Gluten Free For Good


 

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Gluten-free pesto pizza recipe

Gluten-free pesto pizza

This whole Domino’s pizza controversy got me thinking. And experimenting in the kitchen. And baking. And eating.

I won’t weigh in on the Domino’s debate as it’s been hashed-out, bantered around, discussed, argued about, and solved at this point. If you’re interested in a rundown, there have been plenty of gluten-free bloggers dishing up the details.

If you stopped by hoping to see who won the two cookbooks I featured last week (cookbook #1, cookbook #2), the winners haven’t been chosen yet. I plan to give away a few more books over the next two weeks to promote May as Celiac Awareness Month, so stay tuned. I’ll do a final post to wrap things up and announce the winners soon (hopefully the first week in June).

In the meantime, let’s celebrate with gluten-free pizza.

Gluten-free pesto pizza
what you need
prepared gluten-free pizza crust (I used Udi’s)
1/3 cup macadamia nuts (plain, not seasoned)
2 cups loosely packed fresh basil
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
sea salt
fresh tomatoes, juiced
kalamata olives, pitted and sliced (just a few, they can be overpowering)

what you do
1. Preheat oven to desired temperature (according to pizza crust directions). Udi’s directions call for a 375 degree oven. Place macadamia nuts in a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Don’t over do it, or you’ll end up with nut butter.
2. Add basil and garlic to processor and pulse a few more time to mix the ingredients.
3. Slowly add the lemon juice and olive oil and continue pulsing. Scrape down the sides of the processor bowl with a spatula to insure even mixing.
4. Add the Parmesan cheese and pulse again. Season with salt.
5. Lightly spread a light, but even layer of pesto on a prepared gluten-free pizza crust.
6. Top with tomatoes and olives. Sprinkled with a small amount of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
7. Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or according to crust directions. Pizza should be lightly browned with cheese melted.
8. Remove from oven, let pizza rest for a couple of minutes, slice, and enjoy!

Note: store the remaining pesto in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It’s delicious on gluten-free pasta, roasted chicken, or crackers.

If you’d like to try making your own crust, Alta at Tasty Eats at Home has a fantastic quinoa pizza crust recipe. I’ve also been experimenting with oat flour to make pizza crusts. I haven’t quite perfected my recipe yet, but there’s a lot of potential with oat flour. Check Gluten-Free Prairie for product details. These are the same wonderful oats I’ve always been in love with.

Next up for the bookapalooza giveaway:

The Anti-Anxiety Food Solution, by Trudy Scott, CN
Go Dairy Free, by Alisa Marie Fleming
Drop the Fat Act & Live Lean, by Ryan D. Andrews, MS, MA, RD, CSCS
Plus some other surprises. Stay tuned.

Peace, love, and homemade gluten-free pizza!
Melissa

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!
Melissa

Gluten-free oatmeal and teff power porridge

Pete Bronski, founder with wife Kelli of the blog No Gluten No Problem, is an endurance athlete, friend, colleague, and co-author of our new book (May release date), The Gluten-Free Edge: A Nutrition and Training Guide for Peak Athletic Performance and an Active Gluten-Free Life. Check here for pre-order details. And when we say, an Active Gluten-Free Life, we mean everyone on the planet, not just super-heros.

After long hours (days, weeks, months) of researching, writing, rewriting, and interviewing gluten-free athletes and athletes who choose to be gluten-free, Pete is back logging long hours trail running and I’m back at Mary Jane telemark skiing. I’m also in the process of losing the 5 pounds I gained while writing and creating high-octane recipes for the book. Aahh, the irony of writing a book on sports nutrition (weight gain and a slide in fitness).

It was worth it and I’m incredibly grateful for the experience, but now I’m on a mission to revive myself. My eating habits weren’t bad while writing the book, but I sat on my bum for way too many hours and my exercise routine, active lifestyle, and yoga practice suffered. That’s not something I want to make a habit of.

I’ve found that the best way to kick-start my day and boost my energy levels is to eat a power-packed breakfast. That means a combination of high-quality carbohydrates, protein, and fat. Over the next couple of weeks I’ll be sharing healthy, gluten-free breakfast ideas for an active lifestyle. All will be vegetarian, nutrient-dense, and delicious.

First up: gluten-free power porridge with whole-grain oats and teff—perfect before heading out for a day of skiing or hiking (or in Pete’s case, mega-distance trail running).

But before I get to the recipe, I’d be remiss if I didn’t do a little “compare and contrast” of oats. Oats are not all the same, as fast-food, mega-giant McDonald’s demonstrated last year with the unveiling of their “Oats with the Most” fruit and maple oatmeal bowl. After reading the ingredient label and nutrition information, I’m thinking the tag line should read, “Oats with the Most additional and unnecessary low-quality, junk-food additives.”

McDonald’s Oatmeal Bowl contains the following ingredients: Oatmeal—whole grain rolled oats, brown sugar, modified food starch, salt, natural flavor (plant source), barley malt extract, caramel color; Diced Apples—apples, calcium ascorbate; Cranberry Raisin Blend—Sweetened dried cranberries (sugar, cranberries), California rasins, golden raisins, sunflower oil, sulfur dioxide as a preservative (contains sulfites); Light Cream—milk, cream, sodium phosphate, datem, sodium stearoyl lactylate, sodium citrate, carrageenan.

What the heck is datem?

I’m so glad you asked.

DATEM (directly from Wikipedia): Diacetyl Tartaric Acid Ester of Mono- and Diglycerides is an emulsifier used to strengthen dough by building a strong gluten network. It is also known as E472e and is often derived from genetically modified soya bean oil.

First off, if it’s called E472e, it’s not food (not to mention its other name). Really? We need a dough strengthener in our oatmeal?

Aside from the fact that this oatmeal is contaminated with gluten, it’s filled with a boat-load of unhealthy ingredients. Leave it to McDonald’s to completely ruin what should be a healthy breakfast.

Now, let’s take a look at the ingredient list on my bag of Montana Gluten-Free OatmealIngredients: whole grain rolled oats. Period. Wow, the oats are the ingredient. It’s the same thing with my bag of teff. Ingredients: whole grain teff. What a concept. The food is also the ingredient.

To be fair, the McDonald’s ingredient label included everything in the pre-made bowl of oatmeal. Yes it comes with the apples, cranberry raisin blend, and light cream infused into the oatmeal (don’t even ask). Unfortunately, you can’t pull through the drive-up window, order the Oatmeal Bowl and say, “Hold the  E472e, the barley malt extract, the caramel color, the multiple sugars, the modified food starch, the calcium ascorbate, the sulfur dioxide, the sodium stearoyl lactylate, sodium citrate, and the carrageenan.”

To insure that my “compare and contrast” playing field is level, I’ll include the same detailed nutrition information on my porridge at the end of the recipe.

Gluten-free oatmeal and teff power porridge
(photo above–Montana GF Processor’s raw oats and Bob’s Red Mill raw teff)

what you need
1 and 1/4 cup water
dash of salt
1/2 cup certified gluten-free whole grain rolled oats
2 tablespoons whole grain teff
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 small apple, cored and chopped
1 tablespoon raisins (or a mix of raisins and dried cranberries)
honey or maple syrup (to make it vegan, used maple syrup)
coconut milk or other milk

what you do
1. Bring water and salt to a boil.
2. Slowly add oats and teff, stir well, and turn heat to low. Add vanilla, cinnamon, apples, raisins, and cranberries (if using).
3. Cook on low for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
4. Remove from heat when liquid is absorbed and serve with a drizzle of honey (or maple syrup) and milk of choice. I like light coconut milk with it, but any nut milk will do.

PER SERVING (Oatmeal Teff Porridge): 3.2 g fat; 78 g carbohydrate; 11 g protein; 10 g fiber
Nutrition Bonus: excellent source of iron

PER SERVING (McDonald’s Oatmeal): 4.5 g fat; 57 g carbohydrate; 5 g protein; 5 g fiber
Nutrition Time Bomb: additives, preservatives, dyes

Note: Some people with gluten intolerance have an immune response to oats, even certified gluten-free oats. If you choose to try oats, start slowly (1/3 cup) to see if you react. Oats also contain a lot of fiber, which is a good thing, but may cause gastrointestinal stress if you’re not used to it. Check with your healthcare provider if you’re unsure about adding oats to your diet.

Peace, love, and power porridge. Stay tuned for more healthy breakfast ideas for an active gluten-free life!

Melissa

confessions of an HLA DQ2 cavewoman

*Warning: this post took on a life of its own. If you’re looking for a quick recipe, bail out now. If you’re remotely interested in my take on the wonderful world of food, genetics, evolution and Celiac disease, brace yourself and read on.

Was this Paleo guy after the mastodon or the armadillo?

Or, maybe he was out doing some wild cereal hunting. That field of Triticum would be a lot easier to tackle than the mastodon. I’m pretty sure I evolved from a less aggressive, nomadic, grass-eating tribe. My ancestors hunted with pruning shears, not six foot long daggers with jagged tips. We ate grasses, berries, nuts, seeds, dates, olives, leafy green things and even rich, savory mushrooms once we figured out which ones didn’t kill us. We also ate a lot of fish depending on our travels.

Unfortunately, that’s where things went awry. When we stopped wandering and built condos on the Mediterranean Sea. I had HLA DQ2 ancestors and around 8500 B.C. they decided cultivating Triticum dicoccum (emmer wheat) was less dangerous than chasing 6 ton mastodons with sharp pointy tusks.

And so, the Celiac story begins – with the domestication of wheat and the interaction of HLA (human leukocyte antigen) genes and deamidated gluten peptides. To make it even more fun, let’s throw in sexual selection, mating preferences and pathogen resistance. We actually have some biological factors (those HLA genes again) influencing who we get a crush on and mate with. Darn it though, this little trick of nature doesn’t always play out to our benefit.

HLA genes are involved in immune function. They guard against nasty invaders and do a good job keeping us healthy. They also magically prompt us to compliment our disease fighting ability with genetic dissimilarities. We subconsciously strive for varied biological attributes in our offspring. Bottom line? These genes play a role in who we get the hots for.

Seriously. I’m not making this up. Check here for details.

It’s called olfactory curb appeal. Okay, I made that up.

But, have you ever been attracted to someone simply because they smelled good? You don’t know why they smell good, it’s not perfume or cologne or anything. It’s just them. That’s deep, dark and delicious biology working to keep the species healthy. We don’t know it, but we’re seeking to keep our DNA loaded with a genetic mixture of diverse immunity, so we sniff out complimentary HLA genes. Unfortunately, the introduction of wheat, barley and rye played havoc on our genetic blueprint. These normally brilliant little HLA DQ2 genes also code for autoimmunity (check here for details), as is the case with Celiac Disease and Type 1 Diabetes.

Oops.

Okay, that was a rather convoluted introduction to why I don’t favor the Paleo diet, but I had to set the biogeographical stage. You see, my ancestors go back 10,000 years ago to the Fertile Crescent. I was sunbathing on the Syrian coast and eating a Mediterranean diet way back when. Before it was cool and trendy to eat like that. I’m pretty sure I wasn’t loading up on pounds of mastadon meat. Maybe on rare occasions like someone’s wedding or the toppling of a rival empire, but not often.

I’m also thinking my female ancestors frequently had to settle for HLA DQ2 suitors rather than shaking things up with an anti-Celiac DQ4 guy. Life was different then. It’s not like you could jet off to the Andes in hopes of diluting the DQ2 gene pool. You got stuck with whoever was in your merry band of hunters and gatherers and that probably meant similarly encoded DQ antigen regions.

I’m just curious about all this because I think it’s in my genetic makeup to favor plants. I’m not much of a meat eater. Paleo eating is popular right now and supporters suggest we evolved to eat a high animal protein diet, but that doesn’t work for me. At all. Ethics aside, I’m not fond of animal products and I don’t digest meat or dairy well. I’m much better off eating a big bowl of leafy greens, some brown rice and a mix of roasted veggies than I am a slab of prime rib or a chunk of cheese. I’m sure I’d do better if my meat sources were from wild, organic, healthy animals and my dairy sources were raw and from 100% grass fed, happy cows, but in general, and for a lot of reasons, I’m more suited to a plant-based diet. Considering the toxic chemicals in our food supply, the overuse of antibiotics and hormones in CAFO (confined animal feeding operations) and the increase in antibiotic resistant bacteria, I don’t think a diet heavy with animal protein is healthy.

By the way, this post isn’t an endorsement of any specific eating plan. I’m just thinking out loud. So, don’t hit me over the head with a club if you’re a Paleo fan. For the record, I’m not vegetarian or vegan, but fairly close and if I do eat animal products, I’m grateful that I can be picky about the sources.

Okay? Are we all friends? Omnivores and herbivores? Vegans and meat eaters? Berry pickers and spear throwers? What works for one person doesn’t always work for another. We’re biochemically unique. I’m also convinced that genetic influences (as wildly explained above), environmental determinants, ethical leanings, lifestyle factors and nutrient feng shui make a difference.

I made up that nutrient feng shui thing. That’s my phrase for food combining, which I’m not into either. Life is hard enough, lets make eating easier, not more difficult. A nutrient-dense, whole foods, plant-based diet is easy and healthy. At least for my DNA.

Points to Ponder

• Recent research suggests that red meat consumption increases the risk of type 2 diabetes. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2011

• Study reveals direct evidence for a variety of plant foods in the Neanderthal diet, including legumes, date palms and grass seeds (Triticeae). PNAS – Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 2010

• Don’t assume we were all heavy meat eaters. Molar macrowear in Neanderthals and early Homo Sapiens suggests high dietary variability. My ancestors were Paleo Plant People from Mediterranean habitats. Check here for the research details. I made up Paleo Plant People, but who knows, that might emerge as a classification system. I’ll contact the Paleolithic genome project and suggest it.

• Maintaining a healthy pH balance is important to health. Beef, pork, poultry, milk, butter, cheese, cream are acid-forming foods. Plants are alkalizing. An acidic internal environment is disease-promoting. Low acid diets may protect against several diseases, including osteoporosis (yes, osteoporosis). Check here for details.

• According to my weight and age, I’m supposed to consume about 45 to 50 grams of protein per day. The average American adult consumes at least twice that much per day (100 to 120 grams per day). When that much protein (along with the often higher percentage of fat in animal products) is consumed, other important nutrients are often excluded from the diet. Fiber percentages and beneficial plant nutrients are often lacking in high protein (animal source) diets. I prefer less protein than the USDA’s RDA and more fiber than they recommend. That can easily be accomplished on a high-grade, plant-based diet. Even if you’re exercising a lot. Even if you’re a serious athlete.

• Strong and consistent correlations are reported between death rates from cancer and per capita consumption of animal products. Check here for epidemiological correlations between diet and cancer frequency.

• It’s my opinion that a whole foods, predominantly plant-based diet filled with lots of fiber and organic, nutrient-dense vegetables is the best way to heal and thrive if you have Celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. I have DQ2 genes and Celiac disease. People like me often have difficulty digesting animal products (meat and dairy). Maybe we didn’t evolve to do so. Maybe our genes are telling us something. Maybe Paleo isn’t for us. Maybe we’re Paleo Plant People.

Peace, love and green veggies.
Melissa

 

Buddha bowls and hippie chicks

I’m a product of the sixties, a hippie-girl at heart.

This whole chard-eating, brown rice-making, kefir-drinking way of life is nothing new to me. In fact, the first two cookbooks I bought when I launched out on my own were the Vegetarian Epicure (circa 1972, cover pictured above) and the Tassajara Vegetarian Cookbook from the San Francisco Zen Center (circa 1973). No Joy of Cooking or Julie & Julia stuff for me. I wanted cookbooks that focused on beets, burdock root and buckwheat groats. I made my own bread, wandered the wilderness, belonged to a food co-op, wore flowers in my hair and advocated peace, love and tie-dyes.

I also voted for Nixon, but that’s another story.

Anna Thomas, a 60s soul sister, wrote the Vegetarian Epicure while she was in college. Considered the whole foods bible of the vegetarian fringe in the 1970s, it’s now a classic and still in print. I treasure my original, well-worn, food-stained copy. I don’t know which parts of the book I like more. The recipes, the earth-brown pages, the marijuana references, or the far-out hippie drawings scattered through-out the book.

Marijuana references, you ask?

Read the last paragraph from the “Entertainment” section of my tattered cookbook. Actually, read the whole page. It’s absolutely wonderful and she’s so right-on when it comes to food, friends and entertaining. Anna’s new book, Love Soup, has quickly become one of my current favorites.

Just so you know, I’m not a pot-smoking nutritionist, but I do have fond memories of my first introductions to ghee (clarified butter), curry and veggie rice bowls. I can thank Anna Thomas for that.

And yes, I probably dated this guy.

Buddha Bowls consist of brown rice or another grain (quinoa works well), sautéed veggies and some kind of sauce. They’re meant to be a launching pad for whatever your heart (and stomach) desires. Options include adding meat or tofu, although mine are usually veggie bowls. Sit in lotus position, oomm in gratitude, and eat all your food out of one bowl.

brown rice Buddha bowl (a common dinner at our house)
what you need

2 – 4 cups of cooked brown rice or other cooked grain
1 – 2 tablespoons coconut oil

assorted veggie options (be creative, there are no rules)
1 small onion, chopped or sliced in strips
2 stalks celery, chopped or sliced in strips
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, sliced in strips
1 green bell pepper, sliced in strips
2 portobella mushrooms, sliced in strips
2 carrots, sliced in thin strips
shredded beets
spinach, chard, beet greens, or kale, washed and thinly chopped

sauce options
wheat-free tamari
vegetable or chicken broth
sesame oil
curry

garnish options
fresh cilantro
roasted sunflower seeds
chopped green onions
currants

what you do
1. heat coconut oil on medium heat in a large skillet
2. add onions, garlic and other veggies and sauté lightly (enough so the veggies are cooked, but still slightly crisp)
3. add cooked brown rice, freshly ground pepper, sea salt and a splash of broth to moisten the mix; turn heat down and warm thoroughly
4. if you want to add a specific sauce, do it now and continue to cook until all ingredients are well heated
5. top with garnishes (optional) or gamasio

Other “bowl” recipes you might like
• Elana from Elana’s pantry posted a Mexican chicken and “rice” recipe a couple of years ago with a quirky grain-free twist to the Buddha bowl.
• Ali of  Whole Life Nutrition has a recipe for Summer Vegetable Kitcheree that is akin to a Buddha Bowl and is as tasty as it is healthy.
• Fellow nutritionist, Cheryl Harris of Gluten Free Goodness, has a great recipe for a basic quinoa bowl laced with mint and lemon. You might have to save this one for mint season, but it’s a nice addition to the Buddha bowl list.
• Sautéed lettuce and brown rice bowl (from my blog)

Peace, love, Buddha bowls and hippie chicks!
Melissa
• I took the above photos of the cover and two pages from my 1972 vintage book, The Vegetarian Epicure. I hope I don’t get in trouble.

healthy power bars

When Ali (co-owner, with her husband Tom, of Whole Life Nutrition) asked me to participate in her kid-friendly “Go Ahead Honey It’s Gluten Free” event, my first thought was, “Hallelujah, I’m not packing lunches anymore because my kids are all grown, ha-ha-ha.”

But after my initial jubilation, I had a sudden jolt of nostalgic sadness over the fact that my lunch packing days were over. Okay, if you must know, that passed quickly, but I decided it would be fun to participate anyway.

Plus, I’m into healthy environments for kids and a big part of that has to do with what they eat. My kids never bought school lunches. They went to a closed-campus high school and couldn’t wander off to MacDonalds (thank goodness), so over the years, I made a LOT of lunches. And with two boys and two girls, the lunches were often customized and large.

I love Ali and Tom’s approach to food, nutrition and parenting, so here’s my contribution to the lunch room party.

kid-friendly power bars
what you need

1 cup pecans
1 cup almonds
1 cup chopped dried apricots, unsulphured (I use organic Turkish apricots)
1/2 cup (2.5 ounces) dark chocolate, coarsely chopped, 55% cocoa content or higher
1/4 cup gluten-free rolled oats *
1/4 cup Pamela’s GF Baking Mix
2 tablespoons ground chia seeds
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/3 cup pure maple syrup (I like organic, grade B)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla

* I use guaranteed gluten-free oats from Montana Gluten-Free Processors. Oats are generally safe for most people who are gluten-intolerant, but make sure the oats you use are uncontaminated and guaranteed gluten-free. Montana Gluten-Free Processor oats are certified by both the Gluten Intolerance Group and the Celiac Sprue Association.

what you do
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Spread the pecans and almonds in a single layer on the prepared cookie sheet and roast for 6 to 10 minutes, or until fragrant and lightly browned. They burn easily, so watch them and stir once or twice if needed. Let cool.
2. Place flour, ground chia seeds, cinnamon and salt in a food processor and pulse until well combined. Add nuts and pulse until they are coarsely chopped and well blended with the other ingredients.
3. Add oats, apricots and dark chocolate and pulse several times so everything is mixed together.
4. In a large bowl, whisk together egg, maple syrup and vanilla. Make sure these ingredients are well blended. Add the nut and fruit mixture to the bowl. Using a fork, mash and mix them all together, breaking apart clumps of dried fruit and chocolate.
5. Spread the mixture over parchment paper onto the cookie sheet. Either flatten the mixture with your hands or place another sheet of parchment paper on top and roll out into a flat sheet, about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Remove the top piece of parchment paper and bake on center rack of oven for 24 to 28 minutes until nicely browned. Don’t over-bake them. Cool completely on a wire rack before cutting into bars. Store in the refrigerator. Makes about 2 dozen bars.

If you don’t have kids at home, make a batch of these and use them for a quick pick-me-up while out hiking or skiing. They make great back-country power bars.

Peace, love and good nutrition!
Melissa

gluten-free veggie pizza

I figure if I’m going to eat pizza, I better load it up with antioxidant goodness.

Wednesday is my Grant Family Farms CSA pick-up day, so Tuesday nights are often spent making pizza or rice bowls out of the leftover odds and ends in my crisper drawer. It forces me to explore the dark corners of my fridge and make room for the new arrivals. Never one to color inside the lines, I’ve come up with some creative ways to use the tail-end of my farm-fresh food deliveries.

Beet or corn ice cream, anyone? Sweet potato tacos?

How about radicchio, mixed squash and beet pizza?

Radicchio?

Radicchio (see above) is a leafy chicory plant. Most people use it in salads, although I find it bitter. But guess what? If you cook it, the bitter taste disappears and it becomes mellow and slightly sweet. It’s wonderful stuff and according to The Journal of Nutrition, it’s also very high in antioxidants. Right up there with Swiss chard, spinach and broccoli.

Last Tuesday night I dug around in my fridge and found some radicchio, a piece of already cooked corn-on-the-cob, a beet, a small grilling onion, two roasted green chiles, and a few big chunks of delicata, crookneck and zucchini squash. I also had several garden-fresh tomatoes, all from the farm.

Radicchio on pizza? I’ll give it a try. And, how about roasted green chile, black olive, onion, corn and tomato pizza?

All super-healthy ingredients. Every veggie on this list is filled with high-quality antioxidants. That’s a good thing. Our bazillions of hard-working little cells need all the help they can get.

gluten-free antioxidant veggie pizza #1 (see above, top left corner)
what you need
1 gluten-free Udi’s thin pizza crust *
1 & 1/2 tablespoons butter (I prefer organic, pastured, full-tilt butter)
2 cloves garlic, minced
squeeze of honey (1-2 teaspoons)
1 cup thinly sliced ridacchio
1 cup mixed squash chunks (3/4 inch squares)
1 beet, washed and cut into chunks, no need to peel (3/4 inch squares)
cheese (I used a mix of 3 different kinds)

gluten-free antioxidant veggie pizza #2 (above, bottom right corner)
what you need
1 gluten-free Udi’s thin pizza crust *
1 & 1/2 tablespoons butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
squeeze of honey (1-2 teaspoons)
2 roasted green chiles, peeled, de-seeded and chopped
2 tomatoes chopped *
1 can sliced black olives
1/4 cup corn
1/4 cup diced onion
cheese

what you do
1. Because the beets and squash take longer to cook than the pizza itself, I like to roast them first. It also adds a nice taste to the pizza. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the prepared beets and zucchini in a medium-sized bowl and drizzle with a small amount of olive oil. Gently mix to cover with oil. Spread out the veggies on a lightly oiled cookie sheet and sprinkle with sea salt. Roast on center rack of the oven for about 15 minutes. Watch closely and flip using a spatula to make sure they’re roasted evenly. Remove from oven and set aside.
2. While the veggies are roasting, melt the butter over low heat, add the garlic and honey and stir until blended.
3. Brush the melted butter-garlic-honey blend over the pizza crust. Add the ingredients, sprinkle shredded cheese over the top and cook in 375 degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until the cheese is lightly browned. Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes.
4. Cut into 4 slices and enjoy! Serves 1 or 2, depending on how hungry you are.

Melissa’s cooking notes (if you dare):

* Udi’s is a local gluten-free product company. These crusts are thin, delicious and store well in the freezer. This is one of the few pre-made, gluten-free products that I buy. I love them!

* Put the ridacchio on first so it doesn’t burn (that goes for ingredients like kale as well, they tend to cook faster than the big chunky ingredients).

* When I use tomatoes for cooking and don’t want the extra liquid, I chop them and spin them in my salad spinner to get rid of the excess moisture. Then I save the juice and use it in my homemade salad dressings.

* Photos above are the “before” versions. I dislike messing with my camera when it’s time to sit down and enjoy dinner.

Peace, love and antioxidant goodness!
Melissa

gluten-free zucchini tomato basil bake

I suppose this should be called a zucchini tomato basil au gratin, sans gluten-cootie bread-crumbs. The photo above is the uncooked version. I have a problem with making people (me included) wait to eat until I fuss with taking a photo, so I prefer taking “before” photos of my food. I’m not the best “after” photographer, anyway. It’s hard to mess up a shot of beautiful, organic apples, but easy to end up with a slimy rendition of applesauce. Know what I mean?

This is an slight adaptation of a recipe I picked up from Vegetarian Times Magazine and I love it. It’s a bit of a pain, but well worth it. The prep work prevents the juicy veggies from releasing too much moisture. Soggy is not good, firm and hearty is. We’re also into zucchini season around here, so this has been on the menu recently. It’s great with grilled fish. Absolutely divine!

gluten-free zucchini tomato basil bake
what you need

4-6 tomatoes, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
3-4 medium-sized zucchinis, cut into 1/4 inch thick, long slices
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced (more if you’re a garlic fan)
4 tablespoons roughly chopped kalamata olives
1/4 cup thinly sliced basil leaves
1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
olive oil
sea salt
freshly ground pepper

what you do
1. Drape sliced tomatoes over a colander, sprinkle with salt and let drain 45 minutes.
2. Place prepared zucchini slices on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and let stand for 45 minutes. This sweats out the excess moisture. Rinse and pat dry.
3. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat a small amount of oil in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté zucchini for a few minutes until golden brown. Transfer to a plate. You’ll have to do this in batches and add a touch more oil as you go.
4. Layer half the zucchini slices in a lightly oiled baking dish. Top with half the tomatoes, then half the garlic, olives, basil and cheese. Season with freshly ground black pepper. Repeat the process with the remaining zucchini, tomatoes, garlic, olives and basil. Drizzle with a small amount of olive oil (maybe 1-2 teaspoons) and top with the rest of the cheese.
5. Cover with foil and bake 10 to 15 minutes. Remove foil and bake another 20 to 25 minutes, or until cheese is melted, golden brown and the dish is bubbling. Let stand for 5 minutes and serve.

* My son took spoonfuls of this and spread it over big slices of crusty Italian bread. He said it was amazing (not that I would know). I’m going to try a version of this as gluten-free pizza. Doesn’t that sound good?

Peace, love and veggie au gratin!
Melissa

gluten-free spinach beet zucchini pizza

Pizza — laden with roasted golden beets, zucchini and vitamin-K-packed SPINACH.

I picked up my CSA delivery box this past week and guess what I found inside?

Whoa, how did you know?

Spinach, glorious deep-green spinach. And lots of it.

I’m not complaining because it’s the best spinach on the planet. It’s just that you have to get very creative with your recipe development when you’re in the deep-end of spinach season. Beet, zucchini and spinach pizza, anyone? Trust me, this was over-the-top delicious. But, before I launch into the recipe, please humor me (or skip this part) and let me wallow in my geek-ness.

Ready?

I have a theory about hearty greens (like spinach and kale) and celiac disease and gluten-intolerance.

Celiac disease is a genetically predisposed autoimmune disease in which gluten (the main storage protein in wheat, barley and rye) wreaks havoc on the small intestine, inhibiting nutrient absorption. That’s the super-duper, shortened definition. If you want the unabridged version, leave me a comment and I’ll fill you in on anything and everything you might want to know about celiac disease and gluten-intolerance. But for now, my theory about spinach and it’s role in healing.

Spinach is one of the most nutrient-dense (calorie for calorie) foods available. I bet the deep-green, leafy, organic stuff I get from Grant Family Farms is on the far-side of pharmaceutical grade. It’s packed with vitamin K – 1110% of the recommended daily value. It also contains a zillion other health-promoting nutrients, but to keep this post from becoming a thesis paper, I’m going to focus on vitamin K and celiac disease.

Without getting into the poopy (literally) details, unmanaged celiac disease can cause nutrient malabsorption. Fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K), iron, folic acid and a large part of our calcium are absorbed in the proximal section (the top part) of the small intestine. That’s the area that receives the most damage when you have celiac disease. If you have a trashed small intestine and you’re not breaking down your food adequately or absorbing your nutrients efficiently, you won’t be absorbing your fats (to make a long story short). If you’re not absorbing your fats, you won’t be absorbing your fat soluble vitamins. If you’re not absorbing your fat soluble vitamins, you won’t get the full benefit of vitamin K.

This is a generality. Our bodies are amazing and we compensate in many different ways, but if you become deficient in vitamin K, your blood may not clot properly. Isn’t it interesting that our blood has this amazing ability to flow quickly throughout the body; up and down and all around? Think about it, it remains a flowing liquid. But if you cut yourself, it can become a solid within seconds. Whew, that’s a good thing. If blood didn’t clot, one pinprick could drain the entire body of all its blood. Imagine a water balloon with one tiny little hole in it. Eventually all the water would slowly drain from the balloon.

Does anyone out there bruise or bleed easily? Anyone with celiac disease? Hmmm?

Vitamin K also plays a role in the synthesis of bone proteins. Without adequate vitamin K, the bones produce a funky protein that can’t bind to the minerals that normally form bones. You see, it’s not just the calcium you need for strong bones, it’s also vitamin K (and a bunch of other things, including exercise).

Anyone with osteopenia or osteoporosis? And celiac disease? Hmmm?

One more geeky thing (maybe two) and I’ll get on to the pizza recipe. Vitamin K can also be obtained from a nonfood source. GI tract bacteria can synthesize vitamin K, but you need to have a healthy balance of intestinal bacteria for that to happen. Antibiotics also kill the vitamin K producing bacteria, so there are lots of ways to become deficient, especially if you have celiac disease.

Now, don’t go taking vitamin K supplements unless your doctor prescribes them. Fat-soluble vitamins aren’t excreted as easily as water-soluble vitamins, so the risk of toxicity is much greater. I’m a big fan of getting my nutrients from high-quality food. This kind of focus is called nutrition therapy – this is what I do and this is how I live (most of the time, anyway).

So, let thy food be thy medicine and go eat some spinach!

gluten-free, spinach, roasted beet and zucchini pizza
what you need

1 gluten-free pizza crust (I used an Udi’s pre-made thin crust on this pizza)
1 & 1/2  tablespoon butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
squeeze of honey (maybe 1-2 teaspoons)
2 small golden beets, scrubbed, trimmed and chopped into 3/4 inch cubes (no need to peel)
1 zucchini, washed and chopped into 3/4 inch cubes
2 cups spinach, washed, stemmed and chopped
grated cheese (I like a mix of  shredded Parmesan, Romano and Asiago)

what you do
1. Because the beets and zucchini take longer to cook than the pizza itself, I like to roast them first. It also adds a nice taste to the pizza. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place the prepared beets and zucchini in a medium-sized bowl and drizzle with a small amount of olive oil. Gently mix to cover with oil. Spread out the veggies on a lightly oiled cookie sheet and sprinkle with sea salt. Roast on center rack of the oven for about 15 minutes. Watch closely and flip using a spatula to make sure they’re roasted evenly. Remove from oven and set aside.
2. While the veggies are roasting, melt the butter over low heat, add the garlic and honey and stir until blended.
3. Brush the melted butter-garlic-honey blend over the pizza crust. Add chopped spinach first, then beets and zucchini. Sprinkle shredded cheese over the top and cook in 375 degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes or until the cheese is lightly browned. Remove from oven and let rest for 5 minutes.
4. Cut into 4 slices and enjoy! Serves 1 or 2, depending on how hungry you are.

* I’ve also made this pizza with red beets, but I kept the beets separate while preparing them so that everything else didn’t turn pink (not that it matters).

Udi’s is a local company. The pizza crusts are gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free, nut-free and delicious. Gluten-cootie-eaters don’t even know they’re gluten-free. No apologizing, no explaining needed!

Peace, love and vitamin K!
Melissa

Spinach, spinach and more spinach

Are you having an evolutionary flashback?

Belonging to a CSA means eating according to the natural, local growing cycles. Back in the olden days, this was the only option. No avocados if you lived in Colorado. No tomatoes in the winter unless you canned them. No spinach in December.

Here in the Rocky Mountains, you can count on the possibility of snow into May (maybe longer), so June and July mean LOTS of greens (seriously, like a ton). Right now my CSA share box is overflowing with spinach. My crisper drawer is jammed. I can’t shove another leaf into it.

That’s the perceived downside to belonging to a CSA. No variety. Spinach, spinach and more spinach. Hey, we have too many options in life as it is, enjoy the simplicity. Sometimes less is more (or something like that).

Just think “primitive diet” with a contemporary twist. Spinach is our main ingredient, we simply need to resort to some creative accessorizing. How about some maple syrup to sweeten things up? Those of you who have been following this blog for any length of time might recognize a pattern here. Pure, organic maple syrup is often my answer to life’s dilemmas.

warm maple spinach salad
what you need

10 cups washed, stemmed and gently torn spinach
1 cucumber, peeled and diced
1/4 cup (or more) chopped pecans
1 shallot, finely chopped
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2-3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1-2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
sea salt & fresh ground pepper, to taste
1/3 cup shredded smoked Gouda

what you do
1. Toast pecans in a small skillet over low heat until fragrant (3 to 5 minutes). Stir often. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside to cool.
2. Toss spinach and cucumber in a large bowl.
3. Heat oil in small skillet over low-medium heat. Add shallot and cook 4 to 5 minutes until softened. Stir often. Don’t let the shallot burn. Add vinegar and maple syrup and increase heat until almost boiling. Stir well. Season with salt and pepper.
4. Immediately pour the dressing over the spinach and cucumber. Toss well and sprinkle with cheese and toasted pecans.

Makes 4 large servings or 6 small ones.

As for the abundance of CSA spinach, if all else fails, make a bouquet-ish arrangement out of it. See photo above.

Go forth and eat spinach! Over and over.
Melissa
P.S. Cid, I’m counting on you to set me straight on my cheese choice. I’m guessing there’s a more fashionable accessory than smoked Gouda.

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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