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Wheatless Wednesday: Twisted Vegetable Lasagna

Wednesday, December 31st, 2014

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Tomorrow begins a new year and the post-holiday food slump. We’re all tired of rich food, but we need filling meals to keep the belly warm as winter drags on. (Want more light, bright winter fare? Click here.) That’s why I turned a classic heavy dish into a lighter gluten-free meal with a twist. Instead of layering noodles into the lasagna pan, try wrapping them around the filling, creating portioned packets of lasagna resting on a veggie bed and swathed in gooey cheese. It’s perfect for last-minute New Year’s Eve gatherings or long winter nights that lie ahead.

Twisted Gluten-Free Vegetable Lasagna
15 to 16 servings

1 16-oz. box gluten-free lasagna noodles
3 Tbsp. olive oil, plus more to coat, divided
1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced lengthwise
1 yellow squash, thinly sliced lengthwise
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tsp. dried herbs like basil, thyme or oregano, divided
1 small white onion, chopped
8 oz. button mushrooms, sliced
1 16-oz. jar pasta sauce
8 oz. cottage cheese, drained
8 oz. ricotta cheese
½ cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 egg
1 tsp. garlic powder
5 oz. baby spinach leaves
8 oz. shredded sharp cheddar, divided
8 oz. shredded mozzarella cheese, divided

• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
• Bring a large pot of salted water to boil with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Cook the lasagna noodles under just tender enough to roll easily, about 5 minutes. Drain the noodles and lightly coat each with more olive oil to keep from sticking, then lay them flat on an olive oil-coated baking sheet until ready to use.
• Prepare a charcoal or gas grill for indirect heat or place a grill pan over medium-high heat.
• Toss the zucchini and yellow squash with olive oil to coat and season with 1 teaspoon herbs and salt and pepper to taste. Grill the zucchini and squash until tender and a bit charred, about 5 minutes, then flip and grill another 5 minutes. Remove and set aside.
• Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Saute the onion and mushrooms with the remaining 1 teaspoon herbs until lightly brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat.
• Roughly chop the grilled zucchini and yellow squash and toss with the mushrooms and onion. Set aside.
• Spoon a thin layer of pasta sauce on bottom of 13-by-9-inch glass baking dish, then cover with the chopped vegetables.
• In a medium bowl, stir together the cottage cheese, ricotta, Parmesan, egg and garlic powder until combined. Spread a thin layer of this mixture on top of each lasagna noodle, then sprinkle with a few tablespoons cheddar and mozzarella cheese and cover with a few spinach leaves.
• Roll each noodle into a tight pinwheel and place spiral-side-down on top of the vegetables, packing together tightly so they stay closed. Cover the noodles with the remaining sauce and remaining cheddar and mozzarella cheese. Place the pan on a baking sheet to catch any drippings and bake 35 minutes, until the sauce and cheese are bubbly and slightly brown. Cover with foil and bake another 10 minutes. Let rest 15 minutes before serving.

Wheatless Wednesday: Holiday Party Snack Mix

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

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The bowl of mixed nuts at holiday parties always intrigues me. I love the possibility of crunchy, chewy, savory and sweet, all in one bite – not to mention anything roasted in butter and sugar. But eating gluten-free means I usually keep my hands out of the snack bowl, fearful of hidden crackers or other glutinous ingredients.

My party snack mix relies on naturally gluten-free morsels that are rich in various textures: crunchy curried pecans, toasted coconut chips, dried cranberries … and chocolate-covered bacon. Have a batch on hand for upcoming holiday gatherings and make an extra one just for you.

 

Party Snack Mix
Makes 4 to 5 cups

2 Tbsp. butter
2 cups raw unsalted pecans
2 Tbsp. brown sugar
1 Tbsp. curry powder
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
6 slices natural bacon, roughly chopped
4 oz. 70-80 percent chocolate
1 tsp. coarse sea salt
2.5 oz. chopped crystallized ginger
1 3.2-oz. bag toasted coconut chips*
1 cup pomegranate-infused dried cranberries or plain dried cranberries

• In a large skillet over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the pecans and toast, stirring often, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the brown sugar and curry powder and continue stirring until the nuts are fragrant and lightly browned, another 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer to a plate, sprinkle with pepper and let cool.
• Wipe the skillet clean and return to the stove over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and fry until brown and crisp, about 8 to 10 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate to cool.
• Meanwhile, prepare a double boiler by bringing a few inches of water to a simmer in a pot over medium heat. Place glass bowl over the bowl, add the chocolate and stir until completely melted.
• Remove from heat and add the bacon to the bowl, stirring to coat completely. Scrape the mixture onto a parchment-lined plate and spread into a single layer. Sprinkle with sea salt and refrigerate until hardened, about 20 minutes.
• Break the chocolate into bite-sized pieces and place in a large mixing bowl. Add the curried pecans, crystallized ginger, coconut chips and dried cranberries and toss to combine. The nut mix will keep, refrigerated, up to 2 weeks in an airtight container.

*I used Dang Original Toasted Coconut Chips, available at Dierbergs.

Wheatless Wednesday: Thumbprint Cookies

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014

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In winter, I’m drawn to tactile recipes that let me slow down and bake nourishing, delicious treats. This thumbprint cookie lets me get my hands right into the dough, stamping my signature into each one. Plus, it’s the perfect way to clean out those almost-empty jam jars taking up space in the fridge.

This recipe allows for a lot of variation. Choose any combination of raw or roasted nuts to achieve your desired flavor. For example, raw cashews and almonds will be a touch sweeter than, say, walnuts. You can also use any gluten-free baking mix; I used Pamela’s Pancake & Baking Mix, which includes a bit of leavening, but isn’t required. Experiment with liquid sweeteners like maple syrup or agave syrup, too, to find the perfect balance of sweet and savory.

Gluten-free Thumbprint Cookies
Makes 3 dozen

1½ cup roasted cashews
½ cup raw almonds
4 cups gluten-free old-fashioned oats or gluten-free oat groats
¼ tsp. sea salt
1½ cups gluten-free baking mix, such as Pamela’s Pancake & Baking Mix
1 cup coconut oil, melted
2/3 cup honey
1/3 cup molasses
1 tsp. vanilla extract
¼ cup hemp seeds*
Assorted jams for filling

• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat mats.
• In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the cashews and almonds until coarsely ground and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Set aside.
• Pulse the oats and sea salt in the bowl of the food processor until coarsely ground, stopping before it becomes flour. Add the ground oats and the baking mix to the ground nuts and stir to combine. Add the coconut oil, honey, molasses and vanilla extract, mixing to thoroughly combine. Stir in the hemp seeds.
• Roll the dough into 1- to 2-inch balls and place them 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. If the dough feels too sticky, refrigerate 20 to 30 minutes.
• Indent the center of each cookie with your thumb, then fill each space with a bit of jam. Bake 15 to 17 minutes, until lightly browned.
• Let the cookies rest 10 minutes, then transfer to wire rack to cool completely.

*Hemp seeds are available at Whole Foods.

Wheatless Wednesday: Healthy Chinese Almond Cookies

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

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The holiday season is a dangerous time for me. When confronted with a tray of sweets, I’ve been known to channel Cookie Monster (“C is for cookie, that’s good enough for me!”). Those overly processed, sugary treats are addictive, and I quickly learned that I would need a healthier alternative to stave off the cookie massacre.

Everyone can use a recipe for those times we crave a treat without spiking our blood sugar levels. I find when I bake with higher protein flours, less sugar and minimally processed ingredients, I am more satisfied with just a couple cookies rather than the whole tray. These almond flour cookies are a healthy, simplified version of the traditional Chinese dessert, sweetened with just enough honey and almond extract to make the taste buds tingle. This dough is easy to work with and doesn’t contain raw eggs, so lick the that spoon guilt-free. For holiday flair, replace the vanilla and almond extracts with peppermint extract and swap whole almonds with crushed peppermint candies.

 

Healthy Chinese Almond Cookies
Makes 18 to 20

¼ cup extra-virgin coconut oil, melted
⅓ cup raw honey
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract
1⅓ cups (135 g.) almond flour*
2 Tbsp. (15 g.) coconut flour
¼ tsp. sea salt
½ tsp. baking soda
18 to 20 whole raw almonds

• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
• In a medium bowl, whisk together the coconut oil, honey, vanilla extract and almond extract until well combined. Add the almond flour, coconut flour, salt and baking soda and stir until a firm dough comes together. It should be able to roll into a ball. If not, refrigerate up to 30 minutes.
• Roll the dough into 18 to 20 1-inch balls and place them on a baking sheet 1 inch apart. Press 1 almond into the center of each cookie. Bake 10 minutes, until edges start to lightly brown. Let the cookies cool slightly then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

*I advise weighing any nut flours to prevent inaccurate measurements.

 

Wheatless Wednesday: Brown Butter-Apple-Ginger-Carrot Muffins

Wednesday, November 5th, 2014

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True, this recipe title does sound a bit overwhelming. I considered calling these “Refrigerator Muffins” or “Kitchen Sink Muffins,” but those names conjured up mental images of old fruit and veggies, expired flours and honey jars dotted with stale breadcrumbs – not what I picture when I imagine a complex, gluten-free muffin.

Instead, this recipe – despite its lengthy moniker – exudes fall. Ginger and honey balance and lighten the crisp fall flavors of apples and carrots. Add hints of fresh herbs, and this exquisite muffin is perfect for breakfast or a sweet-savory snack.

These muffins are very moist and a bit gooey in the center, unlike cake-y, glutinous muffins. Be sure to let the muffins cool before serving, which allows the inside to set, then slather with your favorite fall jam or butter.

Baking gluten-free muffins is just as simple as the standard variety, especially with the plethora of gluten-free baking mixes on the shelves today. I used Andrea’s Gluten-Free super-fine grind flour blend, but any gluten-free flour blend will work.

 

Brown Butter-Apple-Ginger-Carrot Muffins
12 servings

5 oz. butter
1 large apple, peeled, cored and grated
1 1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
2 eggs
1/3 cup honey
1½ tsp. vanilla extract
1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp. plain full-fat yogurt
1 cup gluten-free flour blend
½ cup almond flour
1½ tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. sea salt
1/3 cup coconut sugar or brown sugar
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg
1/8 tsp. ground cardamom
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 large carrots, peeled and grated
2 tsp. chopped fresh rosemary
2 tsp. chopped fresh sage

• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease the cups of a 12-cup muffin pan.
• In a cast-iron or heavy-bottomed skillet, brown the butter over medium-high heat until the solids start to turn dark gold and the butter smells nutty, shaking the skillet often to keep it from burning, 7 to 8 minutes.
• Add the grated apple and ginger and saute 5 to 7 minutes, until light brown and soft. Remove from heat and set aside.
• In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, honey, vanilla and yogurt. Add the cooked apples and ginger, using a rubber spatula to scrape all the browned butter into the mixture. Stir to combine and set aside.
• In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the gluten-free flour, almond flour, baking powder, salt, coconut sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and black pepper. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and mix well. Fold in the carrots, rosemary and sage.
• Fill each cup in the muffin tin two-thirds high with batter. Bake 30 minutes.
• Remove from the oven and let rest in the muffin pan 3 to 5 minutes, then carefully remove the muffins from the pan and let cool completely on a wire rack. Serve with jam and butter.

Wheatless Wednesdays: Pumpkin Amaranth Porridge

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

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Naturally gluten-free amaranth is more nutritional that its gluten-containing counterparts like wheat, barley and rye, though technically it’s not a grain at all. Like quinoa, millet, teff and buckwheat, amaranth is actually a pseudo-cereal – a seed. Amaranth is easily digested, even more so when soaked several hours to breakdown inherent substances found in most grains and pseudo-grains that inhibit digestion and nutrient absorption.

Amaranth is the quintessential ingredient for easy gluten-free porridge. It becomes somewhat gelatinous as it cooks, and its nutty flavor practically shouts for pumpkin pie spices. This pot of nutty, delicate porridge is full of spiced goodness thanks to cinnamon sticks, fresh ginger, cardamom and whole cloves – perfect for a slow autumn weekend morning as you watch the leaves change and reflect on the year.

 
Pumpkin Amaranth Porridge
3 to 4 servings

1 cup amaranth, soaked overnight, drained and rinsed well
1 14-oz. can coconut milk
1 cup water
1 cup pumpkin puree, plus more to finish
2 cinnamon sticks
1 Tbsp. fresh ginger, chopped
1 tsp. whole cloves
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. cardamom powder
¼ tsp. nutmeg
½ tsp. sea salt
Toppings like chopped pecans, shredded coconut, pumpkin seeds, raisins, cacao nibs, honey or maple syrup (optional)

• In a large saucepan, bring the amaranth, coconut milk, water, 1 cup pumpkin puree, cinnamon sticks, ginger, cloves, vanilla extract, cardamom powder, nutmeg and salt to a boil over high heat, stirring 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer 20 minutes, stirring occasionally and more frequently in the last 5 minutes of cooking. Remove from heat and let sit, covered, 10 to 15 minutes to thicken.
• Divide the porridge evenly between bowls. Stir in a dollop of pumpkin puree to taste and garnish with toppings, if desired.

Wheatless Wednesday: Caramelized Fennel, Leek and Cauliflower Salad

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014

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During the shift from summer to fall, we start to incorporate foods with more density, complexity and nutrition into our diets as we prepare our bodies for winter. This complex vegetable-based salad was created with a friend as we prepared for a birthday celebration. The result was warm, comforting and made me feel grounded as I approach the slower, cooler autumnal days.

This complex salad tosses together fall vegetables like cauliflower and fennel with mellow leeks. Roasting the vegetables deepens their flavor, while crunchy black walnuts, protein-packed quinoa and bright pomegranate seeds add heft and color to the salad. It’s coated in a simple, tangy dressing made with tart pomegranate molasses, honey and lemon juice and studded with that most quintessential fall spice, sage.

 
Caramelized Fennel, Leek and Cauliflower Salad
6 servings

1 large cauliflower, cut into large florets
½ cup olive oil, divided
1 tsp. red pepper flakes
1½ tsp. sea salt, divided
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
¼ cup apple cider vinegar, divided
2 large leeks, trimmed and cut into 1-to-2-inch pieces
2 large fennel bulbs, sliced into 1-inch pieces
2 Tbsp. pomegranate molasses
2 tsp. honey
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 garlic clove, minced
2 cups cooked quinoa
1/3 cup black walnut pieces
½ cup pomegranate seeds
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh sage

• Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
• In a large mixing bowl, toss the cauliflower with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar, the red pepper flakes, ½ teaspoon sea salt and black pepper to taste. Spread the cauliflower onto a baking sheet in a single layer.
• In the same bowl, toss the leeks, fennel, 2 Tbsp. olive oil, 2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar, ½ teaspoon sea salt and black pepper to taste. Spread the leeks and fennel onto a second baking sheet in a single layer. Roast the two trays of vegetables 30 to 45 minutes, tossing occasionally until caramelized.
• Meanwhile, whisk together the remaining ½ cup olive oil, pomegranate molasses, honey, lemon juice, cinnamon and garlic together in a small bowl. Set aside.
• Toss the roasted vegetables, cooked quinoa, black walnuts, pomegranate seeds and sage together in a large mixing bowl. Toss with salad dressing to taste and serve.

Jill Duncan is the owner of Wellness by Jill and follows a gluten-free diet.

Wheatless Wednesdays: Mung Bean Pancakes with Coconut-Cilantro Sauce

Wednesday, September 10th, 2014

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Pancakes are generally synonymous with sweet, syrupy indulgent breakfast fare. They’re also synonymous with bloated bellies and near catatonic energy levels. For me, those moments of instant gratification never seem worth the following hours of a sluggish mind and body.

Thankfully, there are ways to indulge in this breakfast treat without blood sugar crashes. I recently spent time with Goyo Fawley, an Ayurvedic chef at Satyam Healing Arts in California. (Click here to read more about my experiences with an Ayruvedic diet and lifestyle.) He showed me how to griddle up delicious, protein-packed, colorful pancakes that left me feeling balanced and ready to take on the day, not take a nap. These healthy, bean-filled flapjacks adapt to plenty of dietary restrictions; they’re gluten-free and can be dairy-free and vegan, too.

Fawley taught me that regularly balancing my body, mind and spirit leads to more energy and vigor, and that is the key to balance and living a full, vital life. Here’s to your health!

 

Mung Bean Pancakes with Coconut-Cilantro Sauce
4 servings

½ cup shredded, unsweetened dried coconut
1½ cups hot water
2 Tbsp. ghee or coconut oil, plus more for frying, divided
Half of a small serrano pepper, chopped
2 ½-inch pieces of ginger, peeled, divided
½ tsp. cumin seed
1/8 tsp. asafetida*, plus more to taste (optional)
1/3 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
Juice of 1 lime
Sea salt to taste
1 cup raw mung beans, soaked overnight in water, drained and rinsed
½ large onion, coarsely chopped
2 to 3 cups tap water
½ cup shredded beet or carrot, plus more for garnish
Sliced green onion for garnish

• In a medium bowl, soak the dried coconut in the hot water 30 to 45 minutes, until softened.
• Meanwhile, in a heavy-bottomed skillet, warm 2 tablespoons ghee over medium heat. Saute the serrano pepper, 1 piece of ginger and the cumin seeds about 5 minutes, until they begin to soften. Add a dash of asafetida to taste, if desired.
• In a high-powered blender or the bowl of a food processor, combine the rehydrated coconut, its soaking liquid and the sauteed pepper mixture and pulse. Add the cilantro, lime juice and sea salt to taste and purée until smooth. Set the sauce aside.
• In a high-powered blender or the bowl of a food processor, add the mung beans, onion, ginger, 1/8 teaspoon asafetida (if desired) and 2 cups water and pulse. Add more water as needed until the mixture reaches a pancake batter-like consistency.
• Coat the bottom of a heavy skillet or griddle with ghee over medium-high heat. Pour the batter into the skillet in batches to form desired size pancakes. Sprinkle the surface of each pancake with shredded beet or carrot. Cook 2 to 3 minutes, until underside is lightly browned. Flip and cook another 2 to 3 minutes, utnil the pancake is browned and cooked though. Repeat until all batter is used.
• Serve the pancakes with the sauce and garnish with sliced green onions and shredded beet or carrot.

*Asafetida, also called hing, is an herb cultivated in India. It can be found at Jay International Food Co., and other international markets.

Wheatless Wednesdays: Creamy Cantaloupe Cashew Soup

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014

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Combining something sweet with a fat is almost always an equation for palette-pleasing success. Traditional baked desserts combine butter and brown sugar, frozen treats mix cream with corn syrup or sugar, pies lure you with butter and sweet fruits, and even our typical caffeine addictions are best with half-and-half and cream.

Though I try to refrain from indulging in this combo daily, I’ve found that many of my healthy meals have the same equation of sweet + fat = delicious. For instance, my favorite afternoon snack is an avocado with raisins and sea salt, my morning smoothie includes scoops of almond butter or avocado and banana, and even the nutrient-dense raw trail mix that’s a mainstay in my purse satisfies with that wonderful combo.

A sugar-sweet cantaloupe fresh from the farmers market doesn’t need much more than a sharp knife and a spoon in the heat of the summer, so I figured the addition of something creamy would make the soup soar. A tangy kick of lemon and snip of fresh herbs from the garden make this seven-ingredient dish a quick, simple option perfect for anytime of the day and for anyone with a craving for something a little indulgent.

Creamy Cantaloupe Cashew Soup
4 to 8 servings

2/3 cup raw cashews
4 cups cubed cantaloupe
1/3 cup almond milk
Juice of half a lemon
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and halved
6 large basil leaves, plus more for garnish.
½ tsp. sea salt

• Soak the cashews 4 to 8 hours, then drain and rinse them.
• Place all ingredients in a high-powdered blender or food processor and blend until ultra smooth. Pour into bowls and garnish with fresh basil.

Wheatless Wednesday: Raw Carrot Pie

Wednesday, August 13th, 2014

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Food has always been an inspiration for me, a means to a beautiful conversation and a way to express creativity and passion. This raw carrot pie inspired me to gather some of my closest friends to share food, wine, stories, laughter and tears. And, after we devoured every last crumb from the pie pan, we all wanted more: dessert, hugs, smiles, and friendship.

The nuances of the pie remind me of that evening; it’s raw, sweet, complex, surprising, spicy, healthy and pure. Prepare this pie for your loved ones as an example of your sincere desire to share from your heart.

 
Raw Carrot Pie
8 to 12 servings

2 cups raw pecans, soaked 4 to 6 hours, plus more for garnish
½ cup dates, pitted and halved
3 Tbsp. shredded coconut
2 tsp. cinnamon, divided
¼ tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. plus a pinch sea salt, divided
Pinch nutmeg
1½ cups raw cashews, soaked 4 to 6 hours, plus more for garnish
4 cups shredded carrots, plus more to garnish
1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp. raw agave nectar
1-inch piece ginger, peeled and halved
1½ Tbsp. white chia seeds
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. Meyer lemon juice or regular lemon juice
½ tsp. allspice
Dash ground cloves

• Drain the pecans. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the pecans, dates, shredded coconuts, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, ground ginger, a pinch of sea salt and a pinch of nutmeg until them mixture forms into a ball. Press the mixture evenly in the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie pan. Set aside.
• Drain the cashews. In the bowl of a food processor, puree the cashews, shredded carrots, agave nectar, ginger, chia seeds, remaining 1 teaspoon cinnamon, vanilla extract, lemon juice, allspice, remaining ¼ teaspoon sea salt and ground cloves until the mixture is smooth. Pour the filling into the pie crust and smooth the top with a spatula.
• Refrigerate until set, at least 2 hours. Garnish with pecans, shredded coconut and/or shredded carrot, if desired, and serve.

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