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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 Tips & Tricks (30)

Sunday
Oct032010

Get Cultured: Dietary Sources of Probiotics

Updated from a post I originally wrote and published for  Lymenaide, February 6, 2010.

 

“Support bacteria – they’re the only culture some people have.”

-Steven Wright


See that jar of Kohlrabi Garlic Pickles up there? It's teaming with happy, healthy bacteria.

Bacteria gets a bad rap - bacteria is our friend. Sure, there are lots of bacteria out there that do everything from make food spoil to make body odor stink to make people very sick.  As someone with chronic Lyme Disease, I'm quite familiar (and unhappy) with the constant microbial battle going on inside my body with those nasty little buggers. For years, Borrelia bacteria has been compromising my immune system and screwing with my body.  My challenge since starting treatment has been to kick those bad bacteria out and replace them with the friendly bacteria that will make me healthier.

Our bodies rely on healthy bacteria to function properly - without it, we'd die. The flora (bacteria) in your gut effects everything.  Beneficial lactobactilli bacteria help your body deal with all the bad bacteria appropriately, stimulating the immune system to react.  Bacteria also help your body digest food and assimilate nutrients, and break down toxins.  If you are on antibiotics, it is clearing out ALL your bacteria, both good and bad, so it is important that you take steps to help restore good bacteria to your gut.  Otherwise yeast infections and Candida will take over, and your immune system and digestion will suffer.  

Click to read more ...

Sunday
Sep262010

Packing a Gluten-Free, Allergy-Friendly School Lunch

This month's "Go Ahead Honey, It's Gluten-Free!" event, hosted by Ali of Whole LIfe Nutrition, is focused on packing healthy school lunches. The event was started by Naomi Devlin of Straight into Bed Cakefree and Dried, a blogger I have admired for quite some time. I've always thought this event was great, so I'm excited to participate!

While I may not have children, I do fancy myself a bit of an expert in the lunch-packing arena. I've been brown-bagging it nearly everyday for work the last six years, and since changing my diet 2 1/2 years ago have hardly left the house with a meal or snack, especially on car trips, airplane rides, or long days of errands.   See that meal up there in the photo? It was delicious - red lentil garlic dip, raw veggies, brown rice tortillas, and some raw cashews.  I carried it around Manhattan with me on my last trip to New York, and it was an awesomely easy, affordable, and allergy-friendly way to enjoy an afternoon in Central Park. And although I'm a 28-year-old grown woman, it was a meal that would have been equally appropriate for a school lunch for your little one.

If your child has dietary restrictions, they might feel like "weird kid" when compared to their schoolmates eating processed foods, peanut butter sandwiches, or string cheese. Thankfully, there are lots of ways that you can pack fun and delicious lunches that will make make their tummies happy and probably make their friends wish that you were packing lunch for them too. 

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Wednesday
Sep012010

How to Collect Dill and Coriander Seeds

IMG_2053

It is now the time of year when your dill and cilantro plants are going crazy and are flowering and forming seeds.  Rather than letting all those good seeds go waste, you can harvest them, dry them, and use them.  It is easy, and you end up with wonderful, fresh, aromatic and flavorful seeds to use for cooking, baking, and pickling projects.

I most frequently harvest coriander seeds (from cilantro plants) and dill seeds (from dill plants, duh), but this same technique can be used with any seed forming plant that you want to collect.  In fact, harvesting fresh coriander seeds is the only reason I grow cilantro. I really, really dislike cilantro - the smell of fresh cilantro  makes me want to gag, the flavor is appalling, and it makes me feel like my throat is closing up.  I can deal with it once it has been cooked or dried, but fresh? Blech!!!! I wish I liked it, because in theory, it is such a kick ass herb. But I just can't go there.  On the other hand, I absolutely adore coriander.  Same plant, different part, totally different responses. Weird, right?

Anyway, here is how to collect seeds, broken down into 1-2-3-4 easy steps.

Step 1

Seeds are ready for harvest when they are fully ripened and turn brown. While they can be harvested earlier, it requires longer drying time, and the flavor may not be as intense. When the seeds are fully ripe and ready, snip off the seed head of the plant along with a few inches of the stem. Handle the seed heads carefully, as seeds tend to fall off and the seed heads are brittle and fragile. 

coriander seeds. i hate cilantro but love coriander. go figure.

dill seeds

Step 2

Put the seed heads in a big paper bag.  You have two options. The easiest way is to just toss them in the bag, like I've done here in the photo.  You can also bundle the stem ends together and create a bouquet, then tie the bag around the bouquet and hang it from the stem so the bouquet is hanging upsidedown inside the bag.  It sounds complicated in writing, but really, it isn't. I swear.

Either way, if harvesting more than one type of seed, use a different bag for each type, unless you want a mix of seeds. Poke a couple small holes near the top of the bag, and fold over the top.

yummy, a bag full of dill seeds!

Step 3

Ignore the bag for a while. This is the easiest part. Seriously, just let the seed heads dry in the bag for a week or so in a dry environment, or more or less time depending on how dry the seeds were when you harvested them and the humidity in your house. 

Step 4

Once seeds heads are totally dry, they should be brown and easily fall off the seed heads. Shake the bag to release seeds from stems. Then open the bag, remove the stems, and pour the seeds out into a container. They are ready to use! Keep in a well-sealed container and use within 6 months for most intense, fresh flavor.

 

Oh, nature. You and all your bounty, you gorgeous thing you, I'll just never stop loving you.

 

Tuesday
Jul272010

How to Make Ghee 

I've been meaning to write this post for almost 2 years. Why so long? Writing the how-to with step-by-step photos is significantly more time consuming and complicated than making ghee!  The pieces just never really came together. Finally, I remembered to grab a camera while making my most recent batch, so I set to work.

Now, without further adieu, here is the skinny on ghee and a complete set of instructions on how to make it from scratch, with photos to help you along the way.  Enjoy!

 

What is Ghee?

Also known as butter oil (or in my house, liquid gold), ghee is pure butter fat that has been separated from the milk proteins through heating.  To clarify (ba-dum-ching!), clarified butter and ghee are not the same, despite popular opinion. Ghee is clarified butter that has been cooked longer to remove all the moisture, and the milk solids are browned (caramelized) in the fat and then strained out. This gives a rich nutty taste and fragrance, with hints of caramel, and a smooth, rich, velvety texture.  It can be used 1:1 for butter, shortening, or oil in any recipe, and has a high smoking point, making it perfect for high heat sauteing or roasting. Ghee has a long shelf life, both refrigerated and at room temperature. In cold temperatures, it will become solid, and it will remain liquid at warmer temperatures.

Because dairy proteins and lactose have been removed, many dairy intolerant and allergic people are able to tolerate ghee.  It is traditionally used in Indian cuisine and Ayurvedic medicine, and is treasured as a digestive stimulant. It can also be used topically for massage or dry skin.  

If you want to purchase pre-made ghee, Pure Indian Foods and Purity Farms are both excellent.  However, these will put a dent in your wallet - a 14 oz jar will cost you between $10 - $15.  If you want to save some major dollar, you can make the same amount of homemade ghee for the cost of a pound of good butter and a little time, and save yourself half the cost.  Okay, let's get cooking!

 good butter is the perfect place to start

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Friday
Jul232010

Tips for Kicking Caffeine

café crème, somewhere in France, 2007

All through high school, college, much of my career in advertising, leisurely brunches with friends, lazy Sundays, and adventurous travels, coffee was always my friend and close companion.  There were so many reasons I loved coffee.  I loved the flavor, treasured the ritual, adored the coffeehouse culture, and of course, appreciated the jolt of caffeine.  There was nothing like a hot cafe Americano with a splash of half and half on a cool fall morning, a full pot of French press on a lazy Saturday, an icy glass of cold press on a hot summer day, or a cup of dark roast after dinner.  If was staying away from home, and didn't have access to my own French press or espresso machine, I was scouring the sidewalks to find cup of the good stuff almost immediately after waking.  When I stayed with a friend down in my old college town, I would walk to the gas station before anywhere else was open to get my first cup of the day. Travels to France had me drinking café crème like each day was my last, and in Italy I frequently stopped in at cafes to stand at the counter with chattering locals and drink an espresso.  When I worked in Maui, I probably drank my body weight's worth of Hawaiian coffee beans. After being introduced to it by friends, I all but ritualistically worshipped Turkish brewed coffee, rather like sticky sweet dark gold.  And don't even get me started on how much coffee I drank on my first trip to Seattle, just before my health really went down the tubes.  

Can you tell I loved coffee?  

I've always struggled with moderation, and coffee was no exception. Looking back, I can see that I was totally  addicted to caffeine. Caffeine is a powerful drug - especially for those with pesky addictive personality traits (guilty, as charged).  To top it off, I had a constant supply of free coffee at work, so I didn't even break the bank fueling my habit. At my most addicted, I was up to around 6 or 7 cups a day, sometimes more. I just kept drinking....and drinking....and drinking....

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