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How To: Cook Dry Beans

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How-To-Cook-Dry-Beans

Several months ago I started paying more attention to the labels on the canned goods I was buying. After hearing all sorts of bad things about ingredients like BPA and Carageenan I decided I needed to know more about what I was putting into my body.

Beans, which are generally considered a healthy food, had some shocking ingredients! I was amazed at the amount of added sugar and salt in just one can of beans. Maybe I was naive, but I’d always figured beans were just, well, beans. I was wrong!

Considering my options, I knew buying the organic, all natural, BPA free canned beans wasn’t an option for me. They are quite expensive and difficult to come by where I live.

So, I started investigating dry beans. They seemed to be cheap, and the only thing in the bag was beans. Every grocery store I shop at also has an ample selection of dried beans.

I started researching how to use dry beans in cooking and was shocked at how little information I found. In recipe ingredient lists beans are almost always measured by the can. I found a few recipes that referenced using your own cooked beans, but nothing much about actually cooking them. I tried following the package directions from a bag of black beans, but the beans were just too hard. I continued researching, picking up tidbits of information here and there, experimenting with different methods along the way, and finally came up with a consistent method for cooking beans. None of this is something special that I have come up with, rather, a compilation of information I have gleaned from many sources, all of which has been tested in my kitchen!

Aside from what I already mentioned (cost, food additives), I have not noticed a big difference in switching from canned to cooked beans. Beans that I have cooked seem to be a bit smaller than their canned counterparts. Many people talk about how amazing freshly cooked beans taste, compared to ones from a can. To be honest, I haven’t noticed a big difference, but I tend to add beans to dishes that already have a lot of flavor, like tacos and chili. If you are used to canned beans you may find home cooked beans need a bit of salt.

I’ve used this cooking method for a whole variety of beans with success. Cooking your own beans takes some planning, but the hands on effort is next to nothing. Much of the process happens while you sleep! After an initial soak there’s a cooking option for using the stove top or a slow cooker.

Use-Dried-Beans-Instead-Of-Canned-Beans

 
Step 1:

Open the bag of beans and sort them. What does sorting mean? Simply, take out anything that isn’t a bean. Occasionally you’ll find a small stone, a bean of a different variety, or just a misshapen bean. Just throw these away (or compost them). You will find beans that look a bit dirty but don’t discard these. Part of the cooking process involves rinsing, so you don’t need to worry about ingesting the dirt. As you sort the beans, place all the good beans in a large bowl that you have a lid for.

Step 2:

Take the bowl of sort beans and fill it with water. You’ll need to add enough water to completely cover the beans, plus a few extra inches. Put the cover on the bowl of soaking beans and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight.

Step 3:

After the beans have soaked overnight you’ll want to rinse them. Just dump the entire contents of the bowl into a large strainer. Run water over the beans until the liquid coming out of the bottom is clear.

Step 4: Stove Top Option

Add the rinsed beans to a large pot and fill this with water. Similar to the soaking, you’ll need enough water to cover the beans plus a few extra inches on top of the beans. Bring the pot to a boil, and then reduce the heat so that it stays at a simmer. Watch during the cooking to make sure the water doesn’t run low. If you see beans sticking out above the water, just add more. You’ll probably notice some foam forming, you can use a spoon to scoop this out, if desired. Let cook until the beans are tender. I test by poking with a fork and seeing how easily it goes in, or with a taste test. Cook time is 1 to 2 hours, depending on the bean variety.

Step 4: Slow Cooker/Crock Pot Option

Add the rinsed beans to a slow cooked and fill the slow cooker with water. Similar to the soaking, you’ll need enough water to cover the beans plus a few extra inches on top of the beans. Turn the crock pot to high heat. As the beans cook, watch to make sure the water doesn’t run low. If you see beans sticking out above the water, just add more. You’ll probably notice some foam forming, you can use a spoon to scoop this out, if desired. Let cook until the beans are tender. I test by poking with a fork and seeing how easily it goes in, or with a taste test. Cook time is 1 to 2 hours, depending on the bean variety.

Using/Storing Cooked Beans

Once your beans are cooked, you can use them as you would any canned beans! Use about 2 cups of your cooked beans in place of one 15 oz can of beans. Cooked beans that you aren’t going to use within a few days can be frozen.

I plan to write another post with more of the specifics about using canned beans in recipes. For the time being, this should be enough to get you started on the path to replacing you canned beans with home cooked beans. If you have any questions about how to do this, please leave me comment for me to answer, or shoot me an email, facebook message, etc.

I hope you give this a try, and see for yourself how easy it is to cook your own beans at home! Keep an eye out next week for a new gluten free, vegetarian recipe you can use freshly cooked beans for!

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How To: Cook Perfect Zucchini Noodles

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How-To-Prepare-Perfect-Zucchini-Noodles

I am a perfectionist. Especially when it comes to cooking. It’s kind of “my thing”, and therefore I should be good at it. And not just good, but excellent. I’m always aiming for perfect, and always realizing I cannot ever achieve it.

Zucchini noodles are wonderful in a lot of ways, tasty, healthy, quick, and simple substitute for pasta, but they very quickly turn into a mushy, watery mess (AKA – not perfect). If you’ve cooked with zucchini noodles before I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. Once the zucchinis let out all their water any sauce on the noodles thins and then you are left with a pool of watered down sauce on your plate.

I’d rather eat my sauce, thank you very much!

So, I put my knowledge of zucchini, cooking skills, and desire to make the perfect dinner to use and figured out a way to eat zucchini noodles without all of the extra water. The steps are simple and in the end you’ll have a perfect zucchini noodles.

Maybe humans can’t be perfect, but zucchini noodles can be!

The key to making these zucchini noodles perfect is to get the water out of the noodles before you get the noodles on your plate.

First, you need to make your zucchini noodles. There are lots of options for how to do this, and tons of tutorials on the web. I tested a few different vegetable noodle making devices and eventually settled on a Spiralizer I found on amazon.com with a lifetime guarantee.

Step two couldn’t be easier, just dump all of your spiraled zucchini into a strainer in the sink. Shake some salt over the noodles; this seems to help with releasing water. Let the noodles sit for a while (I’ve found 15 – 30 minutes to be ideal). While the recently cut and salted zucchini sits in the strainer it begins to release of the water the zucchini has been holding.

Zucchini-Noodles-in-Strainer

The final step is to squeeze out the liquid. I have a thin, cheap towel I use for this, but a cheesecloth would also work great. I put a handful of the zucchini noodles in the towel and wring out the liquid.

Zucchini-Noodles-Drain

Surprisingly, this doesn’t destroy the noodles. When you unwrap the towel you’ll find whole, intact – but much drier – noodles. Since you just put pressure on the noodles when wringing them out, the noodles will be very compacted in the towel. It looks a bit deceiving at first, like they’ve been all smashed into a ball, but you should still have those perfect spaghetti stands. These will separate when you cook the noodles.

Zucchini-Noodles-Drained

Cook these noodles however you’d like. They will stand up to being cooked in everything from a bit of olive oil with salt and pepper to a heavy sauce (like this one I posted on Wednesday). No oily, saucy, watery puddles will be left on your plate!

Zucchini-Noodles-Bolognese-Sauce

Zucchini Noodles with a Bolognese Sauce

Zucchini Noodles and Chicken in an Avocado Cream Sauce

Zucchini Noodles and Chicken in an Avocado Cream Sauce

Happy Vegetable Noodle Eating!

How To: Make Banana Sweetened Oatmeal (+ tons of flavor variations)

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Oatmeal is a wonderful breakfast. It’s hearty, filling, healthy, and can take on so many flavors!

Gluten-Free-Banana-Sweetened-Oatmeal-Front

If you’ve read any of my “What I Ate Last Week” posts, you’ve probably noticed I eat a lot of oatmeal. I shared our favorite baked oatmeal recipe recently, but I often make oatmeal on the stove top, too. I’m always coming up with a new flavor variation or topping to try, but the basic ingredients and cooking method are always the same.

The three basic ingredients are oats, liquid, and banana. When you choose your oats make sure you find gluten free oats! Oats, in and of themselves, are naturally gluten free. However, most oats go through so much of the manufacturing process with wheat that they may contain up to 200ppm of wheat! The difference with gluten free oats is that they are manufactured using dedicated gluten free equipment throughout the whole process, from field to packaging. There are several varieties of gluten free oats out there to choose from. So far, every brand I have tried has been great. For this recipe, you’ll want to use regular, old fashioned oats. You can use the quick cooking variety, but you’ll end up with a mushier bowl of oatmeal.

The liquid you choose to cook the oatmeal in is entirely up to you. My standard is half water/half almond milk. Water is great for a more savory oatmeal, but milk adds a creaminess that fits a sweet oatmeal well. There are lots of types of milk available at grocery stores, and every variety I have tried in oatmeal has worked. Personally, I always use almond milk because dairy doesn’t sit well with my husband. Now, if you want to get crazy with the liquid there are a few more options: A bit of coffee, tea, chocolate milk, etc. Just keep the total ratio of liquid to oats 2:1.

The last major ingredient is the banana. The more ripe the banana, the better. Riper bananas taste sweeter and are easier to mash. Those ripe bananas that are on clearance at the grocery store are perfect for mashing and putting in oatmeal! Just make sure whatever bananas you use are getting brown.

Gluten-Free-Banana-Sweetened-Oatmeal-Ripe-Bananas

These directions give you the option to make a plain oatmeal or a chocolate oatmeal. Either is good, and fit with different toppings and other flavors. If you make chocolate oatmeal you’ll need a tablespoon of cocoa powder. IMPORTANT NOTE: If you’re not used to sugar free baking this may taste strange to you. Add a sweetener (there are a few listed below) if you want one stronger than just banana.

Left: Chocolate Oatmeal Right: Regular Oatmeal with peanut butter

Left: Chocolate Oatmeal
Right: Regular Oatmeal with peanut butter

Now, onto the cooking method. First, mash the banana. I slice it into a bowl first.

Gluten-Free-Banana-Sweetened-Oatmeal-Sliced-Bananas

Then, using a fork, I mash it. If the banana is fairly ripe it will mash easily. A trick for using less-ripe bananas is to slice them and microwave for about 30 seconds. The microwaved banana will be softer and easier to mash, but not quite as sweet as a riper banana.

Gluten-Free-Banana-Sweetened-Oatmeal-Mashed-Banana

In a small sauce pan combine the oats and liquid.

Gluten-Free-Banana-Sweetened-Oatmeal-In-Pot

Turn the heat to high and bring it to a boil. If you want to make chocolate oatmeal, watch the pot closely. I’ve found the best time to add cocoa powder is when the liquid in the pot just begins to simmer. It looks like this – see those bubbles along the edge on the pan? That’s what you’re looking for.

If you're making chocolate oatmeal, stir in the cocoa powder when you see these tiny bubbles forming along the edges of the pan.

If you’re making chocolate oatmeal, stir in the cocoa powder when you see these tiny bubbles forming along the edges of the pan.

Stir in about 1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons of cocoa powder per 1/2 cup of oatmeal. Stir it in quickly, trying to get any lumps of cocoa powder out. It should dissolve fairly quickly.

Once the cocoa powder is stirred in the pot probably will be boiling!

Once the cocoa powder is stirred in the pot probably will be boiling!

When the oatmeal is at a boil turn the heat down to medium. If the milk gets frothy and foamy and starts to boil over just stir, and it should go down. Keep stirring every couple of minutes just to keep the cooking oats from sticking. How often you need to stir will depend on the type of pan you are using. Nonstick pans will likely require less stirring. You’ll notice the liquid slowly absorb into the oats. I like to stir in the mashed banana when the liquid is about half absorbed.

Gluten-Free-Banana-Sweetened-Oatmeal-Mid-Cooking

Keep cooking and stirring until the oatmeal is the consistency you’re looking for. Some people like less liquid, some people like more! Once it’s done, just transfer the oatmeal to a bowl to eat.

Finished oatmeal - the consistency I like.

Finished oatmeal – the consistency I like.

Now, the best part, flavoring oatmeal. Here’s a long list of suggestions for flavorings, toppings, and oatmeal add-ins.

  • Extracts: Add 1/2 tsp of any extract flavor you’d like, mint, vanilla, coconut, etc. This is a really easy way to add some flavor to a bowl of oats. Just stir it in towards the end of the cooking.
  • Nuts & Nut Butters: Nuts are great for flavor and add some crunch to a normally soft bowl of oatmeal. Nut butters add some creaminess and flavor to oatmeal, and some sweetness, depending on the type you choose. Nuts are a great way to add some protein to your breakfast, too! Stir into the oatmeal right when it’s done cooking or just use as a topping!
  • Gound Flax: If you are trying to eat more fiber add about a tablespoon of flax to your oatmeal while it is cooking.
  • Spices: Cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg, etc are another easy way to transform a boring bowl of oatmeal into something bursting with flavor. Start with 1/4 – 1/2 tsp per serving of oats and add more as needed.
  • Chips: Chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, butterscotch chips, mint chips, etc. Add them on top of your bowl of oats or stir them into your finished bowl of oatmeal to melt.
  • Shredded Coconut: Sweetened or unsweetened, either way it adds taste and texture.
  • Fruits: Berries, apple, pineapple, sliced banana, the list goes on and on!
  • Flavored Liquids: Use steeped tea or coffee for some of the liquid you cook the oats in for flavor infused oatmeal (just be sure to keep a 2:1 liquid to oats ratio).
  • Sweets: I tend to avoid sugar, but some crushed candies, graham crackers, marshmallows, candy bar bits would all make a yummy, sweet oatmeal for a treat.
  • Other sweeteners: Sugar, honey, agave, maple syrup all add sweetness to the oatmeal, each with a bit of a different flavor.
  • Other mashed fruit/vegetable: I’ve subbed mashed banana for applesauce, mashed sweet potato, or pumpkin successfully.
Chocolate Oatmeal with Coconut and Almond Butter

Chocolate Oatmeal with Coconut and Almond Butter

Some of the fun of oatmeal is making unique flavors each morning! Here are some recipes to different flavored oatmeals I’ve made. Try one of these or use the ideas above to make up your own!

Almond Joy Oatmeal

Chocolate Coconut Oatmeal

Cinnamon Vanilla Oatmeal

Pumpkin Oatmeal

Gluten-Free-Banana-Sweetened-Oatmeal-Sq

How To: Make Banana Sweetened Oatmeal

This makes 1 serving of oatmeal, but is an easy recipe to make a double, triple, quadruple, batch.
 
Ingredients
  • 1/2 c gluten free oats
  • 1 c liquid (I use 1/2 c milk and 1/2 c water)
  • 1 banana, mashed.
  • 1 Tbs cocoa powder (optional, for chocolate oatmeal)
  • any add-ins listed above
Directions
  1. Combine the oats and liquid in a small sauce pan.
  2. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil. If you are making chocolate oatmeal, stir in the cocoa powder just before the oatmeal comes to a boil.
  3. Reduce the heat to medium, and stir to avoid any boiling over.
  4. Continue cooking for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is absorbed and the oats reach your desired consistency.
  5. Serve with any of the adds in listed above.

Why & How I Gave Up Coffee

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how-i-gave-up-coffee

My story with coffee starts when I was just a little girl. My Mom, a coffee drinker since before I’ve been alive, would always drink her coffee outside on the patio when the weather was nice. During summer vacations and school breaks she would give my sister and I each a mug of hot chocolate to enjoy while she sipped her coffee. Eventually the hot chocolate becaume these International Cafe drinks, which eventually become coffee.

I was never a heavy coffee drinker, just a cup or two each morning. Nothing about my coffee habit seemed unhealthy. I wasn’t getting a Mocha or Caramel Macchiato every morning, just a simple, regular cup of coffee. I never added sugar, just a splash of skim milk. It was just a warm drink each morning, really. Which would make anyone wonder, why coffee, then? Why not a cup of tea or hot chocolate? Or even decaf coffee? I do enjoy coffee. There is truth to that. But that major reason I had to have my cup of coffee each morning, couldn’t miss a day or switch up my warm drink, was the caffeine.

I’ve tried quitting coffee a few times in my adult life. It would usually happen on a day where I had a particularly busy day and had gone most of the morning without having a cup. I’d think to myself “Hey, maybe I don’t actually need the coffee” and purposefully skip the coffee. Then, around 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon the dreaded coffee headache would hit. It wasn’t horrible, but it was annoying. I knew a cup of coffee would fix it and I gave in every time.

Then, a few months ago, we decided to do a Daniel Fast. We’d been thinking about it for a while. I’d done a good amount of research on what the fast entailed and it seemed clear that the only drink allowed was water. I LOVE water, but the idea of not having coffee for days was really daunting. I figured that I would just suck it up for a couple weeks, deal with the caffeine withdrawal, and then go back to my coffee drinking following the fast. The first day of the fast arrived and I replaced my morning coffee with a big glass of water. I knew the headache was coming so I prepped. I made a big pot of Lemon Lentil Soup so I would have something to warm and soothing to eat. The day progressed fine. Actually, around 2pm, when I still didn’t have a headache I was wondering if I was going to get one at all. I thought that a little too soon because it set in about half an hour later. I laid down on the sofa, feel asleep, and when I woke up the pain was much worse. It hurt to walk or move at all. Steve tried to comfort me with the whole “drink water, it will help” but I wasn’t having it. At one point the pain was so bad that I was vomiting. I thought I was going to have to go to the ER.

Somehow, I survived. After a little bit of food and water I was able to peacefully go to sleep. One good thing about caffeine withdrawal is that it also makes you very tired, so sleeping through the pain is an option. I woke up the next morning, still with a headache, and realized the whole cold turkey thing wasn’t going to work. It wasn’t exactly in line with the fast, but I decided to slowly cut my coffee consumption back over the next few days. I still had headaches, but it was the dull ache-y type. I could function like normal, for the most part.

In all of the pain I came to the realization that, although I love coffee, it isn’t good for me. I decided to quit caffeinated coffee. I know there are studies that say coffee is good and I’m not disputing that. I don’t think it is good for me, or anyone, to have such a severe dependency. My violent reaction to missing just one cup of coffee showed me how bad my addiction was. Feeding my coffee addiction each morning wasn’t making me sick or having a negative impact on my daily life but it was an addiction nonetheless. Why would I willingly allow myself to live that way?

Now, a few months later, the nightmare of coffee withdrawal is over and I feel like it was worth enduring. Each morning I have a cup of tea or decaf coffee. Decaf is such a great compromise! It still is everything I love about coffee but I’m not going to get a killer headache if I miss it one day. I love having the peace of mind that I don’t NEED to get my coffee fix. When we travel I don’t have to endure lousy hotel coffee (or worse yet, airplane coffee) or pay some absurd price for cup at Starbucks. Someday if/when we decide to have kids and I am pregnant I won’t have to worry about giving it up or negatively effecting the health of my baby. And, say any other health matters came up that prevented me from having my morning dose of coffee, it wouldn’t be complicated by the already miserable caffeine withdrawal.

If you have wrestled with your coffee drinking habit and are thinking of quitting here are some tips:

1. Don’t quit cold turkey. The pattern below worked for me. My withdrawal symptoms were done on day 8. I did not consume any caffeinated beverage until Day 21, so I had a two entire weeks of no caffeine. Then, I let myself have one or two caffeinated coffee or teas each week, but never on consecutive days.

  • Day 1: 3/4 cup coffee
  • Day 2: 3/4 cup coffee
  • Day 3: 1/2 cup coffee
  • Day 4: 1/2 cup coffee
  • Day 5: 1/4 cup coffee
  • Day 6: 1/4 c weak coffee
  • Day 7 and beyond: No coffee

2. Drink lots of water. It’s not going to cure your symptoms, but it helps some and honestly, is at least a bit of a distraction.

3. Supplement with herbal tea and decaf coffee. Don’t drink soda or other caffeinated drinks!

4. Sleep through the pain as much as you can. The lack of caffeine will probably make you feel much more tired than usual. Use this to your advantage and sleep whenever possible. It will give you a break from the headache.

5. Let your family and friends know what is going on so that they cane support you. When people know what is going on they have the opportunity to extend grace to you.

6. Be gentle with yourself. Your body is going through a big change, so don’t add any unnecessary stress to yourself!

Important Note: I’m not a doctor or medical professional of any type! This is just what I did to quit drinking coffee that worked for me. If this doesn’t seem right for you or you are having really rough withdrawal symptoms please check with your doctor. If you have another tactic that worked for you, please share in the comments!

I know there are lots and lots of coffee fans out there, so I hope I haven’t offended any of you! Truth is, I still love coffee! I just want my body to be able to function perfectly normally whether I have my morning coffee or I don’t!

 
Image courtesy of bplanet/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

GF Daniel Fast: Days 5 & 6

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Day 5

I started off day 5 of the fast with a big pot of cinnamon oatmeal. I love cinnamon, so I just ate this oatmeal plain. Steve put some cut up apples in his.

DF 5/6 1

For lunch I made a quinoa polenta with some homemade red sauce. My recipe is based off of this one. I’m a huge polenta fan and this quinoa variation is just as good as any plain cornmeal polenta. The spicy red sauce with the smooth and creamy polenta is a great combination. It’s been unseasonably cold and snowy here so a warm, creamy, comfort food type meal was in order! I hate chunky sauces and Steve loves chunky sauces, so I just used the immersion blender on my portion of sauce and we both ended up with a lunch we enjoyed.

DF 5/6 2

For dinner I made Sweet Potato Noodles with Kale Pesto and some mini corn muffins (the recipe was from a Daniel Fast cookbook I found at the library). I’ve been seeing more and more about making noodles out of vegetables but I’ve been slow to try it out. The Daniel fast seemed like the perfect time to make some vegetable noodles! Aside from cooking the sweet potatoes noodles a little too long, I really liked the meal. A huge benefit was that the whole thing came together in about 20 minutes. I love cooking, but it’s always a neat feeling to make something that seems so gourmet in just a few minutes.

DF 5/6 3

Day 6

I had some sweet potato leftover from dinner the night before, so I made sweet potato oatmeal for breakfast. I’ve made sweet potato oatmeal before and added maple syrup. Since that is out on the Daniel fast I had to come up with a new idea. I added some dates for sweetness and some cinnamon and ginger for their flavor. I liked the “spiced” taste, but overall it was a little dull.

DF 5/6 4

For lunch I combined leftovers. I put some of the leftover cauliflower alfredo sauce on the spanakorizo. Taste-wise it wasn’t bad, but it looked totally gross all mixed up on my plate. I didn’t take any pictures because I didn’t want to scare anyone away!

For dinner I made a enchilada pie. There’s this vegetarian enchilada recipe I make every so often that we both like. I make a small dish of enchilada with flour tortillas and another dish with corn tortillas. The flour tortillas always hold up but the corn tortillas break down. Since corn is allowed on the Daniel fast and wheat is not I was planning on making a whole pan of corn enchiladas. When I got to thinking about it, I realized there was no point in rolling up a whole bunch of enchiladas that would only fall apart during cooking. So, I just layered the black bean/corn enchilada filling, tortillas, and homemade enchilada sauce in a casserole dish.  It was filling, familiar, and healthy!

DF 5/6 5

After trying to go off coffee cold turkey and that not going so well, Day 6 was my first day with no coffee after weaning myself off over a few days. I had a headache almost all day but it was bearable. I was able to participate in all my normal activities. I was totally exhausted by the end of the day, but I got through it and that is the important thing!

GF Daniel Fast: Days 3 & 4

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Day 3

Breakfast was regular chocolate oatmeal with some no-sugar-added almond butter stirred in. It seems sad to say this as a foodie, but I’d never had almond butter before. The grocery store I usually shop at does not carry almond butter, but since I was at the more gourmet grocery store getting other foods for the fast I decided to try the almond butter. I’m so glad I did! The taste of the almond butter in the oatmeal was subtle, but it seemed to make every mouthful smoother and creamier. I’ll definitely be adding this to my regular morning oatmeal rotation!

DF 3/4 1

For lunch I made a big batch of Spanakorizo (spinach & rice). This has been a favorite lunch of mine for years and the only modification I had to make from my original recipe was to leave out the feta cheese. The favor suffered from lack of feta cheese but I will still defend this meal! With brown rice, spinach, and a few other vegetables this is a wholesome, filling lunch. A little salt went a long way in making up for the feta cheese!

DF 3/4 5

For dinner I made some noodles with cauliflower alfredo sauce and broccoli. I stumbled across these noodles in the international foods section at the grocery store. The only ingredients are buckwheat and sweet potato! A GF and Daniel Fast approved noodle seemed almost too good to be true and I had to try it.

DF 3/4 2

The noodles had a good taste, but didn’t hold up well and clumped up in a big ball. I love cauliflower alfredo so I just slathered the noodle-ball in the sauce. The broccoli was just steamed and sprinkled with salt. Overall I enjoyed the meal, but Steve didn’t as much. Red sauces are more his thing.

DF 3/4 3

Day 4

Yesterday was mostly repeat meals. I started off with the Chocolate Almond Butter Oatmeal again. It was so good the day before I wanted more! Since I had a big batch of Spanakorizo I had more of that for lunch, and some hummus for a snack in the afternoon.

Dinner was Quinoa, Kale, and Thai Tofu. I used this recipe as a guide, but really ended up making something with a very different flavor. I seasoned the quinoa and kale with nothing more than salt. I modified the sauce for the tofu a bit, since I wasn’t going to use the sugar and had no mint leaves on hand. This was probably one of the best tofu dishes I have ever made (I haven’t actually made a whole lot, so that’s not too remarkable).

DF 3/4 4

Over the past couple of days we have been chowing down on these Almond Butter Bites. These are a delicious snack and I would eat them even if I wasn’t fasting! In terms of healthy, naturally gluten free snacks these balls have got to be one of the best I have ever had.

Of course, I’ve still been drinking a lot of water!

GF Daniel Fast: Days 1 & 2

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Day 1

The first day of the Daniel Fast started off with some Mexican Chocolate Oatmeal and water. For the oatmeal, I used my basic chocolate oatmeal recipe and added some cinnamon and cayenne pepper. Since I do not sweeten my oatmeal with sugar, only banana, it is totally approved for a Daniel Fast! Of course, I used GF oats so it was safe for me from the celiac perspective, also.

DF 1/2 1

The oatmeal tasted much better than this photo makes it look!

Shortly after breakfast I started cooking a huge pot of Lemon Lentil Soup. My recipe (EDIT: check out my recipe here!) is a slight modification of this version on Vegangela. We love this soup and have it on a somewhat regular basis! I’ll have to remember to share the recipe for my version on the blog sometime because it’s really excellent.

DF 1/2 2

Around 2pm the coffee detox headaches kicked in, at least I think. I’ve consistenly had a headache since then (nearly 48 hours) and there are a few potential causes besides the lack of coffee, like allergies. I slept for a while to deal with the pain and proceeded to become violently ill. Food was the furthest thing from my mind. Steve made dinner, and I ate it very slowly. He steamed some broccoli, made some brown rice, and made some carrot noodles. It was soft, easy to eat, and stayed in my stomach. I was feeling awful at the time and didn’t even think of taking any photos.

Day 2

On Sunday I decided to have a bit of coffee. Since the pain had been so bad and my research had said to cut back slowly I had about 2/3 of a cup rather than a full cup. I still had a headache, but I could function and that was good. Steve made oatmeal for breakfast. Mine was a cinnamon oatmeal (a recipe I thought I already had posted and then realized I hadn’t!), and his oatmeal had some cut up apples in it.

I had some rice pasta for lunch. It was the boxed kind from Trader Joes, and not a perfect match for the Daniel Fast. I didn’t feel great about abandoning the fast by having some coffee and some pasta, but I also knew being healthy is important. The pasta was a quick and easy way to get some fuel in my body. My mother in law pointed out that God desires our love and adoration, not just following some rules for the sake of it. The goal of a fast is not suffering for sufferings sake. In the early afternoon we spent some time relaxing and listening to worship music and I felt much better. The coffee headache died down and I had the energy and focus to move forward with the day.

For dinner I made some Black Bean and Rice Burrito Bowls (EDIT: get the recipe here). It was totally Daniel Fast approved, naturally GF, and 100% delicious. Add that to the list of recipes I need to share!

Df 1/2 3

In these past two days I definitely learned the importance of drinking water. The first day of the Daniel Fast I had 3 or 4 glasses of water, 12 oz each. Yesterday I had about twice as much. Steve and I were both marking down how many glasses of water we drank and it helped keep me on track to be sure I was drinking enough!

Gluten Free Daniel Fasting

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Welcome to a very unusual Saturday post on Tastefully Gluten Free!

Today is kind of a big day. Steve and I are starting a Daniel Fast!

If you’re not familiar, fasting is a Christian practice of limiting food combined with prayer that brings you closer to God. A Daniel Fast, in particular, comes from the bible in the book of Daniel. We see Daniel eat certain foods and avoid others for a three week time period. An over simplified way to think of the Daniel Fast is that it is a vegan, sugar free, bread free diet.

This is both daunting and exciting! Since I already have limitations with food I have not done much fasting in the past. It’s a bit nerve wracking to take an already limited diet and cut even more out!

For the duration of our fast I’m going to post what I eat on a daily basis. Hopefully this can give other celiacs help and confidence if they want to do a similar fast. Minimally, at least it will help me remember which meals were successes and which were not, and be a compiliation of fresh, whole, food ideas.

I’ll be back tomorrow with how the first day of the fast went! If the coffee detox isn’t too bad I’ll post some recipes like usual, too!

GF Daniel Fast Days 1 & 2

GF Daniel Fast Days 3 & 4

GF Daniel Fast Days 5 & 6

Avoiding Complacency on the GF Diet

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I had been hoping to post this sooner but we have been having major internet troubles here. A tech has already been out here once and we’ve placed many calls to customer service. Apparently, there may be a problem with our whole neighborhoods service. Another tech should be coming out today, and hopefully I can get this posted without another internet outage interrupting me! Anyway . . . . .

Today I don’t have a recipe, but rather some general thoughts about the gluten free diet. This month is my 7 year anniversary of being GF. Honestly, being gluten free hardly feels like a big deal to me anymore. I know how to read labels and how to cook safely. I rarely eat out, and if I do I know what restaurants are safe and which restaurants are not safe. Two months ago I had a major slip up, ended up ingesting gluten and was sick for about a month. I wish I could say it was an accident, but it wasn’t. I just happened to be a little lazy one day and didn’t take all of the necessary precautions. Here’s the story of my not-so-accidental-glutening and some tips about not letting the same thing happen to you!

A few months ago a fellow GF friend of mine finally convinced me to try sushi. I’d avoided trying it for years, and was a bit nervous, but the sushi my friend prepared was amazing. It was one of the most delicious foods that I had ever eaten! I literally was talking about sushi every day, so about a week later we decided to go out for sushi. Steve was more than a little thrilled; he loves sushi and had been hoping and praying that someday I’d like it, too. I asked my friend for guidance about ordering GF sushi and she gave me a few tips about possible gluten containing ingredients in sushi: First, make sure all of the sauces are GF and second, get real crab, not imitation.

We went to a nearby sushi restaurant and were pleasantly surprised to walk and see GF soy sauce sitting right on the tables! We asked the middle aged Asian woman at the counter about gluten free and she told us everything in the restaurant was GF and pointed us to the sauces. She even rolled out a whole fish on a to show us that she uses whole, real ingredients.

Sushi 1

We ordered a California roll, a Philadelphia roll with smoked salmon, and a spicy tuna roll. I loved trying each of the different sushi varieties. The Philadelphia roll was my favorite – I love smoked salmon! The spicy tuna was seriously spicy and if you’ve been around this blog very much you know how much I love spicy! And, although I don’t usually like avocado, something about the combination of the California roll made me enjoy it. We had a few leftover rolls that my husband ate for the lunch the next day. He’d offered them to me but my stomach wasn’t feeling great and we wondered if it was the sushi.

A California Roll (front) and a Philadelphia Roll (back)

A California Roll (front) and a Philadelphia Roll (back)

I continued to have an upset stomach and also continued to talk about sushi very often. The next week we out for sushi again. I forget exactly what we ordered the second time, but the restaurant owners did bring us out a complimentary fancy California Roll because Steve had helped them with an internet/phone problem.

Sushi 3

To make a long story short, I felt even worse and it went on for several weeks. Talking through possible reasons why I was sick one day the sushi came up. I remembered my friend’s warning about the sauce and the crab. I’d followed her tip on the sauce but NOT on the crab (California Rolls, which I had both times, have imitation crab in them). I immediately did some research on imitation crab and found out that it does contain wheat. No wonder I was sick, I had eaten multiple sushi rolls with imitation crab in it!

I was happy to know why I was sick but I felt like a total moron. Why did a woman I never met before convince me to eat something my knowledgeable GF friend had told me not to?  When she told me everything in the restaurant was gluten free and had the soy sauce to prove her point I simply believed her.  How had I become so complacent about my diet that I had not asked more questions? Answer: I was so excited about eating sushi that I let my emotions drive me to not push for more information.

Here’s what I learned to help me avoid this in the future:

1. Arm yourself with knowledge

I went out for sushi not knowing very much about what made sushi GF or not GF. I just had my friend’s advice. Had I done a few quick google searches I would have learned that all imitation crab has wheat in it and not been deceived into thinking I was eating GF imitation crab. Whenever you go out to a restaurant with an unfamiliar type of cuisine make sure you learn about common ingredients and what may and may not be gluten free. Even if you don’t know everything, you will at least have enough knowledge to ask the right questions!

2. Ask Questions

ALWAYS ask if you are unsure about what you are eating. In my 7 years of being gluten free I have never had an experience where a restaurant resisted my inquiries about ingredients. Often, they will bring the ingredient list right out to me to check! With my sushi experience, if I had asked about the crab I would have figured out it had wheat in it and not gotten sick!

3. Don’t become disillusioned by good food, hunger, tiredness (or anything, for that matter)

This is really the most important tip of them all – don’t become lazy about your health and the GF diet. I’m generally incredibly careful because I know how important it is for me to stay gluten free. However, I was excited about eating sushi and was hungry when I got to the restaurant. I let my want of sushi take precedent over my want for good health. Rather than asking questions and doing research like I normally would have I just ordered and ate. How do we avoid this laziness? In general, people make dietary mistakes when they are hungry or tired, so eating before you reach the “I’M STARVING” point is always a wise idea.

4. Make good choices a habit

Veteran celiacs know what to do to stay healthy so it an become easy to cut corners. Resist that. It doesn’t take a terribly long time to build a habit, and once something is a habit it is hard to stray from! Make a point to always ask questions at restaurants and read EVERY SINGLE LABEL. Soon, you won’t think twice about doing those things. Even if you are hungry, tired, or just really excited about sushi, the habit will take over!

So, back to my sushi story. After I figured out the imitation crab was a problem we went back to restaurant and talked to the owners. It is a small restaurant, with the same couple employees there every time. We asked the same woman who told me that everything was gluten free if she used real crab or imitation crab. When she told us she used imitation crab I asked her to read the label. She brought the package out and I showed her where the wheat gluten was on the food label. She felt badly, and offered to sub in a few other things in place of the crab in my sushi. Even better, she asked me to help her write out a few sushi roll to add to the menu that would be specifically gluten free! So, although I was a bit of an airhead and got sick the story ended well. I learned some lessons about safe GF dining and helped a local restaurant become GF friendly!

What about you? Have you had any air head moments like me? What strategies do you use to make sure you eat safely?

How To: Use & Store Fresh Ginger

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I’ve had the pictures for this post for a couple of months now. I’ve even scheduled it (and then put something else in it’s place) a few times. Ginger is a common ingredient in stir fries, which I tend to make at least once a week.  Since ginger is an important ingredient to me so I like to always have some on hand, but I keep wondering if anyone else really cares that much about it.

Ultimately, I’ve (obviously) decided to post it. The thing with ginger is that it can go bad quickly and it’s not necessarily the kind of thing you can (or want to) just use up quickly before it goes bad. Since I have a couple recipes calling for ginger on this blog, and will surely have more in the future, I wanted to make sure all of you know how to store it so you’re not stuck with rotting ginger. Yuck!

By freezing ginger in small pieces you will keep it fresher longer and you will get the prep work done all at once. This method is no big culinary secret, but I think it’s something every cook who uses ginger should be aware of. It will really save you time when making meals and you’ll never waste money of rotting ginger again!

So, here’s what you’ll need:

  • Fresh ginger (also called ginger root)
  • Vegetable peeler
  • Cutting board
  • Knife
  • Glass jar, or other freezer safe container

The first thing to do it peel the skin off of the ginger with a vegetable peeler. It will come off easily. The hard part may be getting around some of the bumps and in the crevasses. My peeler has a nice tip on it that I can use to get into small spaces. If a section is going to be difficult to peel, just cut the ginger in such a way that makes it easy to peel. You’re going to be cutting it anyway, so it’s no problem if you have to make a few slices to get the peeling done.  You’ll see in this next picture that I had to cut one of my ginger pieces into three sections to get the whole thing peeled.

IMG_5896

Now that the ginger is peeled, cut it up into small pieces. The general rule of thumb is 1 inch pieces. Personally, I like to cut mine into a variety of sizes so that I can choose one that is just the right size for what I am cooking.

IJCXB

Finally, put all of your peeled ginger pieces into a jar or other freezer safe container (for the longest time, I had ginger stored in an empty Nutella container). Stored in the freezer, the ginger will last a long time. To be honest, I’m not exactly sure how long it will last. Does anyone know? I have never had any ginger go bad when stored this way in the freezer!

IMG_5926

When you’re ready to use your ginger take however much you need out of the jar in the freezer. I usually like to leave that piece out for a couple minutes to warm up before slicing or mincing it. Using a chef knife, the frozen ginger is very easy to slice thinly. You can use these ginger slices as is (we’ve used this for making tea – not sure if that is normal or not), or mince them for use in a sauce or stir fry.

There you have it: how to store ginger!

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