Recipe Rip-Off: Yumm Sauce (à la Jen)

There is a great restaurant chain in Oregon called Cafe Yumm! If have the opportunity to visit my lovely home state, definitely check it out. I don’t want to take away from their business in any way by posting a knock-off recipe, but I can’t live without the sauce and I’m 2,500 miles away! You can find copycat recipes all over online, but none of them has been quite right (and a couple are downright WRONG), so I’ve made some tweaks that I think get it pretty close to what I remember of the original. Even if it’s not exact, it’s still dang good—for a rice/bean/veggie bowl, on a salad, as a veggie dip, whatever.

This recipe makes a lot of sauce. I find it easier to just whir up a big batch and either share with friends or freeze half of it. I know some people shun soy altogether. I try to avoid it, but for this recipe, it’s such a small amount per serving that I’m willing to include it. Also, it’s highly critical that you use nutritional yeast, not brewer’s yeast, which is what some of the ripoff recipes online list. They are two very different things. It must be nutritional yeast (which I promise will find its way into other areas of your cooking, like on popcorn). Okay, enough nagging. Let’s get Yumm-ing!

Yumm Sauce

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup organic canola oil (preferably cold pressed) OR sunflower oil {see this chart if you’re interested in info on oils}
  • 1/2 cup raw almonds (for a creamier sauce, use almond meal/flour)
  • 1/2 cup cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed (freeze the rest or make hummus)
  • 1/2 package+ silken tofu (add more or use the rest in smoothies; I use about 3/4 of the package)
  • 1/2 cup+ filtered water (important for flavor)
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice (fresh is best)
  • 1-2 garlic cloves (small to medium)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • fresh-ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried cilantro {something I never thought I’d purchase}
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast (available at Whole Foods in the supplement area or online)
  • 1/8-1/4 teaspoon citric acid (optional; helps preserve the color and adds an acidic kick)
Directions:
  1. In a food processor or blender, blend almonds, beans, tofu, and oil until smooth. In my new Vitamix (wheeee!), the sauce comes out much smoother than in the food processor.
  2. Add all other ingredients, and puree until creamy smooth. Add more water and/or lemon juice until it reaches the consistency you desire.
  3. Cover and let stand in the refrigerator for one hour.

This will keep in the fridge, tightly covered, for 7-10 days. I’ve also frozen the sauce, and it has thawed fine. However, we usually end up scarfing it up before we ever have a chance to freeze it.

Yumm Bowl. Here’s what you want to do. Layer a bowl with the following:

  • brown rice or quinoa or this sprouted rice/quinoa blend I’ve been loving lately
  • beans or the protein of your choice
  • a generous layer of Yumm-ish sauce
  • veggies: tomato, black olives, shredded carrots, scallions, avocado, peppers, etc.
  • shredded sharp cheddar (if you’re doing dairy)
  • sour cream (again, if you’re doing dairy)
  • fresh cilantro

Bam.

Put it on a burrito. Dip your crudites in it. Dress a salad. Eat a spoonful of it in front of the open fridge door at midnight. Oh, wait. That’s just me. It’s vegan, gluten-free, and sugar-free, high in protein, and SO, so flavorful. Really, the sky’s the limit. Let me know what you think and what other ways you find to use this delicious sauce!

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Comfort Food: Molly’s Meatloaf

When I was first diagnosed as gluten-free, the foods I missed the most inevitably fell under the designation of “comfort food,” so over the past nine years I’ve created my own recipes to fill the void left by my favorites. Now, not all of these are super-healthy, but they aren’t all that bad either. I’ll share one of these a week! First up is my “meatloaf;” This doesn’t make a nice loaf-pan style meatloaf and it contains very few ingredients that you might be used to seeing in traditional meatloaf, but it hits the spot and it one of my husband’s favorites. Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 1lb ground beef (grass-fed is best!)
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 1 sweet onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 bunch of celery, roughly chopped
  • 1/2-1 9oz bag of baby spinach, torn into smaller pieces
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/3 C. gluten free oats (for a dryer loaf, you can sub in almond meal for the oats)
  • 1/3 C. slivered almonds (or any other nut you love!)
  • 1/3 C. Ketchup (I use all-natural versions with no corn and no wheat)
  • 1/4 C. gf, low sodium worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 C. goat cheese or parmesan cheese (optional)
  • a squirt of lemon juice
  • a squirt of your favorite hot sauce
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • garlic to taste
  • a teaspoon of Oregano (optional)
  • a teaspoon of Oregano (optional)
  • a teaspoon of Rosemary (optional)
  • 1/3 C. Italian flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

Directions:
1.) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
2.) coat a 9″x13″ baking dish with olive oil
3.) mix all ingredients together in a large bowl using a large spoon, a stand mixer, or your (squeaky clean, of course!) hands

4.) Spread mixture into pan and bake for about 30 minutes

5.) A build-up of juices may accumulate on the top of your loaf if you aren’t using the leanest possible meat. I skim this off the top and dispose of it, but you can leave it for a “juicier” loaf.

6.) Serve piping hot!

This recipe feeds about 6 people and the leftovers make excellent meatloaf sandwiches using gluten-free bread!

Keep an eye out for my mac & cheese next week!

Confessions Part I

In the spirit of transparency, I feel the need to confess a couple of things.

  1. I’m not 100% gluten free . . . sometimes I cheat.
  2. I eat a lot. A Lot.

When Jen first told me about her new diet, the thing I found most appealing was that you could have a couple of cheat meals a week, assuming you don’t have celiac or other allergy. Yes! I didn’t want to start just a new diet; I wanted to make a healthy lifestyle change—one that I could maintain for the long term and that would not make me want to eat an entire loaf of bread or an entire chocolate cake. And if you know me well, you know eating an entire chocolate cake is not out of the realm of possibilities for me.

Between the birthday parties, baby showers, basketball games, and office events that fill my life, I don’t have the willpower to never cheat. So, I try to a). plan ahead as much as possible, b). have tiny cheats, and c). eat something really healthy before I go to certain events. When we have a birthday party at the Loveless Café, I look forward to that cheat all week and try to behave myself. When we grab dinner in the hospitality room before a basketball game or go to another party, I try to eat a much smaller portions than what I typically would have in the past and/or load up on healthy stuff. Sometimes, I just take one single bite of something to enjoy the taste but not indulge in excess. (i.e. the giant leftover calzone my brother had this weekend.)

A few things I’ve learned from this:

  • Grocery store snacks or baked goods are almost never worth a cheat; they’re just wasted calories. A made-from-scratch, beyond delicious cake from our VP of marketing—always worth a cheat. If you’re going to cheat, make it a good one.
  • Telling yourself you can never have something again (unless it makes you severely ill and you really can never have something again) is usually not a good idea.
  • Eating healthy before you leave only works if you can stick to it . . . I have at least once had two meals on that premise.
  • Over-indulging usually leads to a good reminder—feeling full and gross—as to why I stopped doing that on a regular basis.
  • And finally, remember why you’re doing this . . .

I am doing this because I want a healthy body. I had an epiphany several weeks back, sitting in my office munching on carrots and Jen’s incredible yum sauce (stay tuned for the recipe), when it occurred to me, I was feeding my body and not my head. I wasn’t feeding my emotions or my current level of stress or my latest whim over what was set out at the coffee station. I was deliberately and purposely putting good things in my body.

It’s not about daily caloric intake; it’s about putting really good fuel into your physical self. I once heard someone say, “There are no bad foods.” That’s ridiculous. Of course there are. We live in the South. Deep-fried Twinkies are “bad” foods. However, if you love them, eat one once a year at the fair, and spend the rest of the time filling your body with vitamins and minerals and as much organic fare as you can afford. You wouldn’t put bad gas in an expensive car, yet as Americans, we fill ourselves—our most valuable gifts—with processed, genetically-modified, fast, easy, and cheap food.

Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your body.

—1 Corinthians 6:19–20

Here’s to healthy bodies, healthy minds, and healthy motives. Next time, I’ll share about my ridiculous appetite and some ideas on filling up with healthy, satisfying, and gluten-free foods.  Bonne nuit and sleep well my friends.

I LOVE BIG BERRIES AND I CANNOT LIE

My name is Lisa and I am a gluten-free glutton.

I sit in the cubicle next to Jennifer at work and I can confirm that she did, indeed, reach the height of whininess when she started the Dr. Woo Woo lifestyle change. (I don’t like calling it a diet because when I do, people instantly think it’s a diet to lose weight—and that is not the motivation behind this, although weight loss is one of the benefits.) I’d also like to confirm that I was not the least bit annoyed by her antics. If anything, I felt terribly sorry for her. After all, she could no longer receive the emotional comfort that came with eating macaroni and cheese, chips and cookies, and blue cake pops. (Can we all identify?) We’re talking sustenance for the soul here, and, to me, having that taken away is the lowest of lows one could experience.

I also admired her. It takes courage to make a major life change, especially when no one else around you is making those same changes. Any kind of change is flat-out hard, so it’s doubly hard when you’re not surrounded by others who are on the same quest and who have the same conviction. There was one person in our department, her name is Molly, who had a very clear idea about what Jen was experiencing—Molly is a professional GFG, but Molly doesn’t sit near Jen like I do, to give instant support and encouragement that only a true comrade can give.

Well, about a month after this new lifestyle quest started, pity and admiration for Jen slowly evolved into curiosity for me. The curiosity turned into asking questions. And more questions. And before I knew it, I couldn’t wait to arrive at work and ask for the latest milestone she had reached, as well as see what she brought for breakfast and lunch. It became an adventure. I’d never heard of kale chips or blue agave syrup or coconut oil. Coconut oil! Ewww.

At the same time this adventure was happening, my dear, sweet husband of 17 years (his name is Steve) had been experiencing a long, 18-month string of health issues. And while his doctors tried to pinpoint a diagnosis, they got prescription happy and prescribed drug after drug, none of which helped—they actually made him worse. Well, one morning while listening to Steve describe in vivid detail how terrible he felt, and seeing his tired, discouraged eyes from being in chronic pain, I blurted, “I wonder if you should go to the doctor Jen is going to.” Then I began to explain some of what I’d learned about Dr. Woo Woo and the success stories I’d heard at work. After only a few minutes of downloading, Steve got up and called for an appointment. I was so glad.

Now, after witnessing Jen’s experiences I knew what Steve was in for, and a wave of panic quickly hit: if he goes on this lifestyle change, I should probably go on it too. For support. Okay, well, I thought, I can do this. IF JEN CAN DO IT, I CAN DO IT. Then the panic quickly changed to shock when I realized I was going to have to quit drinking coffee. I’d been drinking coffee—strong coffee—for 35 years. I didn’t know how not to drink coffee. And if you think that’s bad, it was two weeks before Thanksgiving. (Did I mention it’s good to have a sense of humor when embarking on a journey like this?!)

Thus began my own journey of completely upside down, inside out way of eating and living. I say living because what I’ll be sharing—what we’ll all be sharing—will change how you see, think, prepare, and cook food. And after only the first 3 months, I’ve lost 10 lbs, my bad cholesterol has dropped 24 points, and I’ve never felt better in my life, physically and mentally.

Before I go, you’re probably wondering what any of this has to do with big berries. Well, nothing actually. I confess I just thought it was a hilarious title. 🙂

Gooey Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

These are inspired by Chocolate-Covered Katie’s Healthy Deep-Dish Cookie Pie. I’ve made some tweaks to her recipe and halved it (it’s just not smart for me to have more than this amount in my house at a given time!). These are incredibly gooey and delicious and a total sneak for people who are leery of “weird, healthy food” (I get this line a lot at my own house). I’ve taken them to work and to a party. Everyone who tried tried them said they never would have guessed that the primary ingredients are garbanzo beans and oatmeal.

{Note: this is no Pioneer Woman or Smitten Kitchen, so don’t get all fired up about the possibility of beautiful step-by-step photos. Or high-quality photos of any kind for that matter. I will just tell you right now that most photos on my recipes are likely to be taken with my iPhone in my dimly lit and windowless kitchen. I’m sorry. I hope that will change down the road. I promise you that I won’t post a recipe unless I truly believe it’s fantastic. Hopefully that will be enough to make you consider giving it a try, lousy photo or not.}

Gooey Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars

  • 1 can unseasoned white beans or garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed {I used garbanzos}
  • 1/2 cup quick oats or certified-gf quick oats
  • 3 medjool dates {don’t forget to take out the pits!}
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/3 c Sucanat and 1/3 c agave
  • 1 1/2 T canola oil {I plan to use coconut oil for the next batch, as it’s much healthier}
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup semisweet or dark chocolate chips {if you’re feeling frisky, why not try a blend of the two?}
  1. Blend everything except the chips very well in the food processor. {Be aware that your mixture won’t smell very good at this point. It will smell like beans with vanilla, which is, well, weird. Never fear! I swear that once you bake the bars, you’ll never remember that the base is beans.}
  2. Stir in chips, and pour into a small oiled pan (I used a small pie plate; a double batch fits nicely in a 9×13 Pyrex baking dish).
  3. Bake at 350F for 35-40 minutes. Let stand at least 10 minutes before removing from the pan.

Cut yourself a mammoth slice and enjoy! Once they have cooled, I store them in the fridge. When hot, these would be fabulous with your ice cream of choice (dairy or non-dairy) and chocolate sauce. This morning, the cooled cookie bars had a melt-in-my-mouth fudgy consistency. Divine. And I didn’t even feel guilty about eating one for breakfast.

I plan to play with this recipe as a base for breakfast bars with add-ins of dried fruit, chopped nuts, and coconut flakes. I think a big batch would freeze well individually wrapped and would make a great breakfast go-to on rushed mornings. I’ll keep you posted.

Professionally Gluten-Free

ImageJen and MacKenzie have both shared their stories, and as the “professional” gluten free girl of the group I thought I should add mine as well! I’ve been gluten-free since summer 2004 after about ten years of random illness that no one could seem to explain away. I was 21 years old and about to begin my senior year at the University of Miami at the time. I didn’t have regular celiac symptoms, which is probably why it took us so long to figure out what the problem was! I also have quite a few allergies that took a while to diagnose and all of the symptoms mixed up together were a little much for most doctors. After years in and out of hospitals and various specialists offices for extreme headaches, an over abundance of sinus infections, dizziness and fainting, lack of energy, and low blood pressure, I finally found my answer at the allergist.

I was tested for food allergies and the results were a staggering 30 or so foods, with wheat, corn, apples, beans, plums, chickpeas, and shellfish topping the list as the worst offenders. It felt like a death sentence and I did not take it well. After all, I had always been the girl who sneered at low carb diets while proclaiming that anyone who willing gave up bread must be crazy! I was a royal pain in the behind to be around for the first six months of my detox, but after a while my body responded and I felt so much better. I tried adding some things back in, working my way up from the lowest reactors to the highest. I was easily able to add back in black pepper and garlic, but adding in wheat made me so sick I could barely move. My stomach was in knots and my doctors were finally able to diagnose me with celiac. Corn gave me horrible migraines, chickpeas led to vomiting, and apples closed up my throat. Things like salmon, halibut, and beans give me horrible hives and led to sinus infections. Back then, it was difficult to find healthy foods that fit into my new diet, even in a big city like Miami, so I learned to cook. That first year was rough though–especially since I was a college student in one of the biggest party cities in the U.S. My sorority sisters had a hard time understanding why I wasn’t drinking beer, vodka, or whiskey anymore and why that 2AM Wendy’s run was now completely out of the question. And my cooking skills back then were decidedly sub-par. I ate a TON of plain baked chicken and plain steamed veggies, which certainly helped make me the skinniest I’ve ever been, but didn’t do much in the way of enjoying life and food!

It’s gotten easier and easier over the years to be on such a restrictive diet–especially thanks to farm-to-table movements and the increase in blogs and other internet resources. I moved to New York City for five years after college and learned to love food again while I was there. I learned how to cook all sorts of tasty dishes and how to eat out as safely as possible. It was city of inspiration for me and helped me learn to enjoy being gluten free instead of suffering through it! I’ll be sharing recipes, tips, and tricks alongside my fellow gluten-free gluttons on this blog. I can’t tell you what a relief it is after all these years to not be the only gluten-free gal at work functions 🙂

Gluten-Free Groupie

I’m kind of the “groupie” of these gluten-free gluttons. (Fellow editors—that ridiculous alliteration is for you.) I don’t personally have an illness or other issue that spurred me to make this lifestyle change, but my parents have had a host of major issues, so healthy eating and wellness have always been somewhat of a priority for me.

When Jen began this journey, I was very inspired and intrigued by what she was doing and how it was affecting her life. In addition, I share an office with Molly, who has to be gluten-free because of Celiac. Then Lisa changed her diet as well. And it seemed to be impacting everyone in really positive ways. The three big things we try to avoid are: Gluten. Sugar. Dairy.

My mom, who has struggled with autoimmune disease (lupus/mixed-connective tissue disease), thyroid disease, and food allergies (corn, food dyes, preservatives) was on a similar diet about fourteen years ago. It helped her quite a bit at the time, but then she began to plateau and eventually threw in the towel. This particular diet was extremely restrictive, and living in the middle-of-nowhere Midwest, there weren’t a lot of options for her to buy healthy, alternative foods. I grew up in the land of corn, wheat, and beans.

In addition, my dad is now battling lymphoma for the second time. He’s also had sarcoidosis and he deals with an extreme case of adhesions (scar tissue) in his intestinal tract.

Both of my parents have limiting diets as it is, but since we’ve began this journey, I have been overwhelmed with information on how important it is to avoid gluten if you have autoimmune disease or thyroid disease, and even lymphomas. (I don’t fully understand this article, but here was a big takeaway:
“There is evidence that strict adherence to a gluten-free diet long term will reduce the incidence of lymphoma.” http://www.nutramed.com/celiac/celiacrefcancer.htm)

We’re still in the very stressful and frightening waiting-for-results phase and the first round of chemo for my daddy, so I have begun to shower my parents in prayer. And gluten-free foods.

As they don’t have access to Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Costco, or sadly even a Kroger or a Publix, I have brought healthy, natural, organic, and gluten-free foods and treats to them. A few things I’m already in love with:

Pamela’s Baking and Pancake Mix
Trader Joe’s Organic Brown Rice Pasta
1 2 3 Gluten Free Pan Bars
Blue Diamond Nut Thins

I tell you, even though I don’t have any of these diseases, I just feel better without gluten. I don’t often get that full, bloated feeling, and sometimes—before this recent lymphoma diagnosis—I would find myself in the best mood for no apparent reason. There were days you couldn’t smack the smile off my face. And I’ve lost twelve pounds.

I have had to keep reminding myself that I began this lifestyle change for the well-being of my body . . . however, I also did it to lose fourteen pounds. In less than two months, I’ve already lost twelve of them.

A New Venture, in Life and Blog

Last week, over lunch with a couple of coworkers at The Wild Cow, a local vegetarian eatery, all three of us decided to order gluten-free treats to take with–a chocolate cupcake and a piece of vanilla raspberry cake. Each. We reasoned that since we aren’t in that part of town often, we might as well stock up. One of us remarked that it was so gluttonous to be walking out with six desserts between the three of us, but hey, at least we’re gluten-free gluttons!

Aren’t we so clever? Just nod and say yes. We’re so dang clever that we thought this would be a great blog name and decided it might be fun to take it for a spin and see if it goes anywhere. I’m an infrequent blogger over at my own place, so I’m not sure I can make any promises. However, some lifestyle changes over the last four months as well as cancer among friends and family have me pretty obsessed lately with food and herbs and general well-being. That may be just enough motivation to spark frequent-ish posts.

It all started on October 10, 2011, with a delicious and beautiful cake pop. (My nails looked really good that day too.)

It tasted fantastic. And my mouth started swelling up within a couple hours–lips, tongue, roof of mouth. (It’s a good thing I didn’t eat the second one I took home.) The next morning my mouth was painful and swollen, so I went to a clinic and was put on prednisone and massive doses of Benadryl for what the doc believed to be an allergic reaction to food dye. Unfortunately, the treatment only sent my body into a further tailspin (I won’t go into details here–to sum up, prednisone = terrible). I ended up stopping the prednisone and the swelling went down, leaving raw skin in its wake, but even benign foods like apples began to make my lips swell. Fed up with Western medicine’s tactics, I decided to go visit a naturopath (otherwise known as Dr. WooWoo).

And then everything changed…

That’s the beginning of my journey, one that initially included a lot of whining and misery and detoxing because of the dramatic diet changes (and a lot of annoying my coworkers with the whining–I think that might be part of what made a couple of them ultimately join me in this lifestyle change, just to see what all the whining was about). All that bellyaching and un-fun detoxing came to a good result–an amazing result really. I am in a much happier and healthier place, where I am now gluten-free, mostly sugar-free, and mostly dairy-free (I’ll share more about my eating plan in a later post). I am completely off the medication for my Hashimoto’s and have never felt better. My head is clear, and I actually feel like my brain is working better. I am sleeping  for the first time in fifteen years. I feel AWESOME. Seriously. (If you know me in real life, especially in the past, I’m not a feel-awesome kind of person by nature. I’m a lay-on-the-couch-all-day-and-eat-chips kind of person.) I haven’t had another allergic reaction since I eliminated gluten, sugar, and dairy from my diet. And I have become obsessed with sharing my transformation and all this wellness-for-the-taking with others. For me, going gluten-free isn’t a fad. I believe I can manage my food allergies, my seasonal allergies, my thyroid, and my physical and emotional well-being by tending to my body in a way I had never considered before. The naturopath hasn’t told me I need to be gluten-free for life, but I’m definitely considering it. And strangely, I don’t feel deprived at all. In fact, I’m enjoying food in a whole new way, fascinated by all the creativity of learning to cook in this new dynamic.

So that’s what I’m here for. I’ll be sharing about my experiences, what I’m learning, and lots of recipes. If you’re going to live this way, you have to cook (which I already loved), but you have to cook in a new way. At first this annoyed me, but now I find it kind of exciting. I feel like some kind of wizard in my own kitchen.

The plan is for four of us to blog here. Only one of us is professionally gluten-free (she has hardcore celiac). The rest of us are kind of a domino effect of my initial diet changes. We all feel better, have lost weight, and are happier and healthier overall. We figure this will be a great place to share recipes and stories. I hope you’ll come along for the ride.