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Archive for the ‘Fall’ Category

This recipe was inspired by my friend, Laura Hahn, a gluten-free food blogger at Guilt Free Foodie Cutie and winner of NBC’s Next Local TV Chef.  She invited me to help her cook and staff the gluten-free table at the March of Dimes Chef’s Tasting Gala with 500 attendees being held at the Please Touch Museum.  With less than a week to spare, and GF baguettes and brownies from Sweet Christine’s Bakery in Kennett Square, PA coming our way, we devised a plan.  (To read more about this adventure, check out my article.)

Laura and I divided and conquered.  Being obsessed with fall foods and wanting to resurrect my Halloween pumpkin, the idea for my spread was born.   I was going to make the Winter Squash Ricotta Spread finished with pomegranate seeds, and she made the White Bean Spread finished with an Arugula Pistachio Pesto.  The choice for ricotta came about, because Laura convinced me it would make the spread go farther than cream cheese.  So I began my Google search for a mouth-watering recipe including pumpkin and ricotta, and to my dismay, came up empty-handed.  How could that be possible?!!  There seemed to be no such thing as the spread I had been turning over in my head.

And that my friends, is how the recipe was born . . . a pinch of this, a pinch of that . . . and the use of my favorite ingredient . . . MOLASSES!!  To read more about health benefits of blackstrap molasses, click here.


Gluten-Free Winter Squash Ricotta Spread Recipe

You’ll have to bear with me on this one, because I made this recipe hoping to feed 500 people.  It made 4 quarts of spread.  I played around with it using only 2 cups of squash, but it might not be totally perfect. Feel free to adjust the amounts of spices and cheese you use, and feel free to tell me what you did.  All I can say is that Laura went home that night and told me she ate a whole pint by herself, so it must have been pretty good.

Serving Size: about 1 quart

Ingredients:

– 2 cups pumpkin or winter squash (canned or roasted) (I used 1 cup pumpkin and 1 cup butternut squash)
– 1 TBSP ricotta cheese (or to taste)
– 1 TBSP black strap molasses
– 1 tsp ginger
– 1 tsp cinnamon
– 1/8 tsp cloves
– 1/8 tsp salt
– 1 tsp vanilla extract (gf)
– 1 tsp powdered sugar

Directions:

1. Halve and seed your squash.

2. Roast squash flesh side down in the oven at around 400*F for about 1 hour.  For details on roasting squash, click here.

3.  Let roasted squash cool for about 20 minutes skin side down and then scoop out the flesh.

4.  Put 2 cups of the squash in a bowl, and using an immersion blender, puree it.  If you don’t have an immersion blender, stick it in your food processor to get it smooth and uniform – no clumps.

5.  Add in the rest of the ingredients and blend again.

6.  Spoon onto your favorite baguette, and top with pomegranate seeds or even a cranberry sauce.

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A few days ago a New York Times (NYT) staff writer by the name of Catherine Saint Louis  published an interesting article in the Dining & Wine section of the NYT called Removing ‘Sacrifice’ from ‘Gluten-Free’.

She talks all about her dining experience with her friends, always having to qualify her cooking with the statement “it’s gluten-free” as if to offer some condolence to the fact that it an imposter to its gluten counterpart.  I have said that more times than I have hands to count on, and watched people turn up their noses in refusal of the gluten-free food, all because it’s gluten-free.

However, a few weeks ago . . .

Laura & Me at Tasting Table

I got an exciting call from my friend, Laura Hahn, with Guilt Free Foodie Cutie.  She was going to have a gluten-free table (at a full of gluten event).  The table would beshow-casing Sweet Christine’s GF baguettes and brownies at the March of Dimes Chef’s Tasting Gala taking place at the Please Touch Museum three days later.  We decided it would be best to partner up and make spreads for the baguettes and a topping for the brownies.

In two days, we had everything planned and were cooking till the minute we ran out the door.  Rushing to meet Laura, I arrived at the same time as she did.  We loaded her stuff into my car, and while shoving it in the back, I notice that my car started to venture forward into the street, gaining some momentum.  In high heals, I started chasing after my car, jumped into the driver’s seat, and tried to assess the situation before the situation assessed me; luckily I didn’t have to get very far.  In all the excitement, I had forgotten to put the car in park!!!  Um, can we say, “Ding-Dong?!!”  That had never happened before.  I guess there’s always a first for everything.

With the minor situation behind us, we reached the loading dock, and hauled our stuff through the underground maze like tunnels.  Once we reached the table, we began decorating it, slicing bread, cutting brownies, and adding the spreads.  Laura had made a Tuscan White Bean Dip finished with an Arugula Pistachio Pesto.  I had made a Winter Squash Ricotta Spread topped with pomegranate seeds.  I was hoping to find a recipe for my latest and greatest idea, but it appeared that a recipe didn’t exist, so I began to create my own with my latest favorite ingredient.  Can you guess?!!  MOLASSES!  (For the health benefits of molasses, click here.)  If you want to read this mouth-watering recipe, click here.

Spreads, brownies, & Ingredient Cards

We had a FANTASTIC night, meeting such fun and interesting people!  As we watched the faces of those sampling our foods, we saw faces of relaxation, delight, and euphoria.  They came back for seconds and thirds.  We waited in anticipation for them to express that it was gluten-free, and yet people could not believe their pallets or their ears.  Though some said they could texturally feel the difference, there was no taste difference at all.  The truth was that we were proud to announce that our food gluten-free, because it was AWESOME!!

Unlike Saint Louis who only had one guest say he couldn’t believe that it was gluten-free, the majority of our samplers couldn’t believe it.  With lots of practice and patience in the kitchen, I truly believe that my gluten-free food is often superior to its gluten counterpart, but maybe that’s because I’m making everything from scratch, which seems to be a lost art.  Though 20 years ago it was hard to find a gluten-free product, and 10 years ago the gluten-free products tasted like stale jail food, today’s gluten-free products are excellent; however, it does take a bit of trial and error to know which ones to use.  Saint Louis did not choose all the brands that I would have chosen, so of course my first thought to her dinner party was that I would have chosen a different flour and a different pasta.  I would have indeed made my cheesecake with a nut crust and not have used any flour.  There are also excellent gluten-free graham crackers to make a crust with, too . . . however, the more we try the more we learn.

Three Tips for Making Gluten-Free Food Better than the Original

Some people have the misconception that “gluten-free” means “taste-free.”  Here are 3 tips to make your gluten-free dishes delicious:

1. Choose the Best Tasting Brand

To read more, click here . . .

This article can also be found on the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness’s Celiac Central: Bits and Bites Page

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Roasted Root Vegetables

Roasted Root Vegetables

Food Energetics:

I like to eat what’s in season, believing that I derive lots of needed nutrients from the seasonal plants.  Remembering that winter is a time of hibernation, and the sun, too is hibernating we often times  feel seasonal depression from the shorter days or just a waning of energy.  Many root vegetables live in the ground, and though they can have stems and flowers, most of these stems and flowers have died off and also gone into hibernation, returning their energy back into the ground.  Therefore the plant’s energy has shifted from creating flowers into its root by storing nutrients and minerals.  So, if we eat the roots of these plants during the winter, we are eating them at their fullest energy potential to help us energize through the darkness days.  Check out this link if you want to read more about the health benefits of root vegetables.

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This dish is one of the most simple dishes that I make, and other than chopping, there’s little prep work involved.  I usually use whatever I have on hand in my fridge especially when I’m trying to clean my fridge out.  Since I tend to use whatever I have on hand, the technical term for the vegetables is root crops, because as you’ll soon read, they are not all roots.

I am obsessed with researching and learning, which brought me to learn exactly what types of food are really going into this dish.  I will go into more detail below, but if you do not have the same passion that I am possessed by, no worries!  Just skip down to ingredients below.

Definitions:

A root crop is any edible, underground plant structure, thereby defining

The rest of the foods are all under the category geophytes, requiring a dormant period, and are a storage unit for the plant:

Root (carrot)

Root (carrot)

Roots – are the organs of the plant that absorbs water and nutrients, anchors the plant to the ground, and stores food and nutrients for the plant.

Bulb (onion)

Bulb (onion)

Bulbs – consists of layers that grow underground and store food for the developing plant.

Corm (Gladiola)

Corm (Gladiola)

Corms – resemble bulbs, but have a solid mass of tissue instead of layers that grow vertically underground.

Rhizome (ginger)

Rhizome (ginger)

Rhizomes – a shallow stem that grow horizontally underground. Off of rhizomes grow roots, and part of the plant can appear above ground.

Tuber (potato)

Tuber (potato)

Tubers – have leathery skin and eyes.  They are underground stems that grow thick instead of long.

Catch-All Roasted Root Vegetables Recipe

Ingredient (here’s a sample of what you throw in there, but keep reading for step-by-step instructions):

Tubers: sweet potatos, white potatos, beets, celeriac, rutabega, etc.
Winter Squash: hubbard, butternut, acorn, etc.
Roots: Parsnip, carrots, horseradish
Bulbs: onions, garlic, fennel
Corms: Celeriac
Rhizome: ginger
Herbs: thyme, rosemary, chives, parsley
Olive Oil
Salt
Pepper

Glass Baking Dish

If you DON’T want to be creative, continue reading for step-by-step guidance below: 

If you DO want to be creative, mix and match anything from the list above and skip to the directions below:

Ingredients:

1 winter squash – peeled and cubed into 1 inch pieces
1 onion – peeled and roughly chopped
4 cloves of garlic – peeled and roughly chopped
1 celeriac – peeled and cubed into 1 inch pieces
1 fennel – rinsed/dried, top part removed and bulb roughly quartered
2 sweet potatoes (or white) – scrubbed/dried and cubed into 1 inch pieces
1-2 parsnips depending on size – scrubbed/dried and cubed into 1 inch pieces
1-2 carrots depending on size – scrubbed/dried and cubed into 1 inch pieces
about 2 tbsp of fresh thyme (dried will do, but start with half the amount)
about 2 tbsp of rosemary (dried will do, but start with half the amount)
about 2 tsp of salt
about 2 tsp of pepper
extra virgin olive oil (about 1/4 cup)

You’ll want to have a glass baking dish about 9×12 on hand.

Serving size: about 6-8 portions

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 400F

2. Throw all ingredients above (minus the olive oil) and toss in a glass baking dish.  Drizzle olive oil over vegetables and toss again.

3. Put vegetables in the oven, tossing them every 20 minutes for about an hour.  I like mine a bit crispier, so if you like them a little al dente, then check them after about 50 minutes or so.

4. Serve hot!  It makes for great leftovers, too.

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My Little Family

I had been planning this day for many, many months. As my husband, a non-athlete, took up running almost 2 years ago, I never thought he would stick with it, and as it turns out, he just completed the Philly Marathon less than a week ago. I am so incredibly proud of him and honored to know him, that I had to come up with a way to support his dedication and honor his perseverance . . . A surprise 35th (gluten-free) birthday party with a running theme!
If there’s anything to know about me, it’s that I LOVE surprises, and I LOVE themes. So, with my dad’s help, it all began.
The theme: a 3.5 mile run for my husband’s 35th birthday. His last name starting with a K, the race was titled:

The BEN K 3.5 mile Run

1. We sent out Evites

Invitation

2. We began designing our race shirts. We first designed them with photoshop and then ironed on each one. I ordered iron-on transfers in bulk from amazon.com (18 for around $18) and the shirts from http://www.shirtsupplier.com (around $2/shirt). Since my husband is from Atlanta, I was able to create the old GA license tag with his birth county on the bottom,  the year he was born, and the year it is now on either side of the tag. All the “sponsors” were places that held importance in my husband’s life, whether it was the brand of shoe he wore (or had worn – my mistake!), his favorite breakfast place, or his alma matter.

20121108-200205.jpg

3. It was time to think about ordering the bibs from Athlete Race Number:

Of course Ben got the # 35 bib!

ben’s race number

(The bibs we got were a bit pricier, because my dad agreed to get those if we put him as a sponsor. We got 100 bibs for $45.52, but you can just order 100 plain numbers for $22.43)

4. We then drove around to map out the race course that started and ended at my parents’ house. We made maps of the course. We decided to have a 1.1 mile option as well for walkers and kids.

Benk 3.5 mile loop map

5. I ordered the 2 gluten-free cakes from Sally’s Gluten-Free Bakery in Atlanta, Ga. A 13″x9″ sheet cake came to $35. I also ordered a half-sized cake that came in the round. They iced the cake, but couldn’t decorate it. So, I called on my mother-in-law for her cake-decorating help! (By the way, the cakes are amazing!!! None of the guests knew the difference! And my MIL is amazing!!)

GF B-Day Cake from Sally’s GF Bakery

MIL Decorating Cake

6. Ordering the Food – ALWAYS LOOK FOR COUPON CODES!! I learned the hard way, that there are cheaper ways to do things. I decided to have bagels, veggies & dip, fruit, and water. Since I didn’t have enough time to chop the veggies myself due to the fact I was flying in for this, I called Publix (the grocery) who makes wonderful GF platters. (However, if I’d know, you could pick up platters in the grocery store that weren’t part of the catering for half the price. They didn’t look as nice though.) We got both GF bagels and gluten bagels, because they were cheaper and there was no need for everyone to eat GF.

Publix Fruit Platter (M) feeding 16-20 people = $36.99
Publix Veggie Platter (M) feeding 16-20 people = $29.99
Udi’s GF Bagels – 4 bagels for at least $6
Einstein’s Bagels (with 20% whole order coupon) – 13 dozen with 2 containers of spread for $14.50 (pre-coupon)


7. Making the Medals – I made witty race medals for everyone, but the birthday boy. Ben got a 1st place medal from TrophyPartner.com.
The other medals I made using an exacto knife and cardboard. Then I printed up labels with the race date info, slapped them on the back, punched holes with a hole puncher, threaded ribbon from the dollar store through it, and wrote on the front, i.e., from my architect friend I wrote “Fastest Leed Runner”
labeled benk medal

8. The Dollar Store Run – table clothes, platters, cups, napkins, cutlery, bubbles, candles, chalk

9. Creating the Silly Liability Running Waivers for all the many lawyers in the bunch, and whoever signed “agreed” that if they did not cross the finish line, they would pay for our daughter’s education (among other things). That was my dad’s cute idea.

brother-in-law (lawyer) carefully reading the liability waiver with dad

10. Chalking the Race Course – We chalked the whole race the morning of so people wouldn’t get lost.

Dad Chalking Start

11. The Surprise – Priceless!!

Surprised Husband

So, you want to know how I pulled it off? 

I told him that I was going to let him sleep late, and I’d take care of our daughter.  He had no problems with that.  We got up extra early, did everything we needed.  I had the guests arrive in the front to wait in the patio area.  Once they had all assembled, I woke Ben up and had him put on some clothes.  I told him I had made him breakfast and we were going to eat it on the patio outside.  So, this is his face when he made it outside .  .  .

12. The Start of the Race

At the Starting Line

13. The Award Ceremony – At the end of the race, each guest received their special medal and their t-shirt.

14. Ben K Trivia – Food and dessert were complemented by funny trivia all about my husband. We had door prizes to give out with my dad’s logo on them for the winners. One of the questions asked how tall Ben was. We measured him, and the winner got the tape measure!

It was truly an amazing morning! I found this the most fun, because it gave people a reason to be social and get to know one another (and all with-in budget).

Happy Birthday to the most Beautiful Man that I know!

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Christmas time is one of my mom’s favorite holidays, especially because of the lights.  We use to ride to different neighborhoods admiring all the holiday lights.  I, too, got that love from my mom!

So, tonight, with a clear, crisp sky, a half moon hanging above, and many of the people that I love: my mom, dad, husband, daughter, aunt and a few friends went to the Atlanta Botanical Gardens for their spectacular light show.  In particular, it is a very kid-friendly venue that had my daughter saying, “Come On” throughout the whole gardens.  She didn’t even want to get in her stroller it was so exciting!

We  packed a GF dinner for my daughter and were on our way by 4:45 pm to avoid bedtime conflict.  It was definitely dark by the time we left.

Here were mine and my daughter’s favorite highlights:

1.  A Bonding Moment with Froggy

Froggy on a Bench

2. The Chihuly Fountain (with the half moon hanging over our heads)

Chihuly Fountain

3. The Garden Railway featuring Coca-Cola Trains as well as a Tootsie Roll one

Holiday Garden Railway

4. Lights of Sculpture Dancing to Music

Dancing Lights

5. *S’mores Making – *Note: There is a fire pit where you can roast s’mores that you purchase there.  If you want to make s’mores, bring your own graham crackers (S’morables by Kinnikinnick), chocolate (Enjoy Life), and marshmallows (Kraft).  They provide you sticks, so you’ll have to pay a fee of sorts, but it’s totally worth it.

Fire Pit for S’Mores

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My daughter & Me at Thanksgiving Dinner

Autumn is one of my favorite times of year because it speaks to cool, crisp air, falling leaves, harvests, family gatherings, and lots of food.  This all sounds great!  Then the reality of the situation hits; my imagination runs wild and I see a playground for gluten: The slide is a big wet lasagna noodle, the swings seats are plump, cushy pumpkin muffins, the dirt is stuffing giving way under the shuffle of feet as animals, adults, and kids slurp and slide all over, smearing gluten from one play structure to the next.
Then the chilly fall air blows across my face and I’m back to reality – gobs of friends and family hovering over the food, fingers picking, serving spoons jumping from one platter to the next. . . This could end up as a regular old disaster, but I then I take hold of my imagination and decide to control the situation with ORDER.

To read more, click here . . .

This article can also be found on the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness’s Celiac Central: Bits and Bites Page

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Ghouls, ghosts and gluten – Oh my! Talk to your child about safe and unsafe candy before you trick-or-treat.

It’s that time of year again.  The weather turns cooler; leaves rustle in the wind; eerie sounds emerge as darkness settles in. As a child, I looked forward to this time of year, because the change in weather brought about feelings of fall and heralded the approach of All Hallows Eve, otherwise known as Halloween.

All Hallows Eve is a Celtic holiday that celebrated the coming of winter, the end of a long harvest, and the cycle of life.  It was a time where people believed the souls of the dead wandered restlessly before heading to the underworld. Villagers left out parts of their harvest in hope of pacifying these wandering souls. Though Christian Missionaries came to change the holiday, its historical significance remains – people dress up as living souls and go around to collect the harvest offering.

To read more, click here . . .

This article can also be found on the National Foundation for Celiac Awareness’s Kid’s Central Parents Page

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