I love India. I love the people, I love the food. The loud music, not quite so much. But I’ve spent many years learning the lingo of Indian cooking, and usually turn out a couple of curries a week. It’s a good thing my family likes curry!
About two years ago, I was making goat cheese by the gallon, and when I was given a Really Amazing Cheese Book, one of the first recipes I tried was paneer, an Indian cheese.
Fortuitously, within a couple of days of making that cheese, a recipe landed in my inbox – Palak Paneer. Hm, what’s palak? Since I had the cheese to use, I decided to give it a shot.
Turns out, it’s my favorite comfort food. This dish has a milk base, with cooked greens (usually spinach) and tomatoes, ground together and seasoned lightly. Okay, my dad was skeptical when I proudly served the pot of thick green-and-white liquid with spices floating on top. But my whole family approved of it! I think the best part is the toasted cumin/butter that goes on top.
I froze a bunch of leftover garden greens this year – outer cabbage leaves, lots of kale, broccoli leaves – to make palak… and then got put off of dairy. And stuff like that just doesn’t taste the same with coconut milk, y’know?
About a week ago, Mom picked up some flax milk. I was really nervous when I tasted it, because I dislike flax. But it was wonderful! In fact, so far, it’s the most accurate imitation of milk that I’ve tasted.
So, not being a sweet or strong-flavored milk, it was perfect for the base of a palak. But we had stewed moose that needed to be used, and palak is typically a vegetarian dish.
I decided to simply make a curry that had similar elements and flavors to a palak. It turned out delicious! I used kale stalks that we had in the freezer for my green component, but you could use any ‘green-tasting’ vegetable, and it would work fine. (Sorryyyyy... I promise to make a real palak recipe soon!)
This is so easy to make – you can literally whip it up in 15 minutes, barring rice cooking time. Or you could just skip the rice and eat it as a soup! I love eating this on a snowy or rainy day. It’s so warm and comforting, and, I don’t know, the flavors are just perfect for that sort of day.
And you can use a meat other than moose. I won’t judge, really. We can’t all be so fortunate. :)
1 ½ lb. stewed moose meat (or beef)
2 lb. fresh or frozen green vegetables
28 oz. can diced tomatoes
2 c. flax milk
½1/2 t. cumin
½1/2 t. chili powder
½1/2 t. dried cilantro
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Salt to taste
Lightly sauté vegetables until thawed and softened. Add all other ingredients and simmer for 10 minutes. Serve over rice or as a soup. You can serve this with all sorts of decorations. I added pickles, you could put cheese or chopped cilantro on top!
Confession time: I hate sunflower seeds. Like, really hate. I got sick on sunflower seeds after church on Sunday when I was little, and I have gone through phases of despising or at least disliking them ever since.
Now this is unfortunate for someone who can’t eat normal nut butters. My mom is constantly trying to get me to eat sunflower seed butter, but just the thought of eating that makes me sick.
We arrived home (yay!) this last week from an extended road trip in the Lower 48, but, as excited as I am to be home, we don’t have the access to foods that I can readily eat like we did Outside. On top of that, food here is expensive and the clock is ticking for our normal food co-op. So, at the moment, our house is more or less devoid of foods that I can eat.
Except for those sunflower seeds. And pumpkin seeds. And coconut. We have lots of those.
But I have to do something. I’ve been eating quinoa for breakfast and we usually have something involving meat, potatoes, or quinoa for dinner, but otherwise…
So I decided to cave to Mom’s insistence that I get over my dislike of sunflower seeds. But I knew I’d really have to hide the flavor in order to make anything palatable.
I started by making this sunflower butter. While the majority of it is sunflower seeds, it has helpers, too. Chocolate, for example. Chocolate makes everything better. Which is bad, since I can’t have most chocolate.
But I digress.
I like my nut butters to be very spreadable, but not to the point of runny. This butter spreads nicely at room temperature, and firms up to the consistency I like on crackers when it’s refrigerated. And it tastes good!
This sunflower seed butter would go well with some nice sandwich bread, if you’re lucky enough to be able to eat that. I like eating nut butters on rice crackers, and I intend to do some experimentation on making rice crackers in the near future.
Or you could swirl it into ice cream. That actually is a good idea… But that's another post.
This year, my extended family spent Christmas at my grandparents’ house. Christmas is always a hard time of year for my diet, because I want to eat all those wonderful gourmet foods that my mom has been preparing for years and years. But put me in a place where other family members are preparing the food and I’m a good four hour drive from the nearest ingredients that I might be able to use to make some good copycats and… I’m going to have problems.
One of my favorite Christmas cookies that Grandma makes has always been her anise cookies. As I was sitting there moping about not being able to eat that initial tray of gluteny cookies and chemical-and-sugar-laden chocolates, Mom suggested that I try I make something I could eat. At this point, it would be good to mention that this was the day after an 18-hour drive, and I was more than exhausted and not in a good mood. In other words, I was just trying to make everything harder on myself. But I took out my limited stash of ingredients that had arrived from Vitacost, and sat down to figure out what I could make.
A couple pounds of flour. Check. Chia seeds. Check. Gelatin. Check. Xylitol, coconut sugar, maple syrup. Check. We had some palm shortening, and of course basic things like baking powder and salt. Grandma had some extracts.
Oookay. Mom and I talked through making cookies. Apparently it’s a 4:2:1 ratio of flour, sugar, and fat typically. So I dove in and followed that.
As I looked through the various flavorings I had, I decided to do the anise cookies. Super simple and taste really good. Okay, I want them to look as pretty as real anise cookies. So I decided to use xylitol as my sweetener, since it wouldn’t add any ugly brown color to the cream-colored cookies.
They turned out delicious! They’re a little more dense than the typical anise cookies, but the flavor and texture was overall very nice. I was glad to add a little of our traditional Christmas to my limited menu for those days.
Note: Make sure that your 1-to-1 gluten free flour has xanthan gum in it. If not, you'll need to add 1/4 t. of xanthan gum.
INGREDIENTS Oven @ 350* F
1 c. 1-to-1 gluten free flour
1/4 c. xylitol
1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 c. palm shortening
1/4+ c. water
1/4 t. salt
1/2 t. anise extract
In a small bowl, whisk together your flour, baking powder, and salt. In a medium bowl, cream palm shortening and xylitol. Add anise extract. Mix dry ingredients into the wet, 1/3 c. at a time. Add water 1 tablespoon at a time until dough feels similar to silly putty when you roll it.
Cover baking sheet in parchment paper and roll dough into pecan-sized balls. Place 1 1/2 in. apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until mostly firm to the touch. Let cool, or eat warm!
Around two years ago, I had the great idea of starting a food blog called Through Fire and Water. The inspiration for the name was twofold. Firstly, It was based on the passage in Isaiah 43:1-2, “But now, thus says the LORD, who created you, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel: Fear not, for I have redeemed you I have called you by your name; you are Mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you. When you walk through the fire, you shall not be burned, nor shall the flame scorch you.” Secondly, I was obsessed at that time with baking artisan bread (fire), and have been a tea junkie (water) since the National Bible Bee in 2009, when I drank my first cup of Earl Grey (albeit from a tea bag).
Well, times have changed slightly since then. There’s a bit more of the fiery trials and less of the bread, and if anything, the amount of tea I consume has probably gone up a bit. I’ve acquired dozens of food allergies, including gluten, dairy, eggs, and beans, and those and many other symptoms seem to indicate that I have an autoimmune disease. At the same time, my trust in God has been strengthened, because through everything, even the days I feel like I am going to die or the days where I just don’t want to eat because I’m tired of trying to cook about a dozen foods in an interesting way, He always helps me bear it.
Since that first fateful day of allergy testing, though, I've begun to experiment with making things that I can eat - and not only the mundane stir-fries and soups, but also the things that I've loved for years and years, chocolate being the main component of many! Yes, I'm a bit of a chocolate fanatic (dark chocolate forever!), and I've already been able to make some pretty decent truffles, cakes, and candies. Not being able to eat cane sugar makes life difficult, though. Entrées, on the other hand, are hard to motivate myself to make. My dear friend Joo suggested starting this blog in order to help motivate me to get more creative, which means that this will hopefully be beneficial to all involved!
So this blog probably won’t contain much in the way of yummy, delicious, gluten-y bread or cheesy treats, but it will have recipes and ideas to help those of you who have restricted diets. It will have posts on the things that I’m learning that pertain to health, which will hopefully help anyone who comes along and reads this blog.
My hope is that my adventures in nutrition and health will be both a help and an inspiration to anyone who is suffering or knows someone who is suffering from health problems, physically, mentally, or spiritually.
I grew up eating my Mom's amazing gourmet cooking. And then something happened. Almost two years ago, I became very sick. After lots of testing, the types of food I could eat became very, very limited. My mission now is to try to make good, affordable, easy, allergy-friendly food! All of my recipes, therefore, will be gluten free, dairy free, bean free, egg free, and cane sugar free. Most of my recipes will be paleo, Whole30, and/or keto friendly.
I am not (yet!) a certified nutritionist of any sort. Anything I say about health or nutrition is simply from my own research, and I would advise you to research before taking any of my advice.