Experiment with a New Gluten-Free ‘Grain’: Mardi Gras Millet

mardi.gras.millet

Looking for an alternative to rice? It must be grain-free, you say? I’ve got just the thing for you. Millet has a neutral flavor, and the texture can be either chewy or soft, depending how you like it. It is not actually a grain, but a grain-like seed that becomes fluffy when cooked. Millet is a popular ingredient in Asian and African cuisine.

Millet is an alkaline food, which means it helps your body’s pH lean toward the alkaline side – which we want. Cancer thrives in an acidic environment, but it cannot survive in an alkaline one. Millet is one of the few grain-like foods that are alkaline.

When we start talking about pH, however, many people become confused. The reason is that there are some very healthy foods that also happen to lean towards the acidic end of the scale – for example, fruits and some vegetables. Does that mean we should never eat those foods? No, to avoid them would be to miss out on wonderful nutrients. The key is to create alkalinity whenever possible, and to create balance when you are eating a more acidic food.

Here’s an example. In this recipe, which is a beautiful blend of Creole flavors, we have a few ingredients that are on the acidic side: green olives and bell peppers. But it wouldn’t have that Creole pizazz if we took them out – and more importantly, we’d be missing out on their nutrients. HOWEVER…it is a very fortunate fact that many Creole dishes include celery, because celery is an alkaline food. And in this dish, we have lots of it. We also have a healthy portion of garlic and herbs in this dish, which are alkaline heavyweights.

There are many free charts online that show you whether foods are alkaline or acidic so that you can start balancing on your own. You will find that while some items vary slightly from list to list, in general the lists agree. You will also notice that meat and cheese are acidic. So is sugar. And, I’m sorry to say – so is coffee.

Here is a chart to get you started. As always, if you have any nutrition questions, just drop us a line here at Pink Kitchen.

Now that we’ve got all the science out of the way, let’s get to the fun! This colorful dish is bursting with flavor. Baby heirloom tomatoes add to this recipe’s Southern influence since they often include some greenish tomatoes (see photo). But if you don’t have those in your area, just substitute cherry tomatoes.

Feel free to crank up the heat (or lower it) as much as you like. But please be careful about adding salt – the olives are already salted, so you don’t want to overwhelm the dish. Wait until everything is cooked, then taste to see whether salt is needed at all.

Mardi Gras Millet
(Serves 4)

1 c. mini heirloom tomatoes (substitute cherry tomatoes if not available)
1 large red pepper
3 stalks celery + 1 small bunch of celery leaves
1 c. green olives with pimentos
1 leek
5 cloves garlic
1 15 oz. can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
2 c. pureéd tomatoes
1 c. vegetable broth
1 tsp. creole seasoning (more or less to taste)
¼ tsp. ground red pepper (more or less to taste)
¼ tsp. allspice
1 tsp. onion powder
¼ tsp. cumin
1 c. millet
3 c. water
olive oil for topping

Chop celery, pepper, and leeks. Reserve 1 small bunch of celery leaves.
Slice mini tomatoes in half and set aside.
In a large skillet, place olives, tomato sauce, vegetable broth, celery, pepper, and leeks. Mince garlic into the skillet. Add beans and all seasonings.
Cover the skillet with a tight-fitting lid. Simmer over low heat for 1 hour and 15 minutes, adding tomatoes during the last 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, in another pot, boil the water. Add the millet and cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 20 minutes, or until water is absorbed. Turn off heat and keep covered until skillet portion is ready.

Place approximately ½ c. millet onto each plate. Top with the skillet mixture. Drizzle with olive oil.

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Green Onion & Dijon Tart with Pecan Crust

green onion dijon tart
When we think of a vegetable to feature as the star of a meal, we do not usually think of an onion first and foremost. But why not? They are one of our greatest natural health remedies. Onions help to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Green onions in particular are loaded with Vitamin A. Recent research indicates that vitamin A is able to change cancer cells and to prevent normal cells from becoming cancer. Amazing! In addition, green onions contain a good portion of Vitamin C, iron, and even calcium.

This tart is easy to make; it’s just a matter of rounding up the ingredients, all of which would be a smart addition to your regular healthy shopping list anyway. Once you’ve done that, you can create a beautiful breakfast or lunch that is loaded with protein: pecans in the crust, and chia seeds and cashew butter in the filling of the tart. (Cashew butter is a fantastic ingredient for many recipes because it is neutral in taste, making it a blank canvas).

I used pecan meal for the crust to give this tart a nice blend of sweet and savory elements. (You’ll notice in the photo that pecan meal is darker than almond flour, because when pecan meal is made, the brown part of the pecan is not removed). Nut flours are delicious, gluten-free, and full of protein. Yet it can be tricky to bake with nut flours without using an egg. This recipe is vegetarian rather than vegan due to the use of an egg to hold the pecan flour crust together. I did try this recipe without the egg, but it was crumbly. If anyone finds an egg replacer to successfully hold together the pecan meal crust, I would love to hear from you.

I get my pecan meal and my other nut flours from nuts.com. I try to order a few different kinds once a month or so, and I keep them all in my fridge so I can experiment whenever I want. You can also make your own pecan meal using a Vitamix or similar blender. But be careful! If you pulverize them for too long, you end up with pecan butter (which is also delicious, by the way!)

Green Onion & Dijon Tart with Pecan Crust
(Serves 6 as a meal/8 as a snack)
For the crust:
2 1/2 c. pecan meal (also called pecan flour)*
(*substitute almond flour if you don’t have pecan meal)
1/2 c. palm shortening, melted
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
2 tbsp. agave nectar
1 egg, slightly beaten**
(**see notes above if you want to try making this vegan)

For the tart:
2 tbsp. cashew butter (room temperature)
3 tbsp. dijon-style mustard
9 tbsp. thick coconut milk, or liquid coconut cream***
(***note: Don’t worry, this will not give the tart a weird coconut taste)
4 tbsp. water
1 tbsp. chia seeds
2 tbsp. nutritional yeast
8-10 green onions, with the very bottoms of bulbs removed
2 tbsp. palm shortening, melted
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine all crust ingredients. Press evenly into a tart pan.

Combine water and chia seeds. Set aside for about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, cut green onion stalks in half. Set aside.
Combine cashew butter, mustard, coconut cream, water/chia seeds, and nutritional yeast.
Carefully spread over the bottom of the crust.
Toss green onions in the oil to coat.
Lay green onions across the tart filling in rows. Alternate the dark green and lighter green stalks.
Sprinkle the tart with salt and pepper.
Bake for 35 minutes. Let cool for at least 15 minutes before slicing.

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2 Spring Appetizers: Endive w/ Rose-Scented Blackberries, and Roasted Vegetable ‘Crostini’ with Lavender-Scented Goat Cheese

Are you dreaming of Spring? So many of our Pink Kitchen friends have been pounded with rough weather this winter. But now we’ve turned the clocks back. Before we know it, that mild weather will be upon us.

Recently I came up with two easy Spring appetizers for Big Blend Radio’s Happy Hour program – Endive with Rose-Scented Blackberries and Roasted Vegetable ‘Crostini’ with Lavender-Scented Goat Cheese. Each recipe has a floral ingredient in honor of Spring, making them perfect for your Easter, Passover, or Spring gatherings. Both recipes are gluten-free and vegetarian, as well as vegan-adaptable simply by substituting non-dairy cheese. Click on the photos below to get the full recipes.

Endive with Rose-Scented Blackberries
rose.feta.endive

Roasted Vegetable ‘Crostini’ with Lavender-Scented Goat Cheese
carrot.crostini

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Veggie Burgers with Orange & Leek Salsa

orange.leek

This week, I tried the Sprouted Quinoa and Chia Burger from Sol Cuisine. These veggie burgers are gluten-free and soy-free – a combination that is hard to find in a pre-made veggie burger. Another great thing about this Sprouted Quinoa and Chia Burger is that it holds together well, even with toppings.

Speaking of toppings – are you tired of putting ketchup and mustard on your burger? Me too. This week I had some beautiful Florida oranges and some fresh leeks. And I thought, Why not put them together? If you are new putting sweet and savory together, you are in for a pleasant surprise with this flavor combination. The tomatoes bridge the sweet and savory elements together, and the overall effect is fresh and vibrant.

Remember – any vegetable that grows in the ground will naturally contain more dirt and must be washed thoroughly. In the case of leeks, you can’t brush them like you would scrub a potato. Instead, you need to soak them in water, then rinse. (See below for easy instructions.)

For some reason, in American recipes we tend to discard the dark green leaves of the leek. This is really a shame, because that beautiful dark green color tells us that leeks contain Vitamin A. Leeks are also full of Vitamin C and iron. So pile on the salsa! And let the flavors inspire you to start dreaming of sunny weather.

Orange & Leek Salsa
(Makes enough for at least 4 burgers)

2 oranges
1 red tomato
1 whole leek, bulb and leaves
1 packet of NuStevia
1 jalapeño
2 tsp. fresh ginger
2 tbsp. lime juice
salt and red pepper to taste

Soak the leek in a bowl of cold water to remove grit.
Meanwhile, dice tomato, oranges, and jalapeño.*
(*For a spicier salsa, leave the seeds in the pepper. For a milder salsa, remove the seeds before dicing.)
Drain the leeks. Dice the leeks, then soak them once more in a bowl of cold water to remove any remaining grit.
Toss all ingredients together in a bowl. Place in fridge for 30 minutes. This gives the flavors time to develop.

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For Your Gluten-Free or Dairy-Free Valentine: Chocolate-Caramel Pretzel Truffles

pretzel.truffle3

Salty & Sweet – whoever first put the two of them together was a pure genius.

Even more genius was the inventor of Glutino pretzels. They are one of the few gluten-free snack foods that actually leave me wanting more.

Glutino pretzels also dairy-free! (Note: Although they are dairy-free, Glutino does make other products with milk in them).

Of course, you don’t *have to* use gluten-free pretzels to make these truffles. But if your sweetheart is gluten-intolerant, it’s a relief to know you can still make them a decadent treat. And, these truffles will be popular with both kids and adults.

I always refrigerate my can of coconut milk for at least an hour before using it to make truffles. That way, the thickest part of the coconut milk will be at the top of the can once you open it. That’s the part of the milk that works best when making any type of dairy-free truffles.

Gluten-Free Chocolate-Caramel Pretzel Truffles
(Makes 14-16 truffles)

2 tbsp.canned coconut milk*
(*do not use “light” coconut milk)
1 c. gluten-free dark chocolate chips**
(**notes: if you have no problem with gluten, use whichever kind you like. If you avoid dairy altogether, use vegan chocolate chips)
1/4 c. Earth Balance Coconut Spread
1/4 tsp. natural caramel or butterscotch flavoring
For the coating:
1 c. Glutino pretzels, or your favorite pretzels
optional: dash of coarse Pink Himalayan salt or coarse sea salt (Glutino pretzels are not very salty)

Heat chocolate chips, coconut milk, and coconut spread over very low heat, stirring constantly until chips are melted. Remove from heat and stir in flavoring.

Transfer to a baking dish lined with wax paper. Refrigerate until mixture starts to firm up, yet is still pliable. (Depending on your fridge settings, this takes about 1 1/2-2 hours).

Meanwhile, put pretzels into a food processor and pulse slowly, so that there are still some pretzel chunks left.

Put pretzel crumb mixture into a shallow bowl. Add the dash of coarse salt.

Once chocolate mixture is pliable, scoop out enough chocolate with a spoon so you can make a 1″ ball. Quickly roll the chocolate in your palms to form a ball. Repeat with remaining chocolate.

Roll each chocolate ball into the pretzel crumb mixture until the ball is coated.

Repeat with remaining chocolate balls.

Refrigerate truffles.

Take out of fridge just before serving.

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A Quick and Healthy Superbowl Appetizer: Balsamic Sweet Cherry Peppers w/ Cashew Cream Cheese

cherry.peppers.2
Here’s a last minute appetizer for your Super Bowl spread. It’s vegan, easy, gluten-free, and amazing.

I first had peppers like these while visiting a friend in Portland, and I’ve been craving them ever since. Using my imagination, I created my own version. You’ll notice that one of the ingredients is nutritional yeast, which can be found in health food stores. This ingredient is optional, but it definitely adds a ‘cheesy’ flavor. Also, nutritional yeast gives us a nice dose of vitamin B-12.

If you decide to skip the nutritional yeast, the recipe will still be yummy. But the consistency of the cream cheese will be thinner.

One way to save even more time with this recipe is to look for cherry peppers that already have the tops and the seeds removed.

Balsamic Sweet Cherry Peppers with Cashew Cream Cheese
(Makes approximately 16 appetizers)

1 16 oz. jar sweet cherry peppers
1 c. raw cashews
2 tbsp. nutritional yeast flakes* (*optional, but recommended)
1/2 tsp. onion powder
boiling water – enough to cover cashews
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1/4 c. water
salt and pepper to taste

Topping:
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1-2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

Pour boiled water over cashews. Set aside for a few minutes to soak.
Meanwhile, slice the tops off of the cherry peppers and scoop out the seeds. Discard the seeds.
Drain cashews.
Place cashews, nutritional yeast flakes, onion powder, lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, water, salt, and pepper in a food processor or Vitamix. Blend until smooth.

Use a pastry bag or a small spoon to fill each pepper with the cashew cream cheese mixture.
Sprinkle each pepper with oregano, and drizzle with balsamic vinegar.

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Winter Blues? Get a Boost of Selenium ~ Slow-Roasted Garlic & Mushroom Soup

mushroom.soup
Recently I began to order a bi-weekly organic produce box, with many of the fruits and veggies from local farmers. I think it’s really important to support local farmers, especially when they are growing organically. Organic foods are free of dangerous pesticides and man-made chemicals. This is critical to good health. Why bother trying so hard to eat vegetables if you are going to purchase ones that are laden with toxic chemicals? That defeats the whole purpose of eating healthy.

The fun part of getting the produce box is that there are always new foods to try. This forces me out of my routine and encourages me to be creative. In this week’s box, there was a type of mushroom with which I was unfamiliar – Beech mushrooms. They are small and skinny, and they grow together in a cluster, like this: beech.mushrooms
(Thank you, Wikipedia for sharing this photo.)

If you don’t happen to have any Beech mushrooms, no problem. Just substitute the type you have available locally. All mushrooms are a fantastic source of selenium, which we need to regulate our stress levels and our immune system, as well as several B vitamins, which we need for energy and mood stabilization. And what better way to get all these nutrients during the chilly winter season than with a velvety-rich bowl of soup?

Slow-Roasted Garlic & Mushroom Soup
(Makes four 1-cup servings)

1 lb. Beech mushrooms (or other mushroom of your choice)
1 large yellow or white onion
1 head of garlic
1 medium Russet potato
¼ c. refined coconut oil or other healthy oil
2 cups unsweetened almond milk
1 c. water
¼ c. fresh sage
¼ tsp. dried thyme
¼ tsp. celery seed
salt and pepper to taste

Slice peeled onion into thirds.
Slice the tips off of the unpeeled head of garlic.
Chop the unpeeled potato into large chunks.
Toss onion, garlic, and potato with oil. Transfer to a baking sheet, reserving any leftover oil.
Slow roast at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes.
Coat mushrooms with remaining oil.
Add mushrooms to the baking sheet. Continue roasting all vegetables for another 15 minutes.
Reserve 1/3 of the mushrooms.
Let roasted veggies cool for 5 minutes.
Carefully remove skins from garlic – they should fall off easily. Alternately, you can just squeeze the garlic right out of the skins and into a blender. Place all other ingredients into the blender with the garlic. Blend until puréed.
Place all ingredients into a pot. Simmer until heated through.

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In Honor of Dad: Vegan Goes Polish-Style

Polish.Stew
Today I’m thinking about my Dad a lot, because he’s in the hospital. He seems to be coming along just fine, thank goodness. That man puts a smile on everyone’s face who ever met him.

On my father’s side of the family, I am mainly Polish and Lithuanian. One of the foods I crave most from my meat-eating days is kielbasa, which is Polish sausage. I think it’s the garlic and spices in the sausage that give kielbasa its irresistible flavor. I have tried numerous times to duplicate this flavor in the form of seitan sausage – with no luck so far, unfortunately.

Field Roast makes 3 very delicious flavors of vegan sausages: Italian, Mexican Chipotle, and Apple Sage. I wish Field Roast would make a vegan kielbasa – it would probably be outstanding! Unitil then, to satisfy my kielbasa craving I decided to use the Apple Sage Sausage in this recipe. It worked very well with the flavors in this stew. Just a heads-up – If you are gluten-free, this sausage is not for you. Just substitute your favorite protein. The main thing is to use Polish spices.

The beauty of this recipe is that you can cook it all in the same pot. If you’d rather cook it over a longer period of time, you can even throw it in a crockpot. Just be sure to sauté the cabbage first.

Just a fun fact about caraway seeds before I go – they have been used at least as long ago as the Stone Age. It appears that they were used to ward off evil spirits, as well as being used to create love potions. Nutrition-wise, caraway encourages healthy digestion – including the relief of gas. So in that sense, maybe it’s saved some romantic relationships after all.

Vegan Polish Stew
1 package of Field Roast Apple Sage Sausage
1 small head of green cabbage
1/4 c. olive oil
4 c. largely diced potatoes (approx. 3 medium potatoes – any type but purple)
4 c. largely diced orange sweet potatoes (approx. 2 large sweet potatoes)
1 largely diced medium onion
6 big garlic cloves, sliced
1/2 c. unsweetened apple sauce
2 c. vegetable broth
2 c. beer, OR substitute 2 more c. broth
1 tbsp. Hungarian paprika
1 tsp. caraway seeds
1/4 tsp. dill weed
1 tsp. onion powder
salt and pepper to taste

Chop cabbage. Roughly chop onion.
Sauté cabbage and onions with the oil in a large skillet or pot until wilted.
Add remaining ingredients and cover. Simmer over low heat until all vegetables are tender, approximately 1 hour (or 4-5 hours in crockpot), depending on the size of your veggies.

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Chocolate Chip & Peppermint Scones

choc.chip.scones

If you have been a regular reader of this blog, you know that I caution against eating sugar, as it creates a variety of health issues over time. However, I tend to soften up a bit over the holidays because there are treats everywhere we turn. So…I would much rather you eat a healthier treat than a treat loaded with white sugar, white flour, and who knows what else. To be truthful, the same is true in my own home. I have a kid. I can’t tell her “Bah! Humbug! No treats!” Well, I suppose I could…but the truth is, the kid inside of ME wants a treat now and again too. So when we bake holiday treats, we are careful with our ingredients. Whenever possible, I use stevia, a natural sweetener which has no calories and NO effect on blood sugar whatsoever. However, stevia can be a challenge to bake with. You only need a tiny amount of stevia to every cup of white sugar, so the volumes are not the same.

A great place to start is with scones. Scones don’t need to be sweetened in the same manner that cookies or cakes do, so they are very forgiving. (Granted, the recipe below also calls for chocolate chips and candy cane sprinkles…but if you’d like some less-loaded scone recipes, check out our cookbook, Pink Kitchen SCONES. You’ll find tons of great recipes using stevia!)

MERRY CHRISTMAS!!!

Chocolate Chip & Peppermint Scones

2 c. barley flour (*Gluten-free friends can substitute flour of their choice; this changes consistency slightly)

2 tsp. baking powder

4 packets NuStevia

¼ c. coconut oil, softened

1 c. coconut milk (or your favorite milk)

1 tsp. natural peppermint flavor

1 c. chocolate chips (organic if possible)

3 natural candy canes, crushed, or candy cane sprinkles

Mix dry ingredients well.
Mix in oil.
Add liquid ingredients and chocolate chips.
Place on a round sheet pan which has either been lightly oiled or has a sheet of parchment paper on it.
Shape into a flat round circle, about 2 inches high.
Sprinkle candy cane pieces on top.
Bake at 350 degrees F until firm to the touch (check after 30 minutes – may take up to 60 minutes depending on your oven, and the kind of milk you use). When cool, cut into either 6 or 8 pieces.

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Gingerbread Beets Add Bright Color to Your Christmas or Kwanzaa Table

ging.beets
Beets are not necessarily the go-to vegetable for the holidays. But the other day, I found a beautiful bunch. So I thought, why not? The vibrant color would be a great addition to the holiday feast.

Beets contain lots of potassium, which is especially important when feasting on high sodium holiday foods. Potassium helps to balance out sodium. Beets are also a good source of iron. Iron helps to produce hemoglobin, which is the main protein in red blood cells. Why should you care about that? Well, without enough iron, your body does not receive enough oxygen, and it can’t function properly. So I guess you could say that beets are a gift for your body.

It’s just that beets have such a bad wrap – especially with kids, and with adults who are not veggie-savvy. With that in mind, I created these babies. The beets are transformed into something magical with a simple combination of fresh ginger, orange zest, molasses, and coconut oil. And of course, calling them something reminiscent of a cookie always helps.

Gingerbread Beets
3 c. beets, peeled and sliced*
(* if you are pressed for time, use frozen beets)
zest of 1 orange
2 tsp. fresh grated ginger
2 tbsp. molasses
2 tbsp. coconut oil

Steam the beets. Once they are tender, stir in the remaining ingredients. Done!

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