Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Gluten-Free Crêpes Recipe

This comes from The How Can It Be Gluten-Free Cookbook and it's only slightly modified from their version. It's suitable for both savory and sweet crêpes. This is so incredibly good that not a soul will know it's gluten free unless you tell them. I have served these stuffed with sautéed garlic, thyme, parsley and mushrooms topped with parmesan cheese for a savory lunch. For breakfast and sweet treats, my favorite thing to do is stuff them with chocolate chia seed pudding and top with either whipped cream or coconut cream (as seen pictured above). Whether savory or sweet, you won't be disappointed. 

Although I'm sharing this recipe, I recommend you purchase the cookbook (I receive absolutely nothing for this recommendation). Like many, I don't buy cookbooks in general because there isn't much you can't find online. This one however, is the exception. It exceeds all expectations. 

Makes 10 crêpes

1-1/4 cups ATK flour blend
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon of sugar (omit if making savory)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 almond milk, dairy or dairy alternative (I used light Vanilla almond milk for both savory and sweet crêpes and it was fine)
2 eggs
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or coconut oil, melted and slightly cooled (coconut will curdle a bit but it's fine)

Heat a nonstick skillet over low heat for 10 minutes. While the pan heats, whisk dry ingredients together. In a separate bowl, whisk milk and eggs together. Pour half the liquid into the dry ingredients and whisk. Add the melted butter and stir in the remaining milk mixture until batter is smooth and void of lumps.

Lightly swipe a paper towel with coconut oil or another oil of choice in the warmed nonstick skillet. Increase the heat to medium or hotter and allow the pan to continue to heat for one more minute. Pour 1/4 cup batter into the skillet, it should sizzle as you quickly and swiftly pickup and swirl and rotate the pan in a circular motion to even spread the batter out into a thin 8-10in diameter. Cook until the edges are slightly brown and then gingerly flip the crêpe. I prefer using my fingers instead of a utensil but a thin spatula is fine. Cook 20-30 seconds on each side. When finished, place crêpe on a wired rack to cool before filling.

This does take a bit of practice. If the pan is too cool, it will turn out rubbery and if  it's was too hot, you risk burning. Make sure to reheat the skillet for at least 20 seconds prior to each new crêpe. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Southern Oregon's Best Kept Secret: Bridgeview Wine

Best Winery award definitely goes to Bridgeview in Southern Oregon. It's a family owned winery that planted its first grapes in 1982 with a vision of creating high-quality wines at an affordable price. Having lived in Southern Oregon for nearly three years, I was quite established in the rounds of wineries. A few of my favorites included Troon, RoxyAnn, Red Lily, Del Rio and South Stage. All lovely places to enjoy a glass of vino. In fact, South Stage Cellars was a prelude to dinner at the famous Jacksonville Inn where my now husband asked me to marry him.

My girlfriends and I discovered Bridgeview on accident when we took a wrong turn after enjoying wines at both Red Lily and Troon. It turned out to be a diamond in the rough. My favorite, much to my surprise as a leggy red lover was their Semi-Sparkling Riesling. So much so, it's the only wine I've mail-ordered since returning to Seattle. However, it's my most recent interaction with Bridgeview that's motivated me to write this article and encourage you to order a bottle for yourself (or two), and "Like" them on Facebook

Bridgeview's Semi-Sparkling Riesling is in a class of its own. As it was explained to me by Bridgeview why I can't find this particular bottle is marketability. Because it isn't bubbly like a champagne or as sweet as Rieslings, it's hard for a seller to determine its placement on store shelves or on wine lists; and because of its uniqueness, how does one describe how it tastes. Simply put, sellers are lazy! Such a shame too because this might possibly be the one wine that's universal enough to be enjoyed by all regardless of their vino preference. I have yet to find a person who hasn't like this wine of not LOVED it. It's a tantalizingly bottle of deliciousness that pairs perfectly with a hot summer day. 

Okay now, yes, the wine is awesome but so are many labels. What drove me to put pen to paper today is Bridgeview's top-notch customer service; which is exemplary! 

On a Recent shipment that arrived in less than perfect condition due most likely to hot temperatures and/or rough handliling during transit, many of the bottles had burped. As explained to me, if enough pressure builds inside the bottle, wine will seep out around twist-top wine caps.

Bridgeview handled the situation immediately. They were very pleasantand appropriately  apologetic. I was told to keep what was delivered and that a new shipment would be on its way shortly. 

We drank two bottles that evening and although some of its crispness had dissipated, it was still pretty darn good. And just like all good surgeons, they too followed up with me the very next morning. They wanted to ensure my carpet was okay and hadn't been damaged from the wine that had soaked through the box onto the carpet. The carpet is just fine. Thankfully it wasn't a semi-sparkling red but now that I think about it, that sounds absolutely delicious! Bridgeview, if you're reading this, please consider a Sparkling Red. You would nail it. 

In my book, Bridgeview gets an A+. I hope for your next social gathering you'll order a case or more of their Semi-Sparkling Rieslings. It's said that people won't remember what you wear but they always remember what you served. So serve this! And best of all, Bridgeview kept true to its original mission to provide quality wines at an affordable price so for less than 10 dollars a bottle, you get a fabulous bottle of vino. Can't beat that! Plus, shipping only fractionally increases the price point so don't let that scare you. 

Thank you Bridgeview Winery! 

Here's the picture story

*Did you find a spelling or grammatical error? If you did, please notify me via email. Thanks!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Coconut Flour Banana Pancakes: Paleo Friendly

Wow, these are really good. I've made similar banana pancakes but they are always so runny and hard to flip. Plus, they don't rise like a pancake should and are always gummy in the middle. Yuck! These have a more traditional pancake texture and are Paleo and vegetarian friendly; but good for all.*

(Serves 2-4)

2 Ripe Bananas (not black), mashed
4 Whole Eggs
1 tsp Vanilla
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/3 cup Coconut Flour

Mash bananas and cinnamon on a plate, set aside. Beat eggs until frothy and then add banana mixture while continuously beat with a hand mixer. Add the remaining ingredients one at a time in the order listed; continue to beat until all ingredients are incorporated and airy. The more air the more light and fluffy the pancake.

Heat griddle to medium-low-medium (300-340 degrees) and grease with coconut oil or oil/butter of choice. Pour a 1/4 cup batter on the hot griddle and cook for 4 minutes or until the bottom is brown but not burned. The edges will be firm. Swiftly flip pancake and cook for another 4 minutes or until done. Slower cooking will yield a better pancake.

I find starting out on a medium heated griddle/skillet to "crisp" the edges but turning down the heat almost instantaneously once cooking begins works best. Keep in mind, these are not traditional pancakes so bubbles will not form. These are fragile until cooked through, which happens only after once flipped. If your pancake is much larger than the spatula, it will be more difficult to flip so keep the size on the smaller side.

Serve with butter, maple syrup or sprinkle with powder sugar. Mine above is pictures with a light drizzle of both maple syrup and peanut butter. Yum!

*Not a self created recipe; but my words and instructions. I found this on a random Facebook post without attribution. Whoever created this is ingenious! 

Bon appétit!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Best Ever Tasting Gluten-Free Flour Recipe

In full disclosure, this is NOT my recipe. In fact, it's probably the only recipe I have ever used that I didn't change a thing. Being new to a gluten-free lifestyle, not by choice, I haven't forgotten how delicious gluten foods are and how inferior gluten free food is. However, as a person dedicated to serving healthy foods to my family, including occasional indulgences, my new lifestyle needs to be on par with traditional dishes if I don't want to spend hours in the kitchen.

Thankfully, there are many gluten free products available now that weren't just a few years ago. Unfortunately for my sister Genessa, who had to go gluten free about 15 years ago, everything she did was through trial and error. At that time, few even knew what gluten was. Thankfully, gluten free foods are nearly mainstream in the United States. In fact, there are many gluten free flour blends so easily accessible that I doubt this article will be hugely popular; but it should be! This seriously is an outstanding gluten free flour that mimics regular flour so well in taste and texture, it's worth the time (about 5 minutes) and the mess. Its creation by America's Test Kitchen, I believe is truly superior to anything available on the market. Let me just reemphasize, I am the only gluten intolerant person in my house, but since discovering this recipe, this is ONLY flour now used; and I have very sensitive eaters.

Lastly, I implore you to order your own copy of The How Can It Be Gluten-Free Cookbook. I know, nobody buys cookbooks anymore, including me! But I'm telling you, this is much more than your run-of-the-mill cookbook. In addition to all the crowd pleasing recipes (I haven't found a dud yet), it explains in layman's terms the science behind these foods and why what works in one recipe won't necessarily generate the same results in another. Plus, what you learn is easily transferable. What you learn goes well beyond the recipes in the book. You will know which tweaks are needed to get just the right color, rise, taste and texture in your mom's recipe as she did with regular flour.

One final note, unless otherwise noted, this will be the flour used in any recipe shared on Snazzy Apple. However, as always, I try to keep in mind other's sensitivities and/or dietary choices when I publish recipes, so each recipe should be easily modified to fit most preferences.

The America's Test Kitchen Gluten-Free Flour Blend Recipe
Makes 42oz (about 9-1/2 cups)

24oz (4-1/2 cups plus 1/3 cups) white rice flour*
7-1/2oz (1-2/3 cups) brown rice flour*
7oz (1-1/3 cups) potato starch* (not potato flour)
3oz (3/4 cup) tapioca starch* (tapioca flour is fine)
3/4oz (3 tablespoons nonfat milk)**

Whisk all ingredients together until blended in a large, air-tight container. May be stored in the refrigerator for up to three months.

*I used all Bob's Red Mill products except for the dairy. Bob's Red Mill was strongly recommended as the "choice" flours for this blend for reasons you can read further about in their book.

**It was strongly recommended that if not for dietary reasons, not to exclude. It was discovered that without powdered milk, baked goods wouldn't brown as nicely and were less rich, especially in recipes without a lot of fat. If dairy must be omitted, powdered soy milk was suggested in its place to mitigate some of those effects if left without powdered milk substitute all together.

Additional Information
American's Test Kitchen noted that although many gluten-free flour blends include Xanthan Gum, they chose to exclude it because the tiniest amount of it could make or break a recipe. By omitting it to the blend, they felt each recipe could be better served by adding xanthan gum in the quantity best suited for the particular recipe. The cookbook goes into greater detail about when and how to use xanthan gum that's both beneficial and interesting.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Chocolate Chia Seed Pudding

Chia Seed have a deeply rooted and fascinating history. These tiny little seeds pack quite the punch in terms of nutrition. They may be itty-bitty but are powerfully rich with omega-3, antioxidants, calcium, iron, zinc, fiber and protein. Just a tablespoon a day would make a noticeable difference in person's overall well-being. It's most definitely worth the time to find ways to incorporate into your diet. Our family enjoys this Chocolate chia seed pudding recipe adapted from Allrecipes.

Serve alone or with a dollop of real whipped or coconut cream on top. YUM. It also serves well with a side of fresh fruit, especially strawberries.

Serves 4-8

Chia Seed Pudding

4 tablespoons Cocoa Powder (if omitting chocolate chips, make these heaping tablespoons)
4 tablespoons Brown Sugar (a granulated sugar alternatives can be used)
1/2 cup Chia Seed
2 cups light Vanilla Almond Milk (dairy milk or another milk alternative is fine. Vanilla flavor is best)
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract (2 if not using vanilla infused milk)
1/4 - 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips


Excluding chocolate chips, combine dry ingredients into a bowl large enough for 2-1/2 cups of liquid and mix well with wire whisk.  Heat milk until it's warmer than room temperature but NOT boiling. I use a glass measuring cup in the microwave for about two minutes. If heating on a stove, be sure to stir constantly so the milk doesn't burn. Once warm, add the vanilla and stir it into the cocoa mixture; whisk until incorporated. Cover the bowl and leave mixture on the counter for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so to ensure mixture is well incorporated. I prefer a glass Pyrex bowl with a sealed lid so I can shake instead of stir. It works very well!

After 30 minutes, transfer the pudding into the refrigerator for a minimum of two hours. When ready to eat, taste first to determine how much more sweetness is desired. For some, it will be fine as is but its yumminess is greatly increased by the following. Place desired amount of chocolate chips into a glass bowl with a tsp or two of milk of choice; heat 20 or so seconds until milk is warm and chips are soft. Stir chips until smooth and immediately fold into the pudding with a fork. *Taste again; if more sweetness is desired lightly stir in honey, maple syrup or another liquid sweetener until desired sweetness is achieved.  I haven't tried this yet but pureed dates would be a healthier alternative if it works.

By adding the chocolate chips, two things are accomplished. First, it adds to the chocolate complexity of the dessert by enhancing its decadence. Second, for some (aka my husband), the chia seeds are off putting. Unlike tapioca, chia seeds will never be completely soft and will maintain slightly chewy in texture. When you add the melted chocolate into the chilled pudding, the chocolate curdles for a lack of a better word, so some chocolate chunks are left fooling the mind into thinking all those chewy bits are chocolate. For our family, I added chocolate chips the first two times I made this and have omitted it ever since. The family just assumes the chia seeds are chocolate now. Just be sure to increase cocoa and maybe the brown sugar a tiny bit so it's sweet enough.

Bon Appétit

Monday, April 14, 2014

Is butter healthy

For decades it was believed butter and coconut oil where bad for heart health; but thankfully, recent studies will hopefully change the hard nosed stance the American Heart Association* (AHA) continues to take. Until then, I for one am thrilled to see studies being conducted and confirming what many in the health industry have suspected. Besides, both butter and coconut oil tastes far better than does trans-fat margarines and vegetable oil, which is often soybeans; and we know that's not good! 

Still not convinced?  Here's four reasons why you should ditch butter alternatives; and to learn more about coconut oil, here's a great article.

1.  Vitamin K is crucial for overall body health and Grass-fed butter is a rich source of it.

2.  Practically every bodily function needs Vitamin A to work correctly. It's also an excellent antioxidant, which is known to help fight cancer and diseases. 

3.  Grass-fed butter is also rich in Vitamin E, another cancer fighting antioxidant. It's crucial for eyes, heart and brain health.

4.  Although in trace amounts, butter contains important B vitamins such as folate, B12, pantothenic acid, thiamin, riboflavin and niacin. Vitamin B helps the body metabolize food into energy.  

Now, not all butter and coconut oil are equal. It's best to purchase grass-fed butter and virgin coconut oil because grass-fed butter is produced by cows consuming phytonutrient vegetation, and therefore, butter from grass-fed cows are more nutrient superior than conventional butter; and virgin coconut oil is high in lauric acid, meaning its saturated fat is considered a medium-chain fatty acid and unlike other saturated fats, studies in both animal and human suggest intake is neutral, if not beneficial on cholesterol levels. For further reading, Mark's Daily Apple has a well researched article on the differences between grass-fed and grain-fed butter. 

*It is important to mention that AHA recommends saturated fat intake should not exceed 7 percent of total daily calories. I have found when butter or coconut oil are used, less is required compared to liquid fats, and therefore, it's easier to reduce total daily intake. Furthermore, while these studies continue, common sense is crucial for overall health. We need a diet rich in a variety of fruit and vegetables, so it makes sense we need more than one type of oil in our diet, especially since each healthy oil has its own special nutrient makeup. There are a variety of healthy oils to enjoy such as walnut, avocados and olive to name just a few. 

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Home Remedies for Toothaches

I had a cavity filled a couple days before Christmas and it turned out to be much deeper than the dentist had anticipated.  They warned me it might be painful and to come back if it got too bad. It did get quite painful, more painful than I imagined given I have had a root canal before.  Root canals are much more invasive than cavity fillings but for some reason I still do not understand, this filling was particularly painful.

I hurt Christmas Eve day but at this point, the pain was completely doable. Besides, I like to think of myself as a toughie. However, by evening I was miserable!  I washed a couple Advil down with a single neat Bourbon and slept relatively well given my condition; but I awoke Christmas Day in far more pain than I ever thought possible. The gums around the tooth that had been filled were swollen, black and bloody; and my jaw hurt so bad I could feel it in my brain.

Because it was Christmas Day, I couldn't bring myself to call the office which would inevitably drag my dentist away from his family. Instead, I reached out on social media. A friend on Facebook suggested rubbing clove on my gums. I was so very miserable that after only a very brief online consultation was I in my spice drawer desperately searching for cloves. Believe it or not, it worked like magic!  I wouldn't normally act so hasty, but I knew cloves are a widely consumed spice and would pose no danger. As it turns out, cloves have been used as an oral pain reliever long before today's current conventional dental care methods.

Why Cloves Work
Cloves contain eugenol, which is a powerful anesthetic and antiseptic that stops pain while fighting germs. Eugenol is a chemical compound and is widely used as an anesthetic; and it is supported by the U.S. National Library of Medicine. There are three forms of cloves and all are useful and beneficial for alleviating tooth pain. However, research suggests a clover oil compress may be the most effective application.*

The following are directions in how to apply cloves as an oral pain reliever in whichever form of cloves are in your pantry.  I used ground cloves and it worked magically well!

Ground Clove for Toothache   
  1. Rinse mouth with warm salt water (swish and spit).
  2. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water.
  3. Dab finger under water and dip into ground cloves.
  4. Apply it between the gum and cheek.
  5. Rewash hands and repeat step 4 except this time apply to the inside gum if it hurts there as well.
It may sting briefly but the powder mixed with your saliva should help alleviate most of the pain almost immediately.

Clove Oil for Toothache
  1. Rinse mouth with warm salt water.
  2. Pour a 1/2 tsp of clover oil into a small container or glass.
  3. Drop a few drops of clove essential oil (use straight clove oil if that's all you have) and mix.
  4. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water.
  5. Dunk a cotton swab or Q-tip into the mixture and gently press and hold where it hurts. 
Whole Cloves for Toothache
  1. Rinse mouth with warm salt water.
  2. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and warm water.
  3. Place 2-3 cloves between your gum and cheek where it hurts and wait for your saliva so soften the cloves. 
  4. Once soft, break cloves down to release its oils by chewing. 
*Remember, these methods are beneficial for helping to alleviate tooth pain but not for treating the cause of the pain. See your dentist if pain persists. Good oral hygiene is crucial for good health. Brush and floss teeth daily and see the Dentist every six months or as recommended by your care provider. 

Friday, February 14, 2014

Sweet and Sour Chicken (Gluten-Free and Healthy)

Serves 6 to 8

American-Chinese foods are usually loaded with calories and sky-high in fat, sodium and cholesterol; and rarely are gluten-free. Thankfully, here's one of my favorite Chinese Restaurant indulgences in a much healthier, make-at-home version. You may use store bought sweet-n-sour sauce but be mindful of its label and ingredient list. Store bought anything will have extra sugar and sodium as it's used as a preservative for longer shel-life; and a whole lot of other not-so-good for you stuff.  For those who are gluten-free, most condiments are loaded with gluten, so be watchful for that too.

Ingredients (Sauce)
1 tbsp gf cornstarch 
1/3c low-sodium chicken broth
1/3c red wine vinegar
2 tbsp frozen pineapple juice
2 tbsp chopped pimiento
1 tbsp tamari sauce
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp ginger
1 tbsp honey, agave or maple syrup

Ingredients (Chicken)
1 large onion, thinly sliced
2 green bell peppers, seeded and cut into strips
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 to 21/2 lb cooked boneless, skinless chicken breasts

  1. Boil broth and cornstarch in small saucepan over medium-high heat.
  2. Whisk mixture until it thickens.  
  3. Add remaining ingredients for Sauce and cook 2 minutes. 
  4. Melt a dab of coconut or olive oil (spray is fine if you prefer) into a large skillet over medium heat and sauté onions, green peppers and garlic until tender, about 5 minutes. 
  5. Add chicken, sweet & sour sauce, and continue cooking 3 to 4 minutes or until chicken is fully cooked. 
  6. Spoon over rice and choice of vegetables.  

Health Benefits
This meal is loaded with flavor and packed with muscle building protein.  Lean proteins like chicken are key for muscle development and optimal hair, nail and skin health.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Easy Plank Exercises

According to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), planking is one of the best abdominal exercises a person can do. It is an exercise that is effective for anyone wanting to improve core strength and balance.  It will tighten both stomach and back muscles as well as strengthen arms, shoulders, hips and pelvic floor.  By strengthening your core you are not only on your way to a flatter and sleeker tummy, but it helps prevent injuries. This is because a strong core allows a person to catch and balance oneself following a stumble instead of falling and getting hurt. Perhaps best of all, you can do this in the ease of your home because no equipment is necessary. Plus, for sit-up haters, there are no crunches. All you need is YOU and a couple minutes of your day. 

Basic Plank

  1. Place your forearms on the floor, elbows under your shoulders and extend your legs behind you while balancing on your toes as pictured above.
  2. Keep your back flat and maintain a straight line from head to toe.
  3. Tilt your pelvis slightly downward and simultaneously contract your abdominals (hold in not suck in).  This is to help prevent your rear end from popping up or sagging in the midsection.  Remember, your goal is to keep a straight line from top to bottom. 
  4. Start holding for 10 to 60 seconds and repeat up to five sets (so hold for x amount of seconds, rest, repeat, rest and do it again up to a total of five times).
  5. Your ultimate goal is hold for as long as you can without losing form.
  6. What you can do one day might not be what you can do on another day. Hold for as long as your body tells you to hold, which is typically longer than you think. So, when you think you've reached your max, try holding just 3 to 5 seconds longer. You will amaze yourself!

Plank With Arm Reach

  1. Position body as you did for basic plank.
  2. Once balanced, slowly raise and extend one arm out in front of you as far as possible.
  3. Hold for 10 to 20 seconds or for as long as you can (same concept as with basic plank).
  4. Rest
  5. Repeat with other arm and when finished, that is one set.
  6. Do 3-5 sets. 

Plank with Leg Raise
  1. Position body as you did for basic plank.
  2. Keeping the core stable as you have learned to do, contract your rear end and raise one leg up as far as you can without hunching or distorting the straight line from head-to-toe you have adapted for planking. 
  3. Hold 10 to 20 seconds or for as long as you can (same concept as with basic plank).  Rest if necessary, then switch legs.
  4. Completion of both sides equals one set.
  5. Do 3-5 sets. 

Plank with Arm and Leg raise

  1. Position body as you did with basic plank or as pictured above with hands flat on the floor directly beneath your shoulder.
  2. When you are balanced, lift both arm and leg slowly extending arm as you simultaneously raise the opposite leg.
  3. Hold 10 to 20 seconds or for as long as you can (same concept as with basic plank).
  4. Rest if necessary, then switch sides.
  5. Completion of both sides equals one set.
  6. Do 3-5 sets.

Beginner Superman Plank

  1. First position body into a basic plank.
  2. When you are ready,  contract your rear and tilt abdominals and then very slowly bend and lift one leg off to the side.
  3. Make sure to keep that head-to-toe line you have become accustom to and hold 10-20 seconds or for as long as you can.
  4. Rest and repeat on opposite side.
  5. Do 3-5 sets.

    Advanced Superman Plank

When you successfully complete Superman Plank, and if you have access to a Bosu, use it to preform Superman as shown in Advanced Superman Plank to increase difficulty.  In fact, adding a Bosu to any plank will increase difficulty in addition to building and strengthening your core fitness.

By now, you are feeling and seeing the fruitage of your hard work. Keep it up and feel free to Google more plank alternatives.


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Parmesan Dumpling Minestrone Stew (Gluten Free)

Oh my word, this just might be the holy Grail of stews.  It is seriously that good!  So good that my husband who isn't a fan of most vegetables, loathes kale and is not gluten intolerant, went back for seconds.  This stew is loaded with nearly all the colors of the rainbow, and therefore, is loaded with more vitamins, minerals and antioxidants than I care to list.  Just know you can't go wrong with a bowlful or two of what is now my favorite soup/stew followed by Tunisian Chickpea and Cauliflower

The dumplings are a nice touch and add a bit more depth for a bulkier meal; but it can easily be enjoyed without.  Another option is to subsitue the dumplings for your favorite noodle.  Just be cautious not to overcook.  In fact, it would be wise to undercook the noodles by a minute or two before adding to the stew so they don't get mushy by serving time.  

Finally, PLEASE don't let the ingredient list scare you.  Most are found in the produce section and the rest you probably have in your pantry, so it doesn't take long to gather the ingredients.  There is a lot of chopping, and although completely doable on your own, it's the perfect opportunity to get the family involved in the kitchen with you.

Dumpling Ingredients 
1 cup GF all purpose flour*
1 scant tsp xantham gum*
1 scant tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup milk, broth or water
2-4 garlic cloves, minced
1-2 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh chives, finely chopped
1/3 cup finely grated Parmesan
1 egg

Soup Ingredients
1/2 cup olive oil
6-8 baby carrots, chopped (leave skins on if organic)
2-3 large celery ribs, thinly sliced
1 red bell pepper, sliced and chopped
1 large red onion, chopped
15 garlic cloves, minced
Large handful fresh green beans, chopped
8-10 fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 zucchini, chopped (leave skins only if organic)
1 large bunch kale, vain removed and finely chopped (organic is always best)
1/2 cup Zinfandel or Cabernet Sauvignon (wine with a bite)
28oz can chopped tomatoes
2 small cans tomato paste
1 can garbanzo beans, drained/rinsed
2 cans cannelini beans, drained/rinsed (white kidney beans)
3-4 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
3-4 tablespoons fresh chives, finely chopped
1 tablespoon sea salt, more/less to taste
2 tablespoons black pepper, more/less to taste
10 cups water
1-3 tablespoons Sarachia sauce (Optional)
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (Optional)
Garlic salt (Optional)

Dumpling Directions
  1. Whisk flour, xantham, baking soda, salt and pepper together in a medium size bowl.
  2.  Create a small hole in the center of the flour mixture and set aside.  
  3. In a smaller bowl, blend garlic, egg, chives, parsley and parmesan.
  4. Heat butter and mix with liquid (I used milk).
  5. Add butter-liquid mixture to wets and mix until incorporated. 
  6. Pour liquids into the hole of the flour mixture and mix with a spatula or wooden spoon until lumps are gone.
  7. Cover with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator until stew is ready for it. 
*If using regular flour, exclude xantham

Stew Directions
  1. Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large pot (I used a French Oven).
  2. Sauté onions, peppers, carrots and celery for 5 minutes or until onions are translucent.
  3. Add garlic, green beans, zucchini and mushrooms, stir and cook 3 minutes. 
  4. Add kale, stir and cook 1 minute.
  5. Add wine, turn heat to high and cook 2 minutes.
  6. Stir and add water, tomatoes with liquid, tomato paste, beans, chives, parsley, pepper and salt.
  7. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook 20 minutes or until veggies are tender. 
  8. Add additional salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, garlic salt and/or Sarachia sauce to taste (we like a kick to ours).
  9. Drop small spoonfuls of the dumpling batter into simmering stew.
  10. Once all dumplings are dropped into the stew, gently press dumplings beneath stew to cover with broth.
  11. Simmer uncovered 5 minutes, gently turn dumplings over and simmer another 4-5 minutes until dumplings are just solidified in the middle. 

Ladle soup into a bowl and place one or two dumplings in the middle. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and serve hot.

Bon appetite! 

Recipe Note:  This is an adaption (much better I think) of a recipe found on No Face Plate, a fantastic vegan website.  You should check them out when you have a chance. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Liver Detoxifying Foods

Think of your liver as your body's personal filtering system as a Brita is for water. It traps the bad and spits out the good. Its main function is to keep a person healthy by removing harmful substances from the bloodstream while simultaneously assisting in food digestion. It is an incredible organ that receives 25 percent of the blood that the heart pumps with each beat.

How it Works
The liver converts nutrients from foods consumed into essential blood components which are necessary in maintaining hormone balances within the body.  It removes bacteria from the blood to make bile, which is essential for food digestion. The Gallbladder stores bile until this digestive juice is needed by the body to help fats be absorbed into the bloodstream.

It also helps breakdown carbohydrates and turns it into a substance called glucose; glucose is our cells main source of fuel. Glucose is basically a sugar that provides our body with a boost of energy.  Glucose stored in the liver is called glycogen; and when blood glucose (sugar) levels drop, the liver breaks down glycogen into glucose and releases it into the bloodstream providing fuel to body cells.

The liver also helps make cholesterol. And while it is true that too much cholesterol can be bad, the right amount of cholesterol is crucial for bodily functions. Cholesterol made provides a protective outer coating of cells, makes bile acids to help digest foods in the intestine and allows the body to make Vitamin D and hormones.

A couple additional components of the liver is it makes proteins that help with blood clotting. The function is called the liver's "synthetic function".  And finally, when you take medications, the liver breaks down the active ingredients so our body is able to utilize them. 

In a nutshell, the liver functions as a fat-burning organ; storing vitamins and minerals and producing proteins and enzymes crucial for bodily functions. For example, the immune system is vital for protecting the body from dangers that would compromise the health of the body, such as when you get sick because the immune system produces cells to fight off that sickness. It is constantly working to fight off bacterias and viruses that bombard the body, which is susceptible to becoming overloaded.  The liver helps to protect the immune system from being overloaded by filtering out a wide range of microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, viruses and parasites from the blood stream.

How to Care for Your Liver
We only have one liver so it is important to take care of it.  If it becomes overloaded and is no longer able to work as it should by filtering out these invasive toxins, the buildup can play havoc on our bodily functions, especially our immune system.  Having an overworked or undernourished liver is linked with chronic health problems.

Liver problems can be inherited or can occur in response to viruses and chemicals. Some liver problems are temporary and go away on their own while others can lead to serious complications (Mayo clinic). Tobacco, alcohol, coffee and white sugar in excess can have negative consequences for liver function; and exercise, drinking water and the consumption of fruits and vegetables will have positive benefits for healthy liver functions.

Many companies claim their products help cleanse the liver by ridding it from harmful toxins; and their representatives in good faith believe that only by buying and taking their products will a person be able to successfully  "cleanse" or "detox" the body. However, all current studies show everything needed to keep the body functioning and naturally detoxifying itself are readily available and easily attainable in whole foods.

The following are some foods shown to help keep the liver functioning at optimality. Consumption of these fruits and vegetables combined with an active lifestyle, the reduction and/or elimination of nutrient lacking foods such as simple carbohydrates, processed foods and/or fast foods, are necessary to keep the body healthy and functioning in optimal condition.

Garlic is a rich source of allicin and selenium, two natural compounds that promote liver function; and activate enzymes that flush out toxins. Garlic is also shown to help lower cholesterol levels and prevent cardiovascular disease.
Eating or drinking grapefruit juice can help flush the liver of carcinogens and toxins.
Beets and Carrots: 
Beets help cleanse the blood, stimulate liver cells and protect bile ducts. They are high in plant-flavonoids, which can improve overall functions of the liver.
Helps remove heavy metals from the body.
This versatile herb can be added to just about any dish, including salads or smoothies. This herb can help remove heavy metals from the body, something your liver could be struggling with right now. - See more at: http://www.whydontyoutrythis.com/2013/05/how-to-clean-your-liver-with-5-natural-liver-cleansing-tips.html#sthash.EkSW7W2s.dpuf
This versatile herb can be added to just about any dish, including salads or smoothies. This herb can help remove heavy metals from the body, something your liver could be struggling with right now. - See more at: http://www.whydontyoutrythis.com/2013/05/how-to-clean-your-liver-with-5-natural-liver-cleansing-tips.html#sthash.EkSW7W2s.dpuf
Leafy Greens:
Leafy greens like spinach and lettuce serve as a natural antibiotics and have the ability to neutralize metals, chemicals and pesticides that may be in our foods. In addition to acting as a blood cleaner, greens  help in reducing thinning blood and blood pressure.
Green Tea:
Clinical studies have shown men who drink more than 10 cups of green tea per day are less likely to develop liver problems. Green tea also seems to protect the liver from the damaging effects of toxic substances such as alcohol (Maryland Medical Center). It is full of plant antioxidants named catechins, which has been shown to improve liver functions.
Cabbage is 92 percent water and is a natural diuretic. It helps your body get rid of excess fluids. It is also rich in dietary fiber and vitamins C,K, E, A and folic acid. 
A Japanese Study found avocados contain compounds that may protect the liver from damage.
Crucferous Vegetables:
Cruciferous veggies like broccoli and Brussels sprouts  increase the amount of glucosinolate (organic compounds) in the body; and helps create enzyme production for digestion.
Lemons help to naturally cleanse toxic materials out of the body and aid the digestion process.
Not only great when used as a spice to help protect the liver from damage but also helps encourage the regeneration of liver cells. In layman terms, it acts as a natural detox for your liver as it helps the body digest fat and stimulate the production of bile.
Walnuts are rich in glutathione and omega-3 fatty acids, which are both shown to support liver detoxification.
Apples are high in pectin, it hold the chemical constituents necessary for the body to cleanse and release toxins from the digestive tract.  It makes it easier for the liver to handle the toxic load during the cleansing process.
Many experts say consuming plenty of water throughout the day may be our greatest defense for optimal liver health.  Water hydrates the body and helps flush harmful toxins from the kidneys and liver; and is necessary for all healthy bodily functions.

Additional Sources:
Riley Hospital for Children
Harvard Health Perspectives 
Global Healing Center