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Friday, August 12, 2011

Vegan Phad Thai

Phad Thai and greens with peanut sauce

Thai food was one of the hardest things for me to give up. I remember doing an overhaul on my diet and taking out everything I was allergic to, except for a periodic visit to a Thai restaurant. Which meant searching out the nearest restroom and developing a mental map of bathrooms on the route home. I couldn't figure out what I was allergic to on the menu. Was there soy in something? Was it the mysterious fish sauce? It was probably a saving grace that I became vegan, which rules out a lot of the "vegetarian" dishes on the menu and prevents the sketchy ride home (unfortunately, a lot of vegetarian listed items still have fish or oyster sauce).

It is really hard to find a good Phad Thai recipe on the internet, but I am really hoping people like this recipe. The vinegar adds the tang of the fish sauce, and tamarind lends a more authentic taste. My family enjoys it. I like to just cook up the sauce without the noodles, sprouts, coconut aminos, or water and use it as a sweet and sour sauce on fresh, shredded veggies.

Phad Thai
4 cloves garlic, minced
4 shallots, sliced
1/2 c. fresh tamarind paste (recipe below - if you can't do fresh, do 3-4 Tb of packaged tamarind paste)
1/2 tsp tumeric
2 T apple cider vinegar
1 1/2 T maple syrup
2 T coconut aminos (or 1 T tamari if you aren't allergic)
1/4 t+ cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
1/2 t salt
1 lime juiced
1 pack rice noodles, pre-soaked for at least 30 minutes in cold water
1/4 c water
1-2 cups mung bean sprouts
3 scallions, cut on the bias

shredded carrots, red cabbage, and peanuts (all optional)

Pre-soak rice stick noodles for 30 minutes in cold water. The noodles should be very pliable, but not mushy or slimy. Heat up a wok over the stove top to medium heat, and add an oil that tolerates high temperatures (coconut oil or grapeseed oil work very well). Add the shallots and garlic and cook until the shallots start becoming translucent. Add the tumeric, tamarind paste, apple cider vinegar, maple syrup, coconut aminos, and cayenne pepper. Cook until the ingredients are well combined and the vinegar smell diminishes a bit. Add the noodles and stir until the noodles are well coated. Add 1/4 cup of water, lime juice, and bean sprouts. Add the scallions and toss after the mung beans have cooked a bit.

Want a lower carb option?

White rice noodles are high in simple carbohydrates and starch. Use a vegetable spiralizer or potato peeler to create zucchini noodles. Cook everything but the zucchini noodles (and omitted rice noodles of course) as outlined above, and combine the garnish and sauce with the raw zucchini noodles before serving.

Zucchini noodles a la spiralizer
Tamarind Paste

Tamarind pods with a hard shell exterior
My friend came over the other day for dinner and a movie and saw me working with the tamarind. "WHAT IS THAT???" She thought I was conducting some massively unsanitary project in my kitchen and I had to laugh. If you are lucky enough to live near an Asian market with fresh tamarind pods, I recommend going to the trouble of making your own paste. Fresh always tastes best. They aren't very visually appealing, but they add a lot of flavor to sauces!

Tamarind pods have a hard outer shell, and a sticky, fibrous, pod-filled interior. Crack the outer shell and pull out the interior. Be alert for any signs of mold. Pull the vein-like fibers off the tamarind and put them in a pot of water. Turn the heat on and cook for 20 minutes. It does not need to come to a full boil - a low simmer is plenty. Some people use their hands to squish the tamarind and remove seeds and fibers, but I prefer to use a fine mesh sieve and wooden spoon. A little water transferred from the pan is fine, but you don't want to intentionally use the pan water in your paste. The paste is best used the same day, but will keep in the fridge for an additional 2 days.

Tamarind pods and the finished paste

Sunday, July 24, 2011

For The Love Of Quinoa....

My husband recently had a conversation with someone who was finding it a struggle to go gluten free. He suggested quinoa, and got a wrinkled nose and "Yuck." My husband thought it was funny because he really enjoys quinoa, but we both forget it was a love we had to develop over time. Quinoa has a distinctive flavor that I've heard described as nutty or "healthy." I'll admit that the first few times I tried it, I wasn't its biggest fan. That changed as I learned some great ways to prepare quinoa and how amazing the grain is.

Quinoa is actually a small berry rather than a grain. It is in the psuedocereal family, a grain mimicker. I say all the better because this "grain" is jam packed with amino acids and lysine. When combined with a lower lysine grain like rice, sorghum, or millet, you have a protein that is more complete than animal proteins out there, but easier to digest. We use quinoa in a large variety of ways - hoe cakes, flat bread, sides, vegan burgers (recipe follows), and salads are a few. I generally recommend using this grain in savory dishes as opposed to desserts.

Easy Quinoa
1 cup Quinoa
2 cups Water
1/2 lemon, juice
1/3 tsp salt or to taste
pepper to taste
fresh chopped herbs like chives, oregano, thyme, etc.
garlic powder to taste (optional)

Soak the quinoa in water for 20 minutes, and then use a fine sieve to drain the water and rinse. Add 2 cups of water and salt, and bring the quinoa to a boil. Turn the heat down a bit and cook until the water is absorbed. Use a fork to fluff the quinoa up, much like you would couscous, and add the lemon juice, pepper, and fresh herbs. Serve with salads, main dishes, and more. The lemon helps lighten the flavor. My 2 year old nephew approves, and this was one of the first ways I made quinoa and enjoyed it.

I picked up the Veggie Burgers Every Which Way book during a going out of business sale at a book shop. At first I was slightly disappointed at how many of the yummiest looking burgers were lacto-ovo vegetarian instead of vegan, but then I snapped out of it and realized I could use my newest technique to vegan-ize them!

I have started using yamaimo, or Japanese Mountain Yam, as an egg replacer in several dishes. Yamaimo is a little hard to get a hold of, but if you have an Asian grocery market in your area, you may be in luck. These tubers grow as long as 3 feet, and have a really peculiar trait. Once they are cut open, you can feel SLIME on the surface of the flesh. When a yamaimo is shredded, it has the slimy texture of a raw egg. If you can get past the texture issue, it is a great binder and it is used in Chinese medicine as a healing agent for the stomach and intestines.

Yamaimo with plastic wrap around the exterior so it doesn't
leave a gooey puddle in my fridge

Yamaimo grated - you can still see the grated pieces because I used a normal
sized grater, but there is also a pool of slimy liquid.

If you look closely, you can see a slime bubble on the surface of the
whole piece of yamaimo.

Quinoa Burgers (Adapted from Veggie Burgers Every Which Way)
1 cup quinoa
3/4 cup blanched turnip greens
1/4 cup yamaimo, grated
1/4-1/2 cup finely minced red onion (I love me some onions)
1/2 lemon juiced
3 TB All purpose gluten free flour
1 tsp Hain* baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Soak the quinoa for 20 minutes and then rinse. Add a cup and a half of water to sauce pan and cook the quinoa. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Blanch turnip greens in boiling water for less than 60 seconds and put in an ice bath so they stay a vibrant green (this stops the cooking process). After the greens are cool, squeeze the water out. Put the quinoa, greens, yamaimo, gluten free flour, onion, lemon juice, baking powder, salt, and cayenne pepper in a mixing bowl and combine. Form patties on a baking sheet lined with baking paper and bake for 25-30 minutes in the oven.

I boil the turnips and serve along side the burgers with a kohlrabi apple slaw with a macadamia mustard sauce. We brought the burgers to a potluck today and people seemed to like them.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Savory Hoecakes and Garlic Rosemary Potatoes

This weekend, we had my mom, brothers, and nephew come over for dinner. I try to have them all over at least once a month. Owen (nephew) has some serious food allergies, and he's getting to that age when he is noticing what other people are eating and he wants the same food! It's amazing how young people are when they start to feel the need to fit in and be like others. I love providing a large meal that is entirely Owen friendly.

Enjoying some savory hoecakes and straight up ketchup. Blech.

We had a large spread of fruit, veggies, savory hoecakes, garlic rosemary potatoes, non-vegan friendly items for the family members who partake, and cupcakes for dessert. The favorites were the hoecakes and the cupcakes. The hoecakes nearly didn't make it to the table, and the few leftovers we had were packed up for Owen.

Savory Hoecakes
1 pear, pureed
1/4-1/3 cup (loose packed) garlic spears, sliced
3.5 oz ground quinoa
1 Tb ground chia
3.5 sorghum flour
1 oz tapioca flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
3 T safflower oil
4 oz hemp milk
1 tsp vinegar

The batter responds best when the frying pan is hot and the batter is formed to pancakes no bigger than 2 1/2 inches across. Plenty of oil is needed as well - not to deep fry, but the pan should be amply coated.

Substitutions: Garlic spears are something I recommend folks try if they can. They are in season now, and should be available at farmer's markets. If they are not available in your area, green onions are a perfectly acceptable substitute. Apple (preferably varieties meant for cooking) can replace the pear, but Owen is allergic.

I use a coffee grinder to grind up my quinoa flour, which leaves some texture, like corn meal. I combine the dry ingredients, then the wet ingredients, folding in the garlic spears last. They cook much like a pancake, and are ready to flip when bubbles form at the top and they appear cooked partially on the sides.

Rosemary and Garlic Roasted Potatoes
2 pounds potatoes
3 cloves garlic
2 sprigs rosemary, minced
3 Tb olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. I dice the potatoes in 1/2" or smaller squares, depending on how long I have to cook them. After dicing, the potatoes go in a bowl with olive oil, minced garlic, rosemary and salt and pepper. That all gets thrown into a baking dish and into the oven for about 45 minutes.

It was a tasty meal, and I could tell other folks liked their food because it was pretty quiet. Owen is still at an age where he picks at his food and doesn't seem to eat a whole lot, but he will eat quite a bit of dessert. I made "red" velvet cupcakes with cream "cheese" frosting. I say "red" because I'm having a hard time finding the right natural ingredients to get that amazing red color. I'm beginning to become convinced that red velvet color is only possible with gross artificial coloring, but I'm still toying around with beets.

He may have been imitating a dinosaur here.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Quinoa Pear Hoecakes

A friend of a friend sent me an intimidating list of allergens her son has to avoid. Fortunately, I've had either personal experience with them or I have had to feed my husband or nephew while avoiding those foods. The challenge is usually coming up with pancakes, waffles, or some kind of grain based breakfast item that has a good texture and holds together well without using corn, rice, or potato starch. These pancakes remind me much more of hoecakes, which are traditionally made with cornmeal, giving it a more interesting texture. They are also straddling the line between savory and sweet. Quinoa is very savory, and the only sweetener in this batter is pear puree. This could easily be converted into a versatile flat bread that would go well with savory beans or a bean puree and al dente vegetables.

Pear Quinoa Hoecakes
Makes over 10 small hoecakes (1 1/2" diameter)
1 Pear, pureed
1 Pear, julienned
3.5 oz Quinoa, ground
3.5 oz Sorghum flour
1 oz Tapioca flour
1 Tb Chia seeds, ground
1/2 tsp Baking Powder*
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/2 tsp Salt
3 T Safflower Oil
4 oz Hemp Milk
1 tsp Apple Cider Vinegar

* Baking powder is something that should be purchased with some research and caution. Many mainstream baking powders have either corn or gluten in them. Hain Baking Powder is the brand I usually use, but it has potato starch in it. You could alter the recipe to 1 3/4 tsp baking soda and add a little more vinegar instead of using Baking Powder.

I used pear in this recipe as a binder, sweetener, and to add some texture and moisture. If you do not like the texture, feel free to skip julienned pear and puree it instead. Another option is to substitute with baking apples like McIntosh. McIntosh are soft apples that tend to lose their structure a bit during cooking, which is what you actually want here, as opposed to eating apples like Fuji. To julienne the pear, I halved and cored the pear, then cut into fine "sticks."

Quinoa flour can be quite expensive, so I buy my quinoa in bulk and use a cheap coffee grinder to make my flour. The flour is a bit course compared to store bought quinoa flour, but this isn't a bad thing for most dishes. The course grind is what gives this the texture of a hoecake.

Combine the dry ingredients and mix well. Add in the pear puree, julienned pear, safflower oil, hemp milk, and apple cider vinegar once your skillet is up to temperature. Gently fold in the wet ingredients if you want to find some pear in your hoecake, otherwise mix away! I put in enough oil to keep an ample coating in the pan - on the verge of pan frying the bottom of the cake a bit. Flip the cakes when they begin to bubble and appear cooked around the edges. You may have to work around the bottom of the cake gingerly before flipping them to keep their slightly crispy exterior intact. I use a ceramic pan instead of teflon, and have noticed things tend to stick more as my pan ages. I feel it's worth having a non-teflon pan.

The amount of oil I recommend along with keeping the hoe cakes small will keep you from cursing my recipe and your frying pan. I learned this the hard way and was about ready to give up on the recipe. I'm very glad I kept at it because Lance and I really enjoyed them!

At first I thought this recipe was a failure.

Once I adjusted the oil and made smaller cakes, they turned out great!
These cakes can be served several ways. Because they are a bit savory, I added a little powdered sugar. I enjoyed mine with a drizzle of molasses, which is a great source of potassium, calcium, and iron. Lance enjoyed his with powdered sugar and strawberries, although they'd be fine with maple syrup.

Molasses has a very distinct flavor, but it's rich in Iron

If you want a savory cake, I would use one pureed pear or apple, skip the julienned addition and add chopped scallions to the batter.

Are there breakfast items you miss because of a diet change or allergy?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Road Trip!

It's been a fun couple of months. We've been on a trip to Arizona for a friend's wedding, a road trip to Colorado to visit family, and fun filled weekends with wedding events, nieces, nephews, and puppy fun time!

Lance with sister Sabrina, Niece "A", and Annie

First, traveling through states that aren't vegan friendly is a challenge, but totally doable. On the way to Colorado, we drove through Eastern Washington, Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.

Packed Food Items:
  • Lydia's Organics Kale Krunchies
  • Lydia's Organics Sunflower Bread
  • Lydia's Organics Cereal
  • Larabars
  • rice milk
  • Chick (pea) salad
  • salad greens
  • macadamia dressing (recipe below)
  • cacao
  • Warrior Protein
  • vitamin E supplement
  • maca

I made the decision to pack store bought rice milk instead of making my own nut or seed milk to pack because of convenience and the packaging enables things to stay fresh without refrigerating (until opened). Unlike many of the dairy free milks, Rice Dream in particular does not contain Carageenan. Certain strains of carageenan are used with lab animals to induce IBS and inflammation in wounds. Carageenan is made from Irish Moss, so you'll notice that my raw vegan desserts do not use this ingredient.

Food Implements Packed:
  • sharp knife
  • cutting board
  • Vitamix!
  • plates
  • bowls
  • forks
  • spoons
  • large cooler

Flying is a little more difficult than driving, in my humble opinion. When I do fly, I usually pack a big suitcase that can fit a small cooler full of chickpea or other bean and vegetable salad. I pack dishes and silverware and make sure my room has a mini-fridge. I map out the health food stores and ask around on message boards like and for restaurants in the area. Most of my business travel is to major cities, which makes things easier. I love traveling to San Francisco because it gives me an excuse to go to Cafe Gratitude!

Going through several states meant days full of driving, but it was kind of fun in our new Hyundai Elantra. So far, with upgraded tires, I've gotten around 37+ mpg driving in areas that require 55 mph, so it's capable of very decent mileage. With the speed we were going (especially through Montana), we weren't getting the optimal mileage.

Options are few and far between when it comes to finding decent selections of organic produce and vegan/raw vegan packaged foods without preservatives or soy, especially in Wyoming. I will point out that larger cities or anywhere with a college in the town will have more options. If you're planning a road trip, I would recommend finding the larger colleges along your route and looking for health centric grocery stores in those towns. Bozeman, MT has a really cute little health food shop that has some decent options. Fortunately, the food I packed was more than enough to get me to Colorado.

We spent some time in Boulder, CO, but I didn't get to try out Leaf, a restaurant I was hoping we'd have time for. We did go to a few grocery stores to pick up "Cami Friendly" supplies. The family is very meat and potatoes, but I had free range of the kitchen and was able to make whatever I wanted for my own meals. They even let me use my Vitamix to make some rockin' smoothies (LOVE my Vitamix but it does sound like a plane taking off).

Annie is fabulous with the nieces. She loved the girls, and was really good watching out for the little fingers reaching for her beloved squeaky toy. "A" and Annie had fun racing around the back yard, and Annie even got to catch bubbles! OK, she wasn't really into the bubbles, but she loved chasing the squirrels and birds!

Don't you wish you could be surrounded by a cloud of bubbles?
Annie will trade places with you.
Zoos are a little hard for me, but I imagine they are much harder for the animals stuck in those really tiny places. I do have to say it was fun watching my niece run from place to place, staring at all those critters with awe.

Annie was a awesome traveler. She traveled in her crate for safety sake, and was snug as a bug in her cushy bed. We took rest stops and were happy with the dog friendly hotels.

She's not used to sleeping on the bed. What would give you that impression?
We are happy to be back in Washington! I've done a little baking so far. Chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting, and my first run at red velvet cake!

Sunday, May 8, 2011


I'm not normally a fan of eating at restaurants. There will be days where I am tired and do not want to cook, but I'll usually change my mind and say I'd rather eat at home because I don't want to risk someone mixing up the order or getting sick from cross contamination. I realize I'm sounding a bit paranoid about now, but it usually takes me less than 20 minutes to figure out when there was something in my food that I shouldn't have eaten and I feel lousy for a couple days afterwards. When I do eat out, it's usually one of two local restaurants I've grown to trust.

Yesterday was my birthday and the nicer of the two restaurants we frequent changed their menu, and there wasn't much that was vegan, gluten-free, and soy-free. I was a little disappointed and started looking at different options. Bitt had suggested Sutra several months ago and I hadn't been brave enough to really look into it until that point. Sutra is a vegetarian (really labeled vegetarian although all of the items were clearly vegan) restaurant that uses fresh, local ingredients. The chef works with local farmers and foragers, building his menu around the ingredients that are freshest and most interesting. The menu is a set four course meal with suggested drink pairings. Lance said it reminded him of "Chopped" because they essentially are working with a "mystery basket" every week, but I'll go into that more later.

Lance called the restaurant and explained I had several allergies and asked if they could accommodate someone with a lot of food issues. The chef got on the phone with him to discuss my allergies and said they could change aspects of their menu to fit my needs. I was very impressed by the fact that the chef took the time to go over the menu with my husband and instantly felt more comfortable at dining at a restaurant with a "fixed" menu.

The restaurant is quite cozy. There weren't any tables for two really, so Lance and I opted to sit at the larger communal table at the end. There are two seated dinners at Sutra - one at 6:30 and one at 9. We went to the earlier seating, which was very full. We sat next to two nice women. The kitchen is open, so we were able to watch the chef prepare our meals. The chef came to the head of the restaurant and explained the menu and special ingredients. Foragers found hedgehog mushrooms, which are out of season right now, so we were in for a treat. Nettles were used in the risotto, and we learned that they have 10 times the calcium of other leafy greens and are very high in iron. Another oddity on the menu was the devil's club that was foraged and fried in rice flour and corn meal.

The first course was carried out. The lentil soup was very nicely seasoned with coriander and cumin. Cauliflower made the texture quite velvety. It had a little heat to it, and was quite lovely. The salad had baby greens, and some of which had a tinge of mustard flavor (likely arugula). The salad had candied walnuts, pickled fiddle heads, and shaved fennel. The dressing was lemon juice and a bit of truffle oil.

Second course was a risotto with thyme and nettles over a balsamic reduction, with a spicy carrot sauce on the side. Devil's club was fried in corn meal and rice flour, and they were quite considerate and made sure to leave the corn meal off mine and fry my batch before the others to avoid cross-contamination. I really appreciated that they understood what cross-contamination was and they took extra steps to avoid it! I have to say that it wasn't my favorite, but Lance enjoyed it so much he finished the half I chose not to eat. It ended up being a smart move on my part because there was a LOT of food!

Course three was a savory crepe made of mung beans and black rice. The crepe wrapped cashew cheese and asparagus, and was served over a bed of sauteed chard. Others had their crepe over a tomato sauce, but they served mine with a balsamic reduction and truffle oil. I know this is sacrilege to some, but I don't overly enjoy truffle oil. I thoroughly enjoyed the course, however. There were hedgehog mushrooms served on top, which were smoked. It was so delicious!!!

The last course is always my favorite. Desert! Dessert for most was a cherry rhubarb torte with caramel coconut ice cream and lava salt. For me, it was the wonderful torte filling prepared separately. The rhubarb was still crisp and a wonderful contrast to the soft cherries. It paired very well with the caramel coconut ice cream and the lava salt had a bit of charcoal, which went really well with the cherries. Divine.

The servers were knowledgeable and everyone was very diligent about allergy issues. I would recommend Sutra to people who have to be cautious about their allergies, as well as those just looking for a delicious meal.

Grade: Strong A

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Fudge Brownies with Himalayan Salt

HAPPY EASTER!!! -- Annie got to go plastic Easter Egg hunting for biscuits!

We have had a busy day today! I had a bit of a brownie fail yesterday (in my opinion, it is pretty hard to FAIL brownies...they were still really good with marionberry sauce and coconut ice cream), so this morning I woke up determined to figure out what I had written out incorrectly when I jotted down the ingredients from a very successful batch.

These brownies are very moist and a bit spongey the first day and become more dense as they cool down. They are a bit rich for frosting, but they are great with a fruit sauce and plain vanilla "ice cream."

Fudge Brownies with Himalayan Salt

2.5 oz cacao powder
1.5 oz sorghum flour
1.5 brown rice flour
1 oz tapioca flour
2 T ground chia seed
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of cinnamon
3.5 oz finely grated sweet potato
7 oz coconut milk
7 oz maple syrup
3 T sunflower oil
2 T agave

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Combine all the dry ingredients thoroughly in a mixing bowl. I recommend at least sifting the cacao powder to eliminate lumps. Add the finely grated sweet potato, coconut milk, maple syrup, sunflower oil, and agave. Put the batter in an 8X8 inch baking dish lined with baking paper. Bake for 25 minutes and take it out of the oven so you can add some freshly ground Himalayan salt evenly over the top (around 1/3 of a tsp). Put back in the oven for another 10-20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out fairly clean and the edges are a little darker. Let cool before attempting to cut.

After dropping off the brownies at the Sidecar for Pigs Peace, we decided to figure out if a scene from the TV series The Killing was plausible. We really enjoy the show for two reasons. 1. It's based in Seattle. 2. It's fun to try to pick out exaggerations or errors. They showed a submerged car in a pond at Discovery Park, which they claimed was a popular place for "johns" to take their prostitutes. Discovery Park is on the edge of Magnolia, which is known for being a very nice neighborhood. It's not remotely near the neighborhoods that are typically known for that kind of activity. Then again, maybe they know something I don't. We also weren't aware of ponds at Discovery Park.

Look - A pond! One of 3 near the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center and Wolf Tree Loop

While I think they may have filmed that particular scene elsewhere, there is a pretty sizable pond near an access road. I don't know the depth of the pond, but it's definitely murky enough.

After we found the ponds, we went on to better things. Watching Annie "hunt" squirrels!!!

"Is that a SQUIRREL???"

"HEY! Are there any squirrels in there??"

"I think I saw a squirrel!!!"

I would like to say that we always have a leash on Annie unless she's in a securely fenced area. She is a fast little monster and I'd hate to see what she would do with a squirrel, and we'd have a tough time getting her back.

I found something beautiful as well. Trilliums! Trilliums are a fragile flower that can occassionally be found in state parks across the northern US. It is illegal to attempt to transplant or pick them in several states because doing usually quickly kill the plant. It's best to enjoy how beautiful they are from a bit of a distance.

It was great to get outdoors and enjoy the patches of sunlight!

Saturday, April 23, 2011


Snickerdoodles are my childhood favorite, but they have vexed me in the past. I've had many failed recipes - any posted previously just were not quite there. It was either a texture issue, or the flavors were a little muted or exaggerated. The snickerdoodle is the recipe I have altered or scrapped all together several times. I think perhaps my arch nemesis has fallen and I've finally achieved the trifecta - texture, taste, and appearance.

There is a fairly consistent phenomenon particular to gluten-free cookies that took me a while to adapt to. Gluten cookies are better off if you take them off the pan immediately. They hold their shape pretty well and a little aggressive spatula work may cause a couple cookies to be put in the imperfect pile (in my house that means they are eaten immediately - it's the best way to ensure no one sees those imperfect cookies, right?). If you don't get them off the pan immediately, you're scraping and soaking a pan. Gluten-free cookies will come out of the oven squishy and unstable. With this recipe, if you try to take them off the pan before they have had plenty of time to cool, you will end up with half the cookie still on the sheet and a big crumbly mess. If you let them sit for at least an hour or two, they will have that typical, hard snickerdoodle texture. These are best made the night before you plan to serve them.

makes 12 large cookies
4 oz palm oil
1/3 cup sugar
4 oz brown rice syrup
1/2 c water
1/2 vanilla bean, scraped
1 T ground Chia seed
3.8 oz tapioca flour
6.8 oz white rice flour
1.2 oz amaranth flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cream of tartar

Sugar & cinnamon to coat

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine the sugar, flours, vanilla, chia seed, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cream of tartar in a mixing bowl. Gently melt the palm oil either in the microwave or sauce pan. Combine the oil, brown rice syrup, and water with the dry ingredients. Once the ingredients are combined, take a ball of dough about the size of a golf ball and roll the dough in sugar and cinnamon. Press slightly onto the cookie sheet to form a round shape. Space the cookies at least an inch to two inches apart as they will raise and spread. Bake for 12 minutes.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Happy Earth Day!!!

Today was Earth Day and there were quite a few reminders. Starbucks was offering free drip coffee and tea to those with reusable mugs, our office building was giving away free energy efficient light bulbs, and Google had a cute little design on their home page that had little critters running around as you moused over it. It was also a beautiful day in Seattle, which gave us a chance to do some work in the yard. We have a lot to do tomorrow, including drop off some brownies and snickerdoodles for the Sidecar for Pigs Peace bake sale, but I'm hoping we'll have time to sneak over to dog park.

To me, Earth Day is a day to reflect on all the wonderful things this planet has provided us with. Air, water, and beautiful scenes. It made me think of Kauai. We did a lot of hiking while we were there, and I remember hiking along the Napli Coast and inland to the Hanakapi'ai Falls. The plants were incredibly lush and fertile. Guava fruit was laying all over the pathways along with fruit from some of the palm trees. The smell was wonderful, mixed in with rich earth and the humid air.

After recalling the beautiful hike among the guava trees, my mind wandered up the Kalalau Valley at the end of the Waimea Canyon drive. I remember being filled with a sense of awe - there are so many places and scenes to enjoy. The sun was warm and we watched a large fog bank roll down to the ocean as the morning slipped by.

The Kauai coastline is gorgeous, and if you are traveling by boat, you may be lucky enough to see some humpback whales in the distance.

Today my mind also fled to the wonderful bounty the Earth gives us. Delicious, fresh foods. We are so lucky to have so many tasty options available to us.

In our household we have made some really good steps towards minimizing waste and using more environmentally friendly products. Our cars sit in the driveway most of the week because we bus too and from work, although I did get a new cute little Hyundai Elantra. The mileage is great! Our cleaning products are without harsh chemicals, cloth is replacing many paper products, and we've got our little garden in the front yard. I would love to start researching more environmentally friendly furniture and flooring. It makes me sad to think how many products are used on a daily basis that are very bad for us...

Where did your thoughts go for Earth Day? Are you planning on changing some lifestyle habits to be kinder to our planet?

Pigs Peace Bake Sale!

Tomorrow there is a bake sale at the Sidecar for Pigs Peace. If you're in the Seattle area, I will be bringing in brownies and snickerdoodles. I hope the sale does well!

Mmmm....gooey brownies

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Lance and Allergies

I was starting another blog about kids and allergies, but Annie had other ideas and started jumping on the laptop keyboard. I handed Lance the laptop and asked him to blog. After a second of protesting, I suggested he share his experience with allergies and how he feels about them. You'll detect a little bit of frustration in his tone, but overall, he's taken it really well and done a pretty good job of adapting. We need to work a little on the menu reading skills and awareness of hidden gluten ingredients, but those are things we learn over time, sometimes by trial and error.

Since Annie decided to jump in Cami's lap and on the laptop as she was trying to blog, a guest writer has taken over. This is Lance, Cami's husband. As a kid, I didn't have to worry about allergies. Most of my adult life as well. In fact, since I run so much, I could pretty much eat anything I wanted whenever I wanted. I stuck with this strategy and ate a lot.

I'm not saying that I was eating nothing but ice cream, but I was unrestricted in my diet and never had to worry about the consequences of any foods. However, I started getting a red rash on both my cheeks, and it never would go away. I was gradually getting more tired then normal. So I went in for allergy testing. For the food portion this consisted of scratch tests to see how I responded, followed by three weeks without the foods I failed on before a retest to see which ones mattered.

This was a disaster. Testing nine different types of foods, I failed them all. Most of them, I didn't fail severely, but enough that I couldn't have them. Wheat, soy, milk, and eggs I failed with a four, but I also failed rice, tomatoes, yeast, and corn. Most surprising at that point, I failed potatoes. How does an Irish guy fail on a potato allergy???

So it was a long three weeks before I could try the foods again. I had it ten times better then anyone else would have been in this situation with Cami's knowledge on all the replacement grains and ingredients, and her making all the foods I had never heard of before meeting her. I was still eating well. I still dropped 10 pounds, which is pretty significant.

However, when I was waking up in the morning, I wasn't feeling tired and groggy. I wouldn't crash in the afternoons, and I started feeling better. Once I started testing things again, I started getting most of the foods back. Rice was key, and opened up many options, and I was able to get potatoes again. I had recovered everything except soy, with only the wheat test left.

For this test, I popped in a Frosted Mini Wheat. This was a favorite cereal growing up. I knew instantly that it did not go well. My nose stuffed up, my face tightened, as well as my forehead. Redness engullfed my face. Losing wheat is a tough blow. You know what's made with wheat? Everything. All the convenient foods, flour, all baked goods, bread, and beer.

Having the experience of all the other foods that were missing, however, I knew I would be OK. It turns out, there are a ton of people in the same boat I am, and just about all restraunts have options, some even with Gluten free menus.

In the mean time, I feel much better, am not as tired, and more productive. There are definitly times where it's hard. Like last week, when they announced that our new work offices were moving above a restaurant and brewery that has stellar beer. However, I still have options, and I'm not the last person this will happen to.