Kitchen Experiments – Beans for Dessert?

Flourless Coconut Great Northern Bean Blondies

It seems like these days I am continually searching for new recipes and especially things made without flour.  Anita and I have been on our low grain and fruit diet now for over a month and we are sick of what we are eating.  We keep looking for different ways to cook with nuts and beans.  Someone gave Anita a recipe for Almond Blondies, which you make with almond butter, and it peaked my interest so I decided to make them.  I did not have the recipe however, so I did what everyone else does when they need a recipe, I put it in Google search.  Wow, I am always surprised by the number of recipes that pop up no matter what you are searching for.  I found the almond blondie recipe but this recipe caught my eye as well:

Flourless Chocolate Chip Chickpea Blondies with Sea Salt.

I couldn’t resist the urge to click on that link and I was so glad that I did.  Beans for dessert?  You bet!

IMG_0969

I made the recipe and then got to thinking …what other bean nut combinations could I make? One of my favorite things that I have been making involves pecans and coconut.  I like those two things together so why not a pecan coconut blondie.  As many of you already know, when we started the ALCAT diet we also started a rotation diet, meaning that we try to only eat the same foods about every 4 days.  So, it was easy to decide which bean I wanted to use because on my pecan and coconut day I also eat white beans.  Now, there are many different white beans and any of them would work well.  I used Great Northern beans, but you could use navy, cannelini or a small white bean. I added an egg to the batter to make it more cake like, but it can be made without the egg or made with an egg substitute.  My new favorite substitution is 1 tablespoon chia seeds plus 3 tablespoons of water.  Stir and let sit until thickened.

Here is the recipe that I followed:

1 can (15oz.) Great Northern Beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup Pecan Butter (I made my own in the Vitamix)
1/3 cup Coconut Nectar (you could use maple syrup or honey)
1 egg (optional)
2 tsp. vanilla
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/3 cup Coconut Chips (you could use flakes)
 
~Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and spray an 8″x8″ pan with cooking spray.
IMG_0967                                                                                                             (GROUND PECANS)
~In a food processor (again I used my Vitamix), add all ingredients except the coconut and process until batter is smooth. Fold in coconut (I added the coconut to the vitamix and then just pulsed it 2-3 times). Batter will be super thick.
IMG_0970
~Spread batter evenly in prepared pan with a spatula.  It may be easier to spread with a spatula sprayed with cooking spray or dipped in water.
IMG_0972
~Bake for 20-25 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean and edges are a tiny bit brown.  The batter may look underdone but you don’t want them to dry out.
IMG_0973

 Adding the beans to the recipe give the bars a really creamy texture.  To me it almost has the texture of a cheesecake.  It has got me thinking … do you think you could make a cheese cake using beans?  I will keep you posted!

Smell – What Smell?

So, we had a very unfortunate incident at our house this past week.  I came home from dropping my daughter at the bus stop to the blaring of smoke alarms as I opened the front door!  At first, I could not comprehend what was going on.  There was some smoke in the upstairs and my first thought was …”what could be on fire?” I raced through the upstairs not finding anything. I went down the stairs to the basement and found the culprit … my dryer was smoldering!  I was going to open up the door to see what was going on, but the handle was already melted.  Long story short, thanks to my neighbor Bill and the fire department, I still have a house!  Unfortunately, what I was left with was a very smokey, smelly house.  We immediately opened all of the windows and the doors upstairs but as it is still winter, I could not stay that way very long before I started to shiver.  I had already been standing outside for almost 2 hours and was chilled through and through.  So we had no choice but to close everything up and access the damage.

The verdict … the house smelled like we had a good fire burning in the fireplace or a pellet stove – we have neither.  Fortunately what we do have are some awesome air purifiers!  You may recall if you have been following our blog and newsletters that we bought 2 Austin Healthmate Plus Jr. air purifiers last year when we started the ALCAT diet for our house and a full size Healthmate Plus for the office.  We immediately borrowed the large one from the office and turned all three on high.  We closed up the house and let them do their work.  By that evening, over 50% of the smell upstairs had dissipated.  We had friends stop by that evening and they noticed a minor smokey smell, but they thought nothing of it.

It is 5 days later, and you can now walk in the upstairs and not even think twice about a smokey smell.  We moved the large air purifier down to the basement today and I can already smell a difference.  The real test will be when we move the air purifier into the space where the fire occurred.  It is pretty intense in that small space but I really have no doubt that within a couple of days of turning the air purifier on full blast that the smell will be on its way out.

I have loved my Austin air purifiers since the day we plugged them in!  My allergies were better when I was in my office or house almost immediately.  However, my esteem for these beauties has now grown exponentially!  Check out their newsletter which gives you some very compelling reasons to have an air purifying system in your house.  I will never go without them in mine – that is for sure!

Wellspring has been a proud distributor of the Austin Air purifiers for over a year. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at Wellspring@WellspringHolisticCenter.com

Kitchen Experiment – Lentil Loaf with Zucchini Latkes

I love it when you forget about something that you used to cook all the time and it suddenly pops into your head again! That is what happened the other night. We are still doing a 4 day rotation for the ALCAT diet and it was lentil night. Suddenly, lentil loaf popped into my head! I used to make it all of the time and it works for day 2 of my rotation. It is so easy to make and you can vary it depending upon which vegetables you have on hand. On our diet, day 2 is celery, scallions, and beet greens – so that is what I used. Prior to the diet I may have added onions or carrots and often spinach. I am not good at measuring so it is a recipe that you just have to eye. I used 1 cup of dry lentils and cooked them with 2 cups of water, oregano and a bay leaf. I often would could the vegetables right in with the lentils but I was running behind so I quickly threw the lentils in the pot and while they were cooking, sautéed the scallions, celery and beet greens in a separate pan. Once the lentils were cooked, I combined the lentils and vegetables in a large bowl and added rolled oats, 2 eggs, grated almond cheese and salt and pepper. I mix it all together and cooked it in my cast iron skillet. Usually, as the name implies, I would have cooked it in a bread pan, but I was in a rush and wanted it to cook a little faster. I placed it in a preheated 375 degree oven and baked it for about 30 minutes. In a loaf pan it probably would have taken about 45 minutes.

While that was cooking in the oven, I moved onto the zucchini latkes. I shredded 1 potato and 2 small zucchini and added them to a small colander. I added a little salt and let them sit for about 15 minutes. I squeezed out as much of the liquid as I could and then placed them in a bowl. I added 2 tablespoons of oat flour, 3 tablespoons of oat bran, along with salt, pepper, 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder and 2 eggs. I mixed it all together and heated my skillet over medium heat. I dropped the batter by the spoonfuls and cooked them for about 8-10 minutes, flipping them after about 4 minutes.

Meanwhile, I quickly sautéed some shiitake mushrooms in a pan with some olive oil and added a little tamari for salt. I had a gravy in the freezer that I had defrosted and added to the shiitake mushrooms. And there was dinner!

lentil loaf Lentil Loaf with Shiitake Mushroom Gravy

latkes Zucchini Latkes

lentil and latkesDinner!

It was quite tasty! Until next time … Good Eating!

Kitchen Experiment – Gluten Free Pizza

I am always on the look out for a good gluten-free pizza dough recipe.  I have been making homemade pizza since I was young.  My Mom would make her own dough and then set us up to make our own pizzas.  We would have friends over so that we could “teach” them how to make pizza the right way!  Pizzeria pizza is good, but I am very picky.  There is nothing like making it yourself.  Since starting the ALCAT diet, we have not been able to make pizza dough because my husband has a severe intolerance to yeast. Gluten-free is hard enough, but without the yeast, it is even more complicated. When I saw this new recipe made with Arborio rice, I knew I had to give it a try!

I like easy recipes and this was definitely easy.  Basically it was cooked Arborio rice, some parmesan cheese and an egg.  You mixed all of that together and then pressed it into a pan.  The recipe said that you could use the back of a fork to spread it out in the pan, but I found that wet hands worked much better.  When I usually make pizza, I like to use my cast iron skillet and a stone cookie sheet so I decided to use the same thing.

before crustpizza crust

You cook the crust first at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes before adding the toppings.

baked crustThe idea is to crisp is up first before you add the wet toppings.  So, as I said before, my Mom has been making pizza since I was little and I just love to make traditional pizza with tomato sauce and cheese.  My Mom would line up the tomato sauce, salt, pepper, garlic powder, oregano, parmesan cheese, olive oil and mozzarella cheese and show us just the right amount of each to put on the pizza crust.  I of course have to do it just the same way.

plain pizzaI also made one with sun-dried tomatoes, kalamata olives and artichokes hearts …

pizzaI had some pesto that needed to be used so I made one more with pesto and sheep feta …

pestoSo, how did they turn out?  They were delicious, but I think that the crust could be crisper!  The next time I will cook them a little longer before putting the toppings on and I will put the pans closer to the bottom element in the oven before and after the toppings.  It seemed like if you kept the pizza in the pans, they stayed a little crisper than trying to take them out to cool on the cutting board.

Final say:  give it a try if you need an easy gluten-free pizza crust!

Kitchen Experiments – Baked Eggplant

Growing up in an Italian household, there were a few things that were a given, like Sunday dinners.  Typically we ate pasta and meatballs, one of my Dad’s favorite meals, which meant Monday school lunches were meatball sandwiches. There were several Italian kids in my class and you didn’t need to look any further than their lunch box to figure out who they were! In the summer time when all of the other neighbors were spraying their lawns trying to get rid of their dandelions, we were outside digging them up for a dandelion salad!

My mom was the main cook in our house and it was not often that she asked for help, but when the electric frying pan came out, you knew that someone was going to be in the kitchen with Mom frying eggplant! It was not one of those tasks like weeding the garden that we all detested because we couldn’t wait to dig in when they were done.  It was like an assembly line – one pie plate filled with flour, one with eggs and the last with Italian breadcrumbs.  When we were young, my Mom always sliced her eggplant in rounds. When we were older, she discovered eggplant rollatini which requires the eggplant to be sliced length wise.  There is nothing as good as a big bowl of sauce with a plate of fried eggplant alongside it.  No pasta required in my mind.  The only problem is that I could eat a whole eggplant all by myself!

It has been 7 months since we started the ALCAT diet, 7 long months without eggplant!  I was moderately sensitive to eggplant which meant I had to avoid it for at least 6 months.  Now that the time was up, I could not wait to make breaded eggplant.  Of course, I had to modify it for my current diet, but that was easy.

I took out my 3 pie plates and put rice flour in the first one, eggs in the second and rice bread crumbs in the 3rd with salt, oregano and basil added to make it more “Italian”. I sliced my eggplant into rounds and then started the dredging process.  A little flour, a little egg and then the breadcrumbs.  I have not fried my eggplant since I was a child.  I place mine on a sprayed baking sheet and then spray the top again before baking them in the oven.  They are crisp and delicious and not at all greasy.

eggplantI usually bake them at 375-400 degrees and turn them at least once. They are easy and delicious to make and oh so good to eat!

eggplant2With a big bowl of homemade sauce of course! Buon appetito!

Bacteria, and more bacteria!

Did anyone hear the report on NPR earlier this week about bacteria?  It was great!  It was an update on an earlier report about bacteria and the immune system.  The first report talked about children and pacifiers and how the children whose parents picked up the pacifier when it dropped on the ground and put it in their mouth before giving it back to the child developed fewer allergies. I thought that it was a great report.  A few days ago they did a follow up about the important role of bacteria in the body and how they continue to learn more everyday about the role that bacteria actually plays inside of us. It was saying how years ago they thought all bacteria was bad. Now they realize that there is bacteria on every square inch of our body inside and out.  They think that some bacteria even may produce their own versions of antibiotics.  So why am I telling you this? When I was listening to the report, it made me think about the good bacteria that is found in the gut and how for many years there has been talk about overall health being linked to the health of the gut. It made me think about the ALCAT testing and the dietary plan that we are following and how glad I am that I am working on my health through my intestinal tract.

I have been mentioning ALCAT on and off in this blog and thought it was appropriate to mention it again.  The test that we did was looking at foods and their link to inflammation in the body.  There has been speculation for years about “leaky” gut syndrome and it’s role in allergies and other digestive issues. However, since using this testing for myself, my family, and clients, I have seen the direct link between food and all sorts of inflammatory reactions.  Joint pain anyone? Insomnia? Chronic sinus congestion? Knee pain? Fatigue? Constipation? Chronic stomach distress? Frequent urination? Depression?  All of these symptoms and more have been helped by changing our diet according to the results of the test.  Foods that you would think are supposed to decrease inflammation were found to increase inflammation in multiple clients.  How often have you been told to use ginger, turmeric, or garlic and to eat lots of leafy green vegetables?  As a nutritionist I feel it almost a disservice now to give advice that is not individualized for each person. We are all unique and what works for one person does not always work for another. I am learning and growing so much this year and am enjoying being challenged and pushed out of my comfort zone. (Okay, maybe that is a bit of an exaggeration but it is certainly making me a better practitioner.)

No, insurance does not cover this test and yes, there are plenty of people who can’t afford to take it.  Is it going to cure all of your ailments? No!  Is it going to help heal your gut so that your body can function like it should? I am seeing the results now, so I am voting Yes!

Kitchen Experiments – Millet “Pizza” with Greens

Growing up in an Italian household, my Mom would make something that she called polenta pizza.  I am not sure why they called it pizza but it must have something to do with the italian word for pizza because pizza it was not!  It was more like a thick polenta with a delicious crust on the outside and a firm center.  She always made it with minestra which is basically greens and beans.  In recent years she has made it when my uncle would come to visit as a bread substitute since he has celiac and can’t eat wheat or gluten. As a kid, I did not like the greens and beans but I loved the polenta pizza.  We would eat it with maple syrup making it more like a dessert.

Since doing the ALCAT plan, I have not been able to have corn, cornmeal or polenta but I can have millet, which when ground is pretty similar to cornmeal. So I decided to give millet pizza a try.  What I love about this pizza is the crusty exterior!  It is very simple to make and yet versatile and delicious.  My family and I still love it smothered with real maple syrup.

millet pizzaTo make the pizza, you need to have a cast iron skillet.  Well, maybe not need, but I think the crust is best when cooked in a cast iron skillet.  Basically you make a thick polenta or millet by cooking 1 cup ground millet or cornmeal with 2 cups water.  Spray or grease your cast iron skillet with olive oil and then spread the millet or polenta in the skillet and spray or grease the top of the mixture as well.  Bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for about 35 – 45 minutes, then flip the pizza to crust up the other side. Bake for an additional 20-30 minutes.  I found the cooking time to be a little less with the millet than with the polenta.  Serve warm!

When I made it the other night for dinner, I sautéed escarole with some sun-dried tomatoes and butternut squash and then added cannellini beans and served it on the side with the millet pizza.  It was delicious.

millet and greensFor dessert we had millet pizza with maple syrup!  It brought back some good childhood memories.  Enjoy!

Kitchen Experiments – Buckwheat Applesauce Cake

I had no idea when I started to experiment with recipes for this ALCAT diet how to bake things without eggs. I always imagined that the baked items would not be as light and fluffy as their egg counterparts, but I will admit that I was wrong!  This is the third, fourth or fifth time that I have made this recipe over the past six months and I am thrilled every time I bake it and see it rise to the top of the pan.

The other thing that I am thrilled with is the flavor of buckwheat flour that is freshly ground from raw buckwheat groats.  (I think that I have mentioned in a previous post that I bought a Vitamix machine specifically so that I could grind my grains into flour and I am not sorry that I spent the money.  I love it! When I eat my freshly baked item and I think that I made it all with the freshest ingredients that I could find, it really makes me quite happy!  It’s the small things that do it for me!)

raw groats (Raw Buckwheat Groats)

Buckwheat flour that you buy at the store must be ground from toasted buckwheat because it is very dark in color and has a very distinct flavor.  I tried making 100% buckwheat pancakes with flour from the bag and they had a very strong buckwheat flavor that really did not appeal to me.  It was only when I saw the raw buckwheat groats at Earthlight Natural Foods that I realized there were the raw and the roasted.

Buckwheat is not wheat, nor is it related to wheat nor is it even a grain or a cereal. It is gluten-free and derived from the seeds of a flowering plant so technically I think that you would consider Buckwheat a fruit. This is a great recipe to make in a pan like cornbread or in muffin tins.  It is a very tasty breakfast bread delicious when spread with almond butter.  Enjoy!

buckwheat cake

Buckwheat Applesauce Cake

1 ½ c. Buckwheat Flour (ground white buckwheat)
½ c. Almond Meal
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
1 tsp. xanthan gum
2 Tbs. arrowroot powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
 
1 c. applesauce
¼ c. applebutter
½ c. sweetener (Agave Syrup, Maple Syrup)
1 Tbs. oil
¼ c. water

 Preheat oven to 350oF.

Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl.  In a small bowl, combine wet ingredients.  Place wet and dry ingredients in a food processor and process until mixed.  Pour into an oiled 8”x8” square pan.

Bake for 30 minutes.

Gluten-Free, Yeast-Free Pizza

Who doesn’t love pizza! Well, I do think that there are those odd few that really don’t care for it, but in our house homemade pizza has always been a real treat.  I can remember growing up and having friends over so that we could teach them how to make pizza – the right way!  We always looked forward to those pizza parties!  Since doing the Alcat diet, we have not been able to have pizza because it is not quite “pizza” without good mozzarella cheese, or at least that is what my husband Tom said.  I make my pizza with dairy-free cheese, but he wanted to wait until he could have “real” cheese.

So, the three months were up on our dairy restriction so it was time to make pizza! The only problem was that not only could my husband not have cheese but he also has a severe intolerance to yeast.  I wasn’t sure how it would be to have yeast-free pizza but I was up for the challenge.  In the past when I have made homemade pizza I always have made my crust with spelt or kamut flour but this time I needed to make it gluten-free.  Well, just another obstacle to work around!

Luckily the internet is a wealth of information and I found about a thousand recipes for gluten-free, yeast-free pizza so I was good to go! Did I already mention that I am not good at following recipes? Well, I am not.  It’s hard for me to make anything exactly the way it says – I always seem to need to tweak something.  First problem – most recipes want you to use eggs, but it is not egg day, so I needed to either find a different recipe or change it.  I changed it, of course! I used arrowroot in place of the eggs.

My other bad habit is not reading all the way ahead in a recipe. I made the dough and rolled it out and proceeded just like I would have if I was making gluten pizza.  Oops, big mistake. You need to cook the dough first before adding the toppings.  Oh, well.  It was still delicious!

pizzaIt was a little gummy in the middle but it was rolled out pretty thin so it really wasn’t terrible!  But I wasn’t done, I needed to try it again. I searched the internet again and found this recipe:

2 cups water, 1 cup buckwheat flour, 1 cup rice flour, 1/2 c. almond flour, 1/2 cup ground flaxseeds, 2 tsp. baking powder.

I decided to give it a whirl, with a few embellishments.  It is not buckwheat day so I used Fearn Brown Rice Baking Mix which has brown rice and soy flours in it + 1/2 cup Teff flour and the rest of the ingredients.  I wanted to add gum just because I thought it would help with the texture.

I read the directions all the way through this time and remembered to cook the crust first.  This is not a crust that you roll out – more just spread in the shape you want.  I think I made it a little too thick, but overall I really liked the flavor and texture of this crust.

pizza2This is definitely a recipe that I will be trying again.  I think I could use it to make foccacia or spread some pesto on the crust and cook it.  I will keep you posted!  I think I could even turn it into a sweet bread.  Oh, too bad it’s late – I may have gone back into the kitchen to invent some dessert!

 

 

Kitchen Experiments – Lentils with Spinach and Shitake Mushrooms

I really like lentils – red, black or green – soup, stew, loaf – almost anyway you cook them, I love them!  Once again this recipe came out of the necessity of finding something to eat for dinner that was different but easy and definitely delicious.  I had made something similar to this previously before we started the Alcat diet, so I will offer some changes at the end that you can try at home.

My first step in this recipe was to cook the lentils.  I sautéed my scallions and celery first in some olive oil and then added the black lentils.  I always like to sauté them together for just a minute before adding the water.  I added only enough water to cover the lentils because I did not want a lot of extra broth since this was not a soup recipe.  My mom always added oregano and a bay leaf when she cooked her lentil soup, so of course I always do the same. I cooked the lentils until almost all of the water was absorbed – about 30-40 minutes.

While the lentils continued to cook, I took my cast iron skillet and added olive oil and shiitake mushrooms and cooked them for several minutes until the mushrooms were soft.  I added the spinach and turned off the heat with a lid on to wilt the spinach and wait for the lentils to be cooked.

In a separate skillet, I sautéed potatoes until brown and crispy on all sides.

When the lentils were cooked, I added them to the cast iron skillet with the mushrooms and spinach.  I tossed it all together until it was well mixed.

lentilsI cannot eat potatoes, but my husband can.  When I made this recipe before, I would toss the potatoes right into the skillet as well and mix it all together and top it would some goat cheese!  Yummy, I can’t wait until I can eat goat cheese again.  This time, I put some potatoes on my husband’s plate and some oat groats on mine and topped them both with the lentil mixture.  It was a very delicious dinner once again! If you have never tried lentils and potatoes together, I encourage you to try them! Good cooking!