Affairs of Living

Gluten-free, allergy-friendly, whole foods recipes

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Unless otherwise noted, all recipes on this blog are free of gluten, peanuts, soy, corn, tomatoes, potatoes, shellfish, cane sugar, oranges, and yeast. Most recipes are also free of egg, dairy, and tree nuts (if used, reliable substitutions will be provided for these when possible). Check out my recipe index for a full list of recipes by category. 

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Entries from July 1, 2010 - July 31, 2010


Lacto-Fermented Vinegar-Free Cucumber Pickles (gluten-free, vegan, raw, ACD)

'Tis the season to preserve, friends, so I'm posting another recipe for pickled vegetables.  You can't escape the natural cycles of the growing season.  So, I'm offering this one up for Summerfest 2010, a community blog event celebrating summer ingredients.  This week's theme is cucumbers and zucchini, so it was perfect timing for my pickles.

I have to say that these are the best dill pickles I have ever tasted. Granted, I'm partial, but seriously, these are crunchy, not too salty, and full of garlic, dill, and spices. And best yet, there isn't a drop of vinegar to be found - they are naturally pickled and fermented in a salt brine, and are full of beneficial bacteria. 

Lacto-fermentation is a process of preserving foods that relies on lactic acid, a naturally occurring preservative that is produced by lactobacilli. Lactobacilli are live bacteria that exist on the surface of every living thing. At the most basic level, you create a brine of water and salt, which preserves the food long enough for the lactobacilli to catch up and produce lactic acid, which then preserves the food for the long-term. In addition to being preserved, the food is live, meaning that the healthy bacteria are still thriving in the finished food product and are available to your body. Live beneficial probiotic bacteria - like those found in these pickles - help strengthen immune system function, aid in detoxification, and regulate digestion. When you learn to control the production of lactic acid, you are able to protect against putrefying bacteria and safely preserve all kinds of foods, from meats, to vegetables, to fruits, to beverages. Unlike vinegar-cured and canned pickles which are shelf-stable, most lacto-fermented foods require refrigeration or cold storage.

I make a lot of fermented food and find it to be very beneficial to my overall health, especially because I take so many antibiotics for Lyme Disease treatment.  I've been playing around with cucumber pickles since last summer, but just hadn't hit the right combination of factors until now. I think I finally nailed it, and have concluded that it comes down to a few decisive factors...

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Lacto-Fermented Pickled Chard Stems (gluten-free, vegan, raw, ACD, vinegar-free)

I've been curious about vinegar-free pickled chard stems for quite some time.  I saw a recipe while perusing books down at the Seed Savers Exchange in Decorah, Iowa, and thought it sounded like the most brilliant idea. I think the recipes was in the book Preserving Foods without Canning or Freezing, a wonderful collection of wisdom from the gardens and farmers of Terre Vivant in France. This book has been on my wishlist for ages (hint, hint), but I just haven't gotten around to purchasing it.  

Despite my lack of a recipe for these phantom chard stem pickles, I couldn't shake the idea, and knew I'd have to try it out someday. I generally incorporate chard stems into whatever dish I'm making with our trusty leafy friend. Waste not, want not, right?  Then the other day I made an experimental batch of collard, kale, mustard and chard greens sauerkraut with homegrown produce from my garden, and ended up with a ton of leftover chard stems. Finally, fodder for pickles!

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How to Make Ghee 

I've been meaning to write this post for almost 2 years. Why so long? Writing the how-to with step-by-step photos is significantly more time consuming and complicated than making ghee!  The pieces just never really came together. Finally, I remembered to grab a camera while making my most recent batch, so I set to work.

Now, without further adieu, here is the skinny on ghee and a complete set of instructions on how to make it from scratch, with photos to help you along the way.  Enjoy!


What is Ghee?

Also known as butter oil (or in my house, liquid gold), ghee is pure butter fat that has been separated from the milk proteins through heating.  To clarify (ba-dum-ching!), clarified butter and ghee are not the same, despite popular opinion. Ghee is clarified butter that has been cooked longer to remove all the moisture, and the milk solids are browned (caramelized) in the fat and then strained out. This gives a rich nutty taste and fragrance, with hints of caramel, and a smooth, rich, velvety texture.  It can be used 1:1 for butter, shortening, or oil in any recipe, and has a high smoking point, making it perfect for high heat sauteing or roasting. Ghee has a long shelf life, both refrigerated and at room temperature. In cold temperatures, it will become solid, and it will remain liquid at warmer temperatures.

Because dairy proteins and lactose have been removed, many dairy intolerant and allergic people are able to tolerate ghee.  It is traditionally used in Indian cuisine and Ayurvedic medicine, and is treasured as a digestive stimulant. It can also be used topically for massage or dry skin.  

If you want to purchase pre-made ghee, Pure Indian Foods and Purity Farms are both excellent.  However, these will put a dent in your wallet - a 14 oz jar will cost you between $10 - $15.  If you want to save some major dollar, you can make the same amount of homemade ghee for the cost of a pound of good butter and a little time, and save yourself half the cost.  Okay, let's get cooking!

 good butter is the perfect place to start

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Tahini Raisin Bran Muffins and Simple Sesame Milk (gluten-free, vegan, low sugar)

I have had this crazy craving for baked goods lately. If I were to post all the cookies, breads, and other sweet treats I've made lately, I'd have to call this a baking blog, seriously. Combined with my crazy craving for and indulgence in fruit, my liberal use of sweeteners like honey and maple syrup and palm sugar that I know I shouldn't be eating, my wild desire for chocolate, my urges to binge eat (and the inevitable followthrough), and my recently recurring joint pain, burning feet, headaches, and a crazy bought of wicked congestion, I am feeling a little concerned. I can't deny it anymore. Once again, I'm having a Candida flare up again or my Lyme is acting up, and  I think I am overindulging in some of the foods that I had been previously avoiding due to allergies or intolerances.

Damn it!  It is hard to keep clean of Candida when taking so many gosh darn antibiotics for Lyme treatment, and it is so easy to go overboard with those foods you reintroduce after years...  Argh.

In addition to being frustrated about those symptoms, I feel fat. I know I'm not, and I know I look healthier now than I have in years.  But my lifelong struggle with weight and body image is playing massive tricks on me. I want to feel more comfortable and confident in my skin again. 

So, I am posting this muffin recipe as sort of a bon voyage to baked goods for a while.  I told myself that once I ate half the batch, I had to put the other half in the freezer, and that I have done.  And now, I need to go on a break from sugar, fruit, and most grains again.  I know these things throw off my blood sugar, increase my cravings, and slow my metabolism. I need to focus on protein and vegetables; I feel best eating that way, and I need to get back on track.  This is going to be hard, but I know I have the willpower, somewhere...I am hoping I didn't forget it in the pocket of those smaller jeans I had to divorce last year....

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Tips for Kicking Caffeine

café crème, somewhere in France, 2007

All through high school, college, much of my career in advertising, leisurely brunches with friends, lazy Sundays, and adventurous travels, coffee was always my friend and close companion.  There were so many reasons I loved coffee.  I loved the flavor, treasured the ritual, adored the coffeehouse culture, and of course, appreciated the jolt of caffeine.  There was nothing like a hot cafe Americano with a splash of half and half on a cool fall morning, a full pot of French press on a lazy Saturday, an icy glass of cold press on a hot summer day, or a cup of dark roast after dinner.  If was staying away from home, and didn't have access to my own French press or espresso machine, I was scouring the sidewalks to find cup of the good stuff almost immediately after waking.  When I stayed with a friend down in my old college town, I would walk to the gas station before anywhere else was open to get my first cup of the day. Travels to France had me drinking café crème like each day was my last, and in Italy I frequently stopped in at cafes to stand at the counter with chattering locals and drink an espresso.  When I worked in Maui, I probably drank my body weight's worth of Hawaiian coffee beans. After being introduced to it by friends, I all but ritualistically worshipped Turkish brewed coffee, rather like sticky sweet dark gold.  And don't even get me started on how much coffee I drank on my first trip to Seattle, just before my health really went down the tubes.  

Can you tell I loved coffee?  

I've always struggled with moderation, and coffee was no exception. Looking back, I can see that I was totally  addicted to caffeine. Caffeine is a powerful drug - especially for those with pesky addictive personality traits (guilty, as charged).  To top it off, I had a constant supply of free coffee at work, so I didn't even break the bank fueling my habit. At my most addicted, I was up to around 6 or 7 cups a day, sometimes more. I just kept drinking....and drinking....and drinking....

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