a woman encounters the AREPA

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If my friend Amber were here right now, I’d give her a pony. And possibly an orange kitten for good measure. All because she introduced me to the glory that is the AREPA. In my humble opinion, arepas are next-level tacos. A corn-based flatbread indigenous to Colombia and Venezuela, arepas have a doughy, yet crunchy texture, and are the perfect haven for all sorts of fixings.

AND AREPAS ARE GLUTEN-FREE.

Today, I fixed mine with leftover chopped chicken, chickpeas, kale and mixed greens. Clearly, I plan to add arepas to my repertoire. I’m envisioning pulled pork and veg, roasted vegetables, and taco beef.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe from Bon Appetit
2 cups arepa flour (precooked cornmeal)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Desired fillings (such as shredded cooked chicken or pork, stewed black beans with cheese and lime, corn salad with onion and fresh herbs; for serving)
Lime wedges (for serving)

Note: Arepa flour is precooked corn flour, not to be confused with masa harina. Sometimes sold as masarepa or harina precocida, it can be found in Latin markets and some supermarkets.

DIRECTIONS
Combine arepa flour and salt in a medium bowl. Make a well in the center and add 2½ cups warm water. Using a wooden spoon, gradually incorporate dry ingredients, stirring until no dry lumps remain. Let rest 5 minutes to hydrate.

Knead dough a few times in bowl, then divide into 8 pieces. Roll each piece on work surface into a ball, then gently flatten to about ½” thick.

Heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 4 arepas, cover, and cook until golden brown, 6–8 minutes. Uncover, flip, and cook (keep uncovered) until other side is golden brown, 6–8 minutes.

Transfer arepas to a wire rack. Repeat with remaining 1 Tbsp. oil and dough. Let the arepas cool for 10 minutes. Split arepas and stuff with desired fillings (I used chopped up chicken, chickpeas and kale sauteed in a pan with a little olive oil, salt and pepper); serve with lime wedges for squeezing over.

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chicken + fish recipes gluten-free meat savory recipes

nectarine, yogurt and poppy seed cake (gluten + dairy free)

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While I haven’t quite fallen under the spell of dairy-free chocolate chips (and you don’t even want to know my response to sampling a certain brand’s dairy-free salted caramel ice-cream, unless you want to queue up images of gagging and a face caving inward), gluten + dairy free baking is no longer the traumatizing experience I assumed it would be. And while I still occasionally uncover the packet of yeast I neglected to chuck, or wonder if a few pats of butter will really kill me (no, but I’ll itch and wretch horribly FOR DAYS, so there’s that), I’m slowly becoming accustomed to enjoying a whole new terrain of cooking and baking. And with the cooler months on the horizon, nothing gives me more joy than being ensconced in a hot kitchen, stirring soup and baking cakes.

Remember yesterday’s mini-rage blackout? When I lamented over the fact that I have to get creative with gluten-free cookbooks, because most invariably rely on dairy as a salve for our gluten loss? Aran Goyoaga’s Small Plates and Sweet Treats was one of those tomes, and as I paged through scores of lush and beautifully-photographed recipes, I kept seeing sour cream, cheese, butter, milk, yoghurt, heavy cream, in 80% of the recipes. Case in point, this nectarine pound cake. I fell in LOVE with the snap in the cookbook, and, quite honestly, who can refuse a pound cake? So instead of hurling the book out the window of my yoga studio, I got smart and made quite a bit of substitutions.

The result? A delicious, lemony-rich cake. So good, I had to shove the remainders in the freezer in case I get crazy (although my carb cravings have subsided quite a bit).

This morning I’m expecting a load of groceries and I’m back to recipe exploration. Wish me luck!

INGREDIENTS: Adapted from Aran Goyoaga’s Small Plates and Sweet Treats
1 stick (8 tbsp) unsalted Earth Balance butter, at room temperature
4 tbsp coconut oil, at room temperature
1 cup coconut palm sugar
1/4 cup organic cane sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp finely grated lemon zest or lemon extract
2 eggs, room temperature
3/4 cup Almond Dream plain vegan yoghurt
3/4 cup superfine brown rice flour
1/3 cup quinoa flour
1/4 cup almond flour
2 tbsp tapioca starch/flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
4 nectarines, halved, pitted and sliced
2 tbsp slivered almonds
1 tbsp coconut palm sugar for dusting

DIRECTIONS
Pre-heat the oven to 350F. Grease an 8-inch tube/bundt pan with coconut spray, and line the bottom with parchment paper. Set aside.

Using a stand mixer, cream the butter, coconut oil, sugars, vanilla extract, and lemon zest no medium speed until light, about 3-5 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time. Mix until combined. Stop the mixer and scrape the bowl. Add the yoghurt and mix until combined.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flours, baking powder, ginger and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the bowl of the mixer and mix on medium speed until it comes together into a creamy batter.

Scoop the batter into the greased pan and spread evenly. Smooth out the top with a spatula as much as possible. Top with sliced nectarines and sprinkle with slivered almonds and coconut sugar. Bake for 1-1 hour and 15 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan completely before inverting it onto a cooling rack. Store at room temperature for up to 1 day, or refrigerate for up to 3 days. The cake can be frozen for up to a month.

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cake + sweet loaf recipes dairy-free recipes gluten-free sweet recipes

blueberry buckle cake (vegan!!!)

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You can’t imagine how wonderful it was to lick the batter out of the bowl again. For a moment, I was able to dial back the clock and stand in a kitchen surrounded by flour, butter and cream. Only this time I was creaming vegan butter and trying to understand the texture of its cream versus traditional butter. This time, I was sifting gluten-free flour and not working about over mixing the dough because there was no gluten to activate. It was strangely liberating making this buckle cake, which is really an oversized muffin in a fancy tin.

Yet, remember last week when I wrote about baking no longer being the singular object of my affection? That truth still stands even though I enjoyed a slice of this cake with Van Leeuwen dairy-free pistachio ice-cream (it’s surprisingly good, although don’t get the salted caramel, which is honestly not that good). While the cake baked, I stared longingly at the batch of tomato soup on the stove, flavored with double-smoked bacon.

This past week I had lunch with my friend, Jamie, who understands my L-Glutamine life, wholly. We spoke of our respective conditions, swapped gluten + dairy free baking ideas, and more importantly we mused over the fact that we’d swapped hats, as it were. An avid vegan cook, Jamie came to lunch carting a huge bag of almond flour, while all I could talk about was cauliflower, cruciferous greens, and the fact that I DON’T HAVE CELIAC (PRAISE, KITTENS). I have become less excited about baking and more enthralled with the seemingly endless ways one can prepare a vegetable.

But this cake. You have to know that blueberries were on my list of sensitivities, but I’m picking my battles. So I endured a good bit of temporary itch eating this buckle cake, but believe me when I say it’s worth it. While the cake may not be as photogenic as its gluten counterpart, the richness of the batter, the moist consistency of the end result, will have you closing the door on gluten + dairy.

INGREDIENTS: Adapted from Bon Appetit
For the topping
1/2 cup coconut palm sugar
1/4 cup gluten-free flour (use Bob’s Red Mill or Cup4Cup)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) chilled unsalted Earth Balance butter (vegan), cut into 1/2″ pieces

For the buckle cake
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted Earth Balance butter, room temperature, plus more for pan
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour (use Bob’s Red Mill or Cup4Cup)
2 tsp gluten-free baking powder
3/4 tsp kosher salt
3/4 cup cane sugar
1 tbsp chia seeds/3 tbsp warm water (for vegans); 1 large egg (for non-vegans)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup coconut cream (this is different than coconut milk)
1 pint fresh (or frozen, thawed) blueberries

A 9″-diameter springform pan

DIRECTIONS
For the buckle cake: Preheat oven to 350°. If you’re going the vegan route, add the chia seeds and warm water to a small bowl and let rest for 10 minutes, stirring intermittently. Butter and flour pan. Whisk baking powder, salt, and 1 1/2 cups flour in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer on high speed (or a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment), beat sugar, 1/4 cup butter + 1 tbsp coconut oil until very light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Beat in egg (if using; chia mixture, if using) and vanilla just to combine, about 2 minutes. Reduce speed to low and gradually add dry ingredients, then coconut cream; mix just to combine. Gently fold in blueberries. Scrape batter into prepared pan, smooth top, and place pan on a rimmed baking sheet.

For the topping: Whisk coconut palm sugar, flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt in a medium bowl. Add butter and rub in with your fingers until mixture comes together in large clumps; set aside.

Evenly sprinkle topping over the cake.

Bake buckle until top is golden brown and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 80–90 minutes. Transfer pan to a wire rack and let cool completely (30 minutes) before unmolding and serving.

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cake + sweet loaf recipes dairy-free recipes gluten-free sweet recipes

gluten-free | health-conscious book gear

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Whenever I feel lost, I come back to books. Books have this arcane way of setting the world to rights, of being the salve for all that hurts. As a writer, I make sense of the world through prose; prose helps me navigate loss, love, and the ocean of emotions that fall in between. Books have the propensity to rebuild worlds we previously thought were ruinous, and I always come away from a book with a sense of hope. For me, books are always the answer. Always.

Last week I mourned the kind of life that had a stronghold on me. Habits that were at turns comforting and destructive, and after the dust settled and the anger subsided, I spent the greater part of the weekend immersed in books trying to make sense of the hows and the whys and trying to architect a new space I can occupy–a life lived mindfully. Below are a few of the books I’ve combed through, and over the course of the coming months I’ll share other writers and tomes that inspire me to nourish and rebuild.

After I had a minor rage blackout in my nutritionist’s office last week (in response to my laundry list of food sensitivities), she handed me her good friend Nadya Andreeva’s, book, Happy Belly: A Woman’s guide to feeling vibrant, light, and balanced. On the train ride up to Rhinebeck, I learned about proper food combinations, an individual food’s path to digestion (DYK that larger pieces of beef can take up to eight hours to leave your body?), that the less you chew, the more you make your digestive system work in overtime, and, as a result, fermentation starts to occur since food is in your system longer than it should be? Fermentation = yeast = bloat = digestive issues = heartbreak = I miss bread. I MEAN.

Nadya’s book explained all the complicated science quite simply, and the Ayurvedic philosophy, of which most of the book is based, really resonated with me. I’ve been exploring self-care and deep listening lately, and while it may sound bizarre to you, listening to myself chew my food has made a complete difference in the way I come to a meal.

However, I was also angry, which you would expect when you tell a woman she can no longer have pizza, bread, turkey, sweet potatoes, pasta and did I mention, BREAD? I needed humor, anger and some sentitmental education, and April Peveteaux’s breezy, hilarious, yet informative, memoir, Gluten is my Bitch, was just the ticket. I discovered April’s book will typing in certain expletives + gluten in Google search, and I’m glad I did. A celiac, April breaks down the science of our suffering, while at the same time making me laugh through the pain. She also presents a lot of great recipes and some optimism with regard to science and celiac.

When I was done punching walls and kicking pillows around the apartment, I settled into Cara Reed’s Decadent Gluten-Free Vegan Baking: Delicious, Gluten-, Egg- and Dairy-Free Treats and Sweets. Thumbing through the recipes, I saw a lot of my beloveds (coffee cakes, chocolate cakes, crackers and chocolate chip cookies) made without gluten and dairy, and let me tell you this: A WOMAN FELT HOPE. I plan to bake from this book over the next few weeks, but I already thoroughly loved the coffee cake muffins I baked this weekend.

After foraging through my agent’s expansive garden in Rhinebeck, he handed me this lovely book, Kicking Cancer in the Kitchen: The Girlfriend’s Cookbook and Guide to Using Real Food to Fight Cancer by Annette Ramke + Kendall Scott. While my condition is nowhere nearly as serious as cancer, I found a lot of their mindful healthy eating tips smart, and their vegetarian recipes (most of which are gluten-free!) inspiring. Their approach is holistic and self-nourishing, and I’ve already bookmarked a lot of dishes I plan on making.

I’ve had many extensive conversations with my nutritionist about Sarah Wilson’s I Quit Sugar: Your Complete 8-Week Detox Program and Cookbook, and let’s just say that while Dana likes the idea in concept, she’s not a fan of the execution, as well as many of the high-fat recipes. While I agree, I did find Sarah’s book an eye-opening read. Quite simply, it made me aware of just how much sugar we consume, and the fact that sugar is in EVERYTHING. Look at your labels. Take the total number of carbohydrates, subtract the dietary fiber, and divide that number by 4.2. You’ve just discovered how many TEASPOONS of sugar are in your meal, and how easy it is for us to get addicted to something for which we weren’t built (from an evolutionary standpoint) to regulate. Just for the knowledge alone, this book is worth the purchase, and I did find many of the recipes, rather than the program, to be wonderful, in moderation.

Finally, one of the best acquisitions I made this year was Kimberley Hasselbrink’s Vibrant Food: Celebrating the Ingredients, Recipes, and Colors of Each Season. I’ve already bought four books for holiday gifting, and if this book doesn’t inspire you to eat well, I don’t know what will. Kimberley offers up incredible seasonal fare, inventive recipes, and I’ve made her fritters more times than I’d like to share.

If you’ve discovered books that have inspired your food journey, please let me know!! You guys have been so awesome with the recommendations, and I have tons of new apps I’ve downloaded and bloggers I’m now following, as a result!

cookbooks gluten-free mindful health journey

cinnamon coffee cake muffins (vegan)

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Something strange happened today–I’ve become ambivalent about baking. I spent the greater part of yesterday inspecting and cleaning out my cabinets, shopping for gluten-free pantry items, and reading a ton of books on gastrointestinal health (shockingly, the books weren’t boring and the passages didn’t leave me in a catatonic state)–all in preparation for my new life as a vegan baker.

Know that I wept a little when I typed the words vegan baker.

But before we get to the muffins, let’s talk about my barren cabinets. I wish I would have shot the “before” photo, because I packed three large boxes with gluten items. Five-pound bags of whole wheat, rye, spelt and white flour, tossed. Soy sauces, udon, noodles, couscous, barley, rye, tossed. It didn’t occur to me that I outfitted 80% of my kitchen with gluten, and this realization–bearing witness to barren cabinets–was a rude awakening.

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Have I been eating this much gluten? Damn straight. (cruel reality, cold water splashes on face, etc)

After I unloaded my boxes on the sidewalk, I made lists relating to my new gluten-free, faux vegan existence (because if you’re taking pasta and cheese away from me, you know I’m keeping my BACON). Arrowroot and xanthan gum–both of which are binding agents in baking, a photocopy of the stickiness that gluten imbues in recipes–became staples. Tapioca, coconut (coconut, I’m learning, is slowly becoming my BFF), buckwheat (contrary to its name, it’s actually not a wheat product), gluten-free cornmeal, kasha, rice (in a thousand different varieties, because carbs) and oceans of dairy-free substitutes that I could stomach.

And no, I will not be eating vegan cheese, however, I have succumbed to purchasing Earth Balance vegan butter, which isn’t half bad.

This morning, after I fixed myself some brown rice pancakes (such is my life), I went all in for baking these coffee cake muffins and I was…ambivalent. I found myself going through the motions, and instead of thinking about the puffs of sugary delights in the oven, I wondered how I was going to cook those beans lodged in the fridge.

Perhaps it’s the fact that I’ve spent the past month chopping, sauteing, cooking, that I get excited about cooking > baking. I actually wanted to post a soup recipe I made with buckwheat groats, because I was JUBILANT to have found a healthy couscous replacement in the GROAT. Cruel name, groat, but what can you do?

I’m going to need a moment with this, kids. And I’m saving the groat awakening for this week. Until then, enjoy these tasty coffee cake muffins.

INGREDIENTS: Recipe from Decadent Gluten-Free Vegan Baking: Delicious, Gluten, Egg, and Dairy-Free Treats and Sweets, modified slightly
Dry
1 3/4 c/330 g gluten-free flour (I use Cup4Cup so I don’t have to use xanthan gum. I also dialed down the flour because the batter ended up being a tad dry)
½ c/72.5 g unpacked brown sugar (On the next go, I’d use coconut palm sugar, which is an excellent brown sugar replacement with low GI)
¼ c/50 g cane sugar
2 tsp/7.5 g baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 Tbsp/7 g flaxseed meal (I nixed this as I didn’t have it on hand)
1 tsp xanthan gum (I nixed this since I used Cup4Cup flour)
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg

Wet
¾ c/180 ml nondairy milk (I used almond milk, however, you can use coconut or rice milk)
⅓ c/80 ml oil (I used safflower oil)
1 tbsp/15 ml apple cider vinegar (or lemon juice)

For the streusel topping
1 c/165 g gluten-free flour (I use Cup4Cup so I don’t have to use xanthan gum)
⅓ c/73 g brown sugar, lightly packed
2 tsp/5 g cinnamon
3 tbsp/42 g vegan butter, cold. (I use Earth Balance)

DIRECTIONS
Preheat oven to 350°F/180°C. Lightly grease or line a muffin pan.

In a large bowl, whisk together all of the dry ingredients. In a medium bowl, combine the wet ingredients. Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients and pour the milk mixture in. Stir with a wooden spoon. Pour the batter into the muffin pan. The consistency of my muffins wasn’t pourable (I’ve rarely work with muffin batter that you had to pour, so I question this word, but I digress), so I used an ice cream scoop. Combine the ingredients for the streusel topping with your hands and sprinkle it evenly on the batter.

Bake for 22 to 25 minutes or until a knife comes out clean when inserted. Allow to cool slightly before removing from the muffin tins. Cool on a wire rack.

CARA’S TIP: If you have spots in your muffin tin that are not filled before going into the oven, place some water halfway inside the individual spots. By doing this, you ensure that all of your muffins will be baked evenly.

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gluten-free muffin recipes