Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Fennel, Asparagus, Spicy-Lentil and Mixed Greens "Salad" {Gluten Free + Vegetarian}

Fennel, Asparagus, Spicy-Lentil & Mixed Greens "Salad" {Gluten Free + Vegetarian}

For what I think was our second official date, I made my boyfriend this great "salad" which incorporates the fresh, crisp flavors of fennel, asparagus, celery, leeks and fresh herbs (including parsley and cilantro) combined with mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, and ricotta salata (omit the ricotta salata for a vegan variation!).  

These ingredients were served on top of slightly-spicy green lentils that, as we ate, we incorporated directly into the salad.


I dressed the "salad" with some lite Italian Dressing.  You can use your salad dressing of choice, but I'd recommend some form of Italian--whether traditional or one of the varieties of Italian dressing, such as sundried tomato flavored--or perhaps a Honey Mustard dressing if you're feeling adventurous.  

The "salad" is very easy to make and you can do a lot of the work ahead of time if you want to serve it for a special occasion (like a date!) or for the holidays!

The dish, though fresh and crisp due to the combination of fennel, asparagus, leeks, celery and fresh herbs, does make for a hearty meal.  This can be chalked up to the lentils, which pack a great deal of protein and lend the salad a more complex flavor and and texturally-diverse nature.  

NOTE:
If you are a lentil hater or planning to feed someone who doesn't like them, you could easily serve the salad over Quinoa (a super-grain that is a complete protein) or even over wild rice.

The salad is Gluten Free and vegetarian and could easily be made suitable for vegans by omitting the ricotta salata, which is a firm, salty ricotta cheese reminiscent of feta.


Recipe: Fennel, Asparagus, Spicy-Lentil and Mixed Greens "Salad"

Ingredients

  • 1 cup Green Lentils, rinsed and picked over
  • 1 onion, halved
  • 4 garlic cloves (whole)
  • 2 jalapeno or serrano chili peppers; halved and de-seeded if desired
  • 1 bunch Asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces and blanched
  • 1 medium Fennel Blulb, quartered, core removed and thinly sliced
  • Carrots, chopped or matchstick
  • 2-4 celery ribs, sliced
  • 1-2 leeks, cut in half and sliced into half-moon shape (make sure to discard large greens on top of leek and thoroughly wash to remove all dirt and sand)
  • 1 small bunch Cilantro, chopped (to your taste)
  • 1 small bunch Parsley, chopped (to your taste)
  • Mixed Greens (of your choice)
  • Cherry Tomatoes
  • Ricotta Salata, diced (omit for vegan)
  • Salt & Pepper (to taste; note: use smoked sea salt if desired)

Directions

  1. Prepare Green Lentils as instructed on packaging adding the halved onion, garlic cloves and chili peppers to the lentils so they absorb the flavors as they cook.  Add salt and pepper.
  2. Discard the onion halves, peppers, and garlic cloves when lentils are done cooking.
  3. Chop and then blanch the asparagus in boiling, salted water for roughly 4 minutes or until tender and immediately transfer to a large bowl of ice-water.  Set aside.
  4. To a large mixing bowl, add chopped fennel, celery, leeks, carrots, cooled asparagus, mixed greens, tomatoes, and herbs.  Add cubes of ricotta salata (or omit for vegan).
  5. Serve asparagus and fennel "salad" over top of cooled lentils and dress with Italian (or other) dressing of your choice.  Serve and enjoy!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Lucy's Holiday Cookies: Easy Gluten Free Stocking Stuffers!

Lucy's Holiday Cookies: Easy Gluten Free Stocking Stuffers


Odds are that the Gluten Free friend, family member, or coworker on your Christmas/ Holiday list was not so naughty this year as to earn him or herself a nice big, hunk of coal.  But, for anyone not super familiar with Gluten Free eating, finding the perfect stocking stuffer or small gift could pose a bit of a challenge.  So much of a challenge, in fact, that coal might start to look like a decent solution.  Okay!  Maybe that's a stretch...

Over the years the Gluten Free market has become increasingly populated with pre-made food items that are both tasty and pretty affordable. They still, typically, cost a little more than their wheat-containing counterparts but there are a lot of options out there nowadays that won't break the bank.  

Tasty pre-made Gluten Free baked goods, like cookies, are more readily available now than when my father went on the Gluten Free diet about 8 years ago.  In fact, companies like Lucy's are even developing Gluten Free baked goods geared toward the holidays, including their new "Holiday Sugars" and "Chocolate Merry Mint" cookies.  

Both of Lucy's Holiday Cookie varieties satisfy an impressive range of common dietary restrictions; they are:

  • Gluten Free
  • Peanut Free
  • Tree-Nut Free
  • Dairy Free
  • Egg Free
  • Trans-Fat Free
  • Kosher
  • Cholesterol Free
  • All Natural

In other words, whether you're searching for a small item as a gift or stocking stuffer for someone who is Gluten Free, Vegan, allergic to nuts, or lactose intolerant, these cookies have you covered!  

Lucy's elimination of these allergens does not only speak to their interest in individuals practicing a range of specialty diets, it speaks to the company's awareness of an issue plaguing many Gluten Free eaters--a large number of the Gluten Free population, in addition to not tolerating wheat products, suffer a host of other food allergies and sensitivities.  For the individuals with Gluten Free eating requirements and additional food allergies to boot, safe pre-made foods are hard to find, and Lucy's is one of the companies that caters to them.

Lucy's commitment to their Gluten Free and Allergen afflicted client base is readily signaled on their website, which prominently displays their Gluten Free certification, their dedicated production facilities, and the list of allergens the company has made its reputation on excluding from its products. In addition, the website provides a page of Food Allergy Resources including links to support groups and information for persons with Celiac Disease or food allergies.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Roasted Squash and Apple Salsa: 2-Ways

 Roasted Squash and Apple Salsa: 2-Ways

Apple Salsa: NOT some tomato-based, apple-saucy nightmare of a culinary creation.  I promise.

I'm a huge fan of the blog Love and Lemons; it's one of the food blogs I check most weeks and which helps fuel my recipe-pinning obsession on pinterest.  Recently I found posted to the blog a recipe for Roasted Squash and Apple Salsa and was intrigued by what was a really unexpected combination of flavors and ingredients.  

I embarked upon acquiring the ingredients, not entirely sure all the while whether I thought I'd love the final product or just take some sort of perverse satisfaction out of being open minded enough to try such a strange concoction.  My boyfriend was also a bit skeptical when I told him what was on the menu for Tuesday night.  Apple salsa?  There flickered across his face a moment of hesitation, maybe even a disbursed sense of confusion and horror as he imagined what this "apple salsa" business might entail.  His consternation was only momentary however, as he quickly settled back down into his customary I'm-a-boy-who-eats-anything mode.


The Roasted Squash and Apple Salsa was incredibly easy to make and, what's more, it wasn't just some whacked-out Fall recipe to be made once in honor of the season and resurrected nevermore.  Instead, it was actually really delicious.  The boy-who-eats-anything thought so as well, admitting that the Apple Salsa on his dish was vastly different from the "Apple Salsa" of his imagination--some tomato-based, apple-saucy nightmare of a culinary creation that might find its home properly on something like the Food Network show Worst Cooks in America.

The ACTUAL dish is not tomato-based and the texture of the Apple Salsa is more along the lines of a chunky pico de gallo than a traditional salsa.  In my version of the recipe I used a combination of three different seasonal squashes--Butternut Squash, Acorn Squash, and a Pie Pumpkin--which I roasted until they were cooked but still firm (not mushy).  In my Apple Salsa I used one extra jalapeno and substituted leeks for scallions.  In addition to being milder, I think the leeks are just prettier than scallions!

Roasted Squash and Apple Salsa Version 1: The Vegan-in-Texas Fall BBQ Extravaganza Meal  {Gluten-Free + Vegan/Vegetarian + Low-Carb}

For my first version of the Roasted Squash and Apple Salsa I prepared the recipe as called for by Love and Lemon's original recipe.  However, as noted above I used leeks in place of scallions, added an extra jalapeno, and used a combination of different squashes--Butternut, Acorn, and Pumpkin--and cooked them until they were cooked but still firm, not mush.  In other words, shoot for the squash version of al dente pasta.

I served the Apple Salsa over the warm (not hot) diced squash using large ramekins as my dish (pictured above).  The white ramekins really made the colors of the squash and salsa pop, and as we all know we eat with our eyes before we eat with our mouths!  Seriously, it can make a substantial difference in your enjoyment of a meal if you take the time to boost its aesthetic.

I served the Roasted Squash and Apple Salsa with a Fall cocktail of my own creation in which I combined Sparkling Cider, Cranberry Cocktail Juice, and Campari.  I didn't measure anything and just eye-balled it, but you'll want the sparkling cider as your highest-proportion liquid and, of course, the Campari as your lowest-proportion liquid. 

And, because it's Texas, I figured I might as well serve up some oven-roasted barbecued extra-firm tofu and tempeh.  Much, I'm sure, to any real Texas Barbecuer's dismay.


Roasted Squash and Apple Salsa Version 2: The I'm Lazy and Hungry for Lunch Roasted Squash, Black Bean, Avocado, and Apple Salsa Burrito  {Vegetarian}

For lunch the next day I decided that a Roasted Squash and Apple Salsa Burrito using black beans, diced avocado, mild serrano salsa, and some plain 0% Greek Yogurt was my ticket to a tasty, lazy lunch.

Here's how to make your own I'm Lazy and Hungry for Lunch Roasted Squash, Black Bean, Avocado, and Apple Salsa Burrito:

What you need:
  • Leftover or fresh-made Roasted Squash and Apple Salsa; squash diced small enough to easily fit in burrito
  • 1 Large Burrito shell (I used a spinach variety)
  • 1/4 cup fat free Refried Black Beans
  • 1/2 Avocado; diced (or guacamole)
  • Your Favorite Salsa (I'd go Tomatillo Salsa or Serrano or Hatch Chili Pepper Salsa rather than regular tomato-based salsas)
  • 0% Plain Greek Yogurt (in place of sour cream)
Instructions:
  1. Heat up in separate bowls about 1/4 cup of fat free refried black beans and about 1/3-1/2 cup of the squash (you should dice it down even smaller to fit in the burrito better!)
  2. Dice 1/2 of an avocado or prepare guacamole to your taste
  3. Warm large burrito shell in microwave for specified time (check labeling) to soften
  4. Top with black beans, squash, avocado (or guacamole), your favorite salsa and apple salsa.  
  5. Roll to form your burrito.  Top with desired amount of 0% Greek Yogurt!  Enjoy!





Monday, November 12, 2012

Broccoli and Pea Soup with Bob's Red Mill Nutritional Yeast {Gluten Free + Vegan + Low-Carb}

Broccoli and Pea Soup with Bob's Red Mill Nutritional Yeast {Gluten Free + Vegan + Low Carb}

It's starting to get cold out there.  Not so much in Texas, but today it's a cool 63 degrees and not threatening to get too much warmer before the day is out.  It's a welcome downturn in temperatures in the midst of the record highs--in the 80's--that have been plaguing the state this year.  Apparently Texas didn't get the memo that Winter is just around the corner and Fall is already well settled-in.

Broccoli and Pea Soup with Bob's Red Mill Nutritional Yeast
It's hard to legitimate cooking up a pot of hot soup when it's 80-degrees outside, but in the (relatively) cool 60's I felt it was an activity well worth the effort and not likely to overheat me!  So, I made myself some broccoli and pea soup using a product I've been wanting to use--but hadn't had the chance to use--for a while: Bob's Red Mill Nutritional Yeast!  

What is Nutritional Yeast?

Nutritional yeast is a deactivated yeast.  It has a yellowish, flaky appearance slightly resembling corn meal.  I have to admit, it's not the most appetizing looking product at a first glance, but don't let the yellow coloring or flaky, dry texture fool you.  This is a tasty and nutritional product.

Nutritional Yeast is used frequently by vegetarian and vegan cooks to impart a nutty and cheesy taste while also lending whatever it's used in an added level of creaminess.  Nutritional Yeast is a complete protein (a sexy characteristic in the eyes of vegetarians and vegans!) and is high in vitamins, including the B-complex vitamins.  It is naturally Gluten Free and does not contain sugar or dairy.  
Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Labeling

Nutritional yeast can be purchased at most specialty food stores, such as Whole Foods, or purchase directly from manufacturers online.  I like Bob's Red Mill Nutritional Yeast because of it's certified Gluten Free.

What Can I Use Nutritional Yeast In?  Or, Why Would I Bother?

In Vegetarian and Vegan Gravies for the Holidays!:

With the holidays right around the corner, Nutritional Yeast is a good product to know about.  It's an ingredient called for in many vegan, vegetarian, and  GF gravies that you can find recipes for online (for example this one: Vegetarian/Vegan Nutritional Yeast Gravy which could be easily adapted to be Gluten Free by substituting GF soy sauce and your favorite GF flour alternative).  

Nutritional Yeast is not just a seasonal ingredient for vegetarians and vegans who want to be able to eat their mashed potatoes and gravy like everyone else, though.

To Produce a Thicker, Creamier Texture:

Nutritional Yeast can be used to flavor and thicken everything from sauces (a post on vegetable pot pies using Nutritional Yeast coming soon!) to soups.  It can be used in place of traditional wheat flour in Gluten Free gravies as a thickening component, as well as in other sauces that require flour as a thickener.  It would also serve as a good substitute for flour in a roux, used in traditional New Orleans cooking, including Gumbo!

In Place of Bread-Crumbs for Gluten Free and Low-Carb Eaters:

For those who are Gluten Free eaters or Low-Carb eaters, it can be used in place of bread crumbs as a binder in things like lentil or meat patties or as a bread-crumb replacement to use on top of casseroles.  Although I haven't tried it--YET--I think Nutritional Yeast combined with hemp hearts would make a truly fantastic, crunchy casserole topper! 

As a Cheese Alternative for Vegan and Lactose-Intolerant Eaters:

The vegan and lactose-intolerant folks out there should take note of the fact that Nutritional Yeast is an effective cheese alternative.  It can replace cheese in dishes ranging from cheesy-mashed potatoes to macaroni and cheese (no joke!  Nutritional Yeast Macaroni and Cheese).  

The uses above are only some of the many ways Nutritonal Yeast can be used in cooking.  A quick online search for recipes incorporating it will yield plenty more results.  It's versatile in addition to being awfully tasty--as I found out when I made myself some Gluten-Free, Vegan, and Low-Carb Broccoli and Cheese Soup.

Recipe: Broccoli and Pea Soup with Nutritional Yeast

Ingredients

1-1.5 head broccoli (steamed until cooked but still slightly firm)
2 bags organic frozen peas (thawed)
1 large onion (finely chopped)
4-6 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
1.5-2 containers Vegetable Stock (depending on desired thickness)
1 Can Canellini Beans
Smoked Sea Salt, to taste
Pepper, to taste
3-4 Tablespoons Bob's Red Mill Nutritional Yeast, or to taste
1 tablespoon Olive Oil (or butter)

Directions

  1. Cut broccoli head into florets and steam in large pot with steam basket until tender but still firm.  Remove from heat.  Meanwhile, thaw frozen peas.
  2. Place chopped onion and garlic in large pot and cook in olive oil until onions are translucent.  
  3. In a blender process broccoli and peas in batches adding vegetable stock to help liquefy the ingredients.  Add each liquefied batch to pot with onion and garlic.
  4. When all of the broccoli and peas have been liquefied, add any remaining vegetable stock to the pot.  Add canellini beans.  
  5. Season with smoked sea salt (or regular sea salt), pepper, and nutritional yeast.  Add as much seasoning as necessary and additional vegetable stock depending on the thickness you desire for your soup.
  6. Bring to a simmer for 5-7 minutes.  Serve!



Product Review: Raw Revolution Organic Live Food Bars

Product Review: Raw Revolution Organic Live Food Bars {Gluten-Free + Vegan + Kosher}

Over the last few months I've been conscientiously trying out raw foods--including homemade Watermelon-Tomato Gazpacho and raw zucchini pasta, but also purchasable raw fare like GO RAW's Carrot Cake Cookies and Sprouted Sunflower Seeds.  What I hadn't yet found and was looking for as a pre- or post- gym snack was a RAW food bar that appeared (to me) both nutritious and yummy.  
Photo from rawrev.com

Then, I found Raw Revolution's Organic Live Food Bars.  Gluten-Free, Vegan, Kosher, Organic, and Peanut-Free (for those of you with peanut allergies!) these bars come in a range of amazing flavor varieties including:

  • Golden Cashew Organic Live Food Bar
  • Heavenly Hazelnut Chocolate Organic Live Food Bar (my favorite!)
  • Spirulina Dream Organic Live Food Bar
  • Almond Butter Cup Organic Live Food Bar
  • Apple Cinnamon Organic Live Food Bar
  • Cherry Chocolate Chunk Organic Live Food Bar
  • Chocolate Coconut Bliss

My foray into Raw Revolution's Organic Live Food Bars involved munching down on their Golden Cashew, Heavenly Hazelnut Chocolate, and Spirulina Dream Bars and I enjoyed them all!  

I have no doubt that the other flavors on offer as as good as the ones I've tried.  I'm a chocolate lover (I know I'm not alone in this!) so the Cherry Chocolate Chunk and Chocolate Coconut  Bliss varieties are at the top of my list of things to try soon.  So, too, is the Apple Cinnamon variety which, now that the weather is cooling down, seems like a great Fall treat reminiscent of the iconic apple pie.


Nutritonal Information: Raw Revolution Organic Live Food Bar 

The Raw Revolution Organic Live Food Bars are about the standard size of any other food bar you can buy--raw or not--about 2 oz.  But, unlike  many of the food bars on offer they are USDA certified organic and contain no preservatives and no artificial ingredients (hurrah!).  Moreover, their packaging proudly boasts that they do not contain refined sugars or proteins.  

Using the Spirulina Dream variety as my sample for nutritional data, nutritionally, these bars pack Omegas 3 and 6 as well as 3 grams of fiber and 7 grams of protein (more or less depending on the variety of bar you choose).  Their caloric, fat, and carbohydrate levels are fairly high at: 230 calories, 14 grams of fat, and 23 grams of carbohydrates per bar.  

But, these little bars are meant to be fuel for athletes and people on the go who need this balance of carbs, calories, and fats to make their activities possible.  No wonder, then, that professional athletes Brian Lopes (professional Mountain Bike Racer) and J.P Walker (professional Snowboarder) endorse the product and appear prominently on Raw Revolution's website.  

I certainly felt no lag in energy and no uncomfortable tug of hunger when I snacked on these bars in the morning prior to heading to the gym to do my own workouts!

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