Thursday, February 21, 2008

Gingerbread Cookies

I know it's way past Christmas, but winter is not over here in New England. My daughter really wanted to make gingerbreads, and we had not make them yet this year. I had to think about what I would do for a recipe - I knew I wanted no dairy, refined sugar, or wheat - so that we could eat them together as a family and they would be semi-healthy. I used the oatmeal cookie recipe as a guide in the "Whole Foods Allergy Cookbook," which is excellent by the way and you will have to get the book or borrow it from the library to try it. However, here is my version for gingerbread cookies.

1/2 c. vegetable shortening (make sure it doesn't have soy...try Spectrum's brand)
1/4 c. molasses
1/4 c. maple syrup
1 t. vanilla

Cream the above 4 ingredients with an electric mixer.

1/2 c. rye flour
1/2 c. buckwheat flour
1 c. oat flour
1/4 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. ginger
1/4 t. salt
1/2 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder

Stir into creamed mixture. I used a little of the dough at a time to roll out on a generously floured (I used oat) surface, then cut out my little gingerbread people. We decorated the cookies with raisins and unsweetened coconut. Bake about 7-8 minutes on 350 degrees.

Drinking Healthy - Fresh Juice

Ever since I found a great fresh fruit and vegetable market (A. Russo's, Watertown, MA), I am starting to get back into making my own fresh juice. I would love to have a large kitchen so I could keep my juicer out all the time, but it's probably just as well to get everything out and have a special treat once in a while (even natural fruit and vegetable juice has a high amount of sugar, with no fiber). My favorite juice is Beet - Apple - Carrot. By the way, my 3 year-old and 18-month old love it! We water it down a little though, about 1/2 juice and 1/2 water.

I have the Omega juicer, which I've used for fruit/vegetable juice and for grinding nut or seed -butters (such as almond, sunflower seed and pumpkin seed butter). It has worked well, it's fairly easy to clean, and powerful. However, you have to cut the fruit/vegetables into slices that will go into the machine, so this sometimes takes a few extra minutes.

Juice is a great way to transition to eliminating soft drinks and diet coke/pepsi (which in addition to being a health risk will ironically just cause you to gain weight). If you don't have time to make your own juice and must buy commercial juice, make sure it is 100% Juice. Try mixing a little Sparkling water, like San Pellegrino, in with the juice.

Some people drink soft drinks just to be drinking something. Try getting a water bottle (preferably a hard plastic), and fill up on fresh, filtered water all day. I've read even drinking bottled water is sometimes not so good, because the water is bottled in soft plastic containers that may leak chemicals into the water if exposed to extreme temperatures.

If you are just drinking diet coke for the caffeine or refreshing pick-up, I think it would be better to drink some unsweetened iced green tea mixed with sparkling water. At least it's all natural - and real! Plus, green tea does have some nutritional value and health benefits. Octavia tea is very good.

I used to buy apple juice for my kids and water it down, but now I don't even buy apple juice. They are used to drinking water all day, and I make sure their water bottles are full. It's great to get them in the habit early of drinking lots of water. I can't believe how much I'm saving on my grocery bill by drinking healthy - no juice, beer or wine, coffee, soda - so I can afford to buy treats such as tea, Teeccino, or sparkling water once in a while.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

How to kick the coffee habit

I talked to my brother recently - who I always knew to pull all-night study sessions with a cup of strong black coffee - and he was saying he has a hard time sleeping if he drinks any caffeine after 4 p.m. I think most of us have run into this situation at some time or another. I have always loved coffee, but it was among the many things I chose to renounce during pregnancy and breastfeeding. I tried going decaf, but was concerned with the decaffeinating process - I realize the "Swiss Water" method is probably ok, but the thought of formaldehyde possibly entering my body scared me. I now drink herbal tea, but for a while I was really stuck on coffee. My husband and I were craving coffee about a year ago, and he went to Whole Foods to see what he could find. My husband asked an employee for suggestions, who saw my husband holding Teeccino in his hand and exclaimed, "Oh, you wanted ersatz coffee!" Since then, we enjoy an occasional cup of Teeccino for a special caffeine-free coffee treat.

Apple Crisp

I modified the "pear crumble" recipe from the Whole Foods Allergy Cookbook into apple crisp. Plus, I don't like it as sweet. I was all out of the old fashioned rolled oats, so I had so use some instant I had on hand, but I recommend using the old fashioned rolled oats if you have them.

6-7 large apples (we used Gala)
1/4 c. golden raisins
1/4 c. honey (I don't even measure, I just sprinkle on top)
1/2 c. millet flour
1/2 c. oat flour
1 c. old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 c. maple sugar
3/4 c. chilled vegetable shortening.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Core, peel, and slice apples and place in a baking dish. Sprinkle raisins and honey over apples. Combine flours, oats and sugar in a medium bowl, use a pastry blender to cut in the shortening. Sprinkle this mixture over top of the apples, raisins and honey and bake for about 40 minutes.

Dairy-Free Scalloped Potatoes & Ham

One of my favorite dishes growing up was scalloped potatoes and ham. My mom used to make a heaping roaster full that would last us for days. Here, I didn't really measure much when I made this dish, so use the measurements as a guideline.

6-8 medium baking potatoes, washed, peeled, and sliced
about 1-2 cups cubed or chopped cooked ham (nitrate-free)
3 T. olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
3 T. oat flour, or allowed flour
1 t. salt
1/4 t. pepper
2 1/2 c. rice milk (or allowed milk)

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease casserole dish with shortening. Add ham and potatoes to dish.
Cook onion in olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat for about 2 minutes, until tender. Add flour, salt and pepper. Cook for about 1 minute more then add milk. Stir constantly until boiling, continue stirring and boil for 1 minute, until thickened. Pour sauce over
ham and potatoes.
Bake covered about 30 minutes, then uncover and bake about 1 hour more. Let cool a few minutes before serving.

Orange Biscotti

This is an adaptation of an old Betty Crocker recipe. Biscotti has always been one of my favorites with tea, and here is an allergy-free version: no dairy, wheat, or eggs. It can be gluten-free depending on what flours you use. The biscotti does, however, have refined sugar (I couldn't bring myself to substitute everything). You could try maple sugar or date sugar if you needed to avoid refined sugar.

1 c. sugar
1/2 c. vegetable shortening or non-hydrogenated margarine (if you are allergic to soy, make sure it's soy-free)
1 T. grated orange zest
1 t. vanilla
2/3 c. water mixed with a scant 2 T. brown flaxseeds
Note: Heat in a small saucepan over med-high heat until boiling, only boil about 1 min until a slightly thickened gel forms - don't make it too thick or you won't be able to strain the seeds out. Strain the whole seeds out and cool the liquid gel. Use the gel in place of the two eggs.
3 1/2 cups of all-purpose (if you can have it) or any combination of flours (I used 1 c. brown rice, 2 c. oat, and 1/2 c. sorghum/milo)
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Make flaxseed gel to use in place of egg and place in an ice bath to cool if using immediately. Beat sugar, shortening or margarine, orange zest, vanilla and flaxseed gel in a large bowl. Stir in flour, baking powder, salt. Note: I had a hard time mixing it together, but just use a wooden spoon or your hands, adding a little water if necessary, to form a soft dough. Split dough in half and shape each half into a 10X3 " rectangle and place on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake about 20 minutes, cool for 15 minutes. Cut crosswise into 1" thick slices (the original instructions say 1/2" slices, but I did 1" with a sharp, wet knife. Using different flours, especially gluten-free like brown rice, tend to be a bit crumbly.) Bake about 10 minutes longer. You want them to be crisp, slightly brown but not too dark. From the initial cutting, I thought they would turn out too crumbly, but after the second baking they held together well.