Thursday, February 24, 2011

Dang These are Good!

It's no secret, I love ethnic food and I love spicy! These Sichuan Green Beans are over the top. I paired them with coconut rice which is oh so simple to make and tempers the heat with a hint of sweet. I don't know about most of my GF possy but eating out at ethnic restaurants takes too much energy and research. I would rather reinvent the dishes at home. These beans, with their crinkled, chewy texture and intriguing spicy tang hit the note for me. I love the addition of the ground pork but if you want a vegetarian version substitute shitiake mushrooms.

Sichuan Green Beans

2 tablespoons gluten-free tamari sauce
1 tablespoon dry sherry
1 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/4 -1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, more if you really like it hot
1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 pound green beans, ends trimmed, cut into 1-2 inch pieces
4 - 6 ounces ground pork
3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press
1 tablespoon fresh garlic, minced
3 scallions, white and light green parts sliced thin
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil

Blanch green beans in boiling water for about 3 minutes, plunge in ice water and set aside.

In a small bowl, stir together tamari sauce, sherry, sugar, cornstarch, white pepper, red pepper flakes, mustard and water until sugar dissolves; set aside.

Heat oil in a 12 inch nonstick skillet over high heat. Add the beans and cook, stirring frequently, until crisp and tender and skins are shriveled and blackened in spots, 5-8 minutes. Transfer beans to a plate.

Wipe skillet clean of any remaining oil. Reduce heat to medium-high and add pork. Cook until no longer pink, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and ginger, cook until fragrant, about a minute or two. Stir in sauce and return beans to skillet with the sauce, cook until thickened, several minutes. Remove form heat and toss in scallions and sesame oil. Serve over coconut rice, or not. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Macular Madness

I am on a mission. Improve our ocular health. You see, my mother-in-law, and her mother both have Macular Degeneration, a degenerative disease that destroys the central vision of the eye and is the leading cause of blindness in individuals over 60. It is also a hereditary condition which means Tina is at risk. I am a great believer in the power of taking one's health into your own hands, especially when there are specific things you can do to decrease risk. Interestingly, eye health is very connected to nutrition. Macular Degeneration, while it can not be prevented, can be tempered and the onset put off with the ingestion of certain nutrients. I am all for that, even if it means eating foods that I may not like.

So it turns out that lutein and zeaxanthin are the most powerful nutrients in treating or delaying the onset of Macular Degeneration and the American Optometry Association advocates taking both, daily. So of course I don't know anything about any of this. My expertise is the Gluten-Free diet, not the Macular diet. However, I am the most well resourced person on the earth so I turned to my trusty and generous friend Katrina, over at for some help. Katrina sent me links to helpful articles and lists of foods to focus on. That was the good news. The bad news, there wasn't much on the list that Tina likes.

I started by adding spinach leaves into Tina's sandwiches, next week I am adding toasted walnuts to her lunch for a Macular power snack. At home I am trying to include greens, corn, including popcorn (yes rich in lutein and zeaxanthin) and more pork and lamb in our diet. I love greens but they aren't Tina's favorite. So Katrina has been working on some recipes for greens that might pass the test for those with a fussy palate. Tonight I am making Katrina's Drunken Swiss Chard and Mushrooms ( I have to make a few adjustments as I got confused and got mustard greens instead of swiss chard. I think Katrina would not only agree but would approve. Greens are greens as long as they are green, leafy and organic, completely interchangeable. I am not that fussy about my produce and don't always buy organic but greens, they are different, they harbor very special organisms of the fecal sort and pesticides that I don't want in my house. Green are one of those Dirty Dozen.

You can find the recipe over at Katrina's blog, . While you are there look through all her wonderful, healthy recipes. I am going to use a combination of mustard greens, collards and kale. Tina is going to have sloppy joe's along with her greens and I am going to have sweet potato fries which I wish I could get her to eat as they pack a Macular boost like nothing else. Maybe down the road. Here's to our eyes!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Making Hoppin' Jane with The Gluten Free Gidget

I am faithful to just a handful of bloggers including Katrina who writes The Gluten Free Gidget at . I love Katrina's blog. She writes about fresh ingredients, interesting ingredients that intrigue me and she has the most positive attitude ever. Her theater background plays front and center in a well scripted narrative of a young, enthusiastic hard working fun loving employee, wife, sister, friend . . . just waiting for the next crazy moment to present itself. She is generous beyond measure and her recipes are to die for, especially this Hoppin' Jane I made last evening.

I am little more skeptical of certain new ingredients, including buckwheat which is a gluten-free grain that shows up in a lot of gluten-free recipes. The first time I had buckwheat I was visiting my brother in Virgina, another Celiac in our family. He took Tina and I to this hole in the wall street vendor that sold savory buckwheat crepes out of a shack with a window on the street. They were weird and wonderful at the same time. Tina has mastered these at home and every now and then we enjoy a savory buckwheat crepe for dinner. I can't say I crave the odd tasting grain but it works and it is fun to have Tina cook a gluten free dinner.

So when I read Katrina's recipe I was a bit put off by the addition of buckwheat, trying to figure out what I might use instead. Lots of ideas came to me including quinoa which I don't really like and brown or wild rice. After careful deliberation I decided to give the buckwheat a try, why not.

I threw the very easy to prep ingredients together with just a few modifications and within an hour I was eating a wonderful bowl of pipping hot Hoppin' Jane, savoring every bite. You can check out the recipe yourself over at Katrina's blog at .

Instead of green pepper I used a red pepper, just because I don't like red pepper. I also used a jar of black eyed peas I canned myself last fall, Katrina calls for frozen black eyed peas. If I made this dish again I would use the frozen peas for a couple of reasons. I over packed the jar of black eyed peas and by the time I was eating them in this dish they had been cooked three times and literally disappeared in the dish, they were the consistency of refried beans. My result also seemed a little dry, especially the collard greens. Using frozen peas might add more moisture. I might also dial back a little on the amount of buckwheat, to get a less bulky dish, or add more canned tomato. Regardless of my commentary, the dish was to die for. I loved the buckwheat and the flavor of the combination of herbs Katrina selected. This is an over the top vegan, low fat, and good for your macular health meal!