Marinara Sauce for Mondays (or Any Night of the Week)

Here is a reprise of my weeknight mealtime go-to. I’m Italian-American and no matter what diet fads come and go, I’m never giving up pasta. Mine is gluten-free, of course, and drowned in Marinara. (This is my favorite brand.) It is such a fast, easy recipe, there is no need to purchase that sorry excuse for pasta sauce from the market ever again!!!

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This sauce can be made in about 15 minutes, start to finish, which is probably quicker than it’ll take your pasta water to boil. When I’m feeling tired, lazy, or like I need some comfort, I make this recipe. Pasta, salad, vegan meatballs from Minimalist Baker (or your favorite store bought version), and dinner is on the table.

It’s also great to dip pieces of gluten-free bread sticks, or vegan meatballs into at a party. I served gluten-free focaccia from Sarah Bakes Gluten Free and vegan meatballs from Minimalist Baker with a bowl of Marinara at this year’s Super Bowl Party, and all of our meat/dairy/gluten-eating friends couldn’t get enough!!!

Easy Marinara Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4-6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1/2 cup of water, approximately
  • 1 28 oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1-2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2-4 tablespoons unsweetened non-dairy milk, such as almond (optional)
  • 2-4 tablespoons fresh parsley or basil, chopped (optional)

In a thick-bottomed pot on medium heat, heat the olive oil, add garlic and cook for 30-60 seconds until it turns golden, stirring and watching it carefully to prevent burning.

Add water and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan to loosen any garlic that might be sticking.

Add tomatoes and the salt through milk, and bring to a simmer, stirring gently to combine. Simmer for 10-15 minutes and remove from heat.

Adjust seasonings. Add fresh herbs if desired.

Notes and Options:

This lasts for about a week to ten days in the fridge.

It can also be frozen and thawed for a later time.

Feel free to add dried fennel, basil, thyme, or other dried herbs you prefer.

The One Italian Cookie You Need to Bake (Recipe)

I wish I could remember exactly when I began baking biscotti, but it was definitely when my kids were very small. Even though I grew up in an Italian-American family, I knew no one who actually baked their own. My Grandma Corriero bought hers at the supermarket and those were the only ones I’d ever tried. (They definitely tasted store-bought.) But one of my Moosewood Cookbooks had a recipe for them, so I made them on a whim once and have loved biscotti ever since.

My two favorite aspects of biscotti are: you pretty much can’t ruin them and they are so easy!!! I am an impatient, lazy cook and baker, so I go with easy recipes whenever I get the chance.

Here is my biscotti recipe, adapted from Moosewood.

Biscotti

1/4 cup vegan butter, softened

3/4 cup sugar

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

2 teaspoon freshly grated orange (or lemon) peel

1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts, almonds, or pecans

2 1/4 cups gluten free flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat the oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper.

In a mixing bowl, cream together the vegan butter and the sugar, add the eggs, vanilla, almond extract, and grated orange peel. Fold in the nuts.

In a small bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the dry ingredients to wet and and mix until blended and dough holds together when pressed with floured hands. This dough is meant to be on the stiff side.

Scoop the dough onto a lined baking sheet and shape into a log, about 12 x 3 inches. Press down and flatten until it’s about 14 x 4 inches.

Bake for about 25 minutes, or until dough is firm and just starting to brown. Remove from oven, allow to cool for 10 minutes, and then transfer log to cutting board. When cool enough to handle, slice crosswise into 3/4 inch pieces. Lay each piece cut side up on the baking sheet, bake for 10 minutes, flip, and bake for another 10 minutes. Cool on a rack.

The biscotti will last in an airtight container for a couple of weeks or in the freezer for a few months.

You can add fruit or chocolate chips instead of nuts. You can also add 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon or nutmeg.

Flourless Chocolate Cake, Gluten Free, Dairy Free (Recipe)

Last year, right before our birthday (Alan and I share the same day), I began looking for a cake recipe that I would actually like. I’m not much of a cake person–I like not-too-sweet chocolatey, creamy or fruity desserts and pies–as long as they are free of gluten and dairy. I started thinking about flourless chocolate cake and came across several that looked tempting. I decided on one from The Spruce Eats and gave it a try.

It was so easy to make and IT WAS DELICIOUS!!! I made it again at the end of September when some friends came for dinner and again at Thanksgiving. Then I forgot about it until last week when I suddenly wanted dessert and couldn’t think of anything to make, until, suddenly, the vision of flourless chocolate cake danced in my head! It was just as delightful as I remembered, so I am sharing it with you. (Recipe slightly adapted from The Spruce Eats)

Flourless Chocolate Cake

1 cup or 6 oz dark or bittersweet chocolate bars broken into chunks or chips

2/3 cup sugar

1/2 cup sunflower or other mild-flavored oil

1 Tablespoon brewed coffee or just use water

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

4 large eggs

1/2 cup of cacao or cocoa powder

About an hour before, set eggs on counter so they’ll come to room temperature.

Preheat oven to 350 F and oil either an 8-inch springform pan and line with parchment paper or a 8 or 9 regular cake or tart pan (if you’re feeling lazy).

Carefully melt chocolate in the microwave or stove top on super low heat, stirring often to prevent burning/scorching. (Yep, I’ve done it!)

Transfer melted chocolate to mixing bowl, add sugar and blend with mixing paddle. Add in the oil, coffee or water, cinnamon, salt, and vanilla.

Add eggs one at a time, stirring after each addition.

Add in the cocoa powder and mix well.

Pour batter into pan, even out with a spatula, and bake for 30-35 minutes or until the top has a thin, shiny crust and toothpick comes out mostly clean.

Place pan on wire rack to cool. When cool, if using a springform pan, unlatch the side and invert the cake onto a plate. If using a regular cake pan, just serve and enjoy!

It’s really good with Coconut Whipped Cream and/or raspberry sauce!

I forgot to take a picture before I dug into it–it’s that good!

Turmeric, Two Ways (Recipes)

Some of my readers may remember my post from last year, when I wrote about living with Recurrent Corneal Erosion Syndrome (RCES) and how juicing is one of the main ways I keep that beast under control.

The importance of juicing is primarily about lowering inflammation in my body, but I don’t rely on juicing alone to do this job. Enough sleep, exercise, proper overall nutrition, and managing stress levels are also factors. In the past six months, I’ve been regularly drinking green tea and taking Turmeric to assist with inflammation reduction. I actually buy Turmeric by the pound both to use in cooking and to fill veggie capsules myself–it’s much more economical this way.

I love simple ways to incorporate Turmeric into my diet, so today I am sharing two quick and easy recipes: one is a Thai Yam-Carrot Soup recipe and one is Turmeric Hot Cocoa recipe. I’m guessing by now, you’ve heard about Turmeric’s amazing benefits, but in case you haven’t, here’s a link to get you started.

Thai Yam-Carrot Soup

Serves 8, Dairy Free, Gluten Free, Vegan

2-3 Tablespoons olive oil

2 large onions or combination of onions, shallots, leeks (basically whatever you have on hand)

2 inches fresh ginger, peeled and grated, about 2 teaspoons

1 Tablespoon of curry powder

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

4 cups broth or water ( I used Not Chick’n bouillon cubes)

1 large or 2 medium-sized yams, peeled and cut into half inch pieces

2 lbs carrots, peeled and sliced

1 can coconut milk

Juice of 1/2-1 lime, depending on taste

1/4-1/2 cup chopped cilantro, optional

Heat oil in pan, add onions and cook for 5 minutes on medium heat, stirring often to prevent sticking/burning.

Add ginger, salt, and curry powder and stir to coat onions. Add water or broth, yams and carrots, bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook until yams and carrots are soft. Turn off heat. Add can of coconut milk.

Blend with an immersion blender or regular blender. (Make sure you take the center out of the blender lid and cover with a towel if you blend while the soup is hot!!! Otherwise the top will burst off and hot soup will fly everywhere. I learned this the hard way).

Recipe adapted from www.comfybelly.com

Turmeric Hot Cocoa

Serves 1, dairy free, gluten free, vegan 

Ingredients

  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 teaspoon coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon cacao powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric 
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/3 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey
  • A pinch of black pepper

Instructions

  1. Add all ingredients to blender. Blend well. 
  2. In a small saucepan, bring to a simmer, whisking often, remove from heat, taste, and adjust sweetness if desired.adapted from https://www.natalieshealth.com/cacao-turmeric-maca-hot-chocolate/

If you make either of these recipes, I’d love to know how it turned out! Or if you have favorite anti-inflammatory foods you recommend, feel free to share in comments.

My Favorite Ginger-Molasses Cookie Recipe (Gluten Free, Dairy Free)

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Last month I started craving ginger-molasses cookies and couldn’t stop thinking about them. And when that happens, there’s no stopping me. I have no problem with follow through–I am going to bake those cookies. After looking at lots of recipes online, I came up with my own version.

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When Alan saw them, he said they looked perfect, but the biggest compliment followed his first bite when he said they tasted just like “the real thing”. For all of the gluten free and dairy free bakers out there, you know that is the ultimate goal: to make it as good as the real thing.

So, here is the recipe:

Ginger-Molasses Cookies

Ingredients:

2 cups Gluten Free Flour Blend of choice (with xanthan gum in the mix)

1/2 cup almond flour

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon cloves

2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger

1/2 cup Organic Cane Sugar 

6 tablespoons grapeseed, sunflower, or other vegetable oil, or Palm and Coconut Shortening

1 large egg

3 tablespoons sugar for rolling

 

Directions: 

  1. Preheat oven to 350 Fahrenheit and line two baking sheets with Silpats or parchment paper.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together flours, baking soda, salt and spices and set aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, mix together sugar, oil, molasses, and egg. (Save the 3 Tablespoons of sugar for rolling.)
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir until combined.
  5. Dough should be firm enough to form into balls, roll in sugar, flatten slightly with palm of hand, and place on baking sheets. If not, you can refrigerate dough for an hour or two.
  6. Bake for 10 minutes.
  7. Allow to cool completely before moving. (They will be very soft when they come out of the oven and will fall apart if you try to move them!)
  8. Store in an airtight container for up to a week or freeze for up to two months.

What is your favorite cookie recipe for fall? Please share in the comments!

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The Quest for Health and Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

 

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I’m getting ready to celebrate five years of gluten-free living this January 1st. That’s something I wish I wasn’t celebrating because it’s a pain in the neck to live this way, except that I’m much healthier because of it.

My tale of digestion woes stretches back to early childhood when I developed a strong aversion to cheese. My mother thought I was just being picky, but it wasn’t only the smell of cheese I wanted to avoid, it was the way it made me feel: sick to my stomach.

Eventually, Mom just made me pasta and marinara sauce while the rest of the family had lasagna or manicotti. She left the parmigiana off my chicken on Christmas Eve and I picked most of it off my pizza.

As I got older, we figured out that butter caused my stomach to be upset too. On popcorn, in baked goods, etc. Then in my mid-teens, milk and ice cream started in. I was in denial. I hadn’t heard the term lactose intolerant at that time and the first doctor I went to asked if I could be pregnant and then mis-diagnosed me with IBS. What a joke! But after I switched to soy milk and found Lactaid at the grocery store, my symptoms eased a bit. I thought I’d be able to have the occasional ice cream treat, but I was wrong. I had to keep upping the dose of Lactaid and sometimes it still wouldn’t work. So I adopted a dairy free life for the most part. Every once in a while, I’d still cheat and have a bit of ice cream or a baked good with butter or cream and then I would pay for days afterward: nausea, gas, bloating, diarrhea. It was lovely. At twenty-seven I finally told myself dairy and I were not meant to be and enough was enough.

Dairy was the first component. The second was gluten. Since I was a kid, I noticed I’d get heartburn after I consumed baked goods and sometimes nausea as well. But what I never wanted to associate with my diet were my headaches. Often they were migraines, but not always, I had headaches between 2-5 times per week with some becoming so debilitating I would lie on the sofa with the curtains drawn just waiting for the day to end so my pain might lessen. When my kids were little, it was difficult to keep their noisiness to a minimum so I could rest. This was my life and I wished it were different.

Since I read all the time, I tried to find information about headaches and what might lessen their frequency and intensity. After much research and deliberation, I decided to give up gluten at the beginning of 2013. That was such a hard decision! I LOVE bread. But I knew I at least needed to try to improve my quality of life. People thought I was crazy or just on some fad diet, but I assured them this wasn’t about weight loss or wanting to eat on trend.

The first few weeks were like any other new diet plan–super hard! I didn’t know how to substitute anything, so right away I began searching the web for gluten free blogs, magazines, cookbooks, etc. I tried prepared flour blends and made my own. I tried several brands of pasta and bread. And I baked and cooked and baked some more. So many recipes were flops, but some were great.

One of my favorite blogs then and now is Sarah Bakes Gluten Free. If you need a birthday cake, some cupcakes, a batch of cookies, pudding, popsicles, etc., Sarah has you covered. She has her own flour blend that is easy to mix up, but her recipes will work with other gluten free flour blends as well. It’s a solid bunch of recipes you can rely on and I highly recommend her.

I’ve also made recipes from the Gluten Free Goddess blog. There’s a chocolate gingerbread recipe that’s to die for, as well as a peanut butter chocolate chip ice cream recipe that has a coconut milk base. Yum!

One very American recipe that up till now I haven’t been able to find is a great gluten free chocolate chip cookie. Until this week! I purchased two of Danielle Walker’s Against All Grain cookbooks. She has a Real Deal Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe made with almond and coconut flours. I made them Sunday just to see what all the fuss was about. Oh my goodness. Deliciousness! No heartburn, no sugar crashes, no overpowering brown rice flour or sorghum flour aftertaste. Just a really good, actually healthy cookie that I am thrilled about. Here is the link to her Real Deal Chocolate Chip Cookies recipe. (The only thing I’ll do differently next time is use half the salt.) They’re still amazing though, just the way they are.

 

I’d love to hear about your own health journey!

 

Pie Happy

“Mother took the pie out of the oven and it hissed fragrant apple, maple, cinnamon steam through the knife cuts in the top crust. She was making her world beautiful. She was making her world delicious. It could be done, and if anyone could do it, she could.”
J.J. Brown, Death and the Dream

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The day before Thanksgiving, I baked a grain-free pecan pie from Gluten Free and More Magazine and I told you I would share photos if it came out right. Well, I’m happy to report that it came out beautifully and it tasted scrumptious even four days after Thanksgiving when I finally got around to trying it.

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The crust came together easily, with few ingredients and pressed into the pie plate without crumbling. It cracked, but was moist and it was easy to repair and crimp the edges.

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The filling just mixed up in a bowl and then was poured into the crust and baked.

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I am going to use this pie crust recipe for all sweet pies from now on. Apple is next on my list, and raspberry after that.

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“America has developed a pie tradition unequivocally and unapologetically at the sweet end of the scale, and at no time is this better demonstrated than at Thanksgiving.”
Janet Clarkson, Pie: A Global History

 

What did you bake this Thanksgiving?