Archive for the Gluten Free Category

Sweet Potato, Kale, & Leek Soup

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A warm, bright bowl of Sweet Potato, Kale, & Leek Soup is perfect for a cool November day.

Sweet Potato, Kale, & Leek  Soup

  • Serves 6 to 8 

2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 cups chopped leeks, white section rinsed well

2 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced

2 garlic cloves, minced

4 cups chicken or turkey broth

1 bunch kale, thick stems removed and very thinly sliced

kosher salt, to taste

1. In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add leeks and cook, stirring often, until light brown spots appear, about 10 minutes. Add sweet potatoes and also cook until spots appear, about 7 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.

2. Pour in the chicken broth plus 3 cups of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Then, simmer the potatoes over medium-low heat until potatoes are very tender, about 20 minutes.

 3. Increase the heat and bring soup to a boil again. Add kale and cook for 5 to 15 minutes, depending on how done you want your kale. Kale can even be eaten raw. Add salt to taste.

Who needs a multivitamin when you’ve got this soup! The dark green and orange colors of this soup mean that it is rich in vitamins A, C, & K. 

Notes on Ingredients:

  • If you’re not familiar with leeks, substitute 1 large onion.
  • The best way to cut kale very thinly is to stack 4 or 5 leaves, roll them tightly into a long cigar shape, and slice crosswise. 

Toasted Buttercup Squash Seeds

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Winter squash, such as pumpkin, sweet dumpling, and buttercup, are bountiful during this time of year. They’re a beautiful way to decorate a home in the fall. They’re also a great way to get beta carotene into your diet to decrease the risk of certain eye diseases, cancers, and cardiovascular disease. Beta carotene is what makes most winter squash flesh orange.    

This is the first year that I’ve tried buttercup squash. It’s the dark green squash with lighter green stripes next to the pumpkin in the photo below. By the way, I purchased the big pumpkin in the photo for $3.99 at Trader Joe’s. What a deal!   

While preparing the buttercup squash for dinner, I saved its seeds. They’re similar to pumpkin seeds. I left them out to dry on my kitchen counter for a couple of days and rubbed them clean to expose their white shells. You can also rinse the seeds first and then dry them. They can be eaten raw or toasted to add protein, iron, potassium, and phosphorus to your diet.  Remember, it’s best to eat seeds sparingly because they are high in total fat and calories.   

To toast seeds without turning on the oven, place seeds in a single layer in a heavy, ungreased skillet. Then, toast over medium heat for about 5 minutes, shaking the pan and stirring them until they are lightly brown. The seeds are almost ready when you hear them start to “snap, crackle, and pop”.  Transfer them immediately to a dish to cool before eating.     

Fresh Gazpacho Salsa Dressing

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Last week, I picked up a recipe for Fresh Gazpacho Salsa Dressing at my CSA distribution site.  It’s a great way to put the many tomatoes I am getting from the farm to use.  I made a few changes to the recipe to suit my family’s needs and taste.  However, you may want to use the 1 green chili pepper and freshly ground black pepper that I omitted.   

 Fresh Gazpacho Salsa Dressing

 ½ lb. ripe tomatoes, seeded and chopped (about 1 large tomato)

1/4 cup diced sweet white onion

½ Tbsp. onion powder

½  red bell pepper, diced

¾ tsp. garlic powder

3 Tbsp. olive oil

2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar

¼ tsp. dried oregano

½ tsp. kosher salt

pinch of sugar

1. Combine all of the ingredients in a blender or food processor and pulse until smooth.

2. Use immediately or store tightly covered in the fridge.  Use within 3 days.

The recipe suggests using the dressing in a salad with any combination of the following: roasted corn, black beans, chickpeas, lettuce, spinach, hearts of palm, marinated artichokes, etc. 

I used it as a marinade and sauce for baked salmon.  The dressing imparted a pleasant sweetness to the fish, which my family and I throughly enjoyed.

Stuffed Tomatoes & Fresh Tomato Sauce

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On a hot summer day, it’s nice to keep the oven off and to eat food that’s light, fresh, and maybe vegetarian.  The flavor of these tomatoes stuffed with brown rice and walnuts remind me of stuffed bell peppers, because the main ingredients used are similar minus the ground meat.  If you prefer, substitute cooked ground beef for the walnuts.            

Tomatoes Stuffed with Brown Rice & Walnuts 

  • Serves 2 for lunch & 4 for appetizer

2 large beefsteak tomatoes (2 lbs.)

Salt Blend:

½ tsp. kosher salt

¼ tsp. paprika

1/8 tsp. onion powder

1/8 tsp. garlic powder


1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup chopped onion

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1 cup chopped green bell pepper

½ cup walnuts, chopped

1 cup cooked brown rice

1.  Slice each tomato in half horizontally.  Remove and discard the seeds.  Run a knife around the inner edge of each tomato, leaving a wall thick enough to support the filling.  Then, scoop out the pulp/juice and reserve it to make Quick Fresh Tomato Sauce (recipe below).  Invert the tomatoes to drain any excess juice.     

2.  In a small bowl, mix the salt, paprika, onion powder, and garlic powder.

3.  In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Sauté onions for 1 minute.  Add garlic and pepper and cook for 3 minutes.  Stir in walnuts and cook for 1 minute.  Mix in the rice and ¾ tsp. of salt blend.  Then, sprinkle ¼ tsp. of salt blend over the hollowed-out tomato halves and fill them with the brown rice mixture.     


I strongly suggest that you use brown rice in this recipe because it imparts a nuttier flavor than white rice.  Also, brown rice is healthier than white rice because it’s high in fiber.  Remember, fiber keeps you full for a longer time, helps your digestive system run more smoothly, and has been associated with a lower risk of metabolic syndrome, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.        

A few years ago, I was hesitant to incorporate brown rice into my diet because I didn’t think I would like the taste or the texture.  However, I decided to try brown Jasmine rice (from Trader Joe’s) because white Jasmine rice was the staple in my home.  I liked it, so I started to sample other kinds of brown rice and discovered that I enjoyed Nishiki medium grain brown rice the most because it’s moister than others.  Explore the many brown rice choices you have in your supermarket and I’m sure you’ll find the type of brown rice that is perfect for you.              

Homemade tomato sauce is easy to make, tastes better than store-bought, and is often healthier than pre-made sauce because it contains less salt.  In the following recipe, the amount of salt used to season the sauce is up to you.  A couple of pinches should do the trick.  The same is true for the addition of sugar.  As a Sicilian, sauce is not sauce unless it has some sugar in it!   

Quick Fresh Tomato Sauce 

  • Yield: 2/3 cup for 2 (1 cup each) pasta sides

½ Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

1 garlic clove, crushed

1½ cup chopped tomato pulp, including juice (from 2 large beefsteak tomatoes)

4 large basil leaves

1 Tbsp. red wine

Salt and sugar, to taste

In a medium saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add garlic and cook for 1 minute.  Carefully pour in the tomatoes and add the basil leaves.  Bring to a simmer and cook for 18 minutes, until much of the juice has evaporated.  Stir in the red wine and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened.  Discard the garlic and season with salt and sugar to taste.  Toss with pasta and serve.       

“Filipino Chicken”

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I love to cook Filipino food, especially Chicken Adobo or as my friends call it – “Filipino Chicken”.  It fills the kitchen with a special aroma of garlic, Filipino soy sauce, and sugar cane vinegar.  The sauce that the chicken cooks in is so flavorful that one night, my friend didn’t leave the table until he finished his meal and every last drop of sauce in the serving dish.

Filipino soy sauce and sugar cane vinegar can be found in Asian supermarkets.  If you don’t have access to such stores, try using white vinegar and soy sauce that can be purchased at regular supermarkets.

“Filipino Chicken” aka. Chicken Adobo

2 tbsp. canola oil

3½ lbs. (about 14) chicken drumsticks, skins removed and moisture patted dry

3 tbsp. finely chopped garlic

½ cup sugar cane vinegar

¼ cup Filipino soy sauce

1 dried bay leaf

1 tsp. freshly cracked whole black peppercorns

1. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add half the chicken and cook, turning occasionally, for 4 minutes or until light golden brown.  When 1 minute is remaining, add the garlic.  Then, transfer the chicken and garlic to a plate.  Repeat with the remaining chicken.

2. Return the reserved chicken to the skillet and add the vinegar, soy sauce, bay leaf, and cracked peppercorns.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium low, cover and simmer for 40 minutes, turning the chicken occasionally.  Then, uncover and simmer for about 5 minutes.  Discard the bay leaf.  Serve chicken and sauce over rice.

A Taste of Christmas in July

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Every Christmas, I look forward to my Aunt Natalie’s cucciddata, which are Sicilian fig-filled cookies.  This month, I jumped at the opportunity to use up the fig preserves that my family had saved from last summer.  I decided to develop a gluten-free fig treat that retains the traditional flavors (almond, honey, orange, and fig) of cucciddata that the whole family can enjoy.  Instead of wheat flour, I used almond meal which gives my Almond Fig Bars a surprisingly cakey texture.

Almond Fig Bars  (makes 15)

3½ c. almond meal

½ tsp. salt

½ c. sugar

¼ c. honey

½ tsp. grated orange zest

6 Tbsp. tub margarine, such as Smart Balance Heart Right Light

5 large eggs

1 c. fig preserves

Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting

1. Preheat the oven at 350°F.  Lightly oil a 12 x 17 in. rimmed baking sheet and line with parchment paper fitted for the baking sheet (corners cut out).

2. In a food processor, grind together the almond meal, salt, sugar, honey, zest, margarine, and eggs until fully blended.  Pour batter into the prepared baking sheet and level out as much as possible.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, until the top is golden and the edges are light brown.  Allow the almond “cake” to cool to room temperature.

3. Transfer the “cake” to a cutting board and slice in half widthwise. Evenly spread the fig preserves on one half and top with the other half.  Trim the edges to form a 7½  x 5 ½ in. rectangle and cut into bars about 1½  x 1¾  in.  Dust with confectioner’s sugar just before serving.  Store bars in an air-tight container with parchment paper between the layers

Notes on ingredients:

  • If you can’t purchase almond meal at your local market, you can pulse raw almonds in a food processor until the largest pieces are the size of couscous.
  • Fig preserves are available in some supermarkets or through websites like
  • After reading “Covering the Spreads” by Hurley and Liebman (Nutrition Action Healthletter, Sept. 2009), I decided to substitute tub margarine for butter in some of my cooking.  Many tub margarines are no longer made with partially hydrogenated oil and are lower in calories, saturated fat, and trans fat than stick butter.

Lettuce “Pesto”

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It’s prime time for lettuce and my refrigerator is overflowing with fresh green leaves.  I’ve been making and eating many salads for lunch, but I’ve recently created something different.  Inspired by a recipe for a mild pesto using garlic scapes, I created an even lighter “pesto” made of lettuce.  This is perfect for people who can not eat raw garlic and are looking for something new to do with lettuce. 

Lettuce “Pesto”

6 cups torn lettuce leaves

½ tsp. Garlic powder

2 Tbsp. Pumpkin seeds

2 Tbsp. Grated Pecorino Romano cheese

½ c. Extra-virgin olive oil

Ground black pepper, to taste

1. In a food processor, blend all ingredients for the lettuce “pesto”.

For a side dish, I tossed cooked rice and small chunks of peach with the pesto.   

I shared 1 cup of rice (pictured above) with my sister. Reminder: 1 serving of rice is 1/2 cup.  

Soon, I’ll have to get creative with lettuce again.  I overheard a woman at my CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) pick-up site talking about a good lettuce soup recipe she found on the internet.  I may have to look into it!