Thursday, January 29, 2009

Gluten-Free Teff Muffins

I have this recipe that I created a few months ago and I thought I would share it with you. It is one of those recipes that is so delicious and so perfect that you don't want to give it away, or share your secret. But here it is, a gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free, sugar-free divinely delicious and nutritious little muffin, the Teff Breakfast Muffin.

Do you know what teff is? It is a super tiny, gluten-free Ethiopian grain that is extremely high minerals, namely iron. (Teff is probably most well-known for its appearance as a flour in the flat, pancake-like bread, injera - a staple food in Ethiopian cuisine.) Teff is also high in protein, complex carbohydrates, and fiber, making it a perfect breakfast food. Being very easy and quick to prepare, you can make your lunch or get ready for your day while the teff is simmering on the stove, it only takes about 15 minutes. 

Although teff originated in Ethiopia, it is now grown in the Snake River Valley of Idaho. The story goes, that the company's founder, Wayne Carlson, was in Ethiopia in the 1970's and spent some time as a guest at a local farm. The farmers were eager to show him their crop of teff among other grains. Then once back in the US, Wayne became fascinated at the geographic and climactic similarities of the Snake River region and Eastern Africa. He then decided to grow teff, asking Ethiopians living in the US to work on the farm, thereby reestablishing the relationship of these people to their native grain.

Whole grain teff and its flour comes in different varieties - brown or ivory, both delicious! If you cannot find organic teff flour in your local co-op or health food store you can buy it online from in 5 or 25 pound bags. Bob's Red Mill also sells it but theirs is not ground as finely making it slightly gritty.

Instead of using the typical non-stick pan for baking, I use a stone muffin pan that can be found here. It is so wonderful to bake with, the muffins never stick, everything cooks evenly, and it cleans up easily.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What's Your Ideal Meal?

I recently received a birthday gift in the mail from my mother-in-law. It was a colorful apron that she picked up during her travels to Salt Lake City. On the pocket reads: "One World, Everybody Eats."

So what do you eat, I ask?

We are all so genetically, biochemically, and just plain old individually unique. As Dr. Jeff Bland always says: "The food of one can be the poison of another" or something to that affect. Tom and I eat very differently, what works for him doesn't work for me and what feels good to me makes him sick!

As we age and become wiser, hopefully we listen to the cues of our bodies and consume foods which will truly nourish individuals.

Think about this:
  1. Do you experience digestive upset after eating?

  2. Do you experience "brain fog" shortly after a meal?

  3. Do you tire easily?

  4. Are you anemic?

  5. How about overweight/underweight?

  6. Do you have recurring headaches?

  7. How about arthritis?

  8. Do you have skin rashes?

  9. Do you frequently get sick?
If you answered "yes" to any one of these questions chances are that your current diet might not be serving you. Take some time and write down your diet for a few days to really see what you have been consuming. About 10 years ago I took a serious look at my diet. I would have answered "yes" to about half of these questions then (#'s 1,2,3,6, and 9 to be specific). I decided to detox and change my diet. After a number of different cleanses I followed The Body Ecology Diet book by Donna Gates. That did the trick, I felt energetic again and my digestion was strong...still is strong! Tom has an excellent 28-Day Elimination and Detoxification Diet in our Cookbook that has helped hundreds of people identify problem foods and find a diet that works for them.
Once you have identified "problem foods" then you can move on to enjoy the plethora of tasty whole foods that are available. I live in just this world. I know what works for me so each day I am free to choose a meal, an ingredient, a dessert, a snack that my intuitions call forth. In addition, as a mother who cooks for her family, I work to incorporate every one's needs for a meal.
Let's see...Tom is vegan, doesn't eat sesame or gluten among other things, likes things spicy, no sweets, loves beans and rice; Gracie cannot tolerate gluten, loves mushrooms, green smoothies, quinoa, and nuts; Lily wishes she could eat bread all day every day, loves potatoes and butter, hates eggs and dairy (except butter), asked for a green smoothie in her lunch today; the babies don't eat gluten, dairy, corn, soy, eggs, and nuts among other things but eat a lot of what I do feed them, they love green smoothies, salmon, and quinoa and frozen berries for a treat, and drink mama's milk throughout the night, they got a rash from lemons and limes so don't eat that anymore - at least not for now.
Our food choices change throughout the seasons. In the winter we eat hearty, warming cooked foods to keep our bellies full and our bodies warm. I just cannot bring myself to eat a cold salad in the winter (at least right now), I prefer to drink green smoothies at room temperature and eat lots of cooked dark leafy greens such as, kale, collards, and chard. When spring comes and the tender greens begin to sprout from the ground, our bodies are signaled to eat more bitter, raw greens such as chickweed, dandelion, and bittercress. We become more active, and gently detox from the fall and winter. Summer is full of fresh fruits and vegetables and so we eat a lot of raw foods during this season. When fall turns the corner we begin to eat warming root vegetables, soups, and stews once again.
Not only do our food needs and tastes change throughout the seasons, but even through days and weeks....and well, our lifetime. Listen to your intuitions, if you don't already, and trust them. Ask yourself what your body needs daily. Asking questions is like a daily meditation practice or yoga practice. You will know what is best for you! There is no perfect one-size-fits-all diet out there, only a gazillion options for you to choose from.
Here is my ideal meal (at least at the moment):
Wild Alaskan King Salmon (I buy it from a local fish market), Roasted Yams, and Apple Spiced Collard Greens (from my Cookbook). That's it, no bread, no dessert, just this perfect meal.
For the salmon pictured above, I drizzled it with a few teaspoons each of honey, lemon juice, and olive oil and then sprinkled it with Herbamare, dried thyme, and freshly ground black pepper. I baked it at 400 degrees until it was done. I never watch the time, but will occasionally check it with a fork for doneness. Take it out of the oven when the thickest part of the fillet is still a little underdone because it will continue to cook when it is out of the oven. This ensures that it doesn't get overdone and dry out from too much cooking.
The yams I peeled and cut into half moons then tossed in olive oil and sea salt. The trick to cooking these properly is to only place a single layer in the pan (use two pans if need be). I cooked them at 400 degrees until done, about 45 minutes.
The collard greens I rinsed off and then cut chiffonade, which is a technique of cutting where you stack the greens on top of each other and then roll them tightly. Slice them with a sharp knife into long, thin strips. I cooked them according to my recipe for Apple Spiced Collard Greens from my Cookbook.
Please comment below and let us know what is Your Ideal Meal!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Salmon Salad Sandwich with Avocado Mayonnaise (egg-free)

Living in the Pacific Northwest we are blessed with a bounty of fresh, wild salmon, some of which comes from the pacific coast and some from Alaska. My cooking creativity is sparked just by looking at the plump and glossy, pink-hued fillets. You'll find recipes such as Spiced Citrus Salmon, Basil Balsamic Salmon, and Salmon with Lemon, Garlic, and Thyme in my cookbook, just to name a few.

But what does one do with leftover salmon? I find many ways, but with my strange need to always create something new I thought of doing a spin on the old tuna salad sandwich. But what about the mayo? I have never been much of a fan so when a friend told me she made mayonnaise with avocados I thought the combination would be quite delicious. Salmon Salad Sandwiches using homemade avocado mayonnaise....what a nutritious combination!

Monday, January 12, 2009

Lentil Soup in a Hurry!

In between nursing the babies, changing diapers, reading stories to the girls, and building block towers with the babies I still need to make a meal, right? Or shall I say three meals a day, every day.

People often ask me how many hours a day I spend in the kitchen. Well it is not as many as you may imagine. I find ways to cut corners, use what we have, and stretch the ingredients I have on hand. I have four children now and life is not as simple as it was with one or two in tow.

This morning I used the leftover brown rice from last night's dinner to make a super fast (and simple) Rice Breakfast Porridge of sorts. Into a pot I placed a few cups of cooked short grain brown rice (though a combo of short grain and sweet rice works even better) along with a few cups of organic vanilla almond milk. I chopped up a few medjool dates and added those as well. The almond milk and dates provide ample sweetness so it didn't need any maple syrup or honey. I simmered the rice and milk mixture over low heat until it was warmed. And then we topped each bowl with ground cinnamon and ground raw almonds (I grind my almonds in the dry container of the Vita-Mix, but a coffee grinder works also). Frozen blueberries would be another great addition to top it all off.

The babies went down for their morning nap around 11am. And typically, as soon as they are asleep, I rush around the house and try to get everything done possible. Dishes, laundry, meals, book orders, you name it.

I use my "free" time efficiently, making a meal while at the same time doing dishes and a load of laundry or two. To get the soup done faster, I began by putting the lentils into a soup pot with the water to get them cooking. Never mind if you are caught up with other things and can't get to adding the other ingredients right away, at least you have the lentils cooking so you are half way there already!

Friday, January 2, 2009

When the Sun Goes Away, So Does Your Vitamin D

Wow! I haven't seen this much snow in Bellingham, WA since 1996! With all of the cold weather and cloud cover, sunshine is not able to reach our skin to allow for the formation of vitamin D. In fact, anywhere North of an imaginary line (the 35th Parallel) running through Bakersfield, California, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and Raleigh, North Carolina, the sun's rays are not strong enough for vitamin D formation in the Winter. The farther away from the equator you live, the longer the season of vitamin D shortage.

Health experts recognized an epidemic of vitamin D deficiencies at the turn of the century and years later our food was fortified as a result. However, recent research is now clear in stating that, even with fortified foods, in the absence of adequate sun exposure , it is virtually impossible to meet your daily needs of vitamin D from foods.

After just returning from a conference on vitamin D with some of the world experts on the subject, it is clear that vitamin D might be the most important hormone in the human body. Whether it is helping with bones, blood pressure and heart disease, cancer, diabetes, or the prevention of the flu, vitamin D plays a role in maintaining normal function in every cell of our bodies.

So what do we do in the dark winter months? Either take a trip to Hawaii, or use supplements. If Hawaii is not an option, experts are saying that adult humans require about 3,500 to 3,800IU of vitamin D per day, and infants and children need close to 1000 IU per day per 25 pounds of body weight. Pregnant women need around 6000 IU's per day. If serum levels of 25-hydroxy vitamin D are low in adults, doses of 5000IU or more could be called for.

An inexpensive finger prick bloodspot test to look at 25-hydroxy vitamin D levels can be obtained through participation in the Vitamin D Action Network at Current recommendations for 25-hydroxy vitamin D levels are between 45-80 ng/mL, with higher levels possibly needed in the prevention and treatment in various diseases.

We give each of our children 1000 IU's of Vitamin D daily. The girls just swallow the tiny capsules with water. With the babies we break open the capsule and mix it with a small amount of applesauce and spoon feed it to them. Ali and I each take 5000 IU's daily during the winter months; less in the fall and spring, and even less in the summer if we get adequate sun exposure. We use the Thorne brand of vitamin D3 because it is one of the only brands available that uses raw materials that are free of all preservatives (like BHT, BHA, sodium benzoate), flowing agents (like magnesium stearate or ascorbyl palmitate), potentially harmful fillers (like lactose), gluten, dairy, and all other common allergens. What you see on their label is all you get. Please contact your local health care provider for availability. Please note that this brand is not sold in stores and is only available through a health care provider.

If you are an undiagnosed celiac or recovering celiac then you will not be able to properly absorb supplemental vitamin D. This is because gluten damages the small intestine where fat, and fat soluble nutrients, are absorbed. It is very important to test for celiac disease or gluten sensitivity if your vitamin D levels do not rise after supplementation.

Here is our recipe for an immune-boosting drink. Be sure to drink this after you have eaten some fat (avocado, olive oil, fish) to help absorb the D. Add extra Vitamin D if you are feeling a bit under the weather!

Super Immunity Cocktail

Serves 1 adult or 2 children

the juice of 2 Valencia oranges
two 1000 IU capsules vitamin D
one 200 mcg capsule selenium picolinate

Place all ingredients into a glass and whisk together using a fork. Pour into shot glasses and serve immediately!