Burn night glutton without gluten: Yeasted gluten-free pizza crust

In 2011, my last year at Burning Man, we camped with new friends that built a pizza oven on the playa. It was a hot hot year and despite the heat, I could not wait until I could play with the blow torch, fire up the oven and make pizza after pizza. A pizza goddess was born in from the ashes and dust that year and I was determined to continue to flame the fire in the default world. With a wood burning stove in the back and a pizza stone for indoor use, I took my pizza skills to the next level working on dough moisture and consistency. I came up with a wonderful whole grain but gluten-full crust. We decided that this year, on burn night, we would reignite that flame and host a burning oven for our friends who, like us, were not at the actual Burn. I decided it was time to play with flours, starches and binders again to come up with a  gluten-free crust as part of our array of offerings.  Here is a yeasted gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, gum-free dough sweetened for a very tasty crust.

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Give quiche a chance: Black olive, sun dried tomato, spinach, zucchini, leek, mint quiche in a sweet potato crust

There is only one thing that I know when it comes to food – eat fresh, whole real food. But even with whole, fresh, real food, there can be problems. I learned about the FODMAP over the last few weeks through a friend. Some people can’t eat real whole foods that have short chain carbohydrates without seriously upsetting their digestive system. That includes foods like garlic, onions, avocado, cauliflower, nuts, seeds and so much my recipes and diet are dependent on. With a FODMAP, meat is not a problem –  but meat is a food that my own digestive system does not process and that I choose not to eat. Does that mean that someone with a diet on a FODMAP and a vegetarian can’t share a flavorful beautiful meal? Of course not – especially when that sparks creativity in me using the ingredients we share in common. I came up with a black olive, sun dried tomato, spinach, zucchini, leek, mint quiche in a sweet potato crust. Topped with either feta or an almond based “parmesan.” No processed foods, no short chain carbohydrates, no cream or lactose or flour.

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Talk dinner to me: Arugula and roasted vegetable salad with zucchini “ravioli” stuffed with basil almond “ricotta”

Hello again! It’s been six months since my last post. Life, job and motherhood got in the way again. Last year I began this blog to use food and diet as a way to look at my life differently, adjust my habits and patterns and change my life – and I succeeded. This year started on a downward slump and I was not feeling inspired or creative. I knew it was time to shake things up. Again. I tackled the one area of my life I knew I could control – my diet.

I recently completed a 21 day cleanse and now I feel leaner, meaner and cleaner. The last thing I want to do is turn right back into my old habits and overwhelm my system again. I have been making a lot of food I have previously posted here and coming up with new recipes that will help me stay on track and not reach for gut busting foods. One of my old standards for my family is a ravioli salad – rather than surround the ravioli with a rich sauce, incorporate it into a salad. However, I always feel heavy with the pasta and unless the ravioli is fresh made by an amazing chef or Italian nonna, I am usually not satisfied. So I crafted my veg based ravioli, eliminating the gluten, grain and cheese and grilled the veggies to enhance their flavor. Wait till you try this arugula and roasted asparagus, tomato and broccolini salad topped with faux ravioli made with zucchini, stuffed with basil almond ricotta. It will satisfy you at dinner and not weigh you down.

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Stir it up, little darling: Asian inspired soy-free mushroom veggie soup with spaghetti squash noodles and a poached egg

I love soups from the east – miso soup, ramen, pho and more. Chef Ilan Hall, who you may know as one of the first winners of Top Chef, or his Brooklyn restaurant The Gorbals where he films the show Knife Fight, is a chef who likes to challenge himself. Knife Fight often includes ingredients like pigs head or live catfish or lamb belly or shark. Not exactly veg friendly. But he recently opened Ramen Hood in one of my favorite food places in LA – Grand Central Market. Ramen Hood is no ordinary ramen place – the dishes are vegan. He makes mushroom broth that is meaty, creamy, spiced with togarashi, filled with ramen and topped with a faux soft boiled egg – yes a faux egg. I have yet try to try Ramen Hood but I have been craving it already. While on the Whole30 I have been unable to eat some of my favorite soups as they contain ramen, or rice noodles or soy – fermented or fresh. So I decided it was time to make my own mushroom based, asian-inspired soup, with bok choy and spaghetti squash for noodles. I haven’t figured out a faux-egg yet, so I topped with with a real poached egg. The result was earthy, flavorful and hit the spot.

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He who goes to bed hungry dreams of pancakes: flourless, dairy-free whole food protein pancakes with coconut milk date “syrup”

I absolutely love pancakes. I moved away from beautiful fluffy buttermilk pancakes to oat, almond cottage cheese pancakes – protein packed, no refined sugars or flours. Within the realm of flour/grain free pancakes I see recipes for pancakes made of banana, eggs and a  dollop of almond butter…but these are full of sugar. So I set out to make a whole food pancake, sweetened with only a little banana and date, loaded with protein and fiber. The winner was a butternut squash, almond butter, banana pancake sweetened with whole dates and topped with a coconut milk, date vanilla “syrup.” And what perfect timing! This was not planned (honestly!), but I just found out that today Tuesday, February 9 2016 is pancake day. Pancakes are in the air.

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Lettuce wrap it up for the day: Soy-free Asian inspired mushroom, nut, seed, veggie lettuce cups

Today is the Chinese new year – year of the monkey. On my way home I smelled mushrooms cooking in some sort of soy sauce and it made me crave something Asian with mushrooms. I have really grown into mushrooms over the last few years. I used to hate them…all the way into adulthood until I finally tried a dish at one of my favorite vegetarian restaurants in New York City called Zen Palate. It was called mushroom forest and and was a chopped medley of shiitake, wheat gluten or soy, celery and other goodness that was eaten in a lettuce shell. Since coming to Calfornia, I have been making something similar, but without the wheat gluten or soy, and that is full of nuts and seeds for protein. It is shiitake, kale, carrot, pumpkin seed, sunflower seed, pine nut medley served in a lettuce wrap. And it was perfect for a new year celebration.

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Nacho your typical nacho: Baked sweet potato chips with gooey vegan cashew cheez

I blame everyone else’s talk of football – I don’t pay attention to the sport nor does anyone in my household, but I can’t help but pay attention to what people are making for game day snacks (they are talking about food, how can I not pay attention?) As a result, I end up with cravings for food like nachos. But I try to avoid corn chips, tortilla or cheese in my diet, which pretty much eliminates the main components of nachos. Anyone who knows me knows that I refuse to be limited. Each limitation is an open door to creating something new – something, as my daughter says is “same same but different.” So I made baked sweet potato chips topped with a vegan gooey cashew based cheez, salsa, guacamole, purple cabbage, purple kale, tomato, avocado, cilantro, jalepeno and scallion.

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I’m bout to get jalapeno business: Baked almond crusted jalapeno poppers with a faux cashew and pine nut based cheez

So I don’t follow, pay attention to or watch football (well, I should say US football. I do follow what football is to the rest of the world, especially around the World Cup). But one thing that I have liked in the past are the snacks and food associated it the game – the unhealthy, carb loaded, cheesy, fatty and sometimes spicy treats. Of course I almost never eat them. But with everyone so focused on football and speaking about it non stop compounded with the cold rainy weather and my current Whole30 restrictions, suddenly it is what I am craving. So what do I do – get down to business and make it my way – dairy-free, gluten-free, nut based and baked.

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Got Mushrooms? Cashew cream sauce with chanterelles, swiss chard and asparagus over spaghetti squash

I came home to find chanterelle mushrooms in the fridge. Chanterelles! They are golden looking, golden tasting, and golden priced. Typically priced at about $12-$14 per pound, they are an expensive mushroom. Their taste is delicate, but goes well with eggs and with cream. Since we had them, they had to be used – so I placed them into a cream sauce made from cashews, along with swiss chard and asparagus and served it over or mixed with spaghetti squash. What a heavenly meal.

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It’s the great pumpkin cheezcake: Spiced lemon pumpkin cashew nut “cheesecake” with nut date crust

So one of the best parts about being married to an expat is that you get to go visit their family in their home country every so often. Every other year, around Christmas time, we go to France. While the food in France elicits nothing short of a mouthgasm, around the holidays with the multiple family parties and birthdays, it is rich, decadent and overwhelming.  I try to make a meal or a dish here and there to lighten the fare. I don’t speak French so I find sharing experiences and communicating through food a beautiful way to express love. I will make them food they will be pleased with because of simple tastes and aesthetic beauty – like apple roses that I upscale to make them unique. But I am Indian and I like spice and complex flavors full of good healthy ingredients – even for sweets (no flour, no refined sugar, no soy…whole food ingredients). So I came up with a spiced  lemon pumpkin cashew nut “cheesecake” with nut date crust.
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