Low Sugar Freezer Cacao Treats

Low Sugar Cacao and Coconut Milk Freezer Treats

A new favorite creation of mine, just in time for the hot days of summer. Pictured Left: cacao nib topping. Pictured Right: crushed pistachios.  Photo by Imei Hsu.

The Seattle area went through one of the wettest winters in twenty years. We didn’t see much sunlight for almost eight months, and almost all my professional friends took turns posting pictures from winter vacations in the Hawaiian islands, soaking up some rays and getting our Vitamin D.

My  Asian skin lost its usual brown tint , and when springtime hit in late May, I still wore long-sleeved shirts and pants to match the grey outside. To throw some perspective, our local lakes were still too cold to swim in comfortably until the very last weekend of May, and even then, it was a bit on the brisk side.

So you can imagine the surprise when the area transformed from winter snow one day to sizzling summer heat the next. All my ads on Facebook turned into local ads for air conditioning units. You’d think that I would have the routine down, as June is often called, “Juneuary” among those of us who have lived here many years. Mornings start out at a chilly 52 degrees Fahrenheit, and can jump into the 70’s or 80’s by afternoon.

We were gobsmacked by a heat advisory one weekend, with the thermometer hitting 102. The only one happy about that in our household was my cat Loomi, who made it known to all that she is truly a desert animal! The house got warm, and she insisted on sleeping in her heated bed. I, however, started craving summertime frozen treats and cold foods, such as an AIP coleslaw, and chilled slippery rice noodle salads. Even a Bacon and Avocado salad, minus the nightshades, was making my stomach growl.

What’s a guy or gal who can’t eat ice cream supposed to do?

Make your own freezer treats, that’s what!

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The Sensitive Celiac Technical Baking Challenge

I am so excited about this, I could pee my pants (but I’m not going to!).

During my long rides on a Computrainer in our garage (affectionately named, The Cave of Suffering”), I compounded my miserable biking training sessions with the agony and ecstasy of watching multiple episodes of, The Great British Baking Show.

My friends rolled their eyes. How could I do this to myself? Isn’t it just torture to watch contestants making sugary, savory, creamy, gluten-filled pies, breads, and cakes, knowing that I would never be able to eat them?

Oh my Hungry Minions! There is always an idea waiting to be hatched whenever I am in my own mental trenches of gluten-free baking hell. My job was to focus on the “what” of an idea, and to understand that sometimes, I’m not the one who needs to figure out the “how.”

If two heads are better than one, I invite you to read on and participate in the “how” of this post: the first ever Sensitive Celiac (or Gluten Free Guru) Technical Bake Challenge!

On your marks… get set… bake!

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Bacon Wrapped Duck with Cranberry Mandarin Orange Sauce

Bacon Wrapped Duck with Cranberry Mandarin Orange Sauce

Next time you need a special-occasion meal, try roasting a duck and adding a flavorful twist with cranberry and mandarin orange
Next time you need a special-occasion meal, try roasting a duck and adding a flavorful twist with cranberry and mandarin orange. Photo by Imei Hsu.

 

I don’t like Turkey. There, I said it. Gawd. I don’t like turkey meat.

Even if it was cooked well, with the juices basting the meat and leaving it tender, I find that I just don’t feel the same excitement about turkey that has people jumping up and down to make the perfect turkey dinner with side dishes to feed a small neighborhood.

Just a cursory look on my Social Media feeds this week gave me a pretty clear indication that everyone else I know are sticking to the traditional Turkey Dinner and sides food theme, with a gluten-filled pie of either fruit (apple), pumpkin, or pecan, all three of which I am prohibited from inserting into my pie hole.

Needless to say, my pie hole doesn’t get much pie on my special diet.

Since this isn’t a traditional Thanksgiving Day recipe, I decided to hold off trying to create one for the blog by Thanksgiving Day Nov. 24, 2016. Instead, I present to you a roast duck recipe that you can eat any time of the year, for a special occasion, holiday feast, or whenever you get a hankering for roast duck with a nutrient-dense, AIP friendly twist.   Continue reading

Pickled Cabbage and Daikon

Pickled Cabbage and Daikon

Dikon vegetable and cabbage, after pickling, in the center of a white plate on a brown background, with a pair of deep red chopsticks across the top of the plate.
Not your every day grocery store pickles! Making fermented food at home is easy once you have the supplies. Get your mason jars ready! Photo by Imei Hsu.

Maybe I am becoming nostalgic as time goes on. I miss the days when I walked through the door of our unlocked home in San Jose, CA after walking home from school, and took in the smells of roasting meats and Chinese dumplings wafting through the Spanish-styled home on Goldfield Drive.

Mom hadn’t gone back to work quite yet; she would later take on a job in the accounting department of a large hospital in the area, so for awhile, Mom was the Domestic Engineer that is responsible for the green and white floral wallpaper that still decorates the front hallway of this home today (or least, the time I visited in 2012 and knocked on the door to ask permission to take a look around).

A particularly familiar smell of my wistful childhood memories is Mom’s jars of Chinese-style fermented cabbage and daikon vegetable. She would boil several glass jars, usually recycled dill pickle jars and their lids, and then fill them up with these vegetables after stirring in what looked to me like very little liquid, salt, vinegar, and spices. Using a pair of chopsticks, Mom rotated the chopped vegetables in the marinade over several days, scolding my father to not help himself to them before they were done.

When you’re a child, two weeks feels like forever and a day to wait; sometimes, Mom fermented a jar for almost a month before she began doling pieces out to us with our dinner meal.

My interest in pickling vegetables began this year when I developed a strong reaction to alliums (garlic, onions, shallots, leeks). When I could no longer obtain a source of fermented food like pickles from the grocery store, I realized that I needed to make my own. And of course, I thought about Mom’s pickled vegetables, with their crunch as well as the soothing results of a happy gut. I always remembered how fermented foods helped my gut maintain a healthy balance of gut flora needed to properly digest food.

It was time to call on Mom to see if she could write a recipe for something she had done from scratch without ever measuring a thing.

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Chocolate Mint Coconut Milk Ice Pops

Six plastic ice pop molds with liquid filling in each on a holding tray, next to an open window.
It’s summertime, and while everyone else you know trots off to the local ice creamery, you’re wondering, “What can I have?” Wonder no more! It’s time for you to create your own dairy-free, low-sugar treat, ready in two hours.

Recently, an ice cream shop opened in the heart of the city in which I live. Last time I checked, dairy products, fake sugars, emulsifiers, and nuts are still things that turn my tummy inside out and leave me wishing I could die a quick and painless death. Therefore, no trip to the ice cream shop for me.

As for the entire town of Redmond, WA, it seemed they managed to camp out in front of this storefront in a long queue around the block each time the sun climbed in the sky. Even my husband managed to find a time to slip off to Molly Moon’s and grab himself a treat, returning home satisfied while his wife wept in her hands.

Freeze frame. Grr. Can you hear the grinding of my teeth as I smelled his milky breath?

While I did suggest that the next time he went out for ice cream he might ask if I would like some sorbet from a reputable source, I got to thinking that I should create my very own treat and then share that with all of you Hungry Minions out there who struggle with food allergies, intolerances, and autoimmune diseases which limit your choices. We deserve healthy, happy options. Yes we do!

Armed with ice pop molds, essential oil samples from virtual friend Steph Lake, a high speed blender, and simple ingredients, I have created Chocolate Mint Coconut Milk Ice Pops!

Check it out!

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Dairy Free Chocolate Moo FTW

The ridges on my fingernails say enough.

When you have dry, brittle, and ridged fingernails, it can often mean you have a chronic illness and/or a nutritional deficiency on board.

I have both, despite eating as much as I possibly can shovel in. Part of this is because I’m a triathlete, and my body’s daily nutritional needs are high. And part of my deficits are because my small intestine gets its own workout when it needs to process and then distribute my medically-restricted diet to the rest of the body. Usually, my finger and toenails show up these deficits in the form of dry, brittle, and ridged nails and occasionally funny-colored nail beds. And my upper body has a tendency to look quite “leaned out” without even lifting weights. Wah wah wah. But it’s a struggle, and I know I am not alone.

Each time I hear someone comment that Celiac Disease and food allergies, with their restrictive diets, make it easier to stay thin, I just want to cringe. The idea that CD and gluten free eating with food allergies could ever be construed as the new fad diet or an eating disorder reminds me how much misinformation floats about the Internets. By now, most of us should know that eating gluten-free, in and of itself, is no guarantee of magical weight loss. Gluten free eating that is not paired with sensible macro and micro nutrient balance can be nutrient poor even if it is calorically enhanced.

Nutrition for the person with Celiac Disease and food allergies and intolerances is focused on a formula of nutrition first, flavor and texture second (so you’re more likely to keep up with it), and easy to source and prepare the foods (to defy the lazy factor) third. With all that, I try to keep the making of food FUN FUN FUN, because I completely understand that if it isn’t fun, you and I are going to be hungry. And when we’re hungry, we’re less likely to make good decisions that keep us healthy.

Case in point: at the end of the 2015 Mt. Si 59 mile Relay race, I was so hungry, I ate a fruit roll up that was available at the finish line. I saw that it had  high fructose corn syrup in it, which is a no-no food for me. Yet, I was so hungry, I stuffed two of those fruit roll ups in my mouth, hoping for the best. This is as real as it gets. I was so hungry, I was willing to risk my guts falling apart.

There has got to be something better! Something easy. Something tasty, And something nutritious. And I think I found one solution: a post-workout, or post-meal beverage that is gluten free, soy free, dairy free, vegan, nut free, and can be made sugar free, if you like.

What is this beverage, you might ask? Dairy free cacao powder milk, that’s what! Continue reading

Best Gluten-Free Pizza Pie Crust. Evar.

Two pizzas side by side on parchment paper and a baking sheet, ready to bake in an oven.
Making gluten free thin crust pizza, even while away on vacation. Try baking them on parchment paper for easy clean up.

Ever since I ate a gluten free pizza in a restaurant  ( since rebranded, “gluten friendly”) and landed in the hospital, I have understandably been reticent to eat another gluten free pizza outside of the one I mix, roll, top, and bake at home under my watchful eye. Even with medical insurance coverage, my total out-of-pocket expenses from start to finish, including vomiting and diarrhea, low blood pressure, electrolyte imbalance, and six weeks of brain fog, fatigue, Leaky Gut Syndrome, low appetite, weight loss, muscle weakness, joint inflammation and rashes, and medication added up to nearly six thousand dollars.

That’s one expensive gluten-free pizza, don’t you think?

That’s not to say I didn’t eventually put my big-girl panties on and head back to the scene of the crime, confront my fears, and try again*. It took over a year, but I did go back, if but to embed in my brain what I think a gluten-free pizza should taste and feel like, only without cheese, emulsifiers, alliums, gluten, or corn. In that reconnaissance mission, I was taking notes for the future gluten pizza I would someday create.

Then I bade that crusty outer layer of bread farewell, and moved on. Let’s just say, I might have walked out the door while flipping the middle finger. It was the last good-bye.

When I think of pizza, I think of a thin crust with uniform edges, chewy in texture, with a mixture of crunchiness on the very edges and a slightly spongy softness that allows you to embed sauce and toppings in such a way that if you were turn a wedge of it upside down, very little of the toppings, if any at all, should rain onto your plate.

The agony and the ecstasy of gluten free pizza crust is the dry-flour crumble factor versus the chewiness of dough when you add an emulsifier. For people like myself, and perhaps the majority of the Hungry Minions looking for gluten free pizza because of a medically-restricted diet, an emulsifier just isn’t going to work. The most common one, xanthan gum, which is often added to commercially pre-prepared gluten-free pizza crust mixes, is commonly sourced with corn. And if I didn’t mention it to you before, you should know that many people who aren’t directly allergic to corn, but are food sensitive and suffering from Leaky Gut Syndrome, are going to struggle with a Grumpy Tummy when they ingest xanthan gum.

What if I were to tell you that I believe I’ve stumbled across the solution: an emulsifier-free gluten free pizza crust that you can top with your favorite ingredients, and can be made egg free if you wish?

Read on!

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