27 May 2011

Road Trip Snacks

This morning, long before many of you were awake, three friends and I got into the car and headed out of town. To the beach!


I'm most looking forward to waking up without an alarm, doing yoga outside near the water, fixing pancakes for breakfast and lying on the beach with a good book and great company. Amazing company. The three friends that I'm going with are so fun, beautiful, hilarious, smart, talented and caring. I feel lucky to be able to spend a whole weekend with them. There will be a lot of laughter for sure. Even if it rains the entire weekend, we'll have an amazing time. Heck, even if all we do is drive to the beach and then turn around and come back, we'll have a blast.

I love road trips--piling into the car, rolling down the windows, turning up the music and eating snacks. I'm the one who breaks into the snack bag just a couple miles down the road. My mom was always the queen of snacks on our family road trips. I can picture her turning around in the passenger seat handing my sister and me slices of cheddar cheese to go with our crackers and grapes. She'd also fill a gallon-sized ziplock bag with homemade trail mix (m&ms, nuts and raisins). Brings back fond memories. Even though I can't eat my mom's road trip recipes nowadays, I still carry on her snacking sentiment by bringing plenty of gluten, dairy and sugar free snacks. Here's what I'm taking on this trip:

Not pictured:
Perfect Popcorn
Baker's Chocolate

It's gonna be a great trip. I am allowing myself to have some things that I've been omitting these past few months (like apples and agave nectar) since this is vacation and it's been so long since I've been on vacation.

I hope you have a great holiday weekend also! I'll be back next week--a little bit tanner, more rested and probably with deeper laugh lines. Hasta luego!

23 May 2011

Chipotle Lime Salmon Burgers

I'm more of an autumn and springtime girl, but there are certain things about summer that I absolutely love. (The oppressive humidity of the south and the Tennessee Cicada Infestation of 2011 are not on that list, by the way.) Outdoor music shows, pools, picnics at wineries, cookouts with friends--these are the summery things I look forward to. Food-wise, I love summer flavors. I mean, how can you go wrong with lime, cilantro and salt. There is nothing better.

I know that some of you are among the unfortunate souls who think that cilantro tastes like soap. I'm so sorry that you possess this handicap of the tongue. I, on the other hand, can't get enough of the stuff. So this past weekend, when some friends of mine had a cookout at their house, I decided to combine a few of my favorite summer things: grilling, salmon, lime and cilantro.

These salmon burgers are super easy. Just take the following ingredients (plus an egg):

Mix it all together in a bowl...

Then, form it into two burger patties and grill them over medium heat. (You can also cook them in a pan on the stove if you don't want to fire up the grill.)

Here are the measurements, but you can always adjust the oil, lime juice and flour to get the right consistency for grilling:

Chipotle Lime Salmon Burgers
1 6oz can of salmon
1 egg
1 Tbsp chopped scallions
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
1 tsp brown mustard
1 Tbsp olive oil
3 Tbsp flax seed flour (or any gluten free flour)
juice from 1/4 lime
1/8-1/4 tsp chipotle pepper powder

20 May 2011

Perfect Popcorn

This week I went to the movie theater. I rarely go anymore because it's so freaking expensive (I remember the days when it was less than $4 for a ticket). As long as I can remember my friends and I have snuck food into the theater to save money. It's a good thing big purses are in style. A couple months ago, a friend and I hid an entire sushi dinner in our purses, chopsticks and all. That avocado cucumber roll made the movie so much better. :) Usually, I just bring my own popcorn since I don't eat the buttery movie theater popcorn (although, that stuff might not actually be butter...). The popcorn I make tastes WAY better than what they sell anyway. And it costs less than a dollar--not $7.99 for a small. It's perfectly popped, and it's good for you. So, what's my secret?

I present, The GREAT Hot Air Popper. 

This baby is circa 1974. It was most likely a wedding gift for my parents. It still purrs like a cat (with a giant hairball in it's throat) and works like a charm. I have fond memories of making popcorn with this air popper when I was a little girl. I also have fond memories of making popcorn with this air popper last night. Mmmm, so good. My parents updated to a newer version a couple of years ago, so I got the original. Fine by me.

To make a batch, I let the popper run for awhile so it heats up, then I pour 1/4-1/2 cup (the cap is a measuring cup) of white popcorn kernels in the bowl of the popper. As the kernels pop, they fly out of the chute and into a bowl. Once the bowl is full and the kernels are all perfectly popped (not a single burnt piece), I dump it into a brown paper bag. Then, I drizzle a good amount of olive oil on top and shake the bag. Next, I sprinkle sea salt into the bag and shake again.

This is post shake. Hence, the oil spots on the bag.

Once it's all evenly covered with oil and salt, I pour it back into the bowl (or into a ziplock bag if I'm sneaking it into a movie theater). Another favorite version is Cinnamon and "Sugar" (stevia). I melt coconut oil and pour it into the bag, then sprinkle a bunch of cinnamon, a little stevia and a pinch of sea salt and shake it around. My next popcorn experiment will be Chocolate--coconut oil, cocoa powder and stevia. 

Popcorn is pretty, don't you think? The word for "popcorn" in Spanish is "palomitas" which means "little doves." I love that. Spanish is such a romantic language.

It just doesn't work in English, though. If I tried to call popcorn little doves, I'd definitely get some eye rolls. But the eye rolls would probably be from people who were used to "buttery" yellow movie theater popcorn, not the fluffy, white perfection that comes out of the GREAT Hot Air Popper. That's for sure. Movie date anyone?

16 May 2011

Maple Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Blondies

Last Sunday, my family got together for lunch to celebrate Mother's Day. My sister asked me to bring a dessert. Now, there are a lot of great options out there for people eating on a gluten, dairy and sugar free diet, a few of which I've shared on this blog, but since this was a special occasion, and also the first time my (non-food-allergy) family would be tasting one of my "untamed" desserts, I wanted to make sure they'd like it. So I strayed a from my diet a little and used a sweetener other than stevia. This recipe is still sugar free according to some standards, but one taste of these blondies and any discerning tongue would know that there was sucrose present. Sucrose in the form of pure maple syrup, that is. 

Pure maple syrup isn't exactly healthy, but it does have some additional nutrients and benefits that white sugar doesn't have. One good thing is that maple syrup creates a more alkaline environment in the body. Since many of the foods we eat today (including white sugar) create an acidic environment, it's important to consume alkaline-producing foods to help balance our body's pH. So there's that.

Along with maple syrup, I also threw in some applesauce, coconut oil, almond meal, cinnamon and chocolate just to see how many comforting flavors I could put into one dessert. I really wanted to call these "Maple Cinnamon Apple Coconut Almond Chocolate Chip Blondies", but it just doesn't roll off the tongue very easily.

The flour is a mix of brown rice flour and almond meal. One tip I've learned is that it's usually a good idea to mix different kinds of flours in gluten free baking.

This is coconut oil, egg and maple syrup. Take out the egg and it would make a great glaze for the top of a carrot cake or drizzled over a sweet potato casserole. (Although, even as I type that, I'm thinking, "That sounds way too sweet." Man, have my taste buds changed.)

The best part of this recipe was making (and eating) my own chocolate chips. Which, by the way, were gluten, dairy AND sugar free! First, melt some coconut oil and add in some cocoa powder. I had a square of baking chocolate that I threw in also. Once it's all mixed together and melted, add stevia to taste.

Pour it into a shallow container (you don't want it to spread too thin, though), cover it and stick it in the freezer.

After at least 30 minutes, the chocolate should be hardened enough to cut into chips. Ready for any recipe...or for eating right out of the container.

The blondies turned out great and they were a big hit with my family. I knew they were a hit when my niece, Sidney, took her first bite and exclaimed, "I love this! I love this so much!" My other niece, Abigail, asked for seconds, and then, I caught my dad scraping crumbs and chocolate out of the empty pan. I enjoy food, but it might be even better seeing other people enjoy food I've made.

I'm used to experimenting with recipes for my own meals, and it's not a big deal because I'm pretty open-minded when it comes to foods and flavors. Sharing a made-up recipe with others can be a little scary, though. My family would have told me if they didn't like it, and since I came home with only one blondie left, I'm giving this recipe a stamp of approval.

My recipe was loosely based on these blondies, which also look fantastic. You can find the complete chocolate chip recipe there as well, with measurements (although I used less stevia).

Maple Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Blondies
1 cup brown rice flour
1/4 cup almond meal
1/4 cup coconut flour
1/2 tsp xanthan gum
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp stevia powder
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 tsp cinnamon
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup melted coconut oil
1/2 cup pure maple syrup

Mix dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl. Beat egg in large bowl and add syrup and  oil. blend with mixer. Add dry ingredients slowly and mix together. Stir in the applesauce, then fold in the chocolate chips. Pour into a greased 8x8 baking pan and bake at 325F for 30-35 minutes.

11 May 2011

Lamb Curry

Even though I'm not a vegetarian, I've never really been a big meat eater. That's mostly because raw meat is not my favorite thing to cook with--it's messy, you have to wash your hands every time you touch it, and it's scary if it's undercooked. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying I don't like meat. I definitely enjoy ordering it some restaurants, and I might even daydreaming every once in awhile about the best steak I've ever eaten. (Oh man, it melted in my mouth it was so amazing. Those Argentinians really know how to do steak right.) 

Recently, though, as I've become more adventurous with vegetables, I've also tried to step out of my comfort zone with cooking different meats. A few weeks ago I bought bison meat and made it into burgers. Then I took it to various cookouts and had friends grill it. I definitely recommend bison burgers if you want to change up your normal grilling routine. (Just cook it at a lower temp than you would beef.) 

Then, this last weekend, I bought some ground lamb. I wasn't sure what I'd do with it when I bought it, but I knew that I liked the taste of lamb from my past experience with Greek gyros (is it yeerohs, heros, or jiros?...) and the lamb burger at Burger Up, a new favorite restaurant of mine.

When I saw the jar of Curry Simmer Sauce from Trader Joes, I knew that was the answer. People, you have to try this. It is delicious, healthy and so easy--just dump the sauce on veggies, beans, meat, rice (or any combo of those) and you'll have a gourmet Indian meal in minutes.

Here are the ingredients. Every single one is a real food or spice. Mmmmmm.

For my dinner, I browned 1/2 lb of ground lamb with garlic and dumped the curry sauce on top. Then, I steamed zucchini and cauliflower and mixed it all together (you could just as easily saute the veggies and make it all in one pan, but I felt like steaming). Deeeeelish!

I love lamb. And I'm not just looking at things on this blog and saying that I love them. (Name that movie.)

Now I'll probably start dreaming about lamb. That's kind of like counting sheep though, right? For my next meat adventure, maybe I'll get in touch with my redneck side and try squirrel...

Yeah right! Not gonna happen.

06 May 2011

Potluck #3: Purple and Green Salad

This does not contain Red dye 40. All colors in this dish are completely natural.

But doesn't it sort of look like something out of a Dr. Seuss book? "I do not like purple cabbage and green asparagus. I do not like them Sam I am..." (Doesn't quite have the same ring to it as "green eggs and ham," though, does it?)

This pretty pair will get you compliments at your next potluck, not only because of the taste, but also because of it's eye catching colors. I mean, it's not everyday that you get to eat purple vegetables.

Purple is generally one of those colors that's reserved for fake foods. Things like Easter Peeps, grape-flavored fruit snacks and cheap blueberry bagels. Not exactly the most nutritious bunch.

Outside of food, purple is respected, though. It's the color of royalty, the Purple Heart...and there's this. In the music category, there's Purple Rain, Purple People Eaters and Purple Haze, which, depending on your taste in music (or cannabis), might draw you closer or repel you further from purple.

Even if you're not crazy about eating purple things, hopefully the flavor of this salad will hook you. Sauteed cabbage and asparagus make a lovely combo. Here's how it works:

Wash and rinse veggies, chop/slice asparagus, red cabbage and sweet yellow onion into 3-4 inch pieces/strips. Heat coconut or grapeseed oil in a pan on medium heat. Add onion and asparagus and saute for five minutes before adding the cabbage. Sprinkle with sea salt. Stir until desired texture of veggies is achieved (I like mine to be crunchy still). The asparagus takes longer to soften than the cabbage, so you can determine for yourself how long to saute the asparagus before adding the cabbage. Enjoy!

Speaking of purple food, have you ever seen and/or eaten purple potatoes or purple cauliflower? I can do the cabbage, but I must admit, the others scare me a little...

02 May 2011

Half Marathon Fuel

This past Saturday, I ran my second 1/2 marathon. I had so much fun! The runner's high is for real, and it's such a great feeling! I beat my time from last year by four minutes, which surprised me completely. I trained hard this season, but I was more concerned about having fun than beating my time. The weather was perfect and I had a lot of energy, so in the end I'm glad I pushed myself to see what my body could do. I've been running with East Nasty running club for a couple years, and it definitely makes a difference to have the friendship and support of so many fellow runners. My family also came out to cheer for me. Even though they only saw me for a few seconds as I ran by, it gave me such a boost to know they were there.

My five-year-old nieces, Sydney and Abigail, made these beautiful signs for me. (My family nickname is Miranda Panda.) "go! go go go to the finishshe," "Panda. fly" Love it. :)

As I've been training this season, many people haven asked me what I eat and drink to make sure I'm getting enough calories and carbohydrates. Lots of runners load up on bread and pasta, and I used to do that when I ran cross country in high school. It did not work for me. I ended up getting light-headed and weak during my runs. Now I know my body doesn't do well with so many carbs, so it makes sense why I struggled with running in high school. My diet of mostly veggies, meat, nuts/seeds and some gluten free grains works really well for me, even when I'm training for a long race. I've never had more energy than I do these days.

On Saturday, however, I decided to add in some fructose (fruit sugar) to my diet to give me an extra edge. Last year I only drank water during the race and I hit a wall at mile 12. My roommate and running budding, Katherine (in the pic above), encouraged me and helped me push through all the way to the finish. I wanted to avoid the wall this year, so I went to the Turnip Truck and bought a few natural snacks and drinks that I thought might help. They totally did. I was so energized the whole race (my legs got tired and I was breathing heavy, for sure, but I never felt like stopping). Here's what I ate and drank before and during the race. 

1. Amazing Grass Green SuperFood, chocolate flavor. It really is amazing. I drink this every morning mixed with water or coconut milk or in a smoothie. I've tried lots of green drinks and this is definitely the best tasting one. I love knowing that I've automatically gotten a huge serving of veggies and vitamins (and chocolate!) at the start of my day.

2. Yogi green tea. I also drink this every morning. Back in October I started drinking green tea instead of coffee. I miss coffee sometimes, but I'm really enjoying green tea. The caffeine in it doesn't ever make me jittery. Kombucha and Energy are my favorite Yogi flavors.

3. Fruit leather. I ate the apple one about 20 minutes before the race. I don't do well eating too much before I run, so I kept it light with one of these.

4. Recharge sports drink.  I am not a fan of Gatorade or any sports drinks really. They are too sweet for me, I can't take it. I was really excited to find this at the store and even though I won't make a habit of drinking it, I loved it! Its base is white grape juice, lemon/lime juice--no fake sugar at all. The taste was great and I felt good knowing that I was getting some electrolytes and sodium in me.

5. Yerba mate. Two years ago I spent some time in Argentina. Those people do not sleep and it's mostly due to the amount of this stuff that they consume. I drank about 4 oz. of this and, along with the green tea, I was sufficiently caffeinated.

6. Raw Revolution live food bar. Like I mentioned above, last year I hit a wall, so this year I made sure to carry some calories with me to keep me going. I pulled out this mini nutrition bar at the halfway point and I think it made a big difference in my finish.

That's what worked for me! I'd love to hear suggestions about what works for you because I'm definitely not an expert in this area.

Also, I wish I could share about my post-race food (it was much more exciting), but I don't have any pictures. First, I had loads of almond butter on rice cakes, then for dinner I had a grilled bison burger (no bun), guacamole, and sauteed cabbage. What a great day!