Sunday, August 28, 2011

Chocolate Dipped Figs with Ground Hazelnuts




The tips of these fresh figs and strawberries are dipped in semi sweet chocolate and then coated with ground hazelnuts or cinnamon. These delicacies make a quick and easy party dessert and are of course gluten free. They look pretty and complement  just about any other dessert you may be serving. The  fresh figs and strawberries also go well with a fancy coffee, an after dinner liquor, or a special dessert cheese.They are light and make a perfect ending to filling meal.

I made this dessert because of Hurricane Irene. 
Instead of going to New York City to see a Broadway show with some friends, my plans were thwarted! 
My show was cancelled because of the weather !
Thank you Irene!
Instead, we did a last minute get together with neighbors!
My first thought was, " What can I make from what I already have in the house"?
I had already done a run to Trader Joe's the day before and had picked up some beautiful fresh black mission figs and a container of strawberries. I have a cookbook called Smallbites by Jennifer Joyce. When I saw her chocolate dipped figs, I knew it was a match. Personally, I added cinnamon topping as a variation , and I really love the cinnamon version. There is something about chocolate and cinnamon that tasted amazing! Yum!

Ingredients:
Fresh Figs, washed and dried
Fresh strawberries, washed and dried
1 cup semi sweet chocolate chips, melted
1/2 cup ground hazelnuts or cinnamon ( or dip in both)

Directions:
Wash and dry strawberries and figs, but do not take off greens or stems. Using a sharp knife start at the end opposite the stem and cut down the middle so all fruit is halved.Grind hazelnuts till well ground in a Vitamix or food processor.Put into a small bowl. Put chocolate chips into a microwave proof container and microwave for about a minute stir( check and it might need more) . If you are not happy using a microwave, put the chocolate chips over a double boiler until melted. 
Holding the stem, dip the tip of a strawberry or a fig into the melted chocolate and then dip it immediately into the ground hazelnuts or cinnamon.  Arrange on a plate, refrigerate for at least an hour and serve from the refrigerator.


Wash and dry figs and strawberries ( Must be very dry to dip)

Slice strawberries and figs in half starting at the end opposite the stem


Grind 1/2 cup of hazelnuts in food processor or Vitamix ; put chocolate chips into a microwave proof dish
                         and microwave for about 1 minute until melted.

Dip fruit halves one by one into the chocolate and then the ground nuts or cinnamon
Arrange on a plate, refrigerate for at least an hour and serve.!
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Hurricane Irene in Bucks County , Pa.




It's 4 AM on Sunday Aug 28, 2011
Hurricane Irene tormented our little city last night
She has past but we are quivering in the solemness of the aftermath
Our small town survived the ravages of Irene's wrath
Streets were strewn with fallen leaves
Broken tree branches lined the roads
Many a large tree was uprooted and obstructed paths 
And close by, the raging Delaware River crested and
flooded the streets on its New Jersey and Pennsylvania borders
entering the grand homes that had a nice river view
It is early, and we have not yet gotten out of bed,
But our digital clock revealed the secret that our
electrical power is gone! Gone!
No Internet, no lights, no microwave...
As we realized our delima,
our minds filled with the worry of food spoiling in the refrigerator and freezer
Our house phone was unusable, and there were no warm showers
We heard the  winds whistling and the heavy rains beating against our bedroom windows
We were experiencing  the " aftermath of the storm"



We got out of bed and left the house around 10:30 AM
We drive to another area looking for a restaurant that has power.
We avoid the roads that are closed due to uprooted trees or  flooding water
We find a Burger King a few miles away with very very very long lines
We find a Dunkin Donuts with lines of desperate coffee drinkers curling around the block.
We enter a Burger King and wait 45 minutes for our turn to order a hot cup of java..
What! No coffee.. Burger King is not making coffee today. 
They can't handle the demand!
Disappointed, we drive back home with a plan to do something useful
We clean our laundry room closet and purge our garage of some unwanted items.
WE nosh on nonperishable foods like bananas, nuts, and crackers
while we wait with hope for a glimmer of our electric to return and restore us to the life we know


The day after the storm it is sunny and exceptionally beautiful
Our grass is greener than it has been all summer
all is glowing and serene
Inside, we feel the absence of the connection to the power
The power that connects us to the television, the Internet, the phone, the refrigerator
The power that we depend on is still gone, and yet we find things to do
We weed the garden, we read books, we talk to each other
We clean closets, and we share bananas and peanut butter

It's now 5:30  PM and it's oppressively hot! 95 degrees!
 The lights go on for us on our street!
Hallelujah.. !!
Much of the town is still in the dark and will be for another day or two or three,
for those in the country, they were without power for weeks
But My power has been restored.
For me , I say goodbye and forget about Irene..
 except for the closing of the bridges, the railroads, and a few roads that are closed,
My life returns to normal.
my guestroom

It's 9:00 PM and it has cooled off.
The hot 95 degree daytime air has finally dissipated and
the cool night air is delightful and invigorating
I open all of my windows and invite in the welcome cooler air
I enjoy what feels to me like an crisp ocean breeze
I turn on the lights, the computer, and some music
And get back to business and life as I know it in 2011
Irene is gone, but she has left her mark
Goodbye ,Irene
Goodbye Irene.


We were well prepared for the storm. We listened to the news commentators warning us about the impending storm and followed the advice and tips of what we needed to do.  We took all the deck furniture inside, filled bottles with water, filled the bathtub with water, gathered candles and flashlights, and buckled down while we waited for Irene to pass through Bucks County, Pa. While there were many threats of tornadoes as well, we came did not experience any.. Just some leaves in all the streets, a few big trees downed and some uprooted, branches all over, a very high Delaware River,and no electric for 15 hours.
We did have some floods, and by tomorrow it will be worse.

Our Trenton train station is flooded, the homes along the river are evacuated and there is an 8:00 pm curfew to protect the homes from vandalism. The river will crest overnight and rise another 6 ft! We are 2 miles  away from the river- close enough but far enough to not have to worry about flooding

Goodbye Irene!

The interesting thing was that during the time of crises, everyone was friendly. Neighbors were out talking to each other, I made friends at a Burger King while waiting 45 minutes for a cup of coffee that I didn't get. Everyone was talking and was friendly. No one had anywhere to go, no one had anything to do. Without electric, everyone was relaxed. There were a  few places open that were lucky enough to have power but the lines for cooked meals were enormous.

We are safe and well and we are most thankful .
We pray that everyone who was in Irene's path is safe and well.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Jersey Corn and Tomato Salad



Got fresh corn on the cob?  
Don't cook it! Use the kernals raw in this amazing summer salad! 

You can make my aromatic fast and easy corn and tomato salad for dinner tonight!
Just cut the uncooked sweet corn kernels off the cob, chop up some juicy summer tomatoes, add some fresh basil, fresh parsley, fresh mint, red onion, my simple dressing and dig right in. 
You can enjoy the best of summer all in one bowl.

This delicious salad brings back childhood memories. I grew up in the Garden State ( New Jersey) where summers were blessed with an abundance of vine ripened Jersey tomatoes and local sweet Jersey corn. There were three local farm stands within a mile of my house. Tomatoes grew so prolifically that in a good season, the farmers sold 20 pound baskets of tomatoes for just $5 ( of course that was a long time ago).
 This salad was one of favorite ways to enjoy the seasonal bounty. 

Although I now live across the river in Bucks County, Pa, the same type of produce is still  available from local farms.In fact,  I just got back from a local farmer's market with bagful of summer tomatoes, corn,  fragrant basil, and red onions: all the fixings for my summer Tomato and Corn Salad.

 If you are wanting to eat healthier and absorb more nutrients, this easy recipe may help! 
Our bodies need enzymes which are found in raw food to digest help our food. I can't even imagine all the enzymes, vitamins,  and antioxidants in this colorful vegetarian, gluten free salad. You have reds, yellow, purples, and greens- and nothing is heated , so few nutrients are destroyed.





Don't boil corn , eat it raw off the cob! yum
I used to boil the corn, drain it, and then rub it with a little organic butter and a little salt. It tasted divine.
But who feels like boiling water in this oppressively hot weather?
I simply, husk the corn, clean off the strings, wash it, and eat it raw directly off the cob! That's right! I don't cook it.

Is it good? You bet..
The raw corn is sweet, crunchy, and full of natural juices. I like it better than cooked, and it retains the healthy enzymes that are usually destroyed in cooking. If you have never eaten your corn raw, you have to try it!

I use raw corn cut off the cob, in this tomato and corn salad.

Author: Judee Algazi
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 0 Minutes

Ingredients for salad

Raw corn from 3 ears of corn on the cob
4 large sweet juicy summer tomatoes
1/2 medium red onion, chopped fine
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped fine
1/2 cup fresh parsley chopped fine
1/2 cup fresh mint , chopped fine ( yum !)

Dressing:
Use lemon and olive oil, or balsamic vinegar and olive oil , or any Italian dressing.

Assemble all the ingredients and mix together in a large pasta bowl; mix in the dressing and eat!
Cut raw uncooked corn off the cob

Mix all the ingredients together

Great for a picnic too


Kids will love a piece of raw corn on the cob for a snack.
 If you pick out some sweet ears, kids can eat the uncooked kernels right off the cob!
Fresh uncooked corn provides protein ( about 5 gms/ cup), 12 gm of fiber,  iron and magnesium and the yellow variety has beta carotene. Corn is also low in fat and sodium, while providing lots of fluid for hydration in the summer. So, enjoy the health benefits of this delicious vegetable  .Eat it raw for greatest benefit.
What could be easier?  No boiling water, no mess, no waiting! 

How to select the freshest ears of corn
1. Pick husks that are green with little brown or yellow
2. Open the husk slightly and look for plump kernels
3. Pick Yellow corn for beta carotene which our bodies convert to Vitamin A



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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Cajun Sweet Potato Fries

 
Cajun sweet potato fries
Out of the oven and ready to eat- they were really really good!
                      
I can't believe I'm making Cajun Sweet Potato Fries. I saw this naturally gluten free recipe on the blog, Conners Cooking  and it looked really good. I usually shy away from eating anything made with Cajun spices because I right away think, " hot! hot! hot!"- but I was wrong!  wrong!  wrong!!

 I went to the grocery store and checked the ingredients on a Cajun seasoning mix.  Cajun seasoning is made up of all spices that I like: paprika, black pepper, garlic powder, oregano, thyme, salt,and some have a little cayenne pepper too.

Since I had all of these ingredients that make up Cajun seasoning in my kitchen, I decided to make my own Cajun mixture with just a very very little tad of the cayenne

My Cajun sweet potato fries came out great, I mean great! And I even liked the little touch of ground cayenne and that itty bitty kick. That's as Cajun as I want to get.

Make it plain for kids  
If you are making this recipe for kids, just leave out the Cajun spices and season with  no seasoning at all! They are fabulous just tossed in oil ( I use coconut oil) and then roasted - turning half way through.

Ingredients:
3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut up in french fries type strips
2 TBSP Cajun seasoning mix or
(make your own like I did) Use paprika, garlic powder, thyme, a little cayenne, oregano, and black pepper for the seasoning mix
2 tsp cumin
olive oil ( I added this, it is not in the original recipe.)

Directions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Put cut up sweet potatoes in a large zip lock bag . Add 2 TBSP olive oil or coconut oil in liquid state , shake in Cajun seasoning and cumin and shake the bag until sweet potatoes are lightly coated. Place on greased cookie sheet and bake for about 35-40 minutes ( depends on the size of your fries).Turn half way through. Drizzle a little extra olive if you like before putting in the oven.
Take out and serve.

STEP BY STEP PICTORIAL


sweet potatoes
3 large yams or sweet potatoes

sweet potatoes and peeler
Peeled Yams or Sweet Potatoes

bowl of cajun seasoning
My own homemade Cajun Spice Mix

sweet potato fries
Cut up sweet potatoes in strips


crispy sweet potato fries
Potatoes cut into strips coated with spices on the way to go into the oven


plate of sweet potato fries and lime
Out of the oven and ready to eat- they were really really good!


Who were the Cajuns anyway? According to Wikipedia,

"Cajuns  are an ethnic group mainly living in the U.S. state of Louisiana, consisting of the descendants of Acadian exiles (French-speakers from Acadia in what are now the Canadian Maritimes). Today, the Cajuns make up a significant portion of south Louisiana's population, and have exerted an enormous impact on the state's culture.The Acadia region to which modern Cajuns trace their origin consisted largely of what are now Nova Scotia and the other Maritime provinces, plus parts of eastern Quebec and northern Maine."

I love participating in the Secret Recipe Club. Some of my favorites recipes have been as a result of checking out other member's blogs.






Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Chocolate Tour in Philadelphia

My sister- in- law recently took a chocolate tour in the city of Philadelphia.
She literally joined a professional tour guide who took a group of tourists to many fine chocolate shops throughout the city, and the participants tasted fabulous chocolate samples throughout their adventure.

Yesterday, I was in Philly with my sister- in- law and other family members, and we revisited one of her favorite chocolate shops from the tour. The name of the shop is teuscher and the fabulous chocolate is made in Switzerland. It really was exceptionally rich and delicious. She gave us a sample!!

teuscher chocolate store in Philadelphai

The salesgirl was very friendly and helpful and even treated us to an amazing sample. 

There was a wonderful selection of all kinds of chocolates




You gotta have a chocolate  Liberty Bell

Cute little cats
                            

If you get to Philadelphia, the shop is in the Bellevue Hotel off Walnut Street
 Chocolate doesn't get much better than this fabulous Swiss Chocolate
Disclaimer: I am not endorsing this product as gluten free. Most of their candy does not contain gluten and I was able to eat it.  However, please ask and read all ingredients before eating anything and consume at your own risk.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Banana Split Bites

                        


I love these adorable desserts. 
Does it get any cuter than these chocolate dipped banana bites?  


They are a perfect dessert especially
for kids. They can be made in about 10 minutes and do not require baking! Depending on the color sprinkles that you choose, you can make them patriotic in red, white, and blue or to match any theme.
( Check that your sprinkles are gluten free)

Follow my simple recipe, which just calls for dipping in chocolate, rolling in sprinkles, and topping with whipped cream. ( see recipe for vegan coconut whipped cream below)  Or you can try scooping out a little of the banana and filling it with ice cream.

Make These Simple Dessert With Kids

Making these banana split bites is a fun project to make with kids. Kids love to make desserts like brownies, cookies, and cupcakes. This is a fun addition that you can add to your repertoire. The best part is you won't even have to turn on your oven.




Author: Judee Algazi
Prep Time: 10 minutes


Ingredients

3 firm bananas, each cut into thirds
1 cup dark chocolate chips, melted in a small bowl
1 can whipped cream ( or make you own) or use whipped coconut cream for vegan altertnaive ( recipe below)
Sprinkles ( or chopped nuts)  for decoration in a small bowl
Also assemble:
cookie sheet covered with waxed paper

Directions:

Wash the bananas.Leaving on the peel, cut bananas into thirds.  Wait to remove peel just before you dip the bottom of the banana in melted chocolate chips and then sprinkles and place on waxed paper on cookie sheet. Place in the freezer for about 5-10 minutes so the chocolate can become firm. Remove from freezer,  Top with whipped cream ( or whipped coconut cream (see link below) for a non dairy version) and add a blueberry to the top.
Pictured Step by Step



Ripe bananas


That's it .. make them, eat them ,  love them! 

 Vegan ? 
Use this whipped coconut cream Recipe- Junior GF Chefs.

My notes: 
Cat Davis at Dessert for Nine  posted these Banana Split Bites and filled them with ice cream.
I have to admit, her photo and recipe looked amazing; mine looks well like... "homemade fun."
I have to give you Cat's link so you can see how fabulous her recipe looked.
Use firm bananas for best results.

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Food is my passion. I am gluten intolerant, busy. and strive for a healthy balanced lifestyle. It has taken me many years to develop and discover easy healthy recipes that meet gluten free, vegetarian and real food standards. On my blog I share my journey, my struggles, my discoveries, and my new recipes. I hope you find ideas, resources, and recipes that will be helpful to you. Come Back soon.



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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Mini Caprese Salad Appetizers



These adorable mini caprese salad cherry tomato appetizers are made from three simple seasonal gluten free ingredients: cherry tomatoes which I grow in my yard, fresh pearl size or larger size fresh mozzarella balls, and fresh green garden basil which I also. This is a perfect summer last minute appetizer. It requires no cooking, is vegetarian and of course gluten free. It can be assembled in just minutes!

Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes with tiny little  Mozzarella pearls


The inspiration to make these mini appetizers was the result of the two flourishing cherry tomatoes plants and a large fresh basil plant that I am growing in containers on my balcony.



My Cherry Tomato Plant
I love to grow cherry tomato plants because they grow very quickly, are extremely prolific,and the fruit ripens quickly. The first fruit offerings are usually ready to eat by the beginning of July, and the hearty plants will keep providing lots of little tomato jewels through the end of September. Yum.. fast, easy, and nutritious!

Ingredients:
1 container of cherry tomatoes, washed
1 container of tiny mozzarella balls , drained and marinated in the dip
3 sprigs of fresh basil

Dip:
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
Using a serrated knife, cut a small sliver off the bottom of the cherry tomato to allow it to sit on the plate. Then cut the top off of the cherry tomato and scoop out the insides. Stuff tomato with a marinated Pearl sized or larger mozzarella ball and a piece of fresh basil. Drizzle with oil and vinegar and enjoy! If you are like my husband who doesn't care for vinegar, substitute freshly squeezed lemon juice in place of the vinegar.

                            

                             

If you like Caprese salad, you will love these cherry tomato mini appetizers which give you the same delicious taste as a finger food. For variations, I sometimes stuff the tomato with spreadable feta cheese or garlicky hummus for a dairy free version. The possibilities are endless.


How to Grow Cherry Tomatoes in Containers
This past May, I went to a local nursery and bought two tiny little cherry tomato plants and a large bag of organic potting soil. I divided the soil between two large containers and planted my tiny tomato plants, one in each container. I placed the containers on my balcony, watered them daily, and in just a few weeks they were covered with tiny clusters of flower blossoms, and the plant had quadrupled in size. The plants grew so tall , we had to actually tie and stake them to posts to keep the stalks from breaking.

Disclaimer: Beware ! Cherry tomatoes grow like weeds and can pop up anywhere. If you drop a cherry tomato on the ground this summer, it could turn into a cherry tomato plant next season.

For example: We did not plant this hearty cherry tomato plant that is in the picture below. Someone threw a cherry tomato into the bushes last summer. This summer a cherry tomato plant popped up right in the middle of one of our bushes!.

Look what happened to us: This cherry tomato plant is growing through one of our bushes!     


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Monday, August 1, 2011

Why You May Need More Vitamin D

Fifteen Facts You Probably Never Knew About Vitamin D and Sunlight Exposure:
by Mike Adams ( guest article) http://www.naturalnews.com/   






  • Vitamin D is perhaps the single most underrated nutrient in the world of nutrition. That’s probably because it’s free: your body makes it when sunlight touches your skin.

  • Vitamin D is produced by your skin in response to exposure to ultraviolet radiation from natural sunlight.


  • The healing rays of natural sunlight (that generate vitamin D in your skin) cannot penetrate glass. So, you don’t generate vitamin D when sitting in your car or home
  • It is nearly impossible to get adequate amounts of vitamin D from your diet. Sunlight exposure is the only reliable way to generate vitamin D in your own body.

  • A person would have to drink ten tall glasses of vitamin D fortified milk each day just to get minimum levels of vitamin D into their diet.

  • The further you live from the equator, the longer exposure you need to the sun in order to generate vitamin D. Canada, the UK and most U.S. states are far from the equator.


  • People with dark skin pigmentation may need 20 - 30 times as much exposure to sunlight as fair skinned people to generate the same amount of vitamin D. That’s why prostate cancer is epidemic among black men -- it’s a simple, but widespread, sunlight deficiency.

  • Sufficient levels of vitamin D are crucial for calcium absorption in your intestines. Without sufficient vitamin D, your body cannot absorb calcium, rendering calcium supplements useless.


  • Chronic vitamin D deficiency cannot be reversed overnight: it takes months of vitamin D supplementation and sunlight exposure to rebuild the body’s bones and nervous system.

  • Even weak sunscreens (SPF=8) block your body’s ability to generate vitamin D by 95%.
  • It is impossible to generate too much vitamin D in your body from sunlight exposure: your body will self-regulate and only generate what it needs.
  • If it hurts to press firmly on your sternum, you may be suffering from chronic vitamin D deficiency
  • Vitamin D is “activated” in your body by your kidneys and liver before it can be used.

  • Having kidney disease or liver damage can greatly impair your body’s ability to activate circulating vitamin D.

  • Even though vitamin D is one of the most powerful healing chemicals in your body, your body makes it absolutely free.
Read more about Vitamin D


The information in this article was reprinted with permission from http://www.naturalnews.com/

Disclaimer:  The information about Vit D was not written by and is not necessarily the views of Gluten Free A-Z  Blog and is for educational purposes only. Always consult  your doctor before making any changes in your lifestyle.


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