Friday, July 25, 2014

Vegan Caprese Appetizer



avocado tomatoes and basil

Looking for a vegan appetizer or supersalad? This one is perfect. Just one look at this incredible creation and you will understand why you it tastes amazing even without the traditional cheese that we usually find in a Caprese salad. This is my vegan version of a tomato and Mozzarella Caprese salad appetizer. I substituted avocado for the sliced mozzarella.

I served this salad appetizer at a party  a few weeks ago. Believe me when I tell you that here was not a morsel left. Believe me when I tell you that nobody missed the cheese.

It's amazing how many people prefer not to eat cheese these days. Some people are now following a vegan diet, some are just not eating dairy for allergy reasons, and others feel that cheese is too fattening. Whatever the reason, a dairy free appetizer is a good choice to serve at parties.

Our Jersey tomatoes are just starting to come into season and my patio is full of fresh herbs in pots.  I love the contrast of the rich red Jersey tomato against the lovely green avocado, fresh basil and thick juicy cucumber. I had a few sprigs of fresh rosemary from my garden so I placed a few sprigs of that on it as well. Doused with some olive oil, a little sea salt and lemon juice, this tasted sensational.

avocado , basil, and tomato appetizer

vegan appetizer display


I'm including more healthy fats like avocado into my daily diet. The fats keep me full longer and I don't seem to be craving as many snacks. In fact, I read on Dr. Mercola that it is beneficial to do a mini fast each day to help cleanse your system. I was reluctant at first, but I find with the extra fat I am able to do it easily.

I finish my last meal by 7:00 pm and then I don't eat again until around 11:00 am. This gives me my 16 hours. I do drink my weight loss apple cider vinegar cocktail around 9:00 AM. ( and then I exercise) . I'm amazed that I am not hungry, my blood sugar stays stabilized, and I am truly hungry around 11:00.

I usually eat a large green salad with some tomatoes, red peppers, cucumbers etc. and some protein and some avocado or salad dressing. If I get hungry before dinner ( 5:30 or 6:00 ish?) I snack on some nuts.
For dinner I eat another large salad from organic lettuce with a olive oil based dressing, some blue cheese, some vegetable fritters cooked in coconut oil, and maybe a homemade vegetable soup.
The key is to eat enough healthy fats to stabilize the blood sugar and satiate. I do eat dairy because I'm a vegetarian and I'm trying to eat lower carbs so I have been cutting out beans and grains.

Even I can't believe that I'm not hungry and craving. I've been doing this for about 6 weeks and have lost 6 pounds - my cravings are mostly gone.

If I skimp on my meal ( avocado, coconut oil, olive oil, nuts) I do feel hungrier.

This appetizer fits into my eating plan perfectly. I really do try to focus on including lots of fresh herbs from my garden like different varieties of basil, rosemary, thyme etc. which are packed with antioxidants.

Ingredients: 
2 avocados, sliced
2 large tomatoes, sliced
1 large cucumber, sliced
1 cup fresh basil , chopped
2-3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
juice of 1/2 lime or lemon
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

Directions: 
Arrange tomatoes, avocado, and cucumber on a plate by placing the tomato first, a piece of cucumber behind it and a piece of avocado on top of the tomato. Sprinkle with basil and sprigs of rosemary. Drizzle lemon juice and olive oil on top of salad toppings and then add the salt and pepper.

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Monday, July 21, 2014

Freeze String Beans Without Blanching


fresh string beans

Can you freeze string beans without blanching them first? You bet you can, and I'll tell you how. 
I picked 4 quarts of string beans from my CSA the other day. It was Thursday, and I realized that we had a full weekend of eating out planned, so I wasn't going to be able to cook all of those beautiful organic beans that I spent 1/2 hour picking in the hot July sun.

I considered cooking them up with a tomato sauce recipe that we like and then freezing them, but I really didn't have the time. I just wanted to freeze them quickly and worry about cooking them on another day. It was already late and I was tired, so I wondered if I could just freeze them without blanching the large bunch and then have to put them in ice water. Well, after a quick Internet search, I found my answer on a blog called An Oregon Cottage .

It turns out that I was not the only who wanted to skip steps. I was glad to know that Jami ( of An Oregon Cottage) actually tried the quicker method and she said it works great! According to Jami, skipping the blanching doesn't make a difference. Jami and her family like the taste results just as well without blanching the string beans as they do with blanching them. 

In fact, Jami said she sees no difference in taste. Jami experimented and told about it in her post.  I'm trusting Jami and  I'm simply washing, drying, snipping off the ends and freezing in zip lock baggies.

Jami had another clever trick on her site as well. She uses a straw to vacuum seal the baggies. I didn't have a straw, so I couldn't try it ( I know it's hard to believe I didn't have a straw) . But according to Jami it works great . I'm now following Jami's blog. She has lots of helpful ideas !

I'll let you know how the freezing works out. I left my beans whole, although I could have chopped them into bit size pieces. The uncut string bean works fine for us. If you have smaller children, most likely you would want to cut the beans into smaller pieces prior to freezing. 

fresh string beans
I washed them and dried them well to avoid any ice crystals forming when I freeze them
I still have a few zucchinis to use up too from my CSA this week, so I'm going to make Nona's crust-less zucchini quiches and freeze them. They will be perfect for my next party! They take about me about 5 minutes prep and 40 minutes to bake. I'll bake them before freezing them since they have eggs in them. 

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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Paleo English muffins ( Quick)

Grain Free English Muffins on a plate



Grain Free English Muffins

Why am I making a Paleo recipe? I have been gluten free for 14 years, but I've only been grain free for 6 weeks.I'm trying add more variety to my grain free diet. Paleo baked recipes are usually fabulous, low carb and healthy.  This recipe makes one muffin and only has 2.5 net carbs,

There are three reasons that I like a recipe which only makes one serving .
1. It's really quick and easy ( I can make it fresh for my own breakfast)
2. I won't over eat ( portion control) It only makes one muffin
3. Leftovers won't end up getting stale. ( sometimes I make things with coconut flour,  and if we don't eat it immediately by the next day it starts to dry out)

Did I mention that I'm trying to lose weight ( yes again- that 10 pounds just won't stay away) and low carb works best for me not only for weight loss, but to also help stabilize my blood sugar. I've been eating mostly vegetables, nuts,  and proteins but I'm craving something more. I think this low carb grain free English muffin will do it! Since I'm doing low carb, I can put butter on it! Yum!

I would consider following the ever popular Paleo diet, but I'm a vegetarian and it would be difficult and  limiting. I think the concept and way of eating is a good one. I think in general we eat way too many processed foods that are not real food and too much sweets ( even fruit) .

Today's fruit is not like fruit of years ago. Today's fruit is much bigger, much sweeter, and much more plentiful. People used to eat fruit in season- they even gathered their own berries and ate less. That may have been a good thing.

Today's fruit is mostly hybrids that have been developed to be larger, sweeter, and more beautiful . The larger size and sweeter fruit may be more than our blood sugar can handle. I believe that today's fruit is just way too full of sugar.Despite being a fruit lover, I've cut back on the amount I eat, and truthfully I feel better and my blood sugar is more stable. I concentrate on eating berries which our the lowest glycemic index fruits. ( This was a result of reading Wheat Belly by Dr, Davis and Grain Brain by Dr. Perlmutter- two new books by doctors who say grain and sweets are setting us up for diabetes, all kind of autoimmune disorders, arthritis, skin problems, and even brain fogginess, learning problems and dementia.

I had been feeling tired, foggy, and had a lot of mood swings. I was craving sweets and overeating. Since I cut out the grain and limit the fruits- I actually feel better. I feel like I'm less foggy, I stopped craving sweets, and the mood swings are gone. I have more energy too.

I saw this grain free bread recipe on a site called Simply Vegetarian Paleo  . The site posts recipes from lots of bloggers.

This Paleo English Muffin recipe came from a healthy blog called Beauty and The Foodie.  .I liked the blog so much , I am now a follower. Kathy posts lots of recipes worth checking out. Apparently there are ways to be a vegetarian and follow the Paleo diet. This is my adaption of Kathy's recipe.

Ingredients:
1 egg beaten
1 Tablespoon of Almond Milk
1 Tablespoon of coconut flour **( if you are not on a grain free diet, you could try gf flour mix)
1/2 Tablespoon of coconut oil ( or olive oil)
1/8 teaspoon of aluminum free baking powder
optional: if you like it a little sweetness  add 1/2 tsp honey and 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Beat the egg in a bowl add then  remainder of ingredients and mix with a fork until smooth. Transfer batter to a single ramekin and bake at 400 degrees for 12-15 minutes.( Stacy from  Beauty and The Foodie  said you can also microwave the ramekin for 1 and half minutes -I don't usually microwave- but it would be fast)

Once baked. Take a knife and loosen the sides of the ramekin and the muffin will slide right out. When cool enough to handle, slice the muffin in half and toast it in a frying pan, making sure to press it down.
 It's uncanny  how it looks exactly like an English Muffin. 

** MY OPINION: Personally, I liked it but it didn't exactly taste like an English Muffin to me. It tasted a little egg-ier at first. However, I found a way that I did think it tasted more like an English muffin. After toasting and cooling, I placed it in the refrigerator uncovered for a few hours. It wasn't eggy and was dry and crisp- more like an English Muffin.( you could probably put it in the fridge for 1/2 hour)

 Spread it with nut butter or fruit spread and enjoy. It holds together very well and is grain free, gluten free, healthy with the looks and has the consistency of an English muffin.

I now make mine the night before, and leave it in the fridge so I have it in the morning .

It's so fast an easy, why not try it for yourself and let me know your opinion.


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black ramekin
 My ramekin

black ramekin with batter
ramekin with batter

Paleo English Muffin
After baking 


untoasted English Muffin
I cut the baked muffin in half with a sharp knife


I placed the muffin halves in a sprayed pan and cooked on each side ( don't forget to flip it over) 


Place a plate on top of the two muffin halves to press them down or use a spatula

Paleo English Muffins



Paleo English Muffin with herbs
I made another batch with chopped herbs from my garden

Books I recommend 



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