Leafy Chick Salad Recipe

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Today I have for you another yummy dish that I have done a little “Kitchen Improv” on. This is a recipe that I found in Better Homes & Gardens April 2015 issue. It also plays on the theme for this month of our listing of seasonal veggies and for this recipe, I am highlighting dark leafy greens!

Now, most people don’t get too jazzed about dark leafy anything but I will tell you, this salad is tasty! My husband even loved it! Here is what you will need:

Leafy Chick Salad
1 package of extra firm tofu, drained well and cut into cubes
1 15-16 oz can of chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
2 slices of bacon, chopped
2 cups of loosely packed fresh greens (I used collard greens), julienned
1 cup of roma tomatoes, quartered (can use grape tomatoes as well)
1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil + 2 teaspoons
1 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced
4 ounces of feta cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons of calamansi vinegar (can use red wine or champagne vinegar instead)
Salt and pepper

The original recipe called for Farro instead of tofu so you can use that if you prefer it. I cannot eat farro so opted for tofu instead. Take the tofu out of the package and squeeze between two paper towels to make sure and get all excess moisture out. Cut into cubes, season with a little salt and pepper. Salute’ in a non-stick pan with 2 teaspoons of olive oil and fry until all sides are a little crispy then set aside on a paper towel to drain any excess oil.

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Remove the stem from your greens and then stack the leaves on top of one another Roll the leaves up into a cigar-like form.

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Julienne the greens with a sharp knife and put into a bowl, set aside.

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Take the chopped pieces of bacon and cook them in a pan until the pieces are crispy and drain on a paper towel to remove any excess grease.

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In a large bowl, mix your vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil and garlic and whisk until incorporated. Add in the chickpeas, greens, tomatoes, bacon and feta and toss until the dressing has coated all ingredients. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

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What does it mean to eat clean?

You may have heard the term recently as it has become a new “buzz” term. What “Clean Eating” really means is to eat foods the are primarily whole and unprocessed.

The “Clean Eating” movement started back in the 1960’s when processed food was banned for moral reasons…interesting. As the movement has evolved, it has become very “bio-individual”meaning that it means different things to different people. That is great as no one person is the exact same as another person so clean eating can really be customized to your personal needs and tastes.

The real theory behind Clean Eating is to crowd out all processed foods and add in fresh fruits, veggies, grains and some lean meats, fish and healthy fats like avocado and olive oil.

The reason there as been such a movement toward this dietary lifestyle is that clean eating increases your energy, can lead to weight loss, improves mental health, better sleep, better mood and overall better well-being! Why wouldn’t you want to eat clean?

Moving to a Clean Eating lifestyle will help you to make long-term, sustainable lifestyle changes that will improve your well being and happiness.

Principles of Clean Eating
1) Stick to whole foods – those that occur in nature not in a manufacturing plant
2) Cook food yourself – it guarantees more nutritional value and keeps you in control
3) Eliminate refined carbs and sugar – enough said
4) Eat smaller meals more often – helps to stabilize your blood sugar
5) Aim to include a serving of lean protein, good fat & complex carb to each meal

Some other benefits to Clean Eating – your mindset will improve, you will regulate your cholesterol levels, ward off cancer, dementia and a variety of other conditions. This is one food trend that is highly beneficial to follow! One of my favorite quotes is from Chef Jamie Oliver – Food does not have ingredients, food is ingredients. That basically sums up the basics of Clean Eating.

Beets, beets, they’re good for your heart!

Beets are good for your heart and your eyes and endurance and many other things!

As I am going through my list of gorgeous fruits and veggies that are in season this month, over the long weekend I got to prepare one of my very favorites, beets! My husband has never liked beet, in fact, he used to say that he would never eat them, until he tried these!

Did you know that beets are high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents that may help to lower the risk of some cancers? They do it partly because of the betacyanin they have which is the pigment that makes beets such a beautiful red color. They also have a special kind of fiber that has been found to lower the risk of colon cancer.

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Beets also can lower your risk for heart disease due to its levels of betaine and folate. These two nutrients work together to lower homocysteine which can cause damage to your heart by causing inflammation in the arteries.

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They are good for your eye health as well due to lutein and phytochemical that can help to reduce the risk of macular degeneration.

If you are an athlete or if you just want better endurance during your daily physical activity, combine beet juice and apple juice for an endurance boost! It also will help to lower your resting blood pressure so, overall, beets are a beneficial and delicious veggie.

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Don’t overdo it with beets though as they can increase the risk for developing gout and if you are prone to kidney stones, they may increase the risk of developing kidney stones if eaten in large quantity.

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Here is a yummy recipe for Simply Roasted Beets:

4 large or 6 medium sized beets
3 tablespoons good olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves, minced
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons pomegranate balsamic vinegar (can use any fruit flavored vinegar)
Juice of 1 large orange

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

Wash the outside of the beets well with a veggie wash. Cut the top and bottom of the beets off and then use a vegetable peeler to peel off the skin. The color will stain so I use rubber gloves when I peel them and I peel them on a paper towel so it won’t stain a nice kitchen towel. Cut the beets into nice sized chunks and try to keep the size even so they will cook evenly.

Spray a baking sheet with cooking spray as the beets will tend to stick as they caramelize. Place all ingredients, except the orange juice, into a mixing bowl and whisk the oil and vinegar and herbs together until they are well mixed. Place the beets into the bowl and toss with the oil and vinegar mixture. Spread the beets out onto the baking sheet and sprinkle with the salt and pepper.

Roast in the oven for about 40-45 minutes, turning them once or twice, until the beets are tender and start to caramelize. Remove the from the oven and place into a bowl and toss with the orange juice and then serve them warm. I like to place a few thyme leaves on the top of the beets for presentation along with a slice or two of orange to make it pretty. Enjoy!

Bunny Run Muffins

Hello, Friends!

It has been a busy couple of weeks and I am way behind on my posts. I’m working with a local charity group in my neighborhood called FOPAWS (Friends of Pets and Wandering Strays) and we are doing our annual fundraising event this Saturday which is a 5K Bunny Run and Family Easter Egg Hunt! Our organization is funded mainly by donations and an allowance from our homeowner’s association so we have been busy getting ready.

I was in charge of the Silent Auction this year and we have some amazing packages and items that have been donated and we will all be ready for the event at 5pm on Saturday morning! 5 am?!?! Holy cow, that is too early to be awake enough for a shower much less breakfast. Since I have special food needs, I am planning ahead so that I have something to eat when I am working and get hungry around 8am.

What did I make? Homemade gluten-free/dairy-free blueberry muffins! I love blueberry muffins and these are so darn easy to make and absolutely delicious! Perfect to pack up and take with me at the crack of dawn this weekend. These are also perfect to make for Easter brunch. Blueberries are full of vitamins and antioxidants and kids and adults will love them equally.

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The recipe if Pamela’s All-Purpose Flour’s Muffin recipe with a few of my substitutions (Kitchen Improv)!

2 cups Pamela’s All-Purpose Flour Artisan Blend
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
1 cup milk (I used coconut milk)
3/4 cup light brown sugar
8 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/2 cups of fresh blueberries
1/2 cup of sliced almonds

If you have other allergies, you can substitute oil for the equivalent amount of melted butter. For eggs, use equivalent prepared egg replacer. For milk you can substitute coconut, soy, almond or cashew milk.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mix all ingredients together. Stir in the blueberries (you can really use any equivalent amount of fruit that you like). Grease pan or use muffin paper cups. Divide batter evenly among the muffin cups. Bake for 16 to 20 minutes, depending on fruit used and your oven temperature…just keep an eye on them. Use a toothpick to check for doneness and take out of oven when the toothpick comes out clean.

I use a little Earth Balance spread on them or homemade blueberry jam…delicious!

Homemade Roasted Tomato Soup

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So my husband, Dennis, was under the weather earlier this week and when he started feeling well enough to eat again, he asked me to make him some roasted tomato soup. I made this beautiful soup along with gluten -free/dairy-free grilled cheese sandwiches and it was just what the doctor ordered! I thought you may enjoy the recipe too.

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Tomatoes are a brilliant food item. Did you know they are actually a fruit and not a vegetable? Pretty cool, huh? The are also an excellent source vitamin C, biotin, molybdenum, and vitamin K. They are also a very good source of copper, potassium, manganese, dietary fiber, vitamin A (in the form of beta-carotene), vitamin B6, folate, niacin, vitamin E, and phosphorus. Lycopene in tomatoes gives them their deep red color and it is essential for women as it helps to maintain bone strength and can help to prevent osteoporosis!

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This recipe is super simple and will not take much time at all to prepare. You can also do just the straight tomato soup or you can add cream to it (I like to use coconut milk) to make a creamy tomato soup..yum! All of the herbs are from my garden too.

6 large tomatoes
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1 cup vegetable stock
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1 tablespoon oregano, chopped
1 tablespoon rosemary, chopped
1 tablespoon basil, chopped
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
1/8 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Take the six large tomatoes and remove the green stems from them. Place them whole into a pot of boiling water. Allow them to cook until the skins start to break apart and peel. When that happens, drain the tomatoes and allow to cool until you can handle them. Take the pint of cherry tomatoes and put them into a mixing bowl. Drizzle the olive oil onto the tomatoes and add the garlic, oregano and rosemary. Add salt and pepper to taste and toss so the tomatoes are well coated. Place onto a greased baking sheet ad put in the oven at 425 degrees for about 25 minutes. Keep an eye on them and if they are starting to look too charred, pull them out of the oven.

Peel the large tomatoes and then cut them up into chunks and place into a deep sauce pan. When the cherry tomatoes are done, take them off the baking sheet and place into the sauce pan with the large tomatoes. Add in the vegetable stock and then use an immersion blender to blend the soup until it has a smooth consistency. If you want to add in some cream, now is the time to do so. Taste again and add in more salt and pepper to your taste, if it is needed. Serve into bowls and garnish with the chopped basil and parsley. Serve warm.

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For the grilled cheese sandwiches, I used UDI’s gluten free whole grain bread and Go Veggie vegan “cheese” slices. They melt beautifully and are the perfect accompaniment to the tomato soup. Enjoy!

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