Monday, August 30, 2010

No Nothing, Baby

After a disheartening visit with Warren's gastroenterologist and the threat of outrageously expensive hypoallergenic formula looming over my head, I have embarked on the Dr. Sears Total Elimination Diet.  Here are my menu selections at the moment:

Yellow Squash
Salt & Pepper

I have eaten nothing outside of these things for seven long days now, and to be honest, it left me feeling too depressed to write.  Living in a world where I couldn't cook creatively left me feeling like a stranger in a foreign land (and a hungry one at that!)  But today, Warren's symptoms began to improve, and with them the state of my soul.  Truly, I will do whatever it takes to make that little angel's tummy stop hurting him.  In the meantime, I keep daydreaming about which food to reintroduce first.  Bananas?  Avocados?  I think olive oil is winning by a nose so I can start frying everything humanly possible.

On the bright side, the pregnancy pounds are melting before my eyes, and my husband has promised to take me bowling since I am desperate for some fun!  Seriously, it is just wrong to deprive a mother of a well-earned sweet treat after the two boys are finally tucked in bed.  But I am finally relieved of worrying over every little thing I eat.  The diet may be monotonous, but at least it feels safe.

Since I know there are other mothers out there bored to tears with the elimination diet, I am going to keep posting what I am making in hopes of helping someone in my shoes.  Here is my first total elimination diet recipe.  It's very easy, filling, and comforting.

Turkey & Zucchini Pasta

8 oz. brown rice fusilli or other pasta shape
1 lb. ground turkey (not extra lean)
2 medium zucchini, thinly sliced
salt & pepper

Heat a non-stick skillet (I use cast iron) over medium heat.  Add the turkey and break up with the back of a spoon.  Add zucchini.  Continue to cook, stirring often, until meat is browned and zucchini is tender, about 10 minutes.  Season generously with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the package directions.  Drain and stir into the turkey mixture.  Serve immediately.

This makes about 3 servings.  Heat up the  leftovers for a quick lunch the next day.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Double Chocolate Fudge Cookies

See the ooey-gooey goodness?
Re-learning how to cook has been an exercise in open-mindedness.  Take the avocado, for example.  If you were to describe the flavor of an avocado, you would probably use words like creamy, buttery, nutty, and rich.  So why is it that we automatically pair it with spicy foods?  Couldn't it work just as well with, say, double chocolate fudge cookies?

I got the idea for avocado as cookie egg-replacer from Alisa Fleming's book, Go Dairy Free.  I liked her version but was looking for something a little different, and on my third batch I finally got it right (and as a result managed to actually gain two pounds on this diet!).  These are super soft, gooey, and intensely chocolatey.  If you don't share my devotion to coconut, you could substitute vegetable or olive oil, but I think it goes beautifully with the chocolate.  The avocado flavor fades into the background, leaving behind only its rich, creamy texture; just don't tell anyone the secret ingredient for these dairy-free, soy-free, egg-free, nut-free indulgences.

Double Chocolate Fudge Cookies

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1/3 cup mashed ripe avocado (about half an avocado)
1/4 cup coconut oil
2 Tbsp. unsweetened applesauce
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate

Preheat oven to 375 F.  Line a cookie sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.  In a small bowl stir together the flour, cocoa, baking soda, and salt.  Set aside.

In bowl of standing mixer with paddle attachment, beat avocado until no lumps remain.  Add applesauce and coconut oil and beat until smooth.  Add sugar and vanilla and beat until creamy.  Add flour mixture and beat on low speed until combined.  Fold in chocolate chunks with a wooden spoon.

Scoop large, rounded tablespoonfuls onto prepared cookie sheet.  You should end up with 12 large cookies.  Bake about 10-12 minutes, until cookies are set but still soft.  Let cool 5 minutes on sheet, then remove to cooling rack to cool completely (though they are really good warm!)  Be aware that because there are no eggs, these are a bit delicate, so be careful when moving them.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Zucchini Salsa Verde

My college apartment was not exactly typical.  In our entryway stood a six foot chest freezer filled with farm-picked blueberries, strawberries, peaches, and homemade apple pies.  If you came over for spaghetti, the sauce was home canned by my roommate, Sarah.  Pizza for a study night?  Not unless we made the crust from scratch and followed it with homemade doughnuts hot from the fryer.  And our only magazine subscription, which we eagerly awaited and read voraciously, was Bon App├ętit.

Through the years I have not missed a single issue of my beloved Bon App├ętit, and I  make a special point to try at least a few of the new recipes every month.  Rarely do they disappoint, and while many of the dishes still revolve around cheese and cream, they have shifted their focus to more sustainable - for the earth and the body - ways of eating.  Which means that there are plenty of recipes rich with fresh, seasonal produce that require no modification on my part.  My recent favorite is a zucchini salsa verde, which was a perfect way to use up the zucchini that are currently taking over my garden.  We ate it heaped over shrimp instead of the halibut called for in the recipe, and it was fantastic.  Even better was the next day when I slathered it over fresh corn on the cob, and used some as dip for my tortilla chips.  I can't think of a more delicious way to eat your veggies.

Here is the link to the recipe.  Enjoy!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Banana Pancakes

As promised, here is my creative breakfast recipe for the week: my first ever vegan pancakes, which I was pleasantly surprised by.  I almost wonder why pancakes have eggs in them to begin with, as moist, tender and flavorful as these were.  I used an over-ripe mashed banana to replace the egg, and in keeping with my tropical obsession, coconut milk and coconut oil.  Some whole wheat flour added substance, and a healthy dose of baking powder kept them fluffy.

These are very loosely based on the "American breakfast pancakes" from one of my favorite cookbooks, Nigella Lawson's How to Be a Domestic Goddess.  If cooking out of a book with a title like that doesn't make you feel fabulous, nothing will.  We enjoyed them with dairy-free margarine, crisp applewood-smoked bacon (yes, vegan pancakes with bacon, stop laughing!), and real maple syrup.  In my opinion, real maple syrup is an absolute must, so please step away from the "pancake syrup" and splurge on a bottle of the good stuff, grade B if you can find it, which has a deeper color and flavor.  My husband, who has been a little wary of some of my alternative cooking projects, gave these the thumbs up.  Enjoy!

Banana Pancakes

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup regular or white whole wheat flour
pinch of salt
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 cup regular coconut milk + 3/4 cup water
1 Tbsp flax seed meal
1 very ripe banana, well mashed
2 Tbsp coconut oil

In a glass measuring cup, combine the coconut milk, water, and flax seed meal; set aside while you prepare the remaining ingredients.  In a medium bowl stir together the flour, whole wheat flour, salt, and baking powder.  In another bowl mix the mashed banana, coconut oil, and coconut milk mixture.  Make a well in the flour and pour in the wet ingredients.  Stir with a wooden spoon until just combined.  Transfer to a pitcher or large glass measuring cup.

Heat your griddle or large frying pan and coat lightly with oil.  Pour batter onto griddle and cook until surface is bubbly and edges look dry.  Flip pancakes and cook until golden.  Repeat with remaining batter.  Serve hot with dairy-free margarine and maple syrup.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Win a Kid-Friendly Allergy Cookbook

Link to the contest page here.  If I don't win I may need to buy myself a copy.  I'm sure I'll be needing it when Warren moves beyond mashed veggies!

Gone-Nuts Granola

For three nights this week, I was up late tending batches of granola for my husband's backpacking trip.  I practically drooled as pan after pan of nutty, spiced oats came out of my oven tempting and taunting me, enough granola to sustain four men hiking seventy-five miles over a week, of which I could taste none.  When my non-cereal eating husband sampled it and raved, I knew I had to make myself a nut-free version.

Sunflower seeds have been my new best friend this week.  They look like a nut, taste like a nut, and bake like a nut, but for allergy purposes, they are not a nut.  First I bought a jar of sunflower seed butter so I could keep eating my toast with bananas, and now they would be the perfect stand-in for nuts in my new granola recipe.  Not to mention they're a good source of protein and very inexpensive.  I've been in a tropical mood lately - the coconut milk is probably going to my head - so I added coconut and banana chips to the mix.  I also used an array of spices, including cardamom, which I've been sort of obsessed with ever since that vanilla bean panna cotta with cardamom-infused apricot puree at a French restaurant several years ago.  Cardamom is a prominent spice in chai tea, so I couldn't leave out its partners, cinnamon and ginger.  Making granola is even easier than baking cookies, so get to it - it's worth it just for the aroma that will fill your home!

Gone-Nuts Granola

3 1/2 cups old-fashioned oats
2 Tbsp flax seed meal
1 cup raw sunflower seeds
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/3 cup honey
2 Tbsp coconut oil
2 Tbsp canola or vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup unsweetened banana chips, crumbled
1/2 cup dried apricots, chopped

Preheat your oven to 250 F and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

In large bowl, combine oats, flax seed meal, sunflower seeds, and coconut.  Mix brown sugar, salt, and spices together in a small bowl and sprinkle over oats; stir to combine well.  Whisk honey, coconut oil, canola oil, and vanilla together in glass measuring cup; pour over oat mixture.  Stir with a wooden spoon until oats are evenly coated.  Spread in even layer on prepared baking sheet.

Bake about 45 minutes to an hour, removing from oven and stirring thoroughly every 15 minutes.  Watch carefully to prevent burning.  Granola should be uniformly golden when done.  Remove from oven and stir again; let cool.   Stir in bananas and apricots.  Store in airtight container.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Lovely Latkes

Although I may have thrown you off the trail with my bacon and shrimp eating ways, I am in fact a girl of Jewish heritage.  One of my favorite food memories growing up were my grandma's latkes, though at the time we just called them potato pancakes and I was ignorant of the dish's Jewish origins.  All I knew was that they were crispy, moist and absolutely delicious with applesauce on top.

Traditionally, latkes are a Hannukah food, cooked in oil as a reminder of God's miraculous supply of oil for eight days.  Making them in the summer is probably akin to baking gingerbread men on a Tuesday in June, but I just can't seem to stop myself.  They pair perfectly with meats and fish, and while they are usually made with potatoes and onions only, they are an excellent vehicle for hiding some more nutritious vegetables.  I wish the recipe was more complicated so I could brag a bit more when people ask how I make them, but alas, they are wonderfully easy.  There is a lot of grating involved, so if the shredding attachment on your food processor is collecting dust somewhere, now is the time to brush it off.  You will be on your way to lovely latkes in no time.  L'chaim!

Vegetable Latkes

3 small/medium russet potatoes, peeled (about 1 1/4 lbs)
1/2 medium yellow onion, skin removed
1 small zucchini
1 large carrot, peeled
1 egg
3 Tbsp flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
Vegetable or canola oil for frying
Unsweetened applesauce (optional)

In a large bowl, beat the egg until combined, then whisk in the flour, salt, and pepper.  Set aside.

Using a box grater or food processor, coarsely shred the potatoes, onion, zucchini (with skin), and carrot.   Add to egg mixture and toss until vegetables are evenly distributed.

In heavy skillet over medium heat, heat about 1/2" of oil to about 350 F.  (To test oil, place a small dollop of latke batter in pan.  It should sizzle vigorously but not burn.)  Line a baking sheet with several layers of paper towels.  Scoop potato mixture by heaping 1/4 cupfuls into oil.  Flatten into pancake with the back of a spatula.  Cook until edges are deep golden brown, about 3-4 minutes, then flip and cook until the other side is golden brown.  Do not overcrowd the pan; cook only 3-4 latkes at a time.  Remove to paper towels to drain.  Repeat with remaining batter.

Serve latkes hot and pass a bowl of applesauce to spoon over the top.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Chocolate Breakfast Scones

In honor of going egg-free and officially joining the ranks of vegan bakers, I decided to make myself a special treat for the first morning of my new dietary restrictions.  I chose the cocoa-nut (as in cocoa + coconut) scones from Alisa Fleming's excellent guide and cookbook, Go Dairy Free.  I ordered this book about a week after we found out about Warren's allergies, when I was basically living on lettuce and meat and feeling very sorry for myself.  When it arrived, it was like being handed a compass and a map while lost in the wilderness.  If you are new to living without dairy, or just want some new recipes, I highly recommend it.  You can visit Alisa's website, with recipes and dairy-free information, here.

My first foray into vegan baking was actually a lot of fun.  Part of why I fell in love with baking to begin with was the mystery of it all, how you can put a soupy mess into the oven and ten minutes later pull out a light, fluffy masterpiece.  Doing it now with all different ingredients makes the whole experience fresh again. Working with the margarine was a little tricky; it melts more readily than butter so I had to work quickly when cutting it into the dough.  I was a little skeptical as I pushed the pan into the oven, but as soon as I took the crackle-topped scones from the oven, I knew they were a success.  Rich with cocoa flavor but not too sweet, they were perfect with my morning coffee.  My husband liked them as well, but they were a bit too sophisticated for Isaac, who dismantled his to rescue all the chocolate chips.