Monday, October 17, 2011

Playing With My Pumpkins

I love everything about fall: the leaves changing, weekend drives into the country, pumpkin patches (we still need to do this, friend), embracing the last of the sunflowers from summer and preparing them as food for the birds of winter, making bonfires, and my favorite fall food. It’s the best! But then again, if you were to ask me a few months from now, I will probably say winter food is best.

Seasonal foods vary, and they are all wonderful, but there is something extra special about fall, and I think that has a little something do with pumpkins. I love playing with mine! I enjoy creating jack-o’-lanterns, serving soups and stews in the small ones, making homemade pumpkins pies, and at the top of my list, enjoying pumpkins seeds. They are a great snack and, the best of all, gluten-free.

I keep it simple, extracting the seeds from the pumpkin, salt and bake. However, I saw a recipe on Facebook from Whole Foods, which had a few extra steps. I never thought about rinsing and boiling the seeds for 10 minutes. Now I know!

In addition to salt, I added garlic and rosemary. They are delish! I’ll definitely be taking a handful of these with me on my next hike with my gal pal, Hannah.

Fall is here to stay, for now, and I’m going to enjoy every minute of it, getting outdoors as often as I can, and when the temperature drops after the sun goes down I’m going to take my fall fun indoors, kicking back to relax, enjoying a favorite malbec wine and a warming fire.

Here’s to fall and its fabulousness. Here’s to creating memories with friends, and for my special friends (my celiacs) – here’s to it being forever gluten-free, always living our best life one meal at a time. Cheers!

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds (makes about 2 cups)


1 medium pumpkin
4 cups water1-tablespoon extra virgin olive oil


Preheat oven to 250°F. Cut off top 3 to 4 inches of pumpkin then scoop out seeds onto a clean work surface. Discard stringy fiber from seeds along with any seeds that are split or cracked then transfer to a strainer and rinse well. (You should have about 2 cups of seeds.)
In a medium pot, bring water to a boil. Add seeds, reduce heat and boil gently for 10 minutes. Drain well then transfer to a paper towel-lined sheet tray and pat dry.Transfer seeds to a medium bowl, toss with oil and spread out in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Roast seeds, stirring every 10 minutes or so, until just crisp and golden brown, about 1 hour total. (They will become crispier as they cool.) Set aside to let cool completely then shell or eat whole.

For spicy pumpkin seeds, mix 1/2 teaspoon each garlic salt, cumin, coriander and cardamom with seeds and oil before roasting. For sweet pumpkin seeds, mix 1 teaspoon each ground cinnamon, cloves and ginger and 1 1/2 tablespoons dark brown sugar with seeds and oil before roasting.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

2 Years In The Life

Lately, I haven’t written much on my celiac blog, channeling most of my energy into my main online journal – However, I am still “living my best life one meal at a time.”

I have been traveling the road of a celiac for two years. Prior to that, I spent two years in hell, juggling doctors and playing guesswork to figure out what kept my body from functioning normally.

To get me where I needed to be I utilized one of the principal tools of clinical research (which happens to be my profession) to conquer my nemesis. I kept a diary of my daily routines and habits – exercise, food intake, etc., to look at trends in an attempt to discover what might have caused my body not to thrive. It was then that I learned gluten was the culprit. (There were signs for years, but they were mild and manageable, and never kept me from living my best life. Sadly, that changed. I bypassed moderate and moved right into severe.)

It has been one hell of a journey – full of challenge, change and surprise. I’ve come a long way. I’m a survivor!

I still have my moments when gluten accidentally enters my life. As careful as I am – it happens, and I know because my body tells me, but I never move beyond mild, taking steps to manage my symptoms so that I can stay active and strong.

I have always been good to my body, treating it like the true temple it is. However, these days I take extra care because it’s even more special to me, and to my friends too (thank you for always championing my cause).

I am here to tell all, take care of your body. No matter what we do – moderation must be our guide, and if you are someone like me with an “extreme allergy” – the answer in short is – “NO!” For me it’s “no” to gluten.

I’m two years in the life, and I very seldom look back, but I do on occasion because it helps me appreciate where I am today. I love saying, I am still living my best life one meal at a time – and I really am. Never forget – healthy makes it happen. Cheers! – paerki

I love sharing gluten-free recipes, and this one is a keeper. It’s scrumptious. Enjoy!

Roasted Grapes (Below is the original recipe from Better Homes and Gardens. I have altered the recipe. Please see notes below.)


1 pound rinsed, stemmed red seedless grapes
1-tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves

¼ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon fresh-ground pepper


In a 12 by 15 inch baking pan, mix grapes, olive oil, fresh thyme leaves, salt and pepper. Bake in a 400-degree oven, shaking pan occasionally, until grapes are beginning to blister, 15 to 18 minutes. Use immediately or let stand until ready to use, up to 4 hours.


I used ¼ cup of olive oil, 3 tablespoons of fresh thyme leaves, 1 tablespoon of salt, 2 tablespoons of fresh-ground pepper and 2-tablespoons of garlic powder. Cook 23 minutes.

When serving sprinkle the plate with a generous amount of fresh Parmesan cheese, add grapes and drizzle the juices from the pan.

I would definitely serve this with French bread, in my case, Udi’s gluten-free bread.

The next time around I’ll add chopped garlic too.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

No Longer Tortured

Sadly, so many of us were tortured as children because we were made to eat things we didn’t like, for instance, Brussels sprouts. However, I was one of those odd children because I loved them, but they had to be overcooked, or as my friend, Sharon, would say, "they have to be cooked to death."

Times have changed, and my love for Brussells sprouts hasn’t. Well, maybe just a little. The thought of overcooking them is an abomination. Lightly seasoned and roasted, they are heaven!

I found a recipe online that I liked, but of course had to add my own twist to it, which had me paring them with carrots, and adding additional spices, orange zest, peppercorns and honey. You must try this recipe! It’s that good, and easy too.

The best part for me is it’s gluten-free. I’m still living my best life one meal at a time and hope you are too, Celiac. – paerki

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Orange Zest & Whole Peppercorns

6 cups fresh Brussels sprouts (peel outer layer and slice in half)

2 cups fresh carrots (slice to medium thickness)

2 tablespoons orange zest

¼ cup of balsamic vinegar

¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)

2 tablespoons whole peppercorns

2 tablespoons garlic (minced)

1 tablespoons sea salt

2 tablespoons honey

Add sprouts and carrots to large bowl. Add EVOO and coat evenly. Add remaining ingredients and coat evenly. Cover and refrigerate 20 minutes.

Heat oven to 375.

Grease baking sheet and pour mixture. Roast 10 minutes. Stir. Roast an additional 10 minutes.

You’re done! Now, wasn’t that easy?

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Brussels Sprouts To The Rescue

Yesterday, it was all about getting my holiday groove on. (Check out: Easy and Effortless.) However, today it’s about embracing the cold, which meant figuring out ways to keep warm, especially since the heat in my apartment is not working like it should.

Of course I remedied the situation with a sweater and a fire, but what I was really looking for was something internal, like tea. Better yet, mulled wine. Now that would have done the trick.

However, what I really, really wanted was hot comfort food. Not just any old comfort food, but something nontraditional and tasty. Oh, and it has to look good too. Sorry, but I’m not into ugly food – LOL. Presentation is important.

I was also looking to be creative with brussels sprouts, since I have a lot on hand. I know, brussels sprouts? But if they’re prepared right they can be out of this world. Let’s not forget they're good for you too. (BTW: Rocket to Venus, a restaurant in Hampden has a kick-ass brussels sprouts appetizer. They are marinated in balsamic vinaigrette and grilled. Yum!)

I think my dish is a contender for best dish. It’s easy to make and super delicious. It’s food like this that helps me live my best life one meal at a time. Enjoy! - paerki

Brussels Sprouts with Sweet Sausage


4 cups brussels sprouts (washed and peeled)

1 large Vidalia onion (chopped)

2 cloves garlic (minced)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1-teaspoon basil, rosemary and marjoram

2 cups sliced baby Portobello mushrooms

1 package Sweet Italian Sausage (6 large links)

1-cup chicken Broth

1 can Hunt’s Diced Fire Roasted Tomatoes with garlic


Grill sausage – break into pieces and set aside.

In large skillet, saut̩ olive oil, garlic and brussels sprouts for 10 minutes. Add chicken broth, onion, mushrooms and spices. Cook 10 minutes on low heat. Add sausage and diced tomatoes Рsimmer 20 minutes.

This dish is great served over rice or pasta. Omit sausage and serve as a side dish.

(Serves – 6)

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Thanksgiving has come and gone. I hope you found time to meditate on your thanks. The legacy of memories we leave behind can be some of the sweetest rewards… well that, and the fabulous leftovers. You do have leftovers? Don’t you?! Please tell me you didn’t pig out like a wild animal? If you did, well, good for you – LOL! That is what this celebration is all about… People coming together to laugh, love, be happy, create mental keepsakes and, above all else, enjoy a magnificent feast.

To quote Shakespeare: “If music be the food of love, play on. Give me excess of it; that surfeiting, the appetite may sicken, and so die.” What a way to go, but only if it’s gluten-free.

I love my gluten-free morsels and feel I eat better now than I ever have before. I’ve always been a responsible foodie and my gluten allergy just ups the ante and makes me even more responsible/accountable for my health. That is my wish for all, to be proactive in your overall wellness, thus helping fix America’s broken healthcare system. We all play a role, but I digress.

This post is not about preaching or teaching, but sharing my good fortune of food. I didn’t think I would have an appetizing feast this year because I miss my bread and gravy, but I made it work and my Thanksgiving meal came off flawlessly!

The turkey was tasty, the vegetables colorful and crisp, and the desserts incredible… they are always the best part of the meal, especially when they are homemade. Let me not forget the spirits too (red wine you’re so fine – LOL).

I really am enjoying my leftovers, which allows for a bit of creativity. I made a fantastic dish just yesterday – Turkey Scampi with vegetables served over wild rice with whole berry cranberry sauce. It was out of this world!

Today, it’s all about turkey soup, but not the traditional soup as you know it. No, this labor of love has a variety of beans, cranberries, garlic and a few other special ingredients. I’ll make another batch of pumpkin mousse with my left over pumpkin, and with my cranberries I decided to make Cranberry-Orange Caramel Corn (a recipe I found in Better Homes and Garden). Of course, I had to change it up a bit adding orange zest and molasses to the mix.

I hope you made the most of your leftovers too. There are many things to celebrate this season, and one just happens to be food. I’m always thankful for what goes into my tummy and happy that I now know it must always be gluten-free. May we all live our best life, and for me that happens when I live it one meal at a time. Enjoy! - paerki

Pumpkin Mousse

1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin

3 cups heavy cream

¾ cup superfine sugar

½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1-tablespoon vanilla extract

Ginger snaps for garnish (gluten-free)

Combine pumpkin, 1-cup cream, sugar and spice in a medium saucepan. Simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes. Cool fully.

Whip remaining heavy cream and vanilla to soft peaks and fold into cooled pumpkin mixture. Put into a serving dish and crumble the ginger snaps over top before serving.

(Make 8 to 10 servings)

Cranberry Turkey Soup

Remove all the usable turkey meat from the carcass to save for adding to soup later.

Break up the leftover bones of the carcass a bit, so they don't take up as much room in the pot. Put the leftover bones and skin into a large stockpot and cover with cold water (about 2 inches). Add any drippings that weren't used to make gravy, and any giblets (except liver) that haven't been used already. Add a yellow onion that has been quartered, some chopped carrots, parsley, thyme, a bay leaf, celery tops, and some peppercorns.

Bring to a boil and immediately reduce heat to bring the stock to a bare simmer or just below a simmer.
Add salt and pepper, about 1 tsp of salt, 1/2 tsp of pepper (it sort of depends on how big your turkey is). You can always add salt to the soup later.

Cook for at least 4 hours, uncovered or partially uncovered (so the stock reduces), occasionally skimming off any foam that comes to the surface. Remove the bones and veggies and strain the stock, ideally through a very fine mesh strainer.

Making the Turkey Soup:
With your stock already made, add 2 cups of fresh cranberries and cook for 30 minutes. Add fresh chopped carrots, onions, celery, sweet potatoes, mushrooms and black beans in equal parts. Add a couple cloves of garlic. Add seasoning: poultry, sage, thyme, and marjoram. Cook at a bare simmer until the vegetables are cooked through.

Take some of the remaining turkey meat you reserved earlier, shred it into bite sized pieces and add to the soup. I occasionally add fresh tomatoes and a dash or two of hot sauce or Tabasco, which always gives it a little kick.

Cranberry-Orange Caramel Corn

12 cups popped popcorn

1 cup dried cranberries

¼ cup of orange rind

½ cup whole almonds

½ cup butter

½ cup packed brown sugar

¼ cup light-color corn syrup

2 tbsp. orange juice

2 tsp. vanilla

2 tsp, dark molasses

½ tsp. baking soda

Preheat over to 275 F. In a very large bowl combine the popped popcorn, cranberries, almonds and orange rind; set aside.

In a 2-quart saucepan cook and stir the butter, brown sugar, molasses and corn syrup over medium heat until butter melted. Stir in orange juice. Bring to boiling over medium heat. Boil at a moderate, steady rate for 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla and baking soda (mixture will foam up).

Pour the syrup mixture over the popcorn mixture in bowl; stir to coat well. Transfer to a 15x10x1-inch baking pan or a shallow roasting pan. Bake for 30 minutes, stirring twice. Transfer caramel corn to a large sheet of greased heavy foil; cool.

Please note: The original recipe does not call for orange rind or dark molasses.

(Makes 20 - 1/2-cup servings.)

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Fall For Soup

Soup season is here! There are so many reasons to love fall, and one of my favorites is soup. There is nothing like a hot bowl of soup and fresh bread (maybe crackers) to make you feel warm and toasty. Some might prefer a latte from Starbucks, others might like a warm fire, but for me, soup does the trick like no other.

There is exercise in shopping for the ingredients (walking to and from the store, and walking up and down the aisles), therapy in chopping and cooking the ingredients and, finally, “tasty love” that comes from your hard work and devotion (of course, the aforementioned could all be tossed out the window if you screw it up).

When I’m in my kitchen doing my “soup thing” it conjures up memories of childhood, watching my mother make the best chili in the world, my friend Pam making awesome vegetable beef stew, and my next-door neighbor Cindy making the richest chicken noodle soup.

I learned a lot from these ladies when it came to cooking. As I watched them prepare their signature dishes, I would marvel at their patience and ability to make it come out tasting the same way every time. I often wondered how they did that. I realized now it was a labor of love, and having the Midas touch.

The way I look at soup has changed, but my love is still there. I am a Celiac so I need to take great care not to add gluten into the mix. I actually enjoy creating my own recipes, but love the challenge of doctoring those that contain gluten, and my friends never know the difference. Actually, many prefer that I don’t use gluten.

I am sharing in this post three of my favorite soup recipes. For those who don’t cook, but love soup, I encourage you to stop by Sweet Sin Bakery because they make the best soups, and if mushroom is on the day’s list – GET IT! It’s awesome!

To the gluten loving people who read this post, take a walk on the wild side and enjoy some gluten-free soup today. To my Celiacs, I hope all are like me, living their best life one meal at a time. Enjoy some tasty love today – Fall for soup. - paerki

Creamy Carrot Soup

1 tablespoon butter, 1 tablespoon rice flour, 1 cup half-and-half, 2 cups chicken broth, 1 teaspoon minced garlic, 2 1/2 cups sliced carrots, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil, 1 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper and salt/black pepper to taste

Steam carrots until tender. In a blender or food processor, combine cooked carrots and 3/4-cup broth. Blend until smooth. Set aside. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat. Stir in flour, basil, garlic and ground cayenne pepper. Add half-and-half cream all at once. Cook and stir until slightly thickened and bubbly. Stir in carrot mixture and remaining broth. Season with salt and black pepper.

(On occasion I add cubed chicken (cook before adding) and mixed frozen vegetables – cooking an additional 30 minutes on simmer.)

Italian Chicken And Vegetable Soup (Food Network)

2 tablespoons olive oil, 4 boneless/skinless chicken breasts (cut into bite-sized pieces), 1 small onion (chopped), 1 cup sliced carrots (about 3 small), 2 1/2 cups sliced zucchini (about 2 medium), 2 (14.5 ounce) cans diced tomatoes with basil/garlic/oregano, 2 (14.5 ounce) can chicken broth, grated Parmesan (optional)

In a large Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add chicken, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add onion and carrot, and cook for 5 minutes. Stir in zucchini, diced tomatoes, and chicken broth. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Top each serving with grated Parmesan, if desired.

Asparagus Soup

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, 1 large shallot (thinly sliced), 1 lb asparagus (washed, cleaned and ends snipped), 4 (14.5 ounce) can chicken broth, 1 can black beans (rinsed), 1 package of baby Portobello mushrooms (sliced), 1 cup sliced carrots (about 3 small), 2 teaspoons of minced garlic, salt and black pepper to taste

In a large stockpot add chicken broth and 1/2 lb of chopped asparagus (cook until asparagus are tender). Pour mixture into blender and puree. Return to pot continuing to simmer.

In a large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Add shallot and garlic and simmer for 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and carrots, and simmer for 5 minutes (stirring occasionally). Add 1/2 lb of chopped asparagus and cook 1 minute. Pour mixture into stockpot. Add black beans and continue to simmer for 20 minutes.

(On occasion I serve this soup over Basmati Rice.)
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