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Monthly Archives: April 2012

Morels with Creamy Mushroom Leek Soup

One of the great pleasures of food, for me, is having the opportunity to use ingredients fresh from the earth. Spring is the beginning of the season where Mother Nature’s bounty becomes accessible to us once again, and for many people, seasonal spring foods are a bit of a celebration.

This weekend, we spent some time in the woods, searching for our favorite spring treat, Morel mushrooms! Because of the weather, we’ve had a very early season for them, and the gray morel variety is already out. Morchella Esculenta is a very distinctive fungus, as are the earlier, darker, Morchella Elata. The morel mushroom is one of the most easily recognizable varieties that people hunt, but care still needs to be taken to have a full understanding of all look-alikes before foraging in the woods, and it’s a very good idea to accompany a seasoned mushroom hunter if possible.  (Please see Northern Country Morels website for more information.) Also remember that while the morels are edible and choice for most people, it is always possible that someone could have intolerance to a new food, so only eat a small amount to begin with, until you know that they are safe for you.  There’s a saying … “You can eat ANY mushroom, once.” We definitely want to live to taste another day! Personally, I have been hunting morels since I was a child, going on many trips into the woods with my parents to hunt for the elusive fungus of my dreams! Now I go out with my husband, and we very much enjoy the time walking the woods, even when we come up empty-handed. And when I say fungus of my dreams, I mean it literally… every spring I have dreams of finding groves of lush morels growing, just waiting for me to find them… unfortunately, that doesn’t translate to reality very well most of the time 😉

The good news is that even if you aren’t planning to hunt your own mushrooms, you can purchase dried morel mushrooms at many larger grocery stores, as well as order them online. We are lucky, even though our weekend hunting didn’t result in a basket full of ‘shrooms, we have a friend who shares with us the morels he finds when mowing his yard! What a guy, huh?! Since he is so generous with one of our favorite treats, I return the favor when we make fresh sushi rolls at home, and send a few in his direction.

So now that I have a gorgeous bowl of fresh morels, I have to decide what I want to do with them. I usually sauté them in butter and often make them part of a cream sauce, because I like to keep the contrast mild, to preserve the unique morel flavor and texture as much as possible. I started to look around to see what else I had on hand that would go well with them…  a package of crimini mushrooms that need to be eaten soon (thinking I can stretch the flavor a bit by using the oil left from sautéing the morels for the criminis)… remembering I have some nice sized leeks in the garden that wintered over (when cooked, leeks are so mild and sweet, perfect complement to the mushrooms), still have some of my parmo wheel, heavy cream of course because of the low-carb diet… wishing I had beef filet, but I do have some very fresh ground chuck and thick cut bacon from the meat market…

Morels and Creamy Mushroom Leek Soup

Simmering cream with the criminis and leeks.

Morels with Creamy Mushroom Leek Soup

  • ½ lb thick cut bacon, ½” dice
  • ½ to1 lb morel mushrooms, soaked, rinsed, dried off, and otherwise free of dirt
  • Butter as needed for sautéing
  • 1 lb sliced crimini mushrooms
  • 2 medium leeks, thoroughly cleaned and sliced
  • ½-1C heavy cream
  • ¼ C finely shaved Parmesan Cheese
  • kosher salt and pepper to taste

I prefer to work with either an enameled cast iron skillet for this, or Caphalon because they are nice and heavy, but use whatever is comfortable for you. Cook the diced bacon down slowly until it begins to crisp, and the fat is rendered.  Remove the bacon to a plate using a slotted spoon and set aside, reserving the bacon fat in the skillet for sautéing the morels.

With the fat heated over medium, carefully add the cleaned morels, minding them closely and turning as needed until they brown up a little and seem done, about 10 minutes. Remove morels and set aside.

If there is enough fat remaining in the pan, add the sliced crimini mushrooms, or add a Tb or so of butter first. (If you are wondering why I didn’t cook both mushroom varieties together, it’s because I don’t want the morels cooking down into the soup, I would rather layer them on at the end, as the spotlight of the dish.) Cook the crimini mushrooms for 5-10 minutes, until they begin to look done.

Leeks are notorious for being very dirty, so be sure to split them lengthwise and rinse all sections in water before using.

Add a little more butter if needed and add the sliced leeks, cooking for an additional 5 minutes or so, until they begin to soften. Slowly add the cream to the pan, not quite covering the mushrooms and leeks, and simmer over low heat for another 5 minutes, stirring frequently with a heat-proof spatula or wooden spoon. Add the shaved Parmesan to the pan, stirring to allow it to melt. Add salt and fresh pepper as desired. Dish into bowls, top with morels and bacon, or serve over a small tender burger, as we have done.  Makes 2-3 servings.

As always, this recipe is free from gluten, free from wheat, and low-carb, though it is quite high in fats. While I do use fats in my gluten-free lifestyle, this is not the kind of rich meal we would eat every day, but what a treat it is for a springy Sunday afternoon! The servings are smallish, and every bite is worth savoring, mmmm.

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G-free Peanut Butter Cookies!

Mmmmm Coooookiessss!!! (voice of Cookie Monster)

We pretty much all grew up loving cookies. The taste, texture, the wonderful associations of a loving kitchen and all the dreamy smells… anticipating dunking it in a glass of milk while still slightly warm. Cookies are a part of our heritage, and yet, when made the traditional way, some would argue that they are toxic. OK, I would argue that they are toxic. That doesn’t mean that when we abandon gluten, we also have to abandon treats… we just need to revamp them into healthier creations that actually satisfy and provide nutrition.

This peanut butter cookie recipe is adapted from Elana’s food blog. I LOVE her site and recipes, she is a true talent in the kitchen. The original recipe is HERE… and my version follows.

G-Free Peanut Butter Cookies

  • 1C blanched almond flour (try Nuts.com!)
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 C crunchy roasted peanut butter
  • 1/4 C honey
  • 2 Tb butter, softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine dry ingredients in a small bowl, whisk to blend, and set aside. Combine remaining ingredients in a medium bowl, using a whisk to ensure everything incorporates well. Slowly add dry ingredients to wet, mixing thoroughly. Scoop dough by rounded tablespoons full onto a parchment lined baking sheet. You may want to shape the scoops into balls with your hands to get a nicer shape. Gently press a wet fork into the top of each cookie to make a criss-cross pattern. Bake at 350 for about 8 minutes, or until the edges are lightly browned. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly while still on parchment, before removing to a cooling rack, as the the cookies are very fragile when they are first out of the oven. Makes about 15 cookies.

 

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Parmesan Perch (Gluten-free and Wheat-free) with Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Can you tell that we love fish? Perch is one of the more delicate varieties and I used to serve it up pan-fried, with tartar, and maybe french fries or baked potato. I decided that instead of subbing out flours and attempting to do a different version of pan-frying, I would bake it in the oven and find a substitute for bread crumbs instead, and the results were really delicious! This recipe doesn’t yield a crunchy breading, it is a little on the softer side, and very flavorful, complimenting the mildness of the perch.

Low-Carb “breaded” perch; No Wheat or Gluten.

Parmesan Perch

  • 1 1/2 lbs of fresh Perch filets
  • 1/4 C mayonnaise blended with 1 Tb heavy cream 
  • 1 C grated fresh Parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tb Coconut flour
  • 2 sprigs fresh Parsley (or 2 tsp dry) or Thyme
  • Garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, cayenne pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. I used my Ninja to process ingredients, but you can also use a food processor. I started with chunked Parmesan, so I zipped it until it was the consistency of grated, then I added the coconut flour, parsley and other seasonings and processed again until they were fine and completely combined. Line a baking sheet with parchment, and coat with non-stick cooking spray. Dredge the fish lightly in the mayo mixture and then press into the cheese crumbs, arrange on baking sheet. Bake for about 15 minutes, or until the fish is firm, but flaky, and the coating is beginning to brown.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts: Simply cut each sprout in half and remove the tough and bitter stem end. Toss in a healthy oil (I used walnut oil this time), arrange in baking dish, and season as desired with salt, pepper, garlic and onion powder, or anything your heart desires. Roast at 400 degrees for about 15 minutes.

 

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Why Gluten Free for Me? Reasons I Deleted the Wheat!

It’s been just over a month since I cut out wheat and gluten in my diet, and went low carb. If you read the veryyyy first post on my blog, you will have some idea of the health issues that made me decide to try going gluten-free. I will say up front, that I have not been formally diagnosed with gluten intolerance or celiac disease (and I have noticed in the food intolerance/health community, that some people really frown on self-diagnosis. To this I say, OH WELL!) I made a simple experiment with my diet to eliminate something I felt might be toxic, and the results were nothing short of miraculous. I am not about to start eating wheat again so that I can be diagnosed formally, when I already know that the treatment IS abstaining from wheat. Even if there was a drug to take instead, I would still choose to be gluten-free.

Here are some results I have experienced during the past month:

  • Immediate relief (within 2 days) of abdominal bloating that made me feel much more comfortable, and clothes fit better (same with husband).
  • Joint pain and inflammation 90% gone, within 3 or 4 days. I had been experiencing shoulder, hip and knee pain that had been worsening for a couple years, and often interfered with sleep and exercise (my son also experienced disappearance of joint pain).
  • Decreased appetite and craving for sweets and carbohydrates (same with husband) after the first couple weeks.
  • Haven’t had a headache bad enough to take Motrin in a MONTH, when I used to take it up to several times a week for headaches that could last 3-4 days
  • IBS symptoms lessened, but not gone. (Currently researching other possible causes for issues, such as low stomach acid and pancreatic enzymes, or other food intolerances.)
  • Lost 10 lbs over the course of the month (and my husband did as well.) I didn’t start with the goal of losing weight, but I am thrilled that I have! 

In my mind, there isn’t much that’s more personal than the choice of what we put into our bodies. To make any thoughtful decision to eat a thing or not to eat a thing, is taking responsibility and accountability for our own health. As a society, we have given over a large part of these critical choices to a fast food and processed food mentality, which has speed and profit in mind, not health and wellness (which is the point of eating in the first place.) Nutrition is sacrificed for convenience, and at a price so high, that our health as a nation is likely worse than it has ever been. Good thing the pharmaceutical industry has our back with all those handy-dandy (side-effect laden) medications!

Obviously, I have a lot of misgivings about the current state of our food industry, and that is for reasons too numerous to detail. As a family, there are some changes we were able to make immediately, and there are others that we are working on sourcing out in an affordable way, such as locally farmed beef and poultry. (I have no plans to become vegan or vegetarian, however, I do strongly believe in humane treatment of animals during their lifetime in addition to skipping all the chemicals.)

In the past weeks, I have done endless research about the effects of gluten, and how to eat healthfully without grains, and I will continue to do so, and occasionally share my findings here. I will say though, that the book Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis, is an EXCELLENT starting point to regaining health and wellness through properly feeding the systems of the body. His book is a compelling combination of personal experiences and scientific data that went a long ways towards explaining to me WHY I felt the way I did, both before and after. The reason I say that his book is brilliant as a starting point, is that for many people, wheat is likely to be the largest, quiet toxin in their diet, and once it is eliminated, it makes room to pinpoint further issues without wheat muddying the waters, so to speak. The results vary from person to person, as we are all unique in our make-up and history, but I believe strongly that the majority of people could find benefits from going wheat free. I have seen that many people discover other intolerances and sensitivities as well as deficiencies in certain bodily systems as they begin to get clean, and I am in the process of investigating these things for my own situation.

When I read opinions and consider factual studies, I also take into consideration whether the person or agency has any benefit to be gained by convincing people that what they are saying (selling) is valid. Critical thinking plays a large part in my personal research, and it pays to question things and seek out a variety of resources, especially those that are contrary to each other. In doing this, I have found that those who are opposing the health benefits of whole grains, aren’t out to make a profit from this point of view, they are trying to give people the power to make informed decisions and break addictions! If the author of Wheat Belly, Dr. Davis, was only out to make money by selling copies of his book, he wouldn’t have such an informative blog where he takes a personal interest in the people who post and query him about this topic. Instead, it is obvious that he has in mind helping to open peoples’ eyes so that they are able to regain their health.

While I am doing my best to live up to the dietary recommendations in Wheat Belly, I know that I am not the gold standard with the recipes and foods that I post, but I am sharing what types of things we are eating in my home, in the hopes of helping people who need a few new ideas, or are even possibly overwhelmed by the task of eating differently. I consider recipes from many sources, some gluten-free, some traditional, some Paleo… while other postings are just a peek into the way I cook at home, and some of the methods I use in my kitchen. I urge readers to play with the recipes and adjust them to your tastes and dietary needs, as there is no such thing as a “one-size-fits-all” plan for health and wellness. I am thankful for comments and “likes” from the blogworld, and enjoy the sharing and positivity that is happening here!

 

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Dilled Salmon with Zucchini and Mushrooms (GF)

Here’s another easy salmon (or any rich fish) recipe… if you’re waiting for something more complicated, sorry! I tend to favor quick, easy and nutritious when it comes to weekday meals. I almost consider this more of a Method, than I do a recipe, because there are endless variations that I throw together depending what I have on hand. One of the reasons I like the fish and veggie combination, is that they can both cook together in under 20 minutes!

Method: In this case I seasoned the salmon with extra virgin olive oil, dried dill and fresh lemon, along with sprinklings of other seasonings like garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, kosher salt and fresh black pepper. The veggies are 2 small chopped zucchinis, a cup or so of quartered crimini mushrooms (baby bellas) and 1/4 of a sweet orange bell pepper. The veggies received the same seasonings as the fish, with the addition of a splash of balsamic vinegar and then a few tablespoons of heavy cream in the last 5 minutes of cooking. The whole thing cooked at 400 degrees for about 15-17 minutes, with the cream added in at the 12 minute mark. It’s so quick and very tasty!

 

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Strawberry Quick! Ice Cream Naughtiness…

Ice Cream without gluten or added sugars…..

It wouldn’t be hard to guess that my favorite desserts are sweet and creamy, and cold, and melty… yes, ice cream is a treat I don’t even like to think of going without! The problem is that the low carb versions still have ingredients in them that I would rather steer clear of, so this is my first attempt at a sugar-free ice cream. It is extremely simple and sweetened only with strawberries and Stevia powder. I will admit that the Stevia is an acquired taste, but I know that eating sugar is something I want to avoid for a number of reasons, so I am acclimating myself to using Stevia as a sweetener. My son likes it, but my husband can’t quite get used to the taste, and will add other things on top of his ice cream or cheesecake, to help mask the flavor.

The original recipe is here. If you like using Stevia as a sweetener, this should be right up your alley! This recipe also uses raw organic eggs, which doesn’t bother us in the least, but you could try a substitute if you are squeamish about using them raw, or heat the eggs into a custard first…. but what appealed to me about this treat, is that it is super-duper FAST! No cooling of custard to fool with. I did change the recipe to 3 C of heavy cream instead of the mix of light cream and milk, in order to avoid the milk sugars as much as possible. I am not sure as I would go so far as to say this would be considered “healthy” ice cream, but it is Gluten Free and free from added sugars. I think next time I will jazz up the pale color with a little beet juice!

   Stevia Strawberry Ice Cream

  • 2 Organic eggs, raw and beaten
  • 2 C Heavy Cream plus 1 C more to puree berries
  • 1/2 tsp Stevia powder (this may vary depending on what form of Stevia you use, definitely start with less and add to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 C frozen Strawberries

Combine eggs, cream, Stevia and vanilla in a bowl. Use a blender (I like my Ninja) to chop the frozen strawberries, using a little extra cream to loosen them a bit. When the berries seem incorporated into the cream and are the consistency that you would like in your ice cream, add the egg mixture and blend thoroughly. The mixture will be a bit stiff because of the frozen berries. If you don’t have an ice cream freezer, you could probably dish this up now as a soft serve, but I chilled it for about 20 minutes in my Cuisinart Ice Cream maker. (I LOVE that gadget!) Keep in freezer and use within a few days for freshness. If your ice cream freezes too hard, just thaw for 30 seconds at a time in the microwave to loosen it up.

 

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Parmesan-Thyme (Saver!) Crackers

When you adapt to a different way of eating which requires you bypass the convenience of processed foods, it’s great to have a few tricks up your sleeve to save you time throughout the week. This cracker recipe is versatile and keeps amazingly well in the fridge, so that you can cut and bake fresh crackers quickly anytime you need them! Here, I often make them fresh for my son’s packed lunch, as well as to accompany soups or main courses, or even just as a filling snack. They are GF and very low-carb, made with almond and coconut flour. I adapted this recipe from one that I posted in April for Cheddar Crackers. I am sure that there are many cheeses that would work well, and I personally look forward to making this with Swiss cheese and herbs!

 

We were lucky and stumbled on a wheel of good quality Parmesan Cheese for an incredible price a while ago, and we have been enjoying having it on hand in abundance! I sure will miss it when it’s gone…sigh 😉 I also love to use fresh herbs whenever I can, and Thyme is one that is hardy and can be used all year long (I even have been known to burrow into the snow to get it for soup.) Being spring though, there is nice tender new growth, and I have been using it frequently in the kitchen.

 

Parmesan Thyme Crackers

  • 1/2 C Coconut flour
  • 1/2 C Blanched Almond flour
  • 2 Organic eggs
  • 1/4C Melted butter
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 C Cheddar or Swiss cheese
  • 2 C Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Several sprigs of Fresh Thyme, stripped, or 2 teaspoons dried
  • Cracked Pepper, cayenne pepper, garlic powder and onion powder to taste

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Combine eggs, melted butter, and seasonings, mixing well. Add cheeses, a bit at a time, until well-combined. Sift flours together and add to cheese mixture a bit at a time, until a dough forms. Knead the dough non a flat surface with some almond flour for several minutes, until it comes together and you are able to press it into 2 blocks, about 1″thick. You can then refrigerate both blocks of dough, or cut thin slices and bake for 5-8 minutes on a parchment lined baking sheet, or until the crackers are lightly browned at the edges. The thinner you cut them, the crispier they will be. When cut slightly thicker, they are sturdier and can be used as the base for bruscetta or other appetizers.

 

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