Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Gluten-Free, Nut-Free Toddler Snack Cookies

I received an email last weekend from someone who has our book and also has a toddler about the same age as our twin boys (who are 15 months now). She was asking about snacks to take on outings and play dates. I replied to her and mentioned the obvious for us: green smoothies, nori, rice cakes, fresh fruit.

The other morning I was baking my Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe from my Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook to snap the needed photo for a guest blog post I was writing. You can view The W.H.O.L.E. Gang blog to see that post and my recipe. Diane has a wonderful gluten-free blog that I encourage you to check out. W.H.O.L.E. = whole healthy organic living everyday! Quite catchy and creative!

The boys were helping me by sniffing ingredients, tasting little pieces of medjool dates, emptying the baking drawer, practicing with the wire whisk, etc.

After I put the cookies in the oven to bake, I realized they couldn't eat them because the cookies contain chocolate. This is not a food that I would like to introduce quite yet, we'll give that one a few years! Feeling particularly inspired, I whipped up a batch of cookies perfectly designed for a toddler, though mommies and daddies might like them too! They came out perfect the first time!

Gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free, nut-free, sugar-free!

But certainly not taste-free! My boys loved the cookies! They had a perfect texture, not too hard nor too soft, perfect for little hands and mouths.

If you would like substitute ground nuts for the sunflower seeds I am sure that would work just fine. I would suggest almonds, cashews, or hazelnuts. Of course you could add mini-chocolate chips in place of the raisins if desired.

Happy Baking!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Simple Dinners for Busy Days

Although life seems to have eased up a bit now that our twin babies are, well, 15 months old tomorrow, the pace has begun to ramp up. Most days I feel like a sheep dog herding cattle. For example, the other day I was out for a morning walk with the boys while the girls were in school. The boys really enjoy walking for part of it and if were up to Sam, he would walk for miles without stopping. As we neared the duck pond on a wooded trail near our house the boys began to merge onto the trail that leads down to it.

I stop the baby jogger and round them up like two footballs under each arm. Back on the trail again, I walk behind them and keep them on track until we are past the pond.

I feel like we are finally beginning to get back into a rhythm. As life changes, we are constantly adjusting to find our center, then it changes again and a new center needs to be attained. I think it took me at least a year since the boys were born to begin to regain my center.

Now, life happens once again. Driving children to and fro. Play dates, outings, family Wonderful life!

Yesterday I barely had a chance to sit down let alone think about what I was going to make for dinner. Tom left for Seattle early in the morning and didn't get back until we had just finished dinner. After I dropped the girls off at school in the morning I went to the gym to workout. Feeling good, I decided to try a class I had not done before. Body Combat. OK, the name says it all. I usually do the yoga-type classes and so felt somewhat like a klutz in this one. But hey, I did it.

A sauna, a shower, and an errand later, Grace gets picked up from preschool. Home, lunch, boys nap, wrap Lily's birthday presents (she turns 7 tomorrow), pick Lily up from school. Home, nurse the boys, sit down with the kids for a little while.

5pm. Time to make dinner. But what and quick? The kids are hungry. Two minutes later I have a plan.

Chicken & Vegetable Stew with Biscuits.

My mom used to make Chicken and Dumplings or Chicken Pot Pie quite often as we were growing up. She always cooked from scratch and made balanced meals for us. Not only were her meals balanced but they tasted good! Those flavors still linger with me to this day. This stew is somewhat a reflection of her chicken pot pie filling.

A few days ago I cooked a whole chicken on the stove to make chicken noodle soup. There was plenty of meat already in the soup when I began to pull the breast meat from the bones so I decided to save it for something else.

I almost always have carrots and celery in the fridge and potatoes and onions in the pantry. If you have chicken or vegetable stock, a little arrowroot powder, and some salt and herbs on hand you are good to go.

From start to finish the whole meal took me 30 minutes to prepare and cook. We were sitting down and eating dinner by 5:30pm! Now I know most of you work or are busy stay-at-home moms that could appreciate a meal like this. A very similar recipe also appears in my cookbook. We served the stew with some gluten-free, dairy-free biscuits made with sorghum flour.

The nice thing about adding the cooked chicken at the end is that this meal can also be made vegan. (Like for Tom who has been vegan now for 28 years!) I took some out before adding the chicken. You could easily stir in a little bit of cooked beans if desired. Tom had it with a large scoop of leftover cooked quinoa.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Bean and Rice Breakfast Bowls

I have had numerous requests for more breakfast ideas that don't involve eggs or soy, and of course without gluten or dairy. Here is a tremendously simple idea for you to take into your kitchen.

Beans and rice. With a Spicy Avocado Sauce recipe.

The idea isn't a new one. Cultures all over the world consume these two staple foods for most meals of the day.

Here in the United States these foods go almost unknown in most households. So now, I invite you to try them out for breakfast. Notice how you feel for the remainder of the day. For Tom and I, we feel energized and satisfied. I am not really all that hungry during for the remainder of the day when I start out with this meal.

Why are beans and rice so beneficial for breakfast?

In Tom's words: Breakfast is a very important meal. The literal meaning of the word is to break-the-fast of your evening rest. Part of what wakes you up in the morning is the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is increased in a state of hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. The brain needs sugar to function, the body knows this. Whole grains and beans have the necessary carbohydrates to fuel the brain and calm the cortisol. Because of their high fiber, amino acid, B vitamin, and magnesium content, they supply the necessary carbohydrates in a time-released fashion. This sets up a pattern of a steady blood sugar-to-insulin response for the entire day.

As long as you have your rice and beans pre-cooked, throwing together this meal is a snap! I like to use Sticky Brown Rice that I have made the night before. You can find the recipe here. Any kind of beans can be used. Yesterday Tom cooked a large pot of pink beans which are similar in flavor and texture to pinto beans. Black beans would be good too.

A basic lesson on cooking beans:

1. Buy your beans in bulk from a co-op or health food store. If you let your beans sit for too long in your cupboard or pantry they will have a difficult time cooking and may never cook thoroughly. Tom and I did this once with some black beans we had in the cupboard for too long. I had soaked them overnight and then cooked them the next day but after 2 1/2 hours they still were not cooked, just slightly crunchy in the center. So I composted them and threw the rest of the bag into the garden. Pretty soon we had black bean plants popping up everywhere! That Autumn we enjoyed our first crop of fresh black beans! Lily was 2 years old at the time and had so much fun shelling the beans!
2. Sort though the beans and pick out any rocks or shriveled, discolored beans. Place them into a bowl, rinse them and fill the bowl with water. Let them soak for at least 8 hours, or up to 24 hours. If you wish to sprout your beans before cooking then drain off the water (after soaking for 8-24 hours) and cover with a damp cloth, rinse and drain every few hours until you see a very tiny sprout form on the beans. Then they are ready to cook.
3. Drain off the soaking water and rinse well.

4. Place the beans into a large pot and fill with fresh water. Add a 3-inch strip of kombu seaweed. This will help to break down some of the indigestible sugars to make eating beans more enjoyable.

5. Simmer until the beans are cooked through (timing will depend on what variety of bean you are cooking, see the bean cooking chart in my book, The Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook). You can take a few beans out of the pot every once in a while and taste them, if they are soft and mash easily then they are done.

6. Once the beans have cooled a bit, I place them into containers for freezing. Make sure you pour some of that bean cooking liquid over the beans before freezing. They seem to freeze better if suspended in liquid. Store the remainder of your beans in glass containers in the fridge.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Dark Teff Sandwich Bread

Here I present to you a gluten-free yeast bread, sweetened with honey, reminiscent of whole wheat bread. Dark and hearty, full of whole grain goodness that is usually deplete in gluten-free breads. Because of teff's amazing nutrition profile this bread is higher in protein and iron than most of its gluten-free counterparts.

I tested this recipe a number of times, each time changing one aspect of the ingredient list. I finally settled on this version, knowing it was a winner because of how fast it disappeared in our house.

Although bread really isn't a staple in our house like it used to be, I think we will be making this recipe again and again. It is just very handy to have something ready-made for busy days. My 14 month old twins love eating this bread toasted and spread with pumpkin seed butter. My 4-year old and I eat it toasted and spread with almond butter and sour cherry jam. (I buy organic, fruit-sweetened jam from the company Bionaturae).

I know I have mentioned arrowroot powder in previous posts but I wanted to say it again here because it is a main ingredient in this recipe. Arrowroot can be cross-contaminated with gluten if processed in a facility that also mills wheat.

I used to purchase our arrowroot in bulk at our local co-op but then one day I decided I wanted to save money and special order a larger amount. When my order came in I wondered if they had given me someone else's order. The 5 pound paper package was covered with pictures of wheat and it sure had the look and feel of a bag of wheat flour. Of course I found the little sticker that read "Arrowroot" but it got me wondering. So I contacted the company to talk to them. They never responded but it didn't matter I already knew the answer.


Just a little bit of gluten that could be hiding in that bag of arrowroot could have sent Tom and our now 4-year old daughter into a week of agonizing you-know-what. So we returned the arrowroot. And this is when I fell in love with the company Authentic Foods. All of their products are gluten-free so no need to fret. One of our local Health Food Stores, Terra Organica, sells many of the Authentic Foods products, including arrowroot. You can also buy it online here.

For those of you who are curious, our local co-op sells arrowroot in bulk from another company, Glory Bee Foods, different from the company I had special ordered it from. I have not had time to contact this company to check and see if it is gluten-free. If someone does, please let me know.

Interested in more whole grain teff recipes?

Now on to my super yummy bread recipe...

Friday, March 6, 2009

Great Gluten-Free Wraps

I like food. I love the contrasting colors, pungent flavors, and good feelings that come from it. And eating these naturally delicious whole foods is really just as wonderful when eating gluten-free.

For those of you who have just begun this process of switching your diet to its new gluten-free form I offer you these suggestions for making wrap style sandwiches work with gluten-free tortillas.

I know it can be frustrating to make a wrap with a cold, and somewhat dry brown rice tortilla only to look away for a second and find the whole thing in pieces. Think about it though, what happens to rice when you put it in the refrigerator? It becomes dry and hard, right? And to make it edible you heat it up with a little water?

This holds true for using rice tortillas also. For best results steam them, in a steamer basket or over a pan of piping hot food. Flip them, and wait until they get ultra pliable before removing and proceeding with your wrap or fajita or whatever your meal may be.

But I digress, I was in a hurry when I made these wraps and did not steam them long enough. And so, inevitably, they began to crack apart like you see happening in the top wrap in the photo above.

Another trick is to run a clean dish towel under very hot water, ring it out, and place it underneath the tortilla while you are putting the filling in.

Alright, so on the the wrap. The flavor combinations are unusual I know -- arugula, cauliflower, onions, roasted red peppers -- but the contrasting pungent flavors are truly delicious. Each bite is as savory as the last. And for me, maybe one wrap wasn't enough for this hungry breastfeeding mama of twin boys! Yes, I admit, I had two they were so good.

Roasting your own red peppers is super easy, it only takes about 10 minutes. And if you think you don't have time, just know I made these wraps along with a big pot of creamy (dairy-free) potato soup with four kids at my feet and Tom out of town for the day (and evening). It is a quick and easy meal as long as you have beans that are already cooked. I had a container in the freezer but canned beans would work too. Once it is made you will have tasty meals or snacks for days to come. I know for our family, having already-made bean spreads is indispensable.

If a roasted red pepper spread doesn't peek your interest then try our tasty, simple Hummus recipe.

Roasted Cauliflower and Arugula Wraps with Red Pepper Chickpea Spread

Roasted Red Pepper Spread:1 ½ red bell peppers, roasted *see instructions below
2 cups cooked chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
4 tablespoons almond butter
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic powder or 2 to 3 cloves fresh garlic
1 to 2 teaspoons Herbamare or sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Roasted Cauliflower:
2 tablespoons or so extra virgin olive oil
1 small red onion, cut into chunks
fresh cauliflower, cut into pieces
sea salt

Other Ingredients:
fresh arugula or any fresh organic green
brown rice tortillas (steamed and still warm)

To roast bell peppers: Place 2 or 3 peppers on a baking sheet under the broiler until the skin is charred, turning frequently, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove peppers from pan and place them into a paper bag or a covered glass bowl, let stand at room temperature for about 10 minutes. Remove peppers and peel off charred skin. Cut peppers and remove the seeds.

To make the spread: Place all ingredients into a food processor and process until smooth and creamy. Taste and add more salt, pepper and/or garlic if needed. *Note: if you are nut-free or have toddlers who are not yet eating nuts then you can replace the almond butter with sunflower seed butter or pumpkin seed butter (this one won't produce a color that is as lovely as the one pictured though). For toddlers, just take some of the spread out before you add the almond butter and stir in one of the above mentioned seed butters.

To roast the cauliflower: Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place onions and cauliflower pieces on a baking sheet and toss in olive oil. Sprinkle with a little sea salt. Roast for about 15 minutes.

To assemble the wrap: Steam and warm the tortillas like we talked about above. Spread with red pepper spread, add veggies and arugula, roll, slice in half, enjoy!

We would like to hear what other ideas for wraps you might have. Please share what you like best. Thanks and Happy Cooking!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Teff Banana Pancakes

I am about to divulge another secret recipe. A sweet, nutritious little breakfast treat. Naturally gluten-free of course! Even those of you not following a gluten-free diet will enjoy these cakes. They are also egg-free making them perfect for older babies and toddlers. Our 14 month old twins began eating these a few months ago and love them. In fact, if we have leftovers, I will pack them in a to-go container and take them for them to snack on during our outings.

I like to eat them topped with a dollop of raw almond butter and a tall glass of fresh green smoothie on the side. In fact, this is my perfect pre-workout meal. Clean burning fuel that doesn't weigh you down. Energizing and refreshing.

Here are some important Pancake Making Tips:
  1. Follow the recipe. We tested this a number of ways and found this recipe works perfectly. If you add just a tad bit more liquid you will find your pancakes will stick mercilessly to your pan.
  2. Be sure to whisk together the dry ingredients well before adding your liquid ingredients.
  3. It works best if your milk or water is not cold but rather slightly warm (not hot).
  4. Heat your skillet to the correct temperature for about 3 to 5 minutes before adding anyting to it, not too hot but warm enough to cook them without sticking (I cook mine a notch or two below medium).
  5. Add a teaspoon or so of oil in between pancakes.
  6. Most egg-free batters are thicker than pancakes made with eggs so you will need to help your batter spread immediately after pouring it into the hot skillet. Use the back of a spoon or the measuring cup you used to pour your batter into the pan.
For those of you who can not tolerate bananas (I know it is may sound strange but yes, a banana allergy can be rather common) you can substitute equal amounts of applesauce for the mashed banana.
Ok, so now the recipe. Tom is doing the dishes now and talking and talking to me while I am trying to write. He just got back from an Autism conference in Vancouver yesterday and has lots of new information to talk about. Really fascinating new research on this subject. Tom also attended the DAN (Defeat Autism Now) conference in San Diego a few months ago and learned a great deal there as well. He will write about the benefits of the GF/CF diet in children with Autism in the coming weeks. But first look forward to yet another teff recipe this week. A scrumptious Yeasted Teff Sandwich Bread -- coming soon! If you are interested in more wholesome, gluten-free teff recipes you can check out our Teff Breakfast Muffins or Chocolate Chip Banana Teff Bread.

Teff Banana Pancakes

Teff, a very small Ethiopian grain, is now cultivated in Idaho. It is rich in minerals, particularly iron. When ground into flour, these minerals become more available. These pancakes will give you staying power until lunchtime, especially if combined with a green smoothie. For more banana punch, try chopping up a small banana and fold it into the batter. Also, now that my twins are eating these (and they can eat a lot) I need to make a double batch.

1 cup teff flour
¼ cup tapioca flour
2 tablespoons ground flax seed
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 cup water or non-dairy milk
¼ cup mashed ripe banana (about 1 small banana)
2 tablespoons melted virgin coconut oil
1 tablespoon maple syrup, honey, or agave nectar

In a small bowl mix together the dry ingredients. In a separate bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together the wet ingredients. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and whisk together.

Heat a stainless steel skillet over medium-low heat until hot. Add a little coconut oil. Drop batter by the ½ cupful onto hot skillet. Flip pancake after tiny bubbles form. Cook for another minute then transfer to a plate. Add about ½ teaspoon coconut oil in between cooking each pancake.
© Alissa Segersten 2008