Sticky Toffee Pudding (Gluten-Free!)

 

One of my favorite desserts of all time is Sticky Toffee Pudding. The first time I had it was in Galway, Ireland. But once I developed a taste for it, I had it every chance I could get, which considering where I live, is not very often, and since I had to stop eating gluten, not at all! To my good fortune, this has all recently changed!

For those of you who have not been bewitched by this amazing treat, I’ll give you a run-down of what it actually is. What it is not, is a pudding in the American sense of the word, but a tender, moist cake- a true pudding in the British sense of the word.

Now everyone knows that British/ Scottish/ Irish cuisine does not get its due credit in the world of gastronomy. In fact it is often looked down upon. But there is really no need for it – if you actually have the good fortune to try it first hand, I guarantee you will find much to write home about. The foods of these small northern European islands are quite good, lots of fresh vegetables, wild game, wonderful sausages and unexpectedly – dessert. I fell in love with the desserts when I traveled to Ireland and Scotland- cranachan, treacle pudding, Victoria sponge, custards and of course the queen of them all, Sticky Toffee Pudding (that’s why it is all in Caps, it is that good!).

Sticky Toffee Pudding is a moist, rich cake made with dates (sometimes prunes) and topped with a wonderful toffee sauce. Many times puddings are served with a topping of thin custard, like crème anglaise. I have seen Sticky Toffee Pudding served with both together. There is some mystery to the origins of this special dessert, some say it was developed in the south of England, and others say it was being served and enjoyed in Aberdeenshire, Scotland many years before if became popular in England. I think we should give this one to the Scots. I mean the English have laid claim to much that has belonged to the Scots these many long years, and why quibble over a dessert?

I digress, so for Burns Night I was looking for a festive dessert and I remembered Sticky Toffee Pudding. I started by searching on line for gluten-free recipes. I found a few, but none of them alone felt like it was going to yield a classic. So I forged out on my own. I must say that the one ingredient that makes the recipe is Lyle’s Golden Syrup - cane sugar syrup that has been made the same way for over 125 years (and another Scottish invention!) and a good substitute for evil corn syrup. Once I tasted it, I knew that it was this beautiful amber syrup that really lends the magical element that makes a classic Sticky Toffee Pudding taste.

So if you are gluten-free and want to try a new delicious and simple to prepare dessert, or are already a lover of Sticky Toffee Pudding, you will love this recipe! It was a huge hit at our Burns Supper!

INGREDIENTS:
1 cup of organic chopped dates
1 ¼ cup water
1TBS pure vanilla extract
2 TBS whiskey
1 cup gluten free flour mix
1 cup almond flour/meal
¼ cup arrowroot
2 tsp baking soda
Pinch of salt
¼ cup softened butter
¼ cup Greek yogurt
2 eggs
¼ cup Lyle’s Golden Syrup
2 cups heavy cream
¼ cup Lyle’s Golden syrup
¼ cup coconut palm sugar

METHOD:
Preheat oven to 325 F
Simmer chopped dates in water for about 10 minutes. Drain the dates and place into a food processor, add the vanilla and whiskey and pulse a few times, until you have a chunky paste.
In a separate bowl whisk dry ingredients together: GF flour mix, almond flour, salt, and baking soda.
In another small bowl, beat together the butter, yogurt and eggs. Then combine all the dry and wet ingredients together and add ¼ cup of Lyle’s while mixing.

I used a muffin tin to bake my puddings, but you could use ramekins or a large baking dish to make a large pudding (cooking times will vary). I filled my muffin tin to the top with the batter – creating a large muffin sized pudding.
Bake for 20-25 minutes. In the meantime you can make the toffee sauce. Just heat the heavy cream, sugar and Lyle’s until it boils, then lower heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, while stirring often.
*Tip: Since I wanted to serve my puddings warm, but make them ahead of time, I made them, and then baked them for 10 minutes. Then I took them out of the oven. When I was ready to serve dessert later that night, I popped them back in the oven for another 10 minutes while I made the sauce!
Serve warm, serves 6.

Homemade Condiments: Mayo, Ketchup and Cranberry BBQ Sauce

Do you have 10 minutes to spare? Good, then you have plenty of time to make your own, healthy condiments to accompany your nutritious meals. Making your own condiments is cheaper and you are able to monitor exactly what goes in them, and adjust flavorings to suit you and your family’s taste buds. You can be eating grassfed beef and organic veggies from the farmers market, but if you are topping it all off with bottled condiments, you are probably un-doing much of your hard work. Bottled condiments contain corn syrup, MSG aka “natural flavors” and various other preservatives. None of which we should be eating for optimum health.

You see, eating healthy is quite simple. It is actually more simple than many of us think. People are always asking me what they should be eating to be healthier or to help this or that health problem. The reality is that there are really no magical cures specific to individual health problems. The key is taking care of our immune system and our brain health, and the battle is won. If we feed our bodies with the best possible fuel, it will be able to function optimally. How do you do this? Eat whole foods as close to their natural state as possible.

I am not a doctor, I just know what has worked for my family, and this is what I try to share on this blog.

On the path to eating healthier, there are many obstacles, most of which center on overcoming our own fears and hurdles to health. There is also a lot of un-learning to do. Some of the healthiest foods, like eggs, meat, real butter, and even olive oil have been maligned all in the name of processed foods, preservatives, industrial agriculture, over-indulging in grains and unhealthy oils. We have also been taught that eating healthy, cooking from scratch and eating locally and organic is expensive. So even if you know you should eat better, you can’t afford to. This is simply untrue. The reality is it has saved me so much money over the years, not only on food bills but also on health bills. We need to start asking ourselves hard questions as a nation. What are we willing to do as individuals to make our nation and families healthier? Can we find a few hours a week somewhere, maybe cut into our TV watching a little, to cook wholesome food for our family? Maybe then our children won’t have so many health issues. But it is up to us, as families and individuals to make those changes. So many of us are still blinded by the agendas of the food industry.

Although I am pretty hardcore when it comes to my food beliefs, I also believe in taking baby steps to get long lasting results. The way I eat now, has been years in the making, and I am still learning. Some people find success changing everything at once, but personally, I find that if I incorporate too much that is new all at once, I just get overwhelmed and frustrated and then I become resistant to change. Making condiments is something easy you can do, that takes only minutes and can really help the health of your family and your budget. So let’s get started!

Aioli (Homemade Mayonnaise)

INGREDIENTS:

3 large farm fresh yolks from free-ranging, pasture raised chickens ( I would not recommend any other eggs in a recipe using raw eggs)
¼ cup of lemon juice or raw apple cider vinegar
1 tsp sea salt
fresh cracked pepper (to taste)
1 TBS whey (optional), for longevity of the mayo
3 garlic cloves
1 cup olive oil

METHOD:

Place egg yolks, lemon juice or vinegar, salt and pepper and whey (optional) into your blender or food processor. If using a blender (the better tool for this) start on a low speed and then move up to high. While the machine is running, drop in the garlic cloves and blend for about 10 seconds. Then while the machine is still running, pour the oil in a thin steady stream, until emulsified. ( If you have used whey, allow the mayo to sit, covered on your counter for 7 hours before refrigeration – for the lactic acid fermentation process to occur). With the whey added your mayo will keep for several months. If you do not use whey, it will last in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks. Refrigerate in an airtight jar. Makes about 2 cups.

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Ketchup

INGREDIENTS:

2 – 8 oz. jars (organic preferred) tomato paste
½ cup canned tomatoes, crushed
¼ cup whey (optional)
1 TBS sea salt
½ cup real maple syrup
2 TBS raw apple cider vinegar
¼ tsp nutmeg
½ tsp cinnamon
pinch of oregano

METHOD:

Mix all ingredients until well blended. Place in a glass jar. If using whey, leave jar out at room temperature overnight before storing in the fridge. Makes about 1 quart.

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Cranberry BBQ Sauce

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup of homemade ketchup
¼ cup sautéed onions and garlic
2 TBS balsamic vinegar
½ tsp smoked paprika
2 handfuls of dried cranberries

METHOD:

Mix all ingredients together in a blender until smooth.

I am entering this post in the Two For Tuesdays Real Food Blog Hop. If you have a real food recipe to contribute follow the link and see all the other participating blogs and recipes!

The Poison that is High Fructose Corn Syrup

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I wanted to come up with a great title for this article, something catchy that really describes the gravity behind what I was going to write on this issue, while at the same time not being confrontational. But nothing came to mind. This is a severe issue, with severe consequences, requiring a severe and to the point title. On this blog, in the past, I have mostly kept my food opinions to myself. But in certain instances, I feel that reaching the most people possible with vital information is the most important thing. This is one of those cases. I do this as a way of providing information, not preaching or shoving my values down your throat. Read it. If you don’t agree, that is fine, but at least educate yourself and make food choices based on knowledge.

For years I have had a personal battle with HFCS and ridding it from my diet. Having worked in the health industry, I saw what it can do to people, physically and mentally. Consuming HFCS has been the underlying cause in many of the cases I saw from pain syndromes and digestive problems, to severe acne, and depression. I have spoken out against the consumption of HFCS to my family and friends, and it has been years since I have knowingly eaten anything that contains it. This is not a case of over-reacting, because “a little bit won’t kill you”, because in fact nothing can be further from the truth.

This stuff will kill you, eventually. But it will take its time and make you suffer along the whole way.

HFCS is one of that many ingredients on the market currently that for the past 20 years has infiltrated much of the food people eat. We live in a society of instant gratification and hurried lives, and the food companies bank on this (pun intended). They know we want something quick and fast to put on the table and in our mouths to quickly re-fuel and move on with our busy lives. They know we don’t have time to read labels. But, we are just now starting to understand the very detrimental ramifications that occur over long periods of time when people eat these convenient ingredients – and there are many others, besides HFCS that are just as bad, but I am not discussing them today.

Here is where all the problems from consuming HFCS come from. The body processes the fructose in high fructose corn syrup differently than it does old-fashioned cane or beet sugar, because it has been chemically altered by a laundry list of enzymes to give it a longer shelf life. Once this altered fructose enters the body, it alters the way metabolic-regulating hormones function, causing the liver to kick more fat out into the bloodstream. The end result is that our bodies are essentially tricked into wanting to eat more and at the same time, we are storing more fat. This causes all sorts of health problems, namely obesity and diabetes. But this really is nothing new. People have known about the link between HFCS and these diseases for years and yet we still continue to buy products that contain it. So, I guess obesity and diabetes is not too great of a concern for people to demand the end of HFCS by refusing to purchase products that contain it. So maybe this next bit of information will.

A very recent study shows that half of the tested samples of commercial high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) contains MERCURY, which was also found in nearly a third of 55 popular brand-name food and beverage products where HFCS is the first- or second-highest labeled ingredient.

“Mercury is toxic in all its forms. Given how much high-fructose corn syrup is consumed by children, it could be a significant additional source of mercury never before considered. We are calling for immediate changes by industry and the [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] to help stop this avoidable mercury contamination of the food supply,” the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy’s Dr. David Wallinga, a co-author of both studies, said in a prepared statement.

hfcs_cornie_2

HFCS is used in nearly all processed foods and many foods that are directed at children. Things like soft drinks, juice blends, yogurt, cookies, salad dressing, most condiments (ketchup, BBQ sauce, etc.) crackers and bread, even some baby formulas. Also a lot of “health foods” as a way to make the shelf life longer, the texture better and prevent it from rotting faster. That is pretty gross – basically we are eating plastic food, lots of it and loving it. Loving it so much, that we are willing to risk our health for it.

It is up to us, the consumers to change this. So please read the labels at the grocery store. Basically, HFCS is in nearly everything that comes in a package. Why is that? Well, HFCS is cheaper for the food companies to put in food than sugar, because it is easier to transport and store and cheaper to produce.

Isn’t that special?

Although the refineries that make HFCS are stating that this study on mercury in HFCS was researched based on old material and that they have been using mercury-free versions of the two re-agents mentioned in the study, how would a consumer know if the HFCS in their food or beverage was made with a mercury free re-agent or not? Are you willing to take a chance or gamble on yourself or your family’s health?

hfcs_no

We, as consumers need to start putting our money where our mouth is. We must advocate for ourselves and vote with our money because it is clear that the food industry doesn’t care about us and won’t be our advocate. They care only about profits. If the majority of people don’t buy these products then the food manufacturers will have to stop making it and we will all be better for it.

However, in the meantime, this does require us to make sacrifices – it does mean more time in the grocery store reading labels. It does mean not being able to eat certain foods or products, and it may require of us more legwork and time as we find alternate products to fill in the void or it may require us to make certain products at home ourselves. But it is a good exercise to do, because once you start reading the labels, you realize how HFCS is in the majority of packaged foods, and it is shocking and scary to realize that this is being done in order for corporations to make a larger profit at the expense of our health. Let us not even talk about the link between food companies and the prescription drug companies…

Here is another good article about HFCS

And another great resource is Michael Pollan’s book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which discusses the food industry’s role in HFCS taking over our food supply.

Recipe: “Happy” South of the Border Steak with Fresh Salsa and Black Beans

happycow2.jpg

Well, now that the storm has passed and things have returned to normal once again (meaning it is sunny and hot and humid), we will return to our regularly scheduled programming of all things food related. Today I am going to talk about meat – specifically Happy Meat.

So what makes a steak “happy” (as my friend Judy calls it)? Well for those of you who haven’t read The Omnivore’s Dilemma, it has to do with the way the cow that becomes your steak lives its life. A cow that spends its post-weaning life on a feedlot eating grains and “additives” (read: cow parts) that it is not equipped to digest (and thereby given antibiotics in its feed to essentially keep it alive) is going to have a very different taste to it than a cow that lives in a pasture eating fresh grass and hay and living its life, well, like a cow is supposed to. Taste is one thing – but what does all those hormones/ antibiotics and cheap food it is fed do to you when you eat it? I won’t even go into the ethical debate(…watch me just fly right past that one…)

I don’t talk a lot about food ideologies on this blog, because I am a strong believer and affirmer of “to each their own”, especially when it comes to food. I learn so much from people by what they eat and so never in a million years would I try to convince someone to eat differently. The only reason I bring this up now is because until I read The Omnivore’s Dilemma I didn’t realize how bad things really are. So maybe you don’t realize it either. I mean, I knew about corn syrup, and additives and processed foods, been off those for years, but I didn’t have the foggiest idea how BIG and overarching this issue with corn is. I am horrified by the fact that Americans are like walking tortilla chips, made from CHEAP INDUSTRALIZED corn.
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