Gluten Free For Good


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Oats: the good, the bad and the ugly

oats, gluten-free oats

First off, a few of you might have noticed, I haven’t posted anything for weeks. Months? Okay, it’s been well over 2 years. You know how it goes; life happens and priorities change. I’ll spare you the details, but suffice to say that life is short and I’d rather spend time doing fun things with the people I care about, rather than sitting at my computer writing blog posts. No offense, I loved the old-school blogging world. Back in the olden days (I started this blog in 2006), the food/nutrition blogosphere was a tightly knit, supportive community. The gluten-free sub-set of that community was very small and consisted of people helping people. Friendly people sharing information, nourishing spirits, and promoting good health. It lessened the feeling of isolation a restrictive diet (for medical reasons) can foster. There was a genuine sense of belonging, but somewhere along the way, we hit a tipping point. I’m not sure I like the direction we’ve tipped.

Having said that, every so often something comes up that motivates me to dust off my blog, catch up with WordPress, and get back into writing about food and exercise. This is one of those times — the ongoing oat saga. Oats (gluten-free) are, and always have been, a mainstay of my diet, even though I have celiac disease. They’re versatile, they’re nutritious (or can be), they taste good, they cook up quickly, and are a perfect addition to an athlete’s and/or backpacker’s pantry. I use oatmeal loaded with dried fruit, nuts, and seeds as breakfast fuel for early morning mountain bike rides. I grind them up and use them in homemade energy bars. I bake bread from oat flour. They’re a backpacking and camping staple. I even use oats as a protein booster in veggie burgers.

Many years ago I discovered Montana Gluten-Free Processors. The “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” theme is more difficult than it sounds, but I do know these people. I know the brilliant (and quirky) plant scientist who selected this oat variety based on nutritional value. I know the CEO of Montana Gluten-Free (AKA: head farmer, Gary Iverson) who lives a gluten-free lifestyle, grows these oats, and insures that they’re truly gluten-free. They harvest, mill, and package their products with dedicated equipment. The oats are processed in a certified gluten-free facility. They’re organic, non-GMO, hull-less (easier to digest), low glycemic, and are 25% higher in protein than other oat varieties. They also test out at under 3 ppm with ELISA testing protocols. What more could you ask for? Other than excellent customer service from pleasant, reliable, salt-of-the-earth folks. They’re the best. For more information, check out their website.

Talk about “knowing your farmer.” Who’s behind the oats at General Mills? Who is General Mills? Who’s responsible for the cereal products labeled gluten-free at General Mills that weren’t actually gluten-free? Who knows? I understand the need for easy, convenient breakfast foods. Who hasn’t dumped a handful of Cheerios on their toddler’s high chair tray at one time or another? I’ll admit to that — back when I was juggling four kiddos at once, although I’d like to think our food quality was a little better back then (30-some years ago). That was also pre-celiac disease days, before the word “gluten” was part of our family’s vocabulary. If you’re unfamiliar with the gluten contamination and quality control problems at General Mills (and Quaker), I’ll direct you to a couple of the food bloggers who were on top of it from the beginning.

Check out prolific and friendly blogger Shirley Braden’s (at Gluten-Free Easily) take on the General Mills fiasco. You can find her detailed explanation here. For more information on the manufacturing, sorting, and gluten-free purity protocol for oats, check out Trisha Thompson’s (at Gluten-Free Watchdog) gluten-free testing data. You can find that information here.

Would you like a side of weed-killer with your oatmeal?

Glyphosate is a broad spectrum, systemic herbicide used to kill weeds, especially perennial weeds and grasses that compete with crops. According to the National Pesticide Information Center, glyphosate is the most widely used, non-selective (meaning it will kill most plants) herbicide used in the United States. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup, the brand-name of the herbicide produced by Monsanto. Because glyphosate is non-selective, some crops have been genetically modified (GM) to be resistant to the herbicide. They’re called Roundup Ready crops. Farmers can plant these GM plants and spray them with Roundup (glyphosate) to eliminate unwanted weeds without killing the crop.

In March of 2015 the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is part of the World Health Organization, assessed the cancer-causing potential of glyphosate and several other pesticides. Glyphosate was classified as probably carcinogenic to humans. It was also determined that glyphosate caused DNA and chromosomal damage in human cells.

What does this have to do with oatmeal, you ask? According to Forbes Magazine, Quaker Oats is facing a potential class-action lawsuit because they claim their oats are “100% Natural” and are grown using “eco-friendly” farming practices, and yet they spray the oats with glyphosate before harvest. Glyphosate can also be used as a drying agent. Although it’s not against the law to use glyphosate on cereal crops, calling the product “Natural” and suggesting the farming practices are “eco friendly” is a stretch — and deceptive, hence the lawsuit.

I have a science degree, but I’m not a plant scientist, so I don’t understand how organophosphate pesticides like glyphosate work, how much of this stuff is in our food system, how dangerous these substances are to human health, or how detrimental they may be to the soil and water. And other than the basic definition of manually inserting new DNA into an organism to add new traits to that organism, I have a foggy understanding of genetic engineering. What I do know is that my intuition tells me spraying poison on food and then eating it is probably a bad thing. Especially if it causes DNA and chromosomal damage and probably causes cancer. As for manipulating genetic material and engineering food crops, I don’t know, but I’d like to choose not to eat those foods if I knew which ones they were. At this point, they aren’t universally labeled.

Bottom line? If at all possible, get involved in your community — support small farmers who are trying to grow nutritious and safe food, frequent farmer’s markets, ask questions, do what you can to increase agricultural awareness, help grow an appreciation and understanding of where our food comes from, and make choices that support local food production. Know your farmer, know your food. It’s not easy or always practical, I know that, but it’s important for overall health. The more we know, the better (and healthier) choices we can make.

Peace, love and good food.

Oat bran power bar recipe & giveaway

My last post was about iron-deficiency anemia, celiac disease, and iron-rich foods. It came with a heavy dose of red blood cell biology and those of you willing to wade through it, not unsubscribe, and leave a comment at the end were rewarded with an opportunity to win a copy of The Gluten-Free Edge, my sports nutrition book co-written with Peter Bronski.

And the winner is (drum roll, please)—Jennifer R! Thank you all for participating and congratulations to Jennifer.

Since it’s the season for giving, I’m going to keep the giveaway streak going (see details below).

I thought I’d follow up my anemia post with a gluten-free, iron-packed, power-bar recipe that I developed as a homemade alternative to store-bought energy bars. This one is a take-off on an almond meal version featured in the recipe section of The Gluten-Free Edge and is proof that vegetarians (even vegans) can get the iron and protein they need if they do it right.

Gluten-free oat bran power bar (makes 16 servings)
What you need

1/2 cup oat bran (I used Montana Gluten-Free Oat Bran, see details below)
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup walnuts
1 cup almonds
1 cup dried, unsulphured apricots, chopped
1/3 cup certified gluten-free oats (I get mine from MT GF Processors or GF Prairie)
1/2 cup chocolate chips (make sure they’re gluten-free)
1/3 cup honey
1 large egg
2 tablespoons coconut oil, melted, plus some to grease the pan
1-1/2 teaspoon vanilla

What you do

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan (I used a dark-colored metal baking pan).
2. Place the oat bran, the cinnamon, and the sea salt in a food processor and pulse until well mixed.
3. Add the walnuts, almonds, apricots, and oats and pulse several times, until the nuts and apricots are in small chunks but not completely ground. Add the chocolate chips and pulse a few times, leaving larger chunks.
4. In a bowl big enough to hold all the ingredients, whisk together the honey, egg, melted coconut oil, and vanilla. Whisk for 1 minute to ensure the ingredients are well mixed.
5. Add the dry (pulsed) ingredients to the wet ingredients and mash together with a fork. Use your hands if you have to and make sure everything is mixed together.
6. Spread the mixture in the prepared pan. Cover with parchment paper and, using your hands, press and flatten evenly. You can also use a flat spatula to even out the mixture. Remove the parchment paper.
7. Place pan on center rack of the oven and bake for 22 to 24 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool. Place the pan in the refrigerator to chill before cutting into bars. Store bars in an airtight container in the fridge, or wrap individually and freeze.

These bars are power-packed with nutrition and great for athletes. They’re high in carbohydrates (great workout fuel), high in protein (for recovery), and super high in iron (building blocks for RBCs, see prior post). The iron is mainly from the oat bran. The bars are also high in fat (another source of workout fuel), but the fat is from healthy sources, so don’t fret. Because of the high fat content, they aren’t low calorie, but if you need a boost while out hiking, biking, or during a mid-afternoon work slump, these power bars will serve you well.

PER SERVING (1 bar): 225 calories; 14 g fat; 22 g carbohydrate; 6 g protein; 3 g fiber
NUTRITION BONUS: 1 bar provides 30% of the RDA of iron

Would you like a 3-pound bag of this nourishing Montana Gluten-Free Oat Bran? It’s grown out west by awesome big sky farmers and is minimally “processed” in a dedicated, state-of-the-art, gluten-free facility. The oat bran is dry milled, with no heat applied during preparation or packaging. It’s good stuff, non-GMO, is tested and certified gluten-free, and is a great way to boost the nutritional value of GF baked goods. Most GF baked goods are low in iron and other nutrients. Tossing in some oat bran solves that problem.

To enter the giveaway, leave a comment on how you’d use the oat bran. Be creative—I’m curious. Make sure you include your email address where prompted. I’ll pick the winner via Good luck and happy baking!

Peace, love, and oat bran!
PS I’m not employed in any way by MT GF Processors or GF Prairie. No one asked me to blog about the products or do giveaways. I’m not paid to do it. I buy my own products and endorse the farmers and product developers whom I believe are doing it right. There’s been an explosion in the GF market and a lot of the stuff has the nutritional value of ground styrofoam. It’s junk food. I want the good guys to be successful. We need to support this “grass roots” movement. Our health and the health of the environment depend on it.

Go hug a farmer!

Anxious to know who won the books?

If you’re uninterested in knowing who won the three books I’m giving away to celebrate May as Celiac Awareness month and you’d like a recipe instead, scroll away. There’s an arugula salad with macadamia nut dressing recipe featured below. It’s a wonderful salad and the dressing makes for a nice diversion from oil and vinegar.

My intention was to do five book giveaway posts in May, but real life got the better of my good intentions and May zipped by much faster than expected. I’ll announce the current winners (three) and save the other books for random giveaways in June and July. It was also my intention to have my little neighbor girl help me pick the winners from the comments you all left, but my gosh, I had a flood of entries and although I couldn’t respond to many of the comments, I did read every word and am blessed to have such articulate and bright blog followers. Thank you.

I decided to resort to to pick the winners. There was no way I could choose fairly. All the answers (and the delightful poems) were so good that everyone deserved to win. How could I pick just one? I couldn’t, so the “True Random Number Service” did it for me.

Drum roll, please.

Book #1: 125 Gluten-Free Vegetarian Recipes by Carol Fenster. This is one of my favorite cookbooks and the “Quinoa Pilaf with Pine Nuts and Dried Fruit” is a standard in my recipe collection. I love it. It’s a multi-use dish that everyone enjoys.
Congratulations to Jody E (comment #14)!

Book #2: Gluten-Free Recipes for the Conscious Cook by Leslie Cerier. This is a great, easy-to-follow cookbook full of healthy (and tasty) recipes.
Congratulations to Noelle (comment #27)!

Book #3: The Anti-Anxiety Food Solution: How the foods you eat can help you calm your anxious mind, improve your mood & end cravings by Trudy Scott. Wow, this post elicited so many heartfelt comments that I wish I had an Oprah-like pocketbook for giveaways! I’d give everyone a copy of this book. Because of the overwhelming response, Trudy emailed me with the offer to add another copy of her book to the mix. As I mentioned in my original post, I prefer to purchase the items I give away on my blog, rather than solicit products or accept free merchandise. This will be an exception since so many people are in need of help with anxiety (thank you, Trudy).
Congratulations to Renée (comment #35) and Joanie (comment #48)!

I will be contacting the winners via email. Stay tuned for the next round of book giveaways, and in the meantime, enjoy this recipe!

Arugula, grapefruit, avocado, and shaved fennel salad with macadamia nut dressing
what you need

dressing (makes about 3 tablespoons)
1/4 cup macadamia nuts
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lime juice
1 teaspoon agave nectar
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
sea salt

salad (makes 2 servings) 
2 to 3 cups arugula
1 grapefruit, peeled, seeded, and chopped in chunks
1 avocado, sliced
1/3 cup shaved fennel

what you do
1. Assemble the salad in a large bowl.
2. Place macadamia nuts in a food processor and pulse until finely ground.
3. Add the water, lime juice, agave, cumin, and salt to the food processor and pulse until creamy. If it’s too thick for your liking, add more water in very small amounts at a time, until desired consistency is reached. Makes about 3 tablespoons of dressing.
4. Toss 2 to 3 tablespoons of dressing with the salad and serve. Start with a small amount of dressing and adjust to your liking from there. Store extra dressing in refrigerator.

Thanks, everyone!

The Anti-Anxiety Food Solution book giveaway

Depending on the situation, anxiety (tempered by control) can be a good thing. Many years ago while mountain biking in a somewhat remote area of Montana, my riding partner and I came across a grizzly bear. Needless to say, in that context, both of us hit the anxiety button.

YIKES! There’s a grizzly bear. Right in front of us. Just off the trail.

Luckily the bear wasn’t all that interested. He (she?) stood up, looked straight at us, took a couple of lazy sniffs in our direction, and ambled off. Although he showed no obvious signs of aggression, my anxiety level shot up significantly. And for good reason.

Normal anxiety is like normal inflammation. It’s a positive response to danger or injury and something that is built into our physiology. Without anxiety, we might do stupid things.

“Cool, there’s a grizzly bear. I’ll go stand by him (her?) while you take my picture.”

While anxiety can be innately protective, I’m convinced some of us got the fortified version of the anxiety gene(s) and some of us got the watered down version. You know the personality types. There are scaredy-cats with AVOIDANCE being a distinct personality trait and there are risk-takers without a care in the world. It takes all kinds, but somewhere in the middle might make for a healthier balance.

Sadly, according to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America, abnormal anxiety affects some 40 million people age 18 or older. That’s a lot of Americans living life hanging by a thread of jangled nerves. Are you one of them?

Enter Trudy Scott. She can help.

Although a lifelong adventurer (climber, skier, mountain biker, world traveler), Trudy had her own mid-thirties battle with serious anxiety. Her journey back to radiant health took her on a path of discovery that led to the book, The Anti-Anxiety Food Solution: How the Foods You Eat Can Help Calm Your Anxious Mind, Improve Your Mood & End Cravings. Trudy is a clinical nutritionist and has a private practice focused on natural solutions for anxiety and mood disorders. She’s “been there, done that” and knows the solution.

I met Trudy while attending the National Association of Nutritional Professional’s conference a few weeks ago in San Francisco. She’s a girl after my own heart. How often do you meet other nutritionists who telemark ski, backpack, mountain bike, and ice climb—and do it all gluten-free? I knew I had to include Trudy’s book in my “May is Celiac Awareness Month” book giveaway. She’s awesome, we hit it off right away, and there’s not a shred of abnormal anxiety in her personality. She found the cure through the right food and lifestyle choices, and she’s here to help you do the same.

If you’re interested in winning a copy of Trudy’s book, please do the following:

• Leave a comment on this post. Make sure you include your email address when prompted (it will only be visible to me) so I can notify you if you win.

• The giveaway closes Thursday, May 31st at 6 PM. It doesn’t matter if you’ve entered the other May giveaways.

I’ll announce all the winners next month in one “wrap-up” blog post. Stay tuned.

Peace, love, and a calm mind.

Celiac awareness book giveaway (part 2)

Up next in my “May is Celiac Awareness Month” bookapalooza giveaway is organic chef, Leslie Cerier’s cookbook, Gluten-Free Recipes for the Conscious Cook. Another vegetarian favorite of mine, this book is filled with delicious, nutrient-dense recipes that are not only easy to make, they come with added health benefits as well. Leslie specializes in gluten-free, organic, whole foods cooking and creates her recipes with healing and thriving in mind. Not only does this cookbook have traditional recipe sections (breakfasts, main courses, sides, desserts), Leslie also treats us with savory sauces, sushi party ideas, basic grain cookery, and instructions on how to make nut/seed butters and milks. She covers it all—and does it with style!

Check here for more on Leslie, her cooking classes, recipes, and other cookbooks.

If you’d like a shot at winning a copy of Gluten-Free Recipes for the Conscious Cook, please do the following:

• Leave a comment on this post listing your favorite gluten-free grain and what you like to do with it. Example—Teff pancakes with goji berries and maca. By the way, this recipe is in the cookbook.

• Make sure to include your email address when prompted (it will only be visible to me) so I can notify you if you win.

• The contest closes Friday, May 18th at 6 PM. It doesn’t matter if you also entered Monday’s giveaway. Who knows, you might win twice! Go for it.

Peace, love, and gourmet food!

The athlete’s recovery cocktail (sportini)

My last post focused on hydration and featured a power-packed smoothie recipe. I’m still on my hydration and recovery kick, but this time I’ll serve you up a nice “end of the day, I’m absolutely exhausted” recovery cocktail. I’m calling these evening, post-workout drinks sportinis. No alcohol needed. At least not most of the time. And, in my case, certainly not after an energy-draining, dust-collecting, 20 mile, single-track mountain bike ride. I’ll explain the alcohol piece shortly.

As some of you may know, I’m on a mission to get in shape and lose the extra pounds I gained over the winter co-writing a book on sports nutrition with friend, colleague, and ultra-endurance athlete, Pete Bronski of No Gluten No Problem. The Gluten-Free Edge: A Nutrition and Training Guide for Peak Athletic Performance and an Active Gluten-Free Life will be released in June. If you’re interested (semi-shameless plug), you can pre-order it here.

Aahh, the irony of sitting on my bum for long hours writing about nutrition, sports, and wellness—a downgrade in fitness and health, an uptick in weight and low energy. Life is a roller coaster ride at times, wouldn’t you agree?

Regardless of the ups and downs of life, it’s never too late to jump back on the healthy-living bandwagon. Never give up. Check here if you need some serious motivation – Arthur went from disabled, depressed, overweight vet to headstand-crow-chaturanga. Wow.

As Arthur demonstrates, it’s possible to have major gains in strength, aerobic capacity, energy, and over-all radiance if you put your mind and body into it – no matter where you are on the health spectrum. But, as you can see from the video, it takes foot-stomping commitment.

Now, back to the alcohol piece. Studies show that alcohol disrupts sleep patterns, even in low doses. Yes, as little as one glass of wine can impact sleep. You might fall asleep okay, but as your body starts metabolizing the alcohol, sleep becomes progressively more erratic and disturbed. Here’s what happens in a nutshell (or, in this case, a shot glass). You have your glass of red wine. You feel warm and mellow, relaxed and sleepy. An hour or two later you go to bed and fall asleep easily. The first half of the night goes well.


And then, out of nowhere, you wake up at 1:12 AM. That’s a measly four hours after you fell asleep. And no matter what you do, you can’t seem to find na-na land again.

Toss. Turn. Pillow flip. Check the clock. Worry about lost sleep. Start fretting about bizarre things.

Oh my gosh, what if the refrigerator stops working? Did I pay my phone bill? Maybe I should get a puppy. What’s the deal with putting hot dogs in pizza crusts? Disgusting. I hate it that people get Parkinson’s disease. Did I shut the garage door? I’ll probably get another Alaskan Malamute if I get a puppy. Yikes! What was that noise? Is someone in the house? I’m hungry. And tired. Wish I could go to sleep.

Repeat frustrating cycle while incorporating new random worries. Kick covers. Curse crickets.

You get the idea. I don’t have time for that. I need eight hours of sleep. Straight. So, if I want to feel my best and reach my summer sports goals, I have to skip the wine (most of the time anyway, there are exceptions). Here’s where the sportini comes in. After a long day of work topped off with an evening mountain bike ride, I want to feel like I’m having something special like a glass of wine, but without the 2 AM pillow tossing. My post-exercise, recovery cocktails (mocktails/sportinis) replenish lost electrolytes and glycogen stores, provide antioxidants and phytochemicals, and boost hydration. Plus, they feel kind of special like I’m celebrating.

Lemon-lime-mint recovery cocktail (sportini)
Makes 1 large or 2 small servings

what you need
8 ounces S. Pellegrino sparkling mineral water
8 ounces Recharge organic lemon sports drink
1 organic lime (the fresh-squeezed juice and a little zest)
1 organic orange (the fresh-squeezed juice and zest)
1-2 fresh organic mint leaves

what you do
Place mineral water, Recharge, lime juice, orange juice, and zest in a shaker (I use a mason jar). Shake well. Add ice if desired (I don’t like ice, ever). Pour into a fancy glass, top with crushed mint leaves, stir gently, and enjoy.

PER SERVING: 182 calories; 0 g fat; 48 g carbohydrate; 4 g protein; 7 g fiber
SPORTS NUTRITION BONUS: excellent source of vitamin C; contains iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, B vitamins, vitamin A (see details below, click table to enlarge)

P.S. Stay tuned for upcoming book give-aways to highlight May as Celiac Disease Awareness Month.

Hydration and recovery (recipe included)

I have a friend (as brilliant as he is) who recently spent a day or so recovering from a self-induced, internal drought. He was miserable.

If you’re an active person, you’ve probably experienced an imbalance between water intake and water loss at one time or another during an extended period of exercise. It’s not pleasant and greatly impacts your performance whether you’re out for long mountain bike ride or playing a hard-fought tennis match. Exercise capacity can be compromised when a person is dehydrated by as little as 2% of body weight. That’s not much.

We often focus on food sources of fuel, but fatigue during exercise may be the result of dehydration as much as from lack of nutrient intake. It takes much longer to recover from a hydration deficit than it does from a food (energy) deficit. You can eat a banana or a handful of jelly beans and feel better in minutes, but if fluid intake is compromised, it takes a lot longer to recover. If you’re feeling like a saguaro cactus—hot, parched, and moisture-deprived—it will take hours for fluids to trickle back into your blood plasma, muscles, and intracellular fluids. It’s best to make sure you’re well-hydrated to begin with and take measures to stay hydrated while active.

Sip, sip, sip.

And guess what? Food counts as hydration. At least some food does. Processed food contains no water. Raw vegetables and fruit contain quite a bit and come with a supporting cast of nutrients, including sodium, potassium, and magnesium—critical electrolytes lost through sweating.

Power-packed, pre- or post-exercise smoothie (a great combo of ingredients for hydration, performance, and recovery)
Makes one mega serving, or two if you’re forced to share

1-1/2 cups coconut water
1 small banana
1/3 cup frozen cherries
1/3 cup chopped cucumber
1/3 cup chopped raw beets
1 stalk celery, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
1 tablespoon flax seeds, ground

Place all ingredients in a high-powered blender and pulse until smooth. Makes about 22 ounces (1-3/4 cups).

PER SERVING: 350 calories; 7 g fat; 70 g carbohydrate; 8 g protein; 13 g fiber
Nutrition Bonus: vitamin C; magnesium; phosphorus; sodium; potassium; thiamin; selenium; zinc

For a detailed post on the differences in high-powered blenders, check this post from my friend Alexa at Lexie’s Kitchen. She’s the blender guru. I have a VitaMix and I love it, but there are several other blenders on the market that will also pulverize chopped beets and celery.

Peace, love, and plant power!

Collard greens for breakfast (wait, don’t unsubscribe yet)

After last week’s nerd post, which stimulated a steady stream of UNsubscribers, I’m going to make this week’s post short, savory, and to the point. Regardless of my dwindling followers, I’m going to stick with my theme. Stomp, stomp.

I’m on a fitness binge. Low calorie, nutrient dense food mixed with jogging, strength work, and yoga.

Heelllooo sulky metabolism. Get your ass in gear!

That’s my goal right now. Here’s an example of the kinds of food I’m kick-starting my days with. For part one of this breakfast series, check here.

Collard greens and brown rice (yes, for breakfast)
What you need
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup diced onion
2-4 Brussels sprouts, sliced
2-4 mushrooms, sliced
1 carrot, shredded
2 cups collard greens, thinly sliced in ribbons to avoid “rubber glove texture syndrome”
1/3 to 1/2 cup cooked brown rice (I like Lundberg Organic Golden Rose for breakfast)
1/4 cup broth (chicken or vegetable)
Simply Organic All-Purpose Seasoning, sea salt, and freshly ground pepper

What you do
1. Heat the coconut oil in a large skillet over low-medium. Add onions, garlic, Brussels sprouts, and mushrooms and sauté, stirring often, for about 5 minutes. Add carrots, collard greens, rice, broth, and seasonings. Turn heat to low and mix well until collard greens are slightly wilted and rice is heated, about 5 minutes.
2. Serve immediately, wait two hours, and jog for 3 miles.

Check here for a detailed post on the nutritional value of collard greens and a “greens and beans” recipe.

Peace, love, and collard greens.

Love is in the air (along with a zillion cold and flu cooties)

It’s Valentine’s Day and I’m guessing you were expecting dark chocolate, candy hearts, and frilly cupcakes—not shiitake mushrooms, leeks, and spinach. I’m compelled to skip the sugar-laden Valentine goodies this year and go the medicinal mushroom route instead. It seems half the people I know are sniffling, sneezing, and coughing and although it’s hard to avoid being exposed, nourishing food gives your body the ammunition it needs to stay healthy in the midst of cold and flu season.

You want to be able to share the LOVE, not the flu cooties, right? That takes a powerful immune system. Shiitake mushrooms will help you boost your endurance in that department. I’m lucky to have a local source in Hazel Dell’s fresh organic mushrooms.

Shiitake mushrooms have a long and colorful history as cold and flu fighters. They’re a symbol of longevity in Asian cultures and there’s research to back up the claim. What is interesting about these mushrooms is the unique way they work in contrast. Let thy food be thy medicine. These little gems stimulate the immune system in a magical way, enhancing the beneficial aspects of immunity while suppressing the negative aspects. Perfect for those of us with misdirected immunity (think celiac disease).

Having said all that, I’m not a fan of the texture of mushrooms, but love the taste. I don’t like slimy foods like mushrooms or oysters. I can watch open heart surgery up close and personal, but can’t tolerate a runny nose. Mushrooms are plant boogers and they give me the willies. So, in order to take advantage of the medicinal attributes and wonderful earthy flavor of shiitake mushrooms, I cook them up and blend them with broth and a small amount of organic tomato sauce to make the most divine soup base you can imagine. I use this base for all kinds of soups and stews. It’s a cooking/health trick worth adding to your arsenal of radiant living tips.

Immune boosting shiitake mushroom soup

What you need (see fresh ingredients above) 
1 cup shiitake mushrooms, washed and chopped
2 cups chicken broth
1 eight-ounce can organic tomato sauce
2 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 leek, sliced in rounds (into the green section)
6 cloves garlic, minced
3 celery stalks, about 1 cup chopped (leaves included)
2 carrots, about 1 cup chopped
1 tomato, chopped
4 cups chicken broth
1 tablespoon Simply Organic All-Purpose Seasoning
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Fresh spinach, chopped
1 cup cooked chicken (option)

* Note that the total amount of broth should be 8 cups. You can substitute vegetable broth to make this a vegetarian soup.

What you do
1. Place chopped mushrooms in a medium saucepan. Add 2 cups chicken broth. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat when finished cooking so it can cool slightly.
2. While mushrooms are cooking, heat the olive oil in a large soup pot on low-medium. Add leeks and garlic and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring often.
3. Add 4 cups broth to large soup pot with the leeks and garlic mixture. Add celery, carrots, chopped tomato, chicken if using, and seasonings. Turn heat to low.
4. In the meantime, pour mushroom and chicken broth mixture into a blender. Be careful—hot liquids can blow the top off your blender. Let the mixture cool before blending. Add the tomato sauce and 2 cups of room-temperature chicken broth to the blender. Blend all ingredients until smooth. Pour into stock pot.
5. Simmer soup over low heat until vegetables are cooked, but still crisp (about 1 to 2 hours).
6. Add a handful of fresh, raw spinach to the bottom of a large soup mug or bowl. Ladle soup over spinach and give it a stir. The heat of the soup will wilt the spinach to perfection without overcooking it.

Options: add cooked brown rice, quinoa, or Tinkyada brown rice noodles.

For sweet treats to go with your immune boosting soup, check out these recipes.

Double chocolate, double walnut, double heart cookies from Gluten Free Easily
Mexican chocolate brownies from The Book of Yum
Chocolate souffle from Celiacs in the House
How to choose gluten-free chocolate for baking (part 1) from No Gluten No Problem
Pecan and chocolate pie from The WHOLE Gang
Chocolate fondue from Cook It Allergy Free
No bake cookies and creme cheesecakes from Simply Gluten-Free

Peace, joy, and immune-boosting love!

Heavy Metal Skillet Breakfast

I’ve been detained for the past several weeks. In fact, I almost forgot I had a blog. If it hadn’t been for the occasional spam updates, this blogging thing might have completely slipped my mind. My absence has been for good reason though. I’m involved in an exciting book writing project with friend, colleague, writing guru, endurance athlete, and fellow blogger Pete Bronski from No Gluten No Problem. Although it’s been a wild ride (sprinting a marathon as Pete says), I’m grateful and thrilled to be involved. We’ll keep you posted.

And now — back to blogging.

Have you ever wondered if you’re getting a hit of iron when you cook in a cast iron skillet and then eat the food? Doesn’t that sound like more fun than buying and taking iron supplements?

I’m not suggesting giving up your iron supplements if you’re truly deficient, but why not let some of that free iron migrate from the pan to your red blood cells? A 2007 study published in the Ecology of Food and Nutrition Journal found that iron nutrition status among vegetarians can be improved by using cast iron skillets in meal preparation. The iron transferred from the skillet to the food and was absorbed by the subjects. The use of cast iron pans decreased the prevalence of iron deficiency anemia in the population studied.

That’s great if you’re absorbing your iron to begin with. People with unmanaged, undiagnosed (or newly diagnosed) gluten intolerance are often iron deficient. The area of the small intestine where iron is absorbed can become inflamed and damaged, so even if you’re eating a healthy diet you might not be absorbing or assimilating the nutrients.

You’ve heard the old saying, you are what you eat.

Uh, well, not always.

It’s more like, you are what you’re able to digest (breakdown), absorb into circulation, and ship out to your anxiously-awaiting cells. If you aren’t absorbing your iron, you should find out why. If you don’t get enough iron in your diet, which can be the case with vegetarians, cooking with cast iron will boost your intake.

I have a small cast iron skillet from my grandmother that I use on a regular basis. It’s my personal breakfast skillet. I roast veggies in it and top the mixture with a poached egg or two. It makes for a delicious, iron-rich meal. It also makes for quick cleanup since I’m cooking and eating out of the same pan.

Heavy Metal Skillet Breakfast

Broccoli stalks (amazingly good roasted)
Pastured eggs
Simply Organic All-Purpose Seasoning
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly grease skillet. Trim broccoli stalks by getting rid of the funky stuff on the outside. Cut in 1-inch wide by 2- to 3-inch long chunks (see photo). Cut cauliflower chunks in half. Cut onions in 2- to 3-inch chunks. The vegetable pieces should be cut to similar sizes so they roast evenly.

Place vegetables in a small bowl and drizzle with a little olive oil. Add some Simply Organic All-Purpose Seasoning (my absolute favorite multi-purpose seasoning), sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Stir to cover vegetables. Put the broccoli chunks, cauliflower, and onions in the skillet and place on center rack of oven. Set timer for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, add the tomatoes and spinach, stirring to blend the newly added vegetables with the others. Roast for another 10 minutes.

In the meantime, poach two eggs. Once the vegetables are roasted, top with the eggs and enjoy.

Note: Broccoli stalks are awesome roasted. Don’t throw them away. They taste tender and slightly sweet when roasted. They’re delicious!

You might also like:
Carol’s version of Eggs Florentine baked in a cast iron skillet (from the wonderful blog Simply Gluten Free).

Peace, love, and cast iron.

Disclaimer: All material on this website is provided for informational and educational use only and should not be used for diagnostic purposes. Consult with your physician regarding any health or medical concerns you may have.
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(co-written with Pete Bronski)

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