Category Archives: Gluten-free

The Best Lab Tested Hummus Recipe Ever

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Ever since the puppy melted the food processor on our glass-top stove, I have been forced to consume store bought hummus, which is loaded with salt, oil and (often) sugar, most likely added to distract you from the distinctly chemical taste, which sets up residence on the roof of your mouth.

However, the chemical hummus can now be evicted, as my husband recently purchased a new food processor. While I still have to wait until my sell-out-chick-lit manuscript becomes a best-seller before I can afford a Vita-Mix, I am extremely happy with the Siemens FQ1, which, being a German brand, should last for years, barring any further occurences of the labrador trying to cook.

charlie hummus wait

Charlie Learns How to Make Hummus

As much as I would LOVE to turn this into a blog about my Chocolate Labrador and how cute he is while staring at the food processor, I will show some control over my lab-session (as my son calls it) and leave you instead with the BEST HUMMUS RECIPE EVER.

Obviously, being a white girl from MidWestern America currently living in Germany, where ‘spicy’ means adding extra black pepper, this recipe is not my own. It comes from Jerusalem: A Cookbook, by Yotam Ottoleenghi & Sami Tamimi. If you don’t own this book, you should. While there isn’t much ‘healthy’ food in here, and it certainly is NOT vegan, the recipes DO inspire you, and many of them CAN be altered for your particular needs. So, without further ado….

The World's BEST Hummus with Tongue Tingling Harissa

THE HUMMUS

The Raw Materials

1 1/4 cup (250g) dried chickpeas

1tsp baking soda

6 1/2 cups (1/5 liters) water

1 cup Tahini

4 tbsp fresh lemon juice

4 cloves garlic, crushed

6 1/2 tbsp (100ml) iced water

The Method

BEFORE YOU DO ANYTHING: The night before, cover the chickpeas with cold water (twice their volume) and soak overnight. Trust me, it’s worth the wait. Don’t use canned! *Note: I usually double this recipe so I can have enough for an entire week. Of course, I eat it every single day.

COOKING DAY: Drain the chickpeas. In a medium saucepan (I use my cast iron, enamel pot–but that’s just me) turn up the heat to HIGH and add the drained chickpeas and baking soda. Stir constantly for about 3 minutes. Add water and bring to a boil, skimming off the foam. Cook between 20-40 minutes, until chickpeas are very tender, but not mushy, and break easily when pressed between your fingers.

Drain the chickpeas. I let mine cool a little, then add to the food processor. You should now have about 3 1/2 cups. Process the chickpeas in the food processor until you have a stiff paste. Then, with the machine still running, add tahini, lemon juice, and garlic. (You can also add 1 1/2 tsp salt, though we choose not to).

Finally, slowly drizzle in the iced water and watch the magic, letting it mix for about 5 minutes or until you get a very smooth, creamy paste.

Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let it rest for 30 minutes. If you need to, you can refrigerate until needed, but pull it out of the kuhlshrank 30 minutes prior to serving.

THE HARISSA

In Israel, even gas station hummus was good, and there were a multitude of varieties. My personal favorite came with a spicy red sauce on top. While I’m not sure if Harissa is the same stuff, it is pretty close. I omit the caraway (as it makes my stomach feel weird); and I omit the oil & salt for dietary reasons; and I add extra chilies for a little more spiciness. A little dollop of this is perfect on top of hummus.  *Note, I make a bigger batch than normal because I have a bigger family than ‘normal.’

The Raw Materials

3-4 red peppers (blackened)

1/2 tsp coriander seeds

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

1 red onion, coarsely chopped

3-4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

5-6 hot red chilies, seeded and coarsely chopped (or use only 1, depending on how hot you like it)

2 tbsp tomato paste

2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

The Method

Slice peppers in half, seeding them and place face down under a very hot broiler, until blackened on the outside and completely soft (10-15 mins). Transfer to a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Allow to cool completely then peel, discarding the skins.

Meanwhile, in a deep frying pan, over low heat, lightly toast the coriander and cumin for about 2 minutes. Remove to a mortar and use a pestle to grind to a powder.

Fry the onion, garlic, and chilies on medium heat for 10 to 12 minutes, until nearly caramelized.

Now, add everything (including the peeled peppers) to the food processor, mixing until smooth. (I prefer mine just a little bit chunky).

FINALLY

Place a scoop of hummus on a plate, make a little divot in the top, and add a dollop of Harissa. Serve with cucumbers, raw red peppers, flat bread (if applicable) or your favorite gluten-free crackers and enjoy a little taste of the Middle East in your Western kitchen!

Gratuitous Labrador Photo--I couldn't help it! He's smiling in this one!

Gratuitous Labrador Photo–I couldn’t help it!                   He’s smiling in this one!

Guten appetit!

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Capers are Not Just for Muppets: Inspiration from Real Recipe Plans

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Real Recipe Plans

When I was offered a free trial of Real Recipe Plans, I thought, “Great! This will help me to be organized!” So, I began the membership by promptly vacating my own gluten-free cooking zone for a suspect kitchenette in the Alps, which is a less-than-stellar way to begin any new endeavor.

I came back from our marathon festivities, which included a close-encounter with Austrian cheese, to find a backlog of recipes along with a sinking sensation that I had failed before I’d begun.

I needed help, and Real Recipes Plans offered it to me.

Not only do I receive five simple, gluten-free, dairy-free vegetarian recipes each week, I also get a handy shopping list I can download to my iPad. The only way this service could be improved would be if I could highlight, check or delete items as I go along. But I AM happy to have the list because all I have to do is pick up the ingredients and then rest soundly knowing that even if I’m stuck behind a parade of tractors on my way home from Crossfit, a fresh, whole foods dinner will still be on the table in a timely manner.

But more than just the ease of using this service, Real Recipe Plans encourages me to add new things to our dietary repertoire. I’ve gotten into a Vegan rut recently, serving the ‘usual’ garbanzos with coconut milk, sweet potato tacos and if all else fails, rice and beans. While these recipes are good ones, some members of the family say things like, “It’s Monday, we must be having mango black bean salad.”

Thus enters Real Recipe Plans to revitalize the Wellman family palate.

One of the first recipes I made called for capers. I was under the impression capers were a type of little fish, like an anchovy or sardine. Fortunately for my children, I googled it before doing the shopping, and thus, the Wellman family had their first capers in a quinoa salad that did NOT taste like fish and had nothing to do with Muppets (our only prior experience with the word).

Most of the recipes are perfect as is, but sometimes, such as in the Farmer’s Market Bowl, I added some fresh ginger and garlic: not only to spice it up a little, but because I am a firm believer that fresh ginger and garlic ward off colds, flus and unwanted houseguests.

Even though I haven’t yet stuck with the ‘plan’ of making one recipe per day, and even though I can’t always find some of the ingredients here in Germany (like kale, since it is a seasonal crop and won’t be seen for several more months) Real Recipe Plans has encouraged me to try new things and has helped me out of the gluten-free Vegan doldrums.

I have friends who scour the internet for recipes and have APPS that create shopping lists for them, but I am too busy/distracted/interrupted to do this myself. I would much rather pay someone ten bucks a month to send me the recipes (and the lists) and know that dinner will be more than just a can of beans.

Real Recipe Plans is a great service for those of us who value fresh, whole foods but need a little help in the organizational department. Thank you, Chef Kimi, for the great-tasting, easy-to-make, real-food recipes! 

A Message from Master Chef Kimi Reid of Real Recipe Plans

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I don’t often do this, but I thought I’d share this note from Master Chef Kimi Reid, of Real Recipe Plans, who sends easy, healthy and delicious recipes to my inbox once a week. The blog of my experience with this service will follow soon, but I was encouraged this post because I agreed with SO much of it.

–Keri

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Why Gluten-Free?  Why Real Recipes?  Master Chef Kimi Reid explains.

“We live in a fast-paced society and healthy food is not always accessible or affordable!  There are so many alternatives to cooking at home, and I realized that there needed to be a simple solution to take-out. An alternative to delivery.  A downright easy way to avoid common food allergens.  We need to get back in the kitchen…asap…go, now!

So I created Real Recipe plans, which provides busy people like yourself with a simple plan every week.  After spending 9 years in the professional culinary world, I can tell you that the only way to avoid processed foods and many common food allergies, is to make the food yourself.

My food philosophy is ‘Naturally gluten, dairy and soy-free,’ because I understand the challenges associated with food allergies.  I personally follow this eating philosophy and have found incredible anti-inflammatory and digestive success eating this way.  And honestly, most of my subscribers have been astounded how easy it is to keep these foods out of your diet…just focus on the real ingredients, and follow our awesome recipes.

I personally have sensitivities to gluten, dairy and soy, and have found that I feel much better without these ingredients.  It can be easy to eat gluten-free, but there is a whole world of gluten-free products out there, which will not necessarily help anyone reach their health goals.  I honestly feel that eliminating common food allergens from your diet, opens up your world to a plethora of exciting, real ingredients…but not everyone knows how to cook with real ingredients these days.  Real Recipe Plans shows you how to cook with real ingredients in new, fresh and delicious ways.  Yahoo!”

*Bonus: ‘Like’ Real Recipe Plans on Facebook, and try the service for FREE for one month!

Catching Up

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You will not find me mixing peas with my mashed potatoes, nor will you see me stabbing up steak with my broccoli. Everything must have its place; and this translates into blogs as well.

I usually have 3 or 4 blog posts rolling around in my head at any given time, and normally I savor them, doling them out at the proper time and place. On a rare occasion, I will toss everything into the pot and hope for the best. This is one of those blogs. I will, however, apportion the ramblings into shish-ka-bob pieces for your enjoyment. Life has been so full recently, I fear a backlog unless I clean out the corners of my brain.

Happy Birthday!

Will 16

Today is my eldest son’s 16th birthday. I will suppress the desire to show you cute baby photos–this is my gift to him: refraining from embarrassing reminiscence. He is such a fine young man, and I’m incredibly proud of him. Not merely because of his intellect, humor and his creativity (which are each respectable gifts) but because he is a young man of wisdom and integrity. When he was little, I never imagined he would become such a good friend to me.

Food!

Recently, I’ve had the opportunity to try a website called “Real Recipe Plans.” Naturally, I began by messing up the entire deal by leaving town for my marathon, thus missing the first week of recipes. However, I am now catching up, and I have to say, I LOVE having someone tell me what to cook and provide a shopping list. Even though I have not followed the daily schedule, the vegetarian dishes are perfect for our family: easy to make, healthy, quick and most importantly, delicious. I will blog in more detail about this new endeavor, but for now, it is enough to say that Real Recipe Plans is going to be a huge blessing to our family!

Marathon #5
The family finds me around mile 20 & Libby snaps a picture.

The family finds me around mile 20 & Libby snaps a picture.

I had many fears going into the Pitztal Gletcher Marathon, and some of them were well-founded. While I didn’t notice the altitude affecting my performance, the many miles of downhill took a toll on my left knee, and at mile 18 I had to slap on a knee strap. However, looking back, this also happened at the (flat) Koenigschlosser marathon last year (what IS it with mile 18??), so it might be a dietary problem (like my addiction to salty foods).

Despite the knee problems, altitude and the rogue cows running interference at the start (yes, Alpen bells clinging and all), the race went VERY well, and I managed a PR of 4:26, which is nearly 5 minutes faster than my last marathon.

A cow in the Pitztal Alps

A cow in the Pitztal Alps

The race course itself runs from the Riflesee Talstation at Mandarfen all the way to Imst, Austria, which means cars have to pass you along the (sometimes) narrow alpine road. I took the shuttle bus from Imst to the start line at Mandarfen, where an old German runner bought me coffee and encouraged me to run ultras because, he said, they are easier on the body. He also showed me photos on his phone of the Jungfrau marathon, which looks delightful in a grueling sort of way. He assured me that most people walk up the steep parts. I’d like to find out for myself someday.

But for now…

Noah & Libby finish with me

Noah & Libby finish with me

I ran my fastest marathon ever, clocking one mile that was just under 8 minutes (and NO, it was not the first mile). I had 9 to 9:30 minute-miles up until my knee trouble at mile 18, where my pace slowed considerably. The last mile was a long, slow ascent that made me want to cry–especially since they had run out of watermelon at the last aide station, and I had to gnaw a slim pink bit off a rind.

I still have to figure out vegan fueling for race day, as I am pretty sure I ran out of steam. I used chia ‘gels’ but should have begun consuming them earlier in the race (well before needed).

Run and learn.

I am certain I would have done much worse without Crossfit training. For one thing, I wore my hydration pack, which usually leaves my shoulders sore after 26.2 miles. But this time, my shoulders didn’t hurt at all. It might be because I ran out of water, so it was very light by the end, but I’m hoping it was due to the new muscles growing atop my arms. Also, my legs felt very good, and I was only walking like Frankenstein for about a day afterwards (as William and I did a modified WOD in the marathon parking lot–yes, I brought my kettle bells to the race). Two days after the marathon I was back in the box, which helped my recovery considerably.

I wore my Skora ‘core’ shoes for this marathon, and they were perfect. I had NO foot pain whatsoever (not even an ache), which is a first for me. I DO believe in minimalist running–and the Skora cores, while a little sweaty, do fit like a glove.

Several times during the marathon, I felt like giving up. But the one thought I had was: “Whenever you feel like quitting, have some gummy bears.” It worked like a charm, thereby validating my theory that gummy bears make everything better.

I may have some unresolved food issues.

I love running out in God’s creation, and the Pitztaler marathon was by far the most spectacular scenery I’ve seen on a race course thus far. It was a small race, with only about 250 people (most of them very fast Austrians). But I enjoyed its quaintness. We stayed in a perfectly clean & kitsch Austrian Ferienwohnung, with the MOST hospitable owners; and I hesitate to name the place, lest it be booked up for the entirety of our tenure in Europe.

The best part of the marathon? Crossing the finish line with my kids. That one brief moment is worth the months of training.

Crossing the finish line

Crossing the finish line

Only God knows how these races affect our lives and my children’s futures. My prayer is that it teaches them something about being faithful in the small, everyday things (like marathon training), which can often equip you for something you once thought impossible.

Celebrating together

Celebrating together

As I sit here on my balcony on this sunny summer morning, reflecting on my son’s 16 years of life, and how swiftly time passes, I am reminded that we must make the most of every opportunity given to us–not for ourselves, but for those intangibles that shape the lives of those around us. That is the prize for which I strive in the marathon of my life.

Ephesians 2:10 “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Marathon Season

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Pitztal Tirol

When the snow melts and the smell of damp earth is in the air; when the manure trucks flock back to their annual nesting grounds, and your lavender candle, no matter how Yankee it claims to be, no longer masks the scent of the frische Landluft, you know spring has arrived in Germany.

And springtime, as everyone knows, means marathon shopping.

If you trained for a marathon during this dark frozen season, you have my respect. While I did some running this winter, I mostly complained about the weather on my blog. I just grew tired of my skin being cold–and I think that’s natural. People were meant to wear fig leaves and flip-flops, not to be wrapped up head-to-toe in Gore-tex.

But now, though it’s only 43 degrees and the wind is blowing the rain sideways, it feels more springlike somehow, and my thoughts turn to marathon season.

One of my long-term goals is to run a mountain marathon. I don’t live near any mountains, but I won’t let a little thing like elevation stop me.

I did some online shopping and found a marathon in Tirol, which is one of my favorite places on earth. And as if that isn’t incentive enough, it is mostly downhill.

It makes me a little nervous since all of the people on the website look like Olympians, but I looked at the stats from previous races, and if I train really hard, I might be able to keep up with the 70 year-old finishers.

A girl has to have dreams.

I have twelve weeks to prepare, so naturally I began by slamming my right knee into a counter at a restaurant after eating curly fries (yes, curly fries have invaded Germany). My knee is thus a little achy from the blunt trauma.

In sympathy, my left knee began to make a popping sound. It doesn’t hurt and only pops when I keep it straight and lean forward. Fortunately my leg is rarely straight when I run, so I had no difficulty with my nine-miler Monday.

I am thinking that I need to go back on the Eat to Live plan for a while. Before I found Amy’s Organic gluten-free mac & cheese my knee problems had completely vanished. So with a marathon in sight and a 40th birthday rapidly approaching, it is probably a good time to start eating healthier. 

More baby spinach.

Fewer curly fries with mayo.

Yes, training begins now.

After this bowl of sugar popcorn.

Recipe of the Week: Keri’s Comforting Pumpkin Pancakes

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There’s just something about the mixture of cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg and pumpkin that makes me feel as if I’m sitting in Grandma’s kitchen. I know all about the dangers of having ‘food associations,’ but there are some  I don’t want to give up. It’s not just about the food–it’s about the free refills of love that come with Grandma’s pumpkin bread.

So when the days are gray and pumpkins are plentiful, there’s nothing to do but play with Grandma O’s pumpkin bread recipe. I’ve successfully managed gluten-free bread loaves with her recipe, and this month the challenge has been to alter it into pancakes.

As usual, I experimented with a little trial and a LOT of error. One unspeakable batch refused to cook, and was thus unwittingly served beautifully brown and crispy on the outside, with a soggy mess in the middle–imagine cracking open a can of pumpkin puree and eating it with a spoon.

However, on Sunday I finally managed the perfect balance between pumpkin flavor and finicky gluten-free flour mix. Thus, Keri’s Comforting Pumpkin Pancakes were born.

The Raw Materials

3 cups Bob’s Red Mill Pancake Mix (for a family of 6)

1 egg or substitute

1 tsp Cinnamon

1/2 tsp Allspice

1/2 tsp Nutmeg

1 cup coconut milk (or one can, added slowly to proper consistency)

3/4 cup pumpkin puree (fresh pumpkin is delicious but a can works too, if you’re short on time)

1 tsp Agave nectar

2 tsp Pure Organic Maple Syrup (please do not sully this recipe with ‘syrup’ containing corn by-products)

The Method

As wil all my recipes, add more spice if you like it. Personally, I enjoy a tad more nutmeg and maple syrup than the average bear, so taste the batter frequently, and use your own judgement. (*Batter-taster is at his or her own risk…author is not liable for salmonella or any other kind of weird disease you may get from your raw egg–for a safer bet, go organic!)

Beat egg and coconut milk together, then add pancake flour until mixed. Add pumpkin puree, agave nectar and maple syrup until mixed. Sweeten the deal by adding your allspice, nutmeg and cinnamon. If your batter is too thick, add more coconut milk or supplement with rice milk. Batter should not be too runny, nor to thick.

Wipe down your griddle with a tiny bit of oil and warm to medium-high. When a drop of water sizzles on the griddle, add your dollop of pancake batter. Cook until the edges are firm and the middle loses its shimmy.

Say a quick prayer and flip the pancake, cooking 3-4 minutes longer, or until the bottom is brown when you peek at it. Remember, gluten-free flour takes longer to cook than wheat flour, so be patient!

Serve with a side of maple syrup and prepare to hear, “Yum! These are great!”

You can thank my Grandma O for the inspiration!

Guten Appetit! 

An American Guinea Pig and Socialized Medicine: My Trip to a German Clinic

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Over the years, I have learned what you can expect as an American visiting a German health clinic, and I have thus outlined the following procedures for my fellow Americans abroad:

Step 1: The “Appointment” 

Appointments here are similar to invasion plans. If your appointment is at 10:00, this means that you and fifty other people show up at 9:45, grumbling about the people who got there at 9:44.

Plan to get there at 9:00 or 8:30 if you want to be seen by 10:00. Nobody has ever seemed to care what time I’ve shown up.

Step 2: Take a number

I can’t stress this enough: TAKE A NUMBER. Even if you have the first ‘appointment’ in the first wave of the first day of the first month; even if you hold open the door for the sleepy-eyed receptionist as she makes her way into the clinic, TAKE A NUMBER. Your appointment is really based on the number you have.

Step 3: Waiting room #1, also known as the Upper Circle of Hell: 

My number at the clinic Monday morning was F9, and by 9:40 they were at E 87, which actually wasn’t too terrible.

I felt badly for the people who had the 10:00 appointment who actually showed up at 10:00. They barged up to the reception desk and were promptly told to take a number. They said they had a 10:00 appointment. They were told to take a number. They said they had driven 30 kilometers. They were told to either come back tomorrow or take a number.

Meanwhile, thirty other people had taken numbers in the time it took them to complain. So please, for your own sanity: take a number!

Step 4: The delay

If you are an American being seen at a German clinic,  your paperwork will automatically take a minimum of half an hour to figure out.

In all fairness, I do NOT expect that any German receptionist, especially in an area where the American presence is down to one lonely family, should know how to fill out American paperwork. It is just that she doesn’t know what to do with you because you’re not like the thousands of other people she sees on a daily basis.

Plus, her computer often doesn’t input the weird things that are on our American paperwork, such as the mysterious AE (Armed forces Europe) listed on my address. She asked if I was from United Arab Emirates, which really made me smile.

So, keep smiling, send out good vibes to the poor Frau, and use every German word you know because even if you sound like a three year-old, every little bit of information helps. Eventually between the two of you, the paperwork will be complete and you can move on to…

Step 5: Waiting room #2 also known as Purgatory

If the receptionist takes pity on you, she will walk you to the next waiting room. Otherwise, you will wander in the hallway until you see F8 or F7, or a dazed E 98 and you follow them.

You give your paperwork to any guy who looks official, possibly a janitor, and he will stack your medical record at the bottom of a pile, while you wonder how many people got in front of you while your paperwork was being worked out.

The second waiting room is smaller, but you see a lot of familiar faces. There is generally more room here and more people talking (complaining) about something. If your German is good, you can contribute. If not, then bury your head in your book and wait for your name and ‘kabine’ number to be called rapidly over a loudspeaker.

Step 6: Winning the Lottery

When your name is called, collect your belongings with a smug look on your face and go to the room number they said. If you weren’t paying attention, but you THINK you heard your name, still get up with a smug look on your face and wander in the hall until someone says your name and directs you to the right place.

If they did NOT call your name, you will be shuttled back to the waiting room, where it is best to either avoid all eye contact, or dramatically pantomime that THEY had made a mistake, not you.

Step 7: Der Arzt

If your name WAS called, and you have made it into one of the many little examination rooms, AND you are at a University Hospital, expect to see 4 people wearing white lab coats. The one who is not smiling is the doctor.

He is also the one sitting at the desk, who gets to touch the computer. It will be hard to distinguish him from the other guys, because they all look to be the same age as your firstborn son.

Step 8: Communicating your problem

Because I understand enough German to say ‘ja’ or ‘nein’ in many of the right places, people tend to think I’m German. But after they hear me defile their verbiage, they ask if  I speak English, to which I joyously reply ‘ja!’

I am thankful for this, because while I can order two scoops of gelato in a Becher from the Italian guy in Rothenburg, I’m not so good with medical terminology. And I love the words that some of the fluent English-speakers use. The doctor said that the idea of my finger having an infection was a ‘fantasy.’ Yes, Germans can be rather poetic.

Step 9: Diagnosis, maybe

I genuinely liked this youthful doctor and his band of Lost Boys.

He told me that I may have ‘early’ arthritis. But he didn’t want to SAY arthritis because if he did say ‘arthritis’ and I was referred to a Rheumatologist, they would do surgery, which would be worse than living with my current symptoms.

He thus gave me a detailed description of arthritis and the terrible prospects for my future, including surgery, which apparently makes the problem worse, before smiling and shaking my arthritic hand.

The doctor gave me anti-inflammatories and because I’m “slender” (HIS poetic license, not mine, which…yes, made me feel slightly happier), he also gave me stomach medicine. So basically, I would need medicine FOR the medicine to help the problems from the drugs that are helping the problem.

Alles Klar? 

He guaranteed that the drugs would work and then added, “But if they do NOT work, come back in 3 months.”

I went ahead and took a number.

Step 10: Denial

At this point you will either go back to the American clinic and ask for a referral to a bigger American clinic, ask a friend or relative who is somehow affiliated with the medical profession, or do a quick google search.

I opted for the google search, and it turns out that my doctor is probably right.

It Gets Personal

I was hoping for a quick fix, but since that’s not possible, I am going to leave my drugs in their foil wrappers and instead try a strict, nutrient-dense diet for 6 weeks to see if it will help my arthritis, as Dr. Fuhrman in “Eat to Live” says it will.

I am skeptically optimistic, if there is such a thing.

So, this is where you find me, an American Guinea Pig in Bavaria, eating a no-gluten, no-meat, no-dairy, no-oil, no-sugar, no-refined anything diet, for a minimum of six weeks.

I am sharing this with you, my friends, so you can help keep me honest. And know that if I have to decline a bratwurst or pommes mit mayo (Alas, poor Pommes, I knew them well, Horatio), it’s not because I’m worried about my waistline.

It’s because I don’t want to become the claw-fingered old woman someday, I want to be the Oma Ultra-Marathoner! 

Running with a Headlamp or Do Not Step in the Dark Spots

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Some of you know that when the sun angles are low at noon and the tree leaves begin to die due to lack of their lifeblood, chlorophyll,  I am inspired do strange things like bake gluten-free bread, dipping it in butter and honey before consumption; dig baggy, fleecy pants from the depths of the closet and wear them around the house with my wool socks; and obsessively check http://www.lastminute.de for Pauschalreisen to destinations, anywhere in the world, that boast palm trees, sand, and an ocean.

Have I mentioned that I am solar-powered?

The only reason I can come up with for having lived 12 years, 11 months in Alaska was that my doctor was kind enough to give me drugs.

Here in Germany, things are better. I am drug-free (with the exception of vitamins), and the low sun angles don’t cause me to lament (as I did in the arctic): “It is NOT NATURAL for people to live here!”

The real cause for my autumnal doldrums in beautiful Deutschland is that when it is cold, dark, and possibly raining at 5:30 am, I would rather stay under my cozy feather comforter than get out of bed.

However, this morning I fought my way out of my cocoon, got out my headlamp and glow-in-the-dark shirt, and hit the farm roads.

Being solar-powered, I don’t like running in the dark nearly as much as I enjoy running with the sun on my face, but I know that even on the worst days, when I’m sure my nose will have to be amputated due to frostbite, and I KNOW that my run must be THE slowest run in the history of mankind, and I grumble the entire time about the sucky weather/darkness/trail/aches/fatigue/life-in-general, I also know I have NEVER regretted going for a run.

Never.

Naturally, I have some observations and tips on running through the dark German countryside, should you ever get the chance to join me:

  • Your sense of smell will be enhanced
  • Potent farm aromas motivate you to run faster
  • Your sense of hearing will be enhanced
  • You can hear cows snoring
  • Your imagination is enhanced, and if not channeled properly, you will be certain critters are hiding in the fields, waiting to pounce on you
  • Sugar beet harvesters look like giant, alien spacecraft in the dark–do not be afraid!
  • Some farmers harvest REALLY early
  • Dark spots on the path MUST be avoided, even if you have to give a little leap mid-stride (trust me on this–you’ll thank me later!)
  • Dark spots on the path are squishy
  • Your dog will want to roll around on your shoes if you have stepped in a dark spot on the path
  • Always check the batteries on your headlamp BEFORE going out
  • A dying headlamp makes running with no moon more exciting but not particularly more pleasant
  • Come to a complete halt before staring at the stars

I had a fabulous six-mile run this morning and was completely energized when I got home. Though I feel out of shape (from too much bread–thanks to Bofrost’s new line of gluten-free yummies), running is something I have to do for my own sanity–especially this time of year, when palm tress and oceans seem out of reach.

Pumpkin Perfectly Punctuated

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Recipe of the Week: Pumpkin Perfection

I stole this recipe from the fall edition of Cooking Fresh magazine, but since I did not have all the ingredients (what exactly is turmeric?) and because I added pumpkin, subtracted the cauliflower, and tweaked the portions to meet the needs of a family of six, this recipe is now my own.

It all began when my husband discovered not only can you EAT pumpkins, but they are extremely good for you. Subsequently, he has been subtly encouraging me to cook with pumpkin by doing things like touting the health benefits of pumpkin, running pumpkin through the juicer (which I can’t recommend), and leaving small pumpkins on the table in the hall, where they taunt me daily.

But pumpkin? How does one go about cooking pumpkin? It seems so exotic!

I knew from the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency books that pumpkins could be cooked, but since Mma Ramotswe doesn’t give an exact recipe in the stories, I wrote on my chore list “google pumpkin recipes,” which I promptly forgot to do.

So, you can imagine my joy as I flipped through the Cooking Fresh magazine at the store and saw an entire spread on gourds, and my mind immediately turned to the forlorn little pumpkins waiting for me at home.

It turns out, pumpkins are not simply vessels upon which you carve scary faces. You CAN eat them! And edible pumpkin isn’t just something you scrape from a can into your bread mix. There are lovely, gorgeous gourds you can take home and (with some wrangling) slap on your plate.

The pumpkins my husband brought home were small, a deep orange color, and very round. I’m sorry I can’t be more specific as to what particular TYPE they were, but just make sure when you buy one, you get one that is for cooking.

I don’t usually eat pumpkin without adding multiple cups of sugar and/or three packages of cream cheese, so this endeavor was rather exciting for me.

This healthiced recipe has a spicy yet sweet flavor that has become a new fall family favorite.

Though Cooking Fresh calls this ‘South Indian-Style Vegetable Curry,’ my version is called ‘Pumpkin Perfection!‘ (The exclamation mark is ABSOLUTELY necessary, as alliterated P’s must always be emphasized).

The Raw Materials

1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced

4 medium cloves garlic, pressed

1 2-inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely grated (1 Tbsp)

1 Tbsp coriander seeds, ground

1 1/2 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp cinnamon

1 small can tomato paste (6 oz)

1 large can organic diced tomatoes (with juice, 28 oz or 6-8 fresh tomatoes, chopped)

1 cup vegetable broth

1 can coconut milk (13.5 oz)

1 sweet potato (peeled and cubed)

4 carrots (peeled and sliced into bite-sized hunks)

2-3 small white potatoes (peeled and cubed)

2 small pumpkins (peeled, seeded and cubed) *Peel & cube the same way you do a butternut squash–cut in halves, scoop out seeds, slice in wedges and trim the rind with a sharp knife*

1 can chickpeas

4 cups of fresh baby spinach

1 whole lime from which you will need: 1 tsp grated lime zest & 2 Tbsp juice

2 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped

The Method

In your Dutch oven, water sauté the onion on medium-high heat until brown (5-7 minutes). Add the garlic and ginger, stir for one minute to blend the flavors. Add the coriander, cumin and cayenne, stir for half a minute then add tomato paste, stirring for one minute more.

Add the broth, coconut milk, cinnamon and bring to a boil. Don’t worry if the liquid appears brown, it will turn a lovely orange after you add the veggies! 

Reduce heat and add sweet potatoes, tomatoes, pumpkin, carrots and potatoes. Add more liquid if necessary (tomato juice, water or broth), until the veggies are just covered. Simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 20-25 minutes.

Stir in chickpeas, lime juice, lime zest, cilantro and spinach. Turn off heat, and let cook until spinach is wilted (about 3 minutes).

Ladle into your Polish Pottery soup bowls and get ready for an onslaught of Vitamin A, potassium, and enough compliments to know all the trouble preparing those little pumpkins for the pot was worth it!

Guten Appetit!

Vegelicious Squashetti

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I’d heard of these things called ‘spaghetti squash’ but had never seen them in person.

Sad, but true.

Maybe it’s because things like this are seasonal here in Germany, or maybe they’ve always been buried beneath the mounds of decorative gourds that invade like martians every autumn.

Whatever the case, I paused when I read the sign ‘Spaghetti Squash,’ causing a mini-stau in the narrow aisle.

Actually, there were three placards and therefore three different types of squash for my consideration. I could have quickly googled it on my iPhone, but sometimes, I like to do things the old-fashioned way. So I stood there pondering the squash, while people bumped past, giving me the stink-eye.

Butternut was an easy one since, being the only type sold at our commissary for what seems like years on end, I had previously purchased it for my red lentil stew. The other squash was small, round and green, and thus, I could not imagine what type of so-called spaghetti could come from it. The buttery color of the third made it a prime candidate. Proudly, I scooped up the only two yellowish gourds and hoped for the best.

Upon returning home, a quick google search showed that I had chosen wisely. After reading a number of cooking blogs and realizing that I was too lazy to stand there and boil the things, I sawed them lengthwise in halves, cleaned them, placed them face down on a cookie sheet, wrapped them in foil, and left them to fend for themselves in the oven at 400 degrees.

20 minutes and a pan of pasta sauce later, a new family favorite was born.

The Gourd

2-3 spaghetti squash, halved. As with most squash, it’s hard to cut these bad boys raw. You can just toss them in the oven and clean them later, but I never have enough patience time for that sort of thing. So, as any good mom would, I had my teenage son cut them for me. It’s good training for him.

Clean out the seeds and gunk in the middle, and wrap the gourd halves in foil. Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 20-30 minutes (depending on how big they are, and if you like them softer or more al dente).

After baking, you’re ‘supposed’ to let them cool, which means I plunge right in, trying not to burn myself on the hot gourds whilst scraping the steaming innards with a fork.

Though the actual name of the gourd was a subtle form of foreshadowing, nearly every person in the house (myself included) exclaimed, “It looks like spaghetti!”

Brilliant.

I tossed the stringy meat of the squash into a big bowl and served it hot with pasta sauce.

The Sauce

If you’re in a rush for time, you can simply dump a jar of organic, gluten-free, sugar-free, vegan pasta sauce over it, which I know you always have on hand. But to make this dish truly live up to its vegelicious name, make your own sauce.

The Raw Materials

6-8 tomatoes plucked from your pesticide-free garden, chopped

1 large sweet yellow onion

6-8 white mushrooms, sliced

1-2 red peppers chopped

2 cloves garlic, pressed

1 large zucchini, chopped

1 large yellow squash (I didn’t read the placard on that one, though I’m sure it has an official name), also chopped

2 tbsp tomato paste

water or tomato juice, as needed (I ended up adding one large can of organic diced tomatoes with the juice)

1/4 -1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

1-2 tbsp dried oregano

1 tsp cumin

1 dash red pepper

Any other kind of  spices or veggies you like

The Method

Water sauté the garlic and onion on medium-high until translucent, adding water as needed to prevent sticking, and then add the red pepper.

Saute for 2 minutes and then add mushrooms.

When the peppers begin to soften (about the time you can smell them 2-3 minutes later), add the tomatoes.

Keep adding small amounts of water or tomato juice as necessary to prevent a smoking mess on the bottom of your pan.

When the tomatoes begin to soften and break into mush, add your spices, tomato paste, and enough liquid to make it look like pasta sauce. If it’s too runny, add more tomato paste and/or a can of organic chopped tomatoes.

Bring to a simmer then add your yellow squash and zucchini.

Simmer until the squash and zucchini are just beginning to soften, but remove from heat before they turn to mush (5-8 minutes).

Aesthetics

Form your spaghetti squash ‘noodles’ into the most spaghetti-ish arrangement possible, leaving a divot in the middle. Fill the squashetti nest with your vegilicious pasta sauce, and garnish with freshly plucked basil leaves.

Topping this with some spicy Mrs. Dash (known as ‘Mister Dash’ around this house for some strange reason) and some Veggie Shreds (if you can find them), makes this the most Vegelicious Squashetti you will ever have.

Guaranteed!