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!

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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.
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~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.
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~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.
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 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!