Sunday, March 29, 2009

Gourmet and Gluten Free

Despite what people might think, eating a gluten free diet is not limiting at all. In fact you can get more variety eating a gluten free diet than most people do eating their average diet. When people don't have any limitations, it is ironic, but that is when people tend to eat the same thing day in and day out. When one is restricted to a specific diet either for health reasons (allergies, intolerances, sensitivities or digestive problems) - it forces you to become more creative and add more variety to your everyday eating.
On Wednesday night at my "Gourmet and Gluten Free" cooking class, my participants learned just that. By incorporating gluten free foods in your diet you can have more variety, colour and balance then you ever would have dreamed. For example we made these delicious "Everything Cookies" (recipe below) that had just about everything in them - except for gluten! Based on the response - these cookies tasted better than anything they had ever expected. Also included in the menu was a creamy carrot ginger apple soup, a quinoa pilaf salad with cashews and cherries, a tofu vegetable stir fry with buckwheat soba noodles, black bean and yam burgers, a pesto sauce on brown rice penne pasta and guacamole with blue corn chips. As you can see, there is no lack of flavour, variety, colour and texture in this menu. Gluten free grains are also extremely high in protein, calcium, vitamins, minerals and best of all they don't make you bloated! You don't have to be intolerant to gluten to have this variety in your diet - just be creative and have fun.

A word on Gluten:

Gluten is the protein in wheat that many people nowadays have difficulty digesting. If someone is gluten intolerant, they are likely to have Celiac Disease. This can be an exteremly severe situation for some people as everyday digestion is compromised causing inflammation of the small intestine.
People who suffer from Celiac Disease need to stick to a gluten free diet indefinitely.
If someone is just simply sensitive to gluten containing foods it is important to stick to gluten free foods as much as possible to keep the gut lining nourished and soothed.

Examples of Gluten Free Grains:

Grains & Grain Products
GF Grains: amaranth, arrowroot, buckwheat, corn (cornmeal, corn grits), fava, flaxseed, garbanzo bean (chickpea, besan, gram or channa), hominy, hominy grits, kasha (toasted buckwheat), millet, pure uncontaminated oats, quinoa, rice, sago, tapioca

GF flours: bean flours (garbanzo, fava, romano), pure buckwheat flour, buckwheat bran, cornstarch, cornmeal, corn bran, garfava flour (garbanzo + fava bean flours), mesquite flour, quinoa flour, montina flour (made from Indian rice grass), nut flours and nut meals, pea flour, potato flour, potato starch, rice flour (white and brown), sorghum flour, soy (soya) flour, teff (or tef) flour

Breads and baked goods made with GF grains and free of other gluten-containing ingredients

Pastas made from rice, beans, corn, potato, quinoa, soy, wild rice and other GF grains
Cold cereals: puffed corn, amaranth, buckwheat, millet or rice, rice flakes and soy cereals
Hot cereals: hominy grits, soy grits, cream of buckwheat, cream of rice, puffed amaranth, rice flakes, quinoa flakes, soy flakes
Rice: brown, white, basmati, jasmine or wild rice
Grains: buckwheat, millet, amaranth, rice, corn, quinoa

Corn or rice tortillas

Everything (but gluten) Cookies


1/3 cup maple syrup or agave
1/3 cup honey
2 tbsp brown rice syrup
2 tsp. vanilla
2 Tbs. almond butter
1/3 cup tahini
1 cup quinoa flakes
¼ cup puffed amaranth
¼ cup brown rice flour
½ cup sunflower seeds
½ cup pumpkin seeds
½ cup chocolate chips
¼ cup ground flaxseeds
1/3 cup currents
1/3 cup sesame seeds

1. Preheat oven to 350F. Lightly grease 2 large cookie sheets, or line with parchment paper.
2. In a small bowl, whisk together the maple syrup, honey, vanilla, almond butter and tahini.
3. In a medium bowl, mix together the remaining ingredients. Pour wet mixture over dry and stir to blend well.
4. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto prepared bake sheets.
5. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until golden brown. Cookies will firm up as they cool.

Makes 20-24 cookies.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Everybody wants Delicious Knowledge!

This past weekend, I participated in my very first trade show at the Holistic World Expo...and my booth was a hit!
I met so many wonderful people, some of which will be new cooking class participants!
It was so great to be out there in the public, showing my face, my brand and my business to the people in Toronto who didn't know that I existed.

It was also exciting to meet people were interested in the Delicious Knowledge that I had to offer - meaning there was really an active interest in healthy, organic eating! It is refreshing to see that people really do want to take control of their health and well-being and learn how to cook and prepare simple, delicious and balanced meals. I am proud and excited to be that catalyst!

If nothing else, people walked away from my booth this weekend learning at least one thing on a specific ingredient or nutrition related question- which is my ultimate goal and passion in this business joy - to educate anyone and everyone on all things food and nutrition!

So overall the goal of the weekend was to meet new people and that is exactly what I did! I made new friends with other vendors at the show, met wonderful people who attended the show and even more exciting - I have new cooking class participants!
I just wanted to share this wonderful occasion with all of your who read my blog and take interest in what I have to say and what I do.
Please feel free at anytime to share you questions, comments or anything else you would like to say on my blog page - or you can email me at anytime!

Thank You for Your Support!

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Organic is In! Pesticides are Out!

I feel obligated to inform you of what it means to have pesticides contaminating our food. I think people are aware that this exists but have no idea how to avoid them or better yet, how horrible they actually are for long term human health.
There are solutions to this problem. People just need to become informed and aware of which foods to consume organic and which foods to avoid.
With growing evidence that supports the fact that individuals consuming what are considered the 12 worst foods (meaning they contain the most pesticides) are said to have been exposed to at least 10 different pesticides in one day. This may not sound like much but long term health concerns have been noted to include:
  • Nervous system effects
  • Carcinogenic effects
  • Hormone system effects
  • Skin, eye and lung irritation
"Pesticides are unique among the chemicals we release into the environment; they have inherent toxicity because they are designed to kill living organisms – insects, plants, and fungi that are considered "pests." Because they are toxic by design, many pesticides pose health risks to people, risks that have been acknowledged by independent research scientists and physicians across the world."
Much of this content that I am discussing was put together by The Environmental Working Group which is an organization that has developed a guide based on data from nearly 87,000 tests for pesticide residues in produce conducted between 2000-2007 and collected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. FDA(Food and Drug Act). The philosophy behind the guide is simple: give consumers the information they need to make choices to reduce pesticides in their diets.

It is a valuable resource to get yourself educated as to what is the difference between foods with pesticides and foods without and why it is valuable to buy organic for certain types of produce.

The most common question I get in my cooking classes, is "Which fruits and vegetables are crucial to buy organic, and which ones can I still buy conventional and not worry?". Well the EWG has put together two lists to simplify and prioritize this very question.

THE "Dirty Dozen" (Buy These Organic!) - rated in order Most Toxic to Least Toxic
Bell Pepper

The CLEANEST (lowest in pesticides) - if you can- buy these items as organic or local if available.
Sweet Corn
Sweet Peas
Sweet Potato

This post would not be complete without a recipe to go along with it. So here is a recipe that incorporates many of these foods, many of which are considered "CLEAN" too!

Tangy Thai Lettuce Wraps

Makes 12 wraps
1 tablespoon sesame oil
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ cup maple syrup
½ cup lime juice
2 tablespoons chopped ginger
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 ½ tablespoons tamari
1 cup almond butter
½ head red cabbage, shredded
6 large collard green leaves
1 avocado, sliced
2 large carrots, shredded
1 large ripe mango, cut lengthwise into strips
1 bunch mint leaves
1 bunch basil leaves

1. In a vita mix or high speed blender, puree the maple syrup, lemon juice, ginger and tamari. Add the almond butter and blend at low speed to combine, add water to thin out if necessary.
2. In a medium bowl, add the shredded cabbage with almond butter mixture and toss well to combine.
3. Cut out the center rib of each collard green leaf, dividing the leaf in half. Place the leaves in a large bowl and toss with 1 tsp of tamari and a 1 tbsp of sesame oil and toss around with hands to coat. Allow to marinate for 1-2 minutes.
4. Place half leaf on a cutting board with the underside facing up. Arrange a few tablespoons of the cabbage mixture evenly across the bottom third of the leaf, leaving about 11/2 inches clear at the bottom. Lay a few stick of carrot and a few strips of mango on top.
5. Add a few leaves of each mint and basil.
6. Fold the bottom of the collard leaf up and over the filling, keeping it tight, and tuck the leaf under the ingredients and roll forward. Place the roll seam side down on a serving dish.

This recipe is adapted from "Raw Food, Real World" Created by Matthew Kenney and Sarma Melngailis. Sarma currently owns and operates Pure Food and Wine - fantastic raw food restaurant in New York City!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Sexiest and Healthiest Martini you will ever Drink!

Red Spicy-Tini

1 ½ cup pomegranate juice
½ cup apple juice
¾ cup sake (optional)
¼ cup black cherry juice
1 tablespoon agave nectar
splash of fresh ginger juice and/or lime juice
4 cinnamon sticks

In a martini shaker, pour all the ingredients except the cinnamon sticks over ice and shake or stir very well to chill. Strain and pour into martini glasses and garnish with cinnamon sticks

So there you have it, one of the healthiest martini recipes you will ever have! Jam packed with antioxidants and vitamins, this martini is a nice treat for any special occasion.
Those who know me, know that I am not an advocate for alcohol; however, a tasty martini with delicious wholesome ingredients makes it all worth while.
Especially if you are not a drinker, having just one of these is just enough-your palate and your senses will be more than satisfied. You don't even have to add the sake - as this makes a delicious virgin cocktail.

If you haven't heard of or tried sake - let me tell you it's worth the try - at least once.

Sake is fermented from steamed rice, yeast and koji (a bacterial starter) and water.
Sake also happens to be rich in amino acids and naturally occurring carbohydrates. Sake also has no sulfites, and is therefore an excellent replacement for those who like white wine but have an allergic response to sulfites that causes asthma-like symptoms. So as you can see for being an alcohol, sake is pretty natural with only it's four ingredients.

Sake also has a reputation as a love potion. In Japan drinking sake is very sacred and should be sipped for enjoyment and pleasure - as sex in Japan is something to savor.

As good as sake is, especially in this recipe, make sure you don't drink to much or you won't see straight-it really hits you much harder than other alcohols because it's so natural. The good news is that sake generally doesn't give you a hangover. Which I believe is something worth mentioning.

So if you are having an occasion and want to make something a little extra special, serve up some sake cocktails and garnish them with fun things like cinnamon sticks, fresh raspberries or lime slices.