RSS Feed

Category Archives: Products

Cook to Eat/ Crisis Management

Paleo Update Saturday, my father-in-law was released into hospice care to begin his end of life days. When these times of intensity happen in life, it throws us into a different dimension of activity outside our normal routine. “Regular” life stops for a bit to be replaced by weird schedules, by unusual demands and activities only needing to be done a few times throughout a whole lifetime. How many times does a non medical professional order a hospital bed, empty a catheter bag, etc.

I am learning a few key survival skills for times of intensity or crisis, especially if you are on a “true” Celiac diet, which is no grain whatsoever, ever:

1. Keep safe snacks on hand and packed in a “to go” bag that you can grab at a moment’s notice. You never know when you will get a chance to eat or find a restaurant or store where you can get safe food when jumping in the car to be by a loved one’s side. (I like bags of plain plantain chips, Trader Joe’s marcona almonds, and an apple as a bare minimum. If I have more time, I make a meal-salad in a mason jar, Paleo chocolate cookies, and a shaker jar with a scoop of Paleo friendly protein powder, and little snack baggies of each meal’s vitamin supplements.)

2. Do not skimp on good nutritious foods. Make yourself drink that veggie or protein drink, even if it is the last thing you want to do. Your body will keep you going in good form throughout the duration of intense stress because of it. (Do not cheat on the diet. It will only weaken your ability to handle the stress. The stress is making your body work overtime already.)

3. Get fully presentable (shower, wash hair, make-up, etc) every morning. You may have to go to a group gathering at a moment’s notice where you would be embarrassed in schlocky sweats and ratty T shirt.

4. Keep the gas tank of your car full at all times.

5. Bring enough water bottles to get through a 12 hour period. Hospitals and emergency agencies hide the water; I swear. Plus, even though you are doing essentially nothing–at least nothing physical—when sitting by a sick person’s bed, time disappears. Your thirst can rage. Your blood sugar can drop.

6. Try to get a good amount of sleep.

7. Try to keep up with your exercise routines. (I must admit; this is the one that I let slide most often. Sleep always seems to win over exercise.)

If you can keep on top of just these foundational things, it will help you manage the unusual time and activity demands in fairly good form, relatively speaking, until normal life can be resumed. This post is for all those attending last days of loved ones, attending births, or going through any of a myriad of life’s intense once-in-a-lifetime moments.

Below is the recipe to one of my favorite Paleo cookie recipes. This recipe by Carol Lovett is from her cookbook, The Grain-free Snacker. Check out her blog, Ditch the Wheat.


Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ingredients

2/3 cup coconut palm sugar

1/3 cup extra virgin coconut oil

2 large eggs

1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

3 tablespoons sifted coconut flour

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/8 teaspoon sea salt

1/2  cup dark chocolate chips, (I use Enjoy Life big chunky chocolate bits, because there is no soy, no dairy, no grain. Plus, who doesn’t love a big chunk of chocolate in their cookies.)

Yields 14 cookies

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350* F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Using a mixing machine, mix together the sugar and coconut oil.

3. Slowly add one egg at a time to the mixture. Add the cocoa powder, coconut flour and vanilla, and mix until incorporated. Lastly, stir in chocolate chips.

4. Drop the cookies by spoonfuls onto the baking sheet, at least 2 inches apart.

5. Bake for 12 minutes.

6. Let the cookies cool for a few minutes on the baking sheet before moving them to a wire rack to cool.

Note: Check out her blog or cookbook to get the extra notes for the prep of these cookies. I just included the basic directions. She gives more detail in her official recipe.

My Directions: In all honesty, I melt the coconut oil in a Pyrex measuring cup in the microwave; throw the rest of the ingredients sans the chocolate chips in a big Tupperware bowl; then add the oil when melted; stir like crazy with a wooden spoon; add two handfuls of chocolate chips; stir; plop on the parchment paper and bake. They always turn out great (except the time I used an egg substitute for my grandson who is allergic to eggs. Flat as a pancake that time.)

As you can tell, I usually cook without recipes. When I use them, I rarely follow directions completely, which does not always make for great baking success, but these cookies turn out in spite of my cavalier ways. (The Naked Chef, Jaimie Oliver, epitomizes my style of cooking. Love when he says in his cookbooks or on his show…”pour in a couple of glugs” of the designated liquid, but I digress.)   Seriously, these cookies have become my Paleo comfort food during times of stress. I recommend always having a batch on hand. I know I do. They freeze well, too.

Hats off to Carol Lovett and this yummy recipe!

Advertisements

Tomatoes Talk

When the nights cool enough to thicken and to dark-spot the skins of the tomatoes, it is time to pull up the summer garden.

Nov 2013 021Today was the day the tomatoes spoke. With a bit of regret, I pulled out the withered remains of the most abundant, lush vegetable garden I have ever had.  This Fall has been so mild I  wondered if the garden might keep producing into December.  The middle of November is not bad for a long growing season, though. I’ll take it!

Right before dismantling the tomato cages, I remembered I had planted potatoes (a first time try) in between each string bean plant. (They are companion plants.)  The potato greenery died and blew away a few weeks ago.  Wondering if there might actually be potatoes in the dirt, I got on my knees and started digging. Random sized potatoes popped up.  Delighted with each find, I kept at it, finally ending up with enough for a whole baking pan of roasted potatoes…or Roasties, as my husband calls them.  Thrilling!

Nov 2013 017

Then it was on to the pomegranate tree.  Since my husband’s google search, we now know not to harvest the pomegranates until the skins break open into a gaping jaw.DSCN0270   By the way, did you know that pomegranates are one of nature’s highest nutrient foods?  “Eat and get healthy!”

Nov 2013 020

When I got to the  kale/parsley patch,  I just couldn’t  pull it up. Each has  made  a remarkable comeback  in the cooler weather of the last couple of months.  I will wait for the frost to flatten them.

Crazy…how much produce came from this last picking of the season! Bounty everywhere!

Nov 2013 018

As excited as I get by food coming from backyard dirt, not all was rosy when plopping the bowls of veggies on the counter top.  As I was making dinner last night (a delicious meal baked in a sugar-baby pumpkin), I noticed  three or four slow-moving, little black spots on the white cupboard doors.  Hands messy with pumpkin goop, I couldn’t kill them at that moment.  When my hands were finally clean, they were gone.  “Eww!” I decided not to think about where they had gone. You cannot be squeamish living this intimately with the land.

About the pumpkin goop, my niece gave me the most unusual, fun, Fall recipe using a small sugar -baby pumpkin, Nov 2013 030stuffed with a Gruyère/bread mixture. The worst part of the prep is cleaning out the pumpkin. However, since it bakes for two hours, it would be a great dish for do-ahead company meals. The dish reminded me of Swiss food, lots of cheese and bread.  I used the gluten-free Against the Grain Baguette

 (http://www.againstthegraingourmet.com)  for the bread.  I recommend toasting the bread before using, so it holds its structure during the baking.

Here is the link to the recipe:
http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Pumpkin-Stuffed-with-Everything-Good-361169

As I prepared the pumpkin dish, the gift for the day of garden labor was this beautiful sunset.

Nov 2013 026

Enjoy Fall, Everyone!

A July Day in the Life of a GF Wine Maker

DSCN1675

As I mentioned in my last post, I will be doing a bit of back-tracking through the year, trying to catch up with what life was like during the growing season in the vineyard and as a fledgling wine maker.  Below is July’s post…

As I gather a tomato and cucumber for a Greek salad from the kitchen veggie garden, I don’t know where the time went.  How did it get to be three o’clock?

-Didn’t I just put on farm clothes, grab the pruning shears and drop bunches of grapes to allow the remaining clusters to deepen their flavor?

-Didn’t I just spend a couple of “minutes” with Ted Medeiros, my mentor, trying to absorb his assessment…making mental notes of his laundry list of chores to keep last Fall’s vintage, now aging, on tract and hopefully, tasty?

-Didn’t I spend a mere half hour making the adjustments to the wine and topping off the barrels, which meant shifting one of the three gallon containers into two one gallons and three screw top wine bottles (all of which had to be cleaned and sanitized first?)

I guess a few more hours passed than I thought!  Moments of “I absolutely can’t believe how much hard work this grape growing and wine making process is” warred with “I can’t believe how lucky I am to have the opportunity to learn these skills from an industry pro.”

It dawns on me that my body is screaming for some quality food.  Around the corner I go, into the vegetable garden to rummage any ripe produce I can get.  Thus, the Greek salad fixings for a very late lunch.

My Greek Salad Recipe
1 garden ripe tomato, fresh from your garden is best, of course
1 two-inch section of cucumber, again…garden fresh if possible
A bit of red onion, thinly sliced
6-8 GF kalamata olives (I have good luck with Trader Joe’s brand olives for being truly gluten-free)
A few chunks of Feta cheese blog pictures 049if you have not tried Pastures of Eden feta, do anything to get your hands on it.  My husband is not usually a fan of feta, but loves this one.  He will even eat it plain as an hors d’oeuvre spread on crackers or French bread.  I have never served this particular brand to any guest who has not loved it! I get it at my local Trader Joe’s.)

Dressing:
Huge dollop of Greek yogurt
Juice of 1/2 a lime or lemon
Two pinches of salt
Couple of turns of fresh ground pepper

Directions:
Chop everything not in the dressing into bite size pieces.  Mix dressing in a small bowl.  Pour over chopped ingredients.  Gently mix, just to coat all the chunky bits.

Enjoy the rich blending of these garden fresh ingredients that shriek…it is summer!

The good news!!!  I have zero gluten reaction to our back yard wine aged in completely wheat free oak barrels, which come from Hungary. I can be tipsy with no stomach cramps, no brain fog, no sick exhaustion.  After two years of abstinence from all wine aged in oak, I can at least drink this.  The trick is learning how to make something I would want to drink.  Hmmm.

Surviving The Crush

I am sitting among the turning leaves between a row of Cabernet and Merlot grapevines, thankful all the 2013 wine has been safely janeiphone pictures 055picked, fermented, pressed, and tucked away in gluten-free Vadai , Hungarian oak barrels .  I had no concept of the intense fun and camaraderie, of the immense quantity of hard work, and of the huge expense this “little” hobby would bring to my life and my husband’s life.

Although I have posted virtually nothing for months, because the vineyard chores hoarded all my free hours this summer, I did bang out a few words along the way to try to capture some of the stages of vineyard management and wine making.  If you don’t mind a bit of back-tracking, I will post some of them over the next few weeks dating the month of the activity.  

A bit of background

Seven years ago, we planted tiny pencil-thin grapevine sticks in our backyard with the hope of beautifying a bare patch of dirt.  85 bare root Cabernet and Merlot sticks filled ¼ acre…two rows of Merlot and four rows of Cab.  From the first day we moved here, my husband longed to look down rows of grapevines when sitting on the deck.  And…make an attempt at wine making one day.

How hard could it be?”

Other people made homemade wine out of a few grapevines on their property.  If you have read any of my previous posts, you already know that question can be dangerous for us.  I guess we epitomize Einstein’s definition of insanity, because it is still our fall back question.   Conversely, that question has caused us to stretch and grow in ways we never thought possible, and for which we are now immensely grateful.

So…on a chilly April morning seven years ago, 30 friends and family members sliced a box cutter through the packing tape of an overnight-ed box.  Bright multicolored sweatshirts dotted the rows my husband had marked. In a couple of hours, non-farm raised people from suburbia planted a vineyard.  What a sense of accomplishment we felt when it was done,  while munching on grilled meats, polenta, and sipping wine from the deck.  Some Italian friends even made homemade ricotta for the best cannoli anyone had ever eaten.   We all marveled,  “That wasn’t so hard, and this after-party is fun!”

Every vine “took” in the ensuing summer. “Yee Ha!  We are on our way!”  Summers two and three, my husband carefully trained the vines to grow on the trellis system.  We watched the vines get big enough to consider harvesting the grapes for a little wine making. 

Year four, we got out the trusty wine manual, called From Vines to Wine, that our neighbor who had been making wine for a few years told us was all we would need to get started.   “Could one book be all we would need? Really?”  That attempt went into the compost pile.  However, we did have the best smelling yard on the street.

Year five, I got a bit of advice from the local wine makers at Mann Vineyard, Sycamore Creek Vineyard, and any other local vineyard, whose wine maker would spend a bit of tasting room time answering my questions.  That batch got bottled, labeled, and given to friends.  Yet…most of it went down our friends’ drains or in Sangria or spaghetti sauce. 

Year six just got bottled.  My husband and I opened our first bottle after we thought bottle shock would be over and gave it a swirl and taste.  “Hmm!  I am actually not going run to the sink and chuck it.”  We took another sip; then ended up drinking the whole bottle one Sunday night two weeks ago.  “Yeah!  It is drinkable.  Not the best Merlot we’ve ever had, but passable.  We are actually making some progress!” We have not yet tried the Cab that was just bottled, because it will still be in bottle shock.  (I will keep you posted when we brave a taste.)

janeiphone pictures 059That brings us to this year.  Year seven.  About April of this year, I was lucky enough to be able to start mentoring with Ted Medeiros, a Double Gold Medal winner in the San Francisco Wine Competition.  You need to know that this is HUGE.  The San Francisco Wine Competition is the biggest US competition and the biggest world wide…outside of France.  

Since April, Ted has helped me learn how to maximize the flavor in the grapes through vineyard management and has helped me save last year’s aging wine from turning into another grotesque tasting vintage through aging-wine care and maintenance.  All aspects from vines to wines have been addressed.  He is an exacting task master, keeping me working…HARD…too tired and sore each day to contemplate anything but a hot shower.  He is also a positive feedback teacher, which kept me going when I wanted to give up.  Amid the long hours and relentless amount of work, I feel lucky to be learning from a genuine pro. 

Like anything worth learning, my husband and I are finding out that the more we learn the more we need to learn.  We are the type that like to do everything ourselves with a little (okay, a lot) of help from friends and family.  After all….

“How hard could it be?”

Ferrito’s Cannoli Recipe (this is well worth the effort!)

Cannoli Filling

This is a homemade sweetened ricotta cheese stuffed into or put on to just about anything!!!!

Ricotta Cheese

1 gallon whole milk
1 quart cultured buttermilk

Heat to 175 to 180 (no more or it will scald.)
Stir constantly.

When desired heat is attained, TAKE OFF THE HEAT.

Scoop the forming curds into a cheesecloth covered funnel and place in refrigerator overnight to drain.

Makes about 1 quart of ricotta cheese.

MAKING FILLING:

Take sugar and process in food processor for 1-2 minutes until superfine – remove.

2 cups of processed sugar
2 cups of fresh ricotta cheese ( drained overnight at least)
1 tsp of cream
4 tsp of vanilla

Process all of above ingredients until very fine but not over processed, as it will get grainy.

REFRIGERATE OVERNIGHT – this will allow all of the components to meld together.

Then stuff filling in cannoli shells.

Traditional sprinklings on Cannoli are chopped pistachios, chocolate chips(mini), or citron.
A chocolate ganache over the top could be the ticket as well.

Grabbing-a-Bite-to-Eat Survival Kit

First, I hope you will forgive my five month hiatus from blogging.  A dear family member “passed.”

The other night, as I threw my three “must haves” in my purse running out the door in anticipation of grabbing a bite to eat somewhere in town, I realized how prepping for and anticipating potential problems when eating out had become second nature.

Usually on a spur of the moment decision to go out, my husband and I have no idea where we will end up.  We decide what types of food we want as we drive; then, cruise our local haunts to see which is the least crowded.  While I love this type of spontaneity, it can present challenges for a Gluten Intolerant diner.

Never fear, I have developed a simple three product survival kit:

1. A tiny container of GF salad dressing, because salad dressing can be a land mine of hidden glutens.    I get these wonderful little containers at Bed, Bath, and Beyond. www.bedbathandbeyond.comsalad drssg bottleWith three filled at all times in the refrigerator, each with a different type of GF salad dressing,  I can easily grab the one I want  in a split second.

2. A small bottle of GF soy sauce…in case a sushi attack drives us into a sushi bar;  (why eat sushi if you can’t dip it in thesoy sauce
soy sauce/wasabi mixture?)  Just found out last night, that our local sushi bar carries GF soy sauce.  Isn’t it wonderful how easy it is getting to eat out and how the new awareness of GF limitations and needs have infiltrated the restaurant industry?  That said,  I still bring my jar of GF sauce soy in my eating out kit in case we end up at the other sushi bar in town, which does not have GF soy sauce. Although I could put the soy sauce in one of the above plastic containers from BB &B, it can leak a bit if the liquid is as thin as soy sauce.  To be safe, I stick with the regular, non leaking soy sauce jar.  Don’t want to ruin another purse. www.san-j.com

3.  A slightly toasted hunk of my favorite GF baguette…for slurping up that amazing pre-dinner olive baguetteoil in Italian restaurants.  For some reason, watching everyone else at the table dip bread in olive oil and not being able to participate can make me nearly melt down.  It is one of those trigger points where I can instantly flip into self pity over being gluten intolerant.  But hey, I have solved it by pulling out my baggie filled with a piece of safe GF bread.  Then, the only thing I am fanatical about is to make sure I have my “own” plate or little bowl of olive oil, so I can eliminate all cross contamination by the wheat-bread-dippers at the table.  Who really likes sharing, anyway?  The baguette is a must-have at Greek restaurants for hummus and  baba ganoujs, too. www.againstthegraingourmet.com

My mottos are Do Not Get Left Out;  Do Not Stay at Home;   Get Prepared and Go!

Sure,  non GF people do not have to think ahead, plan ahead, or pack ahead to simply grab a bite to eat, but accepting, developing, and incorporating these simple tasks into my life has allowed me to embrace a normal, rich, fun life, instead of  shrinking into limitations.

So…go out and have fun (with a little preparation.)

My Glutenfree Salon Experience

The Package Is You, A Complete Makeover Experience

IT started in her smile, rose to her eyes, and then floated like soft smoke around the tiny room.  Past the striking artwork, over the antique writing desk, and amid the fresh, bright yellow daffodils, IT slid into my body on a sip of tea served from a proper English teacup, infiltrating the tension I carried within me.  As the “aah” of relaxation cracked through mDSCN0452y stress, I looked back up at her gratefully.  There IT was in her face…that warm, open, healing love of compassion.  It was like getting a big, gentle hug from your mother or grandmother.  I knew the next hour or so would be extraordinary. It was.

Don’t get me wrong with all this oohing and aahing, Karen Lane is a no nonsense biologist/artist, who has mastered her crafts.  Working for years as a scientist in the medical field left her feeling not quite satisfied.  The tug of creativity, art, and beauty called.  With a career change to cosmology, she not only finds herself owning and operating her own makeover salon, but teaching theory, anatomy, and science in the Cosmology Department at San Jose City College.  For 22 years now, she has found a perfect venue to balance art and science.

Karen has taken the posh salon experience and ratcheted the standard up a notch.  Walking into her salon, you will not hear three or four blow dryers or smell any nasty chemicals.  No, hers is a private salon.  You will be her sole client.  She will devote 100% of her attention to you for the allotted time.  How often in our electronically pinged lives do we get to experience peaceful, refreshing, devoted attention?  What a powerful gift.

An added bonus is Karen’s devoted commitment to designing a nontoxic, allergy free program of products and services to fit your specific needs, be it gluten intolerance, scalp issues, or other allergic sensitivities.  Special attention is given to Gluten Free products, due to her own gluten sensitivity.  For the first time, ever, I had a cut and color without an adverse reaction the next day.  My reactions to the harsh chemicals, even when gluten free, in hair salons were so severe that I knew not to schedule anything important the day after an appointment.

Appreciative of the organic, eco, GF products, I was skeptical of how effective the color treatment would be.  “How would it hold up?” I wondered.  I happily report after five weeks and counting, I have not noticed any loss of color, shine, or intensity.  Tools for the sensitive person are a consideration, too. Unlike industry standard brushes, Karen applies color with a rubber bristled brush, which does not prick the scalp, opening the skin to minute absorption.

Because the products do not contain the harsh chemicals that drive the color, shampoo, and conditioners quickly into the hair, she allows the non toxic products to have a little extra time on the follicles.  For example, she leaves the conditioner on for a full 20 minutes.  However, for a bit of extra money, she will give you a mini facial during that time.  Of course I opted for that! Covered with a “healing” quilt, I relaxed to her feather fingertip massage on my face.  My head wanted to flop down when she tried to lift it indicating that the facial/conditioning experience was over.  “You have to hold your own head up now,” she had to gently whisper in my ear.  I had relaxed into a wet-noodle state.

“Okay,” I was thinking, “This woman certainly has the nurturing gene, but can she cut hair?”  I like a haircut where the cut speaks for itself with very little intervention on my part.  My normal hair dresser is a master at a stylish cut.  With my skepticism in full bloom, I sat in the hair dresser’s chair ready to receive a mediocre haircut for the cause of a blogging review.

As we discussed what would look good on with my facial structure, I knew she had been sincere when claiming to be an artist with people as her canvas.  Thus, her other services: make-overs, personal color analysis, ward robe redos. To help people try to safely be comfortable in their bodies and more authentically themselves is her mission statement.  If the compliments by family, friends, store clerks are anything to go by, I got a great haircut.  Is there any aspect of this business at which this woman does not excel?

For one and a half hours I was steeped in soothing music and nurturing and pampered with wicked expertise the likes of which I had never experienced.

GO! Go to Karen, not only if you are gluten intolerant, allergic, or scalp challenged, just to be wrapped in her MAGIC!

Practical considerations:  organicallycoloringyourhair.com

Address:   The Package Is You

501 N. Santa Cruz Ave. Ste C

Los Gatos, CA 95030

Office 408-395-6927,   cell 408-204-8945

Rates: Cut & color: $140.00

Just color: $70.00

Weaves: $40.00+

Mini facials: $20.00

 

 

Wheat in sugar?

A neighbor stopped by the other day, outraged, because she saw a wheat alert on an organic sugar package.  How great that people without Celiac disease or wheat intolerance are becoming aware of the prevalence of wheat in our food supply on our behalf!

That said, I believe that many companies put the caveat of “May contain wheat” at the end of their lists of ingredients to simply protect themselves from lawsuits.  Personally, if the ingredient list does not specifically contain a gluten ingredient, I do not worry about eating the product, even if the label indicates manufacturing on wheat-shared equipment.  If I did, I would never eat anything, because almost all products now include this disclaimer.  Rarely do I get stung.  However, each of you must make this call for yourselves.

Here is the info from the sugar label that upset my neighbor.

  • Company:    Rapunzel
  • Product:  Organic Whole Cane Sugar  (Unrefined & Unbleached)
  • USDA Organic – Hand to Hand Fair Trade Program
  • Ingredients:  Organic unrefined whole cane sugar.  *May contain wheat.

I do not find this alarming and would use the product without a second thought.