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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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Entries in Life (32)

Sunday
Nov272011

Who needs potatoes when you have Parsnip Apple Mash?

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I haven't eaten potatoes in almost 4 years. Although I undeniably enjoy the starchy goodness of a potato and the multiplicity of ways to enjoy them, consuming them just isn't worth the allergy-induced joint swelling and digestive discomfort that inevitably results. 

Instead of mourning over the loss of potatoes, I found solace in other starchy vegetables. Sweet potatoes have always reigned supreme over any other true potato in my book, and I enjoyed a reason to romance their sweet, orange flesh. I adopted my mother's love for parsnips and beets at a young age, and explored their versatility further, quickly becoming obsessed with their different yet equally sweet flavors and hearty textures. I explored the glory of the celeriac, the gnarly vegetable that is also known as celery root, and took a liking to its unique, strong flavor. I tried every squash I could get my hands on, and prepared it almost every way I could think of. I mashed cauliflower to use as a topping for shepherd's pie, made creamy pureed soups from turnips, and made french fries out of rutabagas and carrots. 

Truly, I haven't missed potatoes a bit. 

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Friday
Nov182011

I'm still here, really. 

sack o' squash

I haven't really been present on the blog lately. Life has been a mass of curveballs and uncertainty, and while it's all been for the best, it hasn't really allowed by the time to leisurely keep up on my blogging. In the last 3 months I've moved between three homes (more on that here), slept on a number of friend's couches, traveled to New York to visit my Lyme-literate MD, weaned myself off most of my Lyme antibiotics, hosted two food swaps, led two cooking demos, and performed in an outdoor Halloween puppet extravaganza for thousands of people over two weekends. All while anxiously awaiting the birth of my best friends' baby and trying to finish an awesomely tacky holiday-themed crochet baby sweater. And finishing the Harry Potter books. And making lots of pies. Oh yeah, and working a full-time 8-5 job. 

 

Hot damn. I need a nap.  

 

Thankfully, my life seems to be settling down a bit, perfectly in tune with the impending season of hibernation. I just moved in to a wonderful home on Tuesday, where I will be living with three great roommates in my favorite neighborhood of Minneapolis. I am so grateful to be able to finally settle in to a place I could call my own, somewhere safe and comfortable. My crazy schedule and lack of stability has kept me from the kitchen, and I've hardly been cooking. I have mostly subsisted off eggs, salads, smoothies, and squash. I picked up that gorgeous sack of squash pictured above from a farmer at the St. Paul Farmer's Market about a month ago for a mere $15, and it has been my salvation. 

 

I'm looking forward to unpacking in my new home, settling in to a new stable rhythm, and having time to focus on my healing process and on working on a new recipe project that I'm excited about. I'm thrilled to say that despite all the craziness that I"ve made for myself the last few months, I've been able to stay remarkably healthy and energetic. Although I feel pretty terrible at the moment - lots of body pain and lots of pressure in my head - I'm doing pretty darn well. It seems that I've reached a new level of success with my treatment for Lyme and all those other nasty little co-infections. My journey isn't over, but it sure has become a much more enjoyable trip. 

 

Life is good. I am lucky. Thanks for being here with me.
Tuesday
Jun142011

A Farmers Market Demo with Sweet 'n Sour Rhubarb Pickles and Rhubarb-Apple Compote (gluten-free, cane sugar free, vegan options)


Preparing ingredients for Rhubarb Apple Compote

On Saturday, June 11, I gave a rhubarb-themed cooking demonstration at the Minneapolis Farmers Market during their weekly Market Talk segment. This was my third cooking demonstration at the market, and as usual, it was an absolute blast. Market Talk host (and local food blogger) Emily Noble and I walked the crowd through a brief history of rhubarb, shared suggestions for selecting and storing rhubarb, and gave advice on how to care for plants of your own. Then I demonstrated how to prepare Sweet 'n Sour Rhubarb Pickles and Rhubarb-Apple Compote, recipes that I had developed for the event. Despite the rather chilly temperature and high gusts of wind that nearly took away our tent a few times, it was very sunny and the market was hopping. 

As usual, I had a wonderful kitchen setup to work with, complete with large stainless tables, utensils, a gas-powered double burner, and a snazzy microphone headset. Emily shopped the market that morning for the freshest, most beautiful rhubarb, apples, ginger, local honey and maple syrup, and a few other ingredients. I came armed with everything else I needed, including one of my favorite vintage aprons. 

Preparing ingredients for Rhubarb Apple CompoteStirring the Rhubarb-Apple CompoteExplaining the process for making Sweet and Sour Rhubarb Pickles

The crowd was highly engaged and interested, asking lots of questions and offering up their favorite ways to prepare rhubarb. They even laughed at my jokes! My assistant (yes, I had an assistant!) passed out samples, which were quickly eaten up by the crowd and received enthusiastic smiles and thumbs-ups all around. And the retention rate was excellent, even though the demonstration went well over an hour.  

Curious about the recipes? The pickles are a sweet and sour pickle, heavily flavored with clove, allspice, cinnamon, and ginger in an apple cider vinegar and honey (or maple syrup) brine. They celebrate the natural sourness of rhubarb rather than trying to cover it with lots of sugar. It's like they say, "I'm sour, love me for it!"  The compote was the sweet counterpoint to the pickles, an aromatic and flavorful mix of apples, rhubarb, raisins, honey or maple syrup, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cardamom, cooked together with apple juice. The high amount of pectin in apples allows the compote to thicken considerably, creating a luscious fruit mixture that is ideal eaten on its own, over ice cream or yogurt, or with pancakes or waffles. 

I passed out a recipe booklet of some of my favorite rhubarb recipes from my kitchen and my family's kitchen, which included both the pickles and the compote. The recipe booklet was a hit with the crowd and I will share it with you here on the blog. But first, I need to scan my hand-illustrated cover and attach it to the Word document, then set the whole thing up in Google docs so you can have access to it or figure out how to load a PDF into this post. When I do, I'll be sure to let you know!  

In the meantime, I want to share the recipes for the two recipes that I demonstrated that day. I hope you enjoy them. Happy rhubarb season!

Previous Farmers Market demonstration recaps and recipes:


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Kim’s Sweet ‘n Sour Rhubarb Pickles 

By Kim Christensen

These pickles are inspired by cucumber bread and butter pickles. They are sour, sweet, and heavily spiced, and are a bold addition to a relish tray or served with Indian, Middle Eastern, or North African dishes. A fun and unexpected way to preserve the rhubarb harvest! I like this recipe because it celebrates the naturally tart, sour quality of rhubarb, rather than hiding it below lots of sugar. Rhubarb tends to be a bit fibrous and hard to bitd through, so you may opt to cut your stalks into shorter, bite-size pieces. 

Yield: 2 pints or 1 quart

  • 1 1/4 cups apple cider vinegar (I suggest using raw and unpasteurized apple cider vinegar, such as those by Bragg's or Eden Organic)
  • ¾ cup filtered water
  • 1 cup maple syrup or honey
  • 1 ¼ - 1 ½ pound rhubarb, thin stalks if possible (about 1/2-inch thick)
  • 1 ½ inches peeled ginger root, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp whole cloves
  • 1 tsp whole allspice berries
  • 1 tsp whole fennel seeds
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 4 dry chili peppers

Place vinegar, water, and maple syrup/honey in a saucepan over medium heat. While mixture heats, cut rhubarb stalks into lengths that fit inside the jar with approximately 1-inch headspace (about 4-inches long if using a pint jar). If your rhubarb stalks are much thicker, slice them in half or quarters so they are about 1/2-inch x 1/2-inch before cutting into 4-inch lengths. Set rhubarb aside.

Divide cloves, allspice, and fennel between the jars. Then place rhubarb stalks inside, tucking sliced ginger, chili peppers, and cinnamon sticks between the stalks.

Pour boiling vinegar mixture over rhubarb until jars are full, leaving about ½-inch headspace and making sure rhubarb stalks are fully covered. If you have leftover brine, save to use for salad dressings or other pickling projects.  Screw on jar tops and let cool on kitchen counter until approximately room temperature. Then place in the refrigerator. For best flavor, let sit for 1-2 weeks before consuming. 

IMG_2255.jpgRhubarb Apple Compote served over organic yogurt is a wonderful breakfast or light dessert.

Rhubarb-Apple Compote 

By Kim Christensen

Sweet and aromatic, this compote is excellent served warm or chilled. For a simple fruit dessert, it can be served alone, or spooned over yogurt (as in photos above) or ice cream. It is also very good served over pancakes or waffles. For a savory twist, serve alongside grilled or roasted pork or chicken. The flavors of this dish are perfect for autumn, so freeze some of your rhubarb to use later on this year when the seasons change!

Yield: approximately 1 quart

  • 3 cups rhubarb, sliced in 1-inch x ½-inch pieces (about 1 pound rhubarb) - use either fresh or frozen (not thawed)
  • 3 apples, quartered, cored, and chopped in 1-inch x ½-inch pieces (about 1 pound apples)
  • ½ cup raisins or currants
  • 1 cup apple juice
  • 1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • ½ tsp ground nutmeg
  • ¼ cup honey or maple syrup (or more or less, to taste)
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

Prepare rhubarb and apples as directed. Place in a saucepan with raisins/currants, apple juice, and spices. Bring to a high simmer over medium-high heat, then turn off heat, cover, and let sit for 5 minutes. Remove cover and stir in honey, lemon juice, and vanilla extract. Replace cover and let sit for 3-5 more minutes. Let cool slightly before serving, mixture will thicken as it cools. This is also excellent served chilled. 

Friday
Jun102011

Gluten-Free Travel Adventures in the San Francisco Bay Area

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I recently returned from a trip to visit a friend in Berkeley, California. I spent 5 glorious days roaming the San Francisco Bay area, hitting up tourist destinations and wandering lesser visited areas too. The Bay Area is a wonderland of gluten-free, allergy-friendly, whole foods places. Put simply: I did not suffer. Quite the opposite, really - I think I ate my way through Northern California!

I wanted to share some of my favorite food destinations with you, as well as some other sites from my trip. I hope you enjoy!

Cafe Gratitude

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I have heard about Cafe Gratitude for years. It is a mecca for anyone who loves whole food, gluten-free food, vegan food, organic food, or really good food.  From their website:

"Café Gratitude serves a menu of 100% organic, 100% vegan, local fare.  Our food is free of refined sugar, flour, and additives.  We have an extensive menu of raw foods and have recently expanded to serve cooked foods in many of our locations. We create all of our own food -from the produce bin to your plate - so we can avoid serving certain common allergens like wheat, soy, and peanuts. Over 45% of our produce comes from our Be Love Farm, and the compost from our Cafes is returned to the farm to nourish the next meal."

How awesome is that?!

My burning desire to go there was happily obliged by my friend and host, as we ended up going there three times in five days! Seriously. Two of the trips to Cafe Gratitude involved a meal. Due to the large number of items on the menu that include nuts or other allergens for me, my options were somewhat limited. Thankfully, the item on the menu that looked the best to me was also totally Kim-friendly. Named "I Am Whole", this bowl was a mixture of kale, carrots, quinoa or rice, homemade sauerkraut, sunflower sprouts, and sea vegetables, all doused with a garlicky lemon tahini sauce. I added sliced avocado (an extra charge), and asked for the tamari almond garnish to be left off. The portion was enormous, and it looked gorgeous. The flavor was fresh and clean, and the meal left me feeling satisfied and energized. My friend ordered handmade corn tortillas with beans, avocado, salsa and homemade cashew-almond "cheese". He adored it, and ordered the second time we went back!

The environment at Cafe Gratitude is really soothing and calm, and I very much enjoyed it. It is, in some ways, what you'd expect - unbleached cotton napkins, glass water carafes etched with inspirational words, dialogue cards on each table. And on Fridays a darling, purple-clad woman named Ari gives angel readings. She read my angels and was pleased to find out that they totally have my back and are supporting all kinds of things I want to do in life. 

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I also tried their housemade kombucha. I tend to prefer a bitier, more sour kombucha, and although theirs was a little more sweet, I still enjoyed it. It had a very gentle fizz that was present but not very aggressive.

In addition to a full menu, Cafe Gratitude has a bakery/dessert case, a cooler case of packaged edibles, and a wide variety of specialty ingredients, cookbooks, apparel, and home goods. So, the other trip to Cafe Gratitude was merely for treats. I purchased the "Be Love" ice cream bar, made of coconut milk, cashews, agave nectar, vanilla bean, and dunked in a raw cacao chocolate shell. Honestly, I wasn't totally wowed. The texture of the ice cream wasn't as creamy as I would have liked - it was hard and full of ice crystals - but the flavor was good. I loved the chocolate shell, a dark and bitter chocolate that wasn't too sweet at all. By the time I was almost done with it, it had softened up to a more desirable texture, so maybe the trick is to let it sit out a bit before eating. Either way, it satisfied my craving for something cold and sweet.

I also purchased a package of Lemon-Coconut Raw Cookies (no photo, sorry). These things were fantastic, made of shredded coconut, lemon juice, agave nectar, sea salt, and a few other ingredients and dehydrated into a sweet and chewy treat that is absolutely addictive. I don't remember how much they cost, but they were absolutely worth it. 

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I absolutely recommend Cafe Gratitude to anyone looking for a wholesome meal. Next time I visit the Bay Area, I'd like to visit Gracias Madre, the sister restaurant in the Cafe Gratitude chain. It specializes in organic vegan Mexican-inspired food, which sounds like a winning combination to me.

Cafe Gratitude

1730 Shattuck Ave (@ Virginia)
Berkeley, CA 94709
Phone: (510) 725-4418

Other locations in California listed on their website: http://www.cafegratitude.com/

 

Philz Coffee

Voted the best coffee in San Francisco by SFWeekly, Philz Coffee was an absolute revelation. My friend and host proudly names this establishment as his favorite coffee indulgence, so we made sure to go the first morning I was in town (and also the last morning I was in town, actually). I walked in the cafe to find a wall of coffee beans, cheerful baristas, and a bakery case full of fresh baked goods (including vegan options) and two shelves of packaged, locally made gluten-free cookies and brownies. What makes Philz so special is that each order is brewed one cup at a time, to the patron's specifications. There were probably 20 different types of roasts and blends, both regular and decaf. It takes a little longer than your average cup of joe, but the results are breathtaking.

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I actually moaned a little bit when I took my first sip of Decaf French Roast. Their only non-dairy milk option is soy milk, so I opted for a splash of organic whole cow's milk in my order. It was the most divine cup of coffee ever; bold, dark, earthy, bitter, and almost a little smoky. I also indulged in a pre-made gluten-free Peppermint Chocolate Chip cookie. It was an absolutely indulgent way to start the day! Then we went to Cafe Gratitude and I ate my body weight in that I Am Whole bowl.

Oh, and just as a side note, there is an amazing shop full of beautiful jewelry next door...

Philz Coffee

1600 Shattuck Ave. at Cedar

Berkeley, CA 94709

There are other locations in the Bay area as well, they are all listed on their website:http://www.philzcoffee.com/

 

Ikaros Greek Restaurant

I arrived in California hungry and tired. I needed food immediately! My friend and I decided on a Greek dinner at Ikaros Greek Restaurant, which he had never been to but had heard good things about. In short: it was wonderful. The server was friendly and knowledgeable and very accomodating with my dietary needs. While the kitchen certainly is not gluten-free, they were allergy aware and I was able to get a very wonderful meal. We started the meal with dolmas (stuffed grapeleaves), which were freshly prepared and flavorful. For my main course, I had marinated lamb chops, sauteed vegetables, and herbed rice. My friend ordered a lemon roasted 1/2 chicken, which also came with rice and vegetables. We also got a simple salad of shredded cabbage, carrot, lemon juice, and olive oil. The meal was heavenly! My lamb chops were so tender and flavorful, perfectly done and just a little charred. My friend's roasted chicken was moist inside with a wonderfully crisp, flavorful skin. The rice pilaf was buttery and flavorful, each kernal of rice perfectly done. The vegetables were the low point, which were a little too oily and overcooked for my taste. On the flip side, the cabbage salad was very good, a welcome light and crisp addition to our heavier meal. 

I would definitely recommend this restaurant - the prices were reasonable and the quality was excellent.

Ikaros Greek Restaurant

3268 Grand Avenue
Oakland, CA 94610
(510) 899-4400

webiste: http://www.ikarosgr.com/

 

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The Turkish Kitchen

I don't have any food photos to share, but this place was very good. The only Turkish restaurant in Berkeley, The Turkish Kitchen serves a wide variety of authentically prepared Turkish foods. While it wasn't extremely safe for gluten-free folks (no dedicated fryer, wheat everywhere in the kitchen, and a limited understanding of allergy needs), I was able to find a good and safe meal after a little trial and error. The falafel was fantastic (with no wheat in the mix), but is fried in a fryer that is shared with gluten. I also had hummus and a very nice salad. Beware, however - the rice is actually a rice pilaf, and contains orzo, a fact that wasn't made clear to me until it arrived at my table. If you have a wheat allergy, please don't eat the rice. In addition to a wide variety of delicious meat dishes, The Turkish Kitchen also had lots of options for vegans and vegetarians. The food was delicious and affordable, and it worked for me, as I can share equipment/fryers/etc with wheat from time to time and be okay. But if you are extremely reactive, I wouldn't recommend it. 

The Turkish Kitchen

1986 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, CA 94704

website: http://turkishkitchenberkeley.com/

 

Grand Lake - Oakland Farmers Market

One of my favorite things to do when traveling is find the local farmers market. In the case of the Bay Area, my friend presented me with four different markets we could attend that were near to his home. We chose to attend the market he frequents most often, the Grand Lake Farmers Market. 

Located near Lake Merritt, this market is in a very urban, busy location in the city, just off the highway. But once you enter the tent community, you feel transported into an agricultural wonderland. This market had it all: fresh fruit and vegetables, locally raised cuts of meat and locally produced charcuterie, freshly prepared tacos and tamales, honey, breads and other baked goods, locally grown dry beans, mushrooms, milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs, and more. I was impressed at the wide variety of unique this as well - Easter egg radishes, unusual wild greens, foraged mushrooms, flavored honeys. Also, it was so amazing - alarming, really - to see so much fresh fruit at the market. It's cherry season, so there were cherries everywhere, and fresh locally grown avocados. 

The notion of being able to get fresh, locally grown avocado is somewhat of a miracle to this northerner. 

Beyond the wide variety, I was truly wowed at the presentation. Most vendors went out of their way to produce a beautiful display for their foods, and I found myself charmed on a constant basis. Since we were on the move that day and not cooking, I had to limit my purchases. Nonetheless, I left with Duck Rillettes, a Smoked Cured Duck Breast, fresh pea pods, and dry gigante beans. I don't know what I was thinking not getting a big bag of cherries for snacking!  

Grand Lake - Oakland Farmers Market

At the Splash Pad Park on the corner of Grand Ave and Lake Park Ave.

Saturday 9 am-2 pm, year round

Click here for website

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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

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