Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Gluten-Yeast-(Casein) Free Sandwich Bread

Fed up with limited options at the shops for an old fashioned sandwich, I finally made a terrific GFCF sandwich bread of my own. It does not contain yeast and is all the better for it: dense, nutty, and versatile. No strange puffy processed stuff, promise.

Gluten & Yeast Free (Easily Vegan) Sandwich Bread

    2 cups of brown rice flour
    3 t baking powder
    1 t xanthan gum
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1 packet of Stevia (or equivalent of 2 teaspoons sweetener)
    1- 1.5 T butter (substitute with olive oil for vegan recipe)
    1.5 cups of soy milk
    dash of lemon juice
    egg white (optional, omit for vegan recipe)
    2 T flax seeds (optional)

  • Preheat the oven to 200 C/392 F.
  • In a large bowl sift together flour, baking powder, xanthan gum and salt.
  • Cut in butter or oil until mixture has a grainy texture.
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk and lemon juice.
  • Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix well. The dough will be very dense!
  • Transfer dough to a loaf pan and pat flat. Because this recipe makes slightly more than a half loaf, I molded the dough to about 1/2 the pan as the bread will not rise much.
  • Brush some egg white over the top of the dough so it doesn't brown too much. Also be sure to cut a criss cross into the top to ease slicing.
  • Cover lightly with foil and bake for 50 minutes.
  • Allow the bread to cool for at least two hours before slicing - the longer the better. Do use a sharp knife as the crust is quite thick.

I can't tell you how happy I was to make a pleasant tasting sandwich bread that was gluten free and yet not crumbly!! (A great recipe with whole wheat can be found here.) The bread freezes well, and I would refrigerate it and bring to room temperature for a cold sandwich or toast it in the oven. Tonight I had a couple of slices with chilled cucumber & avocado soup and it was a helpful liquid sopper (if I can invent words here). I am eager to have some almond butter toast tomorrow morning...and a proper turkey 'wich with homemade mayo for lunch ;)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Superfoods: Avocado & Black Bean Salsa

I've began to notice my foodie habits are on the increase. As delighted as I was to find that bookshop in Bern with a large English section, 2/3 of my purchases were cookbooks. I've also managed to find an English language cooking class in Zürich (only a couple of times a year!) which I'll be attending on Tuesday. I generally cook in the privacy of my flat so I'll update on how it goes ;)

In fact, I've decided to shift a majority of my eating/snacking from complex carbs to monosaturated fats (almonds and other nuts, olive oil, and the humble avocado). One of the books I purchased, entitled Best Salads Ever, has some helpful recipes to do so despite the hyperbolic name :) I took my own spin on a salsa using the superfood that is avocado.

Avocado & Black Bean Salsa w/ Green Salad
(click to enlarge)

1 small cucumber/gherkin
1/4 cup of leeks, chopped
1/2 small garlic clove
1/2 avocado
1/2 can of black beans (or ~1/3 cup dry beans, soaked overnight and cooked)
squeeze of lemon or lime juice

1 cup of mixed greens (I used spinach, arugula and red lettuce mix)
1 T olive oil
1 t apple cider vinegar
1 - 2 drops of Liquid Stevia (or a ~1/4 teaspoon of Stevia powder)
salt and pepper
grated cheese (optional but delicious, I used Vacherin/Gruyére)

  • Julienne the cucumber, halve the chop leeks, and finely mince the garlic.
  • Mix the vegetables with the black beans and about 1 T of the cooking liquid. Mix in the lemon/lime juice.
  • Carefully cube the avocado and fold it in with the salsa. Allow to sit in th refrigerator so the garlic and flavors marinate.
  • Meanwhile, mix the dressing for the green salad by whisking the olive oil with the vinegar and adding Stevia, salt and pepper to taste.
  • Toss the dressing with the greens, and sprinkle with the cheese if using (it adds a robust flavor with the bean salsa, just go light on the salt).
  • Serve chilled salsa on top of salad, as they go great together, or enjoy on the side.
This recipe makes one serving so you'll want to multiply to serve more. The avocado and the beans both provide satiety and are terrific for heart health. And the green salad and apple cider vinegraitte is a nice side with any dish. Stay healthy.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Early Winter, Cookies & Cocoa

I can't say the weather has been anything less than cooperative through last month, and yet I still feel every bit entitled to complain as the thermometer dips, the rain and clouds remain omnipresent, and snow - yes snow!- is visible on the mountain peaks. It's actually quite surreal this weekend to see blue sky down below and fully dusted peaks up above. My Swiss and German friends are giddy with anticipation for the ski season, but first we must brave what only seems will be a swampy November.

My solution? Hot drinks and a snack to match. And what could be better then warm homemade cookies? Not the steroid-injected confections from Starbucks, but comfort food nonetheless. I have two recipes below that are SO good I urge you to try them. You'll never detect they are low in sugar and gluten free.

A friend of mine just bought me my first bottle of agave nectar in France (available in health food stores here as well), which I've incorporated into these recipes. Though it does contain sugar, it is a natural sweetener with a low glycemic index so that when used in moderation does not create that terrible sugar spike. Other helpful ingredients are chickpea flour and flax to add fiber and reduce simple carbs, and gluten free oats. Both recipes can easily be made vegan/casein free. But enough explanation, the pictures will do (remember, click to enlarge)!

Almond Butter & Quinoa Cookies

2 T butter (use vegan margarine to make recipe vegan)
4 T agave nectar
4.5 T organic almond butter
4.5 T unsweetened apple sauce
dash of vanilla extract
1/2 cup quinoa flour
1/4 cup chickpea flour
1.5 t GF baking powder
1/2 t xanthan gum
dash of sea salt
1/4 cup macadamia nuts

  • Melt butter and add agave, beating together.
  • Mix in the almond butter, then the apple sauce and vanilla extract.
  • Meanwhile sift quinoa and chickpea flour, baking powder, xanthan gum and salt.
  • Chop or quickly pulse macadamia nuts in a food processor. Fold into batter.
  • Measure out a generous teaspoon of the batter on parchment paper. Use a fork to press down (rinse with cold water if it becomes to sticky). You should get 18 - 20 cookies.
  • Bake at 225 C/400 F for 15 minutes. Try to let them cool for at least half an hour before eating (well, try....).
  • This second cookie is adapted from Ricki's fantastic recipe. I used agave instead of maple, and made the recipe gluten free by using GF oats. Important --> Can I say this is the best cookie I have ever tasted?! I am not kidding.

    Vanilla 'Honey' Flax-Oat Cookies

    1/2 cup of GF rolled oats
    1 T butter (replace with vegan margarine/coconut oil to make vegan
    4 T agave nectar
    1/2 t vanilla
    4 T shredded flax seeds, soaked in water
    1 t baking powder
    pinch of salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon

  • Preheat the over to 180 C/350 F.
  • Pulse the oats a few times in the food processor - you don't want a meal, but a nice varied texture.

  • Remove from your processor and set in a separate bowl. Sift in the baking powder, salt, and spices.

  • Melt the butter, and add to food processor with the agave and vanilla. Stir in the flax seeds.

  • Add the dry ingredients to the processor and pulse until a very maleable, quite wet dough is formed.

  • Drop a generous spoonful of the cookies onto parchment paper (8-12). Note that these cookies will spread during baking.

  • Bake for 10 minutes or so. Allow to cool for 20 minutes before storing (yeah...right!).

  • Be sure to enjoy the cookies with a nice cup of cocoa. I heat lactose free milk and add unsweetened cocoa powder mixed with stevia, or I'll simply add a little carob powder to steamed milk. Stay warm :) ~c*x

    Monday, October 12, 2009

    Setting the Tone (aka Breakfast)

    I wake up in the morning looking forward to breakfast. This wasn't always the case; in college I ate so late (and it was generally pizza or Subway) that I often wasn't hungry until later in the day. Still, I never really fell prey to the belief that eating less in the morning was some kind of tolerance for low calorie eating. I fully realize it's quite the opposite, and skimping on breakfast means an extra slice of something at night. Now that I'm a responsible adult (or something) I definitely wake up earlier, and eat dinner earlier. But I've also learned that even if you're not hungry, you're doing yourself a favor by eating within one hour of getting up. I'll typically have a couple of crackers or a piece of whole grain bread before hopping in the shower on those days.

    Of course the next question is what makes a good breakfast. Last week I was in Madrid, and breakfast was analogous to sugary croissants and rolls. I'm talking full on dessert style, pretty in presentation, and the kind of thing to burn through you and put you on a sugar high only to crash in an hour. With some espresso to boot. One morning we had a breakfast meeting, and given the decidedly non-Swiss approach to timing we were finally seated at 10:30am. Then came the shiny croissants and what could have only been some sort of cannoli au chocolate. To be fair, by lunch I was ravenous and there is nothing quite like Spanish tapas (mm, boqueroñes y queso manchego).

    To the original question, a good breakfast should always have one thing: protein! Eggs, cottage cheese, plain yogurt, meat, fish or veggie proteins. It's not just to jump start your metabolism; protein is brain food and keeps you sharper mentally. Another great element to add to your breakfast is a complex carb with fiber, which will keep you full and your energy stable. Oatmeal (with gluten-free oats) is amazing, as are quinoa flakes or buckwheat groats which pack in the protein as well. Of course I'm no nutritionist, but for a more comprehensive take on what to eat I share the wise words of my chiropractor, Dr. Rob D'Aquila.

    This week I've gotten creative with my brekkie. Saturday before a four hour trip up to a party in Frankfurt, I made a potato salad using sweet potato, quark (similar to ricotta cheese), mustard and garlic powder, apple cider vinegar, dried herbs - heck I even threw in boiled egg. I've also been using veggies to make one classic and extremely versatile dish...

    Eggs Cocotte (note: photo is pre-baked)

    1 t olive oil
    1/2 clove garlic
    1/4 cup leeks
    1/2 zucchini, shredded*
    1/2 cup thinly sliced spinach
    1 egg
    1-2 t cream
    garlic salt

    • Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the garlic, leeks, zucchini and spinach. Sautée for a couple of minutes until the greens are just slightly wilted.

    • Butter a ramekin and add sautéed vegetables.

    • Crack an egg over the vegetables.

    • Spoon cream over the egg, as well as pepper and a little salt.

    • Put the ramekin in an oven safe dish and fill it halfway with water. Bake at 200 C for approx. 15 minutes until the egg is set.

    • Allow to cool and serve immediately with a slice of whole grain toast or cornbread :)

    *I typically shred the zucchini and salt it with the garlic salt for a little while and then press it to drain the excess water. Clear out that last bit of fennel in your fridge to add different vegetables, and try additional herbs. I guarantee this breakfast will become a staple.