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Unless otherwise noted, all recipes on this blog are free of gluten, peanuts, soy, corn, tomatoes, potatoes, shellfish, cane sugar, oranges, and yeast. Most recipes are also free of egg, dairy, and tree nuts (if used, reliable substitutions will be provided for these when possible). Check out my recipe index for a full list of recipes by category. 

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Friday
Jun032011

June SOS Kitchen Challenge Kick-Off

 

Last month's carob challenge delivered many delicious submissions, from the sweet to the savory. As in past challenges, Ricki and I offered up prizes to two lucky participants: a one-pint jar of Harrison's Sugar Bush Maple Syrup, harvested by my family in Fence, Wisconsin, and a copy of Ricki's new e-book "Good Morning! Breakfasts without Gluten, Sugar, Eggs, or Dairy".

We randomly selected two recipes from the entries, and are excited to announce the winners:

Congratulations to the winners of the prizes. We will be contacting you to get your information!


And now, for this month's Challenge. . . .

By now many of you are probably sick of familiar with the term, "superfoods": those comestibles that have been found to confer extra health benefits along with their nutritional value and taste.

Well, this month Ricki and I are happy to share our SOS Kitchen Challenge key ingredient, one of the best superfoods out there. These gems are perfect if you're into eating for better health; in fact, it's been reported that they have the highest antioxidant capacity of any fresh fruit! They're also bursting with phytonutrients, vitamins, good fiber, and virtually no fat.  They provide a popular ingredient you can use either cooked or raw with equal delight, something that will go well in sweet OR savory recipes.  A food that is low sugar, low glycemic, yet sweet in its natural state.  A food that everyone should eat and enjoy!

And just what is this magical food, you ask?  

Well, this month's ingredient is BLUEBERRIES

 [source]

For those of us in North America, blueberries are truly a fruit of summer, available (depending on your location) from May to September. Blueberries are grown virtually around the world these days, from Germany and Italy to Argentina and Australia (where, apparently, they first tried to grow them in the 1950s without success, but tried again in the 1970s and have been growing them since).

Related to cranberries and bilberries, most blueberries are not truly "blue" but rather pale to deep purple, with a white interior. More important than their cute little shape or sweet-tart flavor is the blueberry's incredible nutritional punch.  These little gems provide a huge does of Vitamin C, manganese, vitamin E and fiber, all while tasting delicious and providing virtually no fat and few calories. Like cranberries, they can help prevent or treat urinary tract infections. In a recent analysis of 60 fruits and veggies, blueberries were rated Number One for their free radical-fighting capabilities!

The antioxidants in blueberries are called proanthocyanins, and they are remarkable at neutralizing free radicals (cancer-causing molecules).  As a result, blueberries are able to prevent a host of cancers, cell damage, or damage to the vascular system. They're also great for cardiovascular health and help prevent macular degeneration, a disease of the eye that often causes blindness (leafy greens also are helpful this way). In addition, blueberries contain both types of fiber, soluble and insoluble, which means they work well to keep you regular.

Once picked, blueberries are best eaten fresh, but they will keep a few days in the refrigerator.  Look for uniformly colored, firm berries that have a  pale white "bloom" on the skin.  They should also roll about freely when you shake their container (if they're stuck together, they may be overly ripe or moldy). I line the carton in which they are packed with a layer of paper towel and allow it to absorb any excess moisture, thereby keeping the fragile berries from damage.  You can also freeze blueberries by placing them in a single layer on a rimmed cookie sheet, then freezing. Once frozen, store in an airtight bag or container in the freezer (and the frozen berries will retain their antioxidant properties, too).  

[source]

For this month's SOS Kitchen Challenge - our last SOS before we begin our summer break - we're asking you to focus on all the amazing blueberry possibilities in your own cooking! Sure, you've we've all used blueberries in baking and desserts and jams, but how about salads? Or, say, a quinoa pilaf? Or a savory blueberry sauce? Anything goes - as long as you adhere to the usual SOS Kitchen Challenge guidelines. :)

As always, it's easy to play along!

To participate, please adhere to the following guidelines:

  • Cook up a recipe--whether yours or someone else's with credit to them--using the challenge ingredient. Your recipe must be made for this event, within the month of the challenge--sorry, no old posts are accepted.  Then, post the recipe to your blog (if you don’t have a blog, see instructions below).
  • Be sure to mention the event on your post and link to the current SOS page so that everyone can find the collection of recipes. Then, link up the recipe using the linky tool below.
  • As a general rule, please use mostly whole foods ingredients (minimally processed with no artificial flavors, colors, prepackaged sauces, etc.).  For example, whole grains and whole grain flours; no refined white flours or sugar (but either glutenous OR gluten-free flours are fine).
  • Please ensure that recipes are vegan or include a vegan alternative (no animal products such as meat, fish, chicken, milk, yogurt, eggs, honey).
  • Please use natural sweeteners (no white sugar, nothing that requires a laboratory to create--such as splenda, aspartame, xylitol, etc.). Instead, try maple syrup, agave nectar, brown rice syrup, coconut sugar, dates, yacon syrup, Sucanat, stevia, etc.
  • Feel free to use the event logo on your blog to help promote the event
  • Have fun and let your creativity shine!
  • You may enter as many times as you like, but please submit a separate entry for each recipe.

If you don’t have a blog, you can still participate!  Simply email your recipe, or recipe and a photo, to soskitchenchallenge@gmail.com. We’ll post it for you. 

Now, let's all get cooking with blueberries! Ricki and I can't wait to see what you come up with this month. :D

SOS Kitchen Challenge Submissions: Blueberries

Wednesday
May252011

Gluten-Free Birthday Party Ideas: making "potions" at a Harry Potter party

a happy child with his "potion"

A few weekends ago, I traveled to Northern Iowa to participate in a cob oven-building workshop. My friends were hosting the workshop at their home and I took advantage of the opportunity to stay the weekend with them and their three kids. One of the highlights of the weekend was participating in their 9-year-old son's Harry Potter-themed birthday party. 

The minute I arrived, my friend told me I was going to be the Potions Master and lead the kids in an activity to make their own smoothies (a.k.a. "potions") from fresh fruits. Awesome! We prepared the fruits before the party and displayed them in trays and bowls. To label each magic ingredient, I drew out the names of each on paper with a water insoluble pen, tore it around the edges, and lightly singed each torn edge to make it look old. We grownups came up with some fun ideas for the "magic" equivalents of common ingredients: 

After the kids finished a rousing game of quidditch, it was time for potions. Each child was given a goblet and instructed to fill it up with their choice of fruit and juice. I put the ingredients the Vitamix with a handful of ice, asking them (in a terrible British accent) to tell me what their magical "potion" will do, then flipped the switch. As it blended, I waved my wand (oh yeah, I had a wand) and made crazy sounds for dramatic effect. Then I poured their "potion" it right back in their goblet. A quick rinse of the blender container, and I was ready for the next one!

dragon hearts and eyes of giant newt

Click to read more ...

Thursday
May192011

Cultured Curried Carrot Sticks (gluten-free, ACD)

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I love making cultured (also known as lacto-fermented) foods. After taking about 6 months off from fermenting (save a battle with 20 heads of cabbage that resulted in 7 gallons of kraut), I'm back at it. Last week I made some lovely Cultured Curried Carrot Sticks, and now I've been bit hard by the fermentation bug. 

Cultured and lacto-fermented foods - such as sauerkraut, fermented vegetables, yogurt, miso, kombucha, and kvass - are rich in probiotic bacteria, enzymes, and amino acids. These foods aid digestion, increase immunity, and help alkalize the body. While everyone can benefit from consuming fermented cultured foods, they are especially beneficial if you are recovering from chronic illness, allergies, yeast infections, or have taken antibiotics recently. Many natural grocery stores and co-ops offer wonderful cultured and fermented foods, but they are often costly. I prefer to make most of mine at home - it is simple and much more affordable! 

These cultured carrot sticks can easily be made year-round. Make them now using sweet and tender young carrots from the spring garden, and use larger carrots as the summer goes on and as summer wanes to fall. If you can store carrots in cold storage for winter, or actually get local carrots through the colder months, you're in luck, and can make this even when the snowflakes start to fly! But if I were you, I'd make lots of jars through spring, summer, and fall, and take the winter off and rely on your stash. Jars of cultured carrots will last 6-8 months when kept in cold storage! And besides, the longer they sit, the better they taste; cultured foods age like fine wines.

I took a few jars of these carrot sticks to the second MPLS Swappers food swap over the past weekend (if you want to read more about the MPLS Swapperscheck out our blog). I organize this event with my friends A-K and Mandy, and it was a big success once again! All my jars of carrots were swapped in no time. Thankfully, I reserved a couple of jars at home for myself and let them ferment a few days longer, to get nice and sour the way I like them. And when I opened that jar after 7 days, those carrots bubbled. 

It's aliiiiiiive, ha ha ha ha ha!

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IMG_1681

Cultured Curried Carrot Sticks

yield 6 pints or 3 quarts

These carrot sticks are slightly sour, slightly salty, slightly spicy, and plenty crunchy. They have a beautiful bright orange color, due in part to the addition of curry powder. Serve along side sandwiches or wraps, Indian-style meals, as part of a relish tray, or eat straight out of the jar. Cultured carrot sticks can also be finely chopped and added to relishes, salsas, or chutneys for a healthful probiotic kick.

Metal reacts with fermented foods, so remove carrot sticks from jars with wood or plastic utensils and serve in non-metallic bowls/trays.

  • 4 pounds carrots, peeled and trimmed
  • 6 large garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 4 fresh cayenne peppers, trimmed, halved lengthwise, and seeded
  • 6 Tbsp whey***
  • 3 Tbsp unrefined salt
  • 3 tsp whole coriander seeds 
  • 30 shelled whole cardamom seeds
  • 1 1/2 tsp curry powder
  • filtered water

Heat a small heavy bottomed sauté pan over medium heat. Add the coriander seeds and lightly toast, stirring often, until they are golden and fragrant. Remove from heat and place in a small bowl to cool.

Slice carrots into 3-4 inch lengths about 1/4-inch x 1/4-inch. prepare other vegetables as directed. Thinly slice one of the halved cayenne peppers cross-wise. 

If using pint jars...

Add 1 sliced garlic clove, 1/2 tsp coriander seeds, 5 cardamom seeds, 1/4 tsp curry powder, 1 Tbsp whey, and 1 1/2 tsp salt to jar. Then tightly pack with carrot sticks and one of the cayenne pepper halves. Sprinkle with a few slices of cayenne pepper. Then fill with water within 1 inch of the top.

If using quart jars... 

Add 2 sliced garlic cloves, 1 tsp coriander seeds, 10 cardamom seeds, 1/2 tsp curry powder, 2 Tbsp whey, and 3 tsp salt to jar. Then tightly pack with carrot sticks and two of the cayenne pepper halves. Sprinkle with a few slices of cayenne pepper. Then fill with water within 1 inch of the top.

Tightly close jars, and shake lightly to distribute ingredients and dissolve salt. Then place jars in a tray and set on the counter at room temperature for 4-7 days.  Try them at 4 days and see if you want them to be more sour or not, to get them more sour and softer leave them out at room temperature longer.  While I enjoyed them at 4 days (they were very crunchy and a little tart/sour), I liked them best after 7 days (softer but still crunchy and more intensely sour). If you let them sit for 7 days, they will bubble quite a bit when you open them - that's live food, friends! In warmer weather, your carrots will ferment more quickly, so be sure to check in on them periodically.

After fermenting at room temperature, keep in your fridge. If you can, wait a week or two before eating them - the flavor will intensify. The longer they sit, the better they are! Like all ferments, these will last for 6-8 months when kept in cold storage.

 

***A Note on Whey

Whey is the watery liquid remaining after milk has been curdled (yogurt) and strained. Full of enzymes, probiotic bacteria, vitamins, and minerals, whey can be used for making fermented foods and beverages, and is also a healthful drink on its own. Whey can be made easily at home by straining yogurt. Strained yogurt is thick, rich, and creamy, and has a more intense flavor than unstrained yogurt. 

To strain yogurt, I generally line a medium sized fine mesh strainer with cheesecloth or a large coffee filter, place it on top of a bowl, and put 2-4 cups of yogurt in the lined strainer. I cover lightly with a towel and let strain for 12-24 hours. You can do it on the counter, or you can put it in the fridge. The site Wonderful Ingredients also offers up two good methods for straining yogurt.  

If you are intolerant to lactose, whey is probably not a good choice for you. Some individuals who are casein sensitive may be able to tolerate whey, but cross contamination is highly likely. So, if you are intolerant or don't have whey (or plain yogurt) on hand, you can make this recipe without whey with success. Simply omit the whey and double the amount of sea salt - the increased quantity of salt will help preserve the carrots and stave off unfriendly bacteria in the whey's absence. 

Monday
May162011

Easy Grilled Tuna and Vegan Grapefruit-Fennel Salad (gluten-free, ACD)

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I grew up in the heart of Wisconsin and now live in Minnesota, both unique places where people grill outside all year long. Even in the coldest temperatures, a true upper Midwesterner shovels a path through the snow to their grill, throws on a hat and a flannel shirt, and drinks a beer or brandy to stay warm while flipping burgers and tending racks of ribs.  

But for the fair-weather grillers of the world (people most everywhere else, I think), the warmer temperatures finally gracing the Northern Hemisphere officially kicks off grilling season. 

My dad has been known to stand outside in a blizzard for the perfect grilled shrimp, but thankfully, the whether on my trip back home over Mother's Day weekend was far from blizzardlike. It was in the mid-60s, sunny and lovely. Perfect for grilling! We found beautiful wild-caught sashimi-grade tuna steaks at Festival Foods for only $9.99/pound. The meat was bright pink and dense, and each steak was nearly 2 inches thick! We seasoned them simply and grilled them over pecan wood for a sweet, lightly smoky flavor. 

The tuna was perfect. We served it with baked sweet potatoes, pan-seared asparagus, and a light and crunchy salad of grapefruit, fennel, and onion.. The meal was so easy to prepare and so delicious, I knew I wanted to share some of it with you. And thus, here are two recipes: Easy Grilled Tuna and Grapefruit-Fennel Salad.

Whip out that grill, and get cooking!

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Click to read more ...

Thursday
May122011

Raw Coconut Cacao Bites and a Tropical Traditions Giveaway

Updated on Thursday, May 19, 2011 by Registered CommenterKim @ Affairs of Living

Raw Coconut Cacao Fudge

 It's no secret I love everything from Tropical Traditions. Their coconut products are made from fresh organic coconuts, grown by dedicated family farms in the Phillipines. Everything is produced small batches and tested for quality, ensuring that we receive the freshest, highest quality coconut oil possible.  I feel confident that when I'm using their products, I'm supporting a good manufacturing practices and getting the most nutrition possible for my money.

One of my favorite products is their Coconut Cream Concentrate, a delightful product that goes by the name of coconut butter by other brands and in the blogosphere. I've made my own coconut butter before (shredded coconut + food processor + patience), but the texture is always a little gritty. While the dollar amount is much friendlier on homemade coconut butter, I really prefer the creamy smooth texture of the storebought. So, sometimes I splurge and buy a jar. Or, I agree to do a giveaway and take part in a little complimentary coconut goodness.

Coconut Cream Concentrate is made from the flesh and fat of raw coconuts. It is white, thick, and fragrant, full of coconut goodness. When chilled, it is very firm, almost like candy. When softened, it is creamy and smooth, like a delectable spread. It can also be mixed with hot water to create a natural coconut milk or used in soups, stews, and daals to create a wonderfully rich coconut broth. Because it is naturally sweet, Coconut Cream Concentrate is also the perfect way to satisfy a sweet tooth on a sugar-free diet. A little chunk on its own is a wonderfully satisfying treat, and it is brilliant included in sweet treats from pie to truffles, cookies to smoothies. Because it hardens at cool temperatures, it is great to use when you want a firm consistency in raw desserts.  

In addition to being delicious, Coconut Cream Concentrate offers all the awesome nutrition of raw coconut, including fiber, protein, medium-chain fatty acids, a variety of vitamins and minerals, and lauric acid (a naturally occurring acid with potentially antimicrobial and antiviral properties).

Please note that Coconut Cream Concentrate or coconut butter is different than coconut oil. Coconut Cream Concentrate contains fiber and fat, while coconut oil is just oil.  Since they have very different properties, the two cannot be used interchangeably. Coconut Cream Concentrate should never be used as a cooking oil, and cannot substitute coconut oil in any recipe.

Inspired by my love for Coconut Cream Concentrate, I made a recipe for you. It is kind of like fudge, kind of like candy, and totally delicious. Even better, I'm giving away a 32-oz. jar of Coconut Cream Concentrate to one lucky reader! 

Click to read more ...

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