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Pan-Fried Croutons

A reader recently told me that she missed "good bread" and asked if I had a gluten-free bread recipe to share. I wish I could have said "yes," but that's just not a culinary realm I've ventured to yet. Gluten-free bread baking seems daunting. One day I hope to take on the challenge—just not today.

I could, however, sympathize with her craving for "good bread." Thankfully mine have waned since going gluten-, dairy- and egg-free almost a year ago. But that's not to say that I don't have my days. Last week a bread crave hit and I thought I'd try Ener G brand's White Rice Loaf bread (free of gluten, casein, dairy, egg, soy and nut). I've passed it up many times before because it just looked so, well, bland. My assumptions were right. It is quite bland but it makes pretty good toast when slathered in buttery spread. And, it makes SUPERB croutons!

Pan-Fried Croutons

Melt in a large frying pan over medium heat:

2 tablespoons extra virgin OLIVE OIL
2 tablespoons BUTTERY SPREAD or 2 additional tablespoons OLIVE OIL (see notes)

Add and gently stir:

5 slices of ENER G WHITE RICE LOAF BREAD or "safe" bread of your choice, cut into 1/2" cubes

Season to your liking with:

Minced fresh or dried HERBS (optional ... I used oregano and parsley)

Continue to sauté over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until golden brown and crisp on all sides.

Notes: We use Earth Balance (soy-free version) buttery spread sparingly. It's still processed yellow stuff in a tub. But sometimes I just gotta have that buttery taste! If we did not have a dairy allergy in our home, we would use real, organic butter. Oh, and feel free to adjust the amount of oil/butter/buttery spread to your liking.

Ingredients in Ener G White Rice Flour Bread: Filtered Water, Rice Flour, Tapioca Starch, High Oleic Safflower Oil, Pear Juice Concentrate, Yeast, Methylcellulose, Sodium Carboxymethylcellulose, Salt, Orange Citrus Fiber, Calcium Phosphate, Glucono Delta Lactone. Enriched with Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Iron and Folic Acid.

Find Ener G breads at your local natural foods store.


Apricot Spritzer | "0" Calorie & "0" Carbs

I have a habit. I collect SweetLeaf Liquid Stevia flavors like some women collect shoes and like a shoe-aholic I am not always thinking straight when I make a purchase. Take this Apricot Nectar flavored SweetLeaf Liquid Stevia for example. It sounded delicious, but when I got home I had no idea what I would do with it!

This week I finally broke into the bottle. My usual routine after a long day is to enjoy, in peace and quiet, a glass of sparkling water laced with a few drops of SweetLeaf Vanilla Creme Liquid Stevia. The other night I changed things up a bit (watch out!) and used the Apricot Nectar flavor in place of the Vanilla Creme. Was it ever refreshing! And with a twist of lime and crushed mint, even better!

Apricot Spritzer

Pour over ice and mix.

Sparkling WATER
4-6 drops SweetLeaf Apricot Nectar LIQUID STEVIA
Twist of LIME or lemon
Crushed MINT (optional)

Enjoy! For extra "wow," freeze chunks of apricot in the ice cubes.

For anyone trying to kick the soda habit, give a mix of sparkling water and any one of these SweetLeaf Liquid Stevia flavors a go (and, no, I am not getting paid for this endorsement—I am just a very satisfied customer):

Cinnamon • Grape • Chocolate • Peppermint • Root Beer • Apricot Nectar • English Toffee • Vanilla Creme • Valencia Orange • Lemon Drop • Chocolate Raspberry •  Berry • Hazelnut

Stevia is an all-natural "dietary supplement" that has been used as a sweetener for centuries [here's a little background on why the FDA, unfortunately, prohibits it from being labelled a "sweetener"]. SweetLeaf™ claims to be the only 100%-natural, zero-calorie, zero-carbohydrate, zero-alcohol, zero-chemical, zero-glycemic index stevia sweetener available.

SweetLeaf Stevia is available at natural food stores, some grocery stores, and from Amazon and many other online retailers.


Justin's Nut Butter on Apples

As the cute, little singer, Harper Phillips croons, "I am USDA certified in love with you"— Justin's Nut Butter. I love to see local talent make it big. In this little story I see two Boulderites on their way to doing just that. Justin Gold's line of almond, peanut and hazelnut butters just can't be beat and the growth of his company is proof of that! Justin's Nut Butters recently launched a decadent chocolate version of their Almond Butter. I find it reminiscent of Nutella® (which we can't/won't eat). I have yet to try it, but I  bet Justin's new Chocolate Hazelnut Butter tastes even MORE like Nutella (maybe he'll send me a sample for this plug), since Nutella is made with hazelnuts.

Below is an ingredients comparison. When I see words like "modified" and "artificial" I promptly put the product back on the shelf. I like that Justin uses "natural" and "organic" ingredients. My only gripes are that it is sweetened with evaporated cane sugar (which we eat very little of) and is made with palm oil (which the jury is still out on). Aside from those two things, it makes for a nice treat (everything in moderation) on slices of apples or mixed into a bowl of hot cereal!

Ingredients in Justin's Chocolate Hazelnut Butter: Dry Roasted Almonds, Organic Evaporated Cane Sugar, Organic Cocoa Powder, Organic Cocoa Butter, Organic Palm Fruit Oil, Natural Vanilla, Sea Salt.

Ingredients in Nutella®: Sugar, Modified Palm Oil, Hazelnuts, Cocoa, Skim Milk, Reduced Minerals Whey (from milk), Soy Lecithin: An Emulsifier, Vanillin: An Artificial Flavor.

And now, for the second part story. I first heard Harper Phillips' sweet, folky voice on Justin's Nut Butters website. I think her voice and charm will take her places. Here is a "love song" for Justin as seen on Justin's Nut Butters site. Cute! And, she plays the ukulele! Love it.

Peanutbutter Song Remix from lauren lortie on Vimeo.



Don't Sweat It (and don't eat it)


Now, for something different. I am a food blogger, but today I am sharing a recipe for homemade deodorant (please don't eat it...but you could). This one comes from Amy Karol at The Angry Chicken.

It's summer, it's hot, I sweat and then well, I'm not all roses. Ten years ago I tossed out my anti-perspirant and opted for the deodorant-only route. I didn't like the thought of applying aluminum and other harsh chemicals to my armpits and, especially, so dangerously close to "the girls." The deodorants I have used (Tom's of Maine and Kiss My Face) have worked so-so. On sweltering days I admit to resorting to my husband's trusty Old Spice (shhh, and again, more chemicals). Thankfully, I think my Old Spice days are over!

 In one of his articles, Dr. Mercola* writes: "Putting chemicals on your skin is actually far worse than ingesting them, because when you eat something the enzymes in your saliva and stomach help break it down and flush it out of your body. When you put these chemicals on your skin, however, they are absorbed straight into your blood stream without filtering of any kind, so there's no protection against toxins. Instead, they are in large part going directly to your delicate organs." Furthermore, "It’s been estimated that if you use conventional cosmetics on a daily basis, you can absorb almost 5 pounds of chemicals into your body each year! Many of which have been linked to deadly side effects like cancer."

My friend, Jane, turned me on to The Angry Chicken and Amy's dynamite deodorant recipe. What's wonderful about it is that it's super easy to make and IT WORKS! At the end of the day I take the old whiff test [yup] and I'm still smelling fresh!

As you can see in these pics, I thought I would attempt to fill an empty Tom's of Maine deodorant stick with my homemade batch. Voila! It worked!! Here's how I did it:

I made a half a batch of this recipe. Once the mixture cooled to a thick and creamy consistency, I twisted the empty stick dial all the way down, filled the void with the deodorant mixture, capped it and placed it in the freezer to harden. When I removed it from the freezer I carefully ran it under warm water until the dial twisted up and down freely. I hope you'll give this one a go! Just be sure to store it in a cool place (not in your gym bag in a hot car!).

What you will need:

3 tablespoons SHEA BUTTER
3 tablespoons BAKING SODA
2 tablespoons CORN STARCH
2 tablespoons COCOA BUTTER (found mine at Whole Foods)
2 VITAMIN E OIL GEL CAPS (puncture and squeeze out the oil)
ESSENTIAL OILS (Amy uses ylang ylang and orange, I used lavender and orange)

Visit The Angry Chicken for all the how-to's. Amy's recipe calls for cornstarch—which I did not have—so I used tapioca starch. Mmmhhmm, and no, it did not give me puddin' pits. I would have used arrowroot starch but I was out of that, too. Oh and heat the mixture on the stove top, NOT in a microwave. Trust me on this one.

While on the topic of skin care, you might find this link informative ...

Seven ingredients to avoid in products that you apply to your skin.

*Dr. Mercola seems to have a product for everything and wants you to buy it. He is a marketing genius—taking the educate-your-customer approach to selling. He has a lot of good things to say and research to back up his claims. He's worth checking out.


Buckwheat Groats & Oats Waffles | GFCFEF

Poor waffle maker. It's been neglected for years. Tucked away in the dark abyss of a corner cabinet. But after today, no more. It's earned rockstar, front and center status thanks to this groovy groaty waffle recipe! This morning I tested it for the third time. And for the third morning in a row my kids gobbled them up. Served hot off the iron, they are crispy on the outside, moist on the inside. I actually prefer them to the egg batter Belgian waffles I used to make! They are more substantial and sustaining, like a hearty bowl of hot cereal, they stick to your ribs.

In this recipe I use buckwheat groats. My friend Kelly at The Spunky Coconut got me hooked on them (check out her recipe for Do-it-Yourself Cream of Buckwheat). Buckwheat is of NO relation to wheat, making it a safe choice for those with Celiac disease. It is actually a fruit seed (not a grain) and is related to rhubarb. Nutritionally, buckwheat provides vitamins B1 and B2, the minerals potassium, magnesium, phosphate and iron (buckwheat contains more iron than cereal grains), and has nearly twice the amount of the amino acid lysine found in rice. Buckwheat groats provide yet another way to sneak healthier, more wholesome ingredients into the everyday foods we enjoy.

If you are wondering what GFCFEF stands for, it's an acronym for gluten-free, casein-free, egg-free. As with 99% of the other recipes on this site, these waffles are also corn-free, soy-free, peanut-free, low in sugar and free of refined sugars.

Buckwheat Groats & Oats Waffles
Gluten-free, Dairy-Free, Egg-free, Nut-free, Soy-Free, Corn-Free, Easily Vegan
Makes: 4 Waffles

Add to high-powered blender in this order and blend on medium for 30 seconds or until smooth:

1-1/4 cup filtered WATER
2 tablespoons extra light OLIVE OIL
2 tablespoons runny HONEY (vegan dieters should use an alternative)
1 tablespoon VANILLA EXTRACT
1 tablespoon LEMON JUICE
15 drops SweetLeaf Vanilla Crème LIQUID STEVIA
1 cup gluten-free rolled OATS
1/4 teaspoon SEA SALT

Add and blend 10 seconds. Then the fun part—watch it grow and expand:

1 tablespoon BAKING POWDER (make your own corn-free, aluminum-free baking powder)

Pour batter into heated waffle iron lightly coated with oil. Cook 5 minutes or to desired crispness.

Note: Waffles too light and airy? Funny thing happened the other day. It must have been my 6th or 7th batch of these. This time I used fresh lemon juice vs. bottled and found that the waffles were coming out a bit too light—to the point that I had to gingerly pick them out of the waffle iron. I have no idea what caused it. Even made a second batch to test and same thing. Was it the lemon juice or just the day? My only thought is that perhaps the fresh juice was more acidic and caused a greater reaction with the baking powder? I am no food scientist, just a guess. So if yours turn out too light and airy just give the blender carafe a firm tap or two on the counter—covered of course. This let's some of the air out of the batter and makes for a more manageable waffle.