Sunday, March 30, 2008

Quinoa Pizza with Roasted Veggies

My stomach has been going back and forth between feeling semi-tolerable to being intolerable. It sounds like I'm whining which I don't like to do but I thought it would help if others knew they are not alone in what they are experiencing. It's been three days sort of okay, three days bad. Actually, it's not always three days good. Sometimes it's less good and more bad.

Sound familiar? I guess it's pretty common among people with IBS and other stomach disorders. In some individuals, their symptoms may disappear for months. Often, the individuals can't identify anything they've done differently. There are, in some cases, explanations, such as unidentified food allergies, a stressful situation or poor eating habits.

I have dealt with all of those issues and still have the on-going problem. But I keep searching for answers. Along the way I have discovered some great foods to replace ones I am no longer eating. Quinoa is one of those foods. It's another great grain for individuals with stomach issues, like IBS, because it's so digestible but yet high in fiber and protein. It has more protein than any other grain (16.2 percent) which means it rivals the protein content of meat.

I decided to use quinoa to whip up a roasted veggie pizza with an herbed quinoa crust. I didn't use any cheese, although you could use soy cheese, but it was still delicious.

Quinoa Pizza with Roasted Veggies Recipe
(Makes two servings)
Ingredients for the Crust:

1/2 cup quinoa flour
1/2 tsp. gluten/free baking powder
2 T. olive oil
1/2 zucchini, peeled and grated (It's important to remove the skin if you have IBS.)
1 cup fresh spinach
1/2 tsp. each dried rosemary and thyme (Other fresh or dried herbs may be used.)
Salt and pepper to taste
Approximately 1/4 cup water

Ingredients for the Toppings:

2 zucchinis, peeled and cut into half-moons
1 yellow squash, peeled and cut into half moons
10 grape tomatoes, halved
10 mushrooms, sliced
Fresh spinach
2 T. olive oil
1-2 T. tomato sauce
Additional herbs such as rosemary, thyme, basil (Fresh would be best but I only had dried on hand.)
Salt and pepper
Optional: Shelton's Italian Turkey Sausage (I used three links and picked this brand because it's gluten-free)


Prepare the topping veggies for roasting in the oven. Wash all the veggies. Then, peel and slice the zucchini and yellow squash into half moons. Halve the grape tomatoes. Slice the mushrooms. Reserve the grape tomatoes. Put all the other veggies in a bowl and toss with olive oil, herbs, salt and pepper. Place the veggies on a baking sheet. sprayed with pan spray. Roast the veggies in the oven at 400 degrees for approximately 20 minutes. You want the veggies to be somewhat soft but not mushy so watch them carefully. During the last 8-10 minutes, add the grape tomatoes to the mix. Remove from the veggies from the oven to cool slightly.

If you are using the sausage, prepare it according to package instructions. Cut the sausages into bite-size pieces.

In the meantime, prepare the crust. Put the quinoa flour, baking powder, herbs and salt in a medium bowl. Add the olive oil and mix. Prepare the veggies. Fine chop the zucchini in a food processor or with a hand grater. Chop the spinach up with a knife and then put it in a microwave-safe bowl. Steam the spinach with a little water in the microwave until slightly wilted. Drain the spinach. Add the veggies to the dry ingredients and mix. Then begin adding water to make a soft dough. If the dough gets too wet, add more flour. Wet your hands with cold water and shape the dough into two balls to make two crusts. I reserved half the dough for another meal. It freezes well.

Spray a baking sheet with pan spray. Shape the dough into a pizza crust right on the baking sheet. Keep your hands moistened with cold water to make the dough easy to handle. Bake the crust for 5-8 minutes before adding the toppings. Remove the crust from the oven when it starts to crisp up.

To finish the pizza, first spread some tomato sauce on top. Sprinkle the tomato sauce with herbs, and salt and pepper to taste. Add a layer of fresh spinach leaves and herbs if you have them. Follow with some of the roasted veggies and sausage. Place the pizza back in the oven for approximately 5 minutes to heat through. Remove from the oven and enjoy with some additional roasted veggies on the side. I promise you won't even miss the cheese but if you must have cheese, use soy cheese.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Quick Amaranth Flatbread Recipe

One of the things I miss most about having stomach issues and gluten sensitivity is not being able to eat rustic breads with whole grains and fiber. Whole wheat can cause digestive problems for individuals with IBS or similar stomach problems.

I think I have solved the problem at least for my taste with several quick flatbread recipes I came up with. Both of the flatbreads pictured here are made with amaranth flour, an excellent source of fiber and protein.

I save time making these flatbreads by simply pressing the dough out onto a greased baking sheet with my hands into one large flatbread. After the bread is baked, I can cut the bread into large or small pieces depending on my intended use. For snacks, I cut the bread into small triangles or squares. I can cut larger squares if I want an open-face flatbread sandwich or salad.

The flatbread works well with an allergy rotation diet too. You can use the same recipe I'm providing below and substitute other whole grain flours, such as buckwheat for one day, quinoa for another, and sorghum or brown rice flour for the last day. It all works for me because it's easy and the result is delicious.

Amaranth Spinach Flatbread Recipe

I modified an Indian parathas recipe for this bread.

2 cups finely chopped spinach
2 cups amaranth flour
1-1 1/2 tsps. salt
1- 1 1/2 tsp. each dried dill and basil
1 tsp. gluten-free baking powder
2-3 T. olive oil
Water, as needed

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a large baking sheet with pan spray or line with parchment paper.

Put the chopped spinach with water to cover in a microwave-safe bowl and nuke until the spinach is wilted. Drain off the water. In a large bowl, combine the spinach, flour, salt, herbs, olive oil and baking powder. Slowly add small amounts of water (about 1/2 cup) as needed to get the dough to stick together. Shape the dough into a ball. Moisten your hands frequently with cold water to prevent the dough from sticking to your hands. Grab the dough in your hands and place it on the prepared baking sheet. Keep your hands moistened and press the dough out into a large flatbread about 1/8-inch thick. Spray the top lightly with olive oil and place in the oven for 25-30 minutes. Remove from the oven, allow to cool and then cut into large or small pieces. But if you can't wait, grab off a piece, spread with safe margarine and enjoy!

Pumpkin Amaranth Flatbread Recipe
This flatbread is sweet and almost like a cookie.

Follow the same basic recipe as used for the Amaranth Spinach Flatbread but omit the spinach and herbs. Instead, add in 1/2 cup pumpkin puree, 1-1 1/2 tsp. cinnamon and 2-4 T. of maple syrup, agave nectar or brown sugar. You might want to experiment with sweetness. I used just 2 T. of agave nectar and it was sweet enough for my taste. Follow all the other directions. I like cutting this bread into small pieces and spreading it with apple butter or sunbutter. Yum! It's also great plain.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Easter gluten-free blueberry-raspberry streusel bars

You don't have give up high-quality grains with fiber and protein just because you have stomach issues like IBS. For a number of years, I was afraid to try anything except rice because I feared what higher fiber would do to my system. Then I discovered Quinoa (pronounced Keen wa). This ancient grain is one of the best grains for someone with stomach issues like IBS because it's easily digestible and gluten-free but yet high in protein and soluble fiber.

I decided to incorporate quinoa into an Easter dessert which also has antioxidant-rich blueberries and raspberries. The bars are made with quinoa flakes but you also can use gluten-free rolled oats. I've never been able to tolerate oats that are added to a recipe raw but I can handle quinoa. The gluten-free blueberry-raspberry streusel bars were so delicious that they even got rave reviews from my gluten-eating, non-stomach issue family and friends.

Easter Gluten-free Blueberry-Raspberry Streusel Bars
(Makes 2 dozen bars)
Adapted from a recipe used by the Cooqi, a bakery in St. Paul, Minn.

Gluten-free flour mix: 2 cups rice flour, 1 cup tapioca starch, 1 1/2 tsp. xanthum gum

For the bars:

1 2/3 cup quinoa flakes (or 1 cup gluten-free rolled oats and 2/3 cup quinoa flakes)

1 - 1 1/4 cups organic sugar, divided (I'd like to try these next time with brown rice syrup or agave nectar. I would use less than the sugar.)

3/4 tsp. cinnamon, divided

1/4 tsp. salt

3/4 cup olive oil or safflower oil (or butter if you can handle dairy)

2 T. tapioca starch

3 cup blueberries (fresh or frozen blueberries, defrosted)

1 1/2 cup raspberries (fresh or frozen, defrosted)

1 T. orange juice concentrate

1-2 tsp. orange zest

Pan spray

egg replacer for 1 egg or 1 organic egg


Preheat over to 350 degrees. Spray a 9 X 13-inch baking pan with pan spray. In a medium bowl, combine 1 2/3 cups gluten-free flour mix, quinoa flakes (or quinoa/oats mixture), 3/4-1 cup sugar, 1/2 tsp. cinnamon and salt.

Mix the vegetable oil into the mixture using a pastry blender or spoon. Divide the mixture in half. Reserve half and evenly press other half into the bottom of your prepared baking pan. Bake 13-15 minutes, until mixture has solidified but not started to turn brown. Remove from the oven to cool.

In a heavy pan, combine 1/4 cup sugar, tapioca starch and 1/4 tsp. cinnamon. Add the berries, orange juice and zest. Gently stir to coat berries with other ingredients. Cook for another 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently, until blueberries are soft and raspberries become saucelike.

Remove from the heat and pour over baked crust. Add egg replacer to remaining unbaked crumb mixture, mix until well blended and dough holds together.

Pick up the dough in your hands and crumble it all over the top of the fruit in the pan. Spead the streusel topping around evening with your hands or a fork.

Return pan to oven and bake 30-40 minutes, until fruit appears bubbly and streusel topping is slightly browned. Remove from the oven and cool completely. Place the pan in the refrigerator to continue the cooling process. The bars can be a bit crumbly so, if possible, allow the pan of streusel bars to stay in the refrigerator overnight before cutting.

Make the bars a real treat by serving on a plate with vanilla Rice Dream frozen dessert, topped with a spoon of raspberries and a smidge of Wax Orchards raspberry syrup, fruit-juice sweetened.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Chocolate/Raspberry Rice Cereal

Many people with stomach issues/IBS have their symptoms come and go, sometimes disappearing for months at a time. Unfortunately, I am not one of those people. I have nicknamed myself "the stomach" because that part of me influences almost everything in my daily life. I am one of those people who changes in lifestyle, eating, lowering of stress, etc. has made some, but not significant, impact on improving their condition. Where do I go from here? Well, I don't give up. Without hope, I am sunk for sure. This condition can be depressing enough as it is. (Sometimes I feel as disheartened as my friend Kona, above, appears while getting a bath.) But my belief is there has to be something that's screwing with me that no one has discovered yet.

Recently, I read about a British medical study where they took a group of 120 individuals who had been suffering with IBS for years, in some cases decades. Everything these individuals had done to improve their situation had done little. These individuals were tested for intestinal parasites and yeast, something else as well, but I don't remember. Most of these individuals had traveled or lived in other countries but a few had not. All of their tests came back positive for one or more of the three. When these conditions were addressed, their symptoms were reduced markedly.

After reading about the study, I decided to have the test done. I lived overseas and worked around livestock for quite awhile so it was a possibility. Also, my doctor had mentioned it a few months earlier, but wanted me to try other things first. Well, I am waiting for the results. Hopefully, I will be on to something that will improve my condition. In the meantime, I am enjoying my favorite breakfast for when I'm feeling a little down. You guessed it. It has chocolate in it.

Chocolate/Raspberry Rice Cereal

This cereal is so simple to prepare. It tastes like a dessert for breakfast but yet no sugar is added.

Ingredients for one serving:
1/4 cup Bob's Red Mill Rice Hot Cereal
1 cup water
1-2 T. good quality baking and drinking cocoa (I use Droste Holland Cocoa)
1 T. vanilla rice protein powder
1 T. ground flax seed
1/3 cup fresh or frozen raspberries

Put all ingredients, except raspberries, in a saucepan. Cover with a lid and heat to boiling. Reduce heat to simmer and cook for 7-8 minutes. Scoop cereal into a bowl and top with raspberries. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Chocolate (Veggie) Brownies and eating your veggies

Early in my journey to unravel how to deal with IBS/food allergies I avoided foods, such as vegetables, that were difficult to digest. That was hard because I love vegetables but the foods that had previously been my friends seemed to create digestive issues for me. I ended up sick in bed, sort of like Pumpkin in photo above. Now I've learned how to make veggies my friends again. In fact, veggies cover at least half or more of my plate at meal times.

It's all in careful selection of veggies and how you prepare them. Vegetables, improperly prepared, can trigger IBS attacks. You can slice, dice, chop or eat them whole but peel them and cook them. They don't have to be mushy but they should be cooked beyond tender crisp. Don't eat them raw. That's asking for trouble.

Certain veggies that are higher in insoluble fiber than others can't be tamed for the IBS tummy no matter how you prepare them. Most can be made tender and delicious by roasting but I haven't had much success with fennel and celery root to name a few.

Since eating enough veggies often is of concern for IBS sufferers, why not kill two birds with one stone. Get your sweet fix and your veggies with Chocolate (Veggie) Brownies. Many IBS sufferers can tolerate chocolate in small doses as long as they eat it with a hearty dose of soluble fiber. Use dark chocolate or allergen-free chocolate to avoid dairy which can trigger IBS attacks. Remember to exercise self-control and limit yourself to just one (moderately sized, of course) because over-indulgence is the source of many an IBS attack.

Chocolate (Veggie) Brownies
2 ounces of fresh spinach
1/4 cup plain or vanilla rice milk (or soy)
1 cup raw zucchini, coarsely chopped
1/3 cup agave nectar
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup sunflower oil
1 T. ground flax seed
1/2 tsp. apple cider vinegar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. instant coffee or espresso crystals
1 cup buckwheat flour (or unbleached white flour if can be tolerated)
1/2 cup brown rice flour (or oat flour)
1/3 cup dark cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1 Ener-G egg replacer or 2 egg whites (Whole eggs can be an IBS trigger.)
1 10-oz. bag Enjoy Life allergen-free chocolate chips or other dairy-free chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray an 8-inch square baking pan. In a blend or food processor, blend together the spinach and zucchini to a smooth puree. Add the agave, maple syrup, oil, flax, coffee, apple cider vinegar, milk, egg replacer or egg whites, and vanilla, and blend to combine. Set aside while you measure the dry ingredients.

In a large bowl, sift together the flours, cocoa, baking soda, and salt. Pour the wet ingredients over the dry and whisk together to combine. If this batter is too stiff, add a tablespoon or two more of rice or soy milk. Add in 2/3's or all of the chocolate chips. I reserved about a third to melt and spread on the top of the finished brownies.

Pour or scoop the batter into the prepared baking pan. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until the brownies are firm to the touch and a wooden toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Sprinkle the the top with extra chocolate chips. Allow to melt and then spread over the top with a knife. An alternative topping would be a dusting of extra cocoa powder and cinnamon.

Allow the brownies to cool completely before cutting. You should get about 12 brownies. After cutting the brownies, wrap them individually for freezing. That way you won't be tempted to over-indulge.