Hello, Summer! // Savory Sweet Potato Fries


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Yay Summer!  It’s finally here! Anyone who lives in the midwest knows what I’m talking about. I even heard that we got a few snow flurries last week end further up north.  Sheesh! I can’t wait to start barbecuing and making all of my favorite summer picnic foods. With Memorial Day weekend already upon us, what better way to kick off summer than with some Sweet Potato Fries. Speaking of Memorial Day, we would like to thank all veterans for their service to our country (including my dad!) and for all the sacrifices they have made to keep us safe! Thank you!

Savory Sweet Potato Fries

We all love fries, but sometimes allergies can get in the way of enjoying this side dish. Fortunately for you, we’ve got a recipe for Sweet Potato Fries that will proudly rival anything you’ve ever had before.  It’s a perfect fit with some grilled hamburgers, or steak. And it’s super easy:

3 medium or large raw sweet potatoes

3 tbsp oil (olive, sunflower, or whatever your preference)

1 1/2 tsp salt

1/8 tsp pepper

1/2 tsp paprika

1/8 tsp garlic powder

Peel and cut the sweet potatoes into long strips.

Mix spices together. Drizzle oil over fries and toss with spices until the fries are evenly coated.

Bake at 375 degrees F for 25-30 minutes, flipping them halfway. The fries should be slightly crispy, but fully cooked.  Enjoy!

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Living GF and Surviving Summer Parties

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Let’s face it: even though you’ve made the commitment to be completely gluten-free (either from extreme necessity or just a healthy lifestyle choice), sometime this summer you’ll get invited to a party at a non-gluten-free household.  Relatives, neighbors, friends–no matter how well-meaning they are, they don’t always understand what it means to live COMPLETELY gluten-free.  At least, not at first.

Be patient with you relatives, neighbors, and friends–while they might not understand you this year, eventually they’ll come around the realization of your basic needs.  For now, you need to focus on surviving that party!

 

Here are some tips to get you started:

Appetizers

So many things can go wrong with appetizers–gluten lurks undetectable in sauces and condiments–so it’s hard to discern what’s good and what’s not.  One misstep can mean misery for the next week, leaving you wondering what went so wrong.

-Try tortilla chips and salsa.  While some brands might contain trace amounts of gluten, gluten is not necessary ingredient in corn chips.  More and more companies are becoming more sensitive to gluten intolerance–for extreme sensitivities, take a look a the packaging.

-Potato chips are also usually gluten-free–though some brands are not certified gluten-free.  However, you usually can’t trust the sauces or dips for the same reason of cross contamination or added gluten.  Again, look at the packaging to be certain.

-Fresh veggies or fruit platters are always a win–no embarrassment or confrontation of the cook necessary.  Just beware of sauces.

Sabra, a popular brand of hummus, is also gluten-free.

**Tip: Get to a party early and volunteer to help dish out the snacks–this allows you to get a look at the ingredients list, secretly, without offending your host/hostess.

Dinner

At summer picnics and BBQs, the most common fare is beer, brats, coleslaw, hamburgers, and pasta salad–and a host of other salads that may or may not have harmful ingredients for the gluten-sensitive person.

-Beer is not gluten-free (quite the opposite!)  However, there are some gluten-free options available, but not from traditional summer party favorites.  Try hard apple cider instead–if you’ve never had it before, you’re in for a real treat.  Wine is also gluten-free, but contains sulfites, which some people are sensitive to.  If no other alcoholic opportunity presents itself, go without.  There’s no shame in not drinking.

-Brats.  Forgo these unless you’ve read the packaging.  So many things could go wrong–don’t risk it.

-For hamburgers, get yours without the bun and stack it on some lettuce instead.  Surprisingly, this is a going trend (and it still tastes amazing).  Lucky for you, most condiments are left out in the original packaging for guests, so you can easily find toppings that work for you!  If a cheeseburger is offered, don’t take it– “cheese products” disguised as American cheese slices often contain all kinds of bad news.

-Stick with salads that you know what’s in it.  For potlucks, you can bring your own dish to share, meaning something that you can actually eat!  Usually the appetizers are left out to be eaten with dinner, so sneak back and grab a few carrot sticks to fill up your plate.  There’s nothing that distresses a host/hostess more than seeing their guests go hungry.

Dessert

Thankfully, you can usually forgo dessert (if no gluten-free options present themselves) because you’re too busy with small talk or haven’t finished dinner when they cut the cake, etc.

-Ice cream or frozen yogurt are usually good options (though not cookies and cream or cookie dough, sadly).  Most ice cream brands declare whether or not they have gluten in them.  Regular flavors, such as chocolate or vanilla are your best bet.

Overall

While going to summer parties as a newly professed gluten-free person can be a stressful experience (and perhaps embarrassing) there is nothing wrong with confronting your host/hostess about ingredients that will make you sick.  The best way to approach your host/hostess about your gluten sensitivities would be politely take them aside and quickly explain your recent diagnosis (without giving them a huge medical inventory–or as my dad would say: an organ recital) and ask to see the ingredients of a few things that will be served and ask them what you should avoid during dinner.  Get it over quickly and politely–next time, they’ll remember.

Gluten-free is becoming more widely accepted as more and more people are being diagnosed with gluten sensitivities.  The more nonchalant and comfortable you act when faced with public situations and having to decide what to eat, the more your friends will begin to understand you and try to help you.  Stand your ground and be confident in your lifestyle choices.

And for goodness sake, don’t let your new lifestyle get in between you and your enjoyment of summer fun!

Day in the Sun // Decorative Fresh Mango Dessert

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This past weekend was AMAZING.  In terms of weather, we couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day on Saturday.  We spent the day volunteering at a food giveaway in the city, then walking around looking at famous architecture, topping it off with our first round of Sushi–definitely trying that again!  Anyway, somehow or other we ended up with two bags of fresh mangoes, and I can’t think of a better way to kick off the month of May than with some fresh mango desserts!  (Well, maybe strawberry shortcake, or raspberries and coconut cream… or chocolate and pineapple… but I digress…)

How to Cut a Mango

Fresh fruit is naturally gluten-free (duh!), but we’ve all struggled with how to present it so that it looks like more than a necessary block on the food pyramid.  Here’s a quick and easy tutorial to get you started with Mangoes:

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1. Wash the mango.  With a sharp knife, cut the mango in half–as close to one side of the stone as possible.  Set half aside.

2. Very carefully remove other half of mango from stone, slicing as close to the stone as possible.

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3. With the tip of the knife, score two lines down the side of the mango (horizontally).  Be careful not to cut through the peel.

4. Score two more lines, perpendicular to the first set–creating a tic-tac-toe board 🙂

5. Very carefully invert the side of mango so that the chunks are more easily accessible.  Garnish with berries or other exotic fruits.  Enjoy!

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Spring Cleaning // Frankly French lamps

We’ve been slowly adding France-themed accents to our room.

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This lamp is from World Market (we have to be careful in that store!  So much cute stuff!) While we thought it added enough charm by itself, Mary made a “pull cord” out of one of the corks from the wines that we bought in Burgundy.  Just the thing!

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And, of course, life would not be complete without an Eiffel Tower lamp as well (also from World Market).

Happy Friday!

Mini-Cake // Snow Adventures Continued!

I hope y’all are staying warm this (continued) winter!  This past weekend, Mary and I went downstate for a conference and were met with a horrible snow/ice storm on our way back.

Fortunately, we made it back up North–just in time for a housewarming party, turned birthday celebration for one of our gluten-free friends.  We made a gluten-free mini-cake for the friend, and wheat-free, dairy-free cupcakes for everyone else (I made a standard yellow cake recipe, substituting coconut oil and coconut milk for the dairy products–with the slight flavor of coconut and vanilla, it was amazing!)

Unfortunately, with all the hullabaloo, I neglected to take a photo (though the mini-cake was the cutest little thing).  We poured the batter into two small heart-shaped pans to make a double layer heart.

Coconut Mini-Cake

1/8 cup coconut flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

2 tbsp arrowroot powder

1 egg

1/8 cup coconut oil

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 cup coconut milk

1/4 tsp vanilla

1/4 cup rice flour

Combine wet ingredients and sugar in bowl until thoroughly mixed.  Add flours and dry ingredients and stir briskly until thoroughly incorporated.

Pour into greased mini-pans or muffin cups.  Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes (baking time depends on the size of the pan, if you put all the batter into one pan, the baking time will be longer).  Good with chocolate frosting and strawberry jam between the layers.

Chocolate Turtles // St. Valentine’s Day

Getting ready for St. Valentine’s Day, but can’t think of any sweets to make GF?  Well, you’re in luck!  These decadent chocolate turtles are naturally gluten-free (though not dairy-free–however, non-dairy chocolate does exist).  And by making the candies in decorative muffin cups, clean up is easy!  You can easily make large batches of turtles in almost no time at all–we made 5 1/2 dozen in less than an hour!

Chocolate Turtles

Pecan halves (pieces would work as well)

Ghirardelli Dark Chocolate Melting Wafers (though chocolate chips can work as well)

Ghirardelli White Chocolate Melting Wafers

Vanilla Caramels

Note: the 2 lbs of melting wafers from Ghirardelli was one of the best deals that we found for such good quality–if you aren’t able to use all of the chocolate at once, it freezes well.

Place muffin cups on a baking sheet and fill the bottom with 3-4 pecans or pecan pieces:

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Unwrap caramels, if necessary; place one caramel in each muffin cup, making sure that it is in the middle of the nuts:

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You can use either an oven or a microwave to melt the caramels–while a microwave works, sometimes it can be too strong and if the caramels are melted too much, they can turn crunchy instead of smooth.

For Microwave: Place candies on a microwaveable plate and cook on high for 20-30 seconds until caramels are just melted

For Oven: Place candies on baking sheet in 325° F oven for 10 minutes until caramels are just melted:

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Set caramels aside to cool.   Place dark melting wafers in the top of a double boiler; stir until melted.  For further instructions on melting chocolate, Ghirardelli has a nice explanation.

You can also melt the chocolate in a microwave: place wafers in a microwaveable bowl, cook in microwave on high for 15-20 second intervals until chocolate is melted.  Be careful not to burn chocolate!

Cover nuts and caramels with chocolate.  You can swirl white chocolate over the dark chocolate, or vice versa, for decoration.  Sprinkles are fun too 🙂

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Wait until candies are completely cool and hard before consuming.

Make some cute cards to accompany candies:

Valentine Cards

Enjoy!  Happy St. Valentine’s Day!

Broccoli Pea Pesto // Snowed in!

If you live in the Midwest (ok, pretty much most of the US right now) then you understand the frigid arctic weather we’ve been having lately!  There have been sequences of days that we have pretty much just stayed in the house because it was too dangerous to travel, either due to intense cold or blizzard conditions.

Mary and I took the opportunity to cook up some gluten-free, dairy-free deliciousness while we waited for the snow to melt… though that could still be a while…

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free Broccoli Pea Pesto

Most pesto recipes call for large quantities of basil and pine nuts–which, at this time of year end up being expensive and hard to find.  Peas give the pesto a sweet flavor, while the broccoli lends its earthy flavors to make this a recipe something you will love making over and over again.  Almonds make a great substitute for pine nuts–but if you really can’t imagine a pesto without the intense flavor of pine nuts, by all means, experiment away!

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1/3 cup whole almonds

1 cup steamed peas

1 cup steamed broccoli florets

1-2 cloves garlic

1 1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp basil, dried or chopped fresh leaves

1 tbsp olive oil

Cooked rice pasta

1. Grind almonds in a food processor until almost almond meal.  We froze our almonds, which made them hard and good for chopping in the food processor without turning into almond butter.

2. Add peas and broccoli.  Pulse until coarsely chopped.  Add garlic, salt, basil, and olive oil.  Pulse until mixture is thoroughly combined, but not a fine paste.  The trick is to preserve the different textures without making the pesto too chunky or too fine.

3. Spoon pesto over cooked noddles until they are thoroughly coated.  If mixture seems dry, add another drop of olive oil.  TIP: To keep the pasta from sticking to each other before adding the pesto, try 1 tbsp of coconut oil melted over the noddles while they are still hot.

4. Serve and enjoy warm!