May 5, 2014 § 1 Comment
Such a year, so many changes and adaptations. Our family has moved back to our beloved town of Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel. Amidst a heartrending few months of sky-high emotional turmoil and loss (another post, for another time), I can say that I am the happiest I have ever been. I found Yoga again: Iyengar and the way it makes me feel purposeful. I buy myself flowers every Friday and went shopping this week for new clothes. I am making an effort to take care of myself in every way. I discovered that when I don’t, maybe I’m trying to focus on my kids or my husband too much, everyone ends up suffering immeasurably. So introducing my new wellness challenge: goodbye sugar!
I’ve read too many articles and medical studies that show that sugar consumption is outrageously high and is negatively affecting our health. Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist, likes to call himself the “anti processed food guy.” Here is his skinny on the obesity-sugar connection.
I’m lucky to have an amazing community of friends both in my neighborhood and online. We’re going sugar free, and hoping that our families might too.
Yesterday was my first day off of sugar and it went surprisingly well (except for the peanut butter chocolate bar I wolfed down before bedtime and then felt as guilty as if I’d stolen it from the store). This morning I woke up to the sweet smell of apples and cinnamon. Before bed I set up the slow cooker on a timer and mixed together the ingredients for a whole-grain brown rice porridge. It was piping hot when my kids and I woke up and was delightful with just a bit of honey and raisins on top.
Slow Cooker Brown Rice Porridge with Apples
3 cups round brown rice (you can use standard brown rice or Basmati but the texture will be less porridge-like and more similar to rice)
9 cups liquid (I use a combination of unsweetened almond milk and water
1 tbsp cinnamon
1-2 tbsp chia seeds (optional)
4 apples, peeled and diced
1 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp good quality oil (olive, coconut, etc.)
Combine ingredients in a large slow cooker. Set the timer to cook on low for 7 hours. My slow cooker is simple and doesn’t have an internal timer. I use a clock on my outlet and set the time so the porridge starts to cook at around 11 pm. Cook on low for 7-8 hours. Serve with a bit of honey or maple syrup and raisins.
September 24, 2012 § 5 Comments
Recently my good friend Tziporah decided to stop by. She lives in my neighborhood but with kids and work its difficult to catch up sometimes. She, with her wisdom and gift for insight, inspired me to continue writing even when its hard. And ladies and gentleman, it is hard around here.
Where have I been? I have two kids under the age of two and was resisting childcare. That whole “I can take care of my OWN kids” syndrome. I stuck it out for 9 months. My son is now enjoying himself in a half-day nursery school and my 9 month old baby girl has never been happier to play alone without fear of being trampled or excessively kissed. We needed a break.
As I’ve mentioned in the past, my life has been in a total whirlwind since my last semester in College. School, conversion, seminary, marriage, first baby, second baby. I feel like I can breathe again. Like I can sit down with a cup of coffee (alone!) and think about who I am and where I want to be. It also helps that I started Rabbi Aryeh Nivin’s Personal Development Chabura. I am investing in myself because a happy mommy means a happy family. (Cheesy, yes. True, 100%). I cannot tell you how long it took me to believe that I am worth investing in.
I am also happy to report that as of several months ago I am pain and medication free. On a recent trip to the States I met with my Rheumatologist who reported that I have perfect blood work. That means I am completely in remission from Rheumatoid Arthritis. How did this happen? I stopped eating gluten. I had dabbled before with the diet but I now avoid even trace contamination. I’m not telling every person who might have arthritis or an autoimmune disease to try a gluten-free diet. I know better. But if you are not responding to medication and are at your wit’s end, there is absolutely no harm in trying. I can pick up my kids, use my hands, climb the stairs, push a stroller, fasten my own buttons, cut my chicken, and I have not had this much energy since I was a teenager. I could not say the same a year ago.
I’ve tried dozens of recipes for gluten-free bread. When I discovered that my daughter is also sensitive to eggs and dairy, I had to get creative with recipes. This is my favorite gluten-free bread I have tasted including those from the most popular gluten-free companies. It contains nuts so it might not suit the needs of everyone. But if you are looking for a vegan and gluten-free all-purpose dough this recipe is for you. (I’ll soon be posting a nut free bread that rivals any fluffy dinner roll on the market)
I adapted it slightly from Ginger Lemon Girl. She deserves the credit as I did nothing more than swap out a few starches and lower the amount of gums. I prefer to bake gluten-free bread in small round tins (slightly larger and more shallow than a muffin tin), but this bread also slices beautifully in a traditional loaf. I’m even trying it out as pizza dough this evening. The sorghum and brown rice flour are easy subs for each other if you can only find one or the other. *If you can take the time to buy an inexpensive kitchen scale for weighing dry ingredients I would HIGHLY advise you do so. Gluten free baking works exceptionally well when done by weight and it makes it even easier to convert traditional wheat recipes to gluten-free.
Gluten Free Vegan Bread
1 1/4 cups almond flour (144 grams)
1/2 cup brown rice flour (71 grams)
1/2 cup sorghum flour (72 grams)
1 cup potato starch (140 grams)
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons xanthan gum
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 1/2 cups warm water
1 tablespoon dry yeast
3 tablespoons honey, agave nectar, or maple syrup
1/4 cup neutral tasting oil
In a medium bowl combine the honey (or agave to make it 100% vegan), yeast and warm water. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or so until it bubbles like a cauldron. In a large bowl, combine all dry ingredients and mix well until it becomes a completely homogenous flour mixture. Add oil to yeast mixture and stir to combine. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir well for 5-10 minutes. Do not skip this step. The dough (which really resembles a thick cake batter) will go from chunky to smooth as the gums start to develop. This process mimicks gluten and is essential to a good crumb structure. Cover and allow to rest in a warm place for an hour or two. Preheat your oven to 350 F (176 C). Spray shallow tart tins, muffin pans, or loaf pan with Pam or grease well with oil. Divide dough equally. Allow to rise for another 20-30 minutes while the oven preheats. Bake in a hot oven for 20-30 minutes, rotating the pans half way through baking time. Bread is done when it is a deep golden brown color. Remove the pans from the oven and rest for 5 minutes. Remove the rolls or loaves and transfer carefully to a wire rack and allow to cool COMPLETELY before slicing. These keep well for 1-2 days at room temperature, but I usually freeze what I cannot eat in one day.
October 19, 2011 § Leave a comment
The air is cool in the morning. And again in the evening. Last night I wore boots and a wool beret to hang out in the Sukkah. I can’t tell you how happy this makes me. I love the changing of seasons, and as trite as it sounds, I wait for that cold intake of air all year. There is something about the weather turning cooler that signals to me a fresh start. I carefully (ok, not always so painstakingly) put away the summer wardrobe, break out the bags and boxes of sweaters, fleece, and warm blankets. I eat hot oatmeal with brown sugar and cinnamon every morning. Afternoon tea is a totally legitimate past time and not to be considered overkill (as some might think it in the summer).
It’s a strange time for me, but a good one, and necessary I think. In two weeks time I’ll be moving out of our apartment into another. A nice little place off a pedestrian path, with a garden with a tree. I’ll have another month after that to settle in, set up house, and then my life will change drastically once again. It feels incredible to go through all of our possessions, shedding old clothes and knick knacks and garbage that has been weighing us down since before we were married. And our little baby isn’t such a little baby anymore. He’s chatting, cruising, getting into trouble. Soon enough he’ll be walking. Things are always changing, evolving. But I can count on that cold intake of air to bring me back to a familiar place of renewal.
There is nothing revolutionary about this pie. I use fresh pumpkin, which is actually quite simple to prepare*, and it makes a world of difference. You could use a can of pure pumpkin puree and I won’t hold it against you. A smooth dairy-free custard is baked in a gluten-free cookie crust which holds up well as the days pass; no soggy bottoms here. Spicy, sweet, delightful.
*I realize I forgot to mention how one actually prepares fresh pumpkin. I like small-ish sugar pumpkins, as the larger ones tend to have a funky taste. Save those for your front stoop. Hack it up in the pieces, scraping out the stringy insides and seeds. Place in a large microwave safe bowl and cover with plastic. Microwave in 10 minute bursts until all pieces are soft and easily pierced with a fork. Scrape out the flesh into another large bowl and puree with a hand blender, or blend in a blender. If it seems to be excessively watery, you can strain it in a strainer lined with cheesecloth. I like to freeze half-cup amounts in small plastic bags, labeled, so I can take out a few when I need an Autumn pick-me-up. Voila! Easy as pie.
Pumpkin Pie in a Cookie Crust
Gluten free, dairy free, soy free
Makes 1 9 inch deep dish pie
Adapted from Epicurious
2/3 cup (packed) golden brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons Brown rice flour (or all-purpose flour)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree or canned pumpkin (If using the canned version, make sure it is unseasoned)
2 tablespoons honey
3 large eggs
1 cup almond milk (or any dairy free milk of your preference)
1 prepared Gluten Free Cookie Crust (Recipe below)
Preheat oven to 450 F. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients, blend until smooth. Pour into baked and cooled cookie crust. Bake for 10 minutes, then lower heat to 325 F and bake for another 40-60 minutes, depending on your oven. Cool on a wire rack completely. Cover with plastic wrap directly on the pie and refrigerate until serving (2-3 days max.). Serve cold or at room temperature.
Gluten Free Cookie Crust
Makes 1 9 inch deep dish crust
Adapted from Allrecipes
1 1/2 cups finely crushed gluten free tea biscuits (or any other simple butter cookie similar to a vanilla wafer)
1/4 cup white sugar
6 tablespoons margarine, melted (The comma placement means you first measure out 6 tbsp of cold margarine, then melt. If a recipes states “6 tbsp melted margarine” it means you measure AFTER melting. Not as common)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
A pinch of salt
Directions for Crust
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (176 degrees C). In a bowl combine the cookie crumbs, sugar, margarine and cinnamon; mix until well blended. Press into a 9 inch pie plate. Bake in the preheated oven for 5-7 minutes, until lightly brown. Cool.
July 31, 2011 § 5 Comments
I’m not even going to get into where I’ve been. Oh how I have so much to tell you. About pizza. And fresh summer salads with feta and balsamic. And slaw. Oh the slaw. But that’s for another post and another time. Because the news I have for you today is so incredible, so mind blowing that you will be running to your kitchens as soon as you finish reading. I made the best muffins in existence. The most tender, the most flavorful, the perfect crumb, crunchy lidded, ideal banana whole grain muffins. And they are gluten-free. Yes, I have gone over to the dark side and become a buckwheat-eating freak. I’ll explain the situation at length later, but just know this: I have not felt this good in months. Maybe a year. Maybe since before my RA diagnosis. And thank you G-d, there will be muffins.
You might recognize this recipe from my Vegan Banana Bread. Instead of messing around with other gluten-free muffin recipes with ingredients I didn’t have, I decided to experiment with a recipe that works- with wheat flour at least. With the guidance of Gluten-free Goddess and her baking tips and substitutions, I made a gluten-free flour mix, and subbed out the wheat flour in my regular recipe. I also added an egg and some baking powder for extra leavening and binding. And a little ground flax seed for good measure. Mine did not rise as high as traditional muffins, but you can experiment with how much you fill your baking cups. I can’t express how delicious these are. And not just by gluten-free standards. You can easily make this into banana bread, just grease or line a standard size loaf pan with parchment and voila. You could even add chocolate chips. My Husband would approve.
Gluten-free Whole Grain Banana Muffins
Makes 12 muffins or 1 large loaf
Gluten, Soy, and Dairy-free
*Note: the GF flour mix makes more than needed for this recipe. Store the rest in an airtight container in your fridge or freezer and use for another delectable gluten free recipe. It works well for just about any baked good.
1/2 cup margarine or canola oil
1/2-3/4 cup Demerara or white sugar (depending on how sweet you like your muffins)
1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour mix*
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
3 ripe, mashed bananas
Gluten-free flour mix:
1 cup brown or whole rice flour
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
1 cup tapioca starch
1 tsp xanthan gum
1 tsp ground flax seeds
Whisk together and store in the refrigerator or freezer in a tightly lidded container.
Preheat oven to 350 F (176 C). Line a muffin tin with liners, or grease wells with oil. In a large bowl, combine margarine or canola oil and sugar, stirring well to combine. Add the egg and beat well. Add salt and pumpkin pie spice. Sift in 1 1/2 cups of the gluten-free flour mix, baking soda, and baking powder. Add mashed bananas. Mix well, beating for a minute or two. With normal muffins, over beating would make for a tough muffin. With gluten-free flours, beating adds aeration and makes for a lighter crumb. Using a 1/4 cup measure, fill the muffin cups with batter almost to the top. Bake in the preheated oven for 20-30 minutes. The muffins are done when they are brown on the top, the tops spring back when you touch them, and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the pan cool on a wire rack for a minute or two. Remove the muffins to the wire rack to cool, or else the bottoms will steam. Eat them all.