Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Abundantly Thankful ~

As the snow swirls about outside and the winter wind has let us know of its presence and persistence this week, if feels as though it's time to surrender to the season. I'm a skier and don't mind seeing the white fluffy stuff beginning to accumulate all around, though I have to say this year in particular, I'm just not thrilled about being cold! But as we all transition into winter we are reminded once again that Mother Nature is really in charge and the blessing of our region with a beautiful blanket of snow so white is inevitable and well-received.

With the hustle and bustle of Thanksgiving this week and many of us traveling to see family and friends, I feel that it's so important to take a breath and take stock in all of our blessings, big or small, with the best blessing of all being the gift of life. Before I subject myself to being groped at the airport tomorrow and face the thousands of other annoyed travelers crying, "just give me the x-ray machine," I'll try to adjust my attitude and be thankful somehow for the fortune of being able to fly...on a plane. I mean really, it's still amazing to me how we all take jumping on a machine that flies through the sky for granted, choosing to complain about a myriad of inconveniences that plague travel these days...no domestic food service, lack of quality peanuts and hey, paying for an airplane blanket now! While these are all truly justified complaints (wink), when we take a step back from all the abundant conveniences we have come to know as "normal" I'm reminded of just how many souls there are living all around the planet, and in our very midst, who will never set foot on an airplane and whom are simply surviving in this beautiful, tough world we all share and call home.

Lately I've been in the mood to purge all of my belongings, rummaging through every closet, drawer and dresser realizing that I have too much - like way too much. It seemed like the perfect time of year to recognize all that I own and then share my abundance with others. As I compiled my clothes and shoes I was almost embarrassed by the volume of what I have accumulated over the years, somehow perhaps feeling "entitled" or "in need" of these material possessions - it's a farce folks. I've been blessed to have traveled a fair amount thus far in my life, and it's glaringly obvious to me that as Americans we are rich beyond our means. I don't mean money in the bank or fancy cars (though that's around us), I simply mean that we are taught to and able (more easily than other societies) to accumulate goods and products at every turn. Have you checked your mailbox lately? The ridiculous amount of catalogs, e-blasts, sale coupons, Black Friday frenzy...my goodness, it is insane to me. I've become increasingly aware that our society literally force-feeds all of us to spend, to need, to buy, to WANT. So as part of my purging process, I have also canceled catalogs and e-mails and decided to live more like the those I know from other countries - where the simple philosophy of, "less IS more" is now guiding my way. Perhaps it's my age or some small trinket of wisdom that's crept in on the journey, but living with less truly feels like the pathway to authenticity.

It's tough to transition from soulful cleansing to gluten-free gorging, but here goes...Not really. The same philosophy can also apply during a Thanksgiving feast. There's only so much food we can really consume in one day! My family has decided to pair down our gluten-free Thanksgiving dinner this year, focusing on quality food and time together vs. 20 appetizers and waaaaay too many desserts that we had grown accustomed to during the years when my dear grandmother/chef was still with us.

I love deviled eggs. This recipe that I found in this month's Sunset magazine is gluten-free and a winner. I'll be preparing this on Thanksgiving as part of my GF appetizers, sure to please everyone!

Mediterranean deviled eggs ~
Serves 8

- 8 Large eggs

- 3 Tbsp. mayonnaise (GF of course)

- 1 1/2 Tsp. Dijon mustard

- 1 1/2 Tsp. white balsamic vinegar

- 1 1/2 Tbsp. each coarsely chopped kalamata olives and capers

- 2 Tsp. chopped flat-leaf parsley

1. Put eggs in a large saucepan and cover with water. Cover pot and boil 12 minutes. Drain and rinse with very cold water to cool quickly.

2. Mix mayonnaise, mustard, and vinegar in a small bowl. Peel eggs, then slice in half. Separate yolks from whites and put whites on a serving plate. Stir yolks into mayonnaise mixture. Gently mix in olives and capers.

3. Fill whites with yolk mixture. Sprinkle tops with parsley.

4. Dash of smoked paprika optional.

I'm a huge fan of raw nuts of any kind - they are packed with so much goodness and make a perfect warm appetizer to serve for any holiday gathering. This one is a particular favorite.

Toasted herbed almonds ~

- Combine 2 cups raw almonds

- 2 Tbsp. sea salt

- 1 Tbsp. finely minced rosemary

- 2 Tsp. olive oil.

Roast all ingredients on a sheet pan for 10 to 12 minutes at 350°. Serve in bowl.

I believe that it is so important to be thankful for every meal and not simply to give thanks on Thanksgiving. Eating and cooking gluten-free over the years has truly taught me how to appreciate every bite of safe food I'm fortunate enough to eat and has made me so aware of the value of good nutrition.

I am constantly reminded of a story told to me in years past by a dear friend in Santa Barbara who is a Chinese/holistic healer. She had once seen an art exhibit on display in Paris of actual photographs of food that had been "blessed" or prayed over in some way prior to being ingested. The exhibit featured photographs of the chemical components and molecular structure of the food before it was prayed over (by no particular religion) but simply given thanks for by someone, and the same foods photographed after. I too, later saw the exhibit in Paris and upon viewing this incredible display of art and life before my eyes, was transformed by the power of giving thanks for even the smallest meal. You see, there was actual scientific proof of how the foods that were prayed over had been chemically transformed and manifested - It was simply astounding.

The power of gratefulness.

Happy Thanksgiving and blessings to you...and don't even think about sneaking a tiny peace of bread or pie that's NOT gluten-free!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Fall Feature ~

Now that Halloween has passed and everyone has recovered (hopefully) from their sugar high, it's time to stomp around in the crunchy, colorful fall leaves blanketing the ground and feast our eyes upon the day of feasting, Thanksgiving. I can't believe that I just wrote that - wow. Personally, I'm not thrilled about the holidays being right around the corner nor the fact that Daylight Savings pummels us this Sunday...can you say dark before we even leave work? Let's put it this way...my Hawaiian tan that I worked very hard to achieve has faded as quickly as the passing daylight.

Speaking of topical islands...Here's some fun news...I'm the Featured Travel Review for the month of November on the Gluten Free Travel Site.com's web site and blog. It's an honor and always fun to write about safe places to eat, gathered while traveling and exploring new cities and restaurants. My reviews are about some of the wonderful restaurants we ate at in Hawaii waaaaay back in September - My goodness...it's been two months already passed. Have a read and jump on a plane to try these wonderful restaurants. The Big Island of Hawaii is my favorite and truly rocks...literally, as in Lava Rocks everywhere!

I really like Karen Broussard's Gluten Free TravelSite.com and Blog - it's a great way to read all about restaurants around the country and the world submitted by regular customers just searching for safe and delicious gluten-free dining. If you submit interesting and informative restaurant, hotel, cruise or resort review and yours are chosen to be featured, you'll also win great gift cards and discounts to a favorite restaurant.

Be sure to create an account and start submitting your reviews today!

Another bit of tasty news...I finally visited Haven on Earth Bread & Bakery Co. a.k.a...a Gluten-Free bakery in South Reno on Double R Blvd. It has that "real bakery" feel and it's loaded with all kinds of breads, muffins, doughnuts (Yes!), cookies and pastries. I picked up a couple of really yummy sweet rolls and two loaves of bread; focaccia cheese and whole grain. They also serve lunches now and I was pretty impressed with their menu. I'll be visiting again soon as I do my eating research in preparation for a gluten-free article I'm writing for the spring issue of Edible Reno-Tahoe magazine - very exciting, so stay tuned.

Say adios to those carved pumpkins folks, don your apron and get ready to start baking Pumpkin pies! And if anyone has a favorite recipe that's gluten-free and will be featured on your Thanksgiving table, please send it my way. We'll be posting our favorites!