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Zucchini: The Naturally Gluten Free Veggie of the Day and Not Really Recipe Fail

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Actually it’s the naturally gluten free veggie of the summer.

Actually, all veggies are naturally gluten free.  (That is, in their natural state, and barring any preparation styles using gluten, of course.)

Score!

Zucchini

Zucchini is an incredibly prolific vegetable in the summer.  Around here, it’s everywhere-which is great, because it’s local, in season, tasty, and less expensive than some other veggie counterparts.  It’s also an incredibly versatile vegetable.  I wrote about one use of it here in my post about shredding it up with some carrots. It has an extremely mild flavor, and it takes on the flavors of whatever you cook it with.

So it can be used in both savory and sweet applications.

Double score!

Market ingredients

Once again at the market this weekend I found myself face to face with some gorgeous huge organic zucchini.  And they were cheap!

There were some mushrooms that looked lovely, so into the basket they went.

And tomatoes.  I love me my tomatoes.  (Yes, I know they are a fruit, technically so is zucchini, but lets not split hairs shall we?)

I had cooked up a couple pounds of pork tenderloin the other day, so I knew that would be my protein source for dinner.  Why cook one pound when you can cook extra and have leftovers?  Prepare ahead and set yourself up for healthy gluten free eating success.)

Now as you may know, I don’t generally follow recipes.  I’m really bad at it.  I forget to measure all the time.  That’s why I do “not-really-recipes.”  A guideline, a template for which to alter as you see fit and with what you have on hand.

This is great, it creates a sense of freedom and creativity.

Cooking fail

Sometimes it also creates spectacular cooking fails.

Zucchini pancakes

I decided I wanted to make zucchini pancake type things.

Without consulting any resources (which I should have done) I proceeded to shred the zucchini with a box grater.  I thought I was so smart when I remembered to salt it to draw out the water and squeeze it dry.  I decided it would be fantastic to add in the chopped mushrooms to give the zucchini a bit of a meatier texture.  I threw in some sea salt, garlic, hot sauce, one egg (beaten,) mixed it up and called it good.

Heated up my pan with a bit of coconut oil (from the Misto-love that thing) and proceeded to form little round piles of goodness.

And what to  my wondering eyes did NOT appear?

Browning.  They were steaming and cooking, but no lovely carmelization and browning.  The pancakes weren’t sticking together.

The mushrooms.  They also have a high water content.  Too much moisture=no browning for Erin.  Between the mushrooms and the zucchini, I was toast.  (Figuratively)

Undeterred, I mixed it all up into a pile and cooked it.  And boy was it tasty!

So the moral of the story is this:

Sometimes Not Really Recipes don’t work out the way you think, but taste good anyway.

Sometimes that may happen with real recipes-not to worry!

There are a bunch of great zucchini recipes out there.  Here are a few of my favorites:

Bring on the zucchini!  What’s your favorite way to prepare it?

What do you Mean You Don’t Like Veggies?

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What do you mean it’s too hard to make them taste good? It’s really not hard if you keep an open mind and take advantage of what is available.

I am very lucky to have a nearby market where they feature locally grown and mostly organic produce.  I stop by there on the weekend and pick up whatever looks and smells good to me.

Last weekend, there was a bunch of beautiful bright orange carrots and some zucchini (aka summer squash-as I understand it summer squash can be either yellow or green, and the green variety is zucchini.)

It’s in season now, and was very reasonably priced.  I loaded up my basket with those and some other goodies.  Had I a clue of how I was going to prepare them?  Nope.  But, I knew I could figure something out.

In my opinion, that’s a key to preparing your own gluten free and healthful food.

Keep your options open if you are at a market such as this.

See what looks good and is reasonably priced.  When you start with fresh, local ingredients, generally you will have a much more flavorful start to your meal than if you are starting with something that has been shipped and/or processed.  You won’t need fancy sauces or preparation methods to make them taste good.

So here I am with my zucchini and carrots.  My Dad is in town for Fathers’ Day, and Jeff is at work, so it’s dinner for me and Dad.  It was Sunday, so it’s my cook ahead for the week day.

I had been marinating chicken breasts in lemon juice, fresh garlic, and lemon pepper seasoning (this is my favorite) for most of the day.  That would be our protein source.

I remembered seeing an idea to make pasta-ish ribbons from zucchini using a vegetable peeler.  I thought that sounded good, so I scrubbed my veggies with water and a veggie brush and pulled out the peeler.  2 peels into it I decided that would take far too long.  I am definitely not that patient.

I do have a mack daddy food processor which I love.  I pulled it out and gave myself a quick tutorial on how to use the shredding blade.  It worked fantastically.

I had a beautiful big pile of shredded zucchini and carrot.

Now what to do?

My theory is you can never go wrong with some fresh garlic.  Not in the amount that would protect you from vampires, but just a touch for some flavor.

Dinner is almost served…

I poured a tablespoon of coconut oil into my pan, and let it warm up over medium high heat.  Then I used my garlic press on 1 medium clove of fresh garlic and added that to the pan, stirring frequently as not to burn, just get that toasty garlic aroma floating through the house.

This is when my Dad was drawn into the kitchen by the smell of garlic, and I chased him off.

The chicken was in the oven cooking away while I was doing all this, and some sweet potatoes were keeping the chicken company in the oven.  Especially in Florida in the summertime, if you’re heating up the oven, you may as well make the most of it.

Add the shredded zucchini and carrots to the pan, and stir.  They cook quickly, about 5 minutes or so is all you need.  I added a couple shakes of sea salt and grinds of black pepper, and that was it.

We had a lovely meal of chicken, the shredded veggies, and sweet potato.  All naturally gluten free.  All wonderfully full of flavor, and easy to prepare.

You can see in the photo the eggy breakfast casserole in the background, and the pot in which I was cooking rice.  You can do this also, and get a bunch of good food prepared ahead of time.

What’s your favorite way to prepare vegetables?  If you have tricks, please share!

Gluten Free “Healthy” Treats

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I’ve mentioned before my love for chocolate. I really, really like chocolate. To the point where I don’t think I’ve ever even had a flavor of ice cream that wasn’t some kind of a riff on chocolate. Really.

When I plan on having a splurge, it always involves chocolate. I follow the 90/10 rule for the most part-if I eat well 90% of the time, the other 10% I can have whatever I want and it won’t have negative repercussions on my health or physique.

Many people will do just fine taking this to 80/20.

On that splurge, I don’t worry about calories. Many times a small amount of “real” ice cream is much more satisfying than a larger amount of “fake” ice cream. And to me, a bit of really dark chocolate is a square of heaven.

But sometimes you want something sweet, but maybe you don’t want to have a full-on splurge. You may want to keep it somewhat “healthy” and yet still quench the sweet tooth.

For that, I have some answers.

For the Superbowl this past weekend I made two items that fit that bill to perfection.

Flourless oatmeal chocolate chip cookies

I was inspired by Shirley at Gluten Free Easily and her recipe for Flourless Oatmeal Cookies. I actually stayed very close to the original recipe. The only substitutions I made was that I subbed out a bit of nonfat Greek yogurt for half of the butter, and used egg beaters. This recipe for flourless oatmeal chocolate chip cookies does not use much sugar, but you could also use stevia-I did not this go round.

Recipe: Flourless oatmeal chocolate chip cookies

 

These were awesome. I admit I did taste the batter, but for the most part they made it into the oven and to the party.
They were a huge hit-they were crunchy and wonderful. I was the only gluten free person in attendance, and everyone loved them. Given that they are treats, they are relatively healthful as well.

Black bean brownies

The second treat I made was Black Bean brownies. Various versions of this recipe have been floating around for a while now, but I saw this one at Lean Bodies Fitness, which is a community I am a part of. If you’ve never tried these, I highly recommend. I didn’t tell anyone the “secret ingredient” until after they tried, and raved about, the brownies. They couldn’t believe it. These make a very dense, fudgy brownie. Not a cake-like brownie. The next time I make these, I am going to substitute nonfat Greek yogurt for the bananas. Banana flavor is good, but I’d like to see what they are like without it. Made with this current recipe they are actually vegan.

Recipe: Black bean brownies

 

Let me know what you think in the comments!