Friday, September 26, 2014

Pumpkin Spice Latte

Today I gave myself a gift - I set aside the entire afternoon to be in my kitchen and try out some recipe ideas that have been floating around my head. I'm thrilled to say that they all came out absolutely delicious! They will be great additions to my future cookbook. Here's a sneak peak:

Seeing signs for pumpkin spice lattes on every street corner, feeling the crispness in the air, I set out to make a delicious, warm drink to celebrate the beginning of fall. 

What I love about this recipe is that the ingredients are simple and healthy - no sugary syrups or artificial ingredients from test tubes. Also, there is less caffeine than normal lattes since I use black tea instead of coffee. This recipe can also be made in a larger batch - I tripled the ingredients and now have several days worth of lattes sitting in a large glass jar in my fridge, waiting patiently for the weekend to arrive. What I have written below is a perfect single serving - quick, easy, and (most importantly) tasty. 

Jessica's Pumpkin Spice Latte



1/2 cup vanilla almond milk (note I did not use the unsweetened variation; you can also use any other type of milk that you prefer if you have a nut allergy)
1/2 cup strong black tea
1/3 cup canned pumpkin purée
1 tsp agave nectar
Pumpkin pie spice (to taste)

Make sure to let your black tea steep for a good while (10 minutes should be enough). Combine the tea, milk, pumpkin and agave nectar in a saucepan. Throw in a few dashes of pumpkin pie spice. Stir, heat and serve.

Enjoy! 

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Banana Coconut Breakfast Cookies

Surely the best way to kick off the end of summer is one last relaxing outing. One of my favorite things about visiting my aunt’s beautiful Hamptons house is her great big kitchen, which is about six times the size of my little studio’s. In the mornings, I brew a cup or two of my favorite white tea, sit down with my journal, and leisurely make myself breakfast sometime before noon, saving my cooking stamina for a more extravagant dinner.

On this trip, I decided to be a little more creative with my mornings, trying out a new recipe. This recipe was originally created by Shirley at www.GlutenFreeEasily.com, featured on www.MyGluten-FreeKitchen.com, and was tweaked slightly by myself. She suggested using a ripe banana and a combination of oat and almond flour. I chose a flour combination and used a little trick of my own to ripen up a yellow banana. I then made three variations:

1. Original (no add ins)
2. Dark chocolate
3. Cinnamon raisin

While I greatly enjoyed all three, my official taste-tester/boyfriend and I agreed that the cinnamon raisin was the best.

One of the many things about this recipe that I love is that it is basically a bowl of oatmeal but in cookie form – how much healthier can you ask a cookie to be?! They are perfect in the morning or as a tea time snack.

On we go!

Banana Coconut Breakfast Cookies



Ingredients:
1 banana
½ cup oat flour (60g)
¼ cup almond flour (28g)
1 cup packed shredded coconut (measure this in a measuring cup – do not weigh)

Add ins:
Cinnamon
Raisins
Small spoonful of chopped dark chocolate

1.      Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place your banana on it (I use insulated baking sheets and highly recommend them – perfect cookies every time!). Place in the oven and turn the oven on to 350 degrees. This is preheating the oven and ripening your banana at the same time. Your banana will be ready to use when it is black (do not be alarmed!). Take a sharp knife and make a slit down the entire banana. Scoop the inside out with a spoon. Discard the banana and parchment paper, and line the baking sheet with a fresh piece of parchment.
2.      In a large bowl, mix the flours, coconut and banana with a spoon. Divide dough into three bowls
3.      In bowl #1, add a few pieces of chopped dark chocolate (I’ll let you decide how much!)
4.      In bowl #2, add raisins and cinnamon (again, as much as you’d like)
5.      Bowl #3 will remain as is
6.      Each bowl will yield 4 mini cookies, about an inch long. Using your hands, form the cookies as such and place them on the parchment paper
7.      Bake for about 20 minutes, until the outer edges are browned and the bottoms of the cookies are mostly browned
8.      Remove from oven and let cool on the baking sheet for an extra 5 minutes

Enjoy!



As an extra note, I had a lovely time at the Gluten Free Calendar’s Celiac awareness event on Saturday. One of my favorite featured guests was the Whipped Pastry Boutique located in Brooklyn (www.whippedpastryboutique.com). While munching on tasty pumpkin bread I spoke with the bakery’s owner, Michelle. It is clear that she cares very much about her food, which is always wonderful to see. Another highlight was a lecture given by Jaquy Yngvason of Tasty Freedom (www.tastyfreedom.com). She spoke on the topics of community, eating out at restaurants, traveling, and empowerment. Jaquy is an enormously optimistic and inspiring individual, and I highly recommend attending one of her lectures or watching her delightful cooking videos on youtube.




 (Catching up with Erin from the NYC Celiac Disease Meetup group)





Until next time!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Basil and Rosemary Focaccia

Hello Fall!

Walking outside of my apartment yesterday, I inhaled my first breath of crisp autumn air. It’s a time that makes me excited about being in my kitchen and turning on the oven after a hot summer. Such wonderful ingredients ahead! – Honey crisp apples, Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, and pumpkin galore! Let’s get cooking!

But first, two announcements:

1. The comments section now works without needing a google+ account! So please, feel free to leave comment – questions, musings, and praise are all welcome :)

2. You can now subscribe to my blog and receive an email alert when a new recipe entry has been posted! It’s the digital version of me showing up on your doorstep with cookies.

Onto business – I recently had a friend over for a lunchtime/movie get-together. Of course, the first question that I asked – “Any food allergies/intolerances/preferences?” He replied that he generally eats most things except bread.

My answer – a kale salad accompanied by focaccia made with almond flour and flax seed. I am happy to say that lunch was a hit! (So that’s two people who liked this focaccia recipe – 100% is a pretty great track record!)

This recipe is actually a combination of recipes from the book “The Joy of Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Baking” by Peter Reinhart and Denene Wallace. I’ve been quite enjoying this book, though because I do not cook with sugar substitutes I have been using raw honey or real sugar when Stevia or Splenda is called for.

Basil and Rosemary Focaccia



Dough:
1 ½ cups (170g) flaxseed meal
1 ½ cups (170g) almond flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp xanthan gum
½ tsp salt
1 cup unsweetened almond milk (or cow’s/soy/rice)
½ tsp raw honey
4 egg whites (room temperature)

Basil/Rosemary Herbed Oil:
¼ cup (57g) extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp ripped fresh basil
1 ½ tsp sea salt
1 tbsp dried rosemary
1 tsp ground pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper (I use insulated cookie sheets – comes out perfect every time)

Make herbed oil by combining all of the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk thoroughly. Set aside
To make the dough, in a large bowl combine all dry ingredients and whisk until well combined. Add milk and honey. Mix thoroughly

In a medium bowl, mix egg whites with an electric mixer for 3-5 minutes until stiff peaks form.
Using your hands, fold the egg whites into the dough and mix, deflating the eggs as little as possible, to create a smooth, sticky dough that is slightly fluffy

Transfer dough to cookie sheet and spread evenly in a square/rectangular shape. Dough should be about ½ - ¾ inch thick

Dip fingers into the herbed oil, then dimple the dough all over the top with fingertips. Distribute oil evenly

Bake for 20 minutes, then rotate and bake for another 20-25 minutes until golden brown on the top and springy when pressed in the center

Let cool for 5 minutes before serving. Cut into 12 slices

Enjoy!


What’s coming up on the menu this fall?

- Roasted Chick Peas

- Double Fudge Banana Muffins

- Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Apple


- Pumpkin Bread Extravaganza – baking and taste-testing three different gluten free recipes!

And much more!

Stay tuned!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Gluten Free Expo and Strawberry Shortcake

Hello, foodies!

It would be a crime if I didn’t take a moment to say how much fun the New Jersey Gluten & Allergen Free Expo was. When I talk about all inclusive events for people with food sensitivities – this was it! Even if a product contained nuts/soy/corn/ect, every one of the (roughly) 150 gluten free vendors was cautious and happy to provide allergen information so that everyone in the room felt perfectly safe.




And can I just say how lovely it was to see everyone munching away on the free samples? – Oh how I’ve missed free samples! At one point, I actually caught myself thinking, “Oh no, I can’t eat this bread! It tastes like rye. Oh sweet Jesus, what have I done?!?!” before remembering that I could eat literally EVERYTHING in the oversized convention center. Eventually I had to start carefully picking and choosing what I ate – after all, I do only have one stomach. But what a good problem to have! – “I’m sorry, sir, but I am far too full of cake, fresh bread and double chocolate brownies to try those delicious looking gluten free oreo cookies. Do you by chance have any coupons?”






Among all of the wonderful premade foods, unique ingredients, and gluten free muffin/cake mixes, the highlights for me had to have been the local bakeries, most notably Gluten Free Gloriously (www.glutenfreegloriously.com). I went back for seconds (maybe even thirds – was I allowed to have thirds? Does mentioning their bakery in my blog make it more socially acceptable?) of their lemon-vanilla layered cake. Fluffy, sweet, and just how you would want a perfect gourmet piece of cake to taste. Other notable bakeries included Maddalenas Cheesecake (www.maddalenascatering.com – I can die happy now that I’ve tasted their cheesecake…several times….), Mo Pweeze Bakery (www.mopweezebakery.com), and a brand new company (congratulations!) Yummy Tummy Gluten Free (www.yummytummyglutenfree.com). All four are based in New Jersey and are worth the trip.





It’s so wonderful to see local bakeries thriving. When you come across a gluten free bakery (one that is truly gluten free), you know that they care. They didn’t spend months – years – perfecting these tricky baked treats for a fad diet that will pass. They care about the quality of their food AND about the people who eat them.

Afterwards, the evening was spent parading my gigantic pile of free snacks and coupons in front of my boyfriend who missed the event (and rolled his eyes only slightly at my love for free samples and coupons – secretly he’s jealous because he knows I will not be sharing my loot).




The only question I have….can we have another expo tomorrow?




And now a recipe.

While summer is still here – and yes, 90 degrees means that summer is not over – I want to share another light dessert.

Gluten Free Honey Strawberry Shortcake



This yummy recipe comes from Delight Gluten Free Magazine (http://www.delightglutenfree.com/recipes?id=577). I kept much of the recipe the same as the original, though prefer to specifically use wild honey compared to the overly processed counterpart. It’s a great option for a light summertime dessert yet is packed with healthy fats from the coconut and almond flours and has a higher protein content than most desserts because of the number of eggs. A warning that while this recipe is gluten/corn/soy free and is also low in carbs, it is obviously not friendly for our nut allergy friends. 

1/2 cup coconut flour
2 tbsp almond flour
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
4 whole eggs, room temperature
2 more eggs (yolks and whites separated - you will use both) room temperature
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup wild honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
Strawberries, diced
Whipped cream to garnish

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and line a cupcake pan with liners.
2. In a large bowl, combine coconut flour, almond flour, baking soda and sea salt. Whisk to combine and set aside.
3. In a blender, mix together 4 whole eggs plus 2 egg yolks, butter, honey, and vanilla until thick and fully combined. Set aside.
4. In another bowl, whip 2 egg whites using a hand mixer until stiff peaks form.
5. Add egg yolk mixture to dry ingredients and whisk well to combine. Genltly fold in the egg whites until fully incorporated, but do not over mix.
6. Pour batter into cupcake pan for 25 to 35 minutes until golden and toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool on a cookie rack.
7. Unwrap the cakes and slice them in half horizontally. Fill with a layer of whipped cream and on top place another dollop of whipped cream and garnish with strawberries.

Happy eating! 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

It's a Start! - Coconut Oil Chocolates

This, as you may have guessed, is the first installment of my new blog “Tasty Meditation: Tales from a Gluten Free Kitchen”.

I’ve been debating for a while now how I would like to share my culinary explorations. I am incredibly passionate about gluten free cooking and baking. I love trying new recipes and discovering why some recipes work and others do not. For the past few years, I have been sharing recipes and dinner party stories with my yoga and fitness students. But I wanted to do something more – A blog? A youtube cooking channel? A podcast? Many of my students have suggested that I open up my own restaurant – a suggestion that I’ve stamped a firm “no” onto. But if I put something out into the vast world of the internet, what can I say that hasn’t already been said? Will people read or listen? And (gulp) if I give away my secret recipes will my friends stop coming over for dinner parties and start making my delicious food themselves?

The reality – if I cook it, they will of course come. And I have things to say. I have things to share. I am Italian, and we know that good food is about sharing it with others. And that is what I truly love to do.

I was finally inspired to put my blogging plan into action after a series of dinner parties that I hosted. My guests and I are quite the amusing group:

I myself have Celiac Disease and am 100% gluten free.
My boyfriend is a somewhat picky eater who hates fish and won’t touch most vegetables.
Emily is a vegetarian and is lactose intolerant.
And Don has a nut allergy.

My yoga students laughed out loud when I told them about this eclectic group. “What do you eat?!?!” they exclaimed amidst good-natured giggles. “We eat like kings!” I replied. The circumstances did force me to get a little creative, but in the end we ate the most delicious allergen-friendly dishes.

Being a person with food restrictions, I have been to parties and events where there is little for me to eat, and I am made to stare longingly at a forbidden slice of pizza or piece of cake. Do I mind? Most of the time the answer is no. The company is more important. But I can say that it is so nice when I’m at an event where the hosts are allergen conscious, and I have a table full of mouth watering choices presented to me. So of course I want everyone to be able to eat everything that I cook for my dinner parties and (what’s more) feel safe in doing so. No one is excluded. It becomes a night of wonderful company and amazing food.

The goal of this blog? To share recipes (my own as well as others that I’ve tried and perhaps adjusted), cooking tips, dinner party experiences, news from the gluten free community, and general musings. All recipes will be gluten free, many of them will be allergen friendly.

And finally, why call it “Tasty Meditation”? Cooking relaxes me. It focuses me. When I’m baking I know that if I add ‘one half cup of this’ and ‘three tablespoons of that’ I know how it will turn out. It becomes a meditative experience, and one that I immensely enjoy.

To kick things off, I’ll share one of my new favorite chocolate recipes. Variations of this have been floating all over the internet lately. My variation comes from Lauren Goslin. Her original post can be found at http://mylifewithfoodallergies.com/index/5-ingredient-healthy-homemade-chocolate/

Coconut Oil Chocolates



¼ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ cup coconut oil
2 tbsp maple syrup
¾ tsp vanilla extract
Dash of sea salt

Mix all ingredients together. If it begins to clump, that means that the cold temperature of the maple syrup is solidifying the coconut oil. If this happens, warm the bowl itself for just a few seconds and continue mixing. The mixture can then be poured into a chocolate mold. Another option is to line a medium size Tupperware container with plastic wrap and pour the chocolate onto the plastic. Either way, place the chocolate in the freezer for ten minutes. If using Tupperware, break the chocolate apart to create chocolate bark. Store the chocolate in the freezer. Be aware that coconut oil freezes very quickly and melts just as fast, so if you leave your chocolates out on a plate at your next dessert party you will find yourself with a big chocolate puddle.

What I love about this recipe (besides that it is probably the most delicious chocolate that I have ever tasted) is that it tastes clean and pure – this is the comment that I have received from everyone who has tried it. Also, the ingredients are simple – no food dyes, soy lecithin, or other odd additives. You know exactly what you’re eating. And it’s healthy! If you read up on the benefits of coconut oil and cocoa powder you will be overwhelmed by the nutritional punch they offer.  

These chocolates have been a huge success at all of my most recent events. So give it a try! If you do and decide to tweak the recipe, comment and let me know how it turns out. Or simply enjoy the picture. They do look amazing, if I say so myself.


Happy eating!