National Grilled Cheese Month with Rumiano Cheese! Bonus: Recipe Contest!

April is National Grilled Cheese Month! Who doesn’t love grilled cheese? I prefer mine served next to a bowl of tomato soup! However with my intolerances, grilled cheese is a bit tough to make. Non-dairy cheeses rarely melt properly, or taste like real cheese. Luckily though, I can tolerate low-lactose cheeses with an enzyme pill. Organic, grass-fed cheeses are also much easier to digest, and healthier too! No added hormones to mess with your body. This is where Rumiano Cheese comes in. Here is a little background on their company:

Rumiano Cheese Company is the oldest family-owned cheese company in California dating back four generations. Rumiano Cheese Company is committed to the organic, grass-fed and Non-GMO movement and continuing to produce the highest quality cheese inspired by their founding fathers’ recipes and cheese making techniques. In 2011, Rumiano launched their Rumiano Family Organic line, which is the first cheese in the US market to receive Non-GMO Project Verification.

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I was thrilled to be chosen to try out this cheese! I found it at my local Whole foods. You can see its placement on the top row of the cooler shelf in the photo above. It comes in many varieties, though my store only carries 3 types: mild cheddar, sharp cheddar, and pepperjack. I was super excited to see that each one of those three listed 0g of sugar (i.e. lactose)! It did not say lactose free on the package, so I assume there may be trace amounts.

I couldn’t wait to get this home to make a grilled cheese! This cheese is great for melting. I used the sharp cheddar for the grilled cheese in the photo above. It had that lovely stretchy, gooey quality I haven’t seen in a low lactose cheese in forever! The taste was great too! I loved not having to feel guilty about eating it, since it is so healthy and doesn’t contain hormones or terrible fillers.

To find it at a store near you: Locator

Bonus: They are also having a grilled cheese recipe contest! Submit your recipe here by the end of April to try to win free cheese!

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Gluten Free Pancakes with Our House Mix

I was happy to be given the opportunity to try out the Our House brand of pancake mix and AP flour. The AP Flour is fairly straight forward: long grain brown rice flour, rice flour, sorghum flour, & xanthan gum. Nothing that would affect taste or texture over much. What I enjoyed the most, though was the pancake mix! I love pancakes! I have tried many recipes and mixes before, only to find their taste or texture sub par. The Pancake & Waffle mix has a few more ingredients: Rice flour, long grain brown rice flour, cane sugar, sorghum flour, baking powder, salt, xanthan gum, tapioca starch, & natural flavor. Aside for the “natural flavor” (which always makes me wonder), the ingredients are recognizable.  You also add similar ingredients as you would to a glutenous mix. Eggs, milk (almond for me), oil, water.

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The ingredients blended pretty easily and formed an initially liquid batter. Because of this, I mixed in in a large measuring cup. I learned this trick from my Mother-in-Law. It makes it easier to pour the batter into the skillet. Less mess!

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However, as you can see below, the batter thickened while I was waiting for the skillet to heat up. It ended up being too thick to pour, so I had to use a measuring cup to portion out the pancakes anyway.

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The end result was spectacular! The pancakes cooked much like glutenous pancakes do, with bubbles rising to indicate doneness. They cooked way lighter (not golden) than wheat pancakes do, so you have to keep an eye on those bubbles to judge when they are ready. As you can tell from the photo below, they have an excellent crumb structure. Light and fluffy, not dense or grainy. They tasted great too! I made both plain and chocolate chip and served them with my whipped vanilla “butter.” So yummy!

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Our House offers a complete line of baking mix products, including: all-purpose flour, brownie mix, cookie mix, pancake and waffle mix, corn bread mix, and baking mix. Please visit the Our House Website for more information on their products and where to purchase them.

Disclaimer: I received this product for free in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. All my opinions are my own. One may or may not have the same results as myself when using this product.

5 Reasons Why Your Gluten Free Recipe Failed

Ever try baking a gluten free cake, only to have it fall flat? Maybe even bread or cookies too? It isn’t your fault! Bread, cake and cookies are staples in our lives and you shouldn’t have to give them up when you go gluten free. Even though it is becoming increasingly easy to find pre-baked GF alternatives in grocery stores and at bakeries, it is still much more expensive than making your own. They also aren’t always made the best way with the best ingredients. However, when the GF foodie ventures into making their own baked goods, they often fail at first and give up. No one tells you that the rules of GF baking are different. Not even the online or cookbook recipes. Here the top 5 reasons why your recipe fell flat:

  1. You opened the oven to check on it before it was done baking. 
    • The most common mistake that no one tells you to avoid is opening the oven to check on it before it is fully cooked. I grew up opening the oven to check on goods and had to break my self of this terrible habit. GF products are naturally less stable. The missing gluten is what holds up the bread or cake during baking. Even the slightest temperature change when baking GF goods will cause the fragile structure to breakdown and your bread/cake/etc will collapse.
  2. You didn’t let it bake long enough.
    • GF baked goods generally take longer to bake through. If your cake or bread has a gummy center, chances are you took it out of the oven too soon. For example, my glutinous bread recipes took around 25 minutes to bake, but my gf bread of similar size takes 45-60 minutes to bake through. This is why several brands of store bought GF bread have dark burnt-tasting crusts. Cooking GF items low and slow always yields a better result.
  3. Your oven temperature is off or you baked it at the wrong temperature.
    • Again cooking at a low temperature for longer is better. You cannot get away with rushing GF items by cooking them at a higher temperature, like you can with glutinous ones. If you are cooking at the suggested temperature, but still have issues, your oven may need to be re-calibrated.  When I first went GF, it blew my mind that my cakes took 1 1/2 hours to bake. I found out my oven was FIFTY degrees lower than indicated. You can buy a simple oven thermometer like this at any grocery store. Hang it from the rack you plan to cook on and watch it through the oven window to see if the temperature matches what your oven tells you.
  4. You used old ingredients. Especially baking powder/soda.
    •  Because the GF flours lack the elasticity of gluten, you usually need stronger or more leavening  products to create those lovely air bubbles you see in bread and cake that makes them so light and fluffy. Old or expired leavening agents like baking powder and baking soda have lost some of their leavening power, so you won’t see the product rise as well.
  5. The altitude or weather was different when the recipe was created. 
    • I know this sounds bizarre, but it was one huge takeaway I got from culinary school. Altitude and weather affect your baking. Even more so for GF products. Ever try baking macarons on a rainy day? What about proofing bread on a cold one? It never turns out right. Heat, humidity, and distance from sea level are huge factors in baking. Some factors cannot be controlled, but often you simply need to adjust your recipe to the weather. Most often it is an issue with liquids. On a wet day, reduce liquids, but on a hot day add more.

With this knowledge under your belt, you will be baking GF goodies like a pro! Please comment below or email me if you have any further questions or would like advice on a certain situation. I would be happy to help!

Almond Butter Cookies

So, the Body Ecology Diet is still rough. As a pastry chef, it is hard to avoid sugar, wheat, dairy and vanilla extract! I was about a month in before the cravings started. It also doesn’t help that Girl Scout Cookie season is upon us. I couldn’t fine any recipes for sweets on the body ecology diet, so I adapted a recipe for flourless peanut butter cookies to suit. Unfortunately the attempt at peanutless/flourless/sugarless cookies didn’t work so well! It took a couple of attempts, but the end result is worth it. I really like the salty/sweet taste. You can adjust the salt and stevia to suit your palette. For those of you on the BED, you will need to make your own almond butter from sprouted almonds, use alcohol free vanilla, and use ground flax seed instead of almond flour in the early stages of the diet.

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Almond Butter Cookies

Yield: 12-15 cookies (depends on size)

1 cup Almond Butter

1 Whole Egg

1/4 cup Almond Flour

1 tsp Vanilla Extract

1/2 tsp sea salt

Stevia or monkfruit powder , to taste (I only did 1/2 a packet)

 

  • Mix all ingredients together with a hand mixer or a fork.
  • Roll into 1-inch balls.
  • lightly press with a fork to flatten.
  • Bake at 350°F for 12-15 minutes.
  • Allow to cool (will crumble when warm), then eat!

 

 

 

 

Gluten Free Ancient Grain Bread

 

Multi Grain Bread

Unfortunately, there are few breads allowed in the beginning stage of the BED.  The only approved bread seller sells only locally in California and online ($10 per loaf + S&H!). Because of this, I have been going through bread withdrawal. Therefore, I decided to make my own. The following bread recipe is my adaptation of the Stage 1 Body Ecology bread. I am still working on making it more sandwich bread-like, but for now, it is a better option than what is offered on the body ecology website. If you have several days, you can opt to both soak and sprout the grains before using them. I didn’t think that far ahead, so they are simply soaked overnight in this recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup millet
  • ½ cup amaranth
  • ½ cup buckwheat
  • ½ cup sunflower seeds
  • 1 tsp chia seeds or psyllium
  • 1 tbsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp organic apple cider vinegar

-Soak quinoa, millet, amaranth, buckwheat, and sunflower seeds in just enough water to cover them. Let sit at least 8 hours or overnight.

-Carefully drain off excess water.

– Blend them in a food processor, gradually adding in each of the other ingredients. Make sure to separate baking soda and vinegar, so you avoid the foam. Blend until you have a loose paste. Add more water if paste is too thick.

– Pour into a greased 9″ x 5″ loaf pan (8×4 will work too, but will be a tight fit). Top with seeds, if desired.

-Bake at 325°F for 60-90 minutes, until top springs back when pressed.

-Allow to cool 10 minutes, before removing from pan.

-Allow to cool entirely before slicing.

Beef Stew

With winter upon us, nothing satisfies me more than a hot bowl of beef stew. It goes back to my child hood, when my mom would make it and serve fresh baked bread along side it. Of course now, I can’t make it the same way she does. After some experimentation, I found a good basic recipe, and will now share my dietary restriction friendly adaptation with you! I use beef bone broth for this, as it is considered very healing for the digestive tract. You can use other broths, if you do not want to make your own. everything in parentheses are the original ingredients that I swapped out for BED friendly ingredients. Use whatever is right for you. Also, I apologize for no photo. Beef stew is not very photogenic.

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbl coconut or olive oil
  • 1 pound stew beef
  • 1 medium onion, white or yellow, rough chopped
  • 1.5 quart beef bone broth
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 cup butternut squash, cubed (or potatoes)
  • 1 cup green beans, cut to bite sized pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 each bay leaves
  • 1 tsp sea salt (reduce or omit if using store bought broth)
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 Tbl coconut aminos (or 1 tsp Worstershire sauce + 1/2 tsp sugar)

Fast prep, slow cooking method:

-Put everything in a 4 quart or larger crockpot and cook on low for 8-10 hours.

 

Slow prep, fast cooking method:

-In a 4 quart or larger stock pot, saute onion in oil until translucent, then remove.

-In same pot, sear beef, then drain off fat.

-Add all into stock pot, and simmer until vegetables are softened & meat is cooked through.

 

Middle ground (what I did):

-In a medium saute pan saute onion in oil until translucent, then remove.

-In same pot, sear beef, then drain off fat.

-Put everything in a 4 quart or larger crockpot and cook on high for 4-6 hours.

Food for Thought: 8 Tips for Saving Money on the Body Ecology Diet

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Save Money BED

In a previous post, I mentioned how expensive it can get to be on the Body Ecology Diet (B.E.D.). Here are some helpful hints to minimize the impact on your wallet:

  1. Make a list an scope out your grocery stores. See what each store has available and at what price, before you buy. Also, few people realize that they can submit a request for their local chain store to carry an item. Have your friends ask too. The more people that ask for it, the more likely it is that they will start carrying it. Also, they will most likely price it lower than you will find it at “healthy living” stores!
  2. Try ethnic stores. They often have hard to find ingredients at a reasonable price. Once I figured out that the “sea vegetables” on the B.E.D. were really just different kinds of seaweed, I went to my local Asian market and stocked up for a fraction of the price. I also got various noodles and grains there too! For both everyday and hard to find spices, I go to the Mediterranean grocery who sells them dirt cheap! For the special blue corn tortillas, the Tortilliaria down the road is awesome! Check these places first, before wasting your money at more expensive grocery stores.
  3. Buy in bulk. Costco really surprised me. They have a LOT of B.E.D. safe and organic options at lower prices than you can find them in grocery stores. Here is some of what I left with: both chicken and ground beef, many different veggies, lemons and limes, blue corn tortilla chips, probiotics, flax meal, and a giant sack of quinoa. The only downside is figuring out where to put it all.
  4. Garden or join a community garden. Anything you grow your self will save money. Herbs are the easiest and can be done is small pots on a window sill, if you don’t have a green thumb or a yard. If you are not confident in your gardening skills or if you live in an apartment, try participating in a community garden. Often, the others there will help you and give you helpful tips, because they benefit from your successful crop too!
  5. Look into local co-ops or delivery services. I subscribe to a local delivery service, here in the Triangle. I pay $20 per week (I can skip weeks, if I want) for the small box. I fill my box by picking and choosing from a list of available products from local farms that they post each week. They deliver a few days later. I have personally found this to be cheaper and more convenient than going to the farmers market. I have also heard of local co-ops that offer boxes of a variety of veggies at a discounted price. I wish there was one here.
  6. Cook in bulk too. Pick one or two days a week to cook or prep a large batch of something. Portion it out and can, freeze, or refrigerate it. You will save time and money not cooking everyday. You will also have ready to go lunches, which will discourage you (and maybe others in the house!) from cheating by eating at a restaurant.
  7. Look for generics. The B.E.D. has a lot of branded supplements and other products. Read their labels and try to find a cheaper alternative.  For example, their SuperGreens powder is twice as expensive as the Go Greens powder I tried. Or try the even cheaper Amazing Grass.  I was able to find most of the others too. Alternatives to the branded sweeteners can be found in your local grocery stores. I prefer the “In the Raw” brand, as others have additives. And, as a bonus, they sometimes actually have coupons in the paper for those!
  8. DIY as much as possible. I am told, making your own coconut kefir and “cheese” can save you a lot. Unfortunately I cannot do it myself, because I have yet to find young coconuts in any of my local stores, and I also don’t own a meat cleaver (necessary for hacking the coconut open). However, I do make my own kimchee, as well as other fermented veggies. Basic kimchee is easy and requires few ingredients; cabbage, sea salt, fish sauce, and gochugaru pepper flakes. You can also customize the flavor to suit you. I prefer to add garlic and reduce the usual amount of spice, as it can irritate the digestive tract. A pint jar at my local grocery store is $7! At the Asian market it is $3. It cost me about $3 in ingredients to make my own and it yielded 3 quarts. I saved my self as much as $39!

If anyone has some more money saving tips or any questions about what I have mentioned, please comment blow!

Pickled Willy’s Gourmet Pickled Seafood #PickledWillys

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Pickled Willy’s is a family/veteran owned and operated specialty seafood processing plant in Kodiak, Alaska. They sell a variety of seafood related items in various forms. Their smoked fish seems popular and they have won awards for it. Their flagship products, pickled seafood, are what is unique about the company. They use an old family recipe with secret seasonings they won’t divulge! Their commitment to quality is commendable. All of their products are 100% sustainable and fished from Alaskan waters. The products are hand packed, low in fat, high in Omega-3’s, all natural, and have no preservatives. Their ingredients are simply as follows: Halibut/Lining Cod/Sockeye Salmon/King Crab, Organic Vinegar, Cane Sugar, Water, Pickling Spice, Onion, Salt (Fish). Bonus:Their products are also gluten free! They are also committed to providing their long-distance customers with the freshest product. They shipped it UPS expedited and it was extremely well packed with bubble wrap, ice packs, and lots of “this end up” stickers (which UPS ignored).

Also, if you car ever in Kodiak, you can visit their shop and sample the various products they sell. Pickled Willy’s products make great souvenirs and gifts. If you happen to do some fishing while you are in Kodiak, Pickled Willy’s will even process and ship your catch back home to you! You choose the preservation method. So cool!

Now, your first question is probably “Does it taste good?”

I assume this is your first question, because it is usually the first question anyone asks before they try something new. Some people might be wary because the combination of pickles and fish is a bit unusual, aside from some tuna salad recipes that contain pickle relish. Also the only pickled fish most people have heard of is the Northern European delicacy pickled herring, which has an unfortunately bad reputation. I want to debunk this unfortunate reputation, because Pickled Willy’s seafood is quite tasty! It is a mild pickling solution, so you don’t notice the vinegar bite you get in many pickle products. The sugar is also not overpowering, which is nice. The pickling spices also compliment the fish, so they don’t cover up the natural flavor of the fish. Best of all the fish tastes fresh. If there is one taste I cannot stand, it is the pungent taste of fish that has been frozen or sitting around for a couple of days. Pickled Willy’s obviously uses fresh caught fish that they pack right away to preserve the natural subtle taste only found in a fresh catch. So overall, the pickled seafood has a mild, subtle taste that can only compliment your meal, not overpower the other ingredients. And don’t forget the health benefits!

Your next question “How on earth do you eat it?”

There are many things you can do with pickled fish. The simplest is to serve it as an appetizer on a cracker, piece of toast, or slice of cucumber. Adding a dollop of sour cream is often recommended (but I can’t say if it is good, because I cannot eat it!). Pickled Will’s packs all of their fish in bite-sized chunks, so they are convenient for appetizers. The seafood is also tasty as a main dish in sandwiches, wraps, and on salads. You can even mix it with other ingredients to make a dip! The Pickled Willy’s website also has a recipe page to give you some ideas. If you want to eat it plain, then some popular pickled fish accompaniments are cold mayonnaise based salads, such as potato or macaroni salad, beets, boiled potatoes, and hard boiled eggs.

Seriously, how great (and unique!) an appetizer would it be to serve the salmon on a slice of cucumber with a dab of sour cream and a sprig of dill on top! This would be a great idea with the holidays just around the corner!! Here is my test batch:

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For more information or to purchase visit pickledwillys.com

Disclaimer: I received this product for free in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. All my opinions are my own. One may or may not have the same results as myself when using this product.

Korean Briased Tofu with Green Onion

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Before I found out about my gluten intolerance, my husband and I used to go to our favorite little Korean restaurant once a week. I love that in addition to your main dish, you also get a variety of little side dishes called banchan. Unfortunately, it is hard to find gluten-free Korean food in a restaurant. Almost every dish involves soy sauce, fried elements, or gojuchang (a Korean chili paste that contains wheat!). So, as always, I have begun to try to replicate these dishes at home. I think that tofu is an under appreciated food here in the US, because it has been labeled as an option for vegans and vegetarians. Omnivores seem to avoid it here. However Asian countries have long since included in in their diets, in addition to meat. I greatly respect that, as it is a healthy and versatile source of protein. This particular dish is normally served as a banchan, but it is so good I could eat it by itself or maybe on top of some greens as a salad!

Ingredients

1 block tofu (14 oz)

2-3 stalks green onion – cut into 2 inch long peices

3/4 cup gluten free or tamari soy sauce

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 tsp gluten free gojuchang or other chili paste (I used a chili garlic paste I found at the Asian Market)

1/2 tsp minced garlic (omit if using chili garlic sauce)

1 tsp sesame oil

1 tsp sesame seeds (for garnish)

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a saute pan.
  2. Mix soy sauce, brown sugar, chili paste, garlic, and sesame oil in a separate bowl.
  3. Drain and cut tofu into desired size. I chose larger rectangles, but smaller bite-size pieces work too. Pat dry with a paper towel (this is very important, since any excess water will cause the hot oil to spit while cooking).
  4. Pan fry tofu on both sides until lightly browned.
  5. Add in green onion and saute to wilt it slightly.
  6. Add in sauce mixture and cook for a few minutes until it is slightly reduced.
  7. Top with sesame seeds, serve, and enjoy!

French Onion Soup

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I have to say that this is my absolute favorite soup! It is simple to make, low in calorie (until you add the bread and cheese!), and tastes great! I don’t get to eat it very often though, because it is made with beef stock, which often contains gluten. Also, there is the bread and cheese to contend with!

Ingredients

2-3 medium onions, yellow or white, sliced thinly

1 – 32 oz box of GF Beef broth (I used Rachel Ray’s brand, because it is all natural)

1 bay leaf

1 tsp of dried thyme (or 1 sprig of fresh)

1 Tbl of GF Worcestershire Sauce (I used Lea & Perrins)

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  1. Slice onions and saute until translucent in a small amount of oil or butter. This can be done in the same stockpot (4 qt for this recipe) you will cook the soup in, to save dishes.

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2. Add in bay leaf, thyme, Worcestershire sauce, and beef broth. Cook 10-20 minutes to allow the flavors to meld.

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3. Portion out into oven save bowls, top each with a piece of your favorite GF bread (the crustier the better), and your favorite cheese (soy mozzarella for me!) and broil in the oven until the cheese melts.

  • If you  do not have oven safe bowls or do not want to take the extra time to cook the soup altogether, you can cheat! While the soup is cooking, top your bread with the cheese and toast it in either a toaster oven or in your conventional oven. When the soup is ready, pop the toasted cheesy bread on top and serve!