Archive for the ‘.Basics’ Category

Some Notes on Rice

Rice, the most non allergenic of food grains, is a staple in any allergy free, gluten free diet.  Mostly, it is an essential accompaniment and a good bulk food which provides eating satisfaction.

When rice is milled and polished (such as white rice), it loses some of its nutrients, especially the B group vitamins, Vitamin E, iron and a few other micronutrients. White rice sold in stores in the US is generally fortified, the lost nutrients added on and prewashed, so further washing is not required.  Washing of rice also diminishes nutrients, but it is necessary to wash rice thoroughly, rinsing out the water 3-4 times, in order to remove impurities and pesticides which may have been used.

Parboiled rice retains more nutrients than polished, white rice.  Brown rice is richer in most nutrients and especially in fiber. but protein content is more or less similar to that in white rice.

Although rice has less protein than wheat, the quality of protein in rice is generally superior and is better assimilated by the body.

Of all the varieties of rice, basmati has the best kinds of complex carbs, which are burned slowly, thus providing longer lasting energy.  Basmati rice has a Glycemic Index which is lower than almost all other kinds of rice.  The stickier the rice, the higher it is in starch content, and will therefore have a higher Glycemic Index.

Wild rice, which is more of a gourmet rice has excellent nutritive value.  It is rich in protein, fibre and minerals like iron, potassium, magnesium and phosphorus.  It is actually a seed of a variety of grass that grows around lakes and rivers.  In the US, wild rice comes from a type of grass that grows wild in the Great Lakes region.  It has a nutty flavour and a chewy texture.

Because wild rice is pricey, it is often mixed with other grains, most often with brown rice as both require the same amount of cooking time.  It also needs to be washed thoroughly.  About three times the amount of water works well for wild rice.

Generally, rice has to be used more as an accompaniment, so that other nutritious foods go down well.

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Meat and poultry are excellent sources of protein, fat soluble vitamins such as A,D. E and K. calcium, iron, Vitamin B12 which comes only from animal sources, and many other nutrients.  The iron in the meat can be used more efficiently by the body than the iron in plants and supplements.  Meat and poultry, however, do not contain fibre and phytochemicals, the protective factors in food.

Lamb is considered the most hypoallergenic of all meats.  Allergies to beef, pork chicken and turkey are rare.  Fish, with all its wonderful health benefits is an established allergenic food.  I have, therefore, stayed away from fish and shellfish recipes.

There is a close connection between allergy and protein.  The immune system looks at protein chemistry when it decides whether certain foods are acceptable to the body or not. It is the protein in peanuts, soybeans and other foods which provokes allergic reaction.  We need to note here, that commercially raised animals are given growth hormones (synthetic proteins).  Hence it might be safer to use organically produced meat and poultry, from animals raised without hormones and antibiotics.  This could minimize the risk of allergy to artificially made protein and other substances like antibiotics.  Nutritionists tell us that Omega 3 fatty acid is present only in the milk of grass fed animals.  Grain fed animals do not yield any Omega 3 fatty acid.

Red meat is highly nutritious, but it also has a significant amount of fat.  Forty to fifty per cent of fatty acids in meat are saturated.  It is better to eat red meat in moderation, and to use mostly lean meat.  Fat in poultry is external to muscle and can be trimmed.  The skin which is rich in fat can be removed.  Poultry fat has a healthier composition than the fat in most other meats.  In the case of pork too, most of the fat can be cut off from the edges—a piece of lean pork is about the same as a piece of chicken in terms of calories.

The USDA has give some very useful guidelines for cooking and handling meat.  Harmful bacteria like E.coli and salmonella are often present in raw meat.  Raw meat and poultry must not come into contact with other foods like salads and vegetables on cutting boards and kitchen surfaces.  It is best to use separate boards and knives for meat and poultry and wash them thoroughly after use.

Cooking destroys the bacteria in meat and poultry once we follow safe cooking practices.  The USDA suggests using a cooking thermometer to ensure that–

1.  Steaks and roasts are cooked to at least 145 degrees F.

2.  All cuts of pork are cooked to 160 degrees F.

3.  All poultry is cooked to 165 degrees F.

4.  All ground beef, veal or lamb is cooked to 160 degrees F.

Ground meat, especially, needs to be well cooked because of its porous nature.  Living bacteria can make their way into the center of a patty, but not that of a steak.  The USDA considers steak to be an intact meat, where bacteria are on the surface and are easily killed by heat.

Leftovers must be immediately refrigerated.  When removed from the fridge for consumption, leftovers must be heated through and through before serving.

Commonly used ingredients/ herbs and spices, with meat and poultry

Garlic, onion, ginger, and spices like turmeric, pepper, cinnamon, thyme, basil can kill bacteria. 

Scientists claim that over 75% bacteria in food are killed by spices.  When a Kansas State University microbiologist cooked a pound of hamburger with 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder, he found that it had 90% fewer pathogens than meat cooked without spices.

Garlic is the most protective of all root vegetables and is particularly known for its healing properties.  It is a powerful immune system booster, and is an anti oxidant , which has the rare mineral, selenium.

Onions are great antioxidants, and have anti allergy, anti viral and anti histamine properties.  The sulphur compounds in onions help to detoxify the body, clear congestion and reduce excess mucus.

Ginger has great digestive, anti inflammatory and antioxidant properties.  It helps to clear coughs and colds and is a mild natural alternative to antihistamines.

Spices such as turmeric, cinnamon, pepper, thyme, basil and others have great antioxidant, anti bacterial and anti inflammatory properties.  They are rich in vitamins and minerals. They help to cleanse the blood, build tissues, prevent disease, and aid in digestion.  They contain valuable micro nutrients which are easily assimilated in the body.

Kids with food allergies and sensitivities could react to artificial preservatives and flavor enhancers. What can be better than using herbs and spices, nature’s fantastically flavorful preservatives, which are beneficial in so many ways? 

When cooking with meat and poultry, remember to Spice It Up! .

Note I will add much more on herbs and spices in the GOOD TO KNOW section of this blog—soon!   


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Vegetables and fruits should be washed thoroughly BEFORE cutting.  Some vitamins, such as the B group vitamins and Vitamin C are water soluble and will get washed away along with some other nutrients.  Nutrition loss occurs also by buying precut veggies, or from storing them for too long in the fridge

Nutrition is enhanced by leaving edible skins on vegetables such as carrots, potatoes, zucchini etc.  Minerals are found in the outer leaves, skin, and just below the skin.  Peels are natural barriers that help protect nutritional loss.

Veggies should be cooked in just enough water.  The water has nutrients too and should not be thrown away.  If you must “drain” cooking liquid, freeze it and store it for later use.  Alternately, add it to soups, sauces and gravies.

Vegetables should not be overcooked.  High heat over longer cooking time destroys vitamins and nutrients.

A good way of cooking veggies is to steam them.  Steam kills the enzymes on the exposed surface of food, but the moisture seals and preserves many of the enzymes deep inside where intense surface temperature does not reach.  This also enhances taste.  A wok with a high domed lid is good for retaining steam in the cooking process.

Microwave ovens help to keep vitamin loss to a minimum.

Salt should be added at the end—not only will you add less this way, but vitamins are better preserved

Cooking the right way makes food more digestible.  Cooking makes certain nutrients, particularly carbs and proteins more accessible to the enzymes that break them down into smaller molecules, which can be transported from the digestive tract to the blood stream.  It is important to cook veggies, especially those that have stiff cellulose walls which are difficult for enzymes to penetrate,  Heat and water cause these cells to burst open.

The Chinese ‘stir fry’ method preserves nutrients very well.  The cooking temperature is high, but cooking time is brief.  This prevents evaporation and loss of vital juices and seals the enzymes inside the vegetable.

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Vegetable Broth

Call it broth or stock, the difference is minimal.  What is important is that you create a flavor enhancer to add to soups, stews, casserole dishes, and any other recipes that you want to add further taste to, in place of just water.

Since the vegetables used are cooked over a longer period, some nutrients are lost, but the basic broth does have some nutritional benefits in the form of micronutrients.

Its great for the vegetarian palate as a substitute for chicken or meat broth in a recipe, and thickened with a little corn-starch/tapioca starch can also be used in place of dairy.


  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic (use double the quantity if garlic cloves are very small)
  • 2 leeks, thoroughly washed, white and light green parts only, chopped (use 2 medium onions, chopped, if leeks are not easy to obtain)
  • 2 stalks of celery, chopped
  • 1 small bunch of parsley stems (use cilantro stems if parsley is not available)
  • 6 peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme (optional)
  • 10 cups water.
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt.


In a large saucepan, heat olive oil over medium heat.

  1. Add garlic cloves.
  2. When garlic is slightly browned, add bay leaf and peppercorns
  3. Add leeks / onions.
  4. If using leeks, stir fry to coat with oil, then add carrots, sauté for less than a minute.
  5. When using onions, sauté for a minute or so, or till onions are soft and somewhat golden, then add carrots and sauté a little
  6. Add celery and parsley.
  7. Add cold water and bring to a boil.
  8. Add dried thyme, lower heat and allow broth to simmer for at least half an hour.
  9. Let water reduce to about 7-8 cups. (simmer a little more if required).
  10. When cool, strain and use.

Pour extra broth into ice cube trays and freeze as directed in introductory write up in “Soups” section.

Make into a soup, by adding finely cut vegetables of your choice, along with rice or any other gluten free pasta and boiling till veggies and pasta are cooked.

Thicken with corn starch or tapioca starch as desired.

Add salt and pepper if required.

Variation:  Add a 1/4 cup quinoa to 2 cups broth.

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Salads and sides add variety to our meals.  they add color, texture and freshness to balance meats, pastas, rice and other entrees.

Salads stimulate the appetite and intensify the activities of salivary glands and gastric juices.  They are high in fiber and sweep the colon clean of post digestive debris.

For maximizing on nutrition choose–

  • Loose leaf lettuce such as Romaine and endive, which have more nutrition than the iceberg lettuce.
  • Buy dark green broccoli and deep orange carrots.
  • Buy veggies which are in season, or produce grown locally.  Vegetables and fruits which have travelled long distances and stored for more days tend to diminish in nutritional value.
  • Fresh, frozen veggies are also nutritionally good to use.
  • Avoid leaving cut fruit or vegetables outside or uncovered in the fridge for a long time, as this will destroy vitamins—a slice of cucumber can lose 1/3 of its Vitamin C in just one hour.
  • Wash salads and veggies thoroughly before cutting. A good portion of the water soluble vitamins, namely the B group vitamins and Vitamin C will get washed away along with some other nutrients if cut and then washed. 
  • Raw salads eaten just before a meal do not generally create flatulence as food contains some salt.  In the presence of salt, saliva breaks down the carbs in salads more effectively.

USDA dietary guidelines recommend 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables for children over two.  Barely 15% have this quantity, while half the kids below twelve do not eat any fruit at all on a given day.

What to Avoid

Since we are dealing with multiple allergies, there are certain questionable ingredients that I stay away from–  aged cheeses and mushrooms are high in MSG , honey contains pollens of different kinds and could create a problem, and also sesame seeds which have been identified by the Ministry of Health, Govt. of Canada as a main allergenic food.

In any case, use utmost caution before using any new ingredient.

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Dressings and Dips

A simple vinaigrette dressing is excellent with crunchy leaves. For kids who might find vinegar too tart, there is lemon juice. Vinegar is mostly gluten free, except when derived from barley malt. If malt is derived from any other source, it is usually mentioned on the label.

Some of the dressings available on the shelf might be just fine, but please read every ingredient in detail.

Some quick and simple dressings for (4-6 servings)

Basic Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed or 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 Tablespoons vinegar / lemon juice
  • 2-3 teaspoons sugar
  • Whisk all ingredients, then pour on salad.

Orange Dressing

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • Beat well, using a whisk or fork.

Herb Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons vinegar / lemon juice
  • 3 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon celery salt.
  • Mix and beat well.
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed slightly
  • Dried or fresh, finely chopped herbs of your choice—basil, oregano, thyme, parsley,—just get creative with flavors.

Additional Ideas for that Extra Zing

  • Use lemon or orange zest, berries, cherry tomatoes, grapes, oranges, pineapples—fruits of your choice, with good crunchy lettuce, spinach, arugula and other such green leafy veggies.
  • Vary dressings, garnish with sunflower or pumpkin kernels,serve with cooked meats of your choice, and watch the salads disappear!

Caramelized Sunflower / Pumpkin Kernels

  • For half a cup of kernels, use 3 tablespoons of brown sugar. Roast seeds lightly in a pan, add sugar and continue to roast till sugar caramelizes and forms a rich brown coating on the seeds. Remove from pan and cool before adding to salads. These are wonderful alternatives for nuts. Seeds are also rich in vitamin C.
  • Lightly roasted, roughly crushed flax seeds also create a healthy,nutritious and crunchy topping.


  • Sour cream or thick yogurt is an excellent base for dips. Soft silken tofu or tofutti is a good dairy free alternative. If ready dips on store shelves have dubious additives, get plain sour cream and flavor it with simple ingredients of your choice—finely chopped green onion, dill, cilantro, basil, garlic—the list is endless

Gluten free, Eggless “Mayonnaise”

Mayonnaise is just off the list for most people with allergies. But try this delicious alternative, which is a great substitute for the original.


  • 4 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup milk /soy milk
  • 2 teaspoons corn-starch
  • 3 Tablespoons vinegar/lemon juice,
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon wheat free, gluten free mustard powder or paste
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper to taste.


  1. In a small saucepan, heat 3/4 cup milk.
  2. Mix corn-starch into remaining 1/4 cup milk.
  3. When the milk in the saucepan has almost come to a boil, add the cold milk-corn-starch mixture, stirring continuously till sauce thickens.
  4. Remove from heat.
  5. When sauce has cooled, add remaining ingredients and chill.

Use with potato salad, chicken salad, wheat and gluten free macaroni, and anything else you fancy.

Chef’s tip: Add a dollop of sour cream before using the prepared ‘mayo’.


To one cup gluten and egg free “mayonnaise”, add 1 Tablespoon finely chopped green pepper, 1 Tablespoon very finely chopped green onion, and toss in another Tablespoon of finely chopped olives or pimiento.

You have just created an allergy free Thousand Island-like dressing!

Olive Oil

This is great to use, especially for dairy allergic people. It is high in monounsaturated fatty acids, Omega 6 and the Omega 3 fatty acids. Nutritionists recommend extra virgin olive oil, as the process through which it is obtained ensures retention of maximum nutrients. It has the highest percentage of monounsaturated fatty acids.

Extra virgin olive oil is ideal for salad dressing, while virgin olive oil is good for cooking as it has a higher smoke point.

It is important to store olive oil (and other oils) in dark colored bottles or steel jars. Too much light and air destroys nutrients

Sunflower, Pumpkin and Flax Seeds

These are good sources of Vitamin E Buy kernels, as seeds have a husk like covering which needs to be removed. It is always good to lightly roast sunflower kernels. Pumpkin seeds are high in zinc. they give us essential fatty acids and protein when eaten raw.

Flax seeds are a great source of Omega 3 fatty acids, and are excellent for those who cannot have fish.

Flax meal is convenient to buy, as dehusking and coarse grinding is not necessary. Flax meal is best when lightly roasted and stored in an airtight bottle in the fridge. Flax can turn rancid very quickly.


Make sure that the mustard you buy is gluten free.

American mustard is usually made from white mustard seeds blended with sugar, vinegar and colored with turmeric.

English mustard is also made from white mustard seeds but has a greater pungency. It is sometimes mixed with wheat flour for bulk and has turmeric for color. It is important to watch out for any wheat ingredient before using this mustard.

Dijon mustard is made from husked black mustard seeds blended with wine, salt and spices. It is necessary to find out from the manufacturer whether wheat or gluten ingredients have been used in the wine fermentation process.


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  • 2 pounds chicken leg quarters
  • (I prefer to use skinless chicken to minimize the fat)
  • 2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 medium onion cut into quarters
  • ½ bunch parsley
  • 1 large stalk of celery
  • 6-8 peppercorns
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, peeled and slightly crushed
  • 1 bayleaf
  • 4 cups water


  1. Place chicken quarters in pressure cooker. Add all the other ingredients and water.
  2. Follow manufacturer’s directions to cover, cook and bring to high pressure.
  3. Reduce heat and cook for 20 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat Allow pressure cooker to cool or follow directions for slow release of pressure.
  5. Transfer chicken pieces onto a plate and strain the broth and solids through a sieve into a bowl. Press solids to release any liquid (I prefer to press down on a sieve to obtain maximum liquid)
  6. When chicken has cooled, remove meat from bones. The meat may be used to garnish soups, add to stews, rice etc. But generally meat that cooks for a long time till it is very tender, may lose some of its taste as the juices and goodness have been released into the broth.

Broth can also be made in a large saucepan on a stovetop.

Put in all the ingredients and an extra cup of water. After it comes to a rolling boil, lower heat and cook on low for 35-40 minutes, till the meat is very tender and is partly loosened from the bones.

Chicken broth can be used in many delicious ways

  • Make Chicken Noodle Soup with flat rice noodles and thinly   sliced vegetables of your choice.
  • Make a hearty soup from leftover veggies and,chicken chunks. Add pinto/kidney beans and a handful of cooked pasta or leftover rice.
  • Use broth to add to other soups for enhanced flavor.
  • Use as additional liquid in white sauce.
  • Use in place of any canned soup that a recipe demands—just add a level teaspoonful of corn-starch mixed with cream or water and add to one cup of chicken broth. Bring to a boil till it thickens.

This is a great substitute for canned Cream of Chicken soup required in any recipe.

Fact File

Chicken Soup is the best comfort food ever—both for body and soul! For centuries,much before Grandma’s days, it has been a favorite remedy for colds and asthma. Recent scientific studies support this belief. Chicken soup helps to clear congestion. The blend of nutrients it contains is said to slow down the activity of certain white blood cells, reducing the pain and inflammation which occurs when these cells fight infection, thus relieving cold and flu symptoms. Also the spices in this soup, garlic and pepper for instance, help to clear mucus, make breathing easier, and boost the immune system.

Whatever the factors, chicken soup is delicious, and this basic broth will help you create yummy varieties.

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