Saturday, December 17, 2011

Super Scrumptious, "Skinny" 'Shroom Sauce

Today's concocted recipe comes with two disclaimers. Disclaimer #1 - The first step of this recipe is to pour yourself a glass of Savignon Blanc (for quality control) and because I did that and had an empty stomach, the ingredient amounts listed here are guesstimates, as I wasn't measuring anything and was enjoying the Savignon Blanc. Disclaimer #2 - I consider this a "skinny" sauce because it only has about two tablespoons of butter in it. Ok, I know that equals 22 grams of fat, but that's for the entire recipe (several cups of sauce) and considering how rich this sauce is, it's a lot less fattening than most cream sauces. Feel free to swap out the butter for whatever lower fat "fat" you prefer.

Super Scrumptious, "Skinny" 'Shroom Sauce

(Remember, these ratios are to the best of my recollection. I'm sure I'll make it again and will edit the post if necessary.)

2 large shallots that have two sections each
4 cloves of garlic
8 ounces of crimini mushrooms
1 generous cup of fat-free Greek or European style plain yogurt
1/4 cup of broth (I used homemade chicken broth but veggie, mushroom or beef would work just as well...preferably homemade)
1/2 cup Savignon Blanc or other dry or off-dry white wine
2 tablespoons flour (I used brown rice flour)
2 tablespoons butter
Sea salt or truffle salt and pepper to taste

Slice the shallots into very thin strips no more than about 1/8 of an inch and saute in a large saute pan in about 1/2 tablespoon of butter until shallot slivers are lightly brown and crispy. Crush and finely chop the garlic. Add it and saute on medium-low until tender. Be careful to not overcook it or it'll taste bitter. Wipe the mushrooms clean and slice. Add to the sauteed shallots and garlic, along with another 1/2 tablespoon of butter and saute on medium until soft.

Whisk the broth and flour together until mixture is free of flour lumps. Add the broth and flour mixture, yogurt, final tablespoon of butter and wine to the sauteed shallots, garlic and mushrooms. Heat through and add salt, pepper and more wine to taste and desired consistency. A little water or a little more flour can be used to adjust the thickness, too.

I served this over gluten-free, brown-rice pasta and zucchini I sauteed separately. If my chicken breast had defrosted in time, I would have baked or broiled and shredded and added to the pasta and zucchini. That's tomorrow's lunch...chicken breast with the sauce reheated and spooned over the cooked chicken breast.

Note the shadow in the picture. That's from the lovely sunshine streaming in through my kitchen window this afternoon and that makes everything taste better on a Seattle December day!

Afterthoughts: This recipe can also be used in any recipe that calls for the oh-so-nasty and definitely not gluten-free, canned cream of mushroom soup. If used in place of cream of mushroom soup as an ingredient in another dish, I'd likely chop the mushrooms into smaller pieces but as a sauce on its own, I like the mushrooms pieces larger. Also, I think this would be great as a soup. Just increase the amount of broth!

Monday, December 5, 2011


Who got the hooch, baby?
Who got the only sweetest thing in the world?
Who got the love, who got the fresh-e-freshy?
Who got the only sweetest thing in the world?
Who got the hooch?

I got the hooch, baby! And it's homemade hooch! Ok, I don't think the lyrics above from the group O.A.R. are referring to what I'm referring to, and in interviews they won't explain the meaning of that song, but I'll happily tell you what I'm referring to....groovy, gluten free, homemade liqueurs! Oh it's the fresh-e-freshy, alright!

Bailey's Irish Cream and Kahlua are off limits to gluten-intolerant imbibers because Bailey's is made with Irish Whisky, which is made from gluten-laden rye, and Kahlua contains the infamously ambiguous "caramel color" and "natural flavors", which is often gluten in one form or another. I've consumed enough cocktails, in the name if science of course, and suffered the consequences so as to verify this. So, I found recipes for both and played around and am happy to share my stellar results for liqueurs.

Let's start with the Bailey's. I substituted Potato Vodka for the Irish Whiskey, so my version of Bailey's is called Vailey's and I think after trying this, you'll never go back to store bought Bailey's again! Not only do you know exactly what's in this liqueur, you can tweak the flavors to your own tastes and it's so much cheaper than the store bought and god-only-knows-exactly-what's-in-it version. Just be sure you buy 100% Potato Vodka, if you want your version to be gluten-free. Vodka may be distilled from any starch and sugar-rich plant matter. Most vodka is produced from grains such as sorghum, corn, rye or wheat....uh oh. Some vodkas are made from potatoes, molasses, soybeans, grapes, rice, sugar beets and sometimes even byproducts of oil refining or wood pulp processing. What??!! In some Central European countries, like Poland, some vodka is produced by just fermenting a solution of crystal sugar and yeast. I recently took a cocktail making class in which the bartender recommended Monopolwa Vodka, just in general, not just for gluten-intolerant people. He said it's a great quality vodka for the price and Monopolowa's website verifies that it's a 100% pure Potato Vodka. For those of you tuning in who are not gluten-intolerant and want traditional Irish Cream Liqueur, just substitute Irish Whiskey for the vodka in my recipe below.


1 and 1/4 cup of potato vodka
14 ounces of sweetened condensed milk
1 cup heavy cream
2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 teaspoon instant coffee granules
3 tablespoons of chocolate syrup

Blend ingredients in a blender on high for about 20-30 seconds. Store in the fridge and shake well before serving. That's easy!! It lasts about three weeks and, I'm not exaggerating here, my first batch lasted three days...not because it went bad...but because it went down so good!

A note about the sweetened condensed milk and the chocolate syrup. Trader Joe's (TJ's) carries organic sweetened condensed milk for just $2.49 but only during the holidays, so stock up! In addition to being organic, the TJ's brand comes in a plastic, BPA-free bottle, so no nasty BPA's leeching into your sweetened condensed milk, as is the case with canned sweetened condensed milk. If you don't know about the evils of BPA, read about them here. This is one of the reasons why I try to avoid anything from a can. BPA leeching into food is especially an issue with fat-based foods, like sweetened condensed milk, and acidic foods, like canned tomatoes.

Regarding the chocolate syrup. I also avoid anything with high fructose corn syrup, which many chocolate syrups contain. TJ's Midnight Moo Chocolate Syrup is organic and does not have high fructose corn syrup. However, I made a tiny batch of decadent chocolate syrup to use for my Vailey's, and I think it's what gave the recipe great richness and thickness. I melted a little more than a fourth of a Trader Joe's Organic 73% Super Dark Chocolate Bar with a little heavy cream and then added about 2 teaspoons of Lundberg Organic Brown Rice Syrup. I use this in every recipe that calls for nasty-ass Karo syrup and it works perfectly. This little concoction came out to about 3 tablespoons of chocolate sauce.


Note this recipe came from a friend and I made one batch and while it was good, I think it was too sweet, so I'm adjusting the sugar here. Therefore, I haven't tried this version but judging by the overt sweetness of the original, this should be just right and will use up the other half of your bottle of vodka.

Half a bottle of vodka
Half a vanilla bean, split in half lengthwise
1/6 cup instant coffee granules
1 cup water
3/4 to 1 cup sugar

Heat the water and sugar, as you do when making a simple syrup, until the sugar is dissolved. Add the coffee granules and simmer for about 10 minutes. Once cooled to room temperature, add the vodka. Put the vanilla bean pieces in a sterilized bottle. I find that running the vodka bottle through the dishwasher all the way through to the heated drying cycle will suffice for this. Add the vodka mixture. Place the bottle in a cool dark place and shake several times a week for two weeks and, voila, you have your own homemade hooch!


(On an unrelated note, I can't figure out why the font is completely different on this post....driving the artist in me CRAZY!! Argh!!)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Zapping the Dirty Dozen

The 2011 Shopper's Guide to Pesticides in Produce was released this week. The list details the Dirty Dozen, the twelve fruits and vegetables which contain the most pesticide residue. The list also identifies the fifteen fruits and vegetables that are the least contaminated. This comprehensive list will help you determine which fruits and vegetables are the most important to buy organic. Picking five servings of fruits and vegetables from The Dirty Dozen List would result in consuming an average of 14 different pesticides a day. How scary is that?

To create the shoppers' guide, the Environmental Working Group collected test results from the USDA and the FDA from 2000 to 2009. Most samples were washed and peeled before being tested, so these rankings reflect the amounts of the chemicals that are likely still present on the food when it is eaten. Print out the list and throw it in the earth-friendly reusable grocery bags that I'm certain you're all using, so you'll have a handy reference every time you hit the grocery store or one of Seattle's fine farmers markets!

As scary as all that is, I have a remedy that is purported to reduce the residual pesticides, as well as wax, dirt and bacteria on fruits and veggies. This All Natural Fruit and Veggie Wash comes from Sophie Uliano of Gorgeously Green A study in 2003 showed that washing produce in a solution of one part vinegar to three parts water can reduce the bacteria and viruses contained in vegetables to 95 percent. I like Sophie's concoction because it also includes Grapefruit Seed Extract (GSE). This is a plant-based oil that has natural antiseptic properties. I was first introduced to it by my naturopathic doctor who prescribed it, to be added to juice, when I had a stomach virus. This plant oil has a myriad of medicinal and household uses, which are detailed on the front and back labels of my favorite brand, which is available online and at many health food or vitamin stores.

I make this up in large batches and divide into two, large spray bottles. One goes under the kitchen sink to be used on my produce. To the other bottle, I add several drops of essential oil (I like lavender best) and put it in the bathroom to spray down the tub and shower after each use. The vinegar and GSE help prevent and break down soap scum in the tub and shower when sprayed after each use.

All Natural Fruit and Veggie Wash

3 cups water
3 cup vinegar
3 tablespoons baking soda
60 drops grapeseed extract

Spray on fruit and veggies and let them sit about ten minutes before rinsing. An no, the vinegar in the wash will not affect the taste of your fruit or veggies, and the GSE is flavorless.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

As Good as Chocolate?!

I heart asparagus. I heart asparagus as much as I heart chocolate. There, I said it. I eat asparagus almost as often as I eat chocolate but not quite as often, mostly because I don't have to wash chocolate. I just peel back the foil, break off a chunk and instantly have heaven on my tongue. Oh but with asparagus, there's all that drudgery of washing it and snapping off the woody stems. (Insert big sigh here.) But, I soldier on because it's so damn good....oh ya, and nutritious.

Ya know what else I heart? Garlic. Namely roasted garlic. I go through binges when I eat so much that there is no chance in hell that I will be approached by vampires...or single men...or anyone with a nose. I once ate so many Garlic Smashed Potatoes in the span of two days that a friend said I reminder him of Charlie Brown's pal, Pig Pen. Just as Pig Pen has an halo of dust around him, I had a very noticeable aura of roasted garlic following me. If you didn't know, when you eat garlic the scent "follows" you for days because garlic's sulfur compounds enter your blood stream and exudes from your lungs and pores. Oh well. I think there are much worse things to smell like.

So what happens when I combine two of my favorite foods? Double Roasted Garlic Asparagus Fabulocity. How's that for a name? Hope you enjoy this super delish, super easy dish which, in my not so humble opinion, is as good as candy...namely high quality, dark chocolate candy. Enjoy, garlic lovers and suck it vampires (pun intended)!

Double Roasted Garlic Asparagus Fabulocity

(Disclaimer, this recipe is a non-recipe because I didn't really pay attention to amounts or cooking times. Deal with's called real cooking.)

Find yourself a big clove or garlic. Not Elephant Garlic, but just a big, fresh head of standard garlic. Cut off the top. Liberally pour EVOO over it, wrap it in foil and throw it in a 425 degree oven for a while. I don't how long exactly, maybe an hour or so, until you peek inside the foil and see that the individual cloves are all brown and caramelized and gooey and beautiful.

Refrigerate the clove until firm, as the cloves will be easier to remove from their individual husks. Once chilled, squeeze each individual clove from it's papery casing - squeezing out every last morsel of the roasted, golden goodness. Smash it with a fork, and whisk it with the juice of two small lemons, a shot of good quality balsamic vinegar and enough EVOO to form the consistency of ketchup.

Suffer through the laborious drudgery of washing your big ol' bunch of asparagus and snapping off the woody stems at the point where they naturally snap. Wait where is that oh-so-easy-to-eat-chocolate again? No, no, eat your veggies!! Lay your dried asparagus spears in a single line on a roasting pan or glass casserole dish and spoon the roasted garlic mixture over the top of the asparagus. Toss it well with your hands until each spear is lovingly and evenly coated. The amount of roasted garlic mixture made with this non-recipe will make enough to use for several batches of asparagus and I plan to try it on Yukon Gold Potatoes, which I'll roast, as well. Doesn't that sound yummy, too?

Roast the asparagus in a 425 degree oven until done. I never pay attention to how long this takes. Maybe 30 minutes. I depends on whether you're using an aluminum roasting pan or a glass casserole dish, but it seems to be about 30 minutes. About 5 minutes before the asparagus is done, spoon a little more of the roasted garlic mixture over the asparagus and mix well, so you have a little bit of the mix that doesn't completely cook into into the stalks.

Once plated, hit it with some sea salt. Enjoy and try your damnedest to not lick the plate...or go ahead and like the plate, I won't tell anyone!

Afterthoughts: I just made the most fabulous pasta dish with this golden, garlic goodness mixture. I sauteed some shallots in butter until crispy and set them aside. I then sauteed up some fresh baby spinach and drained the spinach with some cooked, brown rice pasta. Once well drained, I threw those two ingredients back into the saute pan, added the crispy shallots and sun-dried tomatoes and some of the roasted garlic fabulousness and gently tossed it and heated it through. Once plated, I sprinkled in with a little truffle salt. Ahhhhh.........

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Chewy, Gooey , Protein-Packed Nutty Buddies

Do you love fruit and nut bars like Caveman Bars or Glenny's? Do you hate paying an average of $2.00 for less than two ounces of gooey, chewy, protein-packed goodness? Ya, me too.

The solution, of course, make your own! I tinkered in the kitchen today after returning from the gym (insert self-aggrandizing pat on the back here) and am pleased with what I concocted. My recipe didn't create a bar as firm as my favorites mentioned above, so I'll keep playing with the consistency but in the mean time these are a quick, easy, delish and much more cost effective alternative.

Nutty Buddies
1 cup of chopped nuts - I used raw cashews and raw slivered almonds
1 cup of dried fruit - I used tart cherries
1/2 cup rice crispy style cereal - I used Barbara's Organic, Gluten-free, Brown Rice Crisps
3 TBL toasted coconut - I used medium flaked, organic coconut. Not the sugar coated yuckiness you find in baking isle but unadulterated, plain, flaked coconut that I toasted in a 300 degree oven for a few minutes
3 TBL raw sunflower seeds
3 TBL sesame seeds
3 Three-finger pinches of sea salt
1/8 cup of your favorite no-sugar-added nut butter
1/8 cup honey
1/8 cup Lundberg Sweet Dreams Brown Rice Syrup - This is great in any recipe that calls for (the evil) corn syrup

Combine the dry ingredients. Combine the honey and brown rice syrup in a small bowl and pour over the dry ingredients. Add the nut butter and mix by hand until everything is well incorporated.

Cut a piece of wax or parchment paper to fit in the bottom and sides of an 8" square pan or an 8" bread pan if you want thicker bars. Press the Nutty Buddies mixture in the bar and refrigerate overnight. I keep the mix in the fridge and just cut off small portions as desired, as the ingredients hold together best when refrigerated. Have fun with the recipe, as it lends itself to all sorts of tweaking. Play with different fruit and nut combos and various nuts butters. Next time I want to try almond butter and small, dark chocolate chunks, as I think that would be a great addition to the tart cherries I used this time. In my kitchen, dark chocolate is considered a health food because it contains antioxidants! :0) Enjoy!