visiting a fish market to get our wedding license: aloha muffins

Yesterday we applied for our marriage license! It made everything so much more official in the most basic sense, but it was a milestone nevertheless.

“Thank you for completing your marriage application
You have completed your application.
To obtain the marriage license, the prospective bride and groom must appear together in person before a license agent along with the necessary documents.”

The most significant part, other than seeing the words bride and groom and having them refer to us, was the part that asked what names we will be declaring post-ceremony and having to write my new name. Bizarre…and absolutely wonderful.

It must be mentioned that said license agents are housed in the most curious of locations, including but not limited to: hotels, beauty parlors, and my personal favorite, a fish market. How wonderful is this place?

We leave in 5 weeks! That realization led me to the rush of panic that only a fellow perfectionist-procrastinator can appreciate. You see now I’m a destination elopement maven. Or something like that.

I reassure myself that all essentials (to me at least) are done. We have a way to get there (and back, unfortunately), place to stay, car to drive, person to marry us and person to document it all. We each have a special outfit to wear and now a dinner that is the perfect culminating event of the day. Our wedding day. All that’s left is finding the perfect place for our ceremony, a challenge on an island where everything looks like a post card.

Needless to say, my mind has been on a place far far away from Philadelphia and daily life. Positive in its impact on my cooking, but not so much on productivity. These muffins have been the most beautiful form of trial and error and at last I’ve come to something that we love. Given the cheesy name Aloha Muffins, they are perhaps one of the tastiest things I’ve concocted.

Gluten-free, dairy-free, and egg-free muffins. It sounds impossible, but trust me when I say you wouldn’t know if I didn’t tell you. As always, adjust to your preferences, dietary requirements, and oven’s personality.

Aloha Muffins
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Loosely adapted from La Tartine Gourmande: Gluten-Free Recipes for an Inspired Life
Makes 12 muffins

Ingredients:
2T ground flax meal
6T water
1/2 cup + 2 T millet flour
1/2 cup + 2 T buckwheat flour
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1/4 c. brown sugar
3 1/2 T (50 grams) coconut oil (melted) plus more to grease muffin tins
1 banana, mashed
1 t. vanilla extract
~1/2c. water
Mix-ins (The following mix has been my favorite, but feel free to experiment with what you have):
1 banana sliced
1/2 cup mango, diced
1/2 cup cashew pieces
Ginger zest
Lime zest

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350F. Take a piece of coconut oil and coat the muffin tins liberally.
Make flax egg substitute: In a small bowl combine flax and 6 tablespoons water. Whisk together and let sit while you prepare the rest of the ingredients (~5 minutes).
In a large bowl combine flours, baking powder and soda.
In another bowl, whisk together coconut oil, brown sugar, vanilla, and mashed banana. Fold in flax egg.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry by folding it in with a spatula. The mixture will be quite dry.
Slowly add the water in, bit by bit, until combined.
Mix in the other banana, mango, cashews, and zests.
Carefully and evenly, scoop the batter into the muffin tins.
Bake for about 15 minutes. Let cool for about 5 minutes and enjoy.

**Let me know what you think and if you have had success with other variations!

xx

two and a half miles to the butcher

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These days are rich in a constant state of inconsistency. I’m not so sure that’s a bad thing, overall. there is no such thing as autopilot, that’s for sure. each morning I have a very strong sense of autonomy over what direction I will go and really, can you ask for much more than that?

last week I had one of the best of these pre-matrimonial days. with the day off, I spent the morning playing with organic makeup finds at a too-hip-for-me salon. My goodness, what an indulgence! But at the ripe age of 27 1/2, I’m finally realizing that the care I put into the food I consume should be applied to what I put on my body as well. I had a coffee at my favorite shop (which has turned surprisingly corporate but is still unabashedly “cool” and walked across the street to my new favorite butcher, Kensington Quarters.

If you haven’t been here, you must go. It’s about as good as it gets; passionate craftsmen and women offering the best in local, grass-fed meat, offal not withstanding. It’s a 2 1/2 mile walk but I do it gladly. I love talking to them about ways to cook the least expensive types of meat and how crazy it is that our preferences are so limited. Most recently, at her urging, I purchased a neck chop that just blew us both away. Two words: pressure cooker.

Later that afternoon, I had a long-avoided meeting with the restaurant at which we’re having a little post-wedding fête . Avoided because I hate words like “terms of the contract” and “can I get that in writing?” I just want to have a party, for pete’s sake! Anyway, the meeting went so smoothly; I got my questions answered, papers signed with minimal awkwardness, and left feeling very happy about the whole thing.

The pièce de rèsistance was my date with a dear friend who insisted on spoiling me in the name of my impending nuptials. We met at her work-the same as L, so I got to say a quick hello to him, too,- and we were off! We settled in at a byob in town called Matyson that was on both of our lists since its inception.  This was my first experience with dining out after having severe digestive and immune reactions to foods. The wine helped, but it really wasn’t all that bad. I spoke softly to the waiter and asked what oils they used. He responded that it was a blend and I let him know that I could only have x, y, and z. He took note and returned with recommendations from the chef for what I could select from. Success. They even adjusted my friend S’s dish so we could share. The food was amazing. It’s BYOB. Go there.

The night ended with a very special spectacle in the form of a burlesque show! Have you been?! My god, am I in awe of those women. How confident! How bare! The theme was an anime director that neither of us knew, but that didn’t stop our enjoyment of the whole thing.

Things are good over here. A way to tell if I’m really out there enjoying life is to monitor the frequency of my posts. Sporadic? A very good thing indeed.

I have a lot of recipes for you that I’m testing and refining. The second batch of Buckwheat-Millet muffins are in the oven as we speak. The first was gone long ago, despite being a little too dry for my taste, though. See, I haven’t forgotten my promise to make gluten-free and dairy-free something beautiful. All in due time.

xx

two months from today

two months from today I will be marrying my sweetheart. Could life be any grander?

“The minute I heard my first love story
I started looking for you, not knowing
how blind that was.
Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere.
They’re in each other all along.”
-Rumi

 

[note: this is note my dress (that one will be a surprise, of course). but it’s beautiful, nevertheless]

Cashew Chili with Jalapeño Corn Bread

I admitted over coffee the other morning that this adjustment period has been somewhat depressing. Being someone who sniffs out stinky cheeses and salivates over a crunchy baguette, trying to adopt a diet that is gluten, dairy, and egg free is sort of maddening. I realize I’m being ridiculous; First of all, some of these things can make a reappearance one day (I hope) and more importantly, I am incredibly fortunate to be as healthy as I am and also to have the resources to accommodate this new way of eating.  Also important to note is the fact that I feel really really good. It’s pretty amazing what a medicine food can be.

The warmer  weather brings inspiration that lacks at the tail-end of the winter months. I find myself reserving all sorts of cook books and then methodically working my way through and marking my favorites with ripped pieces of scrap-paper. I am counting down the days until the first of spring produce shows itself at the weekly farmer’s market in our neighborhood. Till then, we stick with our freezer stockpile.

This cashew chili is gluten free, vegan, and insanely delicious. It’s a tweaked version of the chili I wrote about years ago, with the spices adjusted and updated ratios. It is one of my favorite dishes in my arsenal. The jalapeno corn bread is a vegan and gluten-free newbie to our house. While not as moist as I would like, it’s perfect for dipping and the jalapeno peppers are just right to round everything out.

I love doubling the chili and keeping it in the cooking receptacle for easy dispensing for lunch and dinner during the week.

Cashew Chili
Serves 6
Ingredients:
2 T olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 c. celery, diced
5 c. peppers (combination of red, green and yellow), roughly chopped
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 1/3 c. cashews
2 c. kidney beans
3 tsp. cumin
1 1/2 tsp. coriander
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c. water (optional)

Heat olive oil over medium heat and add garlic and let cook, being careful not to let it burn. Add celery, peppers and spices and toss to coat in oil. Add tomatoes and cashews, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer then cover halfway. Let simmer for 15 minutes then add kidney beans and water if you wish to thin it out a bit. Cook for 5-10 minutes more or until cashews are soft. Adjust seasonings as necessary and enjoy!

Vegan and Gluten-Free Corn Muffins 
Slightly adapted from Food Republic
Note: The biggest change I made was using buckwheat flour instead of regular. If you go this route, know that the color ends up much more brown than yellow.
Serves 12

Ingredients
1 c. almond milk
2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1 c. buckwheat flour
1 c.  cornmeal
2 T  sugar
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
2 T. coconut oil, melted ( + more to grease tins)
2 T. pumpkin puree
1/2 c. corn kernels
1 jalapeño pepper sliced and de-seeded as you wish

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease muffin tins with coconut oil and drop jalapeño slices on the bottom.
Measure out the milk and add the apple cider vinegar to it, then set aside to curdle.
Mix together buckwheat flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
In a separate bowl, mix  milk, oil and pumpkin. Add to the dry ingredients and combine, being careful not to over-mix. Fold in the corn kernels.
Fill each muffin tin most of the way with batter. Bake for about 20 minutes or until done.
Remove from oven and let cool.

 

Try both and report back. Lastly, there are a lot of really amazing things happening lately that I must recognize here: 1: My best friend is having a BABY in 2 weeks!!!! 2: I am getting MARRIED in just about 2 months! 3: Our cousins are having a BABY in 2.5 Months! Happiness abounds! And exclamation points! 

x

Surviving (and Thriving on) an Elimination Diet: Part 2


This is the part that you really don’t want to mess up and that is really easy to do. As a bit of background, after three weeks of living dairy, soy, peanut, egg and gluten-free, you introduce each back to your diet, one by one. For each food item the goal is to incorporate it into two meals a day for two days. Then, you wait and see the results.

This was challenging for me for several reasons. First of all, it’s difficult to find a food that is purely that food and nothing else. Second, you want food items that are particularly rich in the allergen being tested, so thought needs to go into that as well. Third, reacting to the food is awful, plain and simple; It’s emotional, uncomfortable, and confusing. Not only that, it prolongs this phase as you have to wait a day to get your system back on track/at baseline. Fourth, it’s hard to figure out if it’s that specific food you’re reacting to and not something else.

As far as foods for testing purposes went, here’s what we used:

Dairy:
Milk
Feta Cheese (includes a higher concentration of the protein we’re testing for)
Yogurt

Soy:
Tofu

Gluten:
Baguette
Pasta

Peanuts and Eggs: Self Explanatory

Monitoring reactions requires a lot of knowledge of your body and it was quite difficult for me. You’re not only looking for digestive symptoms, but emotional and other physical symptoms as well. An allergy is typically more than just digestive symptoms; that is typically an intolerance.  The book we used outlined possible reactions to look for, so that helped.

Challenges:

Reacting to everything. And then some.

Tracking the responses was difficult. I would recommend writing it down (I didn’t) or at the very least discussing it with a friend or spouse.

Typically our social outings revolve around food, so this was hard. Whether going out to dinner or heading to a friend’s for a meal, it is next to impossible to know what is in everything.

Results:
I found that I had the most severe reaction to gluten and moderate reactions to eggs and dairy and corn (not originally included but later realized). Since then I’ve found myself over-analyzing each and protesting well, maybe it could have been X that caused Y…not the gluten! It’s tough and emotional, but my god how lucky am I to be healthy overall?

This “diet” made me feel better than I have felt in a very long time…perhaps ever? This was wonderful and terrible at the same time; wonderful because I felt amazing, terrible because I anything I ate that included what I’ll call unnaturally occurring oils or preservatives or something otherwise heavily processed prompted painful reactions.

What Now?
Now I heal my gut. I am adopting a diet free of the aforementioned foods until further notice, and several different supplements to support the cause. 

I’ve been searching for new blogs and paging through my cookbooks to find new inspiration instead of mourning over the foods I can’t have for now. It takes a little effort, but it also opens a whole new community of resources and ideas that I never knew existed.

My best friend tells me to see the positive in the situation; I am a skilled cook who can likely help other people who are struggling to accommodate the same needs through recipes and my blog. I like that. And I hope so too.

Something to Note:
To cover my bum, I must tell you that in no way am I a professional whose advice should be followed. That’s what doctors are for. I am just sharing my story in hopes that it might help others, meanwhile helping me get through it.

Part I