Sunday, February 28, 2010

Pepper-Mint Dressing & Marinade

Today I thought I would share something simple. A salad dressing recipe made from fresh spearmint and black peppercorns. Hence the name, Pepper-Mint (not to be confused with peppermint). Use it on your favorite salad or use it to marinate chicken or fish. This dressing is vinegar-free and fits right into our guidelines for Phase 3 of the Elimination Diet.

Fresh spearmint can be found at your local food co-op or health food store (or growing wild in your garden if you didn't contain the roots like me)! We pulled most of the mint out of our garden last year because it was taking over. Though I do have a few plants creeping up in the herb garden right now.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Cream of Broccoli Soup (Dairy-Free)

I have a very simple, nourishing recipe for you today. Anyone remember cream of broccoli soup from your childhood? I do. My mom used to make a cheesy cream of broccoli soup that I don't remember being too fond of. Well this one is yummy, and naturally gluten and dairy-free. It can also be used during Phase 3 of the Elimination Diet for testing nuts/almonds.

Many years ago I discovered that I could use nuts to replace the cream in "creamed soups." You'll notice raw cashews in the Creamy Cauliflower Soup recipe in my cookbook (a favorite of my children). Cashew butter, almond butter, and coconut milk also work to make soup creamy without using dairy. A few weeks ago I discovered another secret "cream" for soup ~ blanched almond flour! I added it to the simmering soup before pureeing and voila! Cream Soup! 

Each time I make this soup it turns out a little different. Sometimes thick, sometimes thin. It all depends on how many pounds of broccoli you use, how much liquid, and of course the amount of blanched almond flour. Now, I bet that many of you don't have this super tasty and nutritious flour sitting around, huh? I bet you could also use blanched almonds, maybe 1 1/2 to 2 cups. Just toss them into the simmering soup whole. You are going to blend it all up anyways.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Harvesting Nettles with Children.....

Nettles you say? You mean those pesky weeds that grow like wildfire and sting me if I get too close? Yep. These little plants are a powerhouse of nutrients! Once cooked, blended, or dehydrated they lose their "sting." Nettle season varies each year but since this winter has been particularly warm and sunny here in the Pacific Northwest, it is already here! If you are following the Elimination Diet then adding in fresh nettles to all phases will help in the healing and detoxification process.

The other day the kids and I were out for a walk on the trails by our house when we came upon our favorite nettle stand! It was full of nettles ready to be picked. You see, nettles are best harvested when they are young and only a few inches high. All of the nutrients are going to the leaves at this time, instead of say, in the summer, when the energy of the plant is going to seed production. Anyway, I called Tom on my cell phone and asked him to drive up and meet me at the trailhead with a few pairs of scissors, paper bags, gardening gloves, and my camera.

Harvesting nettles is not just for adults. Young children can participate too! We've been harvesting nettles for as long as I can remember. Babies and one-year-olds can ride in a sling or backpack. 2 year olds can play and run about while you do your work. 3 year olds can help and play. Once my girls were 4 years old they were both really interested in doing all of the harvesting. On our most recent excursion, the boys (2 years old) ran around, put extra gloves on, then darted down the trail as far and as fast as they could go. They did eventually come back (and slept very well after that)!

What about potential nettle stings?

Well, I think it is all about how you approach it. For us, nettles are viewed as nourishing, wonderful plants that do posses a risk for stinging. I tell them it isn't a big deal and it will go away soon enough. All of my kids seem to get a few stings at every harvest but brush it off and keep on going. The boys even fell into a nettle patch the other day, then looked at me holding their hands up while making little grunting sounds. I said "Oh I see, it looks like you have a few nettle stings, yep that can happen" and off they ran. Still, it is best to educate your children so they tread lightly through the nettle patch. This teaches patience and respect for the environment around them. Wearing gloves and thick pants is best, though as you see from these photos my daughter was wearing a skirt and tights. Since the nettles were still so small it wasn't as much of an issue.

What do you do with your nettles?

Well, we dehydrate them to use for tea throughout the year. I simply place the whole plant in the dehydrator. Once dried, I pack them into the food processor and process until finely ground. I then pour the ground, dried nettles into glass mason jars. You can also use fresh nettles in green smoothies (this is my favorite), in lasagna, soup, stock, or sautéed with garlic and olive oil. Really, the options are endless. Just don't add them to a salad, they only lose their "sting" when blended, cooked, or dehydrated.

What are the health benefits of consuming nettles?
  • Nettles are a blood-building herb, being high in iron, calcium, trace minerals, protein, and chlorophyll; they are very beneficial for the anemic person. 
  • Being mildly diuretic and rich in minerals, nettles help to stimulate breast milk production after delivery.
  • Nettles may be used as a treatment for hay fever.
  • Nettles are stimulating and cleansing to the liver, kidneys, and bladder.
  • They taste good; sort of like spinach some say.

How do you harvest them?

The best method, so the plant can keep growing, is to cut the stem just after the second set of basal leaves. This doesn't always happen when young children are involved, but remember it is a learning process for them. If you live in the Midwest or East Coast your nettle season may not come around for another few months. Nettles like nitrogen-rich, moist soil so look for a place with a lot of decaying organic matter.

I'll be posting recipes using nettles soon, like lasagna, bone broth, and soup. In the meantime, get out and enjoy the beautiful sunshine and go on a nettle hunt with your children!

If you are an Herbalist or someone who has a lot of knowledge in herbal medicine, please leave a comment and add anything I might be missing here, thanks! :)

  1. Gladstar R. Herbal Healing for Women. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1993, 177.
  2. Mittman P. Randomized double-blind study of freeze-dried Urtica diocia in the treatment of allergic rhinitis. Planta Med 1990;56:44–7. 
  3. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Boston, MA: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 216–7.

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Saturday, February 13, 2010

Oatmeal Heart Cookies (gluten-free + vegan)

I just couldn't let Valentine's Day go by this year without making heart cut-out cookies with my children. I did it every year with my mom and have created it to be a tradition with my children now. This year I have created a new cut-out cookie recipe. A delicious, heart-healthy, gluten-free cookie made from rolled oats. This is a no-fail cookie recipe. No matter how much the dough is handled by little hands, the cookies are still perfect. As you can see below, the little hands really like to help......

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Mango-Coconut Pudding

I know Valentine's day is right around the corner, but instead of adding to the plethora of chocolate recipes floating around in cyber-space, I thought I would share a non-caffeinated dessert suitable for little children. This recipe also happens to be in compliance with the Phase 2 guidelines for the Elimination Diet.

This smooth, creamy and slightly sweet pudding is dairy-free. I was inspired by a mango pudding recipe found in the the current issue of Eating Well. This issue has a great article on mangos including photos of how to properly peel and cut a mango. The recipe below is a twist on the Cherry Pudding recipe found in my cookbook and one found in Eating Well. The secret ingredient? Kudzu! How many of you have heard of or used kudzu before? It has wonderful thickening and gelling properties and is very soothing and healing to the gut.

You can find Kudzu in the bulk spice section at your local health food store. It is quite expensive per pound but you will only need a few tablespoons. It comes in little white powdery chunks and can be tricky to measure sometimes. For the 6 tablespoons needed in this recipe, use a 1/4 cup measure and level off then measure 2 more tablespoons.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Spicy Thai Mung Bean Burgers

What would be nice to warm up with on a chilly winter day? Spicy, hot peppers, ginger, and garlic! I created this vegetarian burger recipe to test for nightshades during Phase 3 of the Elimination Diet, though everyone can enjoy this flavor-packed recipe! When I first made them, Tom said "Wow Al, these are amazing!" I enticed him with a taste while he was working in the home office. Not soon after, he was in the kitchen scrambling around for more.

They are fantastic if placed into a "natural burger bun" such as Napa cabbage leaves or romaine lettuce leaves. Combined with sliced avocado, sprouts, and my spicy coconut cream, these burgers are a crowd pleaser. Though I have to admit my girls won't eat them. My twin toddler boys who will eat just about anything I put in front of them like these to a certain extent but they are not crazy about them. This is one of the few recipes I have posted on this site that is not super kid-friendly. I guess it is probably my liberal use of spicy ingredients!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Apple-Cinnamon Teff Pancakes

I'm going to take another quick break from posting Elimination Diet recipes and share a favorite gluten-free, dairy-free pancake recipe with you. You all probably know how much I adore teff, right? I have many teff recipes on this blog that you can browse through. This lovely, warming pancake recipe is a spin off my vegan Teff Banana Pancakes. There are a few differences, mainly that I am using eggs in this recipe and replacing mashed banana with applesauce.

I buy my teff flour in 25 pound paper bags from Azure Standard. The company that makes the teff flour is called The Teff Company. 25 pounds costs me $38 ~ which is really a fantastic price if you compare the cost of one small bag of teff flour from the co-op.

For those of you who don't like to add any starch to gluten-free recipes you can make this recipe without tapioca flour, however, the end result is a bit crumbly. You can easily make gluten-free pancakes and waffles without xanthan gum, but leaving out the starch as well makes things a little tricky. My kids normally like this recipe, but when I replaced the tapioca flour with an extra 1/2 cup of teff flour they didn't really eat them stating that they couldn't use a fork and "they're too crumbly mom, what did you do to them!"

Apple-Cinnamon Teff Pancakes

This recipe makes about ten 6 to 7-inch pancakes, enough to feed my four hungry children in the morning with a few extras for leftovers. You can easily cut this recipe in half for smaller families. If you want to make these egg-free then follow the recipe for Teff Banana Pancakes and replace the banana with applesauce, remembering to add the cinnamon. I made a simple apple-cinnamon topping for these by simmering one sliced apple in a little water with a few dashes of maple syrup and ground cinnamon for about 10 minutes. You can follow an exact recipe for this topping here. Enjoy! :)

Dry Ingredients:
2 cups dark brown teff flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon

Wet Ingredients:
2 cups non-dairy milk
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 large organic eggs
3 tablespoons melted virgin coconut oil
3 tablespoons pure maple syrup (Grade B)

Begin to heat a 10-inch skillet over medium heat. (You may need to adjust the temp for cooking). I melt the coconut oil in here while I mix the dry ingredients. Measure it after it as melted.

Whisk the dry ingredients together in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Add the wet ingredients. Whisk together well.

Make sure your pan still has a little coconut oil on the bottom (just a little). Use a 1/2 cup measure to pour the batter into the pan. Cook for 60 to 90 seconds on one side, then flip and cook for 30 to 60 seconds on the second side. Add about 1/2 teaspoon of oil in between pancakes. Adjust the cooking temp as needed. I cook mine just under medium. Source:

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