Homemade Gluten-Free Citrus Granola {Recipe}

Since I figured out that I am gluten intolerant, I’ve been on a constant search for delicious and affordable replacements. I discovered that most gluten-free packaged food is almost twice the price. Also, most of the ingredients in them are not natural or whole. I will actually discuss this topic in great depth in another post.

oats

Initially, one of the toughest things about practicing a gluten-free diet was finding good breakfast cereals. Like a typical American, I grew up eating corn flakes, pop tarts, and toast for breakfast. As I became smarter about my food choices, I stuck to more natural types of cereal which didn’t contain much added sugars and processed ingredients. All of the gluten-free cereals on the shelf just seemed exorbitantly priced or full of questionable ingredients. Eventually, I discovered gluten-free granola with minimally processed ingredients. It was almost love at first taste, but it was hard to swallow the extra sweet taste (after months of conditioning myself to have a less sweet palate) and price tag. Unfortunately, most gluten-free granola is really, really expensive. I mean really expensive. Also, prepackaged granola is loaded with sugar! Though, I kept eating store-bought granola because I thought it was more convenient than any other breakfast option.

maple syrupI also thought buying granola was more convenient than making my own. I had seen many recipes and heard about people making their own granola (it’s actually become a thing), but I just never got myself to do it. I made it out to be really complicated and time consuming in my head. I had even bought certified gluten-free oats but let them sit in my pantry for 6 months (they don’t spoil easily) before I said I am going to do it. Making my own granola turned out to be a lot simpler than I had envisioned. I have since come up with at least four unique recipes for my own granola and have started giving jars to friends as gifts.

Photo Mar 22, 5 51 45 PM

The thing about homemade granola is that it is highly customizable for YOU. You as the maker are in charge of the ratios. I like granola with more oats, and less dried fruit and nuts. You can choose the types of nuts, seeds, dried fruits, spices, sweeteners, and fats to add to the oats to make your own unique creation. Unlike baking a cake, the measurements of the ingredients mentioned above do not have to be precise. Just pay attention to the wet ingredients so the oat mixture is coated evenly, but not soggy.

I did post one granola recipe on this neat website/iOS app called Snapguide. You can get step-by-step visual instructions on many of my recipes there, particularly my Gluten-Free Citrus Granola recipe with video. The guide is actually being featured on the app/website right now. Please note that I use a whole lot less sugar than the granola you get at the grocery stores. I always use honey and maple syrup, not granulated white sugar or corn syrup, as a binder and sweetener for granola. I like granola to be less sweet and I can always add local honey or fresh fruit on top. I estimate my granola has about 1.5 teaspoons (6.3 grams) of sugar per 1/2 cup of granola. The sugar comes from the freshly squeezed orange juice, maple syrup and dried cranberries. I am working on trying to reduce the amount of added sugar even further. Most store bought granola has about ~4 teaspoons (14 grams) of sugar per 1/2 cup serving size and the sugar is usually from corn syrup, white sugar or barley malt (gluten).

Photo Mar 01, 11 29 24 AM

Please let me know in the comments about your favorite granola recipes, toppings, and cooking methods. How do you like to eat granola?

Healthier Social Eating: The Holidays

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With so many holiday parties, gatherings, shopping, work, school and kids, eating well, resting, and working out could easily drop off your radar.Though, at this time of the year, it is really important to take care of yourself to prevent health goal relapse and catching a cold or the FLU.  Follow these simple tips for maintaining balance and prevent guilt from overeating.

This is a modified list to Healthier Social Eating: BBQ’s

1. Sleep Well and Rest Enough
If you are tired, lethargic or sleepy, you might  tend to load  up on junk food and caffeine for an energy “boost.” Loading up on empty calories and caffeine will only make you hungrier and cause you to crash after the sugar high starts to wear off. Extra caloric intake (without extra caloric output) will lead to weight gain over time leading to obesity. Sleep deprivation also lowers your immune system’s ability to fight off bacteria and viruses. Also, inadequate sleep has been linked to depression, lowered cognitive (brain) function, higher blood pressure, and irritability. Try to get at least seven hours of sleep each night for optimal health and happiness.

2. Eat Regular Meals and Have Healthy Options Available
Many people tend to skip their regular meals in favor of eating at holiday parties and gatherings. Typically, parties tend to only serve junk, cheap, or highly processed food, even if it is in a sophisticated form. A gourmet cookie is still  made of sugar, butter, and flour. And, brie is still a high, saturated fat cheese, even if it’s topped with cranberry sauce. Do not walk into a party hungry, as you will end up eating  the party food  and drinking high caloric drinks to replace dinner. Instead, fill up on healthy, satisfying food beforehand party and only eat the really amazing food at the party.  If it is a potluck party, bring healthy alternatives to desserts, crackers, and cheese. Look at everything that is offered and choose only the items you really want to eat. This way you can fill up on the healthiest foods first, without worrying about bad calories, sugar, and fat.


3. Think Before You Drink
A drink that is not a glass of water has calories and sugar. Drink at least eight ounces of water or so that your thirst is quenched and stomach already feels a little full.  You will  less likely  chug the alcoholic drink to quench your thirst. Is that chocolate martini or eggnog rum drink really worth 500-700 calories (equivalent to a meal)? Make your choices worthwhile and sip on a glass of wine or beer.


4. Mix and Mingle
Choose three or four items you really want to eat, and then step away from the food table so you’re not tempted to graze. You will be less likely to keep mindlessly refilling your plate if you are in the middle of an interesting conversation and standing on the other side of the room from the food. Being with friends and family and having a great time at  the party also contributes to overall good health. Focus on the people at the party instead of the food and drinks.

5. Make Room for Dessert
Cookies, cookies, and more cookies are on everyone’s mind during the holidays and parties are dedicated to just desserts. If you have been good about sticking to your health goal, then a cookie or piece of yule log is nothing to feel guilty about. Don’t let a relapse turn into a downward spiral. In the long run, a piece of dessert is not going to harm you if you follow a healthy, clean diet. It’s pretty clear that sugar is toxic and should be consumed as treats, not regular snacks. Instead of saying “there’s always room for dessert,” actually leave room for it. Eat a little less of everything else so you can have a piece of that cake, cookie or pie. Desserts typically take a long time to make, therefore spend time eating the dessert instead of devouring it at once!


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This Is What We Ate One Year Ago

Our 1 year wedding anniversary is this weekend, so I wanted to share the food we carefully choose for our wedding celebrations. We tried to stay true to our beliefs by having as much food as we could that was local and sustainable, while still honoring the Indian culture. Please do not take any of these photos without permission. All photos were taken by our wonderful photographer Josef Kohn of IQ Photos. Continue reading

Meatless Monday: Health Benefits

Meatless Monday (MM) is a nation-wide campaign to encourage people to give up meat one day out of the week to increase health, ecology, and economy. It’s also very achievable. You are only going one day a week without any meat. In turn, you will increase your intake of fresh vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds.(MM does not mean substituting meat for refined carbohydrates,  large quantities of full-fat cheese and peanut butter; it will add a significant amount of fat and calories to your diet. MM also does not mean for you to increase your intake of meat for the rest of the week.)

Here are a few health benefits from a vegetarian diet:
-Vegetarian diets often contain more fiber, potassium, phytochemicals, antioxidants, and vitamins associated with reduced risks of chronic and preventable diseases (diabetes, obesity).
-Generally, vegetarians maintain a healthier body weight (that is if they make good choices).
-Diets high in fruits and vegetables may reduce cancer risk. Whereas, red and processed meat consumption are linked to colon cancer.
-Studies have shown that countries with a higher intake of fat, especially fat from animal products, such as meat and dairy products, have a higher incidence of breast cancer.
– Fiber is only found in fruit and vegetables. Fiber makes you full on fewer calories, hence less overeating and greater weight control.

These are just a few of the many health benefits of a diet focused on fresh vegetables and fruits. Adopt to MM and see the results for yourself.

Vegetable “Lasagna”

-Inspired by Giada De Laurentiis’ Vegetable Parmesan

I love this dish because it’s versatile and you can use any vegetables you have on hand. I like using “meaty” vegetables such as zucchini, squash, eggplant, and mushrooms. You can add a layer of no-boil-lasagna sheets for an extra bite and sustenance. I choose to substitute the lasagna sheets for slices of potatoes. Potatoes have fiber, vitamin C, vitamin B6, potassium and manganese. What I love about this dish is that it tastes better the next day and the days after…I make extra, so I don’t have to worry about cooking so much the rest of the week.  This dish isn’t heavy, cheesy, or saucy. Rather, it’s light,  satiating, and fresh! Another great thing about this dish is that I really am not cooking- the oven does all the work! Just chop, mix, assemble on a baking dish, throw it in the oven and forget about it for the next 40 minutes!

Ingredients:

  • Butter, for greasing
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup dried basil or Herbs de Provence
  • 1/2 cup roughly chopped chard, stem discarded
  • 1 medium eggplant, cut into 1/4 to 1/2-inch thick slices
  • 1 medium zucchini, cut into thick slices
  • 1 medium potato, cut into thick slices
  • 1 large, ripe tomato, cut into thick slices
  • 1 bell pepper, sliced
  • 2 cups marinara sauce
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese or  ricotta (optional)
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan
  • 1 cup plain bread crumbs

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a 13 by 9-inch glass baking dish.

In a large bowl, mix salt, pepper and herbs. Coat the vegetables with this mixture.

Spoon 3/4 cup of the marinara sauce over the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Arrange the potato slices and then the eggplant slices on top of the marinara. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese  or spoon 1/2 cup of ricotta over the eggplant. Arrange the peppers first, tomatoes second, and then the zucchini in a single layer on top.  Spoon 3/4 cup of marinara sauce over the zucchini. Sprinkle with remaining mozzarella/ricotta cheese. Arrange the chard and cover with the remaining sauce. Sprinkle with Parmesan. Scatter the bread crumbs over the cheese and drizzle liberally with oil. Bake until the top is golden and forms a crust, about 45 minutes.

Use a locally grown tomatoes for ultimate flavor

Ricotta or mozarella works well.

Rainbow Chard

Enjoy natures bounty!

Remove from the oven and cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Are All Sugars Equal?

If you haven’t heard it by now, you must have been living in a cave for the last few years. Sugar is bad for you. Actually, they say it’s the reason why you are obese, have diabetes, and are fueling the multi-billion dollar health industry. However, does that mean that the juicy, plump peach is the culprit? A large peach does have 15 grams of sugar per serving. Or is it the pint of ice-cream you just downed? After all, sugar is sugar, and your body breaks it down all the same- right?

Let’s logically think about this for a minute. There are different types of sugars and your body does process them differently. There are refined/artificial/processed sugars, and there are fruit sugars. And then, it’s all about how you consume the sugar.

Sugar from fruit is called fructose. It is a simple sugar that is metabolized quickly and easily by the body. Simple sugars, like fructose, are not a problem for people who are active and healthy.  Fruits are staples of a healthy lifestyle and delightful to the senses. Of all the natural foods available, fruits are the most attractive, delicious and enjoyable. Taking from “Food Rules” by Micheal Pollan, “Eat sweets as you find them in nature.” Meaning eat the fruits whole, not processed or juiced. Fruit juice is often made from concentrate with added refined sugar and does not contain any fiber, which leaves you consuming more calories and unsatiated. Whole fruit is packed with vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants, fiber, and water.

 

Snacks from Nature, loaded with good nutrition

People do not become overweight or unhealthy from eating fruit. It’s the other types of sugar, found in other places that is the contributing culprit.

Table sugar (refined sugar) comes from two primary sources: sugar cane (60%) and sugar beets (40%) in form of sucrose. Sugar refining is the process of extracting out the sugar (sucrose) from the plant materials and then removing other unwanted materials from the extracted raw sugar. In the repeated processes of washing, boiling, centrifuging, filtering and drying, nearly all of the plant’s nutritional elements are lost. What remains in this so called “raw sugar” product is 95% sucrose along with nutritionally insignificant minerals. If sanitized by steaming, this “raw sugar” can be marketed as turbinado. Turbinado sugar is just a couple of steps shy of the final bleaching process. Bleaching agents such as lime and carbon dioxide are added to make white crystals known as table sugar. The table sugar is then further “purified”  and whitened by being filtered in a water-added liquid state through charcoal made from animal bones. This process removes even more minerals. “Pure” sugar refers to chemical purity, devoid of all nutritional and other elements, and not to a wholesome quality. Brown sugar is this table sugar that is turned brown by the reintroduction of molasses.

The Way We Consume Sugar

Refined sugar is in almost EVERY manufactured food product in the U.S. This sugar is, hands down, America’s number one food additive. Sugar is hidden in many of the things people buy at the supermarket. For instance, a tablespoon of ketchup contains a full teaspoon of sugar. Breads, soups, cereals, cured meats, hot dogs, lunch meat, salad dressings, spaghetti sauce, crackers, mayonnaise, peanut butter, pickles, frozen pizza, canned fruits and vegetables, tomato juice, and a host of other products all contain added sugar. Food that doesn’t even need the added refined sugar. The obvious offenders are desserts, candies, soft drinks, and ice-cream. People are consuming sugar without even knowing it! Be wise by avoiding processed food.

 

Manufactured Snacks with no nutritional value

 

When you have sweet attack, reach for that piece of fruit instead of the more processed foods high in sugars and other carbohydrates. A well rounded diet with plenty of fruit, vegetables and protein is the best bet for overall health.

Stay tuned for more on Sugar.

***I highly recommend you reading “Food Rules An Eater’s Manual” by Micheal Pollan. It will positively change your lifestyle. It’s super easy and fast to read.

Super Toxic Foods

Strawberries and other berries are known as “Super Foods”, for their antioxidant properties. These nutritional powerhouse foods are loaded with crucial nutrients, which have been proven to help prevent well-known effects of aging, including cardiovascular disease, Type II Diabetes, hypertension … Continue reading