Saturday, January 14, 2012

Light (fat-free) Spiced Crab Soup

Homemade soups allow you to control all of the ingredients, as opposed to store-bought, canned soups, thereby keeping out the artificial flavorings, colorings, and preservatives. They are relatively easy to create, freeze well, and make excellent, quick afternoon snacks for everyone. I have been freezing my soups in zip-lock bags, which hold up well in the freezer, taking up less space than plastic containers. You can keep your soup fresh when you pack a frozen bag in with your lunch, where it melts by lunch time and is ready for a quick shot in the office microwave.

I first had a version of this soup in a waterfront seafood restaurant where I worked late in the 1990's. I would keep returning to the pot during my work shift, ladling cup after cup for fuel over the dinner shifts (where everyone in the restaurant is eating, except the very busy staff!)

This soup is light and simple. When I first attempted making this at home, I used beef consomme', which, though it worked, was, never-the-less, the wrong flavor profile. I returned to the restaurant and spoke with the owner - I had since left that job - and asked about the soup base. He was reticent, but eventually relinquished his secret broth; vegetable! Well, I came home and made it with vegetable stock, and it still wasn't as good as the recipe which follows, made with a crab stock. Now, it's wonderfully spicy, light, and flavorful. It is low-calorie, fat-free, and makes a delicious snack to tide you over between meals. Or, use it as a meal starter for any seafood dinner. Also, it's a great use of leftover crab shells, and can be stored in the freezer until ready to use for a very quick soup!

Spiced Crab Soup
Heat 4 cups crab stock in a sauce pan. Add one 6 oz. can of white crab meat, 1 small bay leaf and 1 tablespoon minced chives or chopped green onion; simmer until hot. Depending on how spicy you've made your crab stock, you may choose to add a pinch of Old Bay Seasoning, to taste. Makes 2 bowls, or 4 cup-sized servings. OPTIONAL: If using a larger, 16 ounce can of lump crab meat, then heat at least 8 cups of crab stock, and double the chives or green onion.  


  • 2 lbs crab shells (*tomalley, or mustard optional)                          
  • 2 quarts water
  • 1 medium-large onion, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, coarsely chopped
  • 1.5 cups chopped tomatoes, or 1 15 oz. can
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 2 dry Bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons whole peppercorns
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • Kosher or Sea Salt, to taste
1.) Place picked-over crab shells (and tomalley, if using),- excluding heads and top shells, which are flavorless - to 6-8 quart stock pot. Boil. Skim foam from surface and discard.

2.) Add chopped celery, onion, cloves, bay leaves, thyme and peppercorns to pot. Cook at a steady simmer for 1 hour. Season with salt, and taste for strong flavor. If necessary, continue cooking for another 20 minutes.

3.) Strain stock through a fine-mesh sieve, or use double-layer of cheesecloth for a sieve with wider mesh. Chill quickly, until ready to use.

As an added bonus, here is a recipe for homemade Old Bay Seasoning:

1 tablespoon celery seed
1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
6 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon whole cardamom
1/2 teaspoon mustard seed
4 whole cloves
1 teaspoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1/4 teaspoon mace
In a spice grinder or small food processor, combine all of the ingredients.
Grind well and store in a small glass jar.
Mix 50 : 50 with coarse salt when seasoning crabs.

Note: What is tomalley, or crab mustard?
 According to Wikipedia:

Tomalley (from the Carib word tumale, meaning a sauce of lobster liver)[1] or lobster paste is the soft, green substance found in the body cavity of lobsters, that fulfills the functions of both the liver and the pancreas. Tomalley corresponds to the hepatopancreas in other arthropods. It is considered a delicacy, and may be eaten alone but is often added to sauces for flavour and as a thickening agent. The term lobster paste or lobster pâté can also be used to indicate a mixture of tomalley and lobster roe. Lobster bisque, lobster stock, and lobster consommé are made using lobster bodies (heads), often including the lobster liver.
The hepatopancreas of a crab is also called tomalley; in crabs the tomalley is yellow or yellow-green in colour.[2][3][4] In Maryland and on the Delmarva Peninsula, the hepatopancreas of the blue crab is called the "muster" or "mustard", probably because of the yellow colour, which is not the bright yellow of regular prepared yellow mustard, but closer to one of the brown mustards, such as Dijon mustard. Particularly when eating steamed or boiled crabs, it is considered a delicacy.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Produce Shopping

One way to avoid dairy and gluten is to load your diet with fruits and vegetables. If you have a discount produce store near you, you will have the added bonus of saving money.

Juicing is another way to extract all of those healthy vitamins and nutrients from inside of fruits and vegetables. If egg and soy allergies are a problem, that's one more reason to to look toward Vegan and Vegetarian foods to fill your daily menu. Add to that some beans (higher in protein than beef or chicken, or fish) and rice, potatoes, lentils and quinoa (very high in protein) and good health is not so difficult to achieve.

Elimination diets are difficult to follow, if only because of all of the "can't have this' and 'can't eat that's'. If you center your diet around plant foods, and add fish or meats, and carbs, around that, you are in command of your daily diet in a way that ordinary shopping in grocery stores, with all of their processed and packaged foods, chemicals, dyes and additives, does not offer. Walk down the juice aisle of any store, and consider the ingredients in those 'juices'; dyes, artificial flavorings, preservatives, and chemicals you probably can't even properly pronounce.

So consider making your life easier, with healthy and organically grown fruits and vegetables as your main food source. Your body, and the bodies of those you feed, will thank you with improved digestion, greater mental clarity, and a boosted immune system.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Gluten-Free "Prairie Muffins" (cornbread) - Vintage and Modern

Horrendous downpours and pounding thunderstorms have kept me snuggled up inside my cozy little cottage home most of this past week. The ear-splitting, crackling lightening was at times so close, I cold feel the hair on the back of my neck stand up! And so, seeking comfort, I grasped my warm copy of Laura Ingalls Wilders "Little House on the Prairie".
The description of "Ma" baking griddle cornbread in an open fire on the windy prairie got me to thinking about that Pioneer comfort food. And as the relentless rains poured down on my roof and splattered my windows mercilessly, I, glad for a warm home and my own little oven, gathered together all of the ingredients, to try baking cornbread for the first time.

It really is quick and simple. This recipe can be made in an iron skillet, then transferred to the oven, or, as I did here, using a muffin pan - mine yielded six large cornbread muffins, but may have been good for 8 medium ones. You may even have inherited one of these antique corn bread pans, which you might also be able to find at flea markets or in a collectibles shop.

Baked in one of these, your Prairie corn bread would look something like this:
Prairie Corn Bread (#1)

1 cup all purpose, gluten-free flour

3/4 cup cornmeal, white or yellow (I used white)

2 tablespoons sugar or substitute, to taste

2.5 teaspoon Baking Powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

2 Eggs, beaten

1 cup non-dairy milk (soy, almond, or Dari-Free potato based mix)  

1/4 cup cooking oil or melted dairy-free butter


  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
  2. Pour oil into iron pan, or muffin tin. Heat pan in the oven, then swirl the oil to coat sides of pan.
  3. Mix cornmeal, GF flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. set aside.
  4. Add 1 tablespoon butter to skillet, or 9 x11 baking pan, or put pats of butter (or oil- no need to melt in oven) into Muffin tins. Place in pre-heated oven for 3 minutes, until melted. Remove pan and swirl melted butter (or oil) to coat bottom and sides of pan or muffin tins.
  5. Combine eggs, milk and 1/4 cup oil. Add egg mixture to flour mix, and stir just until batter is moist.
  6. Pour into skillet, pan or muffin forms. Bake 15-20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Drizzle generously with honey. 

Genuine Prairie Corn Bread , circa 1880's Recipe

The following recipe was sent to me via a reader on another blog I write. Born and raised in the Midwest, she tells me this cornbread is the same, old-fashioned type Laura Ingalls Wilder would have eaten on the prairie as a child, as it comes directly from her grandmother's mother, who were pioneer settlers in the 1880's. She tells me this original recipe is much grittier, as cornbread made with only cornmeal (and no flour) is apt to be. But if you are seeking an authentic prairie cornbread experience, and if you happen to have or find one of those vintage iron cornbread pans, then this might be the way for you to go.

approximately 2 C yellow corn meal
•1 egg
3/4 t baking powder
•3 dashes salt
•enough buttermilk to whisk into a sloppy, wet pancake-mix-like batter

"Preheat oven to 450F with whatever pan you choose with bacon drippings in bottom (just enough that when heated, you can twist pan around to evenly coat.
Pour batter into pan and place in oven for about 10 minutes. Finished product will be quite yellow, which browning on edges; as with all pans, smaller (like cupcakes or Gram’s “corncobs”) finish faster."

Chow down, Partners!

And finally, to get you in the warm, fire-on-the-hearth kind of mood, Here is part 1 of an episode from the TV Show, Little House on the Prairie, called "Survival". The family runs into an unexpected blizzard while traveling in their covered wagon, and comes across a deserted cabin to shelter them.

And a link to a video with photos of Laura, her family and homes:

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Sweet Potato Pie Muffins (Gluten & Dairy-Free)

For another little delicious twist on muffins, try these sweet potato-based muffins instead of pumpkin muffins. Sweet potatoes are super healthy for you! And these muffins are loaded with other sweet ingredients, like golden raisins, coconut or almond milk, pecans, almond flour, saigon cinnamon (soooo worth getting!) and freshly ground nutmeg. Try them while still warm, with butter and apricot jam, for a head-spinning experience. These are moist muffins, too, and will freeze and re-heat well.

  • 1 cup all purpose gluten free flour and
  • 1 cup almond meal/flour (or just 2 cups all purpose GF flour -your choice)
  • 1/8 cup ground flax seed
  • 1 teaspoon Saigon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon xanthan gum
  • 1 lb.  sweet potatoes or golden yams, peeled, boiled and mashed (about 1 giant one, or 1-2 medium)
  • 1/3 cup melted dairy-free butter, like Smart Balance or Benocal
  • 1/2 cup almond or coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup turbinado sugar with 1 teaspoon molasses mixed in (or 1/2 c. brown sugar)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 large organic, free-range eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • diary-free cream cheese frosting, optional

Cook Sweet Potatoes: peel and cut 1 pound of Sweet potatoes or golden yams into chunks, cover with water, and bring to a boil. Cook lightly for 15-20 minutes, or until tender. Alternately, you can leave peels on and they will come off easily when potatoes are cooled. Mash, and set aside.

Mix Ingredients:

In a large bowl, combine the dry ingredients; almond flour, ground flax seed, all purpose flour, xanthan (or guar) gum powder, both baking powder and baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Stir or whisk until blended well.

In a separate bowl, mix the mashed sweet potatoes, melted DF butter, almond or coconut milk, beaten eggs, sugar, honey and vanilla. Mix well.

Stir the potato mixture into the dried ingredients until all is moistened. Fold in the chopped pecans and raisins. Don't over mix at this point.

Line 12 regular muffin tins with paper liners, or grease cups and lightly flour with GF flour. Or fill 8-9 large muffin cups 3/4 full with the batter, or about 24-30 mini-muffins.

Bake at 375 F for 20-25 minutes. Serve warm with a smear of dairy free butter and apricot jam. Or serve room temperature.

 Muffins are a great food for freezing, so you have a quick on-the-run breakfast. Especially with all of these healthy ingredients; Omega 3's in your almond flour, milk, pecans and flax seed, antioxidants in the raisins, and the all-purpose GF flours may include both fava bean flour and garbanzo bean flours, high in proteins. If you use the coconut milk (which I did) you also have an added dose of fiber from that and the flax seed and pecans as well.

Plus, there's the incredible, heavenly flavor and stretchy texture of these muffins hot out of the oven! The ingredients work so well together, and the sweet potato or yams add another dimension, a little different from the pumpkin often used (and also delish) in muffins.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Pink Potato Salad with Cilantro and Herbs

Here is a unique take on potato salad. Instead of the usual mayonnaise and celery salt dressing, with chopped pickles or sweet gherkins, this one makes use of (soy) cream cheese with lemon juice, smoked paprika, fried capers (a wonderfully surprising addition) and chopped pickled beets with their onions (see previous post for that recipe). And in addition to the traditional parsley, it makes delicious use of both cilantro and fresh oregano.  The beets are, of course, what lends the pink hue, and if you like it, you can add additional beet juice for a deeper pink color.

I was never much  a fan of potato salad growing up, but every family holiday, or baby or wedding shower, there it was, a big huge honkin' bowl of the stuff! 

So, if you think you're ready to try a different twist on your traditional potato salad, give this one a try.  Mincing the sliced ham very tiny, into about 1/8 inch pieces, allows it to remain subtle while still lending it's salty flavor. And you just must try the smoked paprika- it elevates the whole paprika experience into another world of flavor!  Here goes...


3 lbs. small Yukon Gold Potatoes
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 2 tablespoons capers, drained and patted dry 
  • 4 ounces Tofutti Soy Cream Cheese
  • 3/4 cup Mayonnaise
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 "coins" fresh Ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon Smoked Paprika (it's the best!)
  • fresh ground black pepper (to taste)
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 cup minced pickled beets with their pickled onions
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped Oregano
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped Cilantro
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped Parsley
  • 1 cup finely minced (1/8 inch) ham slice    


1. Bring a large pot of water with the sea salt to boil with the unpeeled potatoes. Cook potatoes until just tender when a fork is inserted, but not too squishy! Drain and cool. Then cut into bite-sized, pieces.

2. Fry the capers lightly in the olive oil, just until crispy. Remove from heat and set aside.

3. In a blender or small food chopper/processor, blend the soy cream cheese, mayonnaise, minced garlic and ginger, smoked paprika, pepper and lemon juice. Taste and add more salt if desired. Also, you can mix or whisk this by hand to save a step, but it's creamier blended. 

4. Toss the sliced potatoes with the dressing, fried capers, chopped pickled beets and onions, minced ham and herbs, reserving some for garnish.  Chill in the refrigerator several hours or overnight.

To Serve:  Top with the remaining herbs, and a light sprinkling of smoked paprika, if desired.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Pink 'Pickled Beet' Deviled Easter Eggs

These protein-rich little eggs are good any time of year, but for Easter, the pink color is a sweet added touch.  You'll need to buy a few red beets, boil and peel. Then make the pickling solution, below, and leave the eggs in the mixture for 24 hours in the fridge, stirring it every so often for an even 'pink' tone all around.  The next day, you get to deviling the things.

 I took this opportunity to test out my new 'smopked paprika'.  And, man, do I ever recommend this stuff! A completely different flavor than regular paprika for the final sprinkling. But if smokey is not your thing, stick with the regular stuff. 

It's also nice to top with a small sprig of thyme, or better yet, a tiny lavender thyme flower. Or, if you prefer, sprinkle with chopped flat-leaf parsley. The recipe is for 6 eggs.  If you are taking these to a dinner or luncheon, or are planning on many guests, just double or triple it.


Place six eggs in a pan of cold water, and bring to a boil, slowly. Place the lid on the pan and turn off the heat, allowing the eggs to cook in the hot water for 12 minutes. This is when your egg timer comes in handy!

Meanwhile, make your 'ice bath'. Fill a large enough bowl to accommodate the 6 eggs with water and a tray or two of ice cubes. After 12 minutes, remove eggs with tongs and plunge into ice water, allowing to cool there for 5 minutes.  Then, removing one egg at a time, crunch the bottom, wide part of egg down on a counter or cutting board to crack the shell, then roll the egg around gently, breaking the outer shell, which will remain together, so you can peel it off by pulling on the inner membrane. Rinse eggs.

                                                                   PICKLED BEETS MIX

1/4 cup sugar or agave nectar
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup water (or use red beet water)
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon whole cloves
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 *cinnamon stick
3 medium beets, trimmed, unpeeled
1/2 onion sliced into 1/4 inch thick slices
6 large eggs, hard boiled and peeled


  • Make pickling mix; in a medium saucepan, add first 7 ingredients (up to the cinnamon stick), bring to a gentle boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, set aside.
  • Wash the beets, and trim stems 1 inch from the roots. Cut into quarters. Place in pot, cover with water; boil then lower heat to a simmer, for 10-15 minutes, or until a fork inserted lets you know they are tender inside. Pour off red beet water, (reserving 1/2 cup to use instead of plain water), and let the beets cool.
  • Add eggs to a large jar (or glass bowl with a cover) with the chopped onions and beets. Pour the pickling mix over these, and cover with the lid. Give the ingredients a shake. If using a bowl, stir the ingredients every couple of hours to insure evenness of color and pickling.
Place the jar/bowl in the refrigerator for 24 hours, shaking/stirring every so often. You can store these pickled eggs up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator!

                DEVILED EGGS

6 large eggs
@ 1/4 cup mayonnaise
@ 1 tablespoon dijon mustard
@ 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder 
sea salt, fresh ground pepper
smoked Paprika
fresh green thyme sprigs or
chopped flat leaf parsley

Slice the eggs in half neatly. Over a mixing bowl, gently squeeze the egg halves to pop out the center yolks.

Add the other ingredients (except herbs) and stir until creamy.

Fill a pastry bag, or a plastic baggie, with the egg mixture. If using a baggie, snip off one corner, about 1/4 inch wide. Squeeze the deviled egg mix into each of the 12 egg halves. Sprinkle with the paprika, and top with thyme leaves (or parsley). 

This is a milder deviled egg mixture. You can always add a little relish, more mustard and garlic powder to taste, and even add chopped shallots, if you so desire. But I found this version pleases everyone, and lets you really taste the egg.

Now you just have to arrange the egg halves on a nice platter and serve, or take them with you to the dinner party or luncheon. These pink beauties are sure to get every ones eye, and they are not too 'pickled' tasting, either.

Happy Easter!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Cherry-Apple Crumble Pie (Gluten, Dairy and Egg-Free)

Home made Cherry-Apple pie. Well, almost. In that, I made it at home...

The crust mix is from a box. The Apples are from a can. The cherry pie filling; can. But I do not have a gluten-free bakery nearby. And I had all of the ingredients sitting on the pantry shelf. And my insides called out for "Pie, NOW!" SO that is how this marvel happened.

I used to be a BIG pie maker, back in the day. Mostly classic American Apple Pie, French Apple, once a peach pie. Back in the 1980's, I lived amidst an abundance of berries. The black berries grew free on my horses pasture, so there were blackberry pies. And raspberry. And blueberry. I had trouble with the crusts at first...okay, for a few years. So they were stiff, thin, and never the flaky consistency you look for in baked goods. But in time, I learned the secret of using ice water, very icy! And not overworking the crust.

I can't say that appears to have mattered here with the gluten-free mix. I was out of egg, and so made this crust egg-free, (substituting canola oil) as well as using dairy-free butter. It would not hold together when transferring to the pie dish, so I just pressed the soft, white dough into the dish, then changed my plans to use a full top crust covering the fruit filling. It would not lift and transfer, (despite what I would have you believe from my photographs) so I just crumbled the dough up and dropped it on top of the crust, creating a crumble top. To this I added brown sugar, which I mixed up using my fingers, with Turbinado sugar and molasses. On top of that, I dotted more pieces of dairy-free butter.


My product was Gluten-Free Pantry, perfect pie crust mix, by Glutino. You will need 1/4 teaspoon baking powder, 2 tablespoons sugar (optional - I used Splenda) 10 tablespoons of cold butter (dairy-free for me) and 10 tablespoons of vegetable shortening, preferably butter-flavored. It calls for 2 eggs, but with my substitution of canola oil, this may have contributed to the lack of binding of the dough. Plus 2 tablespoons of cold water, and 3 teaspoons of cider vinegar are also required.


I had a can of Cherry Pie filling, as this was originally going to be a cherry pie...until I realized one can only filled half the crust. Hm. So I added a can of apple pie filling, mixed those a little, and topped with crumbled dough and brown sugar and dotted with DF butter.


for 15 minutes in a preheated 450 degree oven. Then lower the temperature to 350, and bake for another 30 minutes. (The box calls for 40-45 minutes at the higher temperature) Cool before serving.

I loved the flavor! Hot melted gooey cherry sauce, soft baked apples, and a crunchy topping with a caramelized sugar. The crust did have a sandy texture, but I'll accept that. I was not cool enough to let it cool, so after maybe ten minutes, I cut into MY PIE and spooned a messy portion onto a plate to try. It's about as good as it looks. I am betting this would also be nice with a scoop of dairy-free vanilla ice cream, or coconut ice cream.

NOTE: When cooking for someone on the autism spectrum, whether there are indications of candida albicans or not, sugar (and high-fructose corn syrup) is still a highly problematic ingredient. And this pie is loaded with sugar, from the fillings to the topping. You'd be well advised to use fresh fruit and a sugar-free substitute like Truvia, a stevia leaf-based sweetener. Otherwise, I would have to say serving this sugary pie borders on child abuse. And I feel the same, and very strongly, about ignoring the gluten and dairy 'allergies', and every other food of which your child has an intolerance. Whether they be on the spectrum or not.