Tag: gluten-free

Lettuce Wraps with Tangy Asian Slaw (Gluten- and Refined Sugar-Free)

Lettuce Wraps with Tangy Asian Slaw (Gluten- and Refined Sugar-Free)

Savory meat filling in a cool lettuce wrapI’m obsessed with things wrapped in lettuce. Which seems an appropriate response to having a gluten allergy, since buns and bread are effectively off the table. Every week I eat at least one dish that uses crisp romaine or butter lettuce leaves as the vessel with which I deliver said deliciousness into my belly.

I’m also a fan of simplicity and this recipe couldn’t be easier. You can even be super lazy and just buy grocery store Hoisin sauce, although for anyone with celiac, that’s a risky proposition, as most store bought brands contain soy sauce. Also if you don’t make the sauce from scratch, you’re missing a huge part of what makes this dinner so flavorful and awesome. Moral of this paragraph? Make the sauce. In fact, make a double batch.

What makes my lettuce wraps different from the mainstream recipes out there is the addition of more veggies. The best thing about Asian cuisine, to my mind, is the ease with which all sorts of vegetables can slide into a dish all stealth-like and punch up the color, crunch and fiber quotient while making only a modest flavor difference. Typically the sauce situation takes care of that. So I say “more veggies for all!” Seriously though, add even just one additional veggie to your stir fries or your take-out from now on. Your body and your taste buds will thank you.

Savory filling in a cool lettuce wrapSince I didn’t want to monkey with the original filling recipe too much except to add bamboo shoots, I opted to veg-ify this recipe with the addition of a crisp coleslaw, reminiscent of cucumber salad. Packaged broccoli slaw is my favorite mixture to use for this crunchy condiment, although last time when I couldn’t find it, I subbed a lovely kale, cabbage and Brussels sprout slaw to which I added shredded carrot. Basically whatever shredded veggie combo strikes your fancy ought to do the trick. Toss a handful of that in a tangy dressing infused with sesame oil and chili flakes, chill briefly before serving and you have a bright garnish that almost steals the show. Almost. There’s still that dreamy sauce…

Another great thing about this recipe is that you can make it with whatever protein your heart desires. Organic, grass-fed beef makes a bomb lettuce wrap, but you’ll usually find them made with ground dark-meat turkey in my household. Even the roommate can’t get enough of these and he generally likes to eschew my healthy cooking as dramatically unsatisfying by virtue of it being gluten free.

Meaning he rarely eats my food, out of principle.

This recipe however, makes him say, “Principles be damned!” Actually that’s never happened. But since he’s happily munching away on these as I type, that must be what he’s thinking, right?

Point is, you’re going to want to make this your something delicious today.

Lettuce Wraps with Tangy Asian Slaw (Gluten and Refined Sugar-Free)
  • 1/4 cup gluten-free soy sauce or tamari
  • 1 T organic cornstarch
  • 2 T rice vinegar
  • 1 T mirin (rice wine)
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tsp Sriracha, adjust to taste
  • 2 T honey
  • 1 T fresh ginger, minced
  • 2 T grapeseed oil (or other neutral tasting oil)
  • 1 pound organic ground turkey, chicken, pork or beef
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (8-ounce) can water chestnuts, drained and diced
  • 1 (8-ounce) can bamboo shoots, drained and diced
  • 2 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1 head butter lettuce
  • 1 cup Asian coleslaw (recipe follows)
  • Chopped peanuts or almonds
  1. Make coleslaw. Place in fridge to chill for one hour.
  2. In a small bowl, combine soy sauce and cornstarch, whisking until smooth. Add rice vinegar, mirin, sesame oil, Sriracha, honey and ginger, and whisk until well-combined.
  3. In a medium skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat. Add the ground meat,  a pinch of salt and pepper and cook, breaking it into small pieces, until no longer pink (about 5 minutes). Remove the meat from the skillet and set it aside.
  4. Add the remaining tablespoon oil, add the diced onion and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add the minced garlic and cook until the onion is translucent, about 2 minutes more.
  6. Return the cooked meat to the skillet, add the sauce, and mix to combine. Cook until the sauce begins to thicken (1 to 2 minutes). Remove from the heat, and add the water chestnuts,  bamboo shoots, and green onions.
  7. Take a leaf of Boston lettuce and spoon in about 1/3 cup of the meat. Top with Asian coleslaw and chopped nuts.


Tangy Asian Coleslaw
  • Half bag broccoli slaw mix
  • 1 T gluten-free soy sauce or tamari
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 T coconut sugar
  • 1 T grapeseed oil
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil
  • pinch crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 cup cilantro leaves, roughly torn
  1. In a medium bowl, mix together the soy sauce, vinegar, sugar, oils and pepper flakes.
  2. Add slaw mixture and stir to coat.
  3. Chill 1 hour before serving, stirring every so often to coat veggies.
  4. Add cilantro right before serving.



Pumpkin Pancakes with Cranberry-Pecan Compote (Gluten- and Refined Sugar-Free)

Pumpkin Pancakes Cranberry-Pecan CompoteAs a person with food allergies, sometimes I’ll get lucky while traveling and find gluten-free options in places you would never expect. Recently I attended a wedding in Neverwhere, Ohio, and was delighted that the first breakfast in our historic hotel the big city–Lancaster, that is–had gluten-free bread on offer.

I can order a breakfast sandwich?! That is something that never, ever happens. I have forgone breakfast sandwiches for over three years now, so I was understandably delighted.

The irony, however, was that there was something else on the menu that I wanted way way more than a breakfast sandwich. Something that was decidedly NOT gluten free. Something that the women I was traveling with (my mom and her best friend) could not stop raving about: pumpkin pancakes with cranberry-pecan compote. Oh my YUM.

If You Love Me, Lie to Me

Allow me to digress for a moment…I once dated this guy–let’s call him *Frank*–for far longer than was sane or reasonable considering what a poor match we made.

But he did this thing that was so irresistibly charming whenever he ate something I wasn’t allowed to have, it just might have been the glue that kept us together. He would bite into said glutenous item and wrinkle his nose, before describing in detail how disappointing the meal was. Then he’d take another bite and shake his head no, as if to illustrate how lucky I was not to be subjected to such torture.

I found the game delightful. One time, he was eating a bean and cheese burrito–one of my most-missed comfort foods which sadly seem to be gone from my repertoire in the absence of GF tortillas that actually resemble tortillas. He made a face of utter disgust and proclaimed that his burrito was just “too beany.”

I’m fairly certain that this action alone made me love him.

Too Damned Honest

*Frank’s* behavior stands in stark contrast to what my family does. Now, to be fair, we are a family who loves food. We are perhaps more likely to tell you what we ate on our European vacation than which museums we visited or what friends we made. But still, it’s hard when my mom eats a warm croissant so delicate that I can hear the crunch of 100 perfect layers as it reverberates in the part of my chest that acutely feels “lack.” I watch in slow motion as parchment-like crumbs drift gently onto the tablecloth like tantalizing golden snowflakes. Then she TELLS me how good it is. As if I’m not already dying a little inside.

Sigh…This particular memory ends with my mom actually rubbing the pastry on her face in an amorous gesture meant to make her more at one with the croissant. I might be embellishing, but who can tell anymore? All I know is that she didn’t lie to me.

Is that so much to ask?

Same Sh*t, Different Day

And that’s how it began with the pumpkin pancakes. It went something like this:

Me: (getting into the car after an entire day of flying and not eating due to a lack of G-Free options). Hi moms. How’s it going?

Moms: Hi girls. You are gonna love our hotel. It has GREAT breakfasts. Today we had the pumpkin pancakes. They come with a cranberry-pecan compote that is to die for. Oh my word…

Me: Sounds incredible. I’m starving. No chance they’re gluten-free (she asks hopefully)?

Moms: No…But they were goooooooooood. Mmmmm mmmmm! Really fluffy!! So full of pumpkin spice. I’ve never had cranberry compote on pancakes before, have you Lynda? No? No, me neither. Definitely not to be missed.

Me: Ok well I’m sure they have other good things on the menu.

Moms: Oh I’m sure, but these pancakes were reaaaaaaallly something. I’m thinking they’d be great for Christmas breakfast, don’t you think so Lynda? Just marvelous, really…


Suffice to say, I dreamt about pumpkin pancakes that night.

My Loss=Your Gain

The silver lining to this story, my friends, is that I came home on a mission.

A delicious mission.

And hopefully you will reap the benefits of it as much as I’m getting to. We start with a crazy healthy pancake recipe–one of the pumpkin-iest pumpkin recipes I’ve made. These babies actually qualify as paleo and are only mildly sweet, so they pair perfectly with your choice of toppings. One point that is particularly noteworthy: flax seed and meal is very delicate and will only stay fresh if you keep it frozen. Your best bet is to buy a small quantity of flax seeds in the bulk bin at your local health food store and grind them yourself. I make all the pancakes at once and then freeze them in a single layer. Then take them straight from freezer to toaster for quick weekday breakfasts.

The cranberry compote is super simple to make, and is bright and tangy with the flavors of orange and pumpkin pie spice. Of course you can serve this as a condiment for poultry or pork, spread it on toast, stir it into oatmeal or spoon it over vanilla ice cream. I make it a day ahead to cut down on prep time and thin a little bit with OJ or water when I’m ready to serve. Toast the pecans and add them at the end so they’re perfectly crunchy.

Pumpkin Pancakes (Gluten-free, Refined-sugar free, Paleo)
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 2 T flax meal
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2-1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 can pure pumpkin
  • 6 eggs, whisked
  • 2 T coconut oil, plus more for cooking
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste (use extract for paleo)
  1. Whisk dry ingredients together in a small bowl.
  2. In another small bowl, whisk wet ingredients.
  3. Pour wet ingredients into dry and stir until combined.
  4. Heat griddle over medium heat.
  5. When beads of water dance on the griddle’s surface, it is ready, Pour approximately 1/4 cup of batter onto the griddle at a time and use the back of a spoon to spread it into a circle.
  6. When small bubbles form on the surface, flip pancakes and cook for another 2 minutes.


Cranberry-Pecan Compote (Refined sugar-free)
  • 1 bag fresh cranberries
  • 3 oranges, zest and juice
  • 1/4 cup + 2 T coconut sugar, or more to taste
  • 1 tsp homemade pumpkin pie spice (see below)
  • 1/4 cup raw pecans
  1. Place cleaned cranberries in a 2 quart saucepan.
  2. Add the zest of three oranges to the cranberries. Halve the oranges, and add the juice. Cook over medium heat.
  3. Stir in coconut sugar and spices. Allow mixture to come to a boil then lower heat to a simmer, stirring occasionally, until most of the moisture has evaporated and sauce has thickened to desired consistency.
  4. Meanwhile in a dry saute pan, toast pecans over medium low heat until fragrant and just starting to brown. Allow to cool. Roughly chop.
  5. To reheat, add 1/4 c of water or orange juice to compote and slowly warm over medium low heat.
  6. Spoon warmed compote over pancakes. Top with toasted, chopped pecans.


Homemade Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground clove
  1. In a small bowl, whisk all ingredients together.
  2. Store in an airtight container in a cool dark place.


Better Stuffed Peppers (Gluten- and Dairy-Free, Vegan)

Better Stuffed Peppers (Gluten- and Dairy-Free, Vegan)

Stuffed Peppers with Quinoa, Mushrooms, and Black Beans

I’ve never liked stuffed peppers.

I’m not sure why. Maybe it’s the notion of eating spaghetti sauce as a meal. Maybe it’s because it’s usually spaghetti sauce mixed with rice and topped with melted cheddar, which is not a flavor combination that really sings to me, you know? Or it could be the sagging, wrinkly pepper that serves as a receptacle for these weirdly blended filling ingredients.

Either way, when a client asked for stuffed peppers, I groaned on the inside.

Of course I’ll feed a client whatever they want, but it means that I have to taste that uninspired dish along the way and ultimately serve something I couldn’t be convinced to eat myself. It’s the artistic equivalent of paint-by-numbers. And nobody respects a hack.

So needless to say I was intrigued when she sent me a recipe she’d found—a version using ingredients I’d never heard of in a stuffed pepper recipe—and utilizing spices that made it more southwestern than pseudo-Italian. And it didn’t have meat or cheese, making the already gluten-free dinner option vegan to boot, so possibly…useful for me to have in my arsenal?

I was still skeptical, however. For starters, when has taking the cheese out of a recipe ever made it better? And secondly, at that time in my life, I generally ate things in spite of them being vegan, and not because of it.

But I bit the bullet and tried the new fandangled spin on the old classic. And discovered I was wrong. Deliciously so.

Turns out I DO like stuffed peppers. Damn, I love a happy accident!

Over time, I’ve made the recipe mine; adding spices, subtracting toppings. I’ve tried multiple variations—the addition of potato, for instance—great for when you’re trying to bulk the recipe up from six servings to eight. I’ve boiled the peppers for two minutes all the way up to ten. Turns out I prefer them not boiled at all. I like the tiny bit of crunch they retain after just the single bake.

mini peppers

Then I discovered what a great appetizer these make when you stuff them in tiny sweet peppers, like these.

These babies are a perfect one- or two-bite snack and are delicate enough that they don’t need to be baked at all. Serve them at room temperature or while the filling is still warm.

And since I wholeheartedly believe that food exists to be a vessel for sauce, I just couldn’t leave well enough alone. As delicious as these are topped with the traditional tomato sauce, by far my favorite flavor combo is made by drizzling these little poppers with my vegan avocado “crema.” The cilantro, lime and tomatillo marry perfectly with the cumin, chili powder and black beans in the stuffing.

Simply divine. I’ll never look at a stuffed pepper the same way again. And hopefully, neither will you.

Better Stuffed Peppers (Gluten- & Dairy-free, Vegan)
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 cups mushrooms, finely chopped (I like to pulse them ever so briefly in the food processor)
  • 1 T chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp salt, or to taste
  • 1/2 tsp fresh cracked pepper
  • 1/2-15 oz can tomato sauce, other half reserved for optional garnish
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 6 large red bell peppers, ribs and seeds removed
  • 1-15 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 tsp pure maple syrup
  • small handful cilantro, chopped, for garnish (optional)
  • 1/4-1/2 cup avocado “crema,” for garnish (optional)
  1. Preheat the oven to 350º F.
  2. In a saucepan over medium heat, sauté the onions in olive oil for 3 to 5 minutes, until onions are translucent.
  3. Add garlic and mushrooms; sauté until the mushrooms have released their moisture and the mixture begins to look dry, about 5-8 minutes.
  4. Stir in the chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper. Sauté until fragrant.
  5. Add the quinoa, water, and 1/2 can of tomato sauce, reserving the rest. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until quinoa is cooked.
  6. For softer peppers, submerge in boiling water for 5 minutes. For tender-crisp peppers, skip this step.
  7. When quinoa is finished simmering, add the beans and maple syrup. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.
  8. Stuff each pepper with the filling, and place in a baking dish. If using tomato sauce, pour the remaining over the peppers.
  9. Bake for 15 minutes.
  10. Garnish as desired.




This is How You Know I’m Not a Crazy Health Freak

This is How You Know I’m Not a Crazy Health Freak


I don’t like to hate. In fact, I think hating is an invitation to get struck by a karmic lightening bolt. Plus I now know enough about neuroscience (thank you John Assaraf) to understand that dwelling on negative thoughts only perpetuates a cycle of the same sort of energy that, in turn, affects all areas of your life.

But I am also aware that certain family members and close friends think that I have consumed the proverbial Kool-Aid when it comes to my beliefs about clean eating being linked to physical well being. I’ve been dubbed a tree-hugging, lettuce-licking hippie. Since going gluten-free, my best friend–a bonafide foodie most of the time–has refused to eat anything that comes out of my test kitchen, even if it’s meat. He’s convinced that over the past three years, I have just re-trained my taste buds to enjoy corrugated poster board masquerading as bread.

And still other friends elect to “pass” on the most mouthwatering peanut butter cookies with homemade peanut butter chips because I make the mistake of saying they are not only gluten and refined sugar-free, but also vegan.


Okaaay then. More sinful deliciousness for me.

So in my defense, I simply couldn’t pass up an opportunity to review a new product that I bought online at Thrive, and finally got around to trying, because it proved to me that I have not lost my culinary mind. I might snuggle the occasional cypress, but I still want my food to taste good.

Now the naysayers of anything dubbed “health food” would take one look at these raw, vegan, gluten-free wraps from Wrawp and tell me I was crazy for thinking they might be palatable.


I have had delectable wrapped sandwiches from the vegan Cafe Gratitude on more than one occasion that were mind blowing and bursting with layer upon layer of flavor! So no way was I going to let appearances dissuade me. Plus, these were labeled “spicy–” vague in terms of a flavor profile, but generally one that ensures my approval.

The pack comes with three “wrawps.” Being raw while also attempting to be bread (something that is typically cooked) means they’ve been dehydrated. I know this. And yet I didn’t really know it until I pulled a wrawp out of the package and held it in my hands in disbelief. “Ready to use straight out of the package!” the label proclaims. But surely not. Surely they have to first be gently warmed? Or soaked overnight in water? Or stomped on by a herd of elephants? What I was holding in my hands was faux leather, but not as believable. A fruit roll up with kitty litter embedded in it. A substance the texture of the scratchy underside of a Persian rug and surely not pliable enough to wrap around anything.

Slightly apprehensive, I tore off a bite. It was sweet! Examination of the ingredients list solved the mystery. Apple is listed as ingredient number two,  and sandwiched between onion, jalepeno, and zucchini. Perfectly logical to have my tortilla substitute filled with savory flavors taste like dessert. Well executed!

I’m stubborn though, so in spite of all signs pointing to a culinary bust, I proceeded with my sandwich making experiment. My fillings were extraordinary: my favorite new artichoke heart and green olive tuna salad, butter lettuce, spicy cherry peppers that will burn your face off and avocado–yum! I wrestled with the wrapping of ancient & petrified faux leather around such delicate ingredients and managed to bring the whole concoction to my lips before more than half of the filling fell out. Still, I managed a bite. And it tasted like…


You think I’m being cute and picking something as a flavor comparison that is universally equated to hippie-ness. Except that I’m being completely serious. The wrap, in combo with the other flavors in my sandwich, quite literally tasted like licking the surface of one of the many incense displays on the Venice boardwalk. (Cough)

So are Wrawps my suggestion when today you feel like doing something delicious? Uhh…not so much.

And for my liver and onions-loving father deep in the heart of Texas and the handful of men I still manage to find affection for in spite of the fact that nothing green has ever passed through their lips, I hope this lends me just an ounce of credibility when I tell them that I recently ate something awesome.

It’s National Chocolate Mousse Day! How About a Healthy, Vegan Version?

rp_Vegan-Chocolate-Mousse-1024x1024.jpgApril 3rd is a noteworthy day for a few reasons. For one, it is the birthday of the woman who created the food-obsessed individual who is writing these words (love you, Mom).

But April 3rd is also remarkable because it is National Chocolate Mousse Day.

Yep, that’s a thing.

So I guuuuueeess we’ve gotta eat some!

With two cups of heavy cream, traditional chocolate mousse is obviously not something to indulge in on the regular. But what if we waved our wellness wand at the recipe and gave our mousse a makeover? Filled it with heart-healthy fats and ditched the refined sugar? How about if we made it dairy- and egg-free too for our food-sensitive friends? Then we all could eat it often.

Every day, even.

Maybe it won’t come as a surprise that avocado is the base for this rich rendition of the classic. Avocado is used in a lot of healthy desserts because it’s so creamy and its mild flavor goes virtually undetected. I’ve made this for clients whose minds were blown when I told them what they were eating. And the ultimate test: kids! My favorite “little” had just finished devouring a bowl when I told her what it was made out of.

“But I hate avocado,” she insisted.

“Not anymore,” I replied, tap dancing just a little.

Score one for the grown ups.

Vegan Chocolate Mousse (Dairy/Egg/Refined Sugar-Free)
This luscious dessert is so rich, no one will ever guess it’s healthy. Serve small portions (1/3 to 1/2 cup) at room temperature for maximum fluffiness, and garnish with unsweetened, whipped coconut cream and fresh berries.
  • 1 ripe avocado
  • 4 ounces dark chocolate ***check that it’s dairy free for vegan
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla bean paste
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/8 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 can coconut cream, chilled
  1. Using a heat-proof bowl over a pot of boiling water, melt the chocolate and coconut milk. Stir until smooth.
  2. Place avocado, vanilla paste, maple syrup and salt in the bowl of a food processor and blend until smooth.
  3. Add chocolate mixture. Process until combined.
  4. Open coconut cream. Spoon thick cream cream off the top and reserve the coconut water for making smoothies. With a handheld mixer, beat the coconut cream on med-high until creamy.
  5. Gently fold chocolate mixture into whipped coconut cream.
  6. Spoon into dessert dishes and garnish as desired.



Now that you know, I hope you’ll use them to make something delicious!


Fruit Tart with Lemon Cream and Spiced Almond Crust (Vegan, Dairy- and Gluten-Free)


fruit-tartI love ANYTHING that has that many words in parentheses and still tastes as good as this does. I’ve got some stubborn eaters in my extended family, and this stunning dessert satisfied them all. If I hadn’t already made it for her this season, I would shape the crust like a heart and serve it to mom for Mother’s Day brunch. Awww…

Fruit Tart with Lemon Cream and Spiced Almond Crust (Vegan, Dairy- and Gluten-Free)
Author: The Wellness Chef
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 1-9″ tart
  • 1 can coconut milk (without guar gum)
  • 1 1/2 cups almond meal or flour
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 3 T coconut oil
  • 1 T maple syrup
  • 1 T water
  • 1/2 cups 100% all fruit apricot preserves
  • 2 T water
  • 1/2 cup agave nectar
  • 1/4 cup arrowroot starch
  • Generous pinch of sea salt
  • Zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
  • Juice of 5 lemons (about 1 cup)
  • 2 T coconut oil
  • 1-2 T organic powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp Madagascar Vanilla Bean Paste
  • Mango, peeled and sliced thin
  • Pineapple, peeled and sliced thin
  • Kiwi, peeled and sliced thin
  • Clementines, peeled and separated
  • Assorted berries
  1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
  2. To prep the whipped coconut cream, pour coconut milk into a bowl and refrigerate for at least an hour.
  3. To make the crust, stir together the almond flour, sea salt, baking soda and cinnamon in a small mixing bowl.
  4. In another bowl, stir together the vanilla, oil, maple syrup and 1 T water. Add the oil mix to the flour and combine well.
  5. Turn the dough onto a 9-inch pie plate or tart pan. Flatten the dough slightly with your fingers or a rubber spatula to spread it towards the edges of the pan, making sure to press it all the way up the sides of the pan. Try to make the dough a uniform thickness across the bottom and edges.
  6. Place the tart on a sheet pan and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the crust is an even golden brown. Don’t overbake!
  7. While the crust is baking, make the glaze by heating the preserves and 2 T water to boiling in small sauce pan.
  8. Strain through a sieve to remove lumps.
  9. Remove the tart shell from the oven and let it cool completely to room temperature before brushing with glaze.
  10. In the meantime, make the lemon curd. Heat agave nectar, arrowroot, salt, lemon zest and lemon juice In a small saucepan over medium heat.
  11. Cook, whisking constantly, until thickened to a pudding consistency.
  12. Whisk in coconut oil.
  13. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Curd will get very thick the longer it sits. Still tastes great spread on toast though!
  14. Once crust is cool, use a pastry brush to lightly brush interior of tart shell with thinned preserves. Let “dry” for 15 minutes.
  15. In the meantime, make whipped coconut cream. Drain off liquid (should look like thin coconut milk) and reserve for another use.
  16. Whip cream with a mixer on high until thick and frothy.
  17. Fold 1/2 c coconut cream into chilled lemon curd.
  18. To remaining whipped cream, add 1 tsp vanilla bean paste and organic powdered sugar, to taste. I like mine not too sweet. Reserve to use as garnish.
  19. Fill crust with lemon cream, spreading in an even layer.
  20. Channel your inner artist and layer slices of fruit and berries in whatever pattern makes you happiest.
  21. With remaining apricot glaze, brush fruit lightly until evenly coated and shiny. This will keep your tart looking beautiful for days—not that it will last that long!
  22. Serve with big spoonfuls of whipped coconut cream.


Now that’s the definition of doing something delicious!


Gluten Wars


angry-mobI’ve noticed a lot of backlash recently towards people with gluten sensitivities and towards “bandwagoners” who appear to be adopting a gluten-free lifestyle, allegedly because it’s trendy. Because let’s face it, here in LA, food trends are kind of our jam.

A lot of this weird aggression comes from my food industry friends—chefs and servers alike—who get unbelievably up in arms due to situations like this: Person A is gluten-free and orders a gluten-free meal. But Person B, with whom Person A is dining, orders something that ISN’T gluten-free, and the two proceed to share.

Okay, I understand that cooking gluten-free isn’t exactly easy—I do it every day of my life. And I see how choosing to eat a meal that is half gluten-free and half NOT seems a bit pointless. But this notion that the only people who “deserve” to have food service workers accommodate them are the ones who nearly die when they eat gluten is ludicrous. For one thing, we have been accommodating special food requests for decades—just look at airlines offering vegetarian meals on flights, or scope out how many restaurants now make note of which of the menu items are vegan.

So someone who doesn’t die when they eat gluten—but is nonetheless trying to limit her consumption of it—is not a jerk. She is not necessarily just a blind sheep following some evangelical anti-gluten guru. She likely ordered her gluten-free meal because that’s the only thing she can control about her experience dining out. Until you eat Gfree, you have no idea the pressure people put on you to “just taste a bite,” or how much less fun it becomes to go out with friends when everyone is preoccupied that your weirdo food allergies may mean the group can’t go to the restaurant it prefers.

Taking a “cheat bite” or sharing the meal with a friend because its easier than making a big deal about it is just like a person on a diet taking a bite of her friend’s chocolate soufflé. It’s called being human. You don’t hate the gal on the diet for her moment of weakness, or slam her back in the kitchen to your work compadres for having the gall to order a low-calorie dinner and then sneak a bite of dessert. And if you do, then I hope you enjoy the view from that pristine glass house of yours.

Our gluten free gal, whom the rest of the world assumes just can’t think for herself and has succumbed to the hype, probably understands this. Human beings cannot properly digest gluten. That’s right. I can’t and you can’t. In fact, the only mammal that can digest it has four stomachs and chews its own cud. And get this: besides gluten, there are 23,000 different proteins in modern wheat that can produce inflammatory reactions in the body!

Now you personally might not have any symptoms whatsoever when you eat gluten. Good for you. I hope you’re eating a pizza while you read this. Or you may have some sort of health problem for which you take medication, but because the problem is not “digestive” in nature, you haven’t made the connection between it and your gluten consumption. Gluten has become known as the great masquerader; it can create over 300 symptoms and conditions you wouldn’t think to attribute to it—from skin issues, infertility and depression to headaches, liver disease and cancer.

I’ve also had people scoff at the idea that I diagnosed myself. That’s because people who self diagnose are usually called hypochondriacs. But because a perfect test for gluten sensitivity or celiac disease does not yet exist, an elimination diet is the one way that even people who test negatively for celiac, but still don’t feel good, can attempt to get to the root of their health problems.

During an elimination diet, common allergenic foods are removed and slowly reintroduced. A modified version of this diet can take place over the course of 10-14 days. I did mine for 71 days. You can read about it here Challenge 2013: Elimination Diet a.k.a. Food Allergen Cleanse and here An Elimination Diet-Friendly Chinese “Chicken” Salad: Debunking the Deprivation Myth. And yet the way I felt after only two weeks of not eating gluten did more to convince me of the power of this crazy little protein strand to make or break a person’s health than any doctor-approved scratch test ever could.

An elimination diet isn’t easy, but it can be life changing. It takes discipline and it absolutely requires planning ahead. When caught off guard without a meal plan, falling off the wagon is nearly inevitable. But fortunately help is out there. If you’re in the LA area, you can make use of Wellness Chef Jennie’s weekly meal delivery services. I specialize in customized Elimination Diets of all durations and will provide prepared meals, recipe ideas and shopping lists to accommodate any client’s needs. I’ll also provide you with resources if you’re simply interested in learning more.

In the meantime, be kind to your gluten-free friends. Those of us with dietary restrictions certainly have an obligation not to be a**holes, running around expecting the world to bend to our needs, but if the person with whom you’re dealing isn’t acting like that, well then it really shouldn’t matter one iota whether her reasons for eating the way she does make sense to you.

In fact, I think we’d all get along better if we just went and did something delicious.

An Elimination Diet-Friendly Chinese “Chicken” Salad: Debunking the Deprivation Myth

Chinese Salad 2I’d like to state for the record: This [p2p type=”slug” value=”challenge-2013-elimination-diet-food-allergen-cleanse” anchor=”https://thedeliciousthings.com/challenge-2013-elimination-diet-food-allergen-cleanse/”]Elimination Diet[/p2p] has been the best thing I’ve done for myself in the past five years of my life. And as much as I’d like to wax poetic about the program’s many virtues, that’s a different post for a different day. I am here today however, to debunk the idea that my eating life is so deprived now. Have a looksy . . .

The penthouse* has been without gas for the last two weeks (in part due to my disorganization while we were moving, but in part also to the fact that Southern California Edison is as efficient and devoted to excellence in customer service as the DMV).

So what’s a cooking instructor on a highly limited diet and no access to a microwave to do? Get creative? Certainly. Pull out all those rarely used appliances tucked away into dark corners? You betcha. You’d be amazed what can be accomplished with a blender, a juicer, a crockpot, and a food processor.

And what can you make with those things? Sauce. And sauce makes this elimination dieter a happy girl. In fact, I read a post recently on The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen where a reader had stated, “Just give me sauces and I can eat anything.” Kindred spirits, we are.

So using Tom and Ali’s garlicky green sauce, I created this Asian influenced salad that can be eaten as early as Phase Two of the Elimination Diet, but is even better once citrus, nightshades, and chicken are reintroduced. The disclaimer is that nothing is trying to be chicken in the Phase Two friendly variation–it’s just that few descriptions have the same name recognition as “Chinese Chicken Salad.” Chinese Salad? Asian Salad? Chickenless Asian Salad? You get the picture.

This concoction tastes a lot like peanut sauce, and it is AMAZEballs. I didn’t want to spend $15 at Whole Foods on a jar of pumpkin seed butter, so the first time I made it, I used sunflower butter and it was delicious. This go around I used homemade (thus, cheaper) pumpkin seed butter, and added lime for balance, crushed red pepper for spice, and enough water to make it the consistency of salad dressing. Feel free to omit the citrus and the red pepper if you’re still in Phase Two.

Build your salad with your favorite combination of the following ingredients:

Phase Two-friendly options:

Shredded cabbage (Red or green)
Shredded carrots
Shredded beets
Snap peas, cut into strips (I like these better than snow peas, but either would work)
Bean sprouts
Julienned green apple (you need something with tang, to mimic the flavor of mandarin oranges)
Pepitas (to mimic the crunch of the chow mein noodles), toasted for extra flavor loveliness.

Other options, once you’ve graduated from Phase Two to Reintroduction:

Julienned red, orange, and yellow pepper
Organic chicken, cut into strips–I used Fiance’s delish go-to marinade of Sriracha (here’s a homemade, paleo version http://nomnompaleo.com/post/36060636540/paleo-sriracha-homemade-20-minute-sriracha), sesame oil, and soy sauce. Use wheat free tamari if you’re eliminating gluten.
Orange, supremed–I toyed with using peeled and separated tangerines, but I think the seeds would be annoying.
Organic water chestnuts—I would love to buy these fresh, but apparently that would require a quick jaunt to an Asian food market. In Asia.
Organic baby corn–see note about water chestnuts.

Take a look at both versions. No deprivation here.

Packed with Phase One-friendly goodies
So crunchy and flavorful
Chinese Salad 3
Then once you add in citrus, nightshades, and chicken
Chinese Salad 4
Adaptable for any Phase and so good you’ll be eating it well after the diet’s over


And just so’s I’m not alienating the non-Eliminators out there, I’ve got more killer sauce recipes coming soon: high on flavor, low on refined sugars and other yucky additives, as well as a comprehensive guide of refined sugar alternatives due out in the next few weeks. So stay tuned.

In the meantime, do something delicious!