Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Gluten-Free Crispy Chicken Strips

Crispy chicken tenders, a grown-up version of a chicken nugget treat. I have to say that I was never the kid to order chicken nugget meals. I would much rather have a cheeseburger and a milk shake. But now that I am more conscious of what is going in my body, I don't eat out much at fast food restaurants anymore. Sometimes late night commercials of up-close burgers, chicken sandwiches they are trying to sell people for a fourth meal of the day... I have to confess sometimes they get me and bring me back to being a kid and get me thinking how good that could be. Looks are deceiving. Well, let me say this recipe did not come out of a late night craving while I was watching the 11 o'clock news, but it does reflect a comfort go-to-food that I might have had more commonly as a kid.

I made up this gluten-free dairy-free recipe on a busy week-night and it was quick and easy and kinda fun too, so don't think you will have to take any extra time for this ensemble. I will continue to make this meal because of how easy it was, but it was also very fulfilling and easy to add any kind of vegetable or salad with. So you can have a very healthy way of making an old-fashioned crispy chicken without the extra calories and not skimping on any great flavors.

Dry mix breading:
1 1/2 cup of ground almonds
1 1/2 cup of organic corn meal
2 ts. of sea salt or a tad more depending on your taste
2 ts. cracked pepper
1 ts. cayenne pepper
2 ts. paprika
2 ts. dried basil
2 ts. dried rosemary

Liquid mixture to dip:
3/4 cup of almond milk
juice of one lemon

1 and a half pounds (or so) of organic chicken breast or local chicken without hormones or additives
*You want to get out a big piece of parchment paper and lay out the chicken breasts. Cut them in half or thirds and then lay over the rest of the parchment paper. Then with a meat pounder or tenderizer you are going to want to pound the chicken until it is it is flattened.
*Then you will dip the chicken pieces into the milk/lemon mixture and then dip into the breading. Lay all of the strips in a Pyrex baking pan, I used a 9x13 and also an 8x8 to fit all the pieces. I drizzled olive oil on the pans before laying the strips and I also drizzle some olive oil on top of the strips before I put them in the oven. Not too much, just a little drizzling to keep it crunchy too.
*Bake at 35o degrees for 30-40 minutes depending on how big and thick your chicken pieces are. Mainly just check to see if the chicken is cooked and no longer pink. Once done, let cool for a few minutes, but it is ready to serve up. It smells so good and its hard not to nibble on some of the pieces...
*I had some honey mustard dressing on hand so I made a greens salad to eat with the chicken strips so it almost was a chicken salad. The dressing was great with the strips, or even a little organic ketchup is tasty as well. I love having sauces or dressing so I like to have a little mustard, ketchup and even some homemade bbq. hmmmm, be creative!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Flax Herb Crackers

Flax crackers, a good way to add some tasty fiber to your diet. There are many benefits to this ancient seed, the flax seed, including reducing cholesterol, fighting inflammation and stabilizing blood sugar which all come from the benefits of the essential fatty acids found in the Omega 3 content in the seeds. These "good fats" will help combat against cancer cells and toxic build-up, and if you are curious of more benefits I attached an article to the post above.

I like to buy my flax seeds in bulk from a farm in Michigan that sells through vendors at Farmer's Markets or even some other local harvest stores. The picture of the bag is below. They sell the golden flax (which is below). And also probably the more popular variety, the dark brown seed which is said to have a more nutty flavor, but I personally don't notice too much of a difference. On the back of the bag, the recommendation is to start only taking 1 ts. a day ground up in some food, because I guess too much too fast may be some sort of a surprise to your digestion. :) So, if you haven't eaten much flax seeds in the past maybe you should limit your intake of these crackers to not more than three or four. Which will be hard because they are so tasty!

Mix together in large mixing bowl:
2 cups of ground flax seeds (grind 1 cup at a time in a coffee grinder)
2 cup ground almond (grind in a coffee grinder)
1/3 cup of water
1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil
3 TB of dried mixed Italian herbs ( sage, rosemary, thyme, basil, oregano)
1 TB garlic powder
1 ts sea salt
1 ts of cracked pepper
Mix all the ingredients and roll them out a thin as possible on a cookie sheet with parchment paper on it. I used a 12x14 pan, but you could use two smaller pans as well. I rolled out the batter about 1 inch thick, but I could have even rolled out paper thin and that would work as well. Then use a pizza cutter and thin knife to cut the crackers before baking. I like to cut squares or triangles, but you can design your crackers however you like.

There is Za'atar spice sprinkled on top of the crackers, but if you don't have the middle eastern spice on hand then sesame seeds will work, or a little more salt and herbs would be fine as well.

Bake in a 250 degree oven for 2 hours, and then let cool in the oven for another 3 hours.

Then carefully break up the crackers and put in a air tight container, or zip lock bag.

These crackers taste amazing on a salad, or in soups. They are crispy and depending on the thickness can be used great with some goat cheese as an appetizer or snack. They taste delish, and you are also getting a great dose of digestible fiber with eat bite. There are some gluten-free crackers available on the market, but to make some at home means you will be tasting freshness over a packaged variety. They could also pass for chips, salad croutons, or bread for soup. So try 'em out and enjoy the health benefits as well.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Strawberry Walnut Salad with Homemade Dressing

Salad. Simple right? Well, what if making homemade salad dressings that were good for you and fresh became simple as well. It isn't as hard as you think. And, the strawberries are not quite ripe in Michigan yet, but to cheat and have this salad with California strawberries is worth it. Walnuts, which are high in Omega-3's are a quality nut that will give you the right amount of protein and fat.

Fat is good for you. You don't hear that often, huh. Well, our brains are made up of 80% fat and our body needs healthy fats to think clearly and break down the bad fats stored in our cells. Grapeseed oil is high is polyunsaturated fats so it helps reduce bad cholesterol(LDL) and build the good cholesterol(HDL). Healthy oils have many health benefits and if you are using them in dressings over your greens you will be getting the full potential of the benefits. So don't feel bad to douse your salad in this dressing, it will give you a healthy dose of healthy fats. So, yes, avoid trans-fats and hydrogenated oils, but don't avoid healthy fats all together. You body will start craving the essential fatty acids and you will find yourself carving unhealthy fats like fried foods and donuts. So don't fear the dreaded word FAT and find that there is health in the rich essential fatty acid oils. Balance is key.

The Fresh Ingredients:

8 oz. Mixed lettuce greens with arugula, spinach, heirloom, or whatever greens you fancy best

6oz - 8oz of sliced organic strawberries (local if possible)

1/2 cup of walnut or pecan pieces

Homemade Dressing:

1 cup grapeseed oil, walnut oil, or olive oil
1/3 cup of apple cider vinegar or red wine vinegar
1/3 cup of sucanat
1 ts. of mustard powder
1 ts. of garlic powder
1 TB of minced onion
1 TB. of poppy seeds
sea salt and cracked pepper

Put all the ingredients in a blender or magic-bullet-type of blender. Blend for 30 seconds to really whip it up. Then transfer to a salad dressing container. If you are going to save for long term use, I suggest using a glass jar or container so that it stays away from plastic residue. If you let sit before serving, the flavors will really come out. If I am making a salad for a party or a big bunch of people I like to pour on the dressing into my big salad bowl and toss it up and all over. If I am making a single salad or for just me and my husband, then I will pour the dressing on individually so that I can conserve the dressing and not use up a whole bowl of lettuce or spinach.

This dressing is a family favorite that I have revised to not used refined sugars or "not-so-good" oils to make it flavorful and healthy for that perfect spring and summer salad. I experiment with different kinds of greens and nuts. My mom's favorite is cashews and apples with a shredded organic Swiss cheese if you eat dairy. My favorite always includes a berry as well... strawberries are my favorite. Goat cheese crumbles may be a good addition to your creation as well. Pecans taste best with the strawberries, but walnuts are good too. Be creative with what is in season or you have in the kitchen. And let me know what you try out. The dressing is universal though. It is my absolute favorite dressing and makes eating fresh greens an extra treat. Don't be afraid to try and make your own salad dressing, this is my favorite dressing, so here you have it.

Enjoy friends and have a healthy happy day!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Apple Almond Coffeecake

This is another gluten-free, dairy-free recipe that I have created to help you have an alternative baked good treat that you can make at home. You will not settle for boxed gluten-free cookies and sweets after smelling this fill up your home. A main objective I have in my gluten-free baking is to make sure that I am also using the most nutritious ingredients I can get into the recipe. Many gluten-free mixes you can buy at the store often have more refined white flours like rice, corn and potato. It is not easy to find a whole grain gluten-free mix that you can also get more fiber with. I prefer to use gluten-free flours that are also nourishing your body as you enjoy them. This recipe though is not friendly to nut-allergies because the main ingredient is almonds, so I am sorry to those that cannot eat nuts (I will put out another recipe soon that you can use that does not have almonds in it). I have discovered that I love using ground almonds in baking. The almonds always give the bread or cake great texture and it is chewy and moist at the same time. You can even taste the crunch of the almond occasionally. You are eating more protein as well, and the almond oil is a much needed oil to help lower levels of bad fats in your body. So let me get started with the ingredients:

Dry mix:
3 cups ground almond meal ( I grind raw almonds in my coffee grinder until I get 3 cups full of ground almonds).
1/8 cup of arrowroot powder (this is a starch that you can find in the health store for sure).
1/4 cup of buckwheat flour
1/4 cup of sorghum flour
2 ts. of baking powder
1 ts of baking soda
2ts. of cinnamon
1 ts. of cardamon
1 ts. of nutmeg
1/2 ts. of ground cloves
1/2 ts. sea salt

Wet mix:
1/2 cup of almond milk (or rice milk)
1/4 cup of grapeseed oil
1/2 ts. of apple cider vinegar
juice of one lemon
3 free range cage free eggs

4 heaping cups of finely diced apples

1/4 cup of organic currants to top
1/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans to top
1/4 cup of sucanat to top

Mix the dry ingredients together thoroughly and then add the wet ingredients. Mix well and then add the 4 cups of apples to the mix. You will notice that it binds well together because of the almond meal and is easy to mix up quickly. Pour into a well-greased 9x13 or 12x12 circle pan. I grease with organic palm shortening so that it is easy to get the cake out of the pan. I used a circle pan for this cake because I like the look of it, but it would fill up a 9x13 pan as well.

Top with the currants for flavor and looks, and if you want to top with an extra nut, I used walnuts, but pecans would taste good as well. I like to also save some sucanat to top to add a little crispy sugar coating to the final product. This cake is huge so it can serve many people.

Bake for 35-40 minutes on 350 degrees. You can tell when it is done because it is nicely browned and when you stick a pic in the middle of the cake it comes out dry.

Now, after smelling this sweet aroma fill the house you are going to want to cut into it before your guests arrive. Thats ok :) I did too, and I wanted to make sure it tasted ok :) It serves up well cut into pieces as a coffeecake, or breakfast bread, or even a dessert. So, make sure you take the time to make this one, it is well worth it and so enjoyable. I hope that you have a blessed easter holiday and remember what matters most in life. Enjoy and much love to you.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Gluten-Free, Vegan, No-Bake Cookie Delites

Yes, it is true...these are gluten-free dairy- free and you can even get a healthy dose of fiber and antioxidants. So, don't be afraid to eat more than one :) I have to say I licked the spoon and my fingers a few times. These are as simple as the traditional n0-bake cookie recipes out there, but I made some adjustments so that you don't have to worry about eating dairy or too much sugar. See, you can make gluten-free goodies on your own, you don't need to settle for packages goods or no treats at all for that matter. You deserve a treat every now and then, and this is a guilt-free friendly way to have something special. So get out your fine china and gold plated utensils, we are going to serve up a delicacy that deserves special attention and enjoyment!

In a saucepan heat up:

3/4 cup of organic creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup organic palm oil shortening (Spectrum Oils brand is my favorite)
1/2 cup of almond milk
4 TB of dark cocoa baking powder or carob powder
1 cup of sucanat (dried sugar cane)

Heat up and let it quick boil and then stir it and pour it into the following bowl of ingredients

In a bowl mix:

1 cup of dried organic currants (or raisins could work, but use less than a cup, maybe 1/2 cup)
dash of salt

Mix altogether well for a few minutes to let the oats get fully covered in the sauce. Then use a spoon or your fingers to roll out little balls on a parchment-papered cookie sheet. You can put as many as you want on the pan because they are not going to expand in the refrigerator.
Leave in the fridge for at least an hour for them to harden up, but then you can just leave them in there to keep as well. The sauce after a while hardens and also softens up the oats so that they are a little less crunchy and more soft. This batch makes about 3 dozen cookies.

You can buy these Bob's Redmill gluten-free oats at any of the local health stores in the area, and I think they also have them at Meijer... so don't fret. If you NEED to eat gluten-free, then I would most definitely tell you to go out of your way for these oats because they are safe from contamination. If you don't need to eat gluten-free, rolled oats would be just fine. The reason regular rolled-oats are NOT ok for the Celiac is because they roll the oats in wheat flour and in most situations the crop of oats is grown in close vicinity of the wheat and they are mixed. That is why conventional oats cannot be considered gluten-free.

I hope you enjoy. Much love to you...

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Gluten-Free Pizza Treat

Let's be honest, most every Celiac you ask about what they miss most about eating gluten, almost 100% of the time they say PIZZA. Well, I have to say the longer I eat gluten- free, the more things I really enjoy about eating this way. And to top it off I feel the best I have ever felt in my whole life, BUT I still every- now- and- then want to have some pizza. So, if you want to be bad :) and have something like pizza, but not eat any gluten or cow dairy, then this is the recipe for you. It is a little different than ordering a pizza from your local 5 dollars pizza place down the road, but it is kinda similar to a thin crust new yorker pizza in my mind. You don't have to agree, and that's the beauty about pizza, you can put your own toppings and make it special to you. So, here is my version of beating the pizza craving without the gluten, cow dairy, and even yeast if you are trying to avoid yeast.

1 Chebe Pizza mix or Foccacia mix 
I must say the reason I like this crust over others that you can buy at the health store is because
there is no yeast in the mixture. People that are trying to overcome digestion issues should really try and stay away from anything that contains yeast because it will only help the bad bacteria grow in your gut. So I consider this mix a better alternative to others for that reason. 

Follow the ingredients on the back of the bag. 
You will need 2 eggs, 4 TB of Almond milk and 2 TB of olive oil.
Mix the crust with a fork, and then knead by hand. Then lay out on a parchment papered 12x18 baking pan. Roll with a rolling pin and extend the crust to all edges to get more crust. Follow the instructions for baking. I like to put my oven on the broil option and bake /broil for about 10 minutes. Then it is crispy. I flip over the crust to the softer side and start with the toppings.

1 14oz. can of Organic Pizza Sauce---but I also like to use a can of crushed tomatoes mixed with basil. I like a lot of sauce on my pizzas so I add the whole 14oz. can, but you can judge how much you want to have on yours...

(When you are sprinkling on the pizza, make sure to finely crumble the feta so that you can evenly cover the whole pizza)

(Shown in the picture above)
My favorite little extra toppings:
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup dried craisins
Fresh or dried basil
Sprinkle with spices such as garlic, Italian blend spices, or cracked pepper

Other toppings I have tried on this recipe...
chopped banana peppers  
lots of fresh herbs
organic chicken sausages

Now, if you are on a dairy-free diet, I would encourage you to try raw goat dairy as an option over the other soy/almond/rice cheese options..... only because goat dairy has more enzymes in it to help digest, and if you can find a local farm that produces the goat cheese you may be able to find it raw, which means that the enzymes haven't been taken out, so it may be easier to consume as well. I do not eat convention dairy at all, but I will treat myself to goat dairy every now and then because I have seen positive results to adding it to the diet occasionally. It could be that you are very afraid to eat even goat dairy, but if you haven't experimented with it yet, then I urge you to at least try it. And then you will know if it is good for you or not.

Well, that is my little secret recipe for making the pizza craving go away. I have been making this kind a pizza for a few years now, and I have to say that it gets better the more you make it. I cannot eat traditional cow dairy without feeling too full and uncomfortable, so I still do goat dairy, and it actually makes me feel better and satisfied. There is goat mozzerella cheese out there as well if you want to experiment with that. I have found I like the feta because I like how it tastes and also with the pine nuts and craisins it has a nice flavor all together.

For local readers:
You can find both the goat cheese and the pizza mix at Harvest Health Grocery Stores. And you can find the pizza mixes also at Meijer. I have found that they are cheaper at Harvest Health, but it is nice to know that if I am at Meijer I could pick a mix up to have on hand. I have not found a good goat cheese option at Meijer, but if you don't want to have goat cheese, Meijer has a few options for organic cheeses.

This pizza could serve up to 4 people, or I like to serve two for dinner, and then have leftovers for my packed lunch the next day. Enjoy!