Thursday, November 1, 2012

Cauliflower Salad with Dairy-Free Dill Dressing

Cauliflower is a versatile vegetable in that it can be used in many different ways. I have been using it as a replacement for rice for my Paleo clients ( I will post that recipe soon). This is a cold salad and uses tofu as the base for the non-dairy dressing.  I use soy products sparingly when preparing vegetarian dishes as I like to have my protein come from legumes and beans. But variety is nice and when making dairy-free creamy dressings, silken tofu comes in handy. This is a great summer-time recipe and shows off the sweetness of the cauliflower. If you do not heat the ingredients over 118 degrees then this could also be considered "raw". Enjoy!

1 package silken tofu
1 small clove garlic
2 Tbsp lemon juice (the juice from about 1 lemon)
3 Tbsps extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp dijon mustard
2 tsp sea salt
Fresh dill, about 2 Tbsp chopped
1 large head cauliflower
1 small red bell pepper, small dice, about 1/2 cup
1/4 cup 
minced red onion
1/4 tsp salt
4 turns fresh ground pepper

The Salad:
Start heating a medium pot of water. Cut out the stem of the cauliflower, discard and cut the rest into small florets.  Once water comes to a boil place cauliflower in pot and boil for 5 to 8 minuies. You want it to still be firm and crunchy, but easily pierced with a fork. Drain and set aside to cool.

While the cauliflower cools, make the dressing:

Dressing:Remove tofu from packaging and place in strainer. The tofu will be really soft, so be careful with it, but this will help remove some of the moisture.

Place garlic in a food processor and process until finely chopped. The small amount of garlic may bounce around and not all get chopped, this is ok.  Add tofu, lemon juice, olive oil, mustard and salt. Process until smooth. Taste and add more salt and lemon juice if needed. Pour into a bowl, stir in the dill and set aside to let the flavors develop.

Dont wash the processor bowl, leave it for the cauliflower.

Once the cauliflower is cooled, place a third of it in the bowl of a food processor. Use the pulsing action until it is coarsley chopped. Pour into a medium mixing bowl. Repeat with the remaining florets.  

Cut any remaining large pieces with a knife. Add red bell pepper to the bowl along with the red onion, salt and pepper and enough dressing to coat. Adjust seasonings to taste.

**Reserve a little minced onion or bell pepper for garnishing

**Letting the dill dressing sit for awhile helps the flavors to develop. Once it has sat in the refrigerator for half an hour or a couple hours, it will be easier to know whether you want more lemon or salt or garlic.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Gluten Sensitivity Forum in Palo Alto, Oct 16th

Gluten Sensitivity & Celiac Forum 2012

Interested in finding out more about gluten allergies? There is a Gluten Sensitivity and Celiac Forum next weekend, Saturday the 16th in Palo Alto. Tickets are $30 right now, click on the title above to go to the Forum page and there is a link to register at the bottom. 

Looks like a good group of speakers and they will be sharing information about a new laboratory test for gluten sensitivity.  Attendance has been around 300 at past forums, which I think is a great size to actually get to talk to people and get your questions answered. 

More information about the Forum and Dr. Vikki Petersen, who founded the group putting on the event:

Friday, October 5, 2012

Daily Paleo Lunches

I love to cook and I am lucky enough to cook for a living. I specialize in making foods that are "alternative" or allergy free and people with special food needs just happen to find me.This makes my work easier because I don't have to worry about making foods that I cannot eat myself. Cooking for people that want to avoid gluten dairy, soy etc make it easier for me to create tasty dishes that I feel comfortable tasting as I go.

I currently make lunches every week for a small company here in Silicon Valley.  They want a completely Paleo Diet for lunchtime. This is spearheaded by one of the founding employees who eats Paleo all the time and his passion for this healthy diet won everyone over. They all agreed to eat this way for lunch at work every day.  I am really glad he found me to make it happen for them.

The benefits of the Paleo menu include:
  • Everything I do is from scratch (exceptions are canned tomatoes, sometimes I use a premade stock or marinara sauce) 
  • Everything is made fresh each week, I shop the day before I cook so all the produce and proteins are at their best 
  • Each dish is full of healthy proteins and a good variety of vegetables
  • No gluten or soy - there are at least two people in the group that are gluten intollerant, which means noone is having a big carby lunch, so there shouldnt be any big energy dips in the afternoon.
  • No refined sugars - the only sweetener allowed is honey

Many of the recipes I use come from Mark's Daily Apple, a great resource for the Paleo lifestyle.  His recipes have lots of great pictures and simple steps. This makes cooking easy for those that have not made this type of food before. I have included links to the recipes from this week's menu so you can go check them out and hopefully make them for yourself!

I also add in my own recipes especially for the vegetables like these Brussels Sprouts. This group loves Brussels Sprouts especially when I saute them in coconut oil and add shallots.

This week's menu was:

Tuesday:  Chicken Tikka Masala with Rice (I added green beans into this dish to make it more filling and make sure my group got their veggies)

Wednesday:  Lemon Brisket with Roasted White and Sweet Potatoes and Sauteed Purple Kale

Thursday:  Lime and Basil Beef Kebabs and Roasted Cauliflower
Friday:  Slow Cooked Coconut Ginger Pork with Blistered Brussels Sprouts and Coconut Rice

The Pork roasts in crockpots. I had to cook almost 13 pounds of pork for this group. That meant using a few crockpots.

Grilling peppers and red onions for the Lime Basil Beef. 

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Grilled Cheese with Bacon and Pears

Back when I could still eat dairy (oh how I miss you) I loved grilled cheese sandwiches. Adding bacon and pears just elevates this staples to a gourmet adult snack. You can try this with different kinds of cheeses but I found the sharp saltiness of cheddar came out the best.  Spreading a little Dijon or whole grain mustard on the inside of the bread was really tasty too. Enjoy!

Grilled Cheese with Bacon and Pears

2 slices sandwich bread of your choosing (I used gluten free Udi's)
3 tablespoons butter, room temperature
sharp white cheddar cheese, sliced thin, enough to cover bread
1-2 pieces bacon, cooked, cut in half
½ pear, cut in thin slices

Preheat frying pan over medium-low heat.  Generously spread butter on one side of a piece of bread. Place bread, butter side down, in frying pan. Add enough cheese to cover bread. Lay the bacon and one layer of pears over the cheese.  Spread butter on one side of the second piece of bread and lay on top of your sandwich, butter side up. 

Cover pan with lid for 30 seconds to 1 minute allowing the bread to lightly brown. Remove lid and flip sandwich over and continue grilling until cheese melts and the second piece of bread has browned. Remove from heat and serve immediately.

*Placing the lid on the pan helps to melt the cheese. This grilled cheese takes a little longer to cook or melt because of the added ingredients.

In coming up with the best combination, I tested many different cheeses including Cheddar, Brie and Havarti. The Brie was nice, but I felt it was too creamy and the flavor got lost once it was melted. I chose the Cheddar because of it's bolder flavor. This is the Brie below.

Looks nice though, right? And it was really good without the bacon. Could be really good with a little fig jam spread inside and a slice of crispy prosciutto.

Monday, October 1, 2012


My favorite Sangria is made with red wine, although you can make it with white or rose' wines too.  This is not the time to use an expensive wine.  The addition of sugar and fruit is going to make your favorite, cheaper wine, shine.  Although, the better, more robust and fruity wine you use, the better the drinking afterwards. This is great to share with friends and best made the day before drinking so the fruit can impart their flavors into the wine.

I first wrote this recipe during Pear season.  Fruit is at its best when it is in season. If you are making this at another time of the year, change up the fruit to use what tastes best at that time. Blueberries work well


2 bottles dry, red wine, Cabernet is best
1/2 cup sugar, or slightly more if you like it a little sweeter
1 small apple, chopped
1 nectarine, chopped (when in season)
1 large pear, chopped
1 orange cut in half
1 cinnamon stick
¼ cup triple sec, grand Marnier or brandy
½ cup Blueberry Pomegranate Juice (Ocean Spray makes one)

Pour wine into large pitcher. Add sugar and stir until dissolved.  Add chopped apple, nectarine and pear.  Take one half of the orange and cut 4 thin slices, add to pitcher. Take the remaining orange and squeeze it into the pitcher. Discard.  Add cinnamon stick, triple sec and juice. Stir again.

Place pitcher in refrigerator overnight so all the flavors can fully develop. Your sangria is going to taste much better the next day after the fruit has had time to soak. Add additional sugar if desired.  You could also cut the amount of sugar by adding a little agave too or white grape juice.

Pour into glasses with some ice and enjoy!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Impromptu Coconut Chicken

I was just working on next week's menu for my Paleo clients and came across this recipe for Coconut Encrusted Chicken Salad. This website is full of really great recipes and I have made more than a few of them.  I was starting to get hungry for lunch and I knew I had some chicken tenders in the fridge. I also knew I had unsweetened coconut flakes. So I jumped up to check on the rest of the ingredients. 

I always have a good stock of gluten free flours as I do a lot of GF baking. I was out of the almond flour though. I subbed a mix of tapioca flour and brown rice flour for his almond flour.  I also didn't have any greens and I just wanted to make a quick snack for while I work. 

This just proves how easy it is to make a good "batter" for things like fried chicken without regular wheat flour. I typically use a little flour mixed with a starch.  In this case I used brown rice flour and tapioca starch (along with the coconut flakes). I could have also used millet or sorghum flour with cornstarch or potato starch.

These came out delicious!  Thanks Mark for the inspiration for this delicious snack. Next time I will get the greens and try it with the almond flour.

Friday, September 28, 2012

The Un-Soy Sauce

Soy sauce is such a fundamental ingredient in Asian cooking. It is rich, salty and adds a flavor that is hard to describe.  I find that my dishes become better when I add multiple sources of each flavor, like using both salt and Tamari (which is also salty).  I had to switch to Tamari when I learned of my wheat/gluten intolerance.  But what about those people who cannot have soy? 

This sauce does not contain any soy, beef, gluten or dairy.

3 oz package dried mushrooms (portabella or porcini)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and left whole
3 cups water

1½ tsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp red wine
1½ tsp molasses
Pinch ground ginger
Pinch garlic powder
Pinch white pepper
¾ tsp salt

Splash of lemon juice
½ tsp cornstarch in 1 Tbsp water


1. Place mushrooms, garlic and water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer gently for 30 to 45 minutes. Liquid should reduce to 2 cups.

2. Remove mushrooms and garlic from the liquid and discard.

3. Add remaining ingredients except lemon juice and cornstarch. Whisk and continue to simmer for another 15 minutes. Taste for salt and add more if desired.

4. Add cornstarch and lemon juice and whisk until incorporated and sauce thickens slightly. Remove from heat. Pour sauce into a jar and use whenever you would normally add soy sauce to foods.

Other additions could be 2 tsp fish sauce, which would help to add another source of saltiness.

I hope you like it!

Friday, October 14, 2011

The latest birthday cake

My girlfriend just recently celebrated her birthday.  I will spare her the public announcement of how many years. Although, she is the first to announce her age to anyone, anywhere, much to MY public embarrassment. And I quickly shy away lest people figure out that I am just a few years behind her!

This is the cake I made her last year...

Those flowers were store bought.  This year I wanted to do something a little different and more handmade. I had some free time the day before her party so I decided to make my own decorations.  I looked through some of the cake books I have at home including "pretty party cakes" to get some ideas. This cake caught my eye and ended up inspiring the flowers I made.

I knew I wanted to make the flowers really stand out so I planned to ganache the cake. I thought pale pink flowers would look great with a dark, chocolate brown background.  I made up some royal icing, tinted it with a tiny bit of pink, picked a piping tip and got started.

Working on flowers like these really are a labor of love as they are made one at a time.  My icing was just a little thin so as I piped each flower I had to put the piping bag down, pick up a bamboo stick and make slight corrections to each flower.  Or perhaps I didn't "have" to do that, but I wanted every flower to be perfect. They would eventually look like this on the cake...

I just love how they look on the chocolate.  The cake inside is my chocolate, gluten free cake that my friend just happens to love. Recipe is posted here.

And one more glamour shot...

I had so much royal icing left that I continued to make flowers until I ran out. I can always use them for future projects as they keep really well.  These ones are white and a little smaller.  So cute.

The Royal Icing recipe I used is out of the book "The Icing on the Cake".

2 egg whites
3 cups powdered sugar

1.  Whip egg whites with an electric mixer
2. As they start to frost and turn white, add powdered sugar
3. Whip for 5 to 10 minutes, until stiff peaks form.

I found that my icing never formed really "stiff" peaks and I eventually just went ahead and started using it.  My flowers were a little harder to make as their shape continued to move and relax as I piped them.  I am still really happy with the result, but next time I will try out a different recipe.