Thursday, June 9, 2011

Gluten & Dairy Free Vanilla, Bourbon French Toast

If you had asked me ten years ago “What are two foods that you could not live without?” I would have answered bread and cheese. Yet here I am, after spending my last three years with constant digestive issues, avoiding gluten (everything made from wheat, rye, and barley) and dairy (cheese, ice cream, milk). Is it a sacrifice? Sometimes. Mainly when we’re eating out or at a party. Is it worth it? Absolutely. I do not miss the painful cramps or the uncomfortable, tight waistband that made me look and feel three months pregnant. Gratefully though, I have discovered an entire world of products and recipes full of flavor and indulgence that abates any longing for my past culinary desires.

My two latest brand obsessions that I recently discovered are Udi Gluten Free Breads and So Delicious Coconut Milk. The bakers at the Udi company based in Denver, Colorado, have created a tasty line of bread, bagels, pizza crust, muffins, sweet rolls and more. After trying many varieties of store-bought gluten free bread (most of them from the frozen food section) Udi far and above surpasses other brands with a product that has a fresh, soft, light texture and tastes closer to my former life than anything else I’ve eaten. Bravo Udi! It is a bit on the pricey side (close to $6 for a loaf of bread), but again, well worth the cost (there’s a $1-off coupon available on their web site). Udi brands are also dairy and nut free, an added bonus for food allergy sufferers.

There are so many wonderful qualities of So Delicious Coconut Milk it’s something I think everyone would benefit drinking even if dairy doesn’t affect you. Other than being dairy and soy free (an excess amount of soy may disrupt hormone balances), it’s low in calories (just 50 per serving) and sugar (the unsweetened variety has 0 grams), is fortified with 10% of the Daily Recommended Allowance (DRA) of calcium, vitamin A and magnesium; 30% DRA of vitamin D, and 50% DRA of vitamin B12 (click here to see benefits of vitamin B12). Although the label reads 5 grams of saturated fat, it is mostly a special, healthier version of saturated fat (yes, there is such a thing) called “medium chain fatty acids (M.C.F.A.s). These “healthier” fats are not easily stored in the body, but burned as energy instead. Plus, all the ingredients are non-genetically modified, often organic, and the So Delicious parent company, Turtle Mountain, applies strict quality control methods to eliminate non-declared food allergens. Even though the Food and Drug Administration recently declared coconut as part of the tree nut family, it is usually not a problem for those allergic to tree nuts as it is distantly related (please check with your allergist to confirm this is right for you). So Delicious makes a plethora of coconut milk products including drinking milk, coffee creamer, yogurt, and ice cream. The French vanilla coconut coffee creamer and unsweetened drinking milk are my personal favorites.

With all that said, here’s a breakfast I thought I would never enjoy again — French Toast. To my delight, this recipe is such a treat I barely remember that it is gluten and dairy free when I savor every last bite. Born and raised in Kentucky, I am very partial to anything with bourbon. If you like a strong bourbon flavor (like I do) feel free to add a tablespoon to this recipe. Though, for most who may prefer a more subtle flavor, stick with 2 teaspoons for this single serving. Because the gluten free Udi bread slices are small (about 4 inches square) this recipe will make four pieces of French Toast. If you’re feeding a larger party than just one, multiply recipe as needed. While hot, I highly recommend topping with dairy free margarine (I used Earth Balance brand), and warmed, REAL Vermont maple syrup. Perhaps it was my time living in Vermont in my early 20s that did it, but I have become a bit of a maple syrup snob. The Log Cabin “maple flavored” corn syrup that I grew up on now makes me cringe. Yes, again, the real thing is not cheap, but you don’t drink it like water. A little goes a long way and you may just reach nirvana when tasting it paired with the bourbon and vanilla. A dusting of powdered sugar is a fantastic finish as well.

Vanilla, Bourbon French Toast*

1 egg (preferably organic)
1/4 cup So Delicious unsweetened coconut milk
2 teaspoons real vanilla extract (better quality = better flavor)
2 teaspoons of your favorite brand Kentucky bourbon
a sprinkle of cinnamon (optional)
4 slices of Udi gluten free bread

1. Whisk all ingredients together in a wide, shallow bowl.
2. Coat bread in the egg mixture allowing it enough time to soak it up a bit like a sponge.
3. Cook slowly over a pre-heated, not stick skillet, at medium heat for about 3-5 minutes per size (or until lightly browned and egg mixture begins to cook all the way through the bread). Flipping with a thin, off-set spatula helps.
4. Serve warm with dairy free margarine and maple syrup. Dust with powdered sugar (optional). Garnish with berries.

* Of course, if gluten and dairy are not an issue, feel free to replace with wheat bread and milk.

© 2011 tricia barry biagi

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Dairy, Gluten Free Apple Onion Frittata

Since my son outgrew his egg allergy almost two years ago we’ve been eating a lot of this quick and economical protein. It not only starts our day with much needed fuel to keep our brains focused and our stomachs full, but with a few additions can transition well to a healthy lunch or a light dinner. A “frittata” is an Italian version of quiche, sans the pastry crust, which is very helpful for those watching their carbs. My son calls it “egg pizza,” perhaps because of the wedge-shaped slices, but I call it the perfect healthy meal, fast. Many recipes include shredded cheese, but if enough herbs or other savory ingredients are added the dairy is not missed. In this recipe, the sweetness of the apples and the caramelized onions combined with the flavorful Italian seasoning more than suffice.

Apple Onion Frittata

serves 8

Preheat oven to 350º

2-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 apples, cored, pealed and chopped into 1" pieces
2 yellow onions, chopped into 1" pieces
2 cups baby spinach, coarsely chopped
one dozen eggs (preferably organic)
2 tablespoons dried Italian seasoning*
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. On the stove, heat a large (10 or 12 inch), non-stick, oven-proof skillet over medium-high heat for a couple of minutes (I prefer the Cuisinart Green Gourmet brand)**.
2. Coat the skillet with olive oil, swirling to ensure the entire surface is covered. Be generous, it is essential to serving the frittata with ease.
3. Lower heat to medium. Slide onions into the skillet and saute for 3 to 4 minutes or until beginning to soften. Add apples and continue to cook another 5 or so minutes until onions and apples begin to turn golden and slightly browned. Taking the time to ensure the onions and apples are caramelizing will increase the overall sweetness and flavor.
4. Add Italian seasoning to onions and apples tossing to combine. Mix in chopped, baby spinach and saute until spinach begins to wilt.
5. Add a little more olive oil and mix.
6. In a separate bowl, whisk together the dozen eggs. Add salt, pepper.
7. Pour eggs in the skillet and cook on stove for 2 minutes, or until the bottom of the egg just begins to set.
8. Place in the 350º oven for 10-15 minutes and cook until the egg is set and no longer loose in the pan. Upon removal, place on cool stove top or trivet, using a thin, offset spatula to run around the edges of the pan for easier removal. Slide onto a large plate, slice in pie-shaped wedges. May be served warm or at room temperature.

* Dried Italian season may be found in the herb and spice section of your grocery. It is a combination of dried basil, oregano, rosemary, and thyme.

** According to the Environment Working Group, non-stick pans can contain PFCs, many of which breakdown into PFOA (also known as C8) in the environment and your body. Once in the body, PFOAs can circulate for years. PFOA is considered a carcinogen causing testicular, pancreatic, mammary, and liver tumors in rats.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Nut, Dairy, Gluten Free Chocolate Candy

It’s is national Food Allergy Awareness week. Living with food allergies often centers around what has to be sacrificed in order to protect oneself from anaphylaxis. My 8-year-old son, who is allergic to peanuts, tree nuts and dairy, frequently struggles with feeling excluded at school and extended family events. Describing it as “embarrassing” that he has to bring his own food to these occasions. It can be hurtful, frustrating and isolating.

We have tried to make lemon aid out of lemons, focusing on what he IS able to eat and try to create comparable, delicious, safe treats that he can enjoy or share with group. So far it’s helping — his classmates talk about how “delicious his mom’s treats are,” and many times wish that they were eating what he brought instead. These gestures have brought us joy and him pride knowing that his ‘safe’ food is desired by his peers.

One food that is usually off-limits is chocolate. Most chocolate is processed in factories that also process peanuts and tree nuts, increasing risk of cross-contamination. It also frequently has dairy as a main ingredient. Thank goodness for Enjoy Life semi-sweet chocolate chips! These tasty, little morsels have been essential for creating goodies that emphasize options instead of limits. They have allowed my son to relish in chocolate treats just like the rest of his friends and help him feel as if he’s part of the group.

This chocolate candy recipe is so simple and takes almost no-time to make. In addition to the Enjoy Life chocolate, I’ve added salted, hulled pumpkin seeds from another great nut-free company: Gerbs. Their line of nut and gluten free pumpkin seed products are addicting to eat and offer some of the same health benefits as nuts — high in protein, high in minerals such as potassium, magnesium and zinc, and high in healthy omega-6, omega-9 fatty acids. Those who have food allergies won’t miss anything with this salty sweet combination of crunchy pumpkin seeds that lend a ‘nutty’ flavor to the luscious chocolate.

Chocolate Covered Pumpkin Seeds*

1. Empty chocolate chips into a Pyrex measuring cup (or other microwave proof glass dish).
2. Microwave on high for no more than 40 seconds.
3. Remove from microwave and stir. Chocolate should begin to melt.
4. Continue to microwave at 20 second intervals, removing and stirring each time, until all chocolate chips are thoroughly melted. This should only take one or two more times.
5. Add entire packet of pumpkin seeds.
6. Using a mini-scooper, or teaspoon, drop blobs of chocolate covered pumpkin seeds in miniature, foil, candy wrappers (available at craft stores) or on a cookie sheet covered with wax paper.
7. Place in refrigerator and cool until hardened (about 20 minutes). You may speed up hardening time by placing in the freezer instead.

* The great thing about this chocolate treat is that it’s also COMPLETELY FREE from the TOP 8 FOOD ALLERGENS including: SOY, EGG, FISH, SHELLFISH, GLUTEN/WHEAT, and as mentioned, PEANUT, TREE NUT, and DAIRY! What would we do without excellent companies like Enjoy Life and Gerbs?!

© 2011 tricia barry biagi

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Dairy, Nut, Gluten Free Sweet Potato Salad

Loaded with anti-oxidants such as vitamin C and beta carotene, chock full of fiber and potassium, sweet potatoes are one of those perfect foods — easy to make and satisfying to eat. They’re a staple in the weekly menu at our home. Though as warm weather returns, the desire to eat piping hot root vegetables fades for cooler, crisp cravings.
Enter sweet potato salad. Served cold or at room temperature, this flavorful mix of crunch and spice is an excellent addition to a potluck or cookout. Its light, sweetened vinaigrette eliminates wondering if the usual, mayonnaise-laden potato salad has spoiled after two hours of sitting in the backyard sun. One less reason to worry, one more reason to enjoy.

Sweet Potato Salad*


serves 4-6

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 2-3 large ones)
1 jalapeño pepper
1/2 red bell pepper
2 celery stalks
4 pieces of peppered turkey bacon
1/4 cup chopped fresh, flat leaf parsley
5 tablespoons white vinegar
2 tablespoons agave nectar (or honey)
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 teaspoon hot sauce
1 teaspoon dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400º

1. Peel sweet potatoes and cut into 1" cubes. Toss with olive oil and lightly salt. In a single layer, spread on a large, rimmed cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Cook for about 25 minutes or until sweet potatoes are soft and can be pierced with a fork.
2. Seed and dice jalapeño, red bell peppers. Use a spoon or knife to seed the jalapeño pepper as their hot oil may linger on your fingers, causing them to sting slightly. Dice celery stalks.
3. Cook turkey bacon until crisp and finely chop.
4. In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, agave, canola oil, hot sauce, mustard, a little more salt and pepper until combined well.
5. Place cooked sweet potatoes, diced peppers, celery, bacon, chopped parsley in a large bowl. Coat with vinaigrette and gently toss until mixed. Refrigerate until serving.

* This recipe can be made the day before serving as the sweet potatoes become more flavorful when they absorb the vinaigrette.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Gluten & Dairy Free Butternut Squash Risotto

Meatless Monday’s are the latest trend for those trying to be more conscious of our Earth’s environment. As a post-Vatican II, cradle Catholic, my family has observed this tradition on Friday’s for as long as I can remember — at least during the holy season of Lent. Now days vegetarian options have exploded with taste and texture. Gone are the meals of grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup or crunchy tuna casserole. Going meatless isn’t the sacrifice that it used to be.

The wonderful thing about this recipe is that it covers all the bases — vegetarian, gluten free, food allergy friendly — pleasing every crowd (including my children). It is a bit more time consuming since the risotto has to be constantly stirred, but the resulting dairy-free creaminess is worth it.

My husband, whose grandfather immigrated from Lucca, Italy, made me a version of this for one of our first dates. It was the first time I had ever eaten Italian Arborio rice — the short grain variety that makes the best risotto. Gratefully, it was one of many firsts that has graced our last 14 years together and now it’s part of the regular menu at our home.

Butternut Squash Risotto


6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil (divided)
1 medium or large butternut squash
3 inches of fresh ginger root, pealed and minced
1 medium onion diced
1 cup Italian Arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine (nothing expensive,
an affordable Chardonnay works well)*
4 cups chicken broth (I use an organic box brand)
2 cups water
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
freshly chopped flat leaf parsley for garnish (optional)

Preheat oven to 450º

1. With a sharp knife, cut butternut squash in half, vertically. Scoop out seeds. Peal and dice one half of the squash into 1" cubes. Place the solid half (skin side down) and the pealed, diced pieces on a rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil on top and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Bake for 45 minutes or until the flesh of the solid squash is soft and can be pierced easily with a fork.
2. In a sauce pan, heat chicken broth and water until warm,
but not boiling.
3. In a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot, on medium heat saute onions in 3 tablespoons olive oil until translucent (about 8 minutes).
Add minced ginger, stirring for about 3 more minutes.
4. Pour in the cup of Arborio rice, stirring quickly to coat with olive oil/onion mixture.
5. Add white wine, stirring constantly.
6. Once wine is absorbed into the risotto, begin adding chicken broth mixture 1/2 cup at a time, stirring continually until the liquid is absorbed with each 1/2 cup. Slowly the risotto will plump and thicken.
7. After all the chicken broth has been absorbed and the risotto has a creamy texture, stir in roasted, cubed squash and lower heat.
8. Scrape soft squash flesh from the skin of the solid half and add.
9. Finish with a little salt and pepper to taste, stirring well to combine.
10. Serve on a plate or in a pasta bowl and garnish with chopped parsley. Eat while warm.

* If looking for a slightly sweeter risotto a light riesling may be used instead of the chardonnay.

** If dairy is not an issue for you, feel free to stir in a cup of freshly grated parmigiano reggiano with the squash and top with a little more parmigiano before serving.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Gluten Free, Dairy Free Chicken á la King

On a cold, rainy, late winter day, nothing tastes more comforting than a hot, creamy meal. If you’re avoid dairy and wheat, as I am, making a dinner that meets that criteria can be tricky. Changing out a few ingredients with comparable dairy/gluten free options is much easier and tastier than one might think. The secret is a “roux” that is created from blending dairy free margarine with finely ground rice flour and chicken broth. The best part is you’ll be warmly satisfied and your happy intestines will thank you for it.

Gluten Free Dairy Free Chicken á la King*

Serves 4

4 tablespoons dairy free margarine (I use Earth Balance brand)
4 tablespoons finely ground rice flour** (may use brown rice flour instead)
4 cups warmed chicken broth (I use an organic brand in a box)
1 cup of cooked chicken, chopped
1 1/2 cups of chopped shiitake mushrooms
1-2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup jar of pimentos (drained)
1-2 tablespoons of sherry
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, chopped for garnish (optional)
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 toasted, gluten free, English muffins

1. Coat a small skillet with olive oil and saute the shiitake mushrooms over medium high heat until soft (about 3 minutes). Set aside.
2. Warm chicken broth in a small sauce pan until slightly steaming, but not boiling.
3. In a large, heavy bottomed pot, melt the dairy free margarine over medium high heat. Slowly add rice flour one tablespoon at a time, stirring constantly and quickly to make a thick, dough-like mixture called a roux.
4. Slowly pour in chicken broth, continuing to stir constantly and quickly, to incorporate the broth with the roux into a thick, gravy-like mixture. It is important to work fast during this process so that the ingredients blend smoothly. If the base has to much broth, shake in a bit more rice flour one tablespoon at a time, stirring constantly.
5. Reduce temperature to medium heat and continue to stir to avoid scorching. Add cooked chicken, sauteed mushrooms, jar of pimentos, sherry, salt and pepper until well combined and warmed throughout.
6. Serve immediately over toasted English muffins and sprinkle with freshly topped rosemary.

* If gluten or dairy is not an issue in your diet, replace dairy free margarine with butter, rice flour with all purpose flour and gluten free English muffins with toasted wheat bread or English muffins.

** gluten free, rice flour can be bought at Whole Foods, the natural food section of your grocery or online. Ener-G brand is the only brand that is free of potential cross-contamination from nut flours.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Rosemary and Garlic Roasted Chicken

During the rush of weekday evenings it can be challenging to put a homemade meal on the table in less than an hour. Especially when it comes to cooking a whole chicken. So you might choose to save this meal for the weekend when you can be more attentive to preparation, basting and baking. In the end, it will actually save time by providing enough meat for three meals. The first feast is a tender, rosemary, garlic chicken with crispy skin. The second might be a light, sweet chicken salad with apples, tarragon and dried cranberries for lunch (see Cognizable April 2010 for the recipe). The third could be a thick, comforting, warm, “Chicken á la King” served over your favorite toasted bread. All of the recipes using healthier, food allergy friendly ingredients. The added bonus is saving money by spreading the chicken out over three meals (an organic, 3 pound, whole chicken costs around $11 at Whole Foods where I live). Not bad for three meals.

This recipe is inspired from Mark Bittman’s technique of roasting a bird at a high temperature with the breast side down for the first 20 minutes. This tip will keep the meat tender and juicy. My twist on the recipe includes sliding sprigs of fresh rosemary under the skin of the breast and shoving 5 or 6 whole, crushed garlic cloves with more rosemary sprigs inside the cavity of the bird. These additions infuse a subtle flavor throughout the chicken and your house will smell incredible.

Believe me, I never thought in my wildest dreams that I would ever be able to successfully roast a whole chicken. I did not grow up cooking along side my mom (my job was to set the table). So if I can do this, you can too. It’s a lot easier than I ever thought possible. You will be impressed with yourself when you see and TASTE the finished results.

Rosemary and Garlic Roasted Chicken

serves 4 with leftovers


1 whole, 3 pound organic chicken, thawed
6 sprigs of fresh rosemary
5-6 whole garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 cups warm water
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Special equipment
Meat thermometer

Preheat oven to 500º

1. Remove the giblets from the chicken (the sack containing the heart, liver and gizzard from inside the cavity). Some choose to saute or fry the giblets for eating later, but I prefer to discard.
2. Whisk together extra virgin olive oil and warm water with a little salt and pepper in a bowl and set aside.
3. Remove rosemary leaves from two more sprigs, chop, set aside.
4. Slide two, 4-5" sprigs of fresh rosemary under skin of chicken breast.
5. Place two more sprigs of fresh rosemary inside the cavity of the chicken along with the 5-6, crushed garlic cloves.
6. Rub the chicken with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
7. Place bird, breast side down, on the rack in your roasting pan.
8. Cook for 20 minutes, baste with a little olive oil mixture.
9. Briefly remove chicken from the oven and turn breast side up on the roasting rack. Baste with more olive oil mixture, sprinkle with chopped rosemary and return to the oven for 8 more minutes. After 8 or so minutes, baste again. Skin should be beginning to brown (if not, roast a few more minutes at 500º until you notice it taking a golden hue).
10. REDUCE TEMPERATURE OF THE OVEN TO 325º and baste again. Cook at this temperature until a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, without touching the bone, reaches 160-165ºF. Total roasting time should be under an hour, about 50 minutes. Baste a few more times... every 10 minutes or so, to ensure the meat will be extra moist.
11. Remove the chicken from the oven and tip the pan to spoon juices into a clear measuring cup. Skim off as much fat as possible, reheat and serve with the chicken.

Carve the bird according to your preference. My kids like the legs, while my husband and I prefer the white meat from the breast. Remember that a serving of meat is smaller than the palm of your hand to allow for enough leftovers to stretch into more meals.

A. Here’s what the chicken looks like with the rosemary slid under the skin. Be sure to roll the skin back over the entire breast of meat to seal in the juices. B. Slightly crush the garlic using your palm and the flat side of a large knife.

Serve with a generous side of vegetables such as sauteed green beans in olive oil with minced garlic (as shown in the photo above) or roasted sweet potatoes and baby carrots spread around the roasting pan while the chicken is cooking.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Blooming Valentine

Hearts, flowers, candy... love. It’s Valentine’s Day again. The quintessential Hallmark holiday. No need to fluff their coffers. Make your own Valentine to show your sweetheart how much you really care. Just a few pieces of colored paper, some fancy scissors and a little time will mean more to the love of your life than a quickly picked, mass produced Kansas City creation. This idea transforms the symbolic heart into a flower and has no shortage of syrupy sweet jargon. It’s up to you to add the words of sincerity and feeling. Have fun, but most importantly, let your loved one know how much they are
loved and appreciated.


Red, white, and shades of pink card stock
Heart punch
Scalloped scissors
Black, fine tip Sharpie marker
Small jewel (used for Scrapbooks)
Glue stick
Double sided tape
Craft glue
Metal ruler
X-acto knife
Self-healing mat

With ruler, pencil and X-acto knife, measure and trim red card stock to 8.5" x 5.5" on self-healing mat and fold in half so the finished size is 4.25" x 5.5". Punch four hearts from the shades of pink card stock and fold in half, set aside. Measure and trim white card stock with scalloped scissors to the finished size of 3.75" x 5" and adhere to front of folded red card stock with double sided tape. Using stick, glue the right half of each heart to the white, scalloped paper in the flower petal formation. Allow space for the center jewel. Place a small dollop of craft glue in the center of the flower and press on the jewel. After the jewel dries slightly for a couple of minutes, write message with black, Sharpie marker. I wrote, “Thinking of you...” opening inside to: “... makes my heart BLOOM!” Center a heart punch in the inside of the card to create interest and dimension. Finish with a personalize message of love.