Celebrate with these Cool Summer Treats Part 2

Lime Coco-Cream Frozen Lime Coco-Cream

Part 2 of a 3 part series

It’s avocado season in California! And lucky for us, Southern California grows about 90% of the nation's avocadoes. Good thing, they complement many meals and provide healthy and filling fats. The creamy texture and cool sensation of a ripe avocado are so delicious on hot summer days.

With avocadoes on the brain (and ripe ones on the counter!), I was intrigued by David Lebovitz's Avocado Coconut Ice Cream recipe. He used creamy avocados as a part of the ice cream base and suggested a dairy-free alternative that I was eager to try.

The final product had a hint of lime flavor, but on this particularly warm day, I was craving a refreshing kick (margarita anyone?). After adding more lime zest and juice, I was pleasantly surprised by the assertive lime flavor in this revised version. If you are a fan of lime, be prepared to pucker with delight upon the first bite!

Frozen Lime Coco-Cream
makes approximately 4 cups

2 very ripe avocados (about 1 pound)
1 (14 ounce) can coconut milk
½ cup coconut cream
½ cup honey
2 tsp lime zest
1 cup lime juice

suggested toppings:
toasted coconut chips
toasted macadamia nuts, roughly chopped

Cut avocadoes in half. Remove pit. Scoop out avocado flesh with a large spoon.

Combine all ingredients in a food processor and puree until smooth. Pour mixture into an ice cream maker. Follow ice cream maker instructions.

Stop machine once ice cream thickens and is able to hold its shape. Move mixture to a freezer safe storage container or serve immediately!

If you are storing the coco-cream in the freezer, allow it to stand at room temp for 5 minutes before serving. The consistency should be smooth and creamy.

Enjoy a scoop with toasted coconut or macadamia nuts, or sandwich between two gluten-free graham crackers for a Key Lime Pie-like treat!

Celebrate Summer with these Cool Treats Part 1

Roasted Peach Ice Cream

Part 1 of a 3 part series

Summer fruit has been amazing lately...peaches, nectarines, cherries, and apricots are some of my favorite picks at the Farmer's Market. Although I'm not crazy about the fuzzy exterior of peaches, I love the flavor and the sweet juice that ends up dribbling down my chin when I take a bite.

In my quest for all things gluten-free and dairy-free, I recently churned up some non-dairy roasted peach ice cream. Then it made me think of pie, so I whipped up a "pie-like" topping for it. Heaven!

Roasted Peach Ice Cream makes almost 3 cups

1 pound peaches, halved (orange and/or white)
1 Tbs olive oil
1 Tbs + 1/4 cup maple syrup, divided
1/8 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp cointreau or grand marnier
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup full-fat coconut milk

Preheat oven to 400.

Toss peaches with olive oil, 1 Tbs maple syrup, and cinnamon. On a parchment or foil lined sheet pan, roast peaches for 20-30 minutes (or until soft). Remove from oven and set aside until cool enough to touch.

Slide skins off peaches. Puree peaches in a food processor. Add cointreau, vanilla extract, 1/4 cup maple syrup, and coconut milk. Blend. Cool peach mixture.

Pour mixture into an ice cream maker. Follow instructions to make ice cream. Move frozen mixture to a freezer safe storage container or enjoy right away!

Although the ice cream is delicious on it's own, this pecan pie like topping really takes it up a notch.

Spiced Pecan Topping makes 2 cups (trust me, you want a big batch)

2 cups raw pecan pieces
2 Tbs maple syrup
1 Tbs olive oil
1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Combine topping ingredients. Stir well. Pour onto a foil or parchment lined sheet pan. Toast in oven about 10 minutes, stirring half way through. Cool.

Use on top of ice cream or eat by the handful!

Cheese & Herb Stuffed Chicken Breast with Rustic Roasted Tomatoes

stuffed chicken breast with rustic roasted tomatoes

Part 3 in a 3 part series

Cheese & Herb Stuffed Chicken Breast with Rustic Roasted Tomatoes serves 2
See dairy-free version below too!

2 large organic chicken breasts, butterflied (see how here)
1 cup shredded cheese (asiago + aged cheddar is nice)
2 Tbs basil chiffonade
2 tsp fresh thyme (or 1/2 tsp dried)
1/2 tsp lemon zest
salt & pepper
2 Tbs olive or grapeseed oil
Roasted tomatoes + oil (about a cup cooked with garlic as described in part 1)

Preheat oven to 350.

Combine cheese, herbs and lemon zest in a small bowl. Open butterflied chicken breasts. Add 1/2 cup filling to each. Do your best to close the chicken completely around the filling. Sprinkle with salt & pepper.

Heat a saute pan over medium-high. Add 2 Tbs oil. When oil shimmers, carefully add chicken. Cook 7-8 minutes on the first side. When they are nicely browned, flip and put in oven. Cook 10-15 minutes in the oven or until cooked through. Let chicken rest 5 minutes.

Plate and top with roasted tomatoes.

And now, the dairy-free alternative...

Tofu & Kale Stuffed Chicken Breast with Roasted Tomatoes serves 2

stuffed chicken breast with rustic roasted tomatoes

Since I can't do cheese right now, I tried substituting this dairy-free filling for the cheese & herb filling above.

Tofu & Kale Stuffed Chicken Breast with Roasted Tomatoes

2 large organic chicken breasts, butterflied (see how here)
1 cup thinly sliced kale
1 cup crumbled firm organic tofu (4-5 ounces)
1/4 cup roasted tomatoes, roughly chopped
1/4 tsp garlic salt
1/4 tsp lemon pepper
salt & pepper
2 Tbs olive or grapeseed oil
Roasted tomatoes + oil (about a cup cooked with garlic as described in part 1)

Preheat oven to 350.

Combine kale through lemon pepper and stuff 1/2 cup into each butterflied chicken breast. Close the chicken breast around the filling. You may want to secure it with a wooden pick.

Heat a saute pan over medium-high. Add 2 Tbs oil. When oil shimmers, carefully add chicken. Cook 7-8 minutes on the first side. When they are nicely browned, flip and put in oven. Cook 10-15 minutes in the oven or until cooked through. Let chicken rest 5 minutes.

Plate and top with roasted tomatoes.

Check out this mouth-watering goodness...
Tofu & Kale Stuffed Chicken Breast with Roasted Tomatoes

Warm Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes & Broccoli

warm pasta with roasted tomatoes & broccoli

Part 2 in a 3 part series

Warm Pasta with Roasted Tomatoes & Broccoli serves 4

8 ounces gluten-free pasta*
2 cups small-ish broccoli florets
Roasted tomatoes + oil (from 2 cups tomatoes cooked with garlic as described above)
2 Tbs basil chiffonade (roll basil crosswise like a cigar and thinly slice)

optional toppings:
1/4 cup finely shredded parmesan OR
2 Tbs pine nuts, dry toasted in a pan
1/4 cup cooked, crumbled bacon or Nom Nom Paleo's genius Porkitos

Cook pasta according to package directions. Start tasting the pasta 2 minutes before you think it's ready. This is very important! Carefully drop the broccoli into the boiling pasta water 1 minute before it's done. Drain and rinse pasta + broccoli. Squeeze roasted garlic from their papery skins. Toss roasted tomatoes + garlic with pasta + broccoli. Gently stir in basil and add optional toppings, or not! (NOTE: If not, you may want to add a little salt.)

  • Ingredient Note: not all gluten-free pastas are created equal. I have had the best luck with blends, such as corn/quinoa. I also tried a new one from Whole Foods made entirely of lentils that was surprisingly good.

Roasted Tomatoes, the new Caramelized Onion

roasted tomatoes with garlic

Part 1 in a 3 part series

As you know, I've been obsessed with tomatoes lately. I make fresh tomato + cucumber salad (with a red wine vinaigrette) all-the-time. So simple, yet perfect. That's how these roasted tomatoes are too! If you are thinking, "ugh, you want me to roast perfectly good tomatoes?" Please try this amazing technique...it does something magical to the tomatoes that allows you to make several easy, delicious dishes. Pretty please.

I've used large grape tomatoes and a variety called strawberry tomatoes that are similarly shaped and delightfully sweet. If the tomatoes are large (like the ones shown), cutting them in half is the way to go.

Simple Roasted Tomatoes: Toss tomatoes with a generous amount of olive oil (at least 1/4 cup per 2 cups tomatoes), salt, pepper, and herbs or garlic or both. If you choose garlic, toss in a half dozen cloves or so and leave the papery wrappers on, so the cloves don't burn. Then you'll have buttery roasted garlic too! If you choose herbs, several sprigs of thyme are nice. Slow roast at 350 for an hour or speed the process along by cranking the oven to 425 and roast for 30 minutes.

Once you've got the technique down, these sweet and flavorful jewels will dazzle any dish.

In the coming 3 part series, you will learn three (plus) interesting ways to use roasted tomatoes:

Wilted Spinach Salad with Roasted Tomatoes serves 4 as side salad
wilted spinach salad with roasted tomatoes Roasted Tomatoes + oil (from 2 cups tomatoes cooked as described above)
2 Tbs red wine vinegar
4 generous handfuls baby spinach
2 Tbs pine nuts, dry toasted in a pan*

While the tomatoes are still hot (or reheat to make hot), stir in vinegar. Gently toss with spinach and top with pine nuts. Enjoy immediately!

*Don't skip this step...it adds so much flavor! If you can't do pine nuts, consider shredding a dry salty cheese such as manchego over the top instead.

Ok, get ready for a simple, family friendly gluten-free pasta next.

Tomatoes are back!

Tomato Basil Topping

Winter tomatoes are so ho-hum. I don't even buy them anymore. And buying tomatoes grown in Mexico is so annoying. They grow beautifully here in California.

Recently I've been getting bright, beautiful, locally grown tomatoes at the Farmer's Market. Oh how I love good tomatoes. The great thing about flavorful tomatoes is that you really don't have to do much to them. A little salt brings out their sweet, tomato-y flavor and a splash of vinegar adds a little brightness.

Here's a very simple chunky tomato sauce that is great over fish (especially if you need to breathe new life into that frozen catch). Or pour it over a soft cheese for an appetizer. Or toss it with quinoa and cucumbers for a tangy summer salad.

Fresh Tomato Sauce makes 2 cups

2 cups grape or strawberry tomatoes, halved or quartered depending on size
1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbs balsamic vinegar
1-2 Tbs chopped fresh basil or other herbs
salt & pepper to taste

More recipes to come shortly in celebration of good tomatoes!

Strange but Delicious

Green Tomatoes with Caper Vinaigrette

Every year when tomatoes are newly in season, we find ourselves with a handful of green tomatoes from the Farmer's Market. They are pleasantly tender crisp with a gentle tang, almost like they've been splashed with citrus. These green globes taste similar to tomatillos, another underused but delightful nightshade. Although my favorite way to eat green tomatoes is to douse them with olive oil, sprinkle them salt and pepper, and grill them for 2-3 minutes per side, it's nice to have options. We did not fire up the grill last night, so it was time for a new way to eat green tomatoes.

Last year, I found this recipe for Green Tomatoes with Pistachio Relish by Chef James Syhabout of the restaurant Commis in Oakland, California in Food & Wine Magazine. I tore it from the magazine and planned to make it. Unfortunately, I never planned ahead enough to make the relish the day before. I always thought about it during the scramble to get dinner ready. So the recipe sat there collecting dust.

This year I decided to give the recipe a makeover so that it could be made last minute and still taste great.

Green Tomato Salad with Caper Vinaigrette and Pistachios

1-4 Green Tomatoes, sliced thin (or a bunch of small green zebra tomatoes, or a mix)
1-2 Tablespoons pistachio "nut meats" (not the shell), roughly chopped
a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper

Dressing:
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons red or white wine vinegar
1 Tablespoon capers, rinsed well
1 small clove garlic pressed

Combine dressing in a jar. Shake vigorously. Taste...if it's too tangy for you, add a small squeeze of honey.

Arrange tomatoes attractively on a plate. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Drizzle spoonfuls of dressing over the tomatoes. Top with chopped pistachios. Yum!

Farm Fresh

Farmer's Market stash

In my quest for delicious, high quality ingredients, I often find myself perusing Farmer's Markets. This weekend, we branched out and shopped at the UC Irvine Farmer's Market, which claims to be the largest Farmer's Market in Orange County. Unfortunately, we arrived near the noon-time closing, and it was terribly crowded (note to self: go early next time).

One of the things I love about going to Farmer's Markets is that I feel like it forces you (in a gentle, enjoyable way) to focus on healthy foods. Everywhere you look (except for the baked goods), there are colorful, enticing choices that are good for you. Instead of feeling overwhelmed at a grocery store with 40,000+ items, you can feel good about walking around and selecting amazing seasonal produce. Just check out the bounty we brought home.

Now what, you ask? Well, we've already made:

  • Kale Salad with grape tomatoes, persian cucumbers, and roasted garlic vinaigrette...I wrapped the garlic bulb in foil and tossed it in the toaster oven for 30 min...easy!
  • Grilled Broccoli Florets (olive oil, salt & pepper)
  • Grilled Sweet Potato Slices (olive oil, salt & pepper)
  • Lightly Grilled Green Tomato Slices (olive oil, salt & pepper)
  • Fruit for dessert, just the way it is! Well, minus the pits.
  • Massaged Kale Salad with Avocado (kind of like this, but without the honey and sub'ing pepitas for sunflower seeds)

Just slow-roast a salmon fillet or throw some chicken on the grill, and you have a tasty and good-for-you dinner.

Well, it's about that time, so I've got to whip up another delectable dinner.

Gluten-free Travel

Saint-Émilion

Recently, my honey and I celebrated 10 years together. What a wonderful and wild ride it's been! We decided to mark the occasion with a second honeymoon...a big, child-free trip.

After much consideration, we planned a trip to Barcelona, Spain and then a road trip through southern France to Bordeaux. One of the factors in choosing an itinerary was being able to safely eat gluten-free. Although on one hand, it's frustrating to make that a concern, but on the other hand it's a real buzz-kill to be confined to a hotel room when you are sick from being "glutened".

During our planning, I was pleased to learn that Spain has a Celiac Association, Asociación Celíacs de Catalunya, and that restaurants are generally aware and accommodating if you say "soy celíaca". I was a little more concerned about France, where awareness isn't as great (or so I read). However, I planned ahead and brought gluten-free dining cards in Spanish and French to help with the language barriers. This really reduced my anxiety about eating and found that restaurants in both countries were extremely helpful and accommodating.

NOTE: I recommend bringing several copies of the gluten-free dining cards, because sometimes they go to the chef and do not come back.

Here are some of our eating highlights:

Barcelona
Mariscco - fresh, delicious seafood cooked to order. Try the gluten-free version (ask!) of the Arròs caldós d’escamarlans, a fantastic Catalan style lobster rice. The Corsega is the less tourist-y (& better) location says our local source.

euskal Etxea - the pub in front serves a wide variety of tapas on bread, but head to the restaurant in back for delicious gluten-free lunch/dinner items. I loved the Ondarroa´s mackerel ceviche with red chilli pepper.

Arcano - perhaps my favorite meal in Barcelona (although everything we ate and drank was delicious). The quaint atmosphere combined with lovingly created food made this night out one of our best. We had 10:30pm reservations and the party was just getting started!

Southern France
Le Vin'Quatro - located in Bergerac, this 5-6 table restaurant has a small menu that can tweaked to meet your gluten-free needs. The tasty and generous portions as well as the great wine made us feel happy and satisfied. The darling woman in the front of the house plus the delicious, modern French food makes the trip to this small town worth it!

La Tour des Vents - wow, the restaurant is perched on top of a hill overlooking acres of vineyards and French countryside. The wine list is spectacular and they have several multi-course tasting menus. Work up an appetite for foie gras, because they will dazzle your taste buds with this delicacy. The staff was extremely accommodating with my gluten-free request and reworked several courses to meet my needs. Thank you La Tour, for a meal I will never forget!

Bordeaux
Le Boutique Hotel - not just a chic hotel, but also a great place for wine tasting and tapas! One night we were running low on energy and were thrilled to learn that the hotel's bar offered a guided five wine tasting with cheese and charcuterie. We arrived around 6pm, and we had the sommelier's undivided attention. He was very generous with his time and knowledge, and he guided us through tasting wines from five different regions in France.

Le Pavillon des Boulevard - save up to dine at this little gem outside the city center. Their extensive wine list (plus helpful guidance from staff) and multi-course tasting menu dazzled us from beginning to end. The staff was gracious and accommodating while communicating in English and French. They understood my gluten-free request and altered several dishes to make them work for me. From fresh seafood starters to dainty, delicious desserts, they made our 10 year anniversary nearly as memorable as our wedding. Thanks!

Since being diagnosed with Celiac, I have felt a little anxiety each time I eat out. I have to trust someone else to be careful so that I don't get sick. This can feel like an additional burden, especially when traveling and trying to communicate in another language. However, by planning ahead (for instance, communicating needs through conceirge or hotel staff through reservations) and using the gluten-free dining cards, I felt thrilled and (mostly) relaxed while eating our way through Spain and France. Bon Appétit!

Practical Indeed

Lemon & Artichoke Chicken

I recently came home from the library with Diane Sanfilippo's Practical Paleo. It is filled with Paleo resources as well as approachable and delicious recipes. I made the Lemon & Artichoke Chicken for a dinner guest the other night, and it was a big hit!

The recipes have short ingredient lists and easy to follow directions. The book is suitable for cooks at all levels. I took a few extra steps to develop flavors by 1) searing the chicken first to brown and crisp the skin, 2) deglazing the pan with white wine after cooking the shallots, and 3) substituting marinated artichoke hearts for the frozen/canned artichoke hearts. It was fantastic.

Bunny Fruit Salad

Bunny Fruit Salad

Instead of stocking up on candy at this time of year, I like to create fun "food art" for the little ones. I visited my son's preschool class this morning and led them through a bunny fruit salad activity. Cute, tasty, and good for them.

Here's what you need:

  • canned pear halves, packed in juice
  • raisins
  • banana or plantain chips
  • raspberries or cherries, cut in half
  • fresh mozzarella cheese balls (bocconcini) or mashed dates rolled in coconut for a dairy-free alternative (see below)
  • lettuce leaf & carrot stick garnish

Bunny Fruit Salad no dairy

The kids loved it. Most of them ate it. My little guy devoured every morsel and asked for more. Ha ha.

Grain-free Granola

Grain-free Granola

Since going grain-free, I miss granola. There's something about the crunchy texture followed by a hint of sweetness that is very satisfying to me. To fill that void, I've been meaning to come up with a nut based variety. Then the other day, a funny thing happened...I made a grain-free granola bar and forgot a couple ingredients. It led to a failure of the bar, but got me going on the granola recipe. Yeah!

Serve this tasty treat topped with berries and a side of almond or coconut milk. I prefer using raw nuts whenever possible, but use what you have or prefer.

Makes about 4 cups
1 cup cashew meal or almond meal/flour
3/4 cup sliced or slivered almonds
3/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut or coconut chips
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup ground flaxmeal
1/4 cup melted coconut oil or olive oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
1 Tbs vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 300°.

Mix ingredients in a large bowl. Pour onto a parchment or foil lined baking sheet. Spread into a thin layer. Bake 20 minutes. Stir. Bake 10-15 minutes more. Granola should be dry and lightly browned. Stir again. Turn off oven and leave granola in oven to dry out 10 more minutes. Enjoy with fruit, milk or yogurt. Yum!