Archive | March, 2012

Questions and Lemon Muffins

29 Mar

At the beginning of December I made the decision to eat gluten free in hopes of fixing the digestive problems I’ve had for a while. It worked. I feel great. Since making this decision I get the following questions all the time:

1. Is your diet that much healthier than before?

Actually, yes. But not because I cut out gluten. Along with deciding to remove gluten from my diet I’ve changed the way I eat completely. Lots of fruits, veggies and lean proteins. I have a smoothie almost everyday for lunch and oatmeal every morning for breakfast. I drink tons of water and limit myself to one extra special treat per week. A gluten free diet is not necessarily a healthy diet. I could eat tons of gluten free prepackaged meals, and most gluten free flours are refined and not whole grains at all. Plus most things like potato chips, chocolate and candy are gluten free. I changed my whole diet, not just the gluten free part.

2. Is it hard to be gluten free?

Yes and no. It’s hard when I’m not at home. Although most restaurants have a menu with some options for me, it’s more difficult when I’m at a friend’s house for dinner or need a quick snack on campus. I don’t like to ask for special meals, or enjoy explaining what I can and can’t eat. It makes me feel whiny and needy. So I carry lots of snacks and bring my own food, or a substantial gluten free dish if I’m going to a potluck. Otherwise, it’s pretty easy. I miss cupcakes and garlic bread, but I’m finding ways to make those gluten free as I go. If I’m not prepared or plans change at the last minute it is hard.

3. So, you can’t have any gluten?

Well, technically I can have all the gluten I want. I haven’t been diagnosed with celiac, so other than an intolerance the gluten isn’t destroying my intestines. I try my best to avoid all foods containing gluten including sauces, dressings, and condiments. I pay for it if I eat something that I should have avoided.

Oh and this week I was looking to venture into the world of muffins, so I started with a pretty basic lemon muffin recipe adapted from gingerlemongirl.blogspot.ca. I halved the recipe because I only wanted to make a few muffins, omitted the stevia, and kept the milk amount the same because the dough was pretty sticky. I also used gluten free flour instead of almond flour; I just don’t have almond flour in the house. They turned out pretty well. Pretty dense. So I think next time I’d whip up the egg whites to see if they could add a little more lift to the batter.

You only live once,

Karla

Lemon Muffins adapted from gingerlemongirl.blogspot.ca

2 1/2 cups gluten free flour

1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

3 tbsp lemon gelatin

1/2 cup demerara or dark brown sugar

1/2 tsp nutmeg

3 eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 tbsp lemon zest

1/2 cup milk – add more if the batter is really thick

Mix together and bake at 350 for 18 minutes. Let cool and enjoy 🙂

 

 

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Sunshine and Fish Tacos

21 Mar

Since today was absolutely gorgeous and I spent the whole afternoon outside working onmytan. I was in the mood for one of my favourite light, but also super flavourful meals. FISH TACOS! I adore spicy food, and guacamole, and cheese, so they all made it into this super quick dish.

I whipped up a quick guacamole (recipe below) with avocado, tomato, lime and because I didn’t have any jalapeno, a little cayenne pepper for some heat. Seasoned with a little salt and it was perfect. Avocados have become one of my favourites lately. They’re so versatile and are a great source of healthy fat to keep me full between meals!

I pan seared some fish in lots of spices (cayenne, chili powder, cumin, salt, pepper, garlic powder) and a little olive oil. Threw it and the guac in a toasted corn tortilla and topped with a little feta. Of course mexican cheese like queso fresco would have been ideal, but feta did the trick. If only I could have a fridge full of lots of different cheeses all the time. Silly student budget.

On that student budget note, I should mention that most of my meals are based on what I can get on sale. We stock up on frozen fish and other proteins when they’re on sale. I got 4 good sized filets for 3.99 this week, so this meal rings in at about 2.00 per serving (2 tacos).

You only live once,

Karla

Guacamole:

1/2 ripe avocado – mashed

1 small tomato – diced

juice of 1/2 a lime

salt and cayenne to taste

 

 

Pizza

16 Mar

Every university student loves pizza. It’s almost a universal truth. I’ve had some pretty good pizza and some pretty horrible pizza over the years. I’ve also had some pretty decent gluten-free pizza and some less than wonderful gluten-free pizza. So I decided to make my own.

No, I did not make my dough from scratch. Gluten-free dough is a pain, and takes way too long for me.  So I used Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Pizza Crust. It’s also dairy free for anyone with casein issues. It was pretty simple. Added the yeast package to warm water, threw in the mix, 2 eggs and 2 tbsp of olive oil, then let it rise for about 20 minutes.

The dough comes out pretty sticky, and really not anything like a normal pizza dough. It’s kind of lumpy and weird. However, I’m used to that kind of thing now. I halved it and smooshed it over the pan. I’ve heard of people throwing plastic wrap on top then rolling it out, but that was way too much work for a pizza. I pre-baked the crust for about 10 minutes, until it was golden brown.

Below you’ll find the recipe for my homemade pizza/pasta sauce. It’s just a tomato base, you can add anything to it though; spices, meat; mushrooms, veggies etc.

I brushed the crust with garlic oil and then topped it with sauce, spinach and feta cheese. Threw it back in the oven for about 10-12 minutes. The result was a super yummy pizza! The dough was a little more chewy than a normal crust, but not soggy or doughy like most gluten free baked goods. I give Bob’s Red Mill a thumbs up on this one 🙂

You only live once,

Karla

Tomato sauce for Pizza or Pasta

1 can diced tomatoes

3/4 can of tomato paste

3 cloves of garlic – smashed

salt, pepper, blend of herbs/spices to taste  – I use oregano, basil, thyme

1 tbsp brown sugar

Cook the tomatoes and paste together over medium heat. Crush the garlic cloves under a knife and add to simmering tomatoes. Add spices, salt, pepper, and sugar. Let simmer for about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool a bit. Puree until smooth.

Notes: I use an immersion blender to make this. It’s really easy and I just let the sauce cool a bit before I can puree. If you’re going to use a blender or a food processor you’ll want to let it cool a good amount before you puree or you’ll have a kitchen explosion.

I don’t want your DNA

15 Mar

I love the gym. Actually though, I really enjoy going to the gym and getting my workout on. Sometimes is kind of stinky or there is the occasional grunting man who I assume must have an impacted bowel. Healthy people just don’t make sounds like that. Sure, there’s that girl who proceeds to call all her besties from the treadmill and tell them how busy she is working out. To be honest, those things don’t really bother me at all. The last two are pretty entertaining. I secretly hope that one day Cell Phone Girl one day leans on the speed button by accident and that Mr. Bowel Problems finds relief.

However, there is one thing at the gym that just drives me nuts. It’s gross, inconsiderate, and at most gyms it’s actually against the rules. I DESPISE people who don’t wipe their equipment down after they’re done with it. It takes 10 seconds to wipe that puddle of sweat off the dash of an elliptical. It takes 20 seconds to give your mat a quick swipe with the cool little antiseptic towels we have at the gym I go to. You don’t even have to spray anything or have a real towel!

I’d like to make it clear that I am pro-sweating. Workout hard, drip sweat, whatever you need to do. But clean up after! I didn’t plan on going swimming and I certainly don’t want to do it on that bike you were just on.

Newest Obsession

14 Mar

3 words. Reduced balsamic vinegar. So delicious. It brings so much flavour to almost anything I’ve made with it and it means I don’t have to use any of that cheap wonderful wine laying around my humble student home. I have cooked pork in a maple balsalmic reduction. I’ve added reduced balsamic to tomato sauces and even a little bit to a soup I made earlier in the month. All so delicious.

Tonight I decided I wanted a really slowly cooked and flavourful meal. Braised chicken thighs was the result.

I started with skin on bone in chicken thighs and seared them off over medium heat in my big cast iron pan because it’s oven safe. I made sure the skin got super crispy and then flipped them over for a few minutes to sear the more meaty side. I took them out of the pan, added a little butter (don’t cheap out…butter is

better), some quartered mushrooms and about 6 cloves of roughly chopped garlic. I let the mushrooms cook down then added enough balsamic vinegar to cover the bottom of the pan. I let that reduce to half and then threw the chicken back in . Then I added enough chicken stock to cover the chicken just until the edge of the skin. That way it wouldn’t get super soggy. Tossed this into a relatively hot oven (400F) for 45 min. Literally throw it in and come back 45 min later.

After 45 min I took it out of the oven, took the chicken out and put it on a plate, reduced the sauce left in the pan a little and added two huge handfuls of baby spinach. I wilted this down then plated it up over some rice.  Potatoes of any kind would also be nice.

This was one of my favourite meals to date. The chicken came out super moist and flavourful. Perfect soul food.

Disclaimer: I don’t use recipes that often. I get inspiration from the food network and some really awesome recipe books, but I rarely use a recipe when I cook. Basically its a dash of this, some of that until I like the flavour! I haven’t made anything inedible yet, so I’d say it works pretty well. But for anyone looking to recreate this I’ve added the approximate amounts below!

 

You only live once,

Karla

Balsamic Braised Chicken Thighs

6-8 chicken thighs – skin on, bone in

1 tbsp butter

1lb mushrooms – quartered

6 cloves garlic – roughly chopped

1/2 c balsamic vinegar

1 1/2 cup chicken stock – enough to almost cover the chicken

2 big handfuls of baby spinach

 

 

Learning to Run…Again

8 Mar

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Let’s get something straight. Running and I, we’ve never been friends. However, after much effort to eat healthy, get stronger and lose a little unnecessary weight, we have met again. Of my own volition. I must be insane.

I’ve been working out 5 to 6 days a week for the past 3 months and seen an amazing improvement in my strength, cardio ability, overall health and, to make it even more worth it, I’ve dropped about 10 pounds I really didn’t need (plus 5 of bloat after going gluten free). I feel great. I have a ton of energy. I actually enjoy getting up early to go to the gym and I’m so much more productive during the day.  Definitely worth the 2ish weeks of pain when I started.

Back to running, I decided to take this on as I’ve hit a bit of a plateau in my workouts. They’re still challenging and I lift heavier each week with lots of variety. But I’m stuck in a routine. I do the same things over and over. It’s gotten too comfortable. I felt like the treadmill was taunting me with “Karla, you know you want to. You can run. Prove me wrong”. So I took that inanimate object’s challenge. I stepped up with fear in my heart and legs that were less than impressed.

But I did it! Well sort of haha. I decided to start with some intervals, I use them on both the elliptical and the bike when I do cardio anyways. So I figured 20 minutes was a good goal and I’d do 1 minute of fast walking (4.5 mph) and then 3 minutes at a moderate running pace (6mph). I completed it. It still hurt, but my knees weren’t totally dying after and I got a fantastic workout.I think I’ll stick with this.

I guess a little crazy can get you somewhere in life.

You only life once,

Karla

First Recipe – Super Smoothie

7 Mar

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Food was and still is my major motivation for this blog. I ADORE food. I love breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, fourth meal, high tea. I started cooking in high school, but I did a ton of baking with my mom, nana and aunts when I was younger too. I grew up on homemade cookies, muffins and brownies. Little Debbie has nothing on the stuff I got to eat for lunch. Now that I’m basically living on my own and share the cooking with my roommates I get to experiment with lots of flavours and new foods. Oh and I’m gluten intolerant. So everything you see here on my blog will be gluten free, but I promise you super delicious.

Everyday I have a smoothie. Actually though. Every. Single. Day. Why? They’re delicious, super nutritious and help me get all those wonderful fruits and veggies I need each day.

 

SUPER SMOOTHIE

1 small ripe banana – sometimes I use frozen chunks

1 c mixed berries

1 c fresh baby spinach

1/2 c orange juice

1/4 c greek yogurt – I use Oikos plain 2% for its high protein and bit of fat that keeps me full longer

2 tbsp ground flax

I throw this all in the tall plastic container that came with my immersion blender and blend for a few minutes until all the spinach is in itty bitty pieces. The frozen fruit keeps it nice and cold without watering it down! You could totally sub out the greek yogurt and orange juice for rice/almond/hemp milk or even protein powder and water if you want too!

 

You only live once,

Karla