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Melissa-profile This is more than just a recipe blog. I am not a chef. I am not a nutritionist, dietitian, or anything else. I am a mom of a 4 year old daughter with celiac disease, wife of a Crossfit junkie, and healthy food lover. I love learning about and cooking new, healthy and delicious gluten free food. This is simply me sharing the ways I take care of my family by being aware and mindful of the food I feed them and as a result making lots of {Gluten Free Love} by Melissa.

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Gluten Free Quick Rolls

Gluten-Free-Quick-Rolls

I should have waited to tell the kids until the day of. I should have just packed for them and let it be a surprise, instead of answering the same question over and over of, “how many more days till we go?”

No we’re not going to Disneyland…yet.

No cross country road trip. Done that.

We’re going to The Cabin. This place is almost sacred to my husband and his family. A cabin built by his grandfather and father, tucked up in the mountains among the pines and aspen trees with a cool river running almost under the back porch. A natural spring – real, unbottled mountain spring water – bubbles up from the ground where the evergreens meet the dirt road, cold and refreshing. A mama moose and her new twins like to bed down in the long grass and wild flowers, just behind the tack shed where the old horse saddles and push mower are stored. Each night there’s a roaring fire in the stone fireplace and the sound of the river and woods lulls you to sleep.

The Cabin is a magical place where fairies really come to the fairy houses the girls make each summer, and where little boys can built forts, collect rocks, and get as dirty as they please without ever being told to stop. I don’t want to miss a single second of this magical place, or be too busy to see the excitement in my children’s faces when they catch a trout or see a deer peeking at them through the trees.

So I’m doing some baking ahead of time for the drive and for when we’re there. Our gluten free, clean eating diet takes a little advanced planning sometimes, but it’s worth it. I didn’t want to spend all day working on food to bring though. So I just threw together these little gluten free quick rolls.

Gluten free and quick rolls together in the same title? Yes, but I’ll admit these are gluten free rolls. Meaning, as much as I’d love to figure out how to inject the same pillowy light, yet chewy consistency that the protein gluten gives to wheat and rye breads into a blend of gluten free flours…I just can’t mimic it perfectly.

It’s kind of like eating one of those watermelon flavored candies. Sure it tastes good, but the “watermelon” flavor is seriously nothing like the flavor of actual watermelon. Sorry Jolly Ranchers fans. Likewise, however tasty and filling, these quick rolls are a little more like a biscuit – yummy nonetheless. It’ll do the trick when you’re in a pinch and don’t have time to make a loaf of gluten free bread or you want something to put your Apple Turkey Burger Sliders on. There’s really only a couple tricks to getting these simple little rolls tasty and looking good.

GF-Rolls

Trick #1    Rub some olive oil on your hands before rolling them into balls. It will keep your hands from being covered in dough and the rolls will be smooth (as opposed to those guys in the back that are looking a little rough around the edges. Note to self: re-apply oil to hands every few rolls as needed.)

making-GF-rolls Trick #2    Baste the rolls before baking them with an egg white wash. This will give them a nice golden brown color on top and…and that’s it. It just makes them look prettier.

GF-quick-rolls

 

Gluten Free Quick Rolls

Yield: Dozen rolls

Ingredients

  • 3 cups gluten free flour blend + 1/2 tsp. xanthan gum (if not included in the blend)
  • 4 tsp. GF, aluminum free baking powder
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • 1-1/3 cups milk (organic dairy milk, almond, coconut, or rice milk all work)
  • 4 tbsp. softened organic butter or ghee
  • 4 egg whites + 1 egg white with a splash of water separated for egg wash

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350.
  2. Combine all the dry ingredients.
  3. Combine wet ingredients, except the extra egg white, in a separate bowl.
  4. Now combine the wet and dry ingredients together until a soft ball of dough forms.
  5. Rub some oil on your hands before rolling dough into palm-sized balls.
  6. Place rolls on parchment paper lined baking sheet
  7. Using a basting brush, brush the tops of the rolls with the egg white.
  8. Bake for 20-30 minutes.
  9. .
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Enjoy!

Melissa-Signature

Apple Turkey Burger Sliders on Gluten Free Rolls

Seasoned-Turkey-burger-sliders

Anything that can pack a full-sized punch of flavor into a miniature fit-in-one-hand package is bound to be a hit. These seasoned turkey burger sliders with caramelized onions and apples over melted provolone cheese on homemade gluten free rolls are perfect for a Labor Day barbeque or to kick off a new season of football. Making the rolls before hand makes this bitesized meal come together even quicker, too.

Serve them along with some Fresh Veggie Southwestern Salsa and corn tortilla chips, Cantaloupe Caprese or Watermelon Bruschetta With Marinated Basil Cucumbers & Feta, and some GF Double Chocolate Brownies for dessert.

“Wait. Wait. Is this healthy party food you’re suggesting?”

YES! We humans are social eaters, but wouldn’t it be awesome if no one had to make compromises when they got together with friends? Wouldn’t it be nice to enjoy one anothers company while eating yummy food, and not feel sluggish, bloated or otherwise exhausted from the simple act of digestion?

I didn’t think I had any problem with how I ate until my daughter’s diagnosis of celiac disease. Our house is gluten-free now, and although I can and do eat wheat when I’m out on a date with the hubby or with friends, I’ve found that eating refined, bleached wheat and sugars makes me feel kind of sick. I never knew how much that stuff was effecting me until I stopped eating it.

The point is, eating clean (unprocessed/unrefined) while accommodating food allergies doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice taste or make 10 different meals. You can have the best of both worlds, trust me!

GF-Rolls

For starters, having some gluten free rolls in the freezer ready for whenever is just a good idea. Gluten Free Quick Roll recipe coming soon! 

Now for the sliders…

apples-and-onions

Using a nonstick skillet works best for turkey burger. I made the mistake of using my stainless steel pan and ended up scraping the bottom a lot. A nonstick will help eliminate that issue. Also I didn’t bother coring the apples. I just rinsed, sliced, and popped out the seeds. Steaming them over the onions helps to soften any tough middle parts.

seasoned-turkey-burger-sliders2

Apple Turkey Burger Sliders on Gluten Free Rolls

Yield: a dozen sliders

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs. ground turkey burger (don't use extra lean or you'll end up with very dry burgers.)
  • 1 egg + 1 egg white, beaten
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tbsp. dried ground sage
  • 1 tbsp. dried parsley or 5 sprigs fresh parsley, leaves trimmed and roughly chopped
  • 1-2 tsp. coarse sea salt
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1-2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 2 small apples, sliced
  • 1 sweet onion, sliced
  • provolone cheese, sliced

Instructions

  1. In a mixing bowl combine the turkey burger, eggs, garlic, sage, parsley, salt, and pepper. Blend together well.
  2. Form into meatballs and then flatten into mini patties.
  3. Heat a large nonstick skillet with olive oil. Because turkey burger is low in fat it can stick and fall apart easily on a grill. If using the grill, drizzle the olive oil onto a hefty piece of aluminum foil, lay patties on the foil and place foil on the grill.
  4. Cook each patty 3-5 minutes per side or 165 degree internal temp.
  5. While the mini burgers are cooking slice apples and onions.
  6. Lay an onion ring on the grill or hot skillet and top with an apple slice. The onion will caramelize and the apple will steam. I lifted the apple off and turned the onion over and laid the apple back on top after a few minutes to get both sides.
  7. Cut rolls in half
  8. Place a mini turkey burger patty, followed by a slice of provolone cheese (I used a round cookie cutter to cut the cheese to fit), topped with the onion and apple.
  9. *Honey mustard on the table for everyone to spread on their rolls.
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Enjoy!

Melissa-Signature

 

Zucchini Paleo Pizza Crust!

paleo-pizza-crust

PIZZA! I may be wrong, but I think even the most health conscious person still harbors a secret love of pizza. Whether you’re uber-healthy – following a gluten free, Paleo, or clean eating diet – you can still have your pizza! This is especially true for families like ours that follow such a diet. My kids LOVE pizza. This healthy and simple crust curbs our pizza craving for sure!

All you need is 3 main ingredients – Zucchini, Almond Flour, & Eggs

Add a little sea salt, pepper, and garlic to that and you’ve got yourself a simple and healthy way to enjoy pizza again! (Too many exclamation points? Sorry. I sometimes get overly excited about food.)

*The trick to this crust is in the zucchini. After you’ve grated the zucchini, place it in cheesecloth or a clean dish towel and squeeze all the liquid out. You want the zucchini as dry as possible. No soggy pizza crust, please. I also advise using parchment paper to cook it on so it doesn’t stick to the pan.

making-paleo-pizza-crust

Once the crust has cooked then you can add whatever toppings suit your fancy. Pretty simple right?

paleo-pizza-slice

Zucchini Paleo Pizza Crust!

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 20 minutes

Total Time: 30 minutes

Serving Size: 2-4

Ingredients

  • 2 cups grated zucchini, liquid drained
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 tsp. sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 425.
  2. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl.
  3. Pour Paleo pizza dough onto parchment paper lined baking sheet.
  4. Use a spatula or spoon to begin working it into an even layer, about 1/4 inch thick
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 425
  6. Broil for for an additional 2-3 minutes or until the top is golden brown.
  7. Top it with any combo you love best:
  8. cooked gluten free sausage and onions
  9. tomato slices
  10. fresh basil leaves
  11. pineapple
  12. cooked gluten free bacon
  13. sliced bell peppers
  14. Once it's topped to perfection, you can pop it back under the broiler for another minutes or two, or just enjoy it as is!
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Enjoy!

P.S. I’m trying out this new recipe plugin. What do you think?

Melissa-Signature

Got Essential Oils? Healing Oils: The Ins & Outs

Coconut-Oil

How many times have you heard about the health benefits of essential oils? Coconut oil? Well, there’s a good reason – oil is AMAZING!

I’ll admit, I was once a skeptic about oil – confused by all the misinformation. The more I’ve learned the more I understand how beneficial a little oil can be in healing, preventing, and curing the body. The cool thing about oils is that many can be used internally and externally.

However, if you would have asked someone 20 years ago about, say, coconut oil you may have heard a different story. Did you know that coconut oil was once used to make movie theater popcorn in place of butter? Outraged movie-goers, and I’m sure more than a few industries whose sales margins were dropping, claimed the fattening oil was unhealthy and should no longer be allowed in U.S. concessions food. Coconut oil has made a comeback, but I’m sure it won’t be the last time that the debate over healthy vs. unhealthy oils is discussed.

It’s not just coconut oil that’s getting accolades for being healthy. Essential oils, like Doterra Essential Oils are produced by distilling the potent oils from organic healing plants and herbs from around the world. These types of oils have been used for thousands of years to heal and support the health of the user.

Using healthy oil to cook with can add flavor and nutrients to any dish. Here’s my top 4 picks for healthy oil to use in everyday cooking and their healing capabilities.

Healing-oils-for-cooking

But did you know you can also use essential oils when you cook? Here’s some recipes I use essential oils, like Doterra Wild Orange, Peppermint, Lemongrass, Rosemary, and Lavender to boost flavor and add healthy benefits:

Paleo Cinnamon Orange Pancakes

Healthy {Homemade} Hot Cocoa

Gluten Free Stir-Fry With Zucchini Noodles & Spicy Peanut Sauce

Peachy Herb Quinoa Salad With Rosemary-Lavender Scented Dressing

Gluten Free Sweet Biscotti Trifle

Citrus Ginger Green Smoothie

How else do you use essential oils?

Essential-oils

One of the best ways to use essential oils other than taking them internally is topically. (*Always read precautions and usage for each oil to know how to use it safely. Not all essential oils are safe to use internally and some need to be mixed with a carrier oil, like coconut oil. For more information on essential oils, uses, benefits and where to get them go here!)

My daily routine with the essential oils goes something like this…On Guard blend on the bottom of the kid’s feet before school (immune support), a drop of Frankincense on the back of everyone’s neck for focus and mental clarity, Clary Calm blend on the bottom of feet or abdomen for me when it’s that time of the month (hormone balancing blend), Citrus Bliss blend diffused into the air throughout the day (happy magic!), Deep Blue Rub on the Hubby after a Crossfit WOD, and Lavender on the bottom of the kid’s feet before bed.

Healing-oils-for-the-skin

I’ve also discovered how amazing combining coconut oil and essential oils are for my skin. I went through a pretty rough patch with acne a few years back. All those expensive treatments I bought did nothing or made it worse. Then I discovered oils and I love my skin again! My face is clear and if I start to get a breakout, it clears up 10x faster. Lavender soothes skin and combats all those bacteria that can cause pimples. Frankincense heals scars, wrinkles, and is another anti-bacterial/anti-fungal kick to acne’s butt.

Now each night before bed I rub some of my specially-made coconut oil/essential oil concoction onto my face while I run hot tap water over a wash cloth. Take the wash cloth and hold it over my face. Give it a good steam, then gently rub it off. If I need more moisture I take a dab of the oil blend, rub into my hands and then onto my face and neck. If my face seems too oily then I take good old Corn Starch and lightly dust some onto my face with a clean makeup brush to absorb the excess. If I’m having some breakouts I take a tablespoon or two of coconut oil in a separate jar and add to it the Melaluca, Lemongrass and Geranium. Then I just dab it onto the blemish, or I use the Doterra Clear Skin Topical Blend. 

Bottom line; adding healthy oils to your daily regimen can prevent and heal, keeping you and your family healthy and happy.

Enjoy!

Melissa-Signature

 

3 Ingredient Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

grain-free-PB-cookies

 

I made these last night in celebration of the last week before the kids go back to school! Maybe it’s a little more of a celebration for me and just sympathy sweets for the kids. Either way, they are chewy and yummy and so easy to make.

Years ago Alex’s grandma showed me how to take a couple eggs, a cup of peanut butter and a cup of sugar and make it into simple little peanut butter cookies. They are so good, but you have to make them really little so they don’t fall apart and there’s a lot of sugar. So I decided to take her classic recipe and alter it just enough to make it healthier, yet just as simple and good.

The trick is replacing the whole eggs with whipped egg whites and the refined white sugar with a less refined sweetener like coconut sugar or honey.  

* Okay, so actually there are 4 ingredients if you count the chocolate chips, but you get the idea. 

2 egg whites, whipped until peaks form 

1 cup organic peanut butter

1 cup coconut sugar or 3/4 cup honey

1/3 cup dark chocolate chips or cocoa nibs

Preheat oven to 350. Whip egg whites several minutes with an electric mixer until peaks form. Add in the coconut sugar or honey and continue whipping until it’s blended together. Fold in room temperature peanut butter until everything’s well incorporated. Stir in chocolate chips in and plop onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the edges begin to brown and the tops are golden. Cool on a rack.    

Enjoy!

Melissa-Signature

Seared Balsamic Chicken (Paleo)

 

 

Paleo, gluten free, worry-free, simple seared chicken.
Seared-Balsamic-Chicken

“Worry is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but doesn’t get you anywhere.” And yet, as mom’s we worry anyway. When I was younger I couldn’t understand my mom’s constant worry over everything I did. 

Then I became a mother and suddenly my mom’s behavior became totally transparent. And I realize now, what I didn’t understand then, that the culprit which turns a balanced, sane woman into a worried, micromanaging over-reactor…is LOVE. 

Now, I sometimes lie awake at night with an ache in my chest – worrying. Am I doing the best things for my children? What can I do to help them reach their full potential? Realize their great worth and embrace the good in others?  These are the worries that will last long after diapers and bedtime stories – which is an entirely different kind of ache. Then there’s the everyday worries like: Is this gluten free? Cross-contaminated?  

Making homemade meals that are naturally gluten free takes out the guess work and the worry. Like this simple Seared Balsamic Chicken I made to go along with my Chilled Tomato Basil & Roasted Squash Soup. It was a yummy summer evening meal, but this chicken is so simple, worry-free, and  versatile it’s good all year long. 
Seared-balsamic-chicken-1

4 chicken breasts, patted dry

2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

1 tsp. ground mustard

2 tsp. honey

2 tsp. dried parsley or a few sprigs fresh parsley, chopped (opt.)

In a large skillet heat olive oil and garlic until it sizzles. Pat dry, salt and pepper chicken breasts. Lie chicken in the hot skillet and let it sear one side for about 5-7 minutes. Don’t touch it or move it. If it sticks when the time’s up, then it’s not ready. Let it cook another minute longer. While it’s cooking whisk the vinegar, mustard, honey, and parsley together. Flip the chicken over, drizzle the vinegar mixture over top and let it sear on the other side for another 5-7 minutes. You can use a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the chicken to make sure it’s done (160-165 F) or make a small cut to make sure it’s no longer pink and fully cooked through. Move the chicken to a plate and set a lid over top to keep them warm while they rest. Serve it with soup or a veggie side

Enjoy!

Melissa-Signature

 

Gluten Free Stir-Fry With Zucchini Noodles & Spicy Peanut Sauce

Asian-Stir-Fry-with-Zucchini-Noodles

This dish is great for a light dinner when you’re craving some Asian take out without the take out. Don’t get me wrong, I love going out to eat. The trouble is, what you usually get with the American version of Asian food is a whole lot of MSG laden fried meat and vegetables that are definitely not gluten free. 

That is, unless you’re like me and my hubby and go for sushi…ahh sushi! It’s healthy and delicious and when you find a good sushi place it’s like heaven! One roll is never enough and…sorry, I’m drooling…

But this isn’t about sushi! This is about a fridge full of  veggies that weren’t going to last much longer and needed to be eaten. So I made this simple Asian-style stir fry with zucchini noodles in a spicy peanut sauce for dinner. It was way cheaper to feed the entire family this meal than to have gone out and bought something just for two. You can make it with chicken, pork, or leave out the meat and have it as just a veggie side. This dish is healthy, gluten free, and grain free, but mostly it’s super tasty!

Don’t think your kids will eat it?

Maybe they won’t, but mine certainly did. In fact they had no idea that the “noodles” they were devouring were actually zucchini! I didn’t add much spiciness to mine either which helped them down it that much faster. 

Asian-Stir-Fry-with-Zucchini-Noodles-2

1 lb. chicken breast, patted dry and cut into cubes (opt.)

sea salt and pepper

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbsp. sesame seed oil

1 small head cabbage, shredded or chopped

2 medium zucchini, use a carrot peeler to peel the entire thing into strips (a.k.a zucchini noodles)

2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced

1 cup snap peas

2 green onions, sliced on a diagonal

2 stalks lemongrass, rinsed and sliced on a diagonal (use only if you’re not using lemongrass oil)

Heat the sesame seed oil and garlic in a wok or large skillet. Prepare chicken with salt and pepper and add to the hot oil. Stir fry for several minutes until the outside is lightly browned and the inside is no longer pink. Scoot them to the side of the pan and add in the cabbage and carrots. Once the cabbage has wilted and the carrots are crisp tender add in the remaining peas, green onions, and lemongrass if using fresh. Sautee several minutes until tender. Turn the heat to low and add in the zucchini noodles along with the sauce. Toss everything together. Cover with a lid and allow to steam on low  heat for about 5-8 minutes – that’s all the time it takes for the zucchini noodles to cook.  

Sauce:

1 tbsp. honey

1 heaping tbsp. Organic Peanut Butter, unsalted

1-2 tsp. Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce(According to Huy Fong Foods, Inc. it is gluten free as of 2014, but check back often to see if there has been any changes in the manufacturing process or ingredients.)

1/2 inch ginger root, grated

2 drops lemongrass Doterra essential oil (only use if not using fresh lemongrass)

5 fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped 

Whisk together honey, peanut butter, sriracha sauce, grated ginger root, and lemongrass oil (if using oil). Pour over veggies and toss to coat. Toss in the basil just before putting the lid on. Serve it warm with Gluten Free Soy Sauce.

 Enjoy!

Melissa-Signature

 

How To Cook The Perfect Spaghetti Squash

making-spaghetti-squash 

If you haven’t figured out how awesome spaghetti squash is, now is the time. If you want or need to eat gluten free, are following the Paleo or Fodmap diet, or just want to eat healthier in general, the trusty spaghetti squash is your friend. Once cooked it comes out like…well, spaghetti noodles. Not only are you upping your vegetable intake, but a spaghetti squash in season will probably be cheaper than a box of gluten free noodles (yay!)

Funny enough, most of the time I hear the reason people don’t eat more of this amazing squash is because they’re not really sure how to prepare it. Yes, I’ve watched the tutorials too on how to cook one, but it wasn’t until I accidently did it different that it turned out perfect and delicious. Now I prepare it like this all the time. 

How did it happen, you ask? Well, it all started a few years back when I tried cooking my first spaghetti squash to use in place of pasta. I may have skimmed the how-to a little too quickly that said I was supposed to cook the squash face down. I cooked it face up. After painstakingly scraping the tasteless, dried squash noodles from the skins I decided that next time I would add a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper. So I did. And that turned out much better. Then one day when I was distracted with nerf gun projectiles and the endless struggle to find the matching Barbie shoe, I accidently set the oven hotter than usual. Halfway through cooking I realized my mistake and to alleviate the possibility of dried out squash noodles again, I turned it face down and lowered the heat. And….it turned out to be perfectly roasted, flavorful al dente squash noodles! 

And the moral of the story is…sometimes an accidentally mess up isn’t a mess up at all, but the path to the perfection who’ve been seeking. (Pretty deep, I know.) Here’s how to cook the perfect spaghetti squash…

Step 1: Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

Step 2: Cut the squash in half and scoop out seeds and fibers.  

Step 3: Line a cookie sheet with tin foil. Place the two halves of the squash face up/cut side up and drizzle with a little olive oil and plenty of salt and pepper. 

Step 4: Bake for 10-15 minutes on the center rack until the edges and top turn golden brown. 

Step 5: Pull the squash out of the oven and turn them over so now they are face down/cut side down. Turn the oven temperature down to 350 and stick them right back in. 

making-spaghetti-squash2

Step 6: Bake for another 10-15 minutes. 

Step 7: Remove from the oven and allow to cool a few minutes. Then, using a fork, carefully (because it’s still hot) scrape the squash noodles out into a bowl or serving dish. 

Step 8: Eat it! Top it with marinara or white sauce, meat, vegetables, cheese etc. Like this Spaghetti Squash Noodles with Lemon Pepper Marinara and Herb & Veggie Meatballs 

Speghetti-Squash-&-Herb-veggie-meatballs

Enjoy!

Melissa-Signature

 

Chilled Tomato Basil & Roasted Squash Soup (Gluten Free)

Creamy-tomato-basil-squash-soup

Soup seems like a silly thing to make in the heat of the summer…but not this soup. This soup is clean eating, gluten free, Paleo, and utilizes fresh vegetables from your summer garden. And the best part is, it can be served chilled. I know what you may be thinking, “Umm, I don’t do cold soup.” Well, I used to think the same thing. Then, as I was enjoying some catered appetizers at a wedding reception recently I picked up a little bowl of cool tomato basil soup. And what do you know? I really liked it!

So I set out to recreate my version of this cool summer soup that can also be served warm on a crisp fall night. The problem was I had eaten all but 4 of the fresh tomatoes I’d gotten from grandma’s garden. As I paced around my kitchen, taking inventory of what I had to work with, I passed by for the upteenth time this week a huge banana squash given to Alex from someone at work. Hmmmm….this could work. I had been wondering how to get my kids to eat up this squash. Hiding it in a tasty soup could be just the trick. Turns out it, that was a good choice!

* If you don’t have a banana squash you could also use any other year round squash like butternut or cushaw. Or if you’re making this in the fall try pumpkin or acorn squash. No matter what squash you use, follow the same roasting directions.

soup-and-balsamic-chicken

I paired it up with some Seared Balsamic Chicken for a filling and healthy dinner. Yummy!

2 cups roasted banana squash

(1 large banana squash, cut in half lengthwise and seeds removed. Preheat oven to 400. Lay squash on foil lined baking sheet, skin-side down. Lightly drizzle olive oil over squash and liberally salt and pepper. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until the top and edges become golden brown. Turn down the oven temperature to 350 and turn over the squash so the skins are face up. Continue baking for another 10-15 minutes. Scoop out squash from the skins – about 2 cups worth and add with remaining ingredients.)

2 cloves garlic, smashed

1 sweet onion, chopped

4 tomatoes, quartered

2 cups chicken broth

1 cup milk (unsweetened almond milk or organic whole milk)

1 – 6 oz. can organic tomato paste

1 cup packed fresh basil

Salt and pepper to taste

Take the excess olive oil from the roasted squash and dump it into the pot to sautee the onions and garlic in. Cook onions and garlic until the onions are caramelized and the garlic is fragrant. Add in the scooped-out roasted squash, tomatoes, broth, milk, paste, and basil. Bring the pot to a simmer, stirring in the paste. Simmer for at least 10 minutes. Now puree it up. An immersion blender (like this one) works well, or you can carefully pour everything into a blender until it’s smooth and creamy. Salt and pepper to taste. Eat it warm or cover and set in the fridge to eat later when it’s nice and chilled.

Serves 4-6

Enjoy!

Melissa-Signature

 

Gluten Free Product Review: Great Value GF Granola Bars

product-review-GV-bars

If I always had the time and resources to make something from scratch I would, but let’s be real…sometimes you just need a quick snack to grab and go! If my youngest daughter wasn’t so severely allergic to gluten (Celiac disease) I may keep some “gluten” snacks hanging around for the other kids, but no can do. What I buy for one I buy for all.

I’ve been impressed with how many more gluten free products are finding their way onto grocery store shelves. It’s irritating that the motivation for producing all these products has been to appease a gluten free fad diet instead of the actual medical condition that requires eliminating gluten. Whatever the reasoning though, I’m grateful that it’s easier now to find relatively affordable gluten free snacks when you need it.

One of the stores that I haven’t been able to shop much at since our family went gluten free is Walmart. However, I’ve been impressed to find that they’ve jumped on the gluten free bandwagon and now have things like GF granola bars. So I picked some up to try them out.

Here’s how it breaks down on cost, ingredients and the taste-factor…

Cost- For one box of Great Value Gluten Free Granola Bars you’ll pay around $2.48 for five bars less than 1 oz. each. That’s about $.50 a bar. Compared to Udi’s Gluten Free Granola Bars which cost nearly 75% more per bar. Making homemade gluten free granola bars is still more economical. Even though homemade costs a little less than a dollar per bar they are nearly double the weight and density of the store bought ones. Even so, as far as quick and convenient, buying the Great Value bars is a great price. The down side is you can’t purchase them online yet. They’re only available in-store. If your Walmart doesn’t carry them yet, you can request them. 

Ingredients-The base for these bars is made from multigrain flakes of rice, corn and millet.  Since many people with celiacs have a hard time digesting oats even if they’re gluten free this is really nice. If you’re trying to cut out refined sugar then again, homemade is best, since the first ingredient in most store-bought bars is some form of sugar sweetener. Some of the flavors contain nuts and milk products and all of them may have trace amounts of nuts. If you have dairy or nut allergies be sure to read the allergy warning. If you’re trying to watch your calories they are 100 calories per bar.

Taste-They taste good! Very comparable to many of the 100 calorie “gluten” granola bars. There are several flavors like Dark Chocolate and Trail Mix depending on what the Walmart in your area carries.  My kid’s favorite are the Dark Chocolate. They’re not very filling though because they’re so small, which means everyone’s still hungry after eating one, but it’s something to hold them over. I don’t buy the Great Value Granola Bars often, but when I need them they’re an affordable, convenient gluten free snack for the kiddos.

What gluten free products would you like me to review? Leave a comment with a gluten free product you’d like me to do a taste test and an ingredient/cost breakdown on. 

Melissa-Signature

 

  

 

Fresh Fiesta Salad & Salsa Dressing

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I love summer rain storms. They don’t roll around often enough where I’m at, but when they do it’s like heaven. In fact, I’m almost certain heaven smells like a summer rain. I take a deep breath and feel reenergized despite the sleepless night of a baby who’s teething and an early morning because the kids want to find a good spot to watch the parade. Now that the blazing sun has evaporated any traces of the curling clouds and it’s cooling rain and we’re all tired from the parade starting 20 minutes late, I’m in need of another pick-me-up. Instead of caffeine or sugar I choose to nourish myself with fresh from the garden veggies. 

A fresh summer salad goes well with just about anything (like maybe some Fired Up Pork Ribs for dinner) or as a stand-alone lunch. Eating organic, raw vegetables is one of the best ways to glean all those beneficial nutrients. However, cooking tomatoes increases the bodies ability to absorb a nutrient called lycopene in tomatoes. Luckily, you can have the best of both worlds. You can have your tomato raw and cooked in the same salad. 

My sister calls it my “exotic tastes”, but in a salad like this one with corn cut from the cob, and garden tomatoes, peppers, and green onions, I’ve found that by replacing the typical preservative-filled salad dressing with a little of my favorite salsa and a drizzle of olive oil I’ve suddenly got a tasty salad that’s still good for me.

P.S. The avocados were all eaten by the time I got to them, but do add one in yours. Yum!

 

Serves 4

Fresh Fiesta Salad

1 head romaine lettuce 

2 pieces corn-on-the-cob; boiled, steamed or grilled

1 large tomato, seeded, cut into eighths 

1 medium cucumber, peeled and sliced

1 bell pepper, seeded, cut into strips

2 green onions, chopped

1 avocado, pitted and sliced 

Salsa Dressing

homemade salsa or homemade mango salsa

extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

Prepare veggies for the salad. On a plate, stand the corn cob on it’s end and run a knife down to remove the kernels. Set out the jar of salsa, olive oil and the salt and pepper. And now, the hardest part….let everyone scoop a spoonful of salsa onto their salad, and drizzle a little oil on top. Then salt and pepper to their liking. It’s scary how easy that was huh?

Enjoy!

Melissa-Signature  

Gluten Free Zucchini Fritters

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Summer and excessive amounts of zucchini go hand-in-hand! This time of year my kiddos are bound to find things like tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, and zucchini hidden somewhere in their meal. The sneakier I am at hiding them, the better they are at eating them. Like in gluten free zucchini bread. So I decided to make some Gluten Free Zucchini Fritters and guess what? They didn’t seem to notice that they were eating zucchini cakes!

I had made zucchini fritters years ago before going gluten free and as far and I can tell when making fritters there are two ways to go about it – sweet or savory. I chose savory, which involves flavors like fresh basil and parsley, parmesan cheese and garlic. Traditional fritters usually call for bread crumbs or flour to help hold everything together. So I used the next best, gluten free thing…oat flour.

Oat flour (made from gluten free oatmeal that has been ground into a flour-like consistency) acts just like wheat flour in most recipes. Unlike other gluten free flours you don’t have to make an elaborate blend or add gums like guar gum or xanthan gum to make it stay together either. Plus, oats are full of fiber, antioxidants, boosts immune system, and so much more. If you’re a nerd like me, you can read all about oats, one of world’s healthiest foods here

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Now for the fritters! (Makes 12+ zucchini fritters. About 3-4 inches across)

4 cups zucchini shredded, drained and squeezed dry

1 cup oat flour

2 eggs

2 tsp. sea salt

1/2 tsp. black pepper

2 clove garlic

1/3 cup parmesan cheese

4-5 fresh basil leaves

3-4 sprigs fresh parsley, stems removed

2-3 tbsp. coconut oil

Grate the zucchini and place in a strainer in the sink or set in a bowl. Allow the water to drain off the zucchini for about 10 minutes. While it’s draining you can pulse the oats in a food processor or blender until it becomes oat flour. Take a clean dish towel and squeeze out all the remaining liquid out of the zucchini. Add the zucchini, eggs, salt, pepper, garlic, parmesan, basil, and parsley to the oat flour in the food processor. Blend everything together until it’s nice and evenly chopped and mixed.

Heat a nonstick skillet or griddle (preheated to 325) and drizzle on some of the coconut oil. Once the oil’s hot take a spoonful of the fritter paste, shape into a patty (it will be sticky, that’s okay), and get it cooking. It should only take about 5-6 minutes per side. Once both sides are a nice golden brown set them on a plate to cool. Serve warm.

Eat them as a side to some grilled chicken for dinner or place a slice of tomato and mozzarella in between two fritters and have a fritter bruschetta sandwich for lunch!

Enjoy!

Melissa-Signature

      

 

The Power Of…

There’s been so much going on in my little world lately. I just learned that I will be doing a regular monthly cooking segment on Good Things Utah and I’m loving sharing recipes and what I’ve learned with my readers and friends here on Food L’amor! All this on top of a healthy, busy family has made me feel so grateful and more motivated. I find myself wanting to stop and tuck myself away in a quiet corner to read an inspired book or two, listen to inspired speakers, and meditate on my own thoughts. I’ve come to better understand some powerful things lately…

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Food for one. Food is powerful! On a molecular level we literally are what we eat. Each system in the body is connected and interdependent on the others for growth, maintenance and renewal. And it all begins with what we put into our mouths. I witnessed the power and effect of the gluten my daughter was eating before the doctors knew she was experiencing a celiac crisis. I’ve felt and seen the difference in myself since cutting out all the over-processed foods from my own diet. I’ve discovered that how one chooses to treat the body day in and day out can ultimately result in how well and how long a life can be. Aside from outside factors, the day by day choices of what is put into the body and if it’s exercised or not will yield a constant result. Just like falling off a roof will always result in hitting the ground. The laws that govern our bodies are just as sure. Food is powerful!

My second realization is that women are powerful! Not in the “I can do or be anything” kind of powerful. I’m not initiating a discussion on equality or a battle of the sexes. I believe there are divine characteristic that are specific to men and women. Women seem to have an natural compass that points North. A magnetism. Almost like a gravitational pull that can (if she is in tune with it) keep herself, her husband, her children, her friends, all centered on what’s most important. The influence and insight a good woman can provide is immeasurable and not because she can do or be anything, but because she doesn’t have to in order to have her influence felt.

E.T. Sullivan wrote in his book The Treasure Chest, “When God wants a great work done in the world or a great wrong righted, he goes about it in a very unusual way. He doesn’t stir up earthquakes or send forth his thunderbolts, Instead, he has a helpless baby born, perhaps in a simple home out of some obscure mother. And then God puts the idea into the mother’s heart, and she puts it into the baby’s mind. And then God waits. The greatest forces in the world are not the earthquakes and the thunderbolts. The greatest forces in the world are babies.”  And I might add, the woman who took the time to cultivate herself enough to respond to her inner compass and the whisperings of the spirit. Women are powerful! 

These two powerful forces have been on my mind lately and have led me to a decision that I had originally determined to put off for later. I’m going back to school! (Insert excited, anxious cringe). I put off finishing my degree when we started our family because I knew then what I still know now – that a mother’s influence on her children is vital not only to the child, but to the society in which that child must grow to be part of. However, now with so many more options for online programs I’ve suddenly found that I can do both…slowly…I’ll be taking it nice and slow so I can be sure to keep that internal compass pointed due North and everything in balance.

Besides, Nutrition Communication sounds like a perfect fit for me don’t you think? Aside from my own personal accomplishment and growth, hopefully I’ll be able to learn new and better ways to make the healthy, gluten free food I love and then share it with all of you! It’s a win-win!

How many of you have attempted an undergraduate program with young kids? Any tips or good advice? I’ll need it!

Thanks for your support everyone! Watch Good Things Utah August 4th and 29th for some new, yummy, gluten free goodies and as always check back often for lots of {gluten free love} by Melissa!     

summer-food Melissa-Signature

Pecan-Crusted Chicken Tenders with Roasted Red Pepper Dipping Sauce

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Maybe it has something to do with sensory development or something, but seriously what is it about  finger foods and kids? I’m not complaining, I’m just wondering why my children opt to use their hands to eat instead of their forks (and I’m not just talking about my 1 year old). Most of the time I demand table manners and the use of modern eating utensils, but to curb whatever primal need they have to use their hands to eat, I make finger food. Like these Pecan Crusted Chicken Tenders with the super simple Roasted Red Pepper Dipping Sauce. 

On the list of most children’s top ten favorite foods I would guess that 80% of them are things that don’t require a fork or spoon – pizza, chicken nuggets, fries…hmmm, doesn’t sound very healthy either.

Over the last several years we’ve come a long way in teaching our children how to make good, healthy food choices. (Here is our family’s 5 Philosophies for Raising Healthy Eaters). No more mystery meat chicken nuggets or bleached wheat flour pizza dripping with cheese. Now-a-days I make made-from-scratch, gluten free finger food that tastes good and is good for you too! Having fun eating it is a bonus ;)

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Pecan-Crusted Chicken Tenders

1 lb. organic chicken tenders, rinsed and patted dry

1 cup pecans, pulsed in food processor (You can use any nut you love – almond, cashew, or hazelnut would work too.)

1/2 cup coconut flour or tapioca flour

1/2 tsp. sea salt

1/4 tsp. black pepper

1/4 tsp. ground mustard

1/2 tbsp. dried parsley

1-2 eggs, beaten

Preheat the oven to 425. Get out three small pans or large shallow bowls. In the first combine the salt, pepper, ground mustard, and parsley with the tapioca or coconut flour. The middle bowl will have the beaten eggs and the last bowl will be for the ground pecans. Dredge chicken tenders through the tapioca mixture. Dip in the beaten eggs and finely, roll them through the ground pecans until they are coated. Lay on a foil lined and lightly greased cookie sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes turning over halfway through the cooking time. 

Roasted Red Pepper Marinara Sauce

Roasted red peppers, about 3-4 pieces + a few onions from the jar (Jeff’s Naturals Red Pepper Caramelized Onions is my favorite gluten free brand)

1/4 cup organic tomato paste

1 cloves garlic

3 basil leaves

1tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

splash of water if too thick

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and pulse until it’s smooth and creamy. Warm in a saucepan. Pour into little bowls for everyone to dip and double dip their chicken to their heart’s content.

Enjoy!

Melissa-Signature  

 

Peachy Herb Quinoa Salad with Rosemary-Lavender Scented Dressing

MInt,-Basil-&-Lavender-Scented-Peach-Quinoa-Salad

 

I’ll take a bunch of fruits and vegetables fresh from the garden or the orchard over store-bought any day. This is by far the most cost effective way to get cheap organic produce. I didn’t get a garden planted this year so when my sister-in-law told me that one of her co-workers had a large overly abundant garden and chicken eggs, I said, “absolutely!” I ended up with fresh eggs, zucchini, yellow squash, cucumbers, fresh basil leaves, and peaches.  I may have also helped myself to some fresh mint and tomatoes from Alex’s grandma’s garden as well. ;)

I can’t even begin to express how appreciative I am for cheap or free produce. When you choose to follow a healthy, clean eating, gluten free diet you are going to go through LOTS of fresh fruits and veggies. Now, times that by four kids and one hubby of the health food foodie (me) and that can add up to be LOTS of green (no I’m not talking about spinach). Especially if you choose to buy organic. Which I do as much as possible. (If you don’t have a farmer’s market or friendly garden growers near you here’s my list for the best organic and clean eating deals from Costco

Organic produce {produce that has been grown without the use of pesticides, herbicides, or genetic engineering} ends up being full of flavor and nutrients, but not always an award winning size or shape. Like the peaches I got that were closer to the size of an apricot, but that still packed a delicious punch of peachy flavor. 

I could go into a whole monologue about the metaphor of life….(insert moving, wistful music)

Life is like a garden. Each fruit and flower is a product of the care and  attention given to it. It doesn’t matter how much miracle grow or bug repellent is used, it could never change the nature of the seed. A peach seed can never become anything other than a peach. It won’t bloom into an apple or grow vines and sprout tomatoes. The peach’s inborn, divinely inherent characteristic allows the seed to develop into just what it was meant to be…..unless of course it’s genetically modified from it’s original state and enhanced until it’s the size of a grapefruit….

Okay, that monologue didn’t quite go the way I’d hoped. Needless to say I’ll take my produce in the most natural form I can get. 

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This Mint, Basil & Lavender Scented Quinoa Salad has a subtle sweet and savory flavor that is enhanced by the ever so slight hint of lavender. It was even better the next day. You could make this salad in the morning before work and have it ready to go for a light side to dinner or to take along to a picnic.

Serves 4

Mint and Basil (Herb) Quinoa Salad

2 cups vegetable or chicken broth 

1 cup red, white, or black quinoa (I mixed red and white). Rinsed.

1 large or 2-3 small peaches. Rinsed, pitted, and sliced into wedges

1 green onion, chopped

3-4 fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped or torn

4-5 fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped or torn

Rosemary and Lavender Scented Dressing

1 tbsp. raw honey

1 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1/8 tsp. sea salt

pinch black pepper

1 tsp. dry rosemary or half a sprig fresh rosemary, leaves stripped

1 drop lavender essential oil or 1 tsp. dried  lavender bud (follow the links to find and learn about culinary quality lavender and lavender essential oil) 

Rinse the quinoa. Heat a medium saucepan and dry roast the quinoa for just a couple minutes before adding the broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer, place a lid on it and led it cook for about 15 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed. Fluff the quinoa with a fork and allow it to cool.

While the quinoa is cooking and cooling make the dressing. Bring the honey and vinegar to a simmer in small saucepan. Add the olive oil, rosemary and lavender. Whisk together with the salt and pepper. Pour into a glass jar and set aside to cool. 

Once the quinoa has cooled add in the mint, basil, green onions, and peach slices. Pour the dressing onto the quinoa through a small strainer to catch the rosemary and lavender (if using dried lavender). Toss to coat and set in the fridge to cool and for the flavors to marry together. 

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Enjoy!

Melissa-Signature

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