Olive Salad

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Olive Salad

I don’t know about you, but fresh salads in the summer are one of my favorite things. Now just because it isn’t that time of year just yet, doesn’t mean I have to live off of “comfy” foods that are usually associated with winter. This salad is super easy to prepare and a favorite of my family. If you’re having a party, the recipe can easily be doubled. Also, I usually slice the olives or even prepare the olive mixture a day before to save myself some time if I’m making a larger salad. It may seem like an unnecessary step, but it really does save time when you’re trying to get ready for a party!  Just do not slice the tomatoes ahead of time as they don’t hold up as well!

 

  • 1 cup pitted green and black olives, halved (or one can of each)
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoons capers, rinsed and drained
  • 2 tsp mince garlic
  • 8 fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2-3 tomatoes
  1. Place balsamic vinegar (or vinaigrette if you don’t want it quite as strong) in a small saucepan over low heat and allow it to reduce by half.
  2. Allow vinegar to cool to room temperature.
  3. Slice olives in half lengthwise.
  4. Combine olives, parsley, capers, garlic, basil, and pepper in a large bowl.
  5. Pour olive oil over olive mixture and toss to coat well.
  6. Slice tomatoes and place on plate, slightly overlapping.
  7. Spoon olive mixture over the tomatoes and drizzle with the balsamic vinegar
  8. Serve immediately

 

 

Roasted Artichoke & Red Pepper Salad

Roasted Artichoke Salad

Roasted Artichoke & Red Pepper Salad

Roasted Artichoke & Red Pepper Salad

Okay- I’ll admit it. I kinda sorta maybe love watching cooking shows on TV. Doesn’t everyone? Ina Garten is one of my favorites to watch because her recipes are pretty simple yet incredibly delicious. (Oh and in case you are confused so far- Ina Garten is otherwise known by the name of her show- Barefoot Contessa.)  The following recipe is based on hers but with a few little twists based on my own family’s taste preferences.  The dressing is yummy and the hardest part the recipe. That being said, I tend to make the dressing the day before just to make my day a little easier if I’m cooking for a large crowd. It saves a ton of time and makes your day easier! Also- the dressing is OMG delicious on its own. My husband likes to take slices of Italian bread and coat it with the dressing before tossing it in the oven for a few minutes. Delish!

Dressing:

  • 1 1/2 minced shallot
  • juice of 1 fresh lemons
  • 1 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2  tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 12 fresh basil leaves
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  1. Place shallot, lemon juice, mustard, vinegar, salt, and pepper in a food processor and process for a few seconds.
  2. Add the basil and process again for an additional 5-10 seconds
  3. Slowly add olive oil while your food processor is running (if you’re using one without a pour lid, just make sure you process the dressing for a few seconds after adding the dressing to mix it well.

Roasted Red peppers

  • 3-4 red peppers
  1. Preheat the oven to 450.
  2. Place red peppers on a sheet pan and place in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until peppers are charred on all sides
  3. Remove from oven and allow to steam. You can place them in a paper bag and seal closed for 10 minutes, or take a large bowl and use it to cover peppers on the counter.
  4. Carefully remove skin from peppers
  5. Slice peppers
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 medium red onion, minced
  • 1tsp minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. In a large bowl, add extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper. mix well
  3. Add artichokes to bowl and toss until well coated.
  4. Place artichokes on a sheet pan and place in the oven for 20 minutes. It is okay if they are touching, but make sure that there is only one layer of artichokes otherwise they will not roast evenly.
  5. Remove from oven and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
  6. Place in a large bowl and toss with dressing to lightly coat artichokes
  7. add red peppers, red onion, parsley, vinegar, and red pepper flakes.
  8. Let dish rest for 20-30 minutes to allow flavors to blend
  9. Serve at room temperature.

Enjoy!

xoxo

Caprese Salad

Caprese Salad

Caprese Salad

One of my friends asked which recipe was my “go-to” side dish when entertaining. She wanted something quick, easy, but that was going to impress her guests.  No problem! This caprese salad has always been a hit. Plus, there’s quick shortcut to this dish that I LOVE LOVE LOVE.

  • 1 container of grape or cherry tomatoes. Both work great!
  • 1 container of mozzarella bocconcini drained.  Just look by the mozzarella in your cheese department for the small balls of mozzarella. They are about 1/2 inch -1 inch round.
  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground pepper
  • 2 tsp chopped thyme
  1. Combine extra virgin olive oil, oregano, parsley, salt, pepper, and thyme in a large bowl. Mix well
  2. Add mozzarella to completely coat. If you have time, allow mixture to marinate for a few hours with mozzarella
  3. Add tomatoes and toss.
  4. Serve immediately.

Okay ready for the easiest version ever? Most places will sell the mozzarella bocconcini already marinated in olive oil with all of these yummy spices. So grab yourself a large bowl. Empty the container of mozzarella and oil into the bowl, add tomatoes, toss gently, and serve. You’re done.

Enjoy!

xoxo

Sweet Irish Soda Bread

Sweet Irish Soda Bread

Sweet Irish Soda Bread

Okay I know it is not St. Paddy’s Day but this is one of my favorite recipes. I decided to make a batch this weekend because we are having a party at our house and wanted to have a homemade “sweets table” for our guests. Of course, I want it all gluten free for two reasons. First, and most importantly, I want to enjoy the treats and not worry about cross contamination! Secondly, I love proving to people that gluten free can be yummy. Now I wouldn’t necessarily do this for just any party, but some of the guests have celiac disease as well so I know that it will be appreciated by them! Oh and just a tip- if you decide to do bulk baking for parties or the holidays- Costco carries Namaste Perfect Blend Gluten Free Flour in HUGE bags. Woohoo!Soda bread is generally a “heavy bread” so this recipe works well gluten free since the flour usually tends to make things a bit heavier.

When you are ready to serve your bread, you can serve it with some butter as well. I usually heat it in the microwave for 10 seconds or so just to warm it up so the butter will melt. Clearly this won’t help your diet or healthy eating lifestyle, but sometimes you need to indulge!

Sweet Irish Soda Bread

  • 5 cups of flour
  • 1 ¼ cup sugar
  • 2 ½ tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • ½ cup butter, softened
  • 2 ½ cups raisins
  • 2 ½ cups buttermilk
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1 large egg
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Butter and flour a large cake pan (I use a large sprinform pan as this recipe is pretty big, but I also use two small cake pans occasionally to make smaller loaves)
  3. In a large bowl, combine your gluten free flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
  4. Add raisins and mix again. This will help break up the raisins a bit so they are not in huge clumps since they tend to stick together.
  5. Add softened butter, eggs, buttermilk, and heavy cream slowly until well incorporated. To make this easier you can mix the wet ingredients together and then slowly pour them into the wet ingredients while mixing. Be careful to not over mix!
  6. Pour into your floured pan.
  7. Bake for 60-75 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean from the center of the loaf. If you made smaller loaves make sure you start checking them around 45 minutes because they will take less time to cook!
  8. Allow the bread to cool for 10-15 minutes before removing from the pan. Ideally you would then let it finish cooling on a wire rack, but I’ll be honest. I tend to dig in right about… NOW.

Enjoy!

xoxo

Gluten free pumpkin pound cake

gluten free pumpkin pound cake

gluten free pumpkin pound cake

If you haven’t figured it out by now, my husband has a bit of a sweet tooth. In fact, he’s pretty much my go-to taste tester for these recipes because he is extremely picky when it comes to gluten free food. Now, a few weeks ago, he had a piece of pumpkin poundcake at his favorite coffee shop and kept talking about it. My mature response? Challenge accepted!

Pumpkin Pound Cake

  • 1 ¾ cups gluten free flour (again, Namaste Perfect Blend has been my go to choice)
  • 1½ cups sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • ¼ tsp cloves
  • ¼ tsp nutmeg
  • ¼ tsp allspice
  • ½ cup vanilla greek yogurt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 egg whites
  • 15oz canned pumpkin
  1. Preheat oven to 350°
  2. In a bowl, combine your dry ingredients.
  3. In a separate large mixing bowl, combine sugar, yogurt, egg whites, and pumpkin.
  4. Slowly mix in the dry ingredients
  5. Pour into a greased loaf pan and bake for 75 minutes. Make sure you double check with a tooth pick! Pound cakes are more dense and can take a bit longer to cook through!
  6. Allow cake to cool completely before coating with glaze.

Glaze

  • 1 egg white
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1-2 tbsp water
  1. Whisk egg white, vanilla, and 1 tbsp water
  2. slowly add powdered sugar to form a glaze. Slowly add the second tbsp of water if your glaze is too thick

Enjoy!

Gluten Free Bride- Having my cake & eating it too!

Okay, so I’ve been MIA lately, but for good reason! My wedding is coming up in just a few weeks and all of the festivities have finally started to come together. Now, I don’t know how many of you are married or engaged, but for those singles out there- take this as a warning- Wedding planning is INSANE! Not only do you have to figure out guest lists, dress shopping, registries, etc., but being a gluten free bride has also come along with some interesting challenges!

Now, I’m not going to get too far into all of the wedding planning craziness in one blog. However, I do want to talk about one huge gluten free obstacle we had to overcome! As anyone with food allergies can imagine, one of the most stressful hurdles to tackle was my gluten free wedding cake. I love my fiancé (if that wasn’t already obvious by his title), but he is not a huge fan of all things gluten free. We wanted the cheesy shot of us cutting our cake together and I didn’t want to “miss out” on this at all (so long as there is no smashing cake in my face). We agreed on a sweets table long ago- so our compromise was a gluten free wedding cake along with additional sheet cakes to be served at the sweets table. The sheet cakes would be all his decision, gluten free or not- hey it’s his wedding too!  Trying to get him to agree on a gluten free cake though was surprisingly easy thanks to finding a gluten free bakery.

So yummy! I would get engaged all over just to do this again!

So yummy! I would get engaged all over just to do this again!

I’m fortunate to live in Chicago where there are plenty of gluten free bakeries around and we found an OUTSTANDING one not too far from our home. Elysia Root Cakes was wonderful to work with. Elysia Root Cakes does not have a retail store and work entirely on specialty cakes. When trying to locate their bakery we may have missed it had it not been for the brightly painted door!. However, when you walk in you are greeted with an incredible display of cakes, pictures of cakes, and aromas to make any diabetic nervous.  For our tasting we were able to request various flavors of cake and frostings which we were then allowed to pair together to “mix and match” to come up with our favorite combination. (In case you are curious, we chose almond, vanilla and chocolate cake along with Bailey’s, Chocolate, Vanilla Bean, and Nutella Buttercream as well as a Chocolate Ganache). Let’s just say my fiance did not want to leave until he ate EVERY bite she had offered us and, trust me, there was plenty!. Surprisingly, we agreed on the same combination and we are super excited (I’ll let you know which combination we chose AFTER our wedding! Don’t want to give too much away just yet!).  I would definitely recommend Elysia Root Cakes to anyone- gluten free or not. She is wonderful and the cakes are delicious. We will definitely be back for our next big party!

Here are some recommendations I have for gluten free wedding cakes and/or alternatives!

  1. Check with your local bakery! You would be surprised to see how many may be able to accommodate gluten free diets!
  2. If a gluten free cake is out of budget (unfortunately they can sometimes be an extra expense on top of an already expensive cake!) check out some gluten free cupcakes.
  3. Compromise! My fiancé loves me and would do just about anything for me. However, I do not expect him to be 100% gluten free and while I would LOVE a gluten free wedding, I have to remember that it is his wedding too. Sweets tables are a great compromise! For ours, we are incorporating a gluten free cake along with his favorite cake (not gluten free!) as well as other sweet treats! Chocolate covered strawberries are always a perfect solution!
  4. Remember it’s not your entire meal! How many gluten free options do you need?!?! Let’s be practical here and not break your budget on sweets! Throw in some yummy candy in decorative bowls and make sure to include your favorite gluten free treats! If you have them wrapped (think mini bars, etc) you don’t have to worry about cross contamination!

xoxo

PS- Ill let you know if anyone notices that it is gluten free!

Gluten Free Shredded Chicken Chili

20140304-135807.jpgChili is a fabulous comfort food, and, if done right, it can be pretty healthy. This recipe does not have a lot of extras and is pretty filling- so long as you don’t add sour cream and cheese to it! I usually make a pretty big batch because it freezes well. If you want, you can allow the chili to cool and store it in small pyrex containers and freeze them in single or double serving sizes! It makes for quick and healthy “frozen dinners.”
  • 16oz can black beans
  • 16oz can kidney beans (use two cans of black beans and two of kidney beans if you want to make a vegetarian chili)
  • 8oz tomato sauce
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 12oz corn
  • 28oz diced tomatoes with chilies
  • 2-3 chopped jalapeno or serrano peppers (depending on your desired level of heat!)
  • 2 tablespoons gluten free taco seasoning (check it out here)
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 32oz boneless chicken breasts
  1. Place chopped onions, peppers, corn, beans, tomatoes, tomato sauce, taco seasoning, chili powder, and beans in a slow cooker and mix thoroughly.
  2. Place chicken breasts on top of mixture and cover pot.
  3. Cook on high for 5-6 hours or until chicken completely cooked.
  4. Remove chicken and shred into bite sized pieces.
  5. Add chicken back into slow cooker and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes to allow chicken to completely marinate.

You can top chili with cilantro, sour cream, or fresh queso fresco! Just be careful because the sour cream and cheese will add a lot of calories to your meal.  If you need to add a bit more bulk to your meal- try serving it on top of some rice! Delicious!

xoxo

Gluten Free Grown-Up Mac & Cheese

gluten free mac and cheeseMac and cheese was one of my favorite things to eat when I was growing up. I have to admit, I was a mac and cheese snob. That powdered cheese didn’t do it for me and I would ONLY eat the ones that came with the premade “gooey” cheese. Yeah- I know. Processed food is horrible, but at that time, I didn’t know any better.  That being said- I’m still a sucker for mac and cheese. Here is the recipe for my favorite homemade version. I refer to it as my “grown up mac and cheese” because of the various types of cheese added to it.  I usually make a little extra cheese when I’m making it and leave it in the refrigerator for a day or so- it’s great on nachos!

  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup gluten free panko OR gluten free breadcrumbs
  • 3 cups milk
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 4 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 cups grated Gruyere
  • 1 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 pound gluten free elbow macaroni
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  1. Preheat overn to 350 degrees
  2. In a small sauce pan, melt 2 tablespoons of butter.
  3. Add gluten free panko (or gluten free breadcrumbs) and coat it butter, cook until slightly browning, then set aside.
  4. Heat milk in a medium saucepan.
  5. In a large skillet, melt 8 tablespoons of butter and, once hot, add flower, stirring until well incorporated (about 1 minute)
  6. Add hot milk into flour-butter mixture. Whisk consistently until the mixture thickens.
  7. Remove from heat and add sea salt, pepper, cayenne pepper, and nutmeg
  8. Add cheddar, gruyere, and parmesan cheese to mixture. Add cheese slowly to allow it to incorporate into sauce.
  9. Boil macaroni according to directions on box. Make sure you stop cooking a few minutes before the recommended time as you want your noodles to be undercooked.
  10. Drain in colander and rinse with cool water.
  11. Add pasta to cheese mixture and place in a casserole dish
  12. Top with buttered panko/breadcrumbs
  13. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees or until slightly browned on top.
  14. Allow to cool slightly before serving.

 

Enjoy!

xoxo

Gluten Free Kitchen Basics

Gluten Free KitchenOne of the biggest challenges and yet by far the best plan for those with celiac disease is keeping a gluten free kitchen. When I lived alone this was not a big deal at all. After my diagnosis I took EVERYTHING out of my cabinets and the refrigerator and did a major overhaul.  I made sure EVERY crumb was picked up when I dusted and wiped the cabinets down as well as when I scrubbed the refrigerator. Who knows what that spill may have been!?!? It took an entire day but it was definitely worth the effort. I gave a ton of food to my parents and then filled my house with only gluten free food. I didn’t have to worry about reading labels once it landed in my cabinet.  It was my safe zone and I loved it.

Then it happened. I had a “serious” boyfriend. He was always over and had a love for snacks. He tried some gluten free cookies and would eat the pasta I would cook, but one day asked if he could leave some of his favorite snacks at my house- pretzels, cookies, etc. So we came up with a great solution, the basket on one of my shelves became the “gluten zone.” Anything containing gluten went into that container. Eventually my boyfriend spent more and more time at my place and that container had to become a small cabinet. No biggie. I just stayed away from there. It worked out great because it was a part of a small island and that became the area he would prepare gluten containing foods as well. It worked great! When we had friends over, all of the gluten food would go there and my counter space was still a gluten free zone. Woohoo!

Gluten free KitchenWell then he moved in. Damn. I had to share my refrigerator. And pots. And Pans. And well- everything. My fear of cross contamination had become my nightmare. My gluten-loving-Italian boyfriend (now fiancé) ruined my system. For the first month had not been so bad. Unfortunately, after that we both became a bit too comfortable and I spent 4 months miserable. We couldn’t figure out what the source until I decided to do another major overhaul of my kitchen. There were breadcrumbs in the butter.  My lettuce managed to get crumbs from his fried chicken (no joke… apparently men don’t cover food, they just toss things in the refrigerator).  It was chaos. Our solution was to go back to label EVERYTHING. Not only was it great for him to remind him of what he had to be careful with, but it was great for our guests as well!

 

 

Here are some of the helpful tips we tried and have really helped:

  1. Label. Label. Label. I purchased “gluten free” labels online and went crazy. Yes you can make them yourself, but these are really cute. I’m sorry. I’m a girl- the prettier the better. Plus, they don’t come off easily and they have even lasted in the dishwasher! Everything in my refrigerator that was gluten free was labeled and placed on a gluten free shelf.
  2. Label condiments and buy two when needed! We have two butter containers and one is labeled gluten free. The reason for doing this is to keep his gluten containing crumbs out of mine! This is especially helpful on those frequently used items!  I put one label on the container itself and one on the lid as well. Not only does this help with quick identification, but it keeps us from mixing them up and putting the wrong lid on the gluten free container. If you put them just on the lids, be careful! If you take the lids off of both the gluten free and gluten containing item you may inadvertently mix them up!
  3. Keep gluten free items on higher shelves. Just in case something spills or isn’t covered adequately, gluten won’t accidentally fall into your gluten free food!
  4. Dedicate a gluten free prep area. No gluten comes into this space. Ever. That being said, I would still wipe it down before cooking just to make sure no crumbs have fallen anywhere. My countertops are gluten free areas but I always wipe them down with a sponge before cooking
  5. That brings us to a gluten free sponge. Yes I have a dishwasher, but I tend to wipe down dishes/pans/etc before putting them in there so I have a gluten free sponge. Sponges can sometimes trap crumbs in the little holes. Your safest bet is to use two separate sponges. Some people color code them so you can remember but we also have a “sponge holder” next to the sink that is labeled gluten free.
  6. Get a second toaster. Crumbs fall and the slots are contaminated if you use gluten free and gluten containing bread in the same toaster. Be safe, get two. We have a tag hanging on the gluten free one as well so no one accidentally grabs the wrong one!
  7. We cook a lot of pasta so we have two colanders (strainers) as well. Those things can be pretty hard to clean with all of the holes so save some time and aggravation and invest in two! Do the same as the toaster and place a tag on it if you can so you know which ones I gluten free!
  8. Invest in a second cutting board. It’s possible to get small amounts of gluten stuck in the “cuts” on the board. They can be hard to remove so I always recommend using two separate cutting boards. Wiping them down does not always do a good enough job.
  9. Using separate baking/cooking equipment. We have designated gluten free pots/pans that are labeled.  It is the same thought process as the cutting board, sometimes things get trapped in small crevices, especially if they are coated pans!
  10. Educate your family. This is especially important when dealing with kids. If you’re living with a gluten free child, those labels make life so much easier for them! They already know what is safe and what isn’t. You may think that you don’t have to worry as much since you are their primary caregiver, but what happens when you’re not home? Grandparents may not be as familiar with their gluten free diet and babysitters may be clueless! This is okay though if things are labeled. They can easily find a snack or meal for them without causing alarm!
  11. Use placemats or at the very least avoid a table cloth. I know it sounds dumb, but using a table cloth can lead to trapped crumbs around your eating area. Unless you are okay with constantly washing it, you may want to skip it if you live with others that are not gluten free. However, if you love your tablecloths, the solution is to use a placemat when eating. This way your area is nice and clean!

Gluten Free Fig Cookies (Cuccidati)

Italian Fig CookiesCuccidati, or fig cookies as they are more often called, are one the popular treats that pop up around the holiday season.  A staple in Sicily, these yummy Christmastime cookies are filled with figs, dates, raisins, and a variety of spices! They are a bit time consuming to make, but worth the effort!

Filling

  • 2 cups dried figs
  • 1 cups dried dates
  • 1 cup raisins
  • ¾ cup chopped almonds
  • ¾ cup chopped walnuts
  • ¾ cup orange marmalade
  • ½ cup honey
  • ¼ cup brandy
  • 1½  tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/4 tsp cloves

Dough

  • 4 cups gluten free flour
  • ¾ cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 large egg
  • ¾ cup milk
  • 1 ½ tbsp. vanilla extract

Icing

  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 egg white
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp water
  1. Finely chop walnuts and almonds using a food processor and place in a large bowel
  2. Remove hard tips from figs and pits from dates
  3. Grind dates, figs, and raisins in the food processor, until well blended. Add to large bowel.
  4. Place marmalade in food processor with honey, brandy, and spices and blend. This will also help chop up the marmalade a it so that it is a smooth consistency. Pour into bowl and mix well. Your mixture should be thick at this point.
  5. Cool for at least 4 hours, or overnight
  6. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  7. Sift flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in a large bowl
  8. Add butter to mixture and blend until well incorporated
  9. Whisk egg, milk and vanilla together then slowly add to dough mixture
  10. Divide dough in 4 sections, making a 18x3in rectangle (I use a pizza cutter to get straight edges once I roll it out. You can make longer rectangles but 12-18 inches is much easier to work with)
  11. Place filling in center of rectangle and roll dough over filling, pinching seam to close completely. Wet you fingers with water to help seal the dough
  12. Roll dough over so that the seam is facing downward, slice into 1 inch sectionsfig cookies
  13. Place on a cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes until golden brown
  14. Allow cookies to completely cool
  15. Whisk together powdered sugar, vanilla, egg white and water. You may need to add additional water if it is too thick. Icing should be easy to spread and drip a bit down the sides of the cookies, but not watery
  16. Apply icing to cookies and decorate with colored sprinkles.

Enjoy!

xoxo