Thursday, October 11, 2012

I've Moved!

Hey Hungry For The Truth Readers -

I haven't flown the coop, only moved.  Actually I decided to simplify things and put my blog and website under a single umbrella, so you can now read my postings at .

Hope you'll come along for the ride.   Here's my latest post:

Happy Thursday

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Garden Ragu

It's not really a revelation that I love cooking from scratch. And since I'm fond of avoiding things out of a jar or can whenever possible, September is a banner month for me because of tomato season. Case in point:  Bill and I had a sudden surplus of tomatoes from the four plants we brought home from an area nursery one sunny day in early June.  We slept late this morning, and after a walk to soak in some sun, were hungry for something of substance.  Both of us took one look at the soft orange and red globes on the counter and threw ourselves into another collaboration: He diced the onions, I chopped the tomatoes, and then set some chicken stock in a sauce pan to boil (see recipe below for complete details).

It was a single-dish, brunch inspired by Chef Suvir Saran's Meatless Ragu that he made yesterday at the 12th Annual Saratoga Wine & Food and Fall Ferrari Festival in Saratoga Springs. Suvir was the emcee for the Adirondack Appliance Cast Iron Chef Final Round between Jaime Ortiz of the Angelo Mazzone restaurant empire in Albany and Schenectady and Patrick Longton of The Wishing Well in Saratoga Springs.  Later, Suvir headed to the Adirondack Appliance tent  to sign copies of his latest cookbook, "Masala Farm," and offer a few pointers on healthy, delicious eating.

"I don't know if I'm changing lives, but I hope I am," said Saran as he surveyed the hundreds who'd turned out for the competition and to sample the wines and cheeses of Italy. "I want people to know that eating foods that are healthy can actually be quite a delicious experience." And then he got to work chopping vegetables for his Meatless Ragu.

Delicious indeed. My meatless ragu didn't mimic his ingredients exactly, but it was a beautiful blend of ingredients straight from the soil:  onions, tomatoes, rosemary, oregano, and olive oil.  This ragu even included some tomato tops and bottoms that normally would have been tossed because they're not symmetrical enough to fit in a sandwich.  Trust me, they still taste like great tomatoes and work beautifully in a sauce.  I stockpile them in tupperware and by week's end have a healthy supply.

When doing a ragu like this, the ingredients may be simple, but there's an undeniable time investment required, and let me be clear about this:  THAT'S OK!   If you believe that punching 4:00 minutes into a microwave digit panel is enough time spent on a meal, I urge you to reconsider, for reasons revolving around flavor, health, and economics.  At the risk of sounding trite, you really are what you eat.  And maybe it's not practical to cook like this everyday, but why not spend an hour on a weekend and make something truly delightful?

Yes, this ragu is a bit like a toddler in that it needs constant supervision. You can walk away for a minute or two but for best results you've got to stir it (and the pasta) every few minutes, and watch to make sure the flame's not too high.  If it cooks too fast the vegetables just won't have the same texture or sweetness.  Blended with al dente penne, this chunky ragu accented with fresh herbs was divine and healthy in equal measure. Therefore, I felt a moral obligation to post this on a sunny Sunday afternoon, in hopes that not some but ALL of you will give tomato and onion chopping a chance.  You just may even enjoy being an alchemist in the kitchen and give the microwave a few days off.

Garden Ragu
(Like all home-cooking, use what you have available plus instinct to guide you. This isn't baking, so exact amounts aren't crucial)

2 medium sized onions, diced
4-6 large tomatoes, diced or cut in chunks
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Sugar to taste
2 springs of fresh Rosemary, roughly chopped
1 small handful of fresh Oregano, roughly chopped
(if you don't have fresh, use a tablespoon of dried for each)

For pasta
1 cup dried penne pasta (I use Bio-Nature gluten-free pasta)
1/2 to 1 cup chicken or vegetable stock

In a large skillet, heat oil until warm and add the onions. Extra Virgin Olive Oil smokes easily so don't have the heat too high.  Saute the onions until soft and translucent, not caramelized. Add chopped tomatoes and simmer over low to medium heat, stirring every few minutes to ensure vegetables cook evenly. Onions and tomatoes should be well oiled, so add more oil as needed.

While vegetables simmer and get softer, bring 1/2 cup chicken stock to boil in medium sized saucepan. Add penne.  There should be enough liquid so that the pasta is a little more than submerged. Turn heat down, add a spoonful of oil, and stir.  Cover when not stirring, pasta should be gently simmering and stirred every few minutes so it doesn't stick together.

When vegetables have become soft and chunky, add fresh herbs and mix well. Then add a bit of salt and sugar to taste (about a teaspoon each). If vegetables are nicely oiled but feel a little dry and not saucy enough, add a tiny bit of hot water to the pan. By this time, pasta should have absorbed all the liquid to become al dente (the Italians use this term for pasta that's not mushy). Add pasta to the saucepan of ragu and stir till it's all well blended.  Serve immediately.  Normally I love pasta with a sprinkling of Peccorino, but this ragu is so good on its own, I don't want the delicate flavors to be overpowered so I skip it.  Buon Appetito!

Chef and cookbook author Suvir Saran makes his Meatless Ragu at the Adirondack Appliance booth at the Sept. 8 Saratoga Wine & Food and Fall Ferrari Festival at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center

The next morning, inspired by Suvir Saran's meatless creation, I made my own version of a ragu sans beef

Add a little gluten-free penne and it's pure magic

Friday, August 31, 2012

I never get tired of reminding everyone how wonderfully delicious gluten-free eating is. Case in point, this morning's breakfast:  Potatoes in cellar, Rosemary in garden, light olive oil in pantry = Chef Bill's magnificent Pommes Frites.  Life is Delicious!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Morning Parfait: Blueberries, Steel Cut Oats, and Yogurt

As deep as my adoration of sunny side up eggs is, variety is the spice of life.  This morning, my pallate was calling for flavors and textures beyond that of creamy egg yolks and sauteed vegetables.  I love carbs in the morning and it's usually the fibrous, whole grain variety I go for, though I'm the first to admit that a stack of gluten-free pancakes with real syrup and butter is a beautiful thing. (More on that a.m. indulgence when the cold weather and fall foliage comes to my neighborhood).

It had been way too long since my last visit to the bag of Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free Steel Cut Oats in my cupboard, but it's August and a steaming bowl of hot cereal wasn't in the cards, so I took a different route. My cravings and pantry inventory conspired to make the perfect breakfast parfait. 

If soaked overnight, bullet-hard steel cut oats soften perfectly. Since the refrigerator still had a huge haul from blueberry picking last week, I decided to puree a batch and simmer it down to a reduction. In went the oats and some shredded coconut to soak overnight. In the morning, I added goat milk yogurt. (When I say I'm dairy-free it's the cow products I lay off of.  Sheep and goat products agree with me just fine, but I only eat them about twice a week). The result was a fabulous breakfast loaded with flavor, complex carbs, fiber, and a little calcium and protein. Perfect before a workout.  And may I say...Thank GOD for Bob's Red Mill.  Their gluten-free products are reasonably priced and fantastic!

Blueberry Breakfast Parfait
Serves 1

2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1/4 cup Bob's Red Mill Gluten-Free Steel Cut Oats
1/4 cup Bob's Red Mill Flaked Unsweetened Coconut
1/2 cup goat's milk yogurt

Puree blueberries in a food processor until berries are liquidy but still a little chunky. Place in a saucepan and simmer on low heat uncovered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  The berries should be liquidy but with a little thickness. Turn off heat and add oatmeal and coconut, stirring thoroughly.  Cover and let sit overnight.  In the morning add goat yogurt and stir until blended. Serve immediately. 

Note - Sweetening with a tablespoon of agave is optional, I like tasting the fruit and coconut unobstructed so I left if out. 

Bob's Red Mill - His gluten-free products are usually in the picture on the mornings I don't have eggs

The perfect breakfast parfait - served with a side of Inspiration

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Joys of Chickpea Flour...and Lucini

Chickpea Frittata with Pesto

Since going gluten-free three and a half years ago, I've had a longstanding love affair with polenta. It's been a sensual substitute for bread on many an occasion.  Sometimes I'll bake it in a lasagna pan, then slice it into squares and sautee it in olive oil, the perfect companion to eggs or sausage.  There's also the whisked on the stove top version which results in a creamier rendition, sort of like a very thick hot cereal.  I love using a yellow, puffy cloud of it as the perfect underpinning to a juicy pork chop or crispy piece of roast chicken.

So when I came across a bag of Chickpea Frittata mix in my supermarket's gluten-free section, I was intrigued.  Chickpea flour was the only ingredient, and all the instructions asked is that I mix the 8.8 ounces of flour with 3 cups of water, 2 tablespoons of oil, and some salt. The simplicity drew me in, but the brand name sold me. Lucini.  Makers of my favorite olive oil and tomato sauce.  All their products are organic and have a wonderful, clean taste.  Their extra virgin olive oil is pungent and deep emerald, but I also adore their lemon-tinged olive oil which is infused with real lemon essence, not a fragrance. Lucini's jars of tomato sauce have taken starring roles in gluten-free pasta dinners and steaming bowls of my tomato soup, which I sometimes morph into cream of tomato with the addition of room temperature chevre. A few turns of the whisk, and viola, a velvety cream of tomato without the cow dairy.

But back to the chickpea fritatta. I'd just made a batch of pesto the day before which was aching for a purpose.  Since I love polenta topped with pesto, I decided to give this a whirl and let's just say the results were DIVINE!  Unlike polenta, there was no gritty texture to these heavenly triangles of warm, yellow dough.  The consistency was as creamy as a cheesecake, but with the substance of a soft bread...kind of difficult to describe - you've just got to experience it for yourself.

The cool thing about my newfound gastronomic love is that it tastes amazing, and is SO much healthier than most other flours because of its protein and fiber content.  Check Lucini's site for store locaters, or order online.  You won't be sorry. .

As I said, the recipe for the chickpea frittata is simple.  It can be topped with a good marinara, some fresh herbs and olive oil, a mushroom sauce....just about anything you'd put on toasted bread or pizza.  I highly recommend homemade pesto because it's basil season and plentiful at farmers markets.  I have no formal measured recipe for it.  Good pesto is a matter of texture.  You need a base of fresh leaves, enough olive oil to make a paste, several cloves of garlic for flavor, and grated peccorino for flavor and further texture.  Here's how I make it, you can play with this version and change ratios as you see fit.  I usually add more oil at the end because I like pesto to be nice and liquidy rather than chunky.  It was the perfect topping to a piping hot slice of chickpea frittata this morning. And needless to say, gave me more than enough energy for a DDPYOGA Strength Builder workout.

Stacey's Homemade Pesto
1 generous bouquet of fresh basil from the farmer's market
1 bottle Lucini Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 large cloves garlic, peeled
1 tub of grated Peccorino Romano Cheese
1/2 lemon or t tablespoon bottled lemon juice

Pick leaves from stem and place in a food processor.  You may need to grind them in shifts and not add all at once in the beginning. Add garlic cloves, 1/3 cup of cheese, and about a half cup olive oil, or enough to make a paste out of the leaves.  Pulse for 20-30 seconds at a time until well blended.  Add more leaves if there are any until all the leaves are blended in.  You may need to alternately add more oil and cheese, depending on how pungent you want the flavor to be and how liquidy you prefer your pesto.  Pour into a serving bowl and add the juice from half a lemon or the tablespoon of bottled juice and stir thoroughly.  Serve immediately.  Cover tightly and refrigerate any leftovers.

Bon Appetit!

Fresh out of the oven...

A fitting crown to a delicious carb

...we really liked it

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Perfect Post Workout Snack

...or whenever you're craving something with sweetness and carbs.  This little gem delivers both, plus a little clean protein to balance it out, and the ingredients are simple: one toasted slice of gluten-free bread or roll, a few tablespoons of almond or sunflower seed butter, and a generous slathering of fruit spread.

After a more vigorous DDPYOGA workout (Double Black Diamond, Diamond Cutter) or dumbbell lifting at the gym, I'm RAVENOUS.  It's also the perfect time to feed throbbing muscles which are desperately in want of a glucose hit.  So I put this easy combination together for a recent recharge in between lunch and dinner.  I've also used this as a breakfast.  It's sooo good.  Especially when I have a soft, spongey roll from my area gluten-free bakery on hand.  If you don't live near Albany, N.Y. and can't get to Sherry Lynn's ( the Schar brand makes wonderful rolls and breads, from baguettes to ciabatta (  

Yesterday I was especially fortunate because the fruit spread used was from my friends Suvir Saran and Charlie Burd.  My favorite gentlemen farmers lovingly handcrafted this glistening elixir in the Masala Farm kitchen with the help of Charlie's dear Grandmother who was visiting from West Virginia.  If the words Masala Farm sound familiar, it's because Suvir is a renowned chef, lecturer, Celebrity Top Chef star, and cookbook author.  His most recent cookbook is "Masala Farm: Stories and Recipes From An Uncommon Life In The Country."  The book weaves a tapestry of recipes and farm anecdotes so enticing,  you just might find yourself scouting the Washington County real estate ads. 

Suvir also has two previous books to his credit: "Indian Home Cooking" and "American Masala."  Both pay culinary homage to his Motherland of India as they inform a few American classics such as Suvir's succulent "Tamarind-Glazed Meatloaf" or his "Fried Chicken Masala," a creation accented by a buttermilk brining and a fragrant sprinkling of Garam Masala.

Suvir has not only given me wonderful recipes, his books impart a beautiful philosophy towards food and eating that had been sorely missing from my life for the majority of it. After reading his books and interviewing him on numerous occasions, I concluded that Suvir is indeed onto something: Kitchens are sacred territory and the central nerve of the home.

“In the Indian home, the kitchen is where we create magical tastes that have the power to heal the mind, body, and soul. All cultures that are a happy people meet in the kitchen,” he says. “I want to encourage people to go back to the kitchen and start nurturing. You are what you eat. And so my philosophy, and that of my parents and grandparents, is to cook, share, and eat with care and thought.”

Suvir and Charlie are big on sharing.  They gifted me with this jam on a recent visit for some of Masala Farm's spectacular goose eggs. When I arrived Suvir, Charlie, and his grandmother were a three-person assemblyline, steadily cranking out little mountains of pitted cherries from a local farm.  It was a mammoth task, but a labor of Love, Suvir assured me, as he place a jar of blackberry jam (they make several varieties) into my grateful hands. 

I took it home and put it in safe keeping for the occasion when I truly craved it.  Yesterday the occasion arose and I ate Suvir's labor of Love with unmitigated pleasure, and the awareness that sharing is an integral element of our sacred kitchens.

Perfect after a workout...or for breakfast

Charlie's lovely grandmother, Bernice Burd, cheerfully works the jam-making assembly line at Masala Farm. Behind her, Suvir doesn't let the pits get him down

The glorious fruits of Washington County

A tub full of cherries - a fantasy come true for me!

Let the alchemy begin. Eventually this morphs into....

...Divinity in a jar. 
For more information on Suvir Saran's books or the farm, visit .

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Mint Chocolate Chip Cookies

Something Sweet...Every now and then, I just have to. So I tried a new product last week: 1-2-3 Gluten Free Chewy Chipless Cookie Mix. .

Since it's a chipless product, I threw in a bag of mint chocolate chips that had been in the pantry for months and were just begging for a purpose. The combination was DIVINE.  And by that I don't mean the cookies were OK for a gluten-free product. The 16-year-old food critic of the house who's not gluten-free declared them the best chocolate chip cookies he's ever had. Further evidence that eating gluten-free is not a punishment, but rather, a pleasure. 

And speaking of pleasure (one of my favorite topics), part of how I'm maintaining a 185-pound weight drop includes retooling my definition of pleasure.  These cookies were fairly good sized so I had one.  I was clear about the purpose of the cookie:  a little psychological pleasure. And make no mistake, it's an essential element of life. Just ask any chronic yo-yo dieter if you don't believe me. 

But the operative word here is a little pleasure.  I ate the cookie with focus and awareness, enjoying every crumb. Four years ago, my definition of pleasure was to eat as much as I wanted of a good-tasting food and it effortlessly spiraled into a way of life for me that felt normal. It was also a custom that got me into a bit of a pickle physically. 

So yesterday, instead of half a batch of these little gems, I ate one. Something I've learned in all this:  the freezer is my FRIEND!  I'm now the queen of squirreling away a surplus of Almond Meringue Cookies or slices of gluten-free chocolate cake. It's wonderful to have them lying in wait at my disposal when the mood for pleasure (not to be confused with numbing out and escaping) strikes me. 

These lengths I go to may sound time-consuming and elaborate but they're really not.  Like anything else, if I do it over and over it guessed it...a habit!  And I do it because I want to keep my current wardrobe. And because it's so much easier to move around the world (and staircases and the back seat of a two-door Hyundai) if I eat for one and not seven. So now, smaller, more strategically applied forms of pleasure it is. Believe me, it's a very fair trade.

Bon Appetit!