from your Send Me Gluten Free box with a water bottle and you're good to go!

For a easy and nutritious gluten free and vegan cookie to put in your child's lunch, try this oat and dried fruit filled variation on an a classic Anzac.  You can substitute the dried apple with Craisins, dried blueberries, or any dried fruit you like.  It's fun to make...and take!

Apple n' Honey Oat Cookies

2 cups uncooked old fashioned gluten free oats
1 1/2 cups all-purpose gluten free flour blend with xantham gum
1 ¼ cups granulated sugar or coconut sugar
1 1/2 cups flaked sweetened coconut
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
pinch sea salt
1 cup non-hydrogenated margarine (such as Earth Balance Buttery Sticks)
1/4 cup honey
¼ cup boiling water
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup chopped, dried apples

Pre-heat the oven to 300F degrees. Line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper, set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, stir together the first 7 ingredients.  Add the margarine and honey, and beat on medium speed until well combined. In a small bowl, mix together the water and baking soda.  Add to the dough and beat until combined. Stir in the dried apples.

Drop rounded tablespoonfuls of dough 2-inches apart on prepared cookie sheets. Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until light brown.  Cool on cookie sheets for 10 minutes. Transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

Store in an airtight container.

Yield: Approximately 4 dozen cookies 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

"Quin" ya dig it?


I was recently at the Specialty Food Show in New York City's Javitz Center, which featured literally miles of aisles of delectable delights from around the globe. I was struck and heartened, by how many companies are responding to the allergy/food sensitive needs of the consumer. I sampled many, many sweets and treats including gluten free shortbread (Walker's....yes!), Mochi, Buffalo Wings flavored popcorn, allergy-free candy and maple water (new favorite). But the trends that stood out to me, I'll call "quinoa, kale and  corn (as in mini, as in mini popped corn--I don't understand it, but it's big right now, and gluten free)".  These three things were featured in abundance at the show in various forms, whether it was kale juice, kale chips, quinoa nutrition shakes, or quinoa flour---these items were hot, hot hot! A fourth "kah" deserves honorable mention--coconut. Whether it's coconut water (plain or flavored), coconut chips for snacking or baking, or coconut oil in everything from beauty products to brownies.

Personally, I am always on the lookout for the Holy Grail of gluten free flour, that blend which will yield an as-close-to-wheat texture and taste as I like. But, new flours keep appearing on the market just to mix things up, everything from flour made from wine dregs to hemp flour.  But when I noticed quinoa flour at several booths, I decided we have a trend for the year here. I was very excited that my most favorite spice company, Pereg, had put out their own quinoa flour in a 1 lb. bag.  Pereg is an Israeli spice company that has made inroads in the United States in the past decade with not only very high quality spices, but also, rice and quinoa pilaf mixes, legumes, and some interesting new quinoa products--namely, Quinoa Pops Cereal and Quinoa Pasta. Although quinoa looks like a grain and acts like a grain, and is often treated like a grain in the culinary realm, it's not a grain, and is closely related to the beetroot and spinach family. It's known to be high in protein, and is very popular in gluten free cooking as an alternative to couscous or bulgar (as in tabouli salad), or as a hot porridge.

The Pereg Quinoa Multi-Purpose Flour is great because it's kosher (O-U) for Passover as well as year round.  Back in the day you basically had potato starch as a gluten free option for passover baked goods, not really much to offer nutritionally, but the quinoa flour has 4 grams of protein per 1/4 cup and a whopping 3 grams of fiber! So, not only does it add nutrition, it also will help with the texture of such items as cookies and breads.  Cost wise the 1 lb. bag is $4.50 on the Pereg website, which is reasonable for gluten free flour. So if you're store doesn't yet carry the Pereg line, let them know. It's really worth looking into!

For some great recipes using quinoa and quinoa flour try the recent book Anti-Inflammatory Eating Made Easy from Michelle Babb, a Seattle based nutritionist, that presents very simple and doable guidelines to feed your family meals which help with joint pain, digestive issues and other conditions caused by inflammation in the body.

Using grains, legumes, vegetables and responsibly raised animal proteins, while avoiding the foods such as eggs, certain oils and dairy that have been shown to cause inflammation, Ms. Babb has come up with creative and delicious recipes that are good for those that are gluten free as well as egg/dairy allergy free. So for my family they worked out perfectly!

These crepes recipe is lovely filled with seasonal fresh berries (anti-oxidant powerhouses) and coconut milk yogurt, or as a savory option with sauteed veggies.  If you are allergic to cashews, substitute an equal amount of Sunbutter,  and proceed with recipe as it is written.

Sweet or Savory Quinoa Crepes
from Anti-Inflammatory Eating Made Easy by Michelle Babb, p.50

2 cups quinoa flour
2 Tbsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. sea salt
1/2 cup raw cashews
2 Tbsp. chia seeds
1 3/4 cups water
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
2 Tbsp. coconut oil
1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp. maple syrup
Nonstick olive oil cooking spray

Sweet Filling Options:
2 1/2 cups fresh or frozen berries (thawed if frozen)
2 1/2 cups stewed apples or pears with cinnamon
2 cups cashew cream (1 1/2 cups raw cashews blended with 1/2 cup water)
2 1/2 cups mangoes blended with coconut milk

Savory Filling Options:
2 1/2 cups sauteed onions, mushrooms, and spinach
2 cups hummus and 1 sliced avocado
2 ounces lox and 1 Tbsp. capers

Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium mixing bowl and set aside. In a food processor or blender, grind the cashews and chia seeds until finely ground.  Add the water, almond milk, oil, lemon juice, and maple syrup and blend for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the mixture to the dry ingredients, stirring until well blended.  The batter should be the consistency of olive oil.  Add more water to thin if necessary. 

Spray a medium nonstick pan, cast-iron skillet , or crepe pan with oil.  Put 2 to 3 tablespoons of the crepe batter in the pan and swirl around until there is a thin layer across the bottom.  Cook each crepe for 1 minute per side.  Fill with the desired filling.

Yield:  6 servings

Friday, July 17, 2015



Yesterday I made a great new invention in our house--"Watermelon Water".  It came about because my kid's were pestering me for a pack of Honest Kid's Fruit Punch, which I had bought for their camp trips the day before. My little trick to lighten their load is freeze a juice box or water bottle, and use that for their lunches on long trips. By the end of the day they have a cold beverage and are not schlepping around heavy ice packs. The drinks, although a natural blend of fruit juices including watermelon, are about 60 cents for 9- ounces, a bit more than 1 cup.  I wanted to save these as a special treat, and had some almost "past prime" slices of watermelon in the fridge. You know how watermelon gets after you cut it? It's a bit shiny on the surface, and the mouth feel is kind of yucky. Well apparently pureed it's perfectly fine. So I blended chunks of watermelon, ice and water and stuck it in a thermos for the kids to take to camp. 

The bonus is with my drink they're getting the whole fruit...that means fiber folks. And, for the same price as a 6-pack of the juice packs, I can get about 48 servings of watermelon water. That's 8 times as many drinks for the same price!  The best part is that my kid's decided they like my watermelon water better than the Honest Kid's Fruit Punch...o.k., Jessica Alba, I have one up on you!

There are a number of different things you can do with this recipe. First if you have too much watermelon "turning the corner" so to speak, before you can use it up, cut it in chunks, put it in a single layer in a zip top bag in the freezer, and lay flat to freeze. When ready to use, simply reduce the amount of ice in your recipe and use the frozen watermelon. You can freeze the processed watermelon juice in ice cube trays and reconstitute with some water in the blender. Or, pour watermelon water in ice pop molds or in ice cream maker for a granita like treat. Mint or another fruit, like peaches, strawberries or mangoes may be added to bump up the flavor profile.

This recipe literally takes 5 minutes or less...and is totally doable on busy weekday mornings. It uses just 3 simple ingredients to make H2whoa! I eyeball the ingredients, so add more or less of any of the ingredients to achieve a consistency that is pleasing to you.

 Watermelon Water

2 cups watermelon cubed (about a 1-inch thick half-circle slice) 
6 ice cubes
1/2 cup cold water

Put watermelon, ice and water in a blender (I have a cheapy blender...you don't need a Vitamix to make this work), and blend on high speed until smooth. Add more or less water to reach desired consistency.  Serve immediately.

Yield: Approximately 16 ounces or 2 servings.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Get Grillin'!



Ok, so I guess I have to give me my requisite July 4th B-B-Q themed post. It seems in the world of bloggers you either have to do one of the following  types of recipe for July 4th posts: bbq, red, white and blue dessert or something with watermelon.  I choose the first option, as I have a kicking new burger recipe I developed.

To backtrack, I'm a big fan of San-J's line of Gluten Free Tamari and Asian cooking sauces. As you might know, soy sauce is one of the big "hidden" culprits of wheat. San-J makes a line of Tamari and sauces using soy instead of wheat, which they clearly label Gluten Free. I generally use their Reduced Sodium Tamari several times a week, and their Orange Sauce is a favorite stir fry sauce in our house, because it is sesame and peanut free (not all of their sauces are...check the labels). Just last night I made an amazing pepper steak in my pressure cooker with the Orange Sauce, that came out looking just like it was delivered in a Chinese take-out container!

The Mongolian Stir Fry and Marinade intrigued me, as Mongolian barbecue is something I've wanted to try since it hit the foodie scene in the United States over a decade ago.  I decided to do a fusion sort of thing and use it as a glaze for a stuffed burger I making.  The umami effect was great! It blended perfectly with the other spices I used in my burger, and kept the meat moist with a nice finish on the grill.

Overall, what I like best about San-J's gluten free sauces is that all the work is done for you in terms of blending herbs and spices necessary to achieve a great Asian sauce.  Additionally, they have a high quality, no junk or filler taste, unlike many over salty, corn syrup laden bottled sauce. 

So fire up the grill, grab a bottle of San-J sauce and have a fuss free 4th whether you're grilling chicken, burgers or veggies!

For these burgers, I used Daiya's new Cheddar Cheese Slices, which really have the taste of "regular" melted American cheese slices...definitely a guilty pleasure. In the spirit of "vive la difference" (hey this is a "French" onion burger), I decided to shake things up by grilling sliced polenta instead of a bun (just brush with olive oil on both sides and grill for several minutes until warm).

Since these burgers are "French Onion Soup" style, you're in good shape for Bastille Day as well--which is just around the corner!

French Onion Soup Stuffed Burgers

3 Tablespoons olive oil
2 medium white white onions, thinly sliced
1 large Bermuda onion, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
fresh ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 cup red wine or water
1 1/2 teaspoons dried marjoram
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 pounds lean ground beef
1/2 cup San-J Mongolian Stir Fry and Marinade

6 slices non-dairy cheese (such as Daiya Cheddar Style Slices), optional
6 Gluten-Free Rolls or baguettes (we like Katz's)

Heat a large frying pan or soup pot to medium-high heat.  Add the olive oil; when it starts to shimmer add the onions, salt and pepper, stir to coat.  Saute until onions turn translucent, about eight minutes.  Reduce heat to medium and continue to saute (stirring every so often), until the onions carmalize. Add the wine or water in the last five minutes of cooking, and make sure it evaporates before taking the onions off heat.  Stir in marjoram and garlic powder in last two minutes of cooking.

Let onions cool about 10 minutes, until you can handle them easily with your hands.  You can also prepare them up to 8 hours in advance and refrigerate covered.

To prepare burgers:
 Heat gas or charcoal grill to medium-high heat (this may also be done in a Foreman style grill or grill pan indoors).

Divide meat into 12 balls, 6 of which are the size of golf balls, and the remaining 6 somewhere between a golf and tennis ball.  Handle your meat gently, using a light touch, and trying not to compress too much.

Form the smaller balls into thing patties and set aside.  Form the larger balls into patties with about a 1/2-inch lip coming up the sides. The process is similar to making clay ashtrays ('memba them?) in kindergarten.  Make a ball, press the center in with your thumb, then expand the hole with your finger.

Fill the opening in the larger patties with 2-3 tablespoons of the onion mixture. Place the thinner patties on top and crimp the edges closed with your fingers, checking to make sure there are no holes. Reserve the remaining onions to garnish the finished burgers.  Cover burgers with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Brush burgers with Mongolian sauce and place on pre-heated grill fro 4-5 minutes per side (for a medium-rare burger, 6-8 minutes for medium to well done burgers), with the grill cover closed for the last 3-5 minutes. Baste the burgers with the remaining sauce when you flip them. If you wish to top with non-dairy cheese, place a slice on top of each burger before you close the lid. Remove burgers from grill and place on a platter "tent" with foil for five minutes before serving. Note: to "tent" meat, fold a large piece of aluminum foil in half and place over meat loosely (do not crimp closed), so it resembles a tent.

To serve: 
Warm buns on top shelf of grill or 275 degree oven for 10 minutes.  Place finished burgers on bun, and top with remaining carmalized onions, if desired (re-heat in microwave for 1-2 minutes, as needed or on stovetop on low heat until warmed through).