Friday, 27 July 2012

Breakfast bars: the quick, on-the-go morning solution

I quickly tired of a bowl of breakfast oatmeal when I started my allergy diet.  Not to mention you have to get up at the crack of rooster to create such a bowl and allow it to cool to eating.  I value my sleep too much in the early mornings before work.  I can't remember how I stumbled onto Smitten Kitchen's recipe (http://smittenkitchen.com/2010/02/thick-chewy-granola-bars/), probably on one of those never ending recipe searches I tend to perform when I'm feeling overwhelmed or bored with food.  After some alterations when my homeopath adjusted my diet further, I have ended up with two bars that I make once a week and alternate eating so I never have to eat the same bar every day.  I can't keep these recipes to myself, as they help me stay on track with my diet and keep me full until the morning break at work (a feat in itself!)

1.  Tropical Oat Bars 

I am always looking for ways to infuse my day with the taste of the tropics, as I continue to feed into my obsession with Hawai'i, my favourite place on earth.
vegan (dairy and egg free), wheat free, sugar-less (watch out for your dried fruit!), peanut and tree nut free (watch for cross contamination with the seeds though, and get them from specially marked brands if allergy is life threatening). 

1 2/3 cups quick rolled oats (if gluten is an issue for you, make sure you get gluten free!)
1/3    cup  oat flour (yes, oat flour.  Bob's Red Mill has one, or I hear oats can be ground into this)
2/3    cup  coconut sugar (aka-palm sugar)
1/2     tsp  salt
1 1/2 cups mix of unsweetened coconut, chia seeds and sunflower seeds
1 1/2 cups mix of chopped dried apricots, dried mango and dried pineapple

1 tsp          vanilla extract
6 tbsp        melted coconut oil
4 tbsp        honey (if your homeopath doesn't like that, you could always try black cherry concentrate)
1-3 tbsp    water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Line an 8x8" pan with parchment.  Mix all the dry ingredients in the first section together in a bowl.  In another bowl, mix the liquid ingredients together.  Pour the liquid mixture into the dry mixture and stir until combined.  It's not going to hold together the way dough would, but should be moistened.  Pour into your prepared pan and spread lightly to level and evenly fill the pan.  Do not press in too much, it seems to make it dry and rock solid, perhaps because the oats have nowhere to go as they cook?  My uneducated guess.  Bake in the oven for about 25-30 minutes.  I like to bake it just until I get a little browning on the edge.  Cool in the pan until it can go in the refrigerator for a couple of hours or overnight (I make my bars the night before they're going to be needed).  Cut only after cooling in the fridge, as this sets the bars so well and makes clean cuts with fewer crumbs.  Whenever I'm too impatient I ignore this fact and make a sloppy mess but oooooit's still good!  Makes eight decent sized bars, any smaller and it may not satiate a healthy morning appetite.  Anything larger might be too much in one sitting, though I have been known to indulge on occasion...teehee...

Who can go wrong with tropically inspired ingredients?  If you aren't allergic to nuts, I suppose you could always try macadamia nuts too instead/in combination with the seeds.

Mmm finished product.  It's like dessert to me, appealing to my sweet tooth tendencies.

2.  Rye Bars

Testing positive for wheat and not for rye proved to be advantageous.  Rye isn't as limiting as it sounds and doesn't always need to be associated with those hard, dry crackers or those dense, strong tasting breads.  
vegan (dairy and egg free), wheat free, sugar-less (watch your dried fruit again) though still plenty sweet and containing calories from maple syrup and butter, peanut and tree nut free (again watch your seeds).

1 2/3 cups crushed pure rye crackers (light or dark)
1/3 cup      rye flour 
1/2 tsp       salt
1/2 tsp       cinnamon
1 1/2 cups combination of pumpkin seeds, hemp hearts, and flax seeds/meal
1 1/2 cups combination of raisins, dried currants and dried cranberries and/or cherries

1 tsp          vanilla
6 tbsp        vegetable oil (sometimes I use grapeseed oil) or melted margarine (read the ingredients!)
1/4 cup      maple butter (whipped pure maple syrup)
1/4 cup      pure maple syrup

Just like in the Tropical Oat Bars, you preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line an 8x8" square pan with parchments.  You also mix the dry ingredients in one bowl, the liquid in another.  I'm sometimes more of an estimator of the liquid ingredients and add a little more maple syrup if I feel like it needs a bit more.  It usually doesn't though, I just love the taste of maple and can be quite liberal with it.  Mix wet ingredients into the dry and stir until combined.  Pour into the pan and spread evenly.  Bake for 30 minutes.  Doneness doesn't show with browning at the edges, as the bars themselves are brown in nature.  Don't be shy to take them out and allow them to fully cool in the pan, it continues to cook a wee bit in the hot pan.  Cool completely to room temperature before cutting.  You can otherwise cool completely in the fridge and cut into eight bars.  Don't forget to enjoy!  These are surprisingly delicious and many of my non-allergic friends and co-workers have enjoyed their taste and texture.

The dry ingredients already look delicious!

Yummers, the finished product, kinda crunchy, kinda spongy, and oh-so delicious!
  


Time to order a pizza?

Thanks to my horrific cooking abilities, dinner can start off really well and take a swift nose-dive. Top notch ingredients.  A delicious sounding recipe that I was going to alter for my purposes.  Despite such a great start, I really know how to mess these things up in execution.  I salvaged it, and made it edible, but it was one of those meals where one can easily give up and order a pizza were not for my allergies.  I tried making garlicky greens with pasta: garlic, kale and buckwheat pasta with a side of asparagus.  My asparagus turned out really well though!  Pan fried with garlic mmmm...

Fresh produce and 100% pure buckwheat pasta.

I enjoy prep work more than the pulling of it all together.  Rhythmic chopping is very calming.  Be sure to concentrate on your grip though, I speak from ridiculous experience...


In order to save my meal, I tossed the noodles and wilted greens with a red wine vinaigrette.  The pan fried garlic asparagus turned out the best!!  I love it when I get something right.  Topped with fresh basil, sea salt, pepper and a few red chili flakes and voila!  A meal that's half decent.
  

Next time I think I'll be more cautious and definitely have all my ingredients prepped and ready (I was still cutting kale in my haste to get dinner started).  I won't try to fry my 4 cloves of garlic for so long, as they were terribly burnt by the time my veggies were done.  I say that, but each time I seem to overcook garlic.  It's way too easy to do this, I'm learning.  I didn't have enough liquid in the pan to wilt the greens well so I will have to adjust that too.  I'm going to make this work next time, I'm sure of it!  And pizza won't be in order!

Monday, 23 July 2012

MMmm cookies!

Cookies are tricky to make sans wheat, eggs, dairy and corn free baking powder and don't even try the gluten free alternatives (potato, rice and corn allergy).  My coworker told me about this bakery in New York called Babycakes that bakes gluten free, often sugar free vegan treats (aka-could work for me!).  http://www.babycakesnyc.com/  The owner has food allergies herself so I knew there had to be something I could eat.  Sure enough, in Babycakes Covers the Classics, Erin McKenna gave me two recipes I could make as per directions: Nilla Wafers and Snickerdoodles.  Her recipes have to be followed to the letter but they always turn out when you do so.    After watching my friends eat cookies after an allergen safe dinner I had a terrible craving.  Even though it was past 7pm, (sorry Dr. Homeopath!) I baked a batch of oversized Nilla Wafers (with Palm sugar instead of regular cane sugar) and gobbled up a third of the batch.  Yummmmmm!  It reminds me of my good ol' baking days. Now I can go to bed a happy, content gal.

Bedtime snack. *heart*

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Let's All Go to the Movies!

Just a few ideas for your theater survival kit.

Going to the movies since starting my allergy diet has been tricky.  Just the smell of the fluffy, buttered popcorn from outside the movie theater still makes me weak in the knees.  I used to skip meals just so I could eat a giant bag of popcorn at the theater, but for a person who knew she had a corn allergy, I suppose that wasn't always the best idea.  Chocolate has dairy and...well, chocolate.  Candy has corn and wheat.  What's a girl to do??  Going to the theater with a full stomach is your first line of defense.  What if you get to your seat and all around you are bags of that delicious salty popcorn that makes you want to grab the bag beside you and pour it down your throat?  Come with a back-up plan: a theater survival kit.  I know you aren't supposed to bring your own food or drink into the theater, but my rationalization is, I'm sure they would rather have me still coming to the theater than avoiding it completely.  So I pack discreet snacks that I can pull out in case I am about to go insane and binge-eat popcorn.  I buy a bottle of water to go with it and I'm set.

As salty snacks mimic the effect of popcorn so well I like to bring roasted chickpeas.  I started eating these as a filling snack while doing my Whole Living cleanse in December and have been hooked ever since:
http://www.wholeliving.com/130298/roasted-spiced-chickpeas
Canned beans don't come out as crunchy as desired but they require much less prep time, especially if the decision to see a movie is last-minute.  Keeping them on hand throughout the week isn't a bad idea either.

If you need to hear the sound of a soft crunch as you eat, even if it's the wrong texture, kale chips are the way to go.  Everyone seems to have their own recipe but I keep mine simple:
Heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Wash a bunch of kale, cut away the rib and cut the pieces to 3 or 4" long.  Drizzle with a tablespoon of oil (I switch it up, sometimes grapeseed, sometimes olive....), toss until well coated, and lay out on a cookie sheet in a single layer.  They will shrink so you can keep them really close together when you first lay them out, just don't overlap them.  I simply sprinkle one side with sea salt, not much at all because the salt seems to intensify on the finished product.  I sometimes add sesame seeds and then it's off to the oven.  Bake 4-5 minutes and turn them over.  Bake another 4-5 minutes until they are crisp but not brown (aka-burnt).  Cool and enjoy!  These do have a slight odor to them that is not the most pleasant to some, so be sure to sit in the middle of understanding friends. 

Homemade trail mix or store bought nut-free trail mix can round out the sweet n' salty category.  A homemade cookie may help curb your sweet tooth too, but at the theater I'm usually all about the salt.  I'm still searching for an appropriate substitute for chocolate.  When I find it, you'll be the first to know.

When you have food allergies you don't need to avoid the things you loved to do, like going to the movies.  You just need to be prepared and you won't be so tempted to blow your diet on a couple hours (or less, depending on your reaction) of satisfaction.

Saturday, 21 July 2012

A little bit about me...

Back in November 2011 I went to the allergist and tested positive for some of the most common and beloved foods in my diet.  I sat speechless, looking at my test results until numbers and foods started to swirl around on the page.  I was obviously overwhelmed.  What have these things been doing to me?  How could I cut these things out?  Baby steps.  I started cutting out the most serious and felt some benefits.  Eventually I cut out all my tested allergies and before I knew it, many of my symptoms that I had battled, were gone.  I knew I had to stick to my diet in order to continue feeling this good, but I had a hard time.  I am a horrible cook, hate to experiment with food and love to bake. It was the most difficult challenge to my everyday life, but I soon became determined to make it work.  I refuse to be the person who misses out on the enjoyment of eating because there is so much restricted to me.  On the contrary, the earth is also rich with foods I can eat.  It's a change to my lifestyle, but it's a healthier one in the long run.  Here I will post my adventures in cooking and baking as I try to find the best recipes for my allergies.  I hope they inspire you too, whether or not you deal with allergies.