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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How to Make an Easter Butter Lamb

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We’re Polish, so naturally no Easter meal is complete without a butter lamb.

Wait! Did you just say that you FORGOT to buy a butter lamb this year?!?!  Never fear, here is a quick and easy tutorial to get you started:

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Step 1: Get a good quality stick of butter (for the completely dairy-free, a stick of margarine could work as well).  We always buy unsalted butter–because everyone knows the taste of stale butter, sometimes dairies mask it by turning the “older” butter into salted butter.  Buy in bulk and freeze to keep the butter fresh.

**Note: For this tutorial I used a stick of butter that had been in the freezer and then defrosted for 30 minutes.  You need cold butter for this project, otherwise it could melt too much and not work the way you want it to.

Step 2: Cut 1/3 of the butter off the stick and set aside–this will be the head.  If you cut too much and it looks too much like a rectangle, don’t worry, you can trim the piece a bit and work the extra butter into the fleece at the end.

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Step 3: Cut triangular corners off of the head (all corners of the cube).  Save these pieces for the ears and tail.  Find a point on the head/cube that can be used as a snout/front of the face.  Set head aside while you sculpt the body.

Step 4: Rough up the stick of butter, trim square edges.  Using a butter knife, smooth some of the leftover pieces of butter onto the “fleece.”  I used some of the extra pieces from trimming the head to make the folded legs of the lamb.

Step 5: Cut a slit or ditch at the back end of the butter and insert one of the triangles cut from the head to form the tail.  Smooth into place with the butter knife.

**Note: If the butter is getting too soft, stick it back in the refrigerator for a few minutes so that it hardens up again.

Step 6: Using two similarly sized triangular pieces from the head, form the ears.  Lamb ears are generally straight across, so smooth the butter back and forth across the head to attach the ears.

Step 7: Attach the head by smoothing the butter back and forth over the neck.  Chill the butter lamb if necessary before smoothing out the snout.  Extra butter can be worked into the back of the butter lamb.

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Step 8: Use two whole cloves to form the eyes.  With a spatula, transfer butter lamb to final plate.  Chill until needed.

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Voilà!  Happy Easter!

How to Naturally Dye Easter Eggs

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For those of us trying to live a healthier lifestyle, it can sometimes be hard to sacrifice ease of preparation, taste, and the aestheticism of food presentation in order to eat healthy. It is all too easy for most of us to buy packaged foods that are not only loaded full of chemicals that we can’t even pronounce, but also artificial substances that make the food look pretty.  Food dyes are usually an excellent source of petroleum (i.e. gasoline), but trying to stay away from them gets hard during the holidays–especially with all the cute cupcake designs and eggs dyes available for Easter.

Here is a quick and easy tutorial on how to naturally dye your Easter eggs. Because the ingredients used are natural, the colors will not be as vibrant as a food dye, but do you really want your eggs to glow in the dark with artificial-ness?

Materials:

Yellow: 1 tbsp turmeric + 1 tsp paprika

Pink: 1 can beets, fresh beets are best

Blue: 1 cup blueberries or other dark berries

Dark Red: the skins of two yellow onions

Light Green: the skin of one red onion (we used one, two would have been better)

Dark Blue: grape juice

Brown: tea bags

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Step 1: Wash your white eggs in water with a little vinegar added. Sometimes eggs from the store have been washed with a soap that tends to repel any dye you try to use, but this can be easily removed by rubbing the raw eggs gently for a few seconds in the vinegar solution.

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Step 2: Cook the eggs. This is the fun part.  Add a little vinegar to the water just to be sure that the dye will stick.

Step 3: Pour off the water and remove the onion skins, etc, and let the eggs dry in peace–otherwise the eggs will dry with interestingly shaped spots!

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Enjoy!  Happy Easter!

Guiltless Chocolate Cake // Happy Birthday Dad!

My dad is a chocoholic.  End of story.  He would eat just about anything if it were covered in chocolate–so we have to watch him 😀

For his birthday, we whipped up a flour-free, dairy-free, sugar-free chocolate cake.  With so much “missing” from this cake (as compared to a traditional cake recipe), we were genuinely surprised as to the quality and richness of the texture.  This cake is hearty enough to be eaten at a tea party, coffeehouse, or evening snack.  Its rich, moist, chocolate, fudge-like qualities will romance your taste buds and make them ask for more!

Flourless Chocolate Cake

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8 oz baking chocolate

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1 cup dates

1/2 cup hot water

3 eggs

1 tsp vanilla

3 tbsp coconut oil

In a food processor, blend dates until smooth.  Add cocoa powder, eggs, vanilla, and coconut oil.  Melt the chocolate squares and add to mixture–be careful not to let the warm chocolate cook the eggs!  Pour batter into greased round cake pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean from the center.

Serve warm or at room temperature with coffee, espresso, coconut ice cream, or just on its own!

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!