Tag Archive | Grain free living

Peanut Brownie Bites- Gluten Free, Grain Free, Dairy Free, & Delicious!

One of my biggest challenges in my quest for delicious grain free & dairy free food is always dessert! Even when I was only grain free, most of my desserts used dairy; because who needs grain if you can have amazing homemade whipped cream?  But after being diagnosed with an allergy to casein, the protein in dairy, I had no choice but to learn to make grain free, dairy free desserts!

chocolate truffle

Out of desperation came inspiration! I started by checking out recipes that others had created, and I even made a few. Sometimes I find that specialized desserts tend to please a more sophisticated pallet than my own. In my house, a grain free recipe has to taste as delectable as any grain based treat!  It has to be the type of dessert that your average Joe would enjoy.   It must be total comfort food!  Otherwise it’s not something my husband, Frank,  will even dare to try.

The recipe that follows has been tested on numerous grain lovers, skeptics, and “I don’t do  gluten free” snobs! It has been approved by all, and has also been requested to appear at our annual 4th of July party. My favorite thing about this recipe is that it can be made ahead of time and kept fresh in the freezer for when I have that spur of the moment chocolate craving! I hope your family will enjoy it as much as mine already has.

Ingredients:

2cups dates

2 cups peanuts

2 heaping T coconut oil

¼ cup organic cocoa powder

1t vanilla extract

12 oz chocolate chips (dairy free & gluten free)

In a food processor, chop dates and peanuts until mealy.

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Add coconut oil, vanilla extract, and cocoa powder.

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Blend until a dough like consistency forms. Melt chocolate chips in a double boiler. While chocolate chips melt, line a tray with parchment paper and roll dough into one inch balls. Flash freeze dough balls for 5 minutes. Remove tray from freezer and dip dough balls in melted chocolate. Return to freezer to let chocolate set. In less than 45 minutes, you’ll have enough peanut brownie bites to satisfy even the largest party crowd! The Peanut Brownie Bites can be stored in the freezer for up to a month when kept in a well-sealed container.  Recipe makes 4-5 dozen bites!

Peanuty Brownie Bites!  Grain Free, Gluten Free, Dairy Free and Delicious!

Peanuty Brownie Bites! Grain Free, Gluten Free, Dairy Free and Delicious!

Getting Started with a Grain Free Power Hour…

You may be participating in our grain free for a week challenge or you might just want to try a few new recipes.  Either way, a grain free cooking power hour or two, is a great way to get started and save yourself so much time throughout the week.

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I love my grain free cooking power hours.  I feel so accomplished when I’m done, and my week goes along much more smoothly because my menu is planned and half of my prep work for the week is done.  Oh, and the house smells fabulous, too!

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When I do a power hour(s), I work backwards, starting with the things that will take the longest.  In the case of this week’s menu, that’s the sweet potato casserole, so I’ll start by putting a large stockpot of water on the stove to boil. While the water’s boiling, I’ll load up my bread maker with the ingredients for making my grain free bread, I’d preheat the oven for the roast pork, and then start peeling some carrots.  After the carrots are peeled, halved, and then sliced into thirds, I’d set them aside.  If you have a double oven, then you could even pre-heat it and roast your carrots ahead of time.  If not, no worries, it only takes half an hour to roast carrots, they can go in the oven while you’re cooking the roast pork stroganoff on the stovetop later in the week.

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If you’re really looking to get a jump on your week, one of the easiest ways to cut down on meal prep time is to cook your ground beef/turkey ahead of time.  It takes a short while and by frying it all at once and either refrigerating it or freezing it until you need it, you’ve cut the meal prep time for cheeseburger pie, or creamy spinach bake in half!

Speaking of cheese burger pie and creamy spinach bake, many pre-shredded cheeses use corn starch to prevent caking. That’s a huge no no for me.  If I eat cheese with corn starch in it, I am guaranteed a stomach ache.  My cheddar cheese goes through my cheese grater without a problem.  If you’re using fresh mozzarella and it gums up in your cheese grater, you can slice it with an egg slicer.  Besides getting the junk out of your cheese, shredding your own cheese is beneficial.  It’s cheaper, keeps longer and tastes better this way!

The Grain Free Meal Challenge…

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So are you ready?  We’re going grain free for a week.  You can do this!  You’ve already got your grain free staples on hand, it’s time to get started!

 

This week’s meals:

Roast pork with sweet potato casserole and salad

Roast pork stroganoff with roasted carrots

Grain Free Cheeseburger Pie with steamed broccoli

Stuffed Turkey Cutlets Wrapped in Bacon  with salad and sweet potato casserole.

Creamy Spinach Bake with Ground Beef and Mushrooms

Grilled Tuna Melts with steamed veggies and salad

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I’ve chosen six meals, with the idea that you have at least enough leftovers for at least one whole meal.  Depending on your family size, this may vary.  When I cook for the two of us, I usually cook four large grain free meals each week, we have a left over night, with one of our meals being a quick fix like the Grilled Tuna Melts.  We’re realistic in our house!  At least one night each week we can’t really sit down to a full meal, so we make something quick that we can enjoy without guilt!

If you have grain lovers in your home, you might be surprised by how much they like the meals you make this week.  My husband Frank was reluctant to try my recipes at first, but now he’s game for almost anything I cook.  Once in a while, he’ll have a box of mac n’ cheese, but since he doesn’t have a grain allergy where’s the harm in that?

I recommend you start with a grain free cooking power hour or two.  It’s a simple way to get a good start to the week and get a good deal of your prep work done ahead of time.  You spend less time cooking in the long run and it takes much less time to prepare dinner every evening.  The power hour of cooking is especially helpful if you know that Monday or Tuesday will be a busy evening for your family, that way you cook and assemble your meal almost completely and just pop it in the oven when you’re ready.  If you are having a busy evening later in the week, you can always completely prep a meal and freeze it until you’re ready to take it out either the evening before or morning of that day.

I’m going to be cooking along with you all.  I’ve decided that I’ll freeze anything that we won’t eat and that will be added to my stockpile of quick fix meals since there really aren’t many grain free fast food options available.

Grain Free Thanksgiving 2013

Sometimes I feel like I don’t fit in.  Between the infertility and my grain free lifestyle, gatherings of any type can be summed up in one word: awkward!  This past Thanksgiving is a great example.  We went to my mother’s house for dinner.  It’s our annual holiday there and for reasons that can be addressed in another post, we don’t play “holiday hopscotch,” bouncing from one location to the next.

couple in car

I have an allergy to grains, so I made sure to review the menu with her before our arrival. Specifically, I cannot eat: wheat, rice, oats, corn, or any corn products such as corn syrup and corn syrup solids, barley, quinoa, wild rice, sorghum, teff, and all other grains.  Eating even small amounts of these foods causes me to become ill with a stomach ache that I can only equate to the cramps one gets with the flu.  The one exception to this is white flour.  If I accidentally ingest a small amount of white flour, I don’t get the full blown reaction.   White flour is highly refined and so dissimilar from whole grain wheat, I only get a bloated belly, gain a pound, and the stomach ache goes away within a day.

confused cook

Let me be clear, I know my dietary needs are difficult for the average host to manage, that’s why I take such care to review my allergies with them and ask what I can bring to help with the meal.  If I’m lucky, my host will understand or be somewhat sympathetic, he or she will laugh a bit when I explain that the five staples of my diet are: meat, fruit, vegetables, chocolate, and wine.  From there, we usually problem solve a bit and arrive at a menu which all can enjoy.  I ask that he or she make a vegetable that I can have, and usually I bring a bread, a salad, and or a dessert that is grain free but can be enjoyed by all.

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chcolate chip cookie bars

This was not how Thanksgiving went!  My mother was very offended when I asked to review the menu with her.  I explained that I was aware that she’d be making stuffing, but that over the past year or so I’ve found grains lurking in the strangest places and so I have to be aware of what I’m eating.  We figured I could eat the turkey but not the stuffing. I asked about the sweet potatoes she makes with a maple syrup glaze which used to be my favorite.   Her maple syrup had a corn syrup base and she wasn’t interested in using organic syrup in its place, instead she said she’d make me a baked sweet potato.  This is like watching your friends eat chocolate while you eat a chocolate flavored rice cake, it’s torture.  The rest of the meal was pretty much out as well, her cranberry sauce contained corn syrup, and once again, she wasn’t interested in purchasing or making an all-natural alternative.   We went over the appetizers; there wouldn’t be any of those that I could eat, and same with the desserts.  She wasn’t serving soup, and our conversation ended with her telling me, “I don’t know what you can eat besides the turkey and the canned vegetables, bring whatever you’d like, don’t bring too much because no one else will be interested in eating that stuff.”

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Whether I’m cooking grain free or not, my food is always devoured by all.  Typically, I bring a potato skin casserole, a dessert, and maybe a soup if I’m feeling adventurous.  I’ve served grain free versions of these to grain lovers and received accolades, there’s no reason to assume that people wouldn’t enjoy them.  Rather, I think she was upset that I wouldn’t be eating her food.  Someday, I will be able to explain that my grain free diet is not a choice, but a must in my life; as for now, it doesn’t seem to be sinking in.

I decided that I’d bring the foods that I needed to enjoy a Thanksgiving meal.  That meant: soup, roasted carrots, my usual potato skin casserole, homemade cranberry sauce, grain free chocolate chip bars, and grain free stuffing.  I found some grain free crackers on vitacost and brought those along with me as well so I could at least enjoy the cheese plate while others were feasting on stuffed mushrooms, and all other kinds of grain based goodness.

Thanksgiving table

So, after appetizers, it was straight to the meal. There were no courses; it was everyone grab everything you want and eat quickly so we can get this cleaned up.  I’m my mother’s only child, I’m the extra set of hands to follower her around and assist as needed.  In particular, I was in charge of setting up the buffet .  We squeezed all the food we could onto the sideboard table.  Of course, there wasn’t any room for my food, which was relegated to the kitchen, and remained in the mini slow cookers I had brought it in.  As everyone served themselves from the buffet, I went into the kitchen and helped myself to the grain free goodness which I prepared.  Low and behold, a line of guests followed me to enjoy the soup, cranberry sauce, and carrots that my mother said no one would want to eat.  I can’t blame the guests for not touching the stuffing, it’s not perfected yet, but it was something. On my way back to the table, I also stopped at the buffet table and took some turkey and some butternut squash, which I was assured was safe.

Mid-way through the meal, I felt uncomfortable. Could it have been because we sat down to eat everything at once and I’m not accustomed to eating so much food so quickly?

dishes

I continued to eat my meal, and helped with the cleanup.  When the meal had been cleared and packed away, it was time for dessert, and I still wasn’t feeling well.  I sipped coffee and nibbled at my grain free chocolate chip bars which the grain lovers raved over.  I still didn’t feel well, but I figured my emotions had kicked and the crumby feeling in my stomach had quite a bit to do with the crumby way I’d been treated that day.

Dinner ended.  We were thrilled to go home, our obligatory holiday at mom’s now crossed off the list for another year.  We took care of our fur babies and went off to bed.  In the middle of the night, I awoke with a terrible stomach ache, the one that lets me know I’ve inadvertently eaten corn.  I had the nasty stomach ache, the obnoxious gas that goes along with it, and of course the bloated abdomen that is often called a “grain baby”.  Somehow, despite being so careful with all that I ate and only eating my foods, turkey, a sweet potato, and butternut squash, I had ingested corn and my body was mad!

 

 

It was a rough night.  In the morning, the symptoms were in full swing.  Typically, when I ingest corn, no matter how much, my body experiences discomfort for about four days.   There’s nothing I can do about this.  I just have to drink plenty of water and let my body do what it does.  I did however call my mother and try to determine the source of the corn.  She made no apologies for the illness I was experiencing and was adamant that the foods I had eaten did not contain corn.  I had to disagree with her. I’ve made a fair amount of mistakes with my grain allergy, and I’m familiar with how my body reacts to wheat, rice, and corn, the grains which are most commonly included in foods that one would assume are grain free.

I thought perhaps she had put some maple syrup in the butternut squash, she hadn’t.  I asked if she had cooked the sweet potato in the same baking dish she used for the potatoes candied with maple syrup, she had not.  I was not giving up. I know how my body reacts to corn and this was a corn reaction.

wheat belly

While I was out mom called and left a message, saying that it must have been trace amounts of wheat from the stuffing in the turkey broth which I used to make my gravy.  No way, I only bloat and gain weight from wheat, I do not awaken in the middle of the night with pain.

corn II

I returned my mother’s call and explained that the wheat in the stuffing was a good thought; however, this was a corn reaction without a doubt.  She was adamant that she did not use corn or any corn products in the stuffing.  We reviewed the ingredients list and found the culprit.  She had used sweet Italian sausage in the stuffing.  She couldn’t say that it was all natural or organic, and every sweet sausage I’ve ever found that wasn’t all natural or organic has contained corn syrup solids or corn syrup.

sausage

Since it was a day after Thanksgiving she asked if I was “better” now.  I explained that it was going to be at least four days before anything close to better happened.  I’m not sure what we’re doing for Thanksgiving next year, but I know I wish that I had made her give me an ingredients list for everything she was making that day!  I could have avoided the pain, sleeplessness, and the four pounds I gained from the small amount of corn in the gravy and the turkey.

Reflecting on a year of infertility part III

I tend to be long winded; I actually started blogging to have an outlet to express all that was going on throughout this journey through the muck of infertility.  I was pretty sure that my husband, Frank, and my close friends were getting tired of hearing all that I had to say about what was happening.

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Here’s a quick recap: My NaProTechnology Dr diagnosed me with endometriosis and an allergy to grains.  I had surgery to remove the endometriosis and was back to work in two weeks.  I am so glad that I chose to make the drive to New Jersey and have my Surgery at the Gianna Center at Saint Peter’s Hospital.  I was back to work within two weeks and was told to wait two cycles before trying to conceive again.

While I waited for my body to heal, I observed some amazing changes in my chart.  My cycles became more regular in length, there was less pain associated with menstruation, and when I say less, I really mean that I went from a 10 to a 1.  I had less bleeding at the end of my cycle and the bleeding that used to happen mid cycle completely disappeared.  I still had some unusual tail end brown bleeding, which my doctor suggested might clear up as my body healed.

Since we had been told not to try to conceive, there was no pressure to wait for a positive, there was no disappointment.  I just enjoyed observing the positive changes in my body.   The weight I grained before Dr. C figured out my grain allergy was slowly coming off, I was starting to recognize my body again.

weight loss

Menstruation happened with minimal pain.  The once crippling cramps and abdominal pain that began two to three weeks before menstruation were replaced by two days of abdominal discomfort.    This reduction in pain was due to taking an OTC medication called pycnogenol, a natural anti-inflammatory derived from French maritime pine bark.

Things were going great, my pain was down, I felt better overall, but my weight loss had stopped.  I cut out chocolate for a week thinking that I might be overdoing it with sweets.  Even then I didn’t lose an ounce.  Something was up, it was time to hunt for grains again.  I had been trick by grains hiding in kielbasa, bullion, flour blends, and even shredded cheese.  But I was almost certain I had eliminated them all.

Still I had to try and see if there were a few I missed.  I went through my cupboards and fridge but everything in there was grain free.  I checked the chocolates I was eating, thinking there might be corn starch or corn oil that I had missed; still nothing.  It wasn’t until Sunday night when I was loading up my medicine case for the coming week that I thought to check the medications I was taking.

rice flourMy vitamin D3 was grain free, as was my magnesium, my glucosamine, my kelp tablets, my B6 and my B complex, and my prenatal vitamin.  It was down to the pycnogenol.  And there it was, hidden inside a tiny 100mg capsule, rice flour!  The capsule was smaller than an average pain relief pill, there had to be less than ¼ teaspoon of rice flour in there!  However much there was, it was enough to nix the weight loss.

I got back on vitacost and ordered a brand of pycnogenol that did not contain rice flour.   Of course the brands that were grain free cost three times as much as the other brands.  I decided to see how I felt without pycnogenol.  Big mistake.  For a moment I forgot all of the pain that endometriosis was, but it only took one cycle without pycnogenol to remind me.  While it’s true that I was feeling great after surgery, a few weeks off the pycnogenol and that all changed.

It took my husband, Frank, to convince me that my body and my health were worth the extra money.  So, I ordered the new pyconogenol and within two weeks the pain was gone.  Let me tell you, the expense was worth it!  If you are living with endometriosis, please ask your doctor about pycnogenol, it allows me to live almost pain free.

Making grain free bread without a bread maker…

I’ve been making grain free bread for nearly a year now.  There have been lots of mistakes, or rather many of my loaves of bread were more similar to bricks than to actual bread.  As a result of all this, I now have a recipe that tastes like it’s made from white flour and requires a minimal time commitment from me because it’s made in my bread maker.   Now that I’ve got a recipe that works well in my bread maker, making grain free bread is no longer a challenge; it’s just a part of life.  One which I really couldn’t live without!

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Unfortunately, not everyone has a bread maker.  But, everyone with a grain allergy should be able to make affordable grain free bread regardless of whether or not they have a bread maker.  A blog follower named Liz asked how she could use my recipe but bake her bread the conventional way.  Good question!

After some research through my old high school cook books, some of the bread maker cook books I derived my recipe from, and the manual that accompanies my bread maker, I felt like I was ready to go.

Ingredients:

1 ½ c Milk or Almond milk

¼ c olive oil

4 eggs

1/4c honey

3c of my grain free flour blend *(insert link here)

1 Tablespoon yeast

2 ½ teaspoons xanthum gum

1 teaspoon salt

When making bread using conventional baking techniques patience is necessary, and since most of you know that patience is not my virtue, this was a good opportunity for me to learn some.   Thanks to some help from my kitchen timer and the resources I used, it only took one attempt to get it right!

Here’s what to do:

Heat milk to between 100 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. (I microwaved the milk in a 1 quart glass bowl for 1 minute). Stir in honey.  When honey is dissolved, sprinkle yeast over the top.  Let stand for 5 minutes.  Whisk in olive oil and eggs.

Doesn't look like much, but this yeast, oil, milk, and honey mixture is the base of my grain free bread.

Doesn’t look like much, but this yeast, oil, milk, and honey mixture is the base of my grain free bread.

In a separate bowl mix remaining dry ingredients.  Gradually add dry ingredients to wet ingredients ½ cup at a time.  If you have a stand mixer, I highly recommend you use your dough hook on setting two or 3 while doing this.

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After dough is well mixed, knead for 10 minutes on medium/ low speed.  If you don’t have a stand mixer, it may be difficult to knead the dough on a floured board initially.  You may want to continue stirring the dough in the bowl until the xanthum gum gives the mixture a dough like consistency.

Once dough is kneaded, place dough in a greased loaf pan until it doubles in size.  My dough took about 1 hour to rise.

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Bake dough at 300 degrees for 1 hour.  To check for doneness, insert a knife into the center of the bread.  The bread is done when the knife comes out clean.  Slice bread when cool.

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Stuffed Turkey Cutlets Wrapped in Bacon….

 

When I first started cooking without grains, I quickly learned that almost all marinades, sauces, and even some spice mixes contain grains of one form or another.  For me that was a major let down, as I work long hours but enjoy homemade meals.  Not to mention that restaurants use grains of one type or another in their marinades, sauces, gravies, even in their au-jus which is supposed to be just natural juices!  It took a while, but I learned to make my own creative seasoning blends.

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Who knew condiments contained grains? From corn syrup as a sweetener to wheat as a thickener, most condiments contain one grain or another!

Despite my ability to make perfectly fine every day dinners, once in a while I want a “different” type of meal.  If you’re responsible for most of the cooking in your home, then you understand how nice it is to try something different that even you as the “chef” weren’t expecting.

So tonight, when I looked in my fridge, the idea of seasoning turkey cutlets with one dry seasoning blend or other was nearly nauseating.  Although I have found a sauce or two that doesn’t contain grains, I still wasn’t in the mood for something smothered in sauce.  I started to daydream about what I might want to eat if I were out at a restaurant in the days when grains were not off limits.

I immediately thought of stuffing.  It has been so long since I’ve tasted the buttery, savory, grain goodness of stuffing.  I tried to make grain free stuffing a few times, but that didn’t go so well.  ­I decided to give it one more try; if it failed I could cover it in one of those sauces hanging out in my fridge.   I kept thinking along the lines of what I might want if I ordered this in a restaurant.  For a homemade meal, stuffed turkey cutlets would be fine, but I would never order that in a restaurant, I’d want the cutlets covered in some kind of sauce or something else that was packed with taste.   Since I already decided against one sauce or another, I had to come up with something else to add pizazz to the turkey cutlets.  As I thought about what I could cover the cutlets with, the answer hit me: BACON!  Who doesn’t love bacon?  Stuffed turkey cutlets wrapped in bacon; that is something that I would order off a menu!IMG_0441[1]

 

 

 

 

So here’s what I cooked up:

Ingredients:

8 thinly sliced turkey cutlets

1 ½ slices Grain free bread

1 Tablespoon butter (softened works best)

1 cup organic chicken broth

1 teaspoon dried parsley

1 teaspoon Italian seasonings

½ teaspoon thyme

½ teaspoon rosemary

½ teaspoon onion powder

½ teaspoon garlic powder

8 slices bacon

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  In a small bowl crumble bread slices to make crumbs.  Add softened butter to crumbs and stir in broth.  When breadcrumbs are thoroughly moistened add seasonings.  Let stuffing rest while you rinse and dry turkey cutlets.  Place two tablespoons of stuffing on a turkey cutlet and roll so that cutlet surrounds stuffing.  Wrap stuffed cutlet with bacon.  Repeat for all remaining cutlets.  Bake for 35-40 minutes depending on thickness of cutlets.  Enjoy the amazing grain free goodness!

One bite and my husband, Frank, was sold!  It takes a lot for him to try grain free food.  I hope your family enjoys these as much as mine did! :-)

One bite and my husband, Frank, was sold! It takes a lot for him to try grain free food. I hope your family enjoys these as much as mine did! 🙂

Monthaversary! Celebrating My First Month of Blogging:

birthday cakeMy first thoughts are, “Wow this has flown by quickly!”  That’s not something I’m used to.  Sometimes it seems like each day is an eternity when you’re in the two week wait.  Blogging has given me a purpose for sharing all this.

I’ve been able to connect with some amazing people!  Some whose struggles are similar to my own; and others who need a friend they can talk to on their journey.  I feel truly honored to be that friend.  I know what it means to have someone who you can spill your guts to without fear of being judged.   Thank you for trusting me.

It was my friend, Jordan, who turned me on to NaPro Technology.  Words cannot express the debt of gratitude I owe to her for having the guts to open up about her own struggles with fertility.  Blogging is my way of sharing this blessing with others.

Even though it’s been a month, I feel like I haven’t told you as much about myself as I had planned.  In the coming posts I’ll fill you in about my surgery—a laporoscopy to excise endometriosis, and how much better I feel as a result of my NaPro Doctor’s advice.  Notice I said advice, not medication.  No crazy fertility meds for me.

I feel so blessed to be on this path towards better health and hopefully conception.  Thanks for all of your support.  Your company on this journey has made it seem shorter already!

Here’s the part where I beg for your feedback.  I started Baby Steps And Tears hoping to make information about NaPro Technology and Grain free living accessible to others.  I’d love it if you’d post a question or two to answer in a future post.

Thank You and God Bless!  Love, Catherine.