Monday, 20 May 2013 04:18

Healthy Recipes | Cooking Gluten Free

Healthy Recipes // May 20, 2013

What happens when a passionate home chef, who prides herself on creating amazing baked goods and meals for her man, discovers that her guy is allergic to gluten?First, panic ensues, to be quite honest. I know, because “she” is me and this became my reality about two years ago.

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, chances are you’ve heard the term “gluten-free” recently. In the past four years, there has been a noticeable uptick in people who are allergic to gluten, a protein complex found in wheat (including kamut and spelt), rye, barley, and triticale (a hybrid of wheat and rye). There are many opinions as to why so many people have developed gluten allergies in recent years, but right now there isn’t a consensus. Currently, about 1 in 10 people in America are experiencing gluten sensitivities that range from full blown celiac disease to less severe allergic reactions, such as stomach pains and intense bloating.

What makes this allergy incredibly difficult to manage is that gluten lurks in many foods that you would likely not  expect to contain any form of wheat, rye, or barley. From soy sauce and soups to barbecue sauce and salad dressings, wheat derivatives are often added to store-bought products. Some believe going gluten-free is simply “the latest diet trend” but I can assure you that for people who are truly allergic to gluten, eating it makes them miserable.

For about six months, I lived in denial of my boyfriend’s allergy. I wasn’t excited to cook because I felt like he couldn’t eat 90 percent of the recipes I wanted to make. Finally, I started to explore what it meant to cook without gluten, and guess what? Cooking gluten-free (GF) was easier than I expected. By exploring GF blogs and cookbooks, I  learned what foods he could eat and what ingredients I could use as substitutes. Here is a quick and dirty tutorial on how to cook gluten-free without going crazy. You’ll also find a list of my favorite gluten-free products, of which there are plenty of the market today—some are great and some are downright awful, but they are all expensive, so do your research are choose wisely!

Foods to avoid cooking with:
Anything made with wheat, rye or barley or that mentions gluten or wheat in the ingredient list or as an allergen alert on the product. This means bread, pasta, sauces and soups thickened with flour, baked goods, soy sauce, crackers, some chips, cereals, oatmeal (unless it’s gluten-free certified oatmeal), and all alcohol made from grains tend to contain gluten, e.g. beer, vodka, whiskey, some bourbon.

Foods to enjoy cooking with: All vegetables, fruits, and nuts are gluten-free. Most animal proteins are considered gluten-free, but some beef, poultry, etc. might have trace amounts of gluten if the animals were fed wheat or anything containing gluten. Corn, rice and potatoes are gluten-free, as are most dairy products. Sugar, agave and most chocolate are gluten-free. Coffee is gluten-free, but many people who have a gluten allergy are also allergic to a protein that exists in coffee. Wine is gluten-free as are some spirits such as rum or potato vodka and Maker’s Mark bourbon.

Top Recommendations for Gluten-free Products

I am not gluten-free, so I judge all GF products based on whether I think they taste as good or almost as good as the original product made with gluten.

Bread - Rudi’s Multigrain GF is hands down the closest to “regular wheat” bread once you toast it. You do need to toast GF bread for the best results!

Pasta - Bonaturae is fabulous. Some GF pastas fall apart, but this one tastes just like regular pasta! Most GF pastas take a little longer to cook and my advice is don’t rinse them off because they get sticky. Just toss with a bit of olive oil and use as normal. I also like Ancient Harvest quinoa garden pagoda pasta. It’s excellent and has a fun shape!

Snacks and Crackers - Glutino wins this hands down. Their crackers, bagel chips and pretzels are all good.

Cookies - Tate’s Bakeshop wins first place. I eat these instead of other chocolate chip cookies because they are THAT GOOD. WOW comes in as a close second with a great variety of really fluffy, soft cookies and brownies.

Here are some other faves:

These blogs are also great resources when learning to cook gluten-free:

And finally ... here is a great recipe for Gluten-free, Dairy-free Shepherd’s Pie on my blog

Enjoy the journey of learning to cook in this new world that’s getting more gluten-free friendly by the day!

Published in Lifestyle

Recipes // January 27, 2013

As we all resolve to live healthier in 2013, many of us are on the hunt for ways to cut calories and bid farewell to our favorite fattening foods. This can be especially difficult during the winter months, when comfort foods seem to be calling your name.  Fortunately when it comes to cooking, there is a long list of methods to reduce fat and caloric intake that don’t require you abandoning all your favorite foods altogether. Here are a few ways I like to lighten up recipes:  

  1. Substitute whole wheat/grains – This is the easiest way to make a meal more wholesome. If you are making a pasta dish or a stir fry, opt for whole wheat pasta, brown rice or quinoa instead of white pasta or rice. It may not reduce the calorie intake, but it adds fiber and other essential nutrients, thus eliminating “empty” calories. Whole wheat also adds a hearty texture to meals.
  2. Use veggies instead of meat or cheese – This is a great technique that I use to increase nutritional value and reduce fat in my recipes. When cooking something like enchiladas, for example, cut the amount of cheese in half and add a colorful assortment of veggies, such as mushrooms, peppers or zucchini, to fill your tortillas. The meal will still offer the same gooey goodness with an extra flavor punch from healthy veggies.
  3. Sauté with broth – I love to sauté meats and vegetables when I’m cooking, typically with a good olive oil. However, a friend recently suggested that I sauté with broth instead of oil. I was skeptical, but I tried it and I love it! Sometimes a little oil is still necessary, but if you just need some extra liquid, reach for a low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth. It adds flavor without adding any substantial fat to your dish.
  4. Cut fats in half – Recipes often call for a large amount of meat, cheese, cream or butter. Before using the full amount of fats, think about whether or not they are necessary. If altering the ingredients will compromise the recipe, then stick with the amount called for. But if you can reduce the amount of meat or swap it for a leaner cut, or if you can live without the maximum amount of butter or cheese, your waistline will thank you.
  5. Learn your spices – Some people believe that healthy cooking is bland. Those people have not learned how to use their spice cabinet. The best way to create tasty dishes is to generously season with a rainbow of spices. It’s amazing what cumin, oregano or chili powder can do to chicken, fish, sauces and more. And guess what? Spices have virtually zero calories. Just be careful when seasoning with salt – you don’t want to overcompensate with high sodium intake.

What are some of your favorite recipes? Do you ever try to lighten them up with different techniques or food substitutes? Tell us in the comments below!

Published in Lifestyle
Monday, 05 November 2012 05:39

Recipes | Healthy Hearty Pasta

Recipes // November 5, 2012

I am a huge pasta lover, and I am always looking for new ways to jazz up pasta dishes with hearty, healthy ingredients. Last week I needed to make a “clean out the fridge” dinner. I had a half a can of white beans from an earlier meal, collard greens that needed to be eaten up and leftover canned tomatoes. And of course, I always have pasta and an open bottle of red wine on hand (healthy food = more calories available for wine consumption, right?).

Typically you see kale or spinach in pasta dishes, so substituting collard greens really makes this recipe stand out. It was a bit of an experiment, but I thought the collard greens turned out to be a great complement to this dish. They hold up well to cooking and add a vibrant color and plenty of nutrients. White beans add great texture and heartiness, so they are delicious in meatless dishes like this one (though my husband claims I use them too often!). This is an easy, healthy meal that will definitely fill you up but won’t make you feel guilty. If you want to add meat, use turkey Italian sausage. Just add in and brown after the collard greens have started to cook.

1 package whole wheat spaghetti or pasta of your choice
2 tbsp. olive oil
½ tsp. salt (or to taste)
¼ tsp. red pepper flakes
1 small yellow onion, diced
1-2 cloves garlic (depending on how much garlic you like)
2 cups coarsely chopped collard greens
7 oz. white beans (half of a standard 14 oz. can)
14 oz. whole canned tomatoes with juices
¼ cup red wine

Cook pasta according to package instructions. While pasta is cooking, heat olive oil over medium-low heat. Add onion and salt and cook for 5-7 minutes or until onion is softened and translucent. Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add collard greens and red pepper flakes. Once collard greens are tender (3-5 minutes), crush whole tomatoes with your hands and add along with the white beans. Turn to medium-high heat until sauce begins to bubble, then stir in wine. Continue to cook at medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes, then reduce heat so the sauce is lightly simmering. Stir occasionally.

Continue to simmer until the sauce begins to thicken, about 5-10 minutes (or longer if desired). Using a slotted pasta spoon or tongs, add cooked pasta directly to the sauce pan (this will allow some of the good, starchy pasta water to work into the sauce). Mix pasta well with the sauce and serve with a generous amount of freshly grated parmesan cheese on top.

Enjoy with guiltless pleasure, and preferably a glass of wine. 

Published in Lifestyle
Thursday, 16 February 2012 02:25

Day 16: Healthy Never Tasted This Good

February 16, 2012

Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t have it all, because the truth is, you can—especially when it comes to indulging in delicious foods that are as healthy for your body as they are tasty on your tongue. By nourishing ourselves with healthy foods that help us glow from the inside, we grow stronger in mind, bone, and body.  But, as women, we also have crazy cravings that must be cured! I get it. I am a “fit-foodie,” who believes it is entirely possible to have your chips and eat them too without one ounce of guilt and with plenty of pleasure, because what is life without pleasure?

How about chips and a Milkshake for a healthy snack? Don’t believe it can be done? Try the recipes below! 


Sweet n’ Spicy Kale Chips

Some of you might be wondering how baked kale chips made my “having it all” list. Those of you have tried these, when fresh and well-seasoned, know what I’m raving about. My potato-chip-loving boyfriend now craves these and he considers himself a chip connoisseur. Crunchy? Check. Flavorful? Oh yeah! Do they cure a salt craving? You bet girlfriend. Packed with fat? Nope—packed with nutrients, including vitamin K, which according to Maureen Callahan, MS, RD, is a potent bone builder. “Researchers find that women who eat diets rich in vitamin K are at lower risk of hip fracture. Seems the body requires vitamin K to activate bone proteins needed to ward off osteoporosis, the crippling bone disease that strikes women four times more often than men,” Callahan writes in this article on Just know, these chips are addicting and yes, you can eat the whole batch. 


  • 1 large bag pre-washed, pre-cut kale (1 large bunch kale can be used, but you must cut out stems, cut leaves into 2-3 inch long pieces, wash and dry very well in a salad spinner. If there is water on the leaves, they will steam instead of crisp.)
  • 2-3 tablespoons olive oil (leaves should be very lightly and evenly coated)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar to taste
  • 2-3 teaspoons chili flakes to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt to taste (I like kosher or course sea salt)


  1. Preheat oven to 350. 
  2. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Set aside.
  3. In large bowl, toss kale with olive oil just to coat, massaging oil gently into leaves with hands.
  4. Place kale on baking sheet in single layer and bake for 10-12 minutes. When kale chips turn a bright emerald green and feel crisp to the touch, remove them immediately. They will burn easily so don’t let them turn brown. If burnt, they will be bitter.
  5. While chips are baking, in small bowl combine sugar, chili flakes, and salt. 
  6. When crisp, remove from oven, sprinkle with spice mixture, toss in bowl and serve immediately. They are divine while warm, but you can keep them in an airtight container for one to two days. Do not refrigerate. 

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Mango Coconut “Milkshake”

The next time you want to treat yourself to something cool, sweet and creamy, try this tropical shake made with almond milk and just a hint of coconut. Feeling romantic? Add a second straw for your lover, who will surely enjoy this decadent dessert with you. You would never know it, but you’ll be getting a healthy dose of ground flaxseed, which contains three potentially beneficial compounds according to Maureen Callahan, MS, RD. “Plant based omega-3 fats, fiber, and disease-fighting compounds called lignans [are all found in flax seed]. A Mayo Clinic study finds 40 grams of crushed flaxseed can cut down on hot flashes, and several reports suggest flax can lower ’bad’ or LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. (Interestingly, in one Chinese study, the cholesterol-lowering impact was more pronounced in women.) The brown or gold seeds may even play a role in fighting breast cancer. One caution: if you're pregnant or nursing, some experts suggest avoiding flax until more studies are done,” writes Callahan in this article on Cheers to you, another Made Woman!  


  • 1 1/2 cup frozen mango chunks
  • 1 small banana 
  • 1/2 cup ice cubes
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk (rice, soy, or coconut milk can be substituted )
  • 1 tablespoon ground flax seed (brown or gold)
  • 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger (optional)


  1. Place all ingredients in blender.
  2. Blend on highest setting until smooth. Add more almond milk if needed to blend. Shake should be thick.  
  3. Pour into a tall glass, add a colorful straw and indulge!

This post was part of our series "30 Days of Made: Love Yourself." Each day we released updates of videos, poetry, images, and original content, all based on the theme of loving yourself. Click the link to read more!

Published in Current
Monday, 30 January 2012 08:00

Recipes | Healthy Breakfast Cookies

January 30, 2012

If you’re anything like me, breakfast is usually a meal that you’re grabbing as you run out the door. I try to be as healthy as possible, but I don’t always make the healthiest choices in the morning -- especially since my sweet tooth seems to be at its biggest before 10 am! I keep these breakfast cookies on hand because they make for a guilt-free and quick option. They contain no butter, no flour and no sugar! And they are super easy to grab as you head out!

Healthy Breakfast Cookies

1 1/2 cups regular rolled oats
1 cup coconut flakes
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon pumpkin spice
1/4 cup of almond meal
1/2 cup mixed nuts, finely chopped
1 cup dried fruit (I used 1/3 chopped dried dates, 1/3 raisins and 1/3 apricots)

3 ripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a large bowl mix together the rolled oats, coconut flakes, salt, cinnamon, pumpkin spice and almond meal. Add the dried fruit and mix well. (Make sure to keep the fruit from sticking together in big chunks)

In a separate bowl combine the bananas, canola oil and vanilla extract and mix well. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and stir until well incorporated.

Roll the mix into small balls and place on a greased cookie sheet. Press down the tops of the balls to form a cookie shape and bake for 20 min at 350F or until the sides turn brown.

Bon appetit!

Published in Lifestyle
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