Take 5

Tina, of Whisks and Chopsticks, blogged on the question, “You’ve been exiled to a private island, and your captors will only supply you with five foods. What do you pick?” A private island and I get to choose my own food? Sounds like fun! I’ll play along. Here are my choices:

  1. Papaya. My fave fruit, plus it’s a veggie when you eat it green.
  2. Coconut. Let’s count the ways you can eat a coconut: green, mature, dried, cream, milk, water, flour, syrup, sugar. Whoa!
  3. Kale. If I had to choose only one green veggie, kale would be it. Great cooked and raw.
  4. Sweet Potato. Delicious, nutritious and versatile. My fave starch.
  5. Eggs/chicken. Fresh and free-range of course. You can’t really have eggs on an island unless you’ve got a chicken or two. After all, eggs don’t come from a styrofoam carton. Another two-for-one choice, though I would be perfectly content to just eat the eggs, especially if it was me that had to do the butchering. I could do it if I had to, but to me eating meat isn’t worth that much trouble.

I love the way you can mix and match these five ingredients in so many delicious ways. Sweet Potato and Chicken White Curry anyone? It’s making me hungry just imagining all the different dishes you could make.

As anyone who’s dealt with multiple food allergies knows, you don’t always get to choose the list of foods you “can” eat. I’m thankful though, that there are quite a lot of foods like the five listed above that are healthy, safe for me, and ones that I also don’t mind eating over and over again. How about you? What five foods would you choose?

Panera Bread’s Hidden Menu (Gluten-Free!)

Have you heard? Panera Bread rolled out a new menu last week.

Healthy. Slow-carb. Gluten-free.
With selections like Power Mediterranean Roasted Turkey Salad and Power Chicken Hummus Bowl. Sounds yum! Didn’t you hear?

Oh, yeah. It’s a hidden menu. So unless you’re a member of the MyPanera rewards program or follow @panerabread on Twitter, you probably wouldn’t have heard.

Panera announced it to their followers in a tweet:

 

And Panera also confirmed their entire Hidden Menu is made with gluten-free ingredients:

 

People seem to enjoy the hidden selections:

 

Panera had this to say to tweeters inquiring as to why they’re keeping their new healthy menu a secret when so many people want to eat healthier these days.


Of course!

To make more choices available to their social following. Makes perfect sense.

Advertising, 2013 style
Coca-Cola is fighting obesity and Panera Bread promotes a secret bread-free menu to its social media fans. Not to people who are celiac or gluten-intolerant. Not to those who follow a paleo or clean-eating lifestyle. To fans of bread.

My personal gluten-free experience at Panera Bread a couple years ago went something like this:

Me: Is there any gluten in your Greek Salad?
Cashier, puzzled look on her face: Gluten?
Me: Explanation of gluten, wheat. Yada, yada, yada.
Cashier: Oh, gluten. Yes, there is gluten in the Greek salad dressing.
OK, I’m flexible. I inquired about several other salads and got the same response. Finally I asked, “Is there anything on the menu I can eat?” The answer was, “No.”

Needless to say, I didn’t eat that night. I haven’t returned to Panera Bread since, in spite of later learning that there actually are choices made with gluten-free ingredients. Whether or not those ingredients remain gluten-free in a place where bread is baked fresh daily is another issue altogether. Whenever Panera is suggested as a place to eat, I always steer the conversation and meal elsewhere.

Panera, how do you plan to reach potential customers like me with the very menu items we adore to order? Clean-eating, paleo types. Celiac and gluten-intolerant folks. Low-carb dieters. People who would never imagine that a restaurant with bread in its name could be a friendly place for them to eat. Must be nice to not need any new customers in this challenging economic climate.

So?
I read gluten-free blogs and restaurant reviews. I know many of you have eaten gluten-free salads and even some of the soups successfully at Panera Bread. So you might be saying, “What’s the big deal? I already eat gluten-free at Panera.”

If you follow a paleo or clean-eating lifestyle, here’s the big deal: Compare the ingredients from a typical Panera Bread salad dressing with the salad dressing in the secret menu.

Panera Greek Salad Dressing

Soybean oil, water, olive oil, distilled and cider vinegar, salt, contains less than 2% sauterne wine, spices, corn starch-modified, dehydrated garlic, hydrolyzed soy and corn protein, lemon juice concentrate, xanthan gum, propylene glycol alginate, polysorbate 60, calcium disodium EDTA added to protect flavor.

Panera Hidden Menu Salad Dressing

Fresh squeezed lemon juice and extra virgin olive oil.

The ingredient lists speak for themselves. Sigh! Hidden Menu salads, where have you been all my life? Tell me again, why is this menu hidden?

Panera, I appreciate you offering new, healthier, less-processed, gluten-free creations. Its great to know there are not only things I can order at Panera, now they’re also things I would want to put in my body. A lot of other people would, too. You should shout it from the rooftops, not whisper it to your tweeps.

Have any of you heard of or tried Panera’s Hidden Menu?
Check it out: Panera’s Hidden Menu
What do you think?

A Thanksgiving Day Fast?

I wasn’t originally planning on a Thanksgiving Day fast. It’s not the sort of thing foodies do, especially gluten-free ones who could stand to gain some weight. T-giving is a time to celebrate and show off delicious gluten-free eating at its best to family and friends, as well as to the blogosphere.

On the surface, a Thanksgiving Day fast can seem like a giant FAIL, especially when everybody else is feasting and I’d been planning the allergy-friendly menu for weeks: roasted veggies (my fave!), Brussels sprouts and kale salad, cauliflower mashed faux-tatoes, roasted sweet potatoes (simple is best!), wild rice stuffing and my very first attempt at turkey. Of course this meal wouldn’t be complete without a delish dairy-free, grain-free pumpkin pie.

But (There’s always a BUT, isn’t there? Things are never what they seem at first glance.) Thanksgiving isn’t really about food, it’s about gratitude, and I have SO many things to be thankful for. HOPE being one of them.

Lessons Learned
Although it would be really nice to navigate the digestive unknown holding my doctor’s hand, he did teach me to pay attention to my body and figure these things out for myself. (Thanks, Doc!) So I have hope that even without my good insurance and my doctor’s help, I CAN do this.

My Thanksgiving Day fast turned out to be a smashing success. I drank a lot of tea, some homemade turkey soup (Have to get in some holiday spirit!) and a cup of coconut milk. And distracted myself by cooking anything my family wanted to eat, providing I had the ingredients in my pantry. A culinary challenge if you will.

I learned a few important things from my fast:

  1. My digestive symptoms disappear when I don’t eat. Or at the least don’t eat certain things. (A pain-free day is always welcome in my book!)
  2. I’m most likely not intolerant to coconut. (Woot!)
  3. If I can survive this, I can make it through the SCD Intro Diet and jumpstart some healing, figure out what foods I’m reacting to, and maybe even reverse some of these food intolerances. (Epic Christmas dinner, here I come!)

Actually, Christmas is probably way too soon of a goal to reach digestive health. I’d gladly sacrifice Christmas dinner as well if indulging means suffering setbacks. Whatever it takes, I’ll do it.

Don’t worry, next year I’ll share my fabulous grain-free gingerbread. Trust me, it’ll be worth the wait!

Gotta Have A Plan
So here’s my plan: For a couple of days starting today: grass-fed bone broth, chicken soup, puréed carrots, tea, and for good measure, a coconut-wild blueberry green smoothie, a kind of personalized, modified SCD Intro Diet. Then reintroduce foods one at a time to discover my tolerance levels, emphasizing GAPS/SCD and Paleo Autoimmune Protocol approved foods, and of course, a gigantic serving of listening to what my body tells me.

As the inimitable Tim Gunn says, “Make it work.”

Fig Love: Coconut Rum Raisin Free-Form Muffins

Sometimes a mistake turns out better than it would have if things went exactly as you originally planned. A point I always make to my quilting students.

Breaking Free was one such quilt. I was fusing down stylized fabric pine cone scales when one decided to fuse itself to the iron rather than the quilt top.

Rather than force it back into its proper place, I let it break free, and fused it flying up and away, dancing on an invisible breeze. While the quilt would have been nice enough the way I had designed, it turned out way more interesting as a result of my mistake. (Click here to find out more about Breaking Free.)

Of course, fixing culinary mistakes can be an entirely different matter. It’s not so simple to solve too much Sriracha in the spaghetti sauce, or burnt black cookies. Luckily every once in awhile a kitchen mishap turns out to be serendipitious genius.

Whipping up a batch of grain-free scones one day, I forgot to add butter. I couldn’t very well scrape them off the pan back into the bowl to add the missing butter since I’d already mixed in the wet ingredients. So I decided to just go with it sans butter.

The result was amazing! Looked like a scone, except soft and cakey like a muffin. A lot like a muffin top. Yum! A few strategic tweaks, and voilà, the Coconut Rum Raisin Free-Form Muffin was born!

If you like your treats to have a more controlled shape, try baking them in a whoopie pie pan, a donut pan, or even simply a regular muffin pan. Baking times may need to be adjusted with different sizes and shapes.

Fig Love

A secret ingredient, puréed rum-soaked dried figs, makes these free-form muffins moist, flavorful, and sweet. The perfect complement to coconut and rum raisins.

Dried figs taste like pears and honey. They are a fabulous healthy, whole foods sweetener. A good source of dietary fiber and minerals. If you’ve never baked with dried figs before, you’re in for a real treat! Sweet like dates, but with a less assertive flavor.

Look for unsulfured dried figs. Sulfur dioxide can trigger symptoms for those with asthma. It can also cause stomach cramps and migraine headaches in sensitive people. This effect may seem more pronounced if you’ve been eating “clean” for awhile (clean = whole, unprocessed foods) and your diet has been free of aggravating chemicals and foods.

Without preservatives, dried figs and other fruit will be brown or even black. That’s perfectly fine and natural. Some dried fruit has sugar, artificial color, and even artificial flavor added. Avoid those as well. In case you’re wondering, organic dried fruit is always free from sulfur dioxide and most other additives, although sometimes organic dried fruit will contain added sugar or honey.

Unsulfured dried fruit is also drier than sulfured dried fruit. Having no preservatives, it needs to be completely free from moisture to keep it from spoiling. This is actually a benefit for baking, because being drier, it can soak up more flavorful liquid of your choice, adding delicious dimension to your dish.

Some figs are best suited for drying and others for eating fresh. Varieties with a high natural sugar content make flavorful, sweet dried figs. My favorite dried fig for baking and snacking is called Calimyrna when it’s grown in California and Smyrna when it comes from Turkey.

To make a purée for baking, chop off the stems, cut the dried figs in half, and soak them in the liquid of your choice until soft. I used rum for these free-form muffins. Fresh-squeezed orange juice is another flavorful option. Purée the figs and as much soaking liquid as desired or necessary in a blender, then add to the other wet ingredients. Like prune purée or mashed ripe bananas, dried fig purée is a versatile baking ingredient that adds natural sweetness and a nutritious boost.

Note: without preservatives, unsulfered dried fruit has a shorter shelf life than standard sulfered dried fruit. If you’re unable to finish them in a timely manner, you should store them in the freezer, especially when it’s humid. Let them come to room temperature before using in a recipe.

Coconut Rum Raisin Free-Form Muffins

Coconut Rum Raisin Free-Form Muffins

Ingredients

  • 142 grams (5 ounces/about 12) dried organic/unsulfured Calimyrna/Smyrna figs
  • 80 grams (1/2 cup) organic/unsulfured raisins
  • 1/2 cup gold rum
  • 84 grams (3/4 cup) sifted coconut flour
  • 45 grams (1/4 cup lightly packed) coconut sugar
  • 60 grams (1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon) unsweetened macaroon coconut
  • 1/4 teaspoon finely ground sea salt
  • 5 large organic free-range eggs, divided
  • 125 grams (1/2 cup) unsweetened organic applesauce
  • 64 grams (2 tablespoons) almond butter, unsalted
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • extra macaroon coconut for sprinkling on top

Instructions

  1. Chop the stems off the dried figs, then cut the dried figs in half. Soak the dried figs and raisins in the rum for 1 hour.
  2. While the fruit is soaking, prepare the dry ingredients.
  3. Sift the coconut flour into a measuring cup or container for weighing. Use the flat side of a knife to gently level off the excess coconut flour even with the top of the measuring cup.
  4. NOTE: Coconut flour can get clumpy and compacted, making it difficult to measure accurately. Sifting will not only give coconut flour a good light consistency, it can help you get a more accurate measurement if you don't have a digital kitchen scale.
  5. Put the sifted coconut flour into a large bowl with the coconut sugar and sea salt.
  6. Coconut sugar is another tricky ingredient to measure accurately. If you don't have a scale, lightly pack the coconut sugar into the measuring cup like you would do with brown sugar. Stir to combine.
  7. Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  8. Crack open the eggs and set aside one yolk.
  9. When the hour is up, strain out and separate the raisins from the figs and rum.
  10. Place the figs and rum into a blender jar and blend. It may get thick and not completed puréed depending on your blender, but the eggs and applesauce to be added next will provide enough liquid to finish the job.
  11. Add the 4 eggs, extra egg white, applesauce, almond butter, and vanilla to the blender jar. Blend a minute or so more until smooth and mixed thoroughly. With a high-power blender, one minute is sufficient to blend the ingredients and incorporate some air into the batter. If you are using a regular blender, it may need a bit more time.
  12. Pour mixture into the bowl with the dry ingredients. Stir to combine. The batter will be quite wet at first, but as your stir, the coconut flour will start to absorb some of the excess moisture. As it sits, more moisture will be absorbed, but it will remain a little more moist than regular muffin batter.
  13. Stir the rum-soaked raisins into the batter.
  14. Drop about 1/4 cup of batter at a time onto the prepared baking sheet to make 12 free-form muffins.
  15. Add the tablespoon of water to the remaining egg yolk and whisk to make a smooth egg wash for the tops of the muffins.
  16. Brush the egg wash onto the tops of the muffins and sprinkle with extra macaroon coconut.
  17. Bake in a 350°F oven for about 15 minutes. Set on a wire rack to cool.
http://www.laurawestkong.com/gff/2012/fig-love-coconut-rum-raisin-free-form-muffins/

You can serve Coconut Rum Raisin Free-Form Muffins fresh from the oven, but they’re even more flavorful the next day.

Many gluten-free baked goods seem to dry out almost immediately, but these free-form muffins stay moist for days. Probably even longer, but I can never seem to keep them around long enough to find out!

I store these muffins in the refrigerator and they always seem downright damp when I take them out, but that effect disappears when I let them set out and reach room temperature before serving, or warm them up in the oven.

A little bit of the Caribbean, from me to you.

To find out more about why figs are healthy, visit The World’s Healthiest Foods: Figs
For more fig recipes, visit The Spicy RD’s #figlove Blog Hop

What secret ingredients do you like to cook or bake with?

(This recipe was shared at: Gluten-Free Monday, Keep It Real Thursday, Showcase Your Talent Thursday, Allergy Friendly Friday, Fill Those Jars Friday, Gluten-Free Friday, Fig Love Blog Hop, Eat Make Grow )

Extractopia {Making Vanilla Extract, part 2}

Six months ago I embarked upon my adventure in homemade vanilla extract-making. (Read Making Vanilla Extract, part 1) It’s high time I brought you an update.

What I didn’t tell you was that Vanilla and Vanilla Rum were not the only flavors that I made. I also started some Chocolate-Scented Mint extract and Mandarin Orange extract.

I would have made more extracts, but I ran out of empty jars.

Six months later here are the tasty results. As you can see, I managed to use up nearly half a quart of vanilla, and quite a bit of vanilla rum as well. Wow, with retail prices ranging from $2.00 on up, that’s a lotta savings! Not to mention that the taste is out of this world.

from left to right: Vanilla, Mandarin Orange, Vanilla Rum, Chocolate-Scented Mint

When I tasted and compared commercial vanilla extract to my homemade, there was really no comparison. Go to your pantry, put a drop of commercial vanilla extract on your tongue and see. It’s nice, but flat. One dimensional.

The homemade version sparkles. This is not a technical, professional tasting term mind you. Just my personal impression. I don’t mean that it’s bubbly like champagne either, cause it’s not. It’s just got a strong, lively flavor. When the alcohol taste dies down you’re left with that breathtaking real vanilla bean taste.

I remember the first time my mother brought home a vanilla bean. This was exotic stuff back then. I had never seen a vanilla bean in real life before. My mom used it to make vanilla bean custard, simple and magnificent. I was smitten, and to this day absolutely love vanilla just as much as I love chocolate. (Which is a lot, as evidenced by my recent 12 Days of {gluten-free} Chocolate blog series)

Speaking of chocolate, chocolate-scented mint leaves really don’t taste like chocolate mint, but they do smell like it. You can find chocolate-scented mint plants at nurseries or home improvement garden centers.

What’s nice about chocolate-scented mint is that it’s easy to grow but not nearly as invasive as regular mint plants. It smells divine and has beautiful deep green leaves. And when you grow your own herbs, you’ll be assured a steady supply of delicious organic seasonings.

To make your own homemade Mint Extract, simply wash and dry fresh mint leaves, any variety and stuff them into a clean glass jar like in the photo at the top of this post. Fill with vodka and put the lid on. Gently shake the jar every day, or every week. After awhile I forgot to shake it, and that’s OK, too. We’re not baking angel food cake or souffle here. After several months I took the old leaves out and put fresh leaves in. Finally I declared it done and strained the leaves out as you can see below.

Absolutely amazing! Smooth and sweet. It smells and tastes just like liquid Starlight Mints. Somehow along the way the chocolate scent vanished. At one point, it had a very strong medicinal taste. That disappeared as well. Can you imagine the fabulous hot chocolate this is going to make! Why I ever used such as small jar is beyond me.

And the Mandarin Orange extract. Same process: Wash and dry organic citrus. Zest the fruit, being careful not to get any of the bitter white pith. Put zest and vodka into a clean jar. Cap, shake, and wait. Strain out zest when it’s done. See how the color of the zest has been transferred out.

Unfortunately I didn’t use near enough zest for such a large jar, and of course mandarin oranges are out of season in mid summer, so I couldn’t refresh it with new mandarin zest. Although it’s pretty, I am sadly disappointed, especially in comparison with the phenomenal success of the Vanilla, Vanilla Rum, and Chocolate-Scented Mint extracts. But mandarin season is just around the corner and my tree is full of fruit, so I’ll just have to wait awhile longer. Patience is definitely a virtue when it comes to making your own homemade extracts.

What flavors of homemade extracts have you made (or want to make)?

(This recipe was shared at: Gluten-Free Monday, Fat Tuesday, Fill Those Jars FridayGluten Free Friday)

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

This time of year, many people catch Pumpkin Fever, a perfectly harmless virus kept in check only by immediate administration of pumpkin pie, or other pumpkin-rich treat.

When you’re in the kitchen baking up a batch of tasty gluten-free pumpkin muffins, or pumpkin recipe of your choice (I recommend my Pumpkin-Date Blondies, which happen to be not only delicious, but vegan, refined sugar-free, and grain-free as well) you don’t have to wait for that timer to buzz. You can get a quick and easy pumpkin fix by sipping a wonderfully refreshing Pumpkin Pie Smoothie (also vegan, refined-sugar free, and grain-free). Bonus: It’ll keep you cool while the ovens heat up the kitchen.

You can use canned or homemade pureed pumpkin in this smoothie. If you roast your own pumpkin, it’s better to chill the pumpkin puree before using it in a smoothie. Hot, fresh from the oven roasted pumpkin is deliciously tempting, a lot of mine gets directly eaten as soon as it’s done, but for smoothies, it’s much better cooled off first. In fact, the more ingredients that are pre-chilled, the frostier your smoothie will be.

You can even freeze the coconut milk. Just measure out the desired amount of coconut milk and sliced bananas and place into a freezer bag. Carefully squeeze all the air out of the bag, seal it, and lay it flat in your freezer. A thin layer of coconut milk and banana works best. Don’t squeeze too many into a bag or you’ll end up with a tropical frozen brick. When you’re ready for a smoothie, take a bag out, gently bend it to break up the contents into pieces, and pour into your blender with the other ingredients.

To make your smoothie even frostier, make ice cubes out of some of the cup of coconut water ahead of time. The ratio of coconut water ice cubes to liquid coconut water will be determined by how well your blender handles ice.

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

Yield: serves 2

Calories per serving: 204

Fat per serving: 7 g

Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

Ingredients

  • 1 cup coconut water (without added sugar)
  • 5-6 (40 grams) Deglet Noor dates, pitted
  • 1 tablespoon shelled hemp seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg (freshly grated if possible)
  • 1/2 cup pureed pumpkin (canned or homemade)
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk (cooking kind, not coconut milk beverage)
  • 1/2 cup frozen sliced bananas

Instructions

  1. Put the coconut water, dates, hemp seeds, cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg into a blender jar. A high-speed blender works best. For a BlendTec, press the WHOLE JUICE button. For others, blend until smooth. If your blender is not very powerful, you may need to chop and/or soak the dates first.
  2. Add the pumpkin, coconut milk, and banana slices. Press the SMOOTHIE button, or blend until smooth.
  3. Serve as is, or top with whipped/chilled coconut cream, coconut cream froth, or your favorite gluten-free gingersnaps or graham crackers.
http://www.laurawestkong.com/gff/2012/pumpkin-pie-smoothie/

Be creative and add toppings to your Pumpkin Pie Smoothie. Chilled/whipped coconut cream is a classic vegan whipped cream replacement, but did you ever try Coconut Cream Froth?

I discovered Coconut Cream Froth one day when I didn’t chill my canned coconut cream far enough ahead in advance. It’s light, airy, and delicious, and will make you look like a vegan master chef.

You’ll need coconut cream, canned or UHT. Make sure there are no added gums or stabilizers. Pour it into a container with a tight fitting lid and extra room for shaking. Shake well, let it settle a bit, and a light frothy foam will rise to the top or stick to the lid. Like frothed milk for a latte.

Dee-lish! Makes me want to whip up a hot pumpkin drink just so I can top it with Coconut Cream Froth.

To give your Pumpkin Pie Smoothie a real pumpkin pie vibe, crumble some gluten-free gingersnaps or graham crackers on the top for a crust-like crunch. I’m not sure which gluten-free cookies are best. I generally try to avoid sugar, and now grains as well. If you have a favorite gluten-free cookie brand or recipe, especially grain-free or refined sugar-free, please share.

(This recipe was shared at: Tasty Traditions, Sugar-Free Sunday, Monday Mania, Fat Tuesday, Keep It Real Thursday, Healthy Vegan Friday, Wellness Weekend, Pumpkin Potluck Party)

Sublime!

Fall may have fallen in some parts of the universe, but it still feels like mid-summer to me. So I’m glad for a cool, refreshing drink that’s as lovely to look at as it is to drink.

I love a good green smoothie, but let’s be honest. More often than not, they come out looking like mud. Tasty, healthy mud, but mud nonetheless.

That’s why I was simply tickled pink (or lime green!) that my Sublime Lime Smoothie came out looking as gorgeous as it is delicious and nutritious.

You can thank organic baby spinach for that lovely shade of green. Spinach is one of those Dirty Dozen veggies that are particularly high in pesticide residue, so buy organic spinach whenever you can. (Learn more about the Dirty Dozen and the Clean Fifteen.) Baby spinach is very mild in green smoothies. It doesn’t make them taste like salad in a glass at all.

A trio of tangy ingredients helps the lime flavor pop. First of all lime, including the zest, organic if possible when eating citrus peel. Next pineapple for its incomparable sweetness and also hints of tartness that brighten the limey flavor. And finally, So Delicious Cultured Coconut Milk.

Don’t have or never seen Cultured Coconut Milk before? You could substitute dairy kefir or another non-dairy beverage, but I encourage you to look for So Delicious Cultured Coconut Milk. Ask for it at your local health food store. (Visit the So Delicious Dairy Free website to learn more about Cultured Coconut Milk and other dairy-free products or print a coupon.)

Cultured Coconut Milk is one of my favorite non-dairy smoothie bases. Goes fabulously with a wide variety of fruit flavors. It has 10 active, live cultures and is certified gluten-free, vegan, and non-GMO. It’s also soy-free, nut-free, and the original flavor is refined sugar-free as well.

Frozen, sliced bananas for sweet, non-dairy creaminess, and a splash of vanilla round out the simple, healthy ingredient list. (Making your own vanilla extract is easy, economical, and fun. Check out my Making Vanilla Extract, part 1 post. Guess it’s time for a part 2 update cause the homemade vanilla turned out fantastic!)

Finally if you must gild the lime green lily (and I say, “Why not!”) chilled coconut cream is a decadently delicious choice. You can separate the cream from the liquid, whip it with a mixer, or any number of advance preparations if you like. I just chill the coconut milk or cream and scoop a dollop on top. Simple and delish. Don’t buy the low-fat kind with too much added water or you will have to separate it. Look for 60-100% coconut milk/cream in cans or tetra-paks.

Sublime Lime Smoothie

Yield: 2 servings

Serving Size: 8 ounces

Calories per serving: 107

Fat per serving: 2 grams

Sublime Lime Smoothie

Ingredients

  • 1/2 organic lime
  • 3/4 cup So Delicious Cultured Coconut Milk, Original Flavor
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1-1/2 cups organic baby spinach, lightly packed
  • 1/2 cup frozen banana slices
  • 3/4 cup frozen pineapple tidbits
  • (fresh pineapple, chopped and frozen or pineapple canned in juice, drained and frozen also works if you can't find frozen pineapple)
  • Optional garnish: thick coconut milk or cream, chilled

Instructions

  1. Zest the half lime and set aside the lime zest.
  2. For a high-speed blender, peel the half lime, making sure to remove any thick bitter white pith. The thin membrane is OK to leave.
  3. For a regular blender, juice the half lime. (about 1 tablespoon)
  4. Put the lime or lime juice and half of the lime zest into the blender jar. Add the remaining ingredients in the order listed.
  5. If you have a regular blender, you may want to chop the spinach first, or blend the spinach with the liquids a little before adding the frozen fruit, depending on how powerful the blender is or isn't.
  6. For a BlendTec, press the "Smoothie" button. For all others, blend until smooth.
  7. Garnish with a dollop of chilled coconut milk, if desired, and the remaining lime zest.
http://www.laurawestkong.com/gff/2012/sublime/

Are you a green smoothie fan? What do you like to put in green smoothies?

(This recipe was shared at: Fat Tuesday, Fit & Fabulous Friday, Gluten Free Friday, Healthy Vegan Friday, Wellness Weekend)

The 12 Days of {gluten-free} Chocolate: Day 12

You know you’re in for a special experience when you open the packaging and discover pictures of chocolate bean pods and leaves stamped on the bar.

I only eat chocolate on days that end in ‘Y’.

Seriously though, Jem Raw Chocolate is a real gem. I’ll take it any day of the week. And apparently, so will a lot of other people. Because the shelf at my local health food store is often empty where the Jem chocolate bars should be.

Artisan quality, stone-ground chocolate bars made with pure, raw, certified organic ingredients. All their natural nutrients and antioxidants intact. No gluten, dairy, soy, or processed sugar. So you can feel good about indulging.

Jem is truly an indulgence. Rich, smooth and complex. Coconut palm sugar gives an irresistible caramel flavor, the perfect complement to raw cacao. I’ve never tasted anything like it. And I mean that in the best possible way.

The 72% cacao bar’s organic ingredients: Cacao liquor, coconut palm sugar, cacao butter, vanilla, salt, sunflower lecithin. A 1.07 ounce bar sells for $2.99.

Jem also makes a 55% cacao bar, also dairy-free thanks to the versatility of coconut, for those who prefer a milk chocolate-style bar.

Thank you for joining me on this chocolate adventure. We’ll have to do it again sometime!

The 12 Days of {gluten-free} Chocolate: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10 | Day 11 | Day 12

The 12 Days of {gluten-free} Chocolate: Day 11

It happens every time. They all become blueberries. ~ Willy Wonka, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” by Roald Dahl

Remember that gum in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? The one that tasted like roast beef one minute, mashed potatoes the next, and blueberry pie after that. Besides being strange like meat-flavored gum, today’s gluten-free chocolate also has an ever changing array of flavors.

Chocolate-covered salad bar?

Amazing Grass‘s Green SuperFood Chocolate Whole Food Energy Bar is well, interesting, … and sweet.

Did I mention that it’s really sweet? That’s the first thing I noticed, the distinctively overwhelming sweetness of dates, lots of them.

The grassy course came next. The bits of actual grass were somewhat disconcerting to find in an energy bar. I like pieces of fruits and nuts in a bar, but I draw the line at blades of grass.

So far, so good. Looks just like any other chocolate energy bar.

I was relieved when the pineapple course came next, followed by some seeds, pumpkin and sunflower, as well as berries and green veggies. Finally some cashews, and to end the “meal” before turning into a blueberry like Violet Beauregarde herself, was a touch of refreshing peppermint.

And the chocolate, or maybe the agave syrup, was the glue that held it all together. Was all that sugar and agave really necessary?

It was sheer curiosity that drove me to take bite after bite to see how many of the bar’s ingredients I could detect. Entertaining, yes. Delightful, no.

Can you tell from the photo? It’s actually a very dark green inside!

I love green veggies, and eat generous servings each and every day. There’s really no need to try to hide them in my chocolate, thank you very much. And I’m not a fan of grass.

I must say though, it’s a noble idea to create a vegan, whole foods energy bar with the goodness of green veggies and raw, cold-processed, alkaline foods. I could do without the excessive sweetness and green-ness though.

Hard-core green smoothie lovers would probably love this energy bar. While I adore baby spinach in a green smoothie, that’s as far as I’ll go. All other green veggies must stay on my plate, and far away from my BlendTec.

Back to the bar. Here’s the complete ingredient list: Organic dates, organic dark chocolate coating (cane sugar, unsweetened chocolate, cocoa butter, non-GMO soy lecithin, natural vanilla flavor), organic agave nectar, amazing grass green superfood (organic wheat grass, organic barley grass, organic alfalfa, organic Spirulina, organic spinach, organic chlorella, organic broccoli, organic acai, organic maca, organic carrot, organic beet, raspberry, organic rose hips, pineapple, green tea, organic flax lignans, L- Acidophilus, alpha and beta amylase, protease, lipase, lactase, cellulose, organic peppermint), organic cashews , organic almond butter, organic rice crisps, organic almonds, organic sunflower seeds, organic dried cranberries, organic cacao nibs, organic pumpkin seeds, organic dried coconut and organic vanilla extract.

Simplicity is a virtue, people. There are a lot of great ingredients in this bar and a few not-so-great, *cough* cane sugar, agave. You don’t need to put in everything and then the kitchen sink for good measure, too. How about a few thoughtfully chosen, complementary ingredients and leave it at that.

Amazing Grass’s energy bars are made from gluten-free, organic, dairy-free, and vegan ingredients, but manufactured in a plant that processes wheat, milk, eggs, soy, peanuts and tree nuts. They sell for $3.19 a 2.8 ounce bar. Other flavors include Berry, Chocolate-Peanut Butter, and Green.

I’m sorry that I can’t whole-heartedly recommend this energy bar, but I just had to share it. It was too interesting to let pass by. Please do return tomorrow. You will not regret it. I have truly saved the best gluten-free chocolate for last.

The 12 Days of {gluten-free} Chocolate: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10 | Day 11 | Day 12

The 12 Days of {gluten-free} Chocolate: Day 10

No other factory in the world mixes its chocolate by waterfall. But it’s the only way if you want it just right. ~ Willy Wonka, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” by Roald Dahl

Happy International Chocolate Day! Does chocolate get a lot of food holidays or what? In my book chocolate is worth celebrating any day of the year.

It’s been said by some that September 13 was chosen as International Chocolate Day to celebrate Milton Hershey’s birthday, and others say it was in honor of the birthday of Roald Dahl, author of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. I’m going with the latter since I’m not impressed with how Hershey’s empire has turned out.

September 13 is also National Celiac Awareness Day, so today’s chocolate is not only as unique as Willy Wonka himself, it’s also certified gluten-free by the Celiac Sprue Association.

Earthsource Organics’ Righteously Raw artisan chocolate bars are simply amazing! I chose the 90% Cacao Goji Bar because 90% cacao bars are hard to come by and because I was intrigued by its ingredient list, which includes organic Turkish figs and other delectable-sounding things.

Earthsource Organics calls the filling of their bars an exotic superfood truffle. I call it died-and-gone-to-heaven delicious! No chocolate waterfall necessary.

The Goji Cacao Bar tastes like a fruity version of a Mounds bar with a thick, decadent, deep-dark-chocolatey coating. I’ve never eaten goji berries, so I can’t comment on whether or not it actually tastes like goji berry. It does, however, have a divine berry flavor.

The chocolate coating is, as one would expect, on the bitter side. Which I love. It’s a perfect complement to the sweet and fruity truffle filling.

By the way, there’s actually no coconut in the Goji Bar, but there is a marvelous selection of other premium ingredients. Here’s the complete list. Raw Ingredients: Organic Cacao Butter, Organic Cacao Powder, Organic Turkish Figs, Organic Goji Berries, Organic Golden Hunza Raisins, Organic Mesquite Pod Meal, Organic Agave Nectar, Organic Vanilla Bean, Himalayan Pink Salt. They’re certified organic, kosher, gluten-free, and vegan.

Here’s what’s not in Righteously Raw’s cacao bars: refined sugar, gluten, soy, dairy, peanuts/tree nuts, GMOs. They’re made in a dedicated nut-free, soy-free, and allergen-free facility.

In case you’re wondering about mesquite pod meal–I was–here’s the lowdown. Mesquite pod comes from the bean pods of the mesquite tree. It’s ground into a sweet, nutritious meal, rich in minerals and protein.

Righteously Raw Cacao Bars are $5.79 a 2.3 ounce bar and come in four other exotic flavors: Açai, Lucuma Caramel, Maca Chocolate, and Maqui Rose. But I’m so infatuated with the Goji Bar that I choose it every time.

The 12 Days of {gluten-free} Chocolate: Day 1 | Day 2 | Day 3 | Day 4 | Day 5 | Day 6 | Day 7 | Day 8 | Day 9 | Day 10 | Day 11 | Day 12