Best of the Web – Mango Avocado Salsa


Back when we were avoiding tomatoes, I stumbled on this gem of a recipe for corn-free and tomato-free salsa. It’s seriously awesome. I brought it to a church baby shower and people asked me for the recipe kind of good. Regular people – people without food allergies!

Use a really ripe mango (here’s how to cut it: http://startcooking.com/blog/217/How-to-Peel-a-Mango) and a fairly ripe avocado. Change up the acid – use lemon juice, lime juice, rice vinegar or whatever else you like. Use a yellow onion if red ones aren’t handy, it really doesn’t matter. I happen to like the flavor of yellow onions better, but red ones are more colorful and attractive in the mix.

Mango Avocado Salsa

1 mango – peeled, seeded and diced

1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced

3/4 cup chopped red onion

1 tablespoon white sugar(you could use your corn-free xylitol here)

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 avocado – peeled, pitted, and diced

1 teaspoon sea salt

Toss together mango, bell pepper, onion, sugar, olive oil, and vinegar in a bowl. Gently fold in diced avocado, and season with sea salt.

Let me know when you try it!



Corn-Free Pasta Sauce


Few images of childhood are as iconic as seeing a toddler’s face smeared with spaghetti sauce. For some time, I thought DS1 was allergic to tomatoes because he seemed to react to them. Then we tried making pasta sauce with corn-free tomato paste (Contadina is generally considered safe for those allergic to corn), and he didn’t react. It turns out that tomatoes (among other fruits and vegetables including bananas) are shipped unripe, and then gassed with ethylene to ripen them. Ethylene gas, naturally, is derived from corn, and so my son was reacting to the corn in the fresh tomatoes I was buying.

Yeah. He had a CORN reaction from eating TOMATOES. Needless to say, I only buy locally-grown, un-gassed tomatoes now. But I digress.

Once I realized that he could safely eat tomato products, we started trying to figure out how to make our own pasta sauce from tomato paste. The hubby has a gift for tweaking seasonings, so this has really been his mission. Here is the result of all his hard work:

Corn-Free Pasta SauceCorn-Free Pasta Sauce (aka Red Sauce)

3 (6 oz.) cans of tomato paste
18 oz. water (see notes below)
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. oregano
½ tsp. thyme
1 tsp. parsley
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
½ tsp. basil
Pepper to taste
1 cup frozen spinach packed (optional)

Empty tomato paste into a medium sized sauce pan.  Fill each can with water and pour into sauce pan, rinsing as much paste into the pan as possible. (*Becki’s note: This means one can of water for each can of paste. Not 3 cans of water for each can of paste. That makes tomato soup, not pasta sauce. Ask me how I know…)

Turn the heat on to low as you add all the remaining ingredients except spinach.  Heat through until sauce starts bubbling, add spinach, and heat through until spinach is cooked.

If you’re dealing with picky eaters, go ahead and blend the mix until smooth.  If not, just enjoy the spinach in the sauce.  Adjust seasonings as needed.

This freezes really well, so go ahead and double (or triple!) the recipe.

It was such a heartwarming moment the first time I saw my one-year-old with a face covered in pasta sauce. I felt like a good mom, doing such awesome things for my little boy. Yup, heartwarming. Right up until I had to start cleaning the red stains off the white kitchen walls.

Friday’s Fab or Fail: Candy! Part 2


With trepidation, I added peppermint flavor to my first batch of xylitol candy.  It was the only flavoring I had on hand, and having “mints” is already an established treat in our home.  Why the trepidation, then?  My middle child – the one who needs the most dental help – dislikes mint.

So I offered the home-made xylitol candy to my oldest first.  If you ever need a cheerleader, someone to lead the charge, a party in a petite package perhaps, then my oldest child is the one you need.  She raved and raved over the xylitol candy and begged for more.  It took my two boys a couple of days to work up the courage to give the candies a try.  Once they did, however, it was clear that corn-free xylitol candy is a resounding success in this home!

My next batch I added orange flavoring to.  And that batch is going even faster!  I must say it is a bit strange to happily give out candy – with no concern over teeth or ruining dinner (xylitol is lower-carb as well).

Fab or Fail: Candy!

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It is no secret that I have a sweet tooth.

Giant Chewy Nerds, made by the Willy Wonka Can...

Giant Chewy Nerds, made by the Willy Wonka Candy Company. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Give me Chewy Runts and I’m a happy girl!  Give me peanut butter cups and I am in heaven.  I am certain my graphics business runs, in part, on sugar.  Yet, it is exceedingly difficult to find corn-free candy.  Corn syrup is the basis of most candies, and even when it’s not, there’s dextrose, corn starch, citric acid and fructose to be concerned with (yes! All these things DO come from corn).  Even more difficult is finding corn-free candy that actually tastes good.  There’s no feeling quite like setting yourself up for disappointment.

Now, pair that up with my goal to Be A Good Mom. You know: don’t rot the kids’ teeth but let them enjoy some sweets in life; don’t poison them but realize their peers get treats and they’ll feel left out.  A tricky line to walk, no doubt about it.  In addition, my middle child has very soft enamel on his teeth and I have to be so, so careful as we’re in a season of life that leaves us with no dental insurance.

Corn-Free Candy Inspiration

As I was researching dental health care on Dr. Ellie’s site, I was reminded of the anti-cavity properties Xylitol has.  Encouraged by Dr. Ellies use of Xylitol mints and gum, I casually wondered (aka googled) if I could make xylitol mints on my own.  As it turns out, Mom’s Frugal blog says I can!  Not only that, but I have oodles of corn-free xylitol on hand, languishing in my pantry – so this will be a no-cost experiment.  Win!

So today, I put together the ingredients, and made a small batch of xylitol mints.  They are cooling right now.  They taste fine to me, and will totally work in my efforts to help the kids’ teeth.  But… will the kids eat them?

Tuesday Tips – Know Your Fats


cooking oilBefore starting on my allergen-free journey, “grease a pan” meant grabbing my trusty can of non-stick spray and giving my pan a squirt. When baking, I just grabbed a cheap bottle of “vegetable oil” and never thought any more about it.  Once I realized that my exclusively breastfed nursling was having allergic symptoms because of my milk, I went on a hard-core elimination diet. At that point my only available oil was olive oil (or so I thought), so I used it for everything. Then I discovered schmaltz –  in my case, rendered chicken fat. A fat that is solid (though soft) at room temperature was great for high-fat baked goods like biscuits and pie crusts. It worked well for greasing pans, too, though it was tough to get enough of the rendered fat for the purpose. And so my study of fat had begun.

I never intended to study fats. I was raised in a culture that believes that all fats are bad, an ultra low-fat diet is the key to weight loss, and animal fats are disgusting.  But when I was on the elimination diet, I lost a lot of weight. So much so that I had what the neurologist called “pressure palsy,” the pins and needles feeling in my arms and legs that happened frequently, without apparent cause. Basically, the fat that cushioned my nerves to protect them was gone, and any pressure, even laying down, would cause pins and needles. I started pouring oils on my food. Olive oil, avocado oil, sunflower oil, coconut oil – I applied all of them liberally to my food to help my weight stabilize. I sautéed, deep fried, and baked high-fat cookies, and the pressure palsy eventually went away (as did my ability to fit into size 2 jeans – I was definitely too thin for my frame).

It turns out that fat is really important. Vitamins A, D, E and K are all fat soluble, meaning that your body needs fat to get these important vitamins. Much neurological tissue is fatty, including the brain, which needs dietary cholesterol to function well. Breastmilk is actually quite high in cholesterol, due to the infant’s need to feed a rapidly growing brain. When eating an over-processed standard American diet, getting plenty of fat is hardly a problem. But when you transition to a whole foods or traditional foods diet, suddenly, getting enough of the right kinds of fat can be a challenge.

Here’s an inventory of the fats in my kitchen now, and how I use them.

Extra Virgin Olive Oil: This oil has a low smoke point*, so it’s best for unheated applications, such as salad dressing, or pouring on a baked potato in place of butter. I admit that I do still cook with olive oil, though I’m trying to move away from it.

Unrefined Coconut Oil: With a medium smoke point*, I occasionally bake with this oil, but we don’t like the flavor much. However, the low melting point of 75 degrees makes this a very unique fat to work with. I’ll put a lump in our hot cereal, or use it as a spread. We also keep of jar of inexpensive refined coconut oil in the bathroom to use as body lotion.

Cultured Goat’s Milk Butter: I make this myself, skimming the cream from goat’s milk that has set for a few days. Because I don’t have much of this, I use it sparingly, usually as a spread. I rarely cook with it, as that would destroy the beneficial probiotic culture, but I will occasionally sauté or bake with it to add flavor.

Palm Shortening: This fat has a higher smoke point*, and is solid at room temperature, making it ideal for greasing muffin tins and making pie crusts. I find, especially at my altitude, that a liquid oil does not work for greasing a baking pan. I either get a fried texture to the edges of my baked goods, or else the oil soaks into the batter and then the food doesn’t release from the pan properly. This fat is also suitable for frying, but it’s pricey.

Beef Tallow: I get beef trimmings for free from our local health food store, and render out the fat myself. This fat has a high smoke point*, and it’s cheap to me, so I use it for frying, especially deep frying French fries.

Chicken Schmaltz: I skim the fat off cooled broth, and collect pan drippings from fried chicken skins. This is a good fat for sautéing meat and veggies.

Of course, there are a bunch of other oils out there to use. Some, like sesame oil, have lovely flavors that enhance your dishes. But at this season in my life, I’m trying to keep it simple, and 6 different kinds of fat is plenty, thank you very much. Your mileage may vary.

* It’s important to know the smoke points of the various fats you use. Overheating your fat breaks it down and releases undesirable free fatty acids. So keep those fatty acids captive, and don’t overheat your fat!

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