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From the GFG archives- a light and fresh quinoa salad recipe just in time for summer. Rumor has it June is just around the corner, Babycakes.

xox Karina

I think it is safe to say- summer is upon us for good. But my winter-stiff body remains unconvinced. She is cranky and unwilling to shed the yearly inertia that descends like a bear with the shrinking daylight come November. And even though my brain is- at long last- flickering awake now that we're well past the Spring Equinox, my taste buds still crave those creamy comfort foods that sustained me (thank you, lovely spuds, lasagna, and mac and cheese, I love you with all my heart).

I am trying to convince myself I'm craving lighter, cleaner tastes.

As inspiration (incentive may be a more accurate word?) I dragged out my warm weather jeans. You know the ones. That mocking stack in the back of the closet you haven't fit into since December 2014, when you began wondering aloud (for the benefit of the fashion police) if the laundromat dryer was shrinking your favorite Levi's- the jeans you have to lay down to zip, doing your best imitation of Jane Fonda's pelvic tilt, sucking in your breath and praying to the zipper gods. You know what I'm talking about.

So here's what I'm thinking.

Quinoa to the rescue.

Like in Quinoa Salad with Pineapple, Broccoli and Mint. Vegan. Versatile. Easy. Fresh. Light. This delectable quinoa salad is all of the above. And maybe, just maybe, it'll be the first step toward fitting into those elusive skinny jeans.

If I care. And if I don't bake my luscious Flourless Chocolate Cake or Dark Chocolate Brownies. Let's see--- skinny jeans vs. cake. Maybe I'll just tuck those suckers right back in the closet. Behind the stack of hats I never wear.

They seemed like a good idea at the time, too.


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Fresh, fast and delicious spring pasta.

Today's recipe is a romantic, sexy spring pasta sauce with balsamic roasted asparagus and tomatoes.

Because it's Monday.

And I am thinking fresh, light, meatless.

SPRING.

Why not?

xox Karina

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Strawberry Moon

From the archives- a Mother's Day recipe idea that you may have missed! xox Karina

The moon rose almost full last night, hanging gold and low above the palm and ficus trees, urging the local beauty factor to give up its pretense of reality and meld with dreamland. The sky was a deep shade of violet with a wash of strawberry pink at the ocean's edge. Santa Monica holds me in her sway. I am in love with her- and deeply grateful to be here, celebrating my first spring in California since the late seventies. I drink the friendly May sea air in gulps. I wander the alleys and sidewalks in a state bordering on bliss, photographing details and eye candy with my iPhone. 

It is a visual feast.

And I am savoring every bite.


Snippets from my neighborhood

Walking the streets with an artist's eye is screwing with time in a Lostian sense. I am reliving art school and aging backwards in a slippery flashback time travel  Back to the Future buoyancy, wandering with a camera, photographing shop windows, pieces of strangers, a red high heel, a cloud shaped like a crow, a chalk mark, an empty cup. Am I nineteen or am I fifty-five?

For the hours I navigate the neighborhood, I am neither.

Age is not relevant in a state of observation and creative response- although I would be lying if I didn't mention a certain advantage advancing age can offer. Being older- without the magnet of estrogen oozing from our pores- renders us invisible. This kind of freedom is not to be taken lightly. Its pleasure needs to be broadcast. Celebrated. Moving through time and space as something other than a trophy, a focus for desire, or a brooding hen is more fun than eating cotton candy barefoot. Nobody notices you. Nobody cares.

For a visual person like me this is heaven. 

Or my idea of heaven, anyway. Which I do not embrace with a literal imposition but grasp lightly with irony and an abstract, low down bare bones trust in the reality of now as we know it, no strings attached. Because heaven?

It's here on Earth.


Roads? Where we're going we don't need--- roads.

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From the archives- a non-dairy cashew based dip and dressing that is simply delicious, vegan, and gluten-free. So. Yay for us. xox Karina

Here in La La Land it's been too hot to cook.

So I've been going raw. Numero uno- it's easy. Numero dos- it's tasty. And as an added bonus (if you need another nudge) cooking raw keeps the kitchen cool as a cucumber- which, by all accounts, is chilly by default, and, well. Cool. As in hip. At least around these hipster parts (it's right up there with gluten-free lately).

I am way past the hipster stage of life, I confess. But I admit I've been flirting with raw cuisine on and off ever since the monkey gut incident. Eating vegan and raw seems to help heal inflammation and tame my irritable, punishing digestion. Unless it's broccoli. Or onion. Or too much raw fruit. I still need to be careful. But eating mostly vegan soothes my pesky symptoms and revitalizes my cranky, creaky body. I am amazed at how much better I feel. Maybe it's all those perky little enzymes.

Now if I could only quell the stress factor.

Good thing I have an iPhone. Iphoneography keeps me sane. It's a way I can paint. Create. Stay engaged. Hopeful. It keeps my spirit fed. And my visually dominant brain happy.

Meanwhile, an iphoneoraphy girl's gotta eat. 

I'll be soaking almonds and cashews for raw recipes. Freezing bananas. And stocking up on lettuce.

So why not try a little un-cooking yourself this summer? This recipe for cashew cream is the perfect place to start. It's versatile and voluptuous. It's vegan and dairy-free.

You'll love it.

So go.

Start soaking, Sugar.



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Fresh. Vegan. Gluten-free.
On my To-Do List for nearly forever has been creating a gluten-free vegan recipe for my favorite childhood birthday treat- a fresh and fragrant orange cake with orange creme frosting. Since it isn't my birthday until June, I decided to experiment with making cupcakes instead of a traditional layer cake. 

You know. Strictly for taste testing. Research. And well.

Orange cupcakes just sounded refreshing.

Sunny and sweet.

I had such a good time in the kitchen this week making these sweet little gems. In fact, I'll be working on more recipes for vegan cupcakes in the near future, including basic vanilla cupcakes, and a few other tasty flavor combos.

Now that I know how easy it is to bake delicious gluten-free vegan cupcakes, the sky's the limit.


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Easy Chicken Chili Time- or in other words- this is the Football Season May Be Officially Over, Babycakes, But Chili Season is Definitely Not post.

So even after watching every episode of Friday Night Lights, football retains a certain mystery to yours truly. A few things I know. Tight ends tighten. Running backs are amazing athletes. Quarterbacks have eagle eyes. And special teams kickers pray to the football gods when called in for a tie breaker with 6 seconds to spare in the final quarter. Do I sound like I know what I am talking about? I don't. I just overheard some manly sporty banter over gluten-free tuna melts. To which I smiled politely. And reached for a pickle.

Back fields in motion. Quarterback interference. Off sides. Snap. Blitz. I love the lingo. It's a language alluringly foreign to me. Like, say, algebra. Or for some, postmodern neo abstract expressionism. Visual chaos executed in angles and arcs and bursts of focus, drive and energy.

Thing is, I get the practiced dance of propulsion. Designing motion from multiple points of view. I get it. In my bones. This is my territory. You're talkin' my language. Value verses tone. Light bumping up against dark. Sharp contrast dissolving into blur. And I appreciate the power of practice, focus, and intention. Negative space divided by a perfect spiral.
Think of the interplay of icing thick paint and oceanic viscosity.  The quickening beauty of a layered surface, vibrating with complementary colors. Transparency and opacity. Cool against warm. Unprimed and primed. Lost and found edges. The seduction of action's evidence. The painter's hand. Rugged tooth and clean, smooth paper.

Though it's not all yin yang, a wrestle of opposites. 

As in football- and life- painting is a locus of expression, sometimes true and authentic, and sometimes disappointingly off the mark. Like a short field goal. Or an incomplete pass. We try. We sometimes miss. But what matters is- we make the effort. And that is all we can do. We kick the ball. We brush wet paint. We string words into a lyric. We stitch a quilt. We photograph a child's curiosity.

We make chili.

And sometimes?

We get a winner.

And if not?

Tomorrow is another day.



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The Mother of Invention.If I call this new gluten-free bread an Irish soda bread, traditionalists will snicker. Raisins are not traditional in a true Irish soda bread, you see. If a soda bread has raisins in it, it's called Spotted Dog over yonder, 'cross the pond in the Emerald Isle (or so I'm told). I never knew this, growing up on the white clapboard wilds of the Connecticut shore. I was blithely ignorant of this quaint canine moniker, despite a hefty streak of familial Irish blood. We ate more pierogi and kielbasa in our culturally eclectic house than Irish soda bread and tea. So my own first home baked Irish soda bread recipe had raisins in it.

And, actually, why not?

When it comes to traditions, I'm the first to admit- I am an upstart. I wiggle and chafe beneath constraint and "should" like an itchy school girl with pinching new shoes. I admire traditions. From afar. At least, in theory. In an abstract, symbolic way. The meaning and the message is more interesting to me than formula. When it comes to formula, I usually prefer to wing it.

Which is why I enjoy gluten-free baking.

My skill set groove runs deep on the intuitive side. If a recipe calls for x amount of flour and I sense the dough is too wet, I'll add more flour until the dough feels "right" to me. Experience helps. No doubt about it. The process of trial and error gives you a feel for gluten-free dough, an inkling about the muffin batter and how it might behave on any given day. Which varies, I hate to tell you.

So I pay attention to elements like humidity, and room temperature. Weather.

Bread dough will behave differently on a hot and humid day than it will on a windy, cold one. Your kitchen changes with the seasons, you know. So recipes may have to change a wee bit, too. The amount of milk or brown rice flour may need to be adjusted. Tweaked a tiny bit toward wet or dry.

Baking gluten-free is more of an art than a science.

I recommend you tune in to your ingredients and learn how they behave. Learn how humidity affects flour- notice it's dampness. Or dryness. Dry flours will soak up more liquid. Damp flours are heavier, and may need less moisture. A cool and drafty kitchen may require a longer rise time than a hot and sultry one. A thin metal bread pan may bake the outside of a loaf faster than the inside can keep up. Your oven may run a tad hotter than you imagined. Or lag behind and never quite pre-heat itself (do your gluten-free baked goods end up gummy in the center?).

Gluten-free baking requires your full attention. A dash of patience. An intimacy with your ingredients. A willingness to adjust. And most of all, developing an intuition you can trust.

Even if it goes against tradition.


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A certain someone in our household has a sweet tooth. And- best of all- he not only likes to eat cake, he likes to bake it, too. Apparently baking can be a form of meditation for some folks- a calming, distracting respite from toiling away in one's head for hours, excavating the various thematic elements underpinning character motivation, conflict and story arcs. All those juicy, gnarly, invisible threads and knots we movie viewers take for granted when we settle in with our gluten-free popcorn to watch a screenplay come to life.

Something I've learned, living with a screenwriter (aside from the fact that baking is therapy)?

Don't judge the script by the movie.

Because chances are the script was good.

Chances are the script was tight and wry and sharp. And moving. And funny. Chances are the script made you leak a well-earned tear. Or two.

Then came the notes.

From the director. From the actor. From the producer. And the producer's girlfriend. Her dentist.

So the script gets whittled. And weakened. And tweaked. Scenes are added to make a character more likeable (How 'bout we give him a dog- or a koi pond?). Then locales get switched (apparently producers believe New Mexican Pueblo humor translates without a glitch to Australia's Gold-Coast). The language once precise gets watered down with unimaginative phrases you've heard before (not every actor can improvise like Robert De Niro I am sorry to tell you).

Sometimes the collaborative magic of film-making works.

And sometimes it doesn't.

And baking ensues.

Lately?

We always have cake in the freezer.



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YES PLEASE.

This award winning budget-friendly vegetarian enchilada recipe is one of those happy accidents that spring from a burst of creative inspiration. I was craving the soft and spicy comfort of enchiladas one windy spring night back in 2003, and I had none of the usual suspects on hand (no chicken, or beef, no pinto beans). But I had one lovely mother of a sweet potato. I had a can of organic black beans in the pantry. Some roasted green chiles. One lonely lime.

And your intrepid Mamacita at large thought, Hmmm. Why not?

Deliciousness ensued.

These wrapped little gems are soft and creamy and a little bit spicy- just like a certain cook, my point-scoring husband wisecracks. It's the yams, I tell him. Er, sweet potato. I can never tell the difference. In the end, it doesn't matter.

What matters is how it tastes.

And Babycakes, these are so very mucho scrumptious. Seriously. I kid you not. Make a batch for a girls' night in, or a laid back Sunday brunch.

Or dazzle your favorite vegetarian on Meatless Monday. Or Super Bowl Sunday!


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Quinoa with a Pilaf Twist. But first, love.
It has occurred to me this week that I lack the sentimentality gene. Don't get me wrong. I enjoy a lively romp down memory lane now and again, just like any crow-footed post-mid-life goddess with a lively past and a healthy sense of curiosity. It's amusing- even illuminating- to look back down the road once in awhile. To catch the rear view. To shuffle through old photographs, to listen to a song that evokes the summer of '69. That night in the back seat at the drive-in. Peter Fonda on the big screen. The bolt of first love.

But I am not wistful or gauzy eyed, thinking about the past. I don't romanticize it. Though I had an awfully good time of it (I admit I embraced my tender freedom with gusto).

What is astonishing to me, hitting me upside the head in a virtual shakabuku, is how good my instinct was, way back then. At the tender age of 15. And 17, come to think of it. I made some pretty fine choices back in the day. My teenage heart seemed to know a thing or two about love. Though my complicated childhood made it inevitable I would eventually feel undeserving, and soon enough gravitate to the familiar territory of exploitation. The roots of self-sabotage are sown in the shadow of the dysfunctional family altar. Just when the individuating soul is awakening, the unconscious rumbles from its slumber of innocence and stirs up the familial ghosts to hook its ugly claim on fate. It whispers, You think you got out free and clear, eh?

Some never pry themselves free. Some simply give in to momentum. Some accept less, willingly, and swell with stoic pride. Some find religion and pray to angels. Some choose work. And some replace love with sentiment. The pale excuse for love. The embroidery of nostalgia and its rose-tinted ribbons, investing in a picture that looks pretty to strangers. It is not perfect, but it looks good.

But that's not love.

Love isn't mediagenic. It's messy and complicated and often the timing sucks. Love asks us to get dirty. To risk authenticity, not sugar-coat its opposite. Love doesn't depend upon perfection. Or what the neighbors think. Love seeds itself in the broken places. It prefers the company of weeds above roses. And love doesn't require being polite, being correct, being right, being the best. Love asks us to hurt. To stretch beyond what is bearable. To feel scared. To lose control. To be ridiculous.

It took me twenty-five years to find it again. That deep, true love. And this time I grabbed it.

And after twenty-five more years, I hold it tight, still. 

So dear reader.

On to pilaf! No rice in sight.


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