Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The BEST Pancake Recipe! Bonus they are Gluten Free!

In changing our diets I have always striven to find substitutions that would comparable to all of our old family favorites.  Sometimes to the frustration of my husband.  "You paid what!?!" or I send him to the store for one of the regular items "I can't believe you buy that, product x is too expense, I will not get that for you.  You are just going to have to do without."  Well you the drill... I'll save that for another post.  Back to the "Pan-a-cakes"...

One of those favorites is pancakes.  Pancakes have always been a treat on days we have more time.  I would use Bisquick Mix as the base and let the love flow from my fingers into the other ingredients to make buttermilk pancakes.  Each person felt the warmth of my love as the treat melted in their mouth.  Soon four little plates would have circles of maple syrup and smooshed pancake pieces, the only evidence that we had pancakes in the house.  Those yummy treats of deliciousness were now deep in our tummies.
I stumbled onto these pancakes almost two years ago.  My cousin came to stay with us for a long weekend.  Her husband and two girls were a delight to have around.  And I wanted to make them some pancakes.  When better to try out a new recipe – When you have company…  Everyone liked them.

So we have been making these pancakes since last summer.  They are the best pancakes I have ever made.  Seriously - they really are!
I have made a few changes to the original recipe from Carol Fensters Cookbook, 1,000 Gluten Free Recipes.  What I use follows.

2 cup Carol’s Sorghum Blend
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
½ tsp xanthum gum
2 tablespoons agave nectar
1 cup of coconut milk, with 1 Tbl lemon juice mixed together (buttermilk)
4 Tbl coconut oil melted (or other butter substitute)
2 eggs
2 tsp vanilla

1.     Mix the dry ingredients together with a whisk
2.     Slowly whisk in the wet ingredients.  I often add an extra milk to thin them out.
3.     Bake as you would any other pancake.
4.     Enjoy with real maple syrup or any homemade concoction.  We love them with blueberry syrup made that morning in our blentec.

Pancake with Homemade Blueberry Syrup  - Yuummmm

This Saturday our 10yo, E, exclaimed “These are the best pancakes ever!”  I’m so happy that the biggest skeptic of the dietary change loves them.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Decadent Gluten Free Chocolate Cake Numm-y-nesss

This past week I was reminded that our memories are often faulty.  I had spent hours looking for a recipe for a chocolate cake we made around 9 years ago.  It was delightful and delicious and got rave reviews from all that tasted it's deliciousness.  I was sure it was something we had seen on the television, or found on the internet.  I was searching everywhere to find the recipe.

I spent hours on the web and looking through the miscellaneous papers that we had printed out.  Boy do I have an affinity for recipes... On Saturday morning I was determined to find the recipe and prepare this chocolate delight for an event.  I pulled out recipe book after recipe book in my cupboard.  I looked in all the places I knew I had placed loose papers.  Found many recipes that need to be recycled, but not the one I was looking for.

I was starting to feel that cloud of gloom hovering and I had just two or three books in the corner - then I saw it... The Chocolate book!!!!  It still had all my little post it flags marking recipes.  "I found it, I think it's in here!"  I quickly ran to the living room to show the hubby.  He said "That's it, it's in there."

Sure enough it contained the recipe I was looking for - in the typed print of the book.  I had been wrong, we didn't get the recipe the way I thought and all the correct memories (well the new version of correct) came flooding back. I was so excited.  It was almost free of the ingredients that we needed.  I decided on a few adjustments and whipped it up.  As I began melting the chocolate, the smells began to waft through the house.  The chocolate numm-y-ness filled all of us with delight.

Shortly after it was done I took it to the event.  It was so mean of me not to let them all have some.  The delicate dessert left those at the house with the wonderful aroma but nothing to taste.  It was a big hit again and I am posting it here to share the recipe with all of you who wanted it.

Here is my modification of the recipe from "The Cook's Encyclopedia of Chocolate"; French Chocolate Cake.

Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Soy Free French Chocolate Cake

GFCFSF French Chocolate Cake
9oz. bakers chocolate (I used 100% Cocoa)
1 cup GFCFSF Earth Balance (or butter)
1/2 cup Turbinado unrefined sugar
2 Tablespoons Bourbon Vanilla (Homemade with bourbon and vanilla beans, but you can buy it as well)
5 Eggs
1 tablespoon Coconut Flour

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cut out parchment paper to cover bottom of a 9" springform pan.  Grease the bottom of paper a touch so it sticks to the pan, then grease the sides of pan liberally.  Wrap the whole pan with aluminum foil so that water doesn't get inside.
2.  Over low heat melt butter and add the sugar.  Stir until mostly dissolved, it will still be a bit grainy, but try to dissolve as much as you can.  Add the chocolate and still continually until it's all melted and creamy.  It may have a small amount of undissolved sugar that will cook out.  Add the vanilla and turn off heat.
3.  In mixer bowl beat eggs till lightly fluffy, about 40 seconds. Mix in the flour on low speed.  For half the chocolate mixture slowly one spoonful at a time.  You don't want to cook the eggs.  Slowly mix in the second half to form a nice creamy, thin chocolate mix.  Pour in the springform pan.
4.  Place the springform pan in another pan that has enough room for 1/4" water to surround it.  (I use the bottom half of our broiler that came with the oven.)  I add hot tap water after the two pans are placed in the oven, that way you don't spill.  Bake for about 30-35min.  The edges and top will not bounce back like other cakes, you look for it just to not stick to your fingers when you touch it.  The edges will be more firm.
5. Cool the cake on a wire rack.  I am always to impatient, I take the sides of almost immediately.  Pull at the top edge very slightly to loosen it from the edges of the pan.  It should be pulled away some and will pull from the edges as it cools more, provided you greased it well.  Remove sides and let it finish cooling on the bottom and wire rack.
6.  After 30min - 1 Hour, turn the cake upside down on your serving plater and remove the springform bottom and the parchment paper.  This should be easy, but be very gentle as this is a delicate cake.
7.  You can decorate how ever you choose.  I like to make criss-cross patterns with strips of parchment paper and powdered sugar.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

New Blendtec and Our Favorite Recipe "The Green Monster"

This past Mother's Day we bought a Blendtec Blender from Costco.  I have wanted a professional style, very powerful blender for a long time.  A lot of people that eat a whole foods diet use this blender or the VitaMix.  I was unsure which one to get, but I was able to see many different things that we would make in it!

While at Costco my husband and I watch the person demonstrate it and talked about it's many benefits.  My husband was convinced, but he wanted to take a few days to think about it.  After much debate, the surrender of my hard earned Mary Kay money, plus the return of our Cuisinart blender/food processor to Costco - We purchased it!

Blendtec Total Blender

My Mother's day gift could not have been any better!  Even though it is something that my husband uses as much as I do.  About one week in, we were upstairs and he said "I feel the need to blend".  Almost like Goose from Top Gun "I feel the need...".  Hilarious!!

We are well above 100 uses!!

The kids love it and the things that we make from it!  Our Favorite recipe is an adaptation of what the display person mixed up in the store.

The Green Monster
1/2 cup water
1 cup of grapes (we like the seeded kind)
2-3 very large handfuls of spinach
1/2 cup (or so) of fresh pineapple
1 banana
1/2 an avocado
2 Tb agave nectar
1 cup of ice (about)

Put in the blender in that order, push the whole juice button, grab the glasses, when done poor and enjoy!

A few reason we chose the Blendtec over Vitamix:
  1. It has a lower profile so it fits under the kitchen counter with the pitcher on the base.
  2. I'm a sucker for fluff!  It has six preset buttons (soups/sauce, whole juice, ice crush, ice cream, etc) that automatically speed-up or slow down and then shut off after a the time is over.  "Set-it-and-forget-it"  We wouldn't have to figure out how to use the dial like the Vitamix.
  3. The blender didn't have actual blades, making it easier to get things out of the bottom (which I have only done 2 x's).  The blade is shaped like a helicopter propeller and it spins so fast it just pulverizes everything.  See note later...
  4. It didn't have the tamper and seemed to work well without it.  I do believe that it does well, we have not really needed a tamper.
  5. It was cheaper by about $25.
  6. They both had the same warranty
  7. It was on modern marvels - How cool is that?

Places for you to look at:
Blentec Website

Demonstration of the blending ability - Very cool!  They blended marbles and turned them into powder!

We really are sold, and apparently some of our family and friends are as well!  So far we have taken it on one camping trip and plan to take it with us to Colorado next week (well I plan on it).

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

New Food Pyramid

Did you hear?  They have revamped the food pyramid again...

The first food pyramid was designed by the US Department of Agriculture in 1992, then it was updated in 2005 to a stair step type diagram.  Apparently to many people thought this design was confusing and the eating recommendations diagram have been redesigned again.

This time into the shape of a plate.  This is a great visual aid to see clearly how much of your plate should be devoted to each food group.  Grains play a large part, as well as vegetables and fruits.  It does not focus on portion size or control though, maybe they are saving that for the next revision...

The New Plate Diagram from the USDA

ChooseMyPlate.gov is a great resource with a lot of information.  It includes, food groups, tip and resources, games and activities for children, and a lot of general information.

Yes - I know this is a government organization.  Yes - I know this is not a great solution for eating healthy.  Yes - I know, I know, I know... But I do like to see something being done that is a pretty good representation - too bad they had to spend $2 million getting there!

History Trivia - Do you know where the original food pyramid came from?  Sweden!  That's right it is another example that strikes down the theory that the US is the best and leading the way in research and recommendations.  Also the Swede's came up with a plate diagram, oh... about 19 years ago!!!

The Swedish plate model has three portions cut like pie pieces, two big and one smaller.  Click here to see the Swedish plate model with a brief description of how to use it.  I like their version / recommendations the best and think that it gives a great discussion of how to change the portions of each type of food, why you would want more of one type than another and so on.

From Sweden's National food Administration

Thursday, June 2, 2011

What is MSG? How Do I Eliminate MSG?

Everyone remembers the craze about a decade ago... "Avoid Asian food it contains MSG"

Most of us didn't know much about MSG back then, I venture to say most of still don't know much about MSG today.  MSG, Monosodium glutamate, is a food additive that enhances the flavor of what could otherwise be a bland meal.  It is a plant derived chemical additive.

MSG is the sodium salt of glutamic acid, an amino acid (non-essential to our bodies).  It is in a category of salts called glutamates.  These are used by our bodies for a reaction process called the citric acid cycle.  Glutamate is a very potent neural transmitter.  It also is responsible for the flavor sensation "umami", one of the five taste that we sense.

So what is the big deal about something that our body makes and uses and occurs naturally in plants?

MSG, the flavor enhancer that is added to our foods, is made by fermenting carbohydrates with yeast or bacteria.  This alone can give some people cause to worry or irritate those with a sensitivity to yeast.

Although hotly debated and researched, there are no great studies that can show conclusively that this, excitotoxin, is good or bad for you.  Several studies have shown that a certain percentage of the population may be sensitive to the free glutamate acid.  No studies have shown an over whelming societal impact on symptoms such as

  • -          Headaches
    -          Flushing
  • -          Tingling in face or hands
  • -          Disturbing the heart rhythm
  • -          May cause heart attacks
  • -          A growth resource for cancer
  • -          Disturbs hormone production
  • -          Causes obesity
  • -          Disturb the growth in children
  • -          Children may develop learning problems
  • -          Behavior impairments
  • -          Damage to the retina
  • -          Increased Alergies
  • -          May be linked to many disorders like MS, or other neurological disorders

Some people link MSG as one of those downfalls that are making us hold onto fat.  Will we ever know the truth about what all the things we eat do to our bodies? Can we say definitively that this one ingredient is a major contributor to so many things.

I have not done or read a lot of research on MSG, just a little.  I can say though that I have learned that MSG in several of it's forms will bring on a guaranteed migraine for me.  I think each person must make a decision on the facts and information that they have available to them, that may include an elimination diet.  I believe that this is the only way that you can truly tell the difference - don't eat it for a length of time to allow you body to clean that item out and reset/heal itself, then try it a little at a time to see if you have a reaction.

I  love BBQ chips (not a good food I know) and I would have them a few times a week if I could.  I have learned that if I eat them, just a few, about 3-4 hours later I will get a migraine.  MSG is called or labeled many different things (list later) and I have noticed that a some of these can also cause me to have terrible headaches or migraines.  So I have learned to avoid them, and really do my best to read all the labels and not purchase such things.

I began eliminating all MSG about 18 months ago.  It is very hard!  It is in almost everything and almost every restaurant uses it.  When we started asking the managers if they used it, what I cold have without it, and could they prepare other items without it - our eyes were opened.  They put it on almost everything!  It is in the seasoning on the meat, it is in the salad dressing, it's in the butter for your bread, it is in the oil that they put on the grill to cook, it can be the oil they add to the vegetables.  It really is everywhere!

A few days ago it struck me that we purchase some items for the children (or rather my spouse does) that have one of these ingredients in them.  If it's not something I'm going to eat why should I be willing to give it to the rest of my family?  Interesting thought!  We will be working more closely the next few weeks to eliminate MSG in all it's forms from out diet.

Here is a list of most of the items that I look for and avoid.  These may be a different way of labeling MSG, an ingredients that sometimes (or always) contains MSG, or something that will create MSG in your body.

Monosodium glutamate, glutamate, accent seasoning, natural flavor enhancers, natural and artificial flavors, soy protein, soy protein isolate, hydrolyzed vegetable protein or HVP, yeast extract, autolyzed proteins, vegetable protein extract, hydrolyzed vegetable oil, E621, calcium caseinate, modified food starch, maltodextrin, any broth or stock, disodium inosinate, disodium guanylate.

Be aware that even though the product states it contains no MSG, or NO MSG added, it may still contain the free glutamate - which essentially is what MSG is in the food anyway.  Some of the above are examples of free glutamate.

If you wold like more information - I have found these sites to be a great resource.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

FDA Vote on Eliminating Red Food Dye

Part of eating better has included eliminating artificial dyes.  This has always been a very hard one for us.  From discussing with family that we need to read the ingredient list of foods to keeping our children from eating the normal snacks after the baseball games with all the other kids.  This is a very tough one.  

Eliminating dyes is made even harder when national organizations like the FDA side in favor of the food organizations (even just slightly).  The beginning of April the FDA debated whether these dyes may have some potential health hazards or cause behavioral changes.  They decided in a a very close vote that they didn't.  

Below are some great resources that I have found while looking into their decision.

While looking doing the research I also found a great blog with a lot of resources.  I am really looking forward to perusing the whole website some night when I get a chance :)

Now if I could only figure out how to talk with our extended family, grandparents and aunts and uncles about the additives in the food.  It is hard for us as parents to tell the kids "No, you can't have the Kool-Aid with your cousin" or "No, don't eat those twizllers".  As hard as it is for us, I am sure that it is awful for the kids to have to want those so badly when we are around others who appear to be enjoying them so much.  With all the sugar and additives to make them look and taste delicious who wouldn't want to have one...

It's all about the education.  We have not been able to make it for a whole week without some type of processed food being eaten.  Maybe after we are able to go one week without we will see difference and that will be reason or proof for others - I hope I can say we have done it soon!