Thursday, September 29, 2011

'Grate' (gluten-free) Zucchini Muffins

When I was a kid, I loved my mom's late-summer zucchini muffins. She got the recipe from a Jane Brody cookbook and it had a punny name: 'Grate' Zucchini Bread. Heh. I wanted to re-create the same flavor in a gluten-free muffin, so I dug out the original recipe and started tinkering. And I think I found a winner!

Zucchini Muffins

3 eggs
1/2 cup almond butter
1/3 cup almond milk
1 Tbs. butter
1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup quinoa flakes or unsweetened quick oats
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp salt
1.5 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder

1.5 cups zucchini, shredded with juices drained well
1/2 cup walnut pieces

Mix eggs, almond butter, almond milk, vanilla, and butter in a small bowl. In a medium bowl, stir together the dry ingredients. Add wet to dry and mix well. Fold in the zucchini and walnuts and pour into lined muffin tins. Bake at 350 degrees. 18 to 21 minutes for muffins and 45 to 50 minutes for bread.

This recipe makes 18 regular muffins and they are 'grate' for freezing and taking to work as a snack :o) Enjoy!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Anniversary Weekend

Ross and I had our third wedding anniversary this past Monday, but we celebrated with a 'stay-cation' last weekend.

We stayed at the Intercontinental on the Plaza and walked to SPIN Neapolitan Pizza for dinner. I was so excited for their gluten-free pizza crust and it did not disappoint. Especially when topped with onion-fig marmalade, prosciutto, and spinach.

 After dinner we drifted over to glace for dessert. Yes, it's an ice cream shop but the unseasonably cool weather had me shivering... I got a spicy hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows. Perfect!

We did also get a pint to eat later in the week and it was delicious.

 We're looking forward to many more years (God-willing) of being Therese AND Ross.

P.S. Ross finally got me more chocolates to replace the ones the dog at the office ate on Valentine's day. They were worth the wait. Christopher Elbow = dessert genius.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Newlyweds 3 Times Over

"Like everything which is not the involuntary result of fleeting emotion
but the creation of time and will,
any marriage, happy or unhappy, is infinitely
more interesting than any romance, however passionate."
-W.H. Auden

"A magnificent marriage begins not with knowing one another but with knowing God."
-Gary and Betsy Ricucci

"Marriage is the greatest test in the world... 
but now I welcome the test instead of dreading it.
It is much more than a test of sweetness of temper, as people sometimes think;
it is a test of the whole character and affects every action." -T.S. Eliot

"Chains do not hold a marriage together. It is threads, hundreds of tiny threads,
which sew people together through the years." -Simone Signoret

Happy 3rd wedding anniversary, Ross!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Local Food Tastes Better

As I was making a salad dressing this morning and gushing to myself about how awesome Romanian red garlic from the farmer’s market is, I realized I really have a passion for local food and the best way to share your love of a certain type of food is to share that food! Since I can’t feed you through the screen, I’ll settle for talking about it.

*Steps on soapbox. Clears throat. Mi mi mi mi mi mi miiiiiiii.*

Why I Believe in Local Food

I was so blessed to grow up with parents who regularly prepared healthy food for us and lived a healthy lifestyle as a good example for their growing kids. Of course, some things changed in college and I fell for the propaganda telling young women that 100-calorie packs and Diet Coke are good for you.

Thankfully shortly after graduation I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver and it’s not an exaggeration to say that it changed my life. I went from counting calories to counting on local, seasonal flavors for nutrition and satisfaction. If you’re looking to add health to your life but don’t want to go on a restrictive diet, I can’t recommend this book enough. My copy is dog-eared, highlighted, and well-loved. The book is a novel of sorts-- it documents a year in the life of the author’s family in which they move to the Appalachian foothills and spend a year, as the author says, “deliberately eating food produced from the same place where we worked, went to school, loved our neighbors, drank the water, and breathed the air.”

One thing that stood out to me was that American food culture seems to be centered around fad diets and fast food. As Kingsolver says,
together they’ve helped us form powerfully negative associations with the very act of eating… (but other countries) hold to their food customs because of the positives: comfort, nourishment, heavenly aromas. A sturdy food tradition even calls to outsiders; plenty of red-blooded Americans will happily eat Italian, French, Thai, Chinese, you name it. But try the reverse: hand the Atkins menu to a French person, and run for your life.
But there is hope for us yet. As Kingsolver says, “The halcyon postwar promise of ‘better living through chemistry’ has fallen from grace. ‘No additives’ is now often considered a plus rather than the minus that, technically, it is.”

No longer is local food for the ‘hippie’ and ‘crunchy’ among us. It is a reality that our country needs to embrace that can quite literally change the nation’s fate. Kingsolver cites research stating:

if every US citizen ate just one meal a week composed of locally and organically raised meats and produce, we would reduce our country’s oil consumption by over 1.1 million barrels of oil every week… Small changes in buying habits can make a BIG DIFFERENCE.

But the book isn’t all political propaganda. My favorite chapters are ones in which the author reunites with the miracle that turns a tiny seed into a flourishing plant and rejoices in the taste of a fresh tomato while mourning all the “wasted” meals in which she ate cottage cheese and overly-processed soup.

After finishing the book, I made a beeline for the first farmer’s market I could find and haven’t looked back. I love seasonal eating for so many reasons and hopefully I can convince you to give your local farmer’s market a try. I literally schedule my work around Friday nights at Badseed (my favorite market in Kansas City)!

End-of-Summer Salad Salute

Some people are excitedly gravitating toward the butternut squash and pumpkin spice lattes already. No harm in that, but summer is my favorite season and I haven’t quite had my fill of it yet. At the farmer’s market this past Friday, I greedily grabbed the following:

2 bags of kale


onions and cucumbers


heirloom cherry tomatoes (after trying them, I’ve become one of those annoying 
people who say they could eat these things like candy. They’re that good.)



and amazing purple Viking potatoes

When I got home, I set about making a kale salad. I was peeling open a head of Romanian red garlic to put in the salad dressing and was pleasantly surprised to find that this variety had 2 huge, buttery cloves instead of the ‘standard’ 6-8 cloves per head of garlic. This constant surprise and variety is one of my favorite things about local food. In a good climate, seasonal eating is anything but homogenized!

For this salad, I used 1 bunch of kale (de-stemmed), a handful of cherry tomatoes (I ate the rest), 1 large cucumber (seeded and chopped), and 1 medium red onion (chopped).

Simply prepare the veggies by rinsing and cutting as necessary, and toss in a large bowl. Then coat with dressing and allow it to sit for a few hours. Kale is one tough leaf and it’s more palate-friendly once it has ‘marinated.’

I think nut-based dressings taste best on kale, especially if you’re new to this veggie. The first time I met a kale salad I liked, it was at Whole Foods and had a cashew-ginger dressing similar to this one.

For today’s salad, I used the Lemon Tahini dressing from Angela at Oh She Glows. Her Better than Bottled Balsamic dressing is what got me on a make-your-own dressing kick in the first place. I prefer that on lettuce salad though, and I usually use something thicker on kale salads. I also highly recommend reading her blog if you’re looking to add some delicious recipes to your life. She’s alternately a fan of veggies and desserts, which makes me think we could be great friends if we lived in the same country!

If you’re looking for something different, Gena from Choosing Raw has so many great salad dressing creations it’s hard to choose one.

And finally, Sarah from Peas and Thank You has an amazing Mmmm Sauce recipe and variations that are pretty much good on anything.

But remember that the dressing is only meant to play a supporting role when seasonal vegetables are the star of the show. Support beyond-organic farmers like Dan and Brooke from Kansas City and buy local food! 

*Steps off of soapbox. Smoothes hair.*

So, what do you think of the local food movement?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Gluten-Free Oatmeal Scotchies

I used to hate butterscotch chips. Chocolate chips cookies have always been my favorite, so why would I mess with perfection? I now know the answer. Sometimes a buttery toffee flavor ups the ante just a bit. When one of my brothers mentioned that he was craving a batch of butterscotch cookies, I jumped at the opportunity to send a care package, but I no longer have normal wheat flour in my aparmtment. So I de-glutenated and the results was fantastic.

Oatmeal Scotchies (gluten-free)

1/2 cup almond meal
1 rounded cup old-fashioned or quick oats
2 Tbs. coconut flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. xantham gum
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
4 Tbs. butter (1/4 cup)
1 egg
2 Tbs. milk
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 to 3/4 cup butterscotch chips (disclaimer: Toll House butterscotch chips contain barley protein and are not gluten-free, but supposedly Hershey and Kroger brands are... always check your labels!)

In a small bowl, mix together the almond meal, oatmeal, coconut flour, salt, baking soda, xantham gum, and cinnamon. In a medium bowl blend the butter, egg, milk, vanilla, and brown sugar. Add dry ingredients to wet and mix well. Add butterscotch chips and incorporate. Place balls of dough onto cookie sheet and bake at 375 for 7-10 minutes. Makes 12-18 cookies.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Gluten Free + Me

Why Gluten-Free is Right for ME

In February 2011, I had just finished another round of Prednisone for an asthma exacerbation (the 3rd round in a year) and I was so fed up with the heart palpitations, the acne, and the fact that it was slowly eating away at my bones. So I took matters into my own hands:

I started using all-natural, unscented soaps, shampoos, and lotions.
I started using the Neti-Pot every few nights before going to bed.
I started vacuuming the apartment and washing the sheets weekly (I'm allergic to dust mites).
And I finally went on the dreaded elimination diet my allergist (and my GI doc) recommended.

The elimination diet actually wasn't that bad. Really. I already knew I felt better when I ate lots of fruits and vegetables, and I had played around with vegeterianism/veganism so it wasn't too hard to eat that way for a week- cutting gluten out was the only unprecedented change. I didn't stay on the diet for the recommended 3 months, but one week in, I did notice an improvement in asthma and, surprisingly, a huge decrease in a few things I had assumed were just a part of my life: stomachaches, bloating, and night sweats.

To be honest, I also didn't realize that my IBS symptoms had started to ease up until I went back to eating the Standard American Diet again. I always thought meat was the "irritant" for my IBS but giving it up for a week or two last summer didn't make a huge difference. So this time, inspired by my cousin with celiac disease, I bit the bullet and just gave up gluten.

Wow. A week later my IBS was calming down again. My weird upper-right abdominal pain went away. A week after that my night sweats went away. And a month after that, I looked down at my fingernails and realized they had NEVER been so long and healthy. I remember as early as grade school they were always peeling and breaking and it grossed me out. I only had to cut them once a month and that was because they were breaking more than they were growing. But lately, I've had to trim them every week or two to keep them at the required short length for my job!

Sometimes eating something your body doesn't tolerate for long periods of time can lead to nutrient malabsorption. If that's why my nails are suddenly growing, I hope my bones are growing, too! I always thought it was weird that I was diagnosed with osteopenia at the age of 23. (Osteopenia is a loss of bone density, but it's not as bad as osteoporosis and since I'm not 30 yet, I can still reverse it.) Hopefully my running (and heck, standing all day at work) is enough weight-bearing exercise to help strengthen my bones in addition to the calcium/magnesium/vitamin D supplement I take. And now maybe I'm benefiting more from the nutrients I eat because I'm absorbing them better!

Avoiding gluten has been a huge boon for my IBS, but it didn't significantly help my asthma like I was originally hoping (although not looking 4 months pregnant after every meal and not having to take stool softeners every few days is certainly wonderful). Lately through trial and error, I've found that my asthma and congestion feel worse after eating lots of dairy. So I stick with coconut or almond milk for my daily oatmeal and try to only have cheese and goat's milk yogurt a few times a month, if that. But that's a different story.

I know gluten-free eating has been a bit of a fad lately but given all the processed GF goodies out there, it's definitely not a tool to weight loss or a healthy diet in and of itself. But if you have any sort of chronic health problem, it might be worth it (in my humble opinion) to try eating gluten-free for a week or two.

The first two weeks, it was just easier for me to avoid imitation products. I stuck to oatmeal at the time (I didn't seem to have a problem with Quaker Oats, but some people are sensitive enough that they can only eat gluten-free oatmeal), LOTS of brown rice, and baked goods made at home with almond meal and no starches or xantham gum. That's when I feel the best. But sometimes you want pancakes, or a hamburger on a bun, or donuts. So through a lot of trial and error, I'm learning which products are worth the higher price tag.

Gluten-Free Treats I Love

1-2-3 Gluten Free buckwheat pancakes
Ancient Harvest Quinoa pastas
Enjoy Life chocolate chips
King Arthur Flour Gluten-Free chocolate cake mix
King Arthur Flour Gluten-Free multi-purpose flour
Kinnikinnick graham-style crackers
Kinnikinnick donuts
Love Grown Foods Granola

Also, keep in mind that many unprocessed real foods are naturally gluten-free: all fruits and vegetables, rice, quinoa, nuts, beans, corn (and most corn tortillas), meat and eggs, unflavored milk and yogurt.

Gluten-Free Blogs That Saved My Sanity

I love to bake. It's messy and sometimes I eat too much of the batter/finished product, but it's still a stress relief for me. I know without a doubt that the 2 reasons that I've been able to stay Gluten-Free are 1.) The Hy-Vee by my apartment has an amazing GF section and 2.) It's different, but not impossible to bake GF, thanks to these blogs:

Elana's Pantry
Gluten Hates Me
Gluten Free Goddess
The Spunky Coconut
Nourishing Flourishing

Some Articles Worth Reading

Click HERE to read a little bit about gluten sensitivity vs. celiac disease

Click HERE to read a Wall Street Journal about gluten sensitivity

Click HERE to read about food allergies

HERE is the most recent addition to this list and also the most comprehensive explanation of gluten insensitivity.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

10 Ways to Make September Sweet

I loved my Awesome August goals and review, so I decided to do something similar for September. If this bores you, try it out for yourself and you'll see it's pretty fun!

1.) Create a fitness goal for the month.

I will definitely keep going to yoga 2 times a week, but I'd also like to add in 2-3 days of running (Starting at 5 minutes each time the first week and working up one minute per run each week after that. Thrilling!) AND 3 days of strength training per week via Tone it Up or a workout video.)

2.) Create an academic goal for the month.

I will do 2 stats modules per week (a module is either a lesson with 1-3 chapters + homework or a test). There are 15 modules total and after today I will have completed 4 of them. Therefore sticking with this goal will help me finish by the second week of October. It's a self-driven class that I can take up to 9 months to complete. But I am not dragging this out until March!

3.) Go to the farmer's market weekly.

I LOVE the fresh produce and I'm going to miss it this winter. Store-bought tomatoes just aren't the same.

4.) Focus on 5+ servings of fruits and veggies per day.

Speaking of produce... It seems like I'm always renewing this goal. It's much harder than it sounds, especially on days that I work. 

5.) Cook a dinner at least once a week that both Ross and I can enjoy.

I've really been trying to make something both Ross and I will eat. Remember "Therese, Therese will eat no meat and Ross will eat no greens?" We're trying to change that on both accounts.

6.) Take walks after dinner at least 3 nights a week.

Allergens be darned. I'm going to enjoy the sunshine while I can!

7.) Go on 2 bike rides with Ross this month.

Biking is one of the things that Ross and I had in common when we first met. But since we moved and no longer have a paved riverside trail in our backyard, we haven't been out on our bikes together in two years! I rode once and nearly got hit by an idiot driver thanks to the lack of sidewalks, driver's common sense, and nearby biking trails. Ross has had a little more success  biking with his boss who knows the city better, so hopefully he can show me some bike-friendly routes this month. 

8.) Do a good deed on September 11.

I listen to K-LOVE a lot and they're really  pushing for people to honor this year's anniversary by making a positive difference in the world. 

9.) Make a new inspiration board.

Having a blog makes it easy to look back at previous projects. I made my last inspiration board in September 2010 and it's amazing how much of it ended up working out.

10.) Live in the moment.

I know this isn't a tangible goal and success or failure is all in my head here. But while I love the crisp, clear days of fall, I spend them all dreading winter. This year I was wearing my winter coat to and from work for most of April. Clearly I'm not ready for winter again so soon. I just thawed out from the last "snowpocalypse"! So I need to learn to embrace the present and not worry about the future because I have ZERO control over the weather, but I can control my attitude about it.

*To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly 
in love with spring.*  -George Santayana

How are you planing to make your September sweet?!

Edited to add: end-of-month review:

1.) Yoga + running + strength training- About 2 weeks ago, yoga fell off the radar. And I can tell. I'm stiff and my yoga abs are fading. I plan on starting again ASAP. I may have to suck it up and run on work days if I really want to do all 3 of these things regularly. (But I doubt that'll happen now that mornings are dark).

2.) 2 stats modules per week- I've made leaps and bounds, but didn't quite do 2 modules a week. And apparently even though the class stretches out over 9 months, the teachers change on a semester-ly basis. My summer teacher was a PROMT grader, but the fall one took 2 weeks to grade a 7-question assignment (in which I got 100% so she didn't even have to spend time making corrections) and it's been almost 2 weeks since Exam 1 and nada. (Although I'm pretty sure I didn't get an A+ there...) I'm requesting Exam 2 tomorrow, regardless.

3.) Farmer's market weekly- LOVING IT. Seriously. Seasonal bounty is no joke and when I just stick to the produce and meat and avoid fancy cheese and preserves, it's pretty darn affordable.

4.) 5+ fruits and veggies a day- I'm probably getting about 3-6 on any given day. But none of my produce is going to waste, so that's good enough for me.

5.) Dinners that Ross and I will enjoy- We've been crazy busy and don't eat dinner together too often, but I think we got about one per week. We need better planning ahead in October for this to happen.

6.) Walks after dinner- I didn't count, but we've been sure to step outside when the weather and our schedules permit.

7.) 2 bike rides- NOPE. I'm sad about this, but there's just no good trail here (C'mon KC. Omaha just got recognized as a bike-friendly city and you're one of the most bike UNfriendly cities I've been in!)

8.) Do a good deed on 9/11- this didn't happen, mainly because I switched with a desperate co-worker and worked that day for her. Can that count as my good deed?

9.) New inspiration board- I have the stack of magazines, but haven't gotten around to clipping and pasting. It takes a lot of time...

10.) Live in the moment- I've been outside a lot even though I'm allergic to the season, and I've been much more social than I have in years. Seriously. At least 1-2 events on our social calendar every week is earth-shattering. I hope to keep this up as the weather gets colder!