Sunday, June 29, 2014

Coconut Tapioca Pudding


Coconut Tapioca Pudding with Pineapple

Ingredients:
1 large egg 
1 can (13.5 oz) coconut milk (I used Thai Kitchen organic unsweetened coconut milk)
1-1/2 cups milk (I used skim milk)
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons quick-cooking tapioca (shake box before using)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup sweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup small pieces of fresh pineapple or 1 can (5.5 oz) pineapple tidbits, drained

Directions:
1) In a medium saucepan, lightly beat egg. Add coconut milk, milk, sugar and tapioca. Whisk to combine. Set aside at least 5 minutes, until tapioca is slightly softened.

2) Stirring constantly, bring mixture to a boil over medium heat (don't try to rush this, and 
don't stop stirring, even to get a glass of water. Trust me on this.). When mixture has come to a rolling boil (meaning it doesn't stop boiling even while stirring), remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract. 

3) Transfer mixture to a heat-proof bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. Let cool until no longer hot, about 30 minutes. Refrigerate until cold, 2 to 3 hours (or up to 3 days).

4) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread coconut in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Toast, tossing once or twice, until golden, 10 to 15 minutes. Let cool.

5) Just before serving, whisk pudding to loosen. Divide among four bowls and top with pineapple and toasted coconut.
from Everyday Food

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Going Gluten Free

Two months ago I discovered that I have a sensitivity to gluten. This realization came to me quite by accident. After two or more years of recurring digestive "issues," I was beginning to get used to living with them. Then in April I realized that for two days in a row I felt great. I went through a mental checklist of what had been different those two days, and after reviewing everything I had eaten, it dawned on me: I had not eaten anything with gluten in it. No cereal, no bread, no pasta. 

For the next two weeks I avoided all wheat-based foods, and ate no processed foods to be sure I wasn't consuming any "hidden" gluten. I felt wonderful! And I realized that what I had been feeling for so long was not normal. This was normal! 

I reported my findings to my doctor and she ordered a couple of tests: one for celiac disease and one for an overabundance of bacteria in the small intestine. Fortunately both tests were negative. However, that left me without a diagnosis. I had only a strong gut feeling (excuse the pun) that I have gluten intolerance.

For the first several weeks after this discovery, I was careful to avoid all gluten. The results were great. Then I began to experiment, having a bit of gluten here and there. Sometimes I would regret it, sometimes not. I had pizza at my favorite pizza place  (a big risk, but worth it) and felt fine afterward. The restaurant buys their flour from Naples ... I wonder if there's something about it that makes a difference? Another evening when dining out, I ate half a slice of cake and paid the price for it (it wasn't worth it). 

If you're wondering about the symptoms I had been experiencing for two or more years, I'll fill you in (if you feel this is too much information, just jump to the next paragraph). The most frequent symptom I was having was bloating and cramping -- and lots and lots of burping. To the point of ridiculousness. I was also having heartburn more frequently,  which at times was very painful, as well as acid reflux, which can damage the esophagus over time. On really bad days I had all of the above.

Since going gluten-free, these symptoms are gone. When I tell people that I've given up gluten, the response is usually, "Oh, I could never do that. I love bread and pasta too much." My response is, "You could do it if it meant feeling 100 times better." Plus, there are so many gluten-free products on the market now, some very good ones. Bread and pasta are still possible, they're just different. In a future post, I'll share some of the products I've tried and offer my personal review of each. 

I'll admit, it can be tough to avoid all gluten. Eating out is more challenging. And if you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you may know how much I love to bake. However, I bought a gluten-free flour called Cup 4 Cup, sold by Williams-Sonoma, and used it to make a favorite cake (the cardamom coffee cake below). The results were great! I plan to experiment and use it in more of my favorite recipes. Go here to learn more about Cup 4 Cup and watch a video about how it was developed.




Are you or someone you know avoiding gluten for health reasons? If so, please share your experiences! What gluten-free cooking tips or products do you recommend?

Friday, June 20, 2014

Watermelon Margaritas


Like watermelon? Like margaritas? Combine the two for a refreshing cocktail that is perfect for summer. I have to admit, this recipe is a bit labor intensive, but it's worth it. What a unique taste! I cut the recipe in half, below, to make two drinks. Double or triple the recipe to make a pitcher full.

Watermelon Margaritas

Ingredients:
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1 cup cubed seedless watermelon
1/8 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
3 ounces tequila (Note: recipe calls for white or silver tequila but I used the darker aged reposado tequila and it was delicious)
coarse salt

1. In a small saucepan, combine sugar and water and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook until sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes. Remove syrup from heat, transfer to a heat-proof glass bowl and let cool.
2. In a blender, puree watermelon until smooth. Through a fine-mesh sieve, strain into a pitcher, pressing on solids (you should have about 1/2 cup of juice). Discard solids. Stir in syrup, lime juice and tequila.
3. Place 1/4 cup coarse salt on a small plate. Wet the rims of two glasses with lime wedge, then dip the rims in coarse salt. Fill glasses with margarita mixture and enjoy. Cheers!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Porch Sitting and the July Issue of House & Home



Father's Day morning was glorious: sunny with cool temperatures in the low 60s and a steady breeze. Not typical June weather for this part of the country! While my husband was out on a long walk with Ella and Henry at a nearby park, I took our old girl Phoebe on a shorter walk around the neighborhood. She's 15 now, and starting to slow down. I say "starting to" because until recently she has been pretty much the same as always. Plenty of energy and always ready to go! However, in addition to the huge tumor on her chest, we're starting to see other changes: she is weaker in her hind legs and gets winded more readily, especially in warmer weather. So mornings like the one we had yesterday are perfect for her. My heart was full as she pranced along on our walk, in the lead as always. I savor every day she is with us and feeling good.

Once back at the house, I brought her bed out onto the front porch so the two of us could enjoy some porch sitting. Phoebe enjoyed watching the world go by, alert to every passing dog walker. I enjoyed two new magazines: Better Homes and Gardens and House & Home, a Canadian publication that is my favorite magazine. Are you familiar with it?



There is an article in the July 2014 issue of House & Home featuring the Chester, Nova Scotia, home of designer Deb Nelson (read an interview with her here) that I am completely in love with. Her style is totally my style -- lots of white with hits of black and rich wood tones for contrast. The fact that her house has an incredible view of the water makes it even better! Oh how I'd love to step into the pages of this magazine, even if just for a weekend visit ...

Lastly, I thought I'd share with you a couple of photos of our porch planter, which has filled out nicely. The pink impatiens are blooming beautifully (the white ones were, but aren't right now), the fuchsia is so pretty (and has attracted a hummingbird), and the coleus is beginning to trail a bit. I also added to the porch two hanging Boston ferns, the epitome of summertime. Our flag went up for Memorial Day; we'll probably keep it up until after Independence Day, or maybe the whole summer. I love how it looks hanging vertically. 




I hope you're enjoying the start of summer, too. What have you been up to?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Chickpea Salad with Buttermilk Dressing


Here's an idea for a simple and healthy weeknight supper ...

Chickpea Salad with Buttermilk Dressing

Ingredients:
green beans, stem ends trimmed
1/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
1/4 cup reduced fat sour cream
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 can (15.5 oz) chickpeas, drained and rinsed
4 radishes, trimmed, halved and thinly sliced
1/2 cup walnuts, broken into small pieces
lettuce

Directions:
1. Boil green beans 1 minute. Drain and cut into 1-inch pieces. 
2. In a small bowl, mix buttermilk, sour cream, vinegar, garlic, 1/4 teaspoon coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. 
3. In a large bowl, combine green beans, chickpeas, radishes and walnuts; toss with half the dressing. Serve over green leaf or Boston lettuce, and drizzle with remaining dressing.

from Everyday Food

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Calla Lilies


I didn't need flowers -- just a dozen eggs and a few Siggi's yogurts -- when I ran into Whole Foods the other day. But then I spied these dramatic calla lilies and couldn't pass them up. Funny how that happens. There were also calla lilies in white, pink and lilac, but this deep, red-orange color appealed to me most. I like how their color is similar to the walls in our dining room, where I took this photo. But I chose to put the little bouquet on the coffee table in the living room instead, next to this bowl of shells.

Like the simple white tulips from a couple of weeks ago, these calla lilies brighten the room and brighten my spirits. Not bad for $4.00.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Garden Plants 2014

We've added a few vegetable plants to our garden this year -- a first for us. I've grown herbs in the garden, but never vegetables. Well, I take that back. I did try growing a cherry tomato plant once in a container, but it produced only a few tomatoes. I don't think that counts. 

Over the Memorial Day weekend, while we were at Home Depot, I suddenly got the urge to start a mini vegetable garden. In addition to basil, I purchased two cherry tomato, one cucumber and one bell pepper plant. At the strawberry fields, where we picked a few gallons of berries, I bought four Roma tomato plants. I have no idea if any of them will produce much (I don't sound too hopeful, do I), but it doesn't hurt to try.

Below are photos taken one week after planting. Fingers crossed, we'll be harvesting a few veggies before the summer is over, and plenty of basil to make fresh pesto.
 sweet basil

 Husky Cherry Red tomato 

 Roma tomato 

 Petite bell pepper

 cucumber

The dahlia is growing quickly. I can't wait for it to start blooming!

We also bought two new hibiscus plants this year, one red and one yellow and red (below). Aren't they spectacular? These flowers make me want to jet off to someplace exotic.

So tell me, what's new in your garden this year?

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