Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Homemade Tomato Soup ( chilled or hot )





There is nothing like a bowl of real homemade tomato soup without all the processed commercial fillers or sweeteners! I have eaten this soup hot or chilled and both ways are sensational. With this hot weather , chilled may be the way to go right now.

summer tomatoes in a bowl

Yesterday was my CSA farm pick up day,  and I received 10 pounds of fresh juicy Jersey type tomatoes, 1 quart of sweet cherry tomatoes, and 3 pounds of paste tomatoes. (plus red peppers, onions, and all the other veggies) .

We had a busy weekend planned and I knew I wouldn't be eating home at all. I didn't want the tomatoes to go bad,  so I decided I would needed to cook and freeze them. I decided to make a homemade fresh tomato soup.  I probably used about 8 pounds of tomatoes.


homemade fresh tomato soup
I froze 4 containers of this soup
As often as I make soup, I have really never made a tomato soup before from scratch . I guess we usually polish off the tomatoes before I have time to think about cooking them. I usually make a big tomato, raw corn and basil salad with lemon juice and olive oil , or thick tomato slices sprinkled with cumin on a plate, or just eat a tomato like a big piece of fruit.



To make this soup, I had to search  Pinterest and the Internet to finally find a combination of a few  recipes that looked like it they would work for me. Believe me there are no lack of tomato soup recipes available, but I wanted a recipe that didn't use flour or sugar.

My adapted recipe  roasts garlic, tomatoes, onions, and red peppers and adds lots of fresh basil. The original recipes that I had been looking at called for about 2 T sugar, but my tomatoes were really sweet and even sweeter after they were roasted, so I left the sweetener out. Use your own desecration.

quartered tomatoes on a cookie sheet



















Serve this soup hot or chilled! The basic soup recipe meets both vegan and Paleo standards.


You  can serve this delightful summer soup with a variety of toppings. It can be topped with a little Parmesan cheese, some sour cream or Greek yogurt,  perhaps even some creme fraiche, or just blended with some warm heavy cream. According to your preferences, add  dairy or dairy substitutes like coconut milk if you prefer. My husband was the one who discovered that this soup it is also excellent chilled. In fact, we really liked it that way- a lot!!



Ingredients: 
10-12 med-large summer tomatoes, quartered
2 red peppers, cleaned and quartered
6-12 cloves garlic in skin
2 l red onions, quartered
1/4 cup olive oil
seasoning to taste ( salt, pepper, garlic powder, thyme etc.)
1/4 cup fresh basil
2 cups vegetable broth
Optional: 1/2 cup coconut milk or half and half cream when serving
Optional toppings: Parmesan cheese, sour cream, Greek yogurt, etc.

Directions:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cover 2 rimmed cookie sheets with parchment paper
Mix the oil, vegetables, and seasoning in large bowl and then lay the  quartered vegetables, garlic, and onions on the cookie sheets .  Roast for about 40 minutes. Remove the skin from the garlic and then transfer  to a stock with pot juice and all.. Add the fresh basil and cook down for about 20 minutes ( I took off some but not all of the skins and discarded-it's not necessary since you are going to blend it) and then blend with an immersion blender or in batches in a regular blender.

To serve: I heated some organic butter in a pot, added the tomato soup, vegetable broth, and cream.
I also served it cold and just stirred in a few Tablespoons of organic half and half into each bowl. For vegans, you could use coconut milk!


Homemade Tomato Soup

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Monday, August 25, 2014

Portobello Caps Towers ( vegan and Paleo)



portobello mushrooms and roasted vegetables



Need a vegetarian and naturally gluten free  idea for a Labor day weekend BBQ ? These Portobello roasted vegetable towers, made with end of summer vegetables,  make a beautiful presentation, are easy,  and delicious! They are a nice addition to any BBQ!

You know the large beautiful Portobello mushrooms that that you see in the produce section of the market? Trader Joe sells them in packages of two, so I treated myself the other day. Once I got them home, I really wasn't sure what I wanted to do with them. I could have simply grilled them and had a vegan burger substitute, but I wanted something a little more interesting and more special!

I decided to make a roasted tower that I remembered eating as my vegetarian entree at a friend's  wedding.  It was a layer a large grilled portobello mushroom with large gilled zucchini slices, grilled red pepper slices, roasted eggplant slices, roasted red onion slices, grilled asparagus and yellow pepper slices. Actually, you could make any roasted sliced vegetable combination that you like. They will all work!  I added some guacamole as the base.  The guacamole made the towers more filling and added some protein, making it a perfect vegan entree.


For convenience: BJ's sells a package of 6 individual sized guacamole containers that are slightly spicy. I like the individual packagas because I can just take out one individual sized container whenever I need it. I do make my own guacamole from fresh avocados but I often have problems getting the avocados ready to use when I need them. They either ripen too fast or they are hard when I need them. They are never just right. But the little individual containers are really convenient. ( they are in the refrigerator section) They are perfect for one or two people with no leftovers! Or use my delicious easy to make guacamole recipe 

roasted eggplant, zucchini, asparagus, yellow pepper, red onion

The towers:  I grilled my vegetables in advance and allowed them to cool ( or you could roast them in the oven at 400 degrees) I them grilled the portobello mushrooms on both sides  in a small Forman Grill.( or you could use any grill or roast in oven) You do not want to overcook then mushrooms ; you want them cooked but on the firmer side.

large roasted portobello mushrooms
I know it looks like a burger, but it's portobello mushrooms 

When they were done, I  spread each half with the spicy guacamole and then took my roasted vegetables and layered them into a tower on each of the mushroom halves.



portobello mushroom caps stuffed with roasted veggiesThey were really delicious.  I ate it with a salad and dressing.



This could be used as a side dish for two or a vegan meal for one!



Ingredients:
1/2 red onion, sliced and roasted
1/2 yellow zucchini, sliced on a diagonal and roasted
1/2 green zucchini, slicked on a diagonal and roasted
1 red pepper halved and roasted
2 slices of eggplant roasted
2 large portobello mushrooms
4-5 Tablespoons guacamole
* You could grill instead of roast the vegetables
* season vegetables with spices and salt and pepper to taste if desired

Instructions:
Grill or roast all of the vegetables and set aside. Prepare your guacamole recipe  ( or use slices of avocado)
Grill your 2 portobello mushrooms and lay on plate with the inner part of the mushrooms facing up.
Spread guacamole on each mushroom, layer vegetables on top and enjoy!


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The inside of the portobello mushroom


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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Baked Parmesan Zucchini Sticks



gluten free zucchini cheese stick appetizer

Just like everyone else right now, I'm overloaded with zucchini!  I've been searching Pinterest and the Internet for some interesting recipes. I found this baked Parmesan recipe the other day that was a big hit , and it was easy easy to make too. It did require the use of oven, but I worked early in the morning, so I wouldn't heat up the house too much.

zucchini
Use 3 of this size 
I simply cut the zucchini into wedge-like sticks. It will depend on the size of your zucchini how many sticks it will make. I used 3 medium zucchini for my first batch.

zucchini on a cutting board









 It tasted amazing when it first came out of the oven because it was sizzling and crispy, but I also put some in the refrigerator, reheated and it was still very very good.


The original recipe that I found on Jo Cooks called for some Panko breadcrumbs along with the Parmesan cheese for the coating. Truthfully, I believe they do sell Panko Gluten free breadcrumbs, but I didn't bother to even try to find them. Ive stopped eating grains ( 3 months)   and after all who needs the extra carbs?  The recipe came out great and no one missed the breadcrumbs.

This is a great way to eat zucchini. Everyone will love it because it comes out of the oven so nice and crunchy, you may not even realize you are eating zucchini. Let's face it zucchini is everywhere right now so its a convenient and economical buy at the farmer's markets.  If you are growing your own, you are probably overloaded.

This is one of those cut, dip, dredge and bake recipes. I used coconut flour ( grain free and low carb) .


Zucchini is one of those vegetables that is mild and most people will eat it. Made this way, most people will love it!

What's the nutritional benefits of zucchini?

1. A cup of zucchini has only 36 calories
2.  Rich in potassium
3.  Has lots of protective Antioxidants
4.  Provides Lutein and carotene for the eyes
5.  No fat or cholesterol



Ingredients: adapted from  Jo Cooks
3 medium zucchini
3/4 cup of coconut flour
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1-2 eggs
Pepper to taste

Directions: 
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper 
Cut zucchini into 8 ( or more ) sticks depending on size of your zucchini
( Cut zucchini in half , then cut each half in half lengthwise, then each quarter in half again until you achieve zucchini sticks) 
Beat the egg ( s) in a small bowl and add pepper.

In another small bowl place the coconut flour
Put the Parmesan in another small bowl
  1. Dip each stick in the egg  and then dip and roll in the coconut flour 
  2. Dip in egg again and then cover with Parmesan cheese
  3. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown and crispy.
  4. Serve with Ranch dressing or Marinara sauce.


bowl of beaten eggs and bowl of shredded cheese
I grated my own Parmesan and then crushed it a little


zucchini appetizer
The recipe made 2 trays 


gluten free zucchini appetizer




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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Overnight Apple Pie Oatmeal

  

                        


Grated apple, grated fresh ginger, fragrant cinnamon, vanilla, organic oats, and nuts make this Apple pie oatmeal sensational and a healthy way to start the day.

Everyone says that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. I agree, and I also think what you start out eating, sets the tone for what you eat the rest of the day.

If  I start the day with fast carbs ( like pancakes ) ,  I feel bloated and crave more of the same all day long.

If I skip breakfast, then I end up really hungry and around 10:30 am and I start grabbing what ever is around

A good wholesome slow carb breakfast like oatmeal keeps my blood sugar stable and keeps me satisfied. ( Make sure you buy gluten free certified oats)

This recipe for apple pie oatmeal is fragrant  flavorful and healthy. It is a tasty mix of fruit and oats with  an aroma from the cinnamon and vanilla that is tantalizing. What's more, the recipe is quick and easy to make.

I've read many articles that say that oats are also good for helping to lower cholesterol. This oatmeal is high in fiber and rich in antioxidants. In addition,  cinnamon can help stabilize blood sugar and the walnuts and chia seeds provide some Omega 3's.

Since reading the scientific studies about how nuts can help reduce your risk of developing diabetes, I always add walnuts to my oatmeal recipes.

  •   Why did I call the recipe apple pie flavored oatmeal? Because it contains many of the spices and ingredients of apple pie.
  •  Are oats gluten free? Yes, only if you buy oatmeal  labeled " gluten free oats" which is found in most health food stores ( Trader Joe's has their own brand of gluten free oats) . Many with gluten intolerance tolerate gluten free oats; however, some may not. Organic oats are best! 
  •  Why aren't all oatmeal gluten free ? I wrote a blog post about oats last year. To understand why you need to purchase certified gluten free oatsl  Read this

I make this recipe three different ways:

The absolutely most delicious way to make oatmeal is to make it overnight!

  • Overnight oatmeal requires no cooking, so you have no mess and no pot to clean. 
  • Overnight oatmeal is eaten cold, so it tastes more like a delicious parfait. 
  • Overnight oatmeal is convenient because it's ready for you in the morning or for a real food snack anytime of the day. 
  • You can make multiple containers so your entire family can enjoy. 
  • You can make overnight oatmeal using different recipes for different flavors. I sometimes make blackberry or blueberry oatmeal or strawberry parfait oatmeal. 
  • It's always healthiest to soak oats for best digestibility. So, overnight oatmeal is a good choice. 
  • Overnight oatmeal is a perfect summer choice. 
  • Overnight oatmeal is great for when you have overnight guests- serve it for breakfast


However, in the winter, you may want a nice bowl of hot oatmeal. I have a really fast method for when I am in a hurry and don't want a dirty sticky pot to clean.  To make the oatmeal quickly,  I just combine the boiling water with the oats in a mug and then add all the ingredients, cover and allow it to steep for 5 minutes. This oatmeal comes out a little looser, but I still like it.

If you don't mind cleaning the pot and like a thicker oatmeal, just follow the directions for cooking the oatmeal, and  it will be thicker and pasty like regular oatmeal.


This recipe makes oatmeal for one or you can double the oatmeal  and boiling water if you are making it for two, and adjust the other ingredients.
Make them to taste. Perhaps 6 walnuts , chopped for two people..

Ingredients:
1/4 cup of uncooked oatmeal ( I use certified gluten free oats)
1/2 cup water ( or substitute vanilla flavored unsweetened almond milk)
1tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp fresh ginger , grated
1 tsp real vanilla extract
1/2 "Delicious" apple, grated
3 walnuts, chopped
1 Tablespoon chia seeds
** for overnight oatmeal you can add 1/4 cup greek yogurt or coconut yogurt for vegans

Directions:
Overnight method: This is my favorite way of making oatmeal. You do not cook the oatmeal. You simply assemble and mix all of the ingredients in a cup or wide mouth small mason jar. Place in the refrigerator overnight. The oats will thicken, the flavors will mingle and the taste will be delicious. Please note that Overnight oatmeal is eaten cold. I love eating it this way in the summer months. I substitute almond milk for the water when I use this method. It tastes like a delicious cold parfait in the morning. I've made overnight oatmeal other ways with different fruit as well.

If you prefer to cook try this : Cook it Method 
Bring water to a boil in  a saucepan .
Add oatmeal and stir until it becomes pasty . Shut off heat and add remainder of ingredients. Stir and eat..

Here is another No cook fast  method:
Put all ingredients ( except water) in a mug. Add the boiling water, and let sit covered for 5-10 minutes . Stir and eat- ( this method makes a looser oatmeal)


oatmeal with grated apple, ginger and cinnamon
                                             Blackberry Parfait Oatmeal Recipe ( overnight version)


Gather the Ingredients for the  oatmeal
apple pie oatmeal breakfast
Combine the ingredients with boiling water . The oatmeal will be looser oatmeal.
                                       
                         Since I'm the only one eating oatmeal on a weekday mornings, I make it for one.
                This recipe is well balanced and provides lots of nutrition with oats, fruit, nuts, and spices!
                                        Add some coconut oil or butter if you like.


This post may be shared some of the following

Good Reads: 

Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health

Grain Brain- Dr. Perlmutter - How to achieve optimal brain health

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Sunday, August 3, 2014

Summer Fresh Herb and Feta Frittata



omelette with swiss chard and feta cheese

Looking for a quick and light dinner? Last night I made a delicious and simple chard, chives, and feta fritata for me and my husband. I've also used swiss chard and substituted swiss cheese as a variation. If you don't like or have feta, then use any cheese. I also used many of the vegetables that I received from my CSA this week. I've decided that I need to cook or freeze my vegetables right or I run the risk of not having time to make them.

I never know what the week will bring. Many times on the weekend we eat out. Therefore, if I have the fresh produce in the refrigerator, it may end up going bad ( and I don't want that to happen) . Also everything is so fresh the first day.


bunch of green swiss chard
Swiss chard
Swiss chard sautéed in olive oil 
eggs and chives in skillet
added the Swiss chard and feta                  
The cucumbers and tomatoes were also  from the CSA 

Greens not only contain important vitamins, they also contain chlorophyl which helps the body detoxify. Greens are low calories and are an important part of a healthy diet. Swiss chard cooks very quickly and has a mild taste similar to spinach.


Ingredients: 
2 eggs beaten per person
1/2 cup cooked swiss chard per person 
1 tablespoon of chopped chives per person
1/4 cup of crumble feta cheese per person
1/4 cup of chopped fresh basil 
Pepper to taste ( the feta is salty)
olive oil or olive oil spray

Directions: 
Saute the chard in olive oil until limp. 
Mix eggs with pepper and chives. Add to a skillet with 1 tablespoon of olive oil or coconut oil on low heat. Allow to cook and begin to cover with sautéed chard, feta and basil. when it begin to firm up, flip the omelet to the other side until done. 

It was a very light dinner and I have to admit that I was a little hungry and not quite satisfied. I ended up eating some nuts as a snack about 1/2 hour after dinner. I should have added some avocado slices to the vegetable plate. My husband ate his with bread, so he was a little more satisfied.  

What did I get from my CSA this week? 

10 pounds of large juicy beefsteak  tomatoes
10 cucumbers
1 head of lettuce
1 bunch of swiss chard
2 onions
2 eggplants
2 yellow squash
a bowl of fresh basil
3 quarts of string beans 
1 pint of cherry tomatoes
2 pounds of cooking tomatoes
a large bouquet of zinnias
1 container of blackberries for an extra $3.00

Do you belong to a CSA ? What did you get this week?

I stopped eating grain after reading these books. 
Good Reads: 

Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health

Grain Brain- Dr. Perlmutter - How to achieve optimal brain health and health

 I love your comments, so please leave one. It introduces me to your blog, and I love to stay connected . I will visit and follow you on Twitter and G+ etc. 

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Saturday, August 2, 2014

Snacks or Treats? Is there a difference?






I attended a Weight Watchers meeting the other day and was intrigued by the question the leader posed-
" Is there a difference between a snack and a treat?" This question opened up quite a bit of discussion at the meeting and made me think about the quality of the snacks that I eat in addition to my meals.

The purpose of a snack is to provide us with additional nutrition, energy, and fuel. We do sometimes  need snacks to help fuel us ( especially kids ) . However, Many "treats" don't meet the criteria and are not really snacks.

 I'm not even talking about downright sugary, chemical laden treats like donuts, cookies, cake, ice cream. I'm talking about even high sugar fruit-  the 1/4 of a watermelon that we can polish off or the bag of cherries, or the sweet but healthier snacks we make at home, fruit flavored yogurt, cereal, or chocolate covered raisins. Yes, fruit is healthy , but it is also high in sugar and can trigger cravings and affect blood sugar.

I recently made a major change in my life. It's the first time ever and even I can't believe I've been doing this for 8 weeks. I gave up eating all sugar and other sweeteners( honey, stevia, maple syrup) AND I gave up eating FRUIT on a regular basis ( ok I eat a few berries) - I know it sounds crazy, but after reading Dr. Permutter's book Grain Brain I took the jump.

I snack on nuts 

Dr. Perlmutter suggests 40-50 carbs a day for optimal brain health. Truthfully, that was very hard to do if you include fruit in the diet. An apple can be over 25 carbs. Now, I've always been a fruit lover, so this was no easy decision. I thought I would try it and go off fruit for a week or two tops.

Well, I have to tell you. I felt so much better without all the carbs from the fruit. My blood sugar seemed more stable, I felt like I could think more clearly ( didn't feel that foggy feeling) and I realized that if I start eating fruit again , I will go back to dealing with all the fluctuations in blood sugar which also stimulates food cravings and weight gain.

Did I mention that over the past 8 weeks I have not been craving sweets, carbs, etc! That is almost unheard of for me.  It's true - it took me about 5 days to " kick the habit" and a few withdrawal symptoms, but then I was on my way!

I'm eating mostly protein, good fats like avocado, coconut oil, olive oil and nuts, and non starchy vegetables like string beans, lettuce, radishes, cucumber, tomato, mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, kale, collards, lettuce greens etc. . I include a substantial amount of good fat which is essential for stabilizing the blood sugar. I can't believe that I'm eating so much more fat and loosing weight. I've lost 7 pounds in 5 weeks  and have lots of energy and feel terrific ( I exercise on the treadmill for about 45 minutes 5 days week).

Before you jump all over me for the fruit ( I know fruit is healthy) I am eating a very small quantity of  berries on occasion( strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries) and I love cherry tomatoes!


So there you have it, I'm eating and snacking on real foods that are lower in carbs and I'm  feeling energetic , clear minded and happy. I do eat snacks everyday, but I cut out the daily treats!
I will probably start including more fruit in my diet, but right now my cravings are GONE and my moods are so stable and my blood sugar is not shooting up and down.

Did you ever eliminate fruit? 

What falls into a snack category?


List of Healthy Snacks that provide nutrients, energy, and fuel. 
1. Mozzarella cheese and tomatoes and cucumber 
2. vegetable sticks and humus
3. celery and almond butter
4. Plain Greek Yogurt-
5. Avocado , tomatoes, and cucumber
6. Celery and cream cheese
7. Some almonds 
8. Celery and guacamole 
9. Broccoli cheddar soup
10. Pistachios 
11. Hard boiled egg 


Good Reads: 

Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health

Grain Brain- Dr. Perlmutter 

 I love your comments, so please leave one. It introduces me to your blog, and I love to stay connected . I will visit and follow you on Twitter and G+ etc. 

Don't leave without staying connected: follow me on Pinterest,  Gluten Free A-Z  and Twitter too
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