Quote Tuesdays

"As I see it, every day you do one of two things: build health or produce disease in yourself." ~ Adelle Davis

This is SO true. Especially for us food-intolerant/allergic people. We have to make the choice, one day at a time, everyday, to build health or produce disease in ourselves. We can eat safe, healthy foods and live well, or we can choose to eat unsafe, unhealthy foods and end up producing disease in our bodies.

I often think about the first 24.5 years of my life spent eating all the wrong things, being in constant pain and discomfort, just generally being unwell. In nearly a year, I've learned more about my food than I ever knew in the first 24.5 and I am so much more aware of my body now - I what I put in it, how it reacts, my energy level ... all of it.

I know I am better without gluten, dairy, soy, walnuts, yeast and pork. I know that though I may crave those foods and still taste them in my mind, that they are poison to my body. So, I make the choice, the commitment - everyday - one day at a time - to be healthy.

Quote Tuesdays

"Tomatoes and oregano make it Italian; wine and tarragon make it French. Sour cream makes it Russian; lemon and cinnamon make it Greek. Soy sauce makes it Chinese; garlic makes it good." ~Alice May Broc

I don't know about you, but when I read that quote, I laughed out loud! In my house, garlic is a requirement in all savory dishes ... almost always accompanied by onions. Hubby often makes fun of me about it. I use minced garlic, granulated garlic, dried garlic, roasted garlic ... garlic anyway I can get it! In soup, stir-fry, casseroles, on veggies, meat, pasta ... garlic anywhere I can use it! In fact, there is only one non-sweet thing that I can think of that I don't like with garlic - Guacamole! I know that it is often sprinkled in there and something about the rich, creamy avocado just does not go with the savory, deep garlic flavor for me.

I remember having a conversation recently with my friend Carrie, aka Ginger Lemon Girl. She named herself that because those were 2 of her favorite flavors. I told her that if I were to do the same, I would have to name myself Garlic Onion Girl ... lol ... which doesn't have quite the same ring!

So ... garlic - love it, hate it? What's your favorite garlicy dish?

Seafood Pasta

Last week, we were given a box of canned goods from someone who was moving. I rummaged through it to find things that would be safe for me to eat. One thing I found was some canned sardines in tomato sauce with red pepper. I have never had them, but hey, it was safe for me, and it was free! I did a quick Google search trying to figure out what to do with them and came up with this recipe. I thought it looked like a good place to start. But, as I was cooking it, it seemed a bit bland for my tastes. So, I doctored it up a bit! Here is what I came up with:

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Seafood Pasta
from Clara, http://sixfoodintolerance.blogspot.com
Makes 4 large servings

Ingredients:
16 ounces brown rice pasta
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 (5.5 ounce) can sardines in tomato sauce with chili, not drained (I used this one)
2 (6.5 ounce) cans minced claims in clam juice (1 drained, 1 not drained)
1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
6 baby Portobello mushrooms, sliced
Lemon juice
2 tsp Italian Seasoning

Directions:
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the pasta, and cook until tender.

While the pasta is cooking, heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, cook for a few minutes until soft, then add the garlic and cook until fragrant.

Add the sardines with their sauce, breaking up the sardines with your spoon a bit. Cook a bit to heat the sardines through.

Drain the diced tomatoes and add them to the pan and the Italian Seasoning.

Drain 1 can of the minced clams - put the clams in a bowl off to the side. With the second can, drain them over the pan, allowing the juice to go into the sauce, add the clams to the same bowl as the other. Do not add the minced clams yet.

Add the sliced mushrooms, stir and reduce heat to low.

Keep on a low simmer until the pasta is ready, allowing the sauce to thicken.

When the pasta is done, drain it and add it to the sauce.

Add the clams and the lemon juice.

Continue cooking just long enough to heat the clams through (if you cook them too long, they'll get chewy/rubbery).

Serve and enjoy!
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This dish turned out pretty tasty. Hubby thought it was a bit too "fishy" but enjoyed it anyway. I think that next time, I will add some fresh basil. I think it would "brighten" the dish and maybe take away some of the fishiness.

The thing I like most about this dish is it is made from things that I can keep in my pantry. I love "pantry" meals because I can keep the ingredients on hand for a long time and just whip the dish up whenever I need it and quickly, too! Pantry food, and meals, have saved our budget lots of times when we were struggling.

Quote Tuesday

"People are like stained-glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within." ~Elisabeth Kubler-Ross

This quote reminds me of a conversation that I had with my Hubby not too long after I was diagnosed with my food allergies. Back then, it was 9 food intolerances - the 6 that I follow now as well as shellfish, cinnamon and caffeine (since then, I have found that shellfish gives me no problems and that I tolerate cinnamon and caffeine fine as long as the doses are small and infrequent).

I had received the diagnoses a week or two prior to February 1st 2008, worked at it a bit and officially started February 1st. It had been a long, rough couple of weeks, but I was working at it. I had a few emotional breakdowns, but I was trying very hard not to let my emotions take over. I was running to every grocery store that I could think of to look for safe foods, I was researching my intolerances online, learning about hidden ingredients, scouring blogs for recipes and just generally trying to grasp all this.

Then, a day or two prior to Valentines day, Hubby came home with a beautiful robin's egg blue bag in his hand. He had gone to Tiffany's! He handed me the bag and told me to open it. I pulled off that satin white ribbon very gently, wanting to savor this moment. When I lifted off the carboard lid, I saw a beautiful lock necklace. He bought me the matching necklace to the lock bracelet that I had received from my Sister a few years prior. I was ecstatic. Hubby has always good with gifts, but we aren't rich or extravagant people, so this gift was a big one! I had been lusting over the matching necklace for a while, but never thought I'd actually get one! I loved it! But that wasn't the most touching part. That was definitely the speech that followed. My sweet Hubby told me that this was not a Valentines gift and I was confused. He said that he had watched me struggle with this new diet (uh ... lifestyle) and with some other medical issues that I had been dealing with for a while. He said that he was really proud of the way that I was handling it all and that through these experiences, he was able to see my inner strength and thought it was so beautiful. He said that he knew what I was going through wasn't easy, but he admired my will to go on and wanted me to know that he loved me no matter what. I was so touched. I felt so appreciated. I was surprised. It was all so moving.

Even now, 10 months later, I cherish that necklace. It is beautiful and perfect (and goes with all sorts of outfits! ;) ). But whenever I look at it, I look past it's physical beauty and remember the significance behind it - what I went through, how far I've come and just how wonderful my Husband is.

Chicken and Spinach Bake

Boy do I love Google!

Last week, I had planned a Chicken Masaman Curry night. Well, when I actually went to make it, I didn't feel like curry! So I check my fridge - I had chicken thighs (that were supposed to go into the curry) and some spinach. I did a quick search (and that's why I love Google!) and I found this recipe. I'll also list it here in case the link dies or doesn't work for you or whatever. Here it is:

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Chicken and Spinach Bake
from Diana Rattray, About.com
Serves 4

Ingredients:
8 to 12 ounces fresh chopped or baby spinach, cleaned
salt and pepper
1/4 cup chicken broth
4 chicken breast halves, boneless, pounded slightly to even thickness
Creole or Cajun seasoning blend or other blend
salt and pepper
1 large tomato, diced
4 green onions, with green, sliced

Preparation:
Heat oven to 350°.

Lightly grease a 9x13-inch baking dish or spray with cooking spray.

Put spinach in the baking dish, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add chicken broth.

Sprinkle chicken with seasoning blend, salt, and pepper; arrange over the spinach.

Sprinkle with the diced tomato and green onion.

Cover the baking dish with foil. Bake for 25 minutes.

Uncover and bake for 10 to 15 minutes longer, or until chicken is cooked through.
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And wouldn't you know, it was delicious! :D I served it with brown rice and it was just lovely! I did make a few changes:
I used chicken thighs instead of breasts, and only 3 as that's all I had
I didn't weigh my spinach - I just used what I had, which was one large bunch
I didn't have green onions, so I used some red onion
I added a clove of garlic, sliced up ... just because I think every savory dish needs some garlic! ;)

I really did like it! It was super quick, easy, healthy, made with ingredients that I usually have on hand, and the best part ... Hubby even liked it! He doesn't really care much for spinach, but ate it anyway! It was sort of matted to the chicken, so he didn't really have a choice, but he said he didn't mind it at all! Whoa! He suggested that next time I use fish instead and I think that's a fabulous idea! I need another way to cook fish! :D

If you can have dairy, I think some feta sprinkled on top and allowed to heat/melt before serving would be just perfect!

Enjoy!

Fried Rice

Today is my Mom's birthday! So, in honor of her birthday, I thought I'd post a recipe that I learned from her. Fried Rice! It was a favorite dish of mine growing up and I ate it a lot when I left the nest. It was a "taste of home" and was pretty easy to make! What I'm about to share is really more of a method than a recipe (as usual!), but that's because I make it so often that I don't measure, also as usual!

Oh, and I should note that I have not made this dish since going soy free. Like I said, I grew up with this, so I'm very used to this dish tasting a certain way. I thought I'd give my taste buds a long break from it before attempting to make it again. Maybe then, they will forget and I'll be able to enjoy a new, soy-free version! And, it's totally possible. Instead of soy, you can use a bit of fish sauce (careful!!! It is extremely potent!), maybe a bit of oyster sauce, or try looking up a recipe for soy-free soy-like sauce. There are several recipes floating around out there consisting of Worcestershire sauce, beef broth, etc.

First things first, it is best to start with cold, hard rice. So, make it the day before and then refrigerate overnight. You can make this dish with fresh rice, but the rice will be a bit mushier/stickier.

Really, the hardest part of fried rice is dicing everything. I usually use shredded carrots, minced garlic, sliced mushrooms, sliced green onions, sliced beef (I use the cheapest I can find, then slice against the grain to make it tender) or you can use ground meat. Oh, and I add egg. You can totally customize this to your liking, leaving out some things, adding anything else you like - diced bell peppers, tomatoes, etc. And, I use a very large wok to cook this, but I think a dutch oven or deep skillet would work, too.

So, to start cooking, put some oil in the pan (vegetable, corn, or some other neutral flavored oil is best here - not olive oil, that's the wrong flavor for what you're doing here - you can even a bit of sesame oil in there - just not too much as it is very potent). When the oil is hot, add garlic. Let it sit for just a few seconds, then add in your meat. Cook until pink in the middle.

Next, add in your rice, stir around until warm. Then, add in your veggies. Stir in. Then, add in your sauces. This can be whatever you have on hand. I used to use soy sauce, a small dash of fish sauce and a mushroom soy sauce - check to make sure it's GF!!!! Most are not. But you can use whatever sauce you can find - a bit of teriyaki is good too. I don't have an exact amount as I've been making it so long, I just eyeball it. But, start small - less is more with soy sauce. And, of course, you can always add more, but not take out. You just want enough to flavor the dish, not to coat the rice or to make the dish soupy. Anyway, stir some more. Add any spices that you want to add. I love garlic, so I usually add a bit of garlic powder and I also add some ground pepper. You probably will not need any salt as the soy sauce is salty enough. Also, this is where many restaurants add in A LOT of butter. Probably like 1/4 cup - seriously. I sometimes add in a tablespoon or so, sometimes none. That's why mine never tastes as good as the restaurants - but is much healthier! ;) If you want that restaurant flavor though, add A LOT of butter and that'll probably do it! Stir some more.

For the egg, I break 1 or 2 into a bowl, scramble it with just a touch of the soy and some garlic powder for flavor.

After the sauce, veggies, rice and meat have all been stirred a bit and allowed to sort of mesh together, make a big well in the middle of the fried rice, exposing the bottom of the pan. Then, pour in the egg. Stir just the egg around (like you would normally scramble it in a pan) until it's about 2/3 cooked, then mix it in with the rice and stir it all around some more (notice a pattern here? ;) ). This is how you get tiny streaks of egg throughout the fried rice rather than chunks of it.

Keep stirring intermittently until the egg is all cooked and everything is mixed well.

Add sesame seeds for garnish, if you'd like.

All done! I promise this sounds like it's hard, but it's not. It just takes some time to prep all the meat and veggies and then everything is sort of layered in when you cook.

Enjoy!

Quote Tuesdays

As a child and a teenager, I was really into reading. Books, magazines, short stories, whatever I could find! Reading was really 2 things to me: 1) A way to get away - to transport myself from my life into something different, new and exciting and 2) Reassuring myself that someone else had been through what I was going through. I guess I figured that if I could find just one other person who got through it alright, then it meant that I would too, eventually.

I especially loved quotes. They really helped me with that whole reassuring bit. I don't know why, but they spoke to me. I guess it's because they were short and to-the-point. I liked them so much that I had this special book and whenever I heard a quote that "spoke" to me, I'd write it down. That book soon turned into 2, which then turned into 3 ... and I think I'm still on that third one! I sort of slowed down in college and only write them in every once in a while now. It's something that I've been meaning to get back to, but life just sort of gets in the way, as I know you understand.

Anyway, as a way to sort of get back into it, and because I think it would be fun to share and discuss, I thought I'd start posting a quote here once a week. And what better day than today? So, introducing ...

Quote Tuesdays! :D

The first one I'm going to share is one that I read somewhere recently that really stuck with me.


"Everything will be all right in the end, if it's not all right, then it's not the end." ~Unknown


Don't we food intolerant people know ALL about that? In the beginning, this new diet ... new lifestyle ... seemed so shocking, overwhelming, difficult and tedious. I was NOT alright. I was totally freaked out, mad, annoyed, confused, frustrated, tired and lost. But, here I am, 10 months later, and I'm alright. I mean, don't get me wrong, I still feel all those same feelings from time to time. But the difference is that now, I know things will be okay, life will go on ... I will survive!

I know it's not the end, in fact, my journey has just begun, but I know that in the end, as now, I'll be alright!

Simple Garlic Asparagus


I made a super quick, easy, healthy and naturally GDSYWP-free side dish this past Thanksgiving that everyone loved! It's so super simple, they didn't believe it! I've been making it for years, but never thought to share it! It's really more of a method than a recipe, but here it is:

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Simple Garlic Asparagus

Ingredients:
1 bunch asparagus
Olive Oil, about 1 tablespoon
1-2 cloves of garlic

Directions:
Take the asparagus and snap off the ends (it will naturally snap where the "woody" part ends) and lay flat onto a baking sheet.

Thinly slice the garlic, place that randomly on top of the asparagus.

Drizzle the asparagus with a bit of olive oil (drizzle with real olive oil, don't use the spray, it will burn the asparagus ... ask me how I know! ;) ).

Place under the broiler until as tender as you like (I like mine with a bit of crunch still, so it only takes around 10 minutes. If you like yours softer, it may take a bit more time).

You could also salt/pepper/spice it, but I love to taste the asparagus, olives and garlic all by themselves.

As a bonus, if you like garlic as much as I do, the garlic will also be sort of roasted and is yummy to eat, too! You can eat it straight with the asparagus (since it has been broiled too, it is pretty mild ... at least to me, it is!), or pull it out and throw it in with mashed potatoes or however else you would normally use roasted garlic!

Enjoy!
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And who knew asparagus was so good for you on top of tasting so yummy? Yeah for good yet tasty foods! :D

Happy Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday - even as a little girl. I always thought Valentines day was silly for kids to celebrate - I thought it should just be for "Mommys and Daddys" (funny how kids think, huh?). The Easter Bunny scared me. Halloween was okay, I didn't like talking to strangers and I don't like spiders. 4th of July was great, except for all those darn mosquitoes that always bit me! My birthday was fun. Christmas was nice, I liked decorating, looking at the Christmas tree and of course getting presents, but I never really looked forward to it.

But Thanksgiving, now that was the best. I loved being surrounded by family and close friends. We got to all just hang out, watch movies, play board games, and just generally enjoy one another. The leaves falling outside and all the decorative pumpkins were so beautiful to look at. The food included all my favorite dishes. And the message was something that I could completely understand and get into - being thankful.

I loved Thanksgiving so much that I tried to make it come twice a year.

Growing up, I used to spend my summers in a tiny town in Minnesota with my Grandparents and Father. Every year, my Grandmother would ask me what I wanted her to make for dinner on my birthday. She said she would make anything that I wanted. Every year, I said the same thing - Thanksgiving food! It's only now, looking back, that I realize just what my poor Grandmother went through just to give me that wonderful meal.

When people think of Minnesota, they mostly think of snow and the super cold winters. Well, you may not realize it, but Minnesota also gets VERY HOT in the summer! It gets majorly humid, hot and muggy ... and there was no central air in my Grandparents house. The only refuge from the heat those summers was to either hide in the underground basement, or to sit out on the screened-in deck with a fan directly on you, being perfectly still. I can only imagine how hard it was for my poor Grandmother to get in front of the oven to bake a turkey for hours and cook a whole huge meal ... just for me. She would gather all my Aunts, Uncles and Cousins and make us all a huge meal that included all my favorites - turkey, mashed potatoes, LOTS of gravy, green beans, lettuce salad and we'd all have birthday cake for dessert. As a child, I really liked and enjoyed the meal and this time together, but as an adult, I am humbled, amazed and especially thankful.

My Grandmother is no longer with us, but I always think of her on my birthday and at Thanksgiving. In my mind, I still can clearly see her standing in front of the oven, sweating way and the stove covered with her beloved cast iron pans and littered with bits of food, gravy and grease.

I also think of year that my stepbrother and his family came up to my Moms house for Thanksgiving - my sister-in-laws stuffing is still the best that I've ever had. I remember the year that my first niece was born - arriving early, just in time to celebrate Thanksgiving with the family. I think of the year that I had Thanksgiving at my house - and made nearly everything from scratch.

I look forward to this year, with my newest little niece and making new, GDSYWP-free, dishes that are sure to become new favorites.

Thanksgiving has always been special to me, and will continue to remain so. It's about all the things that I find wonderful about this world - family, friends, food, kindness, sharing and appreciation.



I'm saddened that Thanksgiving has been squeezed out this year in favor of the store-and-consumer-friendly Christmas season. It seems like Christmas just keeps coming earlier and earlier every year, but even more so this year. Around where I live, Christmas stuff has been out since Halloween - completely skipping one of the most genuine and uniquely-American holidays. I could write on and on here about this subject, but I want to focus on the joys of this occasion besides, I think Andy Rooney summed it up quite nicely on his own.



Please take the time to really enjoy this holiday - to enjoy our food, one another and to be truly grateful for all that we have. I hope that everyone has a beautiful, memorable, wonderful and deliciously safe Thanksgiving.

Glutenized

I got glutenized!

Yup. And it was all my fault. I can admit it. I'm mad at myself, but hey, it happened, I can't take it back, but I can try to learn from it.


So, Hubby and I were having an errand day yesterday. I made a point to eat a large brunch before leaving. I made a point to bring snacks. I was really trying, seriously.

So, we finally get to our final store, Ikea. Hubby spots their Pasta Marinara with Swedish Meatballs and really wants them. He also ate well before leaving, but we had been running around a bit and who knew how long we'd be in Ikea (I tend to get lost in there ... but that's a whole 'nother story!) Anyway, I decide to give in and let him eat there. He hates shopping with me, but does it because he knows that I like to have him there, to chat with, bounce ideas off of, give me his thoughts on items, etc. So, I thought the least I could do for him was to give in and let him eat what he wanted. At first, I wasn't going to eat anything. Everything on the menu looked bad - meatballs would have pork and/or breadcrumbs, the salmon had a glaze on it that was sure to have soy oil or butter in it, and the chicken was breaded. ALL their entree salads had cheese on them. I was just going to sit with Hubby while he ate and wait until I got home to fix myself a safe meal. Good girl!

But then ... ugh ... the fries. I watched them being dropped into the oil, saw where they were placed to drain and serve, I eyed them through the glass - they looked safe. So, I got fries. And, I took Hubby's side salad that came with his meal and put a tad of the safest looking dressing they had - Italian (sure to be filled with soy oil and who-knows-what-else). Oh, and a dark chocolate bar (that was only $0.99! How could I resist? :D)

So, we sit, and I start eating. Uh oh. I detected a grainy, crumbly substance on a few of the fries. I looked at them closer. They weren't dipped in flour, there weren't big chunks of crumblies. It could be salt ... or maybe tiny bits of fries? Even if it was flour, it was only a *little* bit ... I had had little bits of gluten when I've been out before ... and, at this point, I had already paid for them and I wanted them. I am a french fry fiend. They call to me ... I need them. So, I ate them.

Bad move. Bad girl!

Within 5 minutes of eating the dreaded fries, my stomach started rumbling, grumbling and then the sharp pokes started in. It didn't feel good. Within 10 minutes of eating, I started to feel grumpy, annoyed and irritable and felt gassy. Within 15 minutes of consumption, I had to run to the bathroom. Also not good. Within 20 minutes, I was tired and just wanted to go home. I was getting less and less calm/patient and more and more irritated.

So, we get home and I crawl into bed. The house was cold, the bed was warm, I could watch TV and best of all, I could lie down. Within another 20 minutes, I was passed out. But it was weird. Ya know when you take NyQuil's or some other sleep-inducing medicine and sometimes your body falls asleep before your brain does? Ya know how you can't move your arm, leg or other body part, even when you want to? And you're fully awake and aware of things you hear around you and what you're thinking? Well, that's how I felt. My body completely shut-down but my mind was still fully aware. It was a strange sensation.

As though it hasn't been proved enough times already, this is even further evidence that gluten is poison to my body.

The thing that really gets me is how it affects my mood. I mean, making my stomach hurt, making me need to use the restroom, making me sleepy - physical stuff - I can get food doing that to your body, but to affect your state of mind? To me, that is amazing. I mean, I've read plenty about it and have felt it, but each time, I am still amazed. I mean, I feel myself getting more and more irritable and I know, logically, that I'm being unreasonable or irrational, but I still feel the way I feel, ya know? I can't change my mood just by wanting to ... but gluten can change my mood. Just by eating it, I am a different person, someone that I don't like, thinking and acting in ways that I don't want. Seriously? I think that it's pure evil to affect someones mood or behavior against their will. Hubby and I discussed this at length after I woke from my gluten-induced coma. It's just not cool.

Gluten IS Evil!

Do you love your crockpot?


I don't know about you, but I've never really been *in love* with my crockpot. I mean, in theory, it sounds like an awesome thing - a meal that cooks itself, set it and forget it - sounds great, right? Well, it never really worked that way for me. The main factor in this is that between the time it takes to get to/from work, plus the time that I'm at work, I need a recipe that can sit in the crock pot for like 10 hours. That's a lot to expect from any one appliance, and of course, your food. A year or so ago, my Sister and I even tried making one recipe a week each to try out some different recipes and find out which ones could handle our schedules ... yea, that only lasted a few months. Everything we made in there comes out tasteless and boring. And all beef tasted like pot roast, no matter what we put in there! The only recipe that we tried during that time that came out really good was this one.

Well, then came along the Crockpot Lady. She made a New Years Resolution to use the crockpot once a day everyday in 2008. What a daunting task! But boy, do I love her for it! I love how *she* does the testing for me! :D She inspired me to make Smoked Beef Brisket a while back. And lately, she has been inspiring me to make soup in the crockpot! Now, why didn't I think of that? I must confess that I LOVE soup. I'm not sure why, but it's so comforting to me. Hubby on the other hand? Well, he indulges me. But hey, it's a meal that's yummy, hearty and can withstand hours in the crockpot, what more can you ask for?! So far, I have tried her Pasta Fagioli and her Pizza Soup. Both came out beautifully. I think next, I will try her Tomato Soup, subbing coconut or hemp milk for the heavy cream, of course! :D

So, if you don't LOVE your crockpot, try out a soup recipe and see if you get that warm, fuzzy feeling like I did! Yes, Mr. Crockpot, this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship! ;)

Lea &Perrins Worcestershire Sauce


Not all Worcestershire sauces are gluten free, but Lea & Perrins is! Well, at least in the US it is. I've heard that in Canada it has malt vinegar in it. So, as long as you're in the US, feel at ease and reach for that beautifully paper-wrapped goodness! :D

Heinz Ketchup




I remember a few months after I went GDSYWP-free, Hubby and I went to a gluten-free day at my local Roots Market. They had several vendors there giving out free samples and coupons. It was nice to speak with (fairly) educated people about gluten-free foods and we even discovered some new favorite foods. One funny thing happened, though. I was browsing one of the aisles and Hubby called me over to one of the sample booths. He was so excited that one of the vendors was serving french fries with ketchup. His eyes were all wide as he explained to me that this ketchup was gluten free! I ate it, kind of giggled to myself and told him that it was great and all, but good 'ol regular Heinz is gluten free too ... much to the chagrin of the vendor as several people were around at the time. I won't mention the brand name, I really do like that company and the ketchup really tasted fine, but was a bit on the expensive end. Why go to a special store and pay more for an item that I can easily and cheaply find at my regular grocery store, ya know?

So, if you've been buying special, more expensive gluten-free ketchup - there's no need! Plain 'ol, grew-up-with-it Heinz ketchup is gluten-free too! :D

A Well-Stocked Kitchen ...

... does wonders!

I have read in a few places about not knowing what to keep stocked in a food-intolerant-free kitchen (I say kitchen instead of pantry as there are several non-pantry items that I almost always have on hand to be able to whip up a quick meal in minutes). So, I thought I'd post what I personally always keep in-stock - with backups. I'll also link to any blog posts that I have on the items so you'll have my review and probably a link to the product website. I'm sure this list is bound to change with time as I discover new things, so I'll update it. I'll be sure to keep an updated date so you'll know how recent it is! So, here we go ...

Baking Items/Flours:
White Rice Flour
Brown Rice Flour
Sweet Rice Flour
Tapioca Starch
Corn Starch
Xanthum or Gar Gum
Buckwheat Flour
Millet Flour
Sorghum Flour
Flaxseed Meal
Almond Meal
Coconut Flour
GF Oat Flour
GF Rolled Oats
Enjoy Life Chocolate Chips
Slivered/Sliced Almonds
Chopped Pecans
Peanuts
Shredded Coconut
Cocoa Powder
Spectrum Shortening
Baking Powder
Baking Soda

Pantry Items:
Canned Corn
Canned Carrots
Canned Green Beans
Canned Black Beans
Canned Pinto Beans
Canned Garbanzo Beans (also known as Chickpeas)
Diced Tomatoes
Tomato Sauce
Tomato Paste
Tomato Puree
Canned Tuna
Pureed Pumpkin
Canned Minced Clams
Clam Juice
Bushs Vegetarian Baked Beans
Hormel Corned Beef Hash (for a super quick, safe meal in a pinch)
Dinty Moore Beef Stew (ditto)
Orville Redenbachers Natural Popcorn - Simply Salted, 50% Reduced Fat
Masaman and Panang Curry Paste
Kitchen Basics Chicken and Beef Stock
GF Pasta
Jasmine Rice
Smuckers Natural Peanut Butter - Crunchy
Garden of Eden Black Bean Tortilla Chips
Wavy Lays Potato Chips
Sunsweet Cherry Essence Prunes
Stretch Island Fruit Leathers
Amy's Black Bean Vegetable Soup
Cocoa Pebbles, Fruit Pebbles, Rice Chex and/or Trix Cereal
Imagine Brand Soups (mainly creamy tomato and/or creamy mushroom)

Dairy-Like Items:
Hemp-Nut Milk
Almond Milk
Coconut Milk
Coconut Cream
Rice Milk
Yogurt - made with Coconut Milk

Frozen:
Alexia French Fries
Ice Cream - made with Coconut Milk
PJ's Chicken Tamale Meal (for a super quick, safe meal in a pinch)
Ian's Natural Frozen Foods - Popcorn Turkey Corn Dogs, Chicken Nuggets and/or Fish Sticks (Ditto)

Spices:
Adobo Powder
Cinnamon
Cumin
Chili Powder
Dry Mustard
Sesame Seeds
Italian Seasoning
Poultry Seasoning
Cloves
Nutmeg
Ginger
Rosemary
Thyme
Basil
Parsley
Garlic
Onion
Extracts (Vanilla, Coconut, Almond, Peppermint, etc)
Kosher Salt
Finely Ground Sea Salt
Pepper Mill

Condiments/Sauces:
Lemonaise
Heintz Ketchup
Frenches Mustard
Dill Relish
Sweet Relish
Oyster Sauce
Texas Pete Hot Sauce
Texas Pete Cocktail Sauce
Corn Oil
Olive Oil
Grapeseed Oil
Coconut Oil
Liquid Smoke
Goya Marinade
Lemon Juice
Lime Juice
Worcestershire sauce
Sesame Oil, Toasted is preferred

Fresh Produce(of course, some of these vary by season and by what I'm making that week, but these are HEAVILY rotated in my kitchen:
Zucchini
Roma Tomatoes
Lettuce - Romaine or Green Leaf
English Cucumber
Cilantro
Strawberries
Blueberries
Raspberries
Avocados
Bananas
Asparagus
Kale
Spinach
Carrots
Pineapple
Apples
Oranges
Mangoes
Mushrooms

Meats (Ditto Above):
Ground Meat - Beef or Turkey (I don't care for ground chicken)
Bacon - Beef or Turkey
Sausage - Beef, Turkey or Chicken
Eggs
Egg Whites
Lunch meat (usually smoked turkey, occasionally roast beef)
Hormel Turkey Pepperoni

Orville Redenbacher's Natural Gourmet Popping Corn, Simply Salted




Finally! A popcorn that I can actually eat! :D I love popcorn. On a plane, on a train, in a box, with a fox ... hahaha ...

Anyway, like I said, I've always loved popcorn. In fact, it was my go-to snack back on Weight Watchers . But, when I went GDSYWP-free, couldn't find one that was both dairy and soy free. Urg.

Until now! Orville Redenbacher came out with a "Naturals" line of popcorn and their Simply Salted flavor is both dairy and soy free! The ingredients are: Popping Corn, Palm Oil, Salt, Mixed Tocopherols (for Freshness). I'm not exactly sure what a Tocopherol is, but hey, no dairy, no soy, no gluten, (or yeast, walnuts or pork, for that matter! ;) ) so I guess I can't complain too much! And, it's delicious to boot! It's just sweet enough that you don't really miss the butter, but not so greasy to leave that film in your mouth! This is definitely going to become a new constant in my kitchen! :D


EDIT: In my excitement, I forgot to mention that while this is soy protein free, it is not completely soy free. It contains a form of vitamin E called Mixed Tocopherols which is usually derived from soy. As I am only soy protein free, I am able to consume this derivative of soy (as well as soy oil and soy lecithin), but if you are avoiding all soy or are highly allergic, please stay away from this product.

Only You, Fellow Food Intolerant People ...

.. will understand!

So, I was at Costco over the weekend stocking up on canned goods when I decided to go down the spice/baking aisle, just to see what spices they had. I do that from time to time ... how else would I have found my gargantuan container of my beloved Old Bay?! :D

Anyway, I came across a very large bottle of Kirklands (Costco's brand) Bourbon Vanilla Extract (a pint, I think?) for only $6. Whoa! I thought that was a pretty good price (I usually pay around $3 for my small McCormicks bottle). I thought about getting it, but then I figured that it probably wasn't gluten free, and if it was, how would I know since it's usually not labeled. But, I picked it up anyway and turned it around - and you know what? It WAS labeled as Gluten Free! Get out, right! I was SO excited, I called my Hubby and was telling him, but he was just like, "Oh, that's good." He just didn't*really* get it! But I know you guys do!

It looks like people are becoming more and more aware of gluten! :D

My Favorite Salad Dressing

When I first when GDSYWP-free, I was looking high and low for a salad dressing that I could have. ALL of them had soybean oil in them or even wheat (for a thickener, I guess?). Urg. Later, I found plenty of options in my local specialty store but, until I found those, I made my own salad dressing. I had previously had a Cobb salad dressing that I had used a couple times, but not being able to have Cobb Salad, and because it's what I dol, I tweaked it a bit! This is now probably my favorite salad dressing.

It's a mixture of tangy/sweet and just a tad sour. The sesame seeds/oil do give it a bit of an Asian flair (or is it flare?), but it's not too Asian flavored. I usually make up a batch and just keep it in the fridge in a jar. It does tend to separate after a while, but I just shake it up and it's good to go!

-----

Clara’s Salad Dressing

Ingredients:
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
pinch of sugar
pinch of kosher salt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dry mustard powder
1/2 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
1-2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

Directions:
Combine all of the ingredients except the oils in a bowl and whisk together.

Whisk in the oils slowly.

This recipe is highly adaptable. Adjust it to your liking - you can add more/less vinegar for a tang/sour flavor, more/less sugar for a sweeter flavor. Also, toasted sesame oil added a stronger

-----

I just realized that I've never noticed how much this actually makes! Oops ... well, next time I make it, I'll pay attention. If you make it before I do, though, be sure to leave me a comment with approximately how much it made! Thanks!

I hope you enjoy this dressing as much as I do!

An Awesome GDSYWP-Free Sandwich Option!

Last night, I decided to finally try the Savory Waffles from Karina's Kitchen. I found them a while ago and they looked good, but I just never got around to trying them. But boy am I glad that I finally did!

I made these last night and they turned out pretty good! Since I am not Vegan, I decided to use 2 eggs rather than the replacer, and I think that in combination with a few other facts created a more chewy waffle, but it still worked! If I use eggs again next time, I will probably reduce the xanthan gum just to see if that helps a bit. Also, we only have a Belgian waffle maker, so the waffles were more soft/gooey than crispy and were super tall/thick, but the flavor was really good, and they didn't break apart or crumble as I was eating, so I was a SUPER happy camper! I imagine that if/when I toast them, they may be a bit crispier. Yum. I will totally make these again!

So, if you've got the terrible gluten/dairy/soy/yeast intolerant combination like me, you've GOT to try these. They are a quick and easy option and worked perfectly for sandwiches!

Natalie's Black Bean Salsa

Happy Halloween!

I know everyone is probably going to be super busy tonight, so I thought I'd share a recipe that is quick, easy and you probably already have all the ingredients on hand in your pantry!

Over at the Gluten Free Recipe Swap Yahoo Group (I told you that group is wonderful!), Natalie from Creating from Scratch shared this Black Bean Salsa recipe. It sounded super good and I had all the ingredients on hand, so I whipped up a batch. My oh my. Talk about YUMMY! It was so quick, easy, healthy and delish! The only tweaking I did was to add an entire bunch of cilantro (just because I love it so much) and added 2 avocados instead of just 1 (again, because I love it so). Also, be warned, this recipe makes A LOT. Probably fine for a family of 4 or so, but for just Hubby and I, it was a lot. So, I ate it for lunch for a couple of days ... by itself ... with just chips ... yeah, I'm a muncher ... I mean, that's how good and filling it is! Natalie says that she also serves it with chicken or rice to make a meal out of it.

Actually, it's been a few weeks since I made it last ... I think another batch is in order! :D

Clam Chowder from Ginger Lemon Girl

So, I've told you about her cake, yeast-tolerant people rave about her bread, and now, Carries done it again! Ginger Lemon Girl's Clam Chowder is a total winner! It's quick (only takes me about 30 total - prep and cook!), it's filling and it's yummy and I can even make it dairy free! :D

When Carrie posted her newest creation over at the Gluten Free Recipe Swap Yahoo Group, I SO wanted to try it. First let me say that my Hubby LOVES clam chowder, so I have attempted to make two different versions in the past ... both with horrible results - bad flavor, too thin, etc. I was scared to try making it again and dairy free, but I reminded myself that I've been making so many other things that I wasn't sure about that came out just fine.

When I told Hubby what I was going to be making it for dinner that night, he kinda smirked (I'm sure remembered those other yucky batches) and asked, "What's the back up dish?" When I told him that I had faith in *this* recipe because it was was from Carrie, the girl who developed "The" chocolate cake, he said, "Oh, it'll probably be good, then." I only changed 2 things: the recipe called for 6-10 oz of clams, but the cans I found were 6.5 oz and Hubby and I like a lot of clams in there, so I used 2 cans - so 13 oz. Then, for the 1 cup of cream, I used coconut cream (not milk). I thought it was great. Hubby thought it had a bit too much of a coconut flavor (remember that he doesn't like coconuts at all), but that didn't stop him from eating an entire bowl of it! Seriously! I was shocked. He said the first few bites were very coconuty, but after that, it was fine.

The following week, I made it again, this time with hemp milk instead of the coconut cream to see what the difference would be. I think it was definitely less rich with the hemp milk, which I expected, but also less creamy , which sort of surprised me because I think hemp milk is pretty darn creamy. And, the chowder needed a bit more cornstarch to thicken it up, but then, I like my chowder pretty thick. Anyway, Hubby liked that the second batch didn't have a coconuty flavor and said he prefered the hemp milk version over the coconut cream one, and of course, I prefered the coconut cream one! Maybe next time I'll try a hybrid of the coconut cream and the hemp milk. It's all in the tinkering, I guess.

You should absolutely give this recipe a try, and when you do, be sure to leave Carrie a comment - tell her Clara sent you! :D

ANOTHER Best GDSYWP-free Bread. Ever.

Uh oh ... okay, maybe I should stop using that whole "Best Ever" thing ... hahaha.

"The Best GDSYWP-free Bread. Ever." that I wrote about before now has a new contender. Gluten Free in the Country's Buckwheat Applesauce Bread.

This bread is not only tasty, but has a wonderful texture. I think the winning ingredient is the addition of gelatin. Now why didn't I think of that? It adds a nice "spring" to the bread that is usually found with yeast. I have tried this bread three times now - twice as-is, and once with sorghum flour in place of the buckwheat (just for a different flavor because I didn't like the buckwheat taste with peanut butter ... ick!). Both times, the loaf came out beautifully. Next time, I think I will try millet instead of buckwheat for yet another flavor.

If you try it, please let me and Debbie over at Gluten Free in the Country know what you think! :D

The Best GDSYWP-free Chocolate Cake. Ever.

Seriously. EVERYONE loves This Everyday Chocolate Cake from Ginger Lemon Girl.

It is super moist, rich and lovely. It's not too hard to whip together, and doesn't have any real exotic ingredients. I make mine with hemp milk, grapeseed oil and eat it with no frosting, sometimes adding in chocolate chips, and it's awesome.

I've given it to like 6 non-allergen people who all loved it. Hubby likes it so much that he requested that I make it for an office party he had to bring a dessert to a while back. Yup, he requested a GDSYWP-free cake, he didn't buy one, he didn't request I make a "normal" cake, nope, he wanted this one! That should proved just how good it is! Give it a try today, you won't regret it! :D

Chocolate Chips from Enjoy Life



These are the chocolate chips that I LIVE by. I won't use anything else. Why not? Well, who else has "gluten, dairy and soy free" labeled right there on the front of the package? hhhmmm, who else?

Yup. No one. Except Enjoy Life! I trust the brand and they're delicious! What more could you ask for?

Try them in this recipe, in place of the raisins. You won't be disappointed! :D

Easy Light Cassoulet

I haven't posted a recipe in a while, huh? Well, now's as good of a time as any!

I'm not sure where I got this recipe. Maybe Weight Watchers? I don't know ... but, if it's your recipe, leave me a comment and I will promptly give you credit!

Easy Light Cassoulet
Serves 6-8 people and is a one dish meal

Ingredients:
2-1/4 cup parsnips, thinly sliced (can also use potatoes or carrots)
1-1/2 cup celery diced, including tops
1 cup onion diced
1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 tsp sea salt
8 oz lean ground meat (I use turkey)
2 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup red wine or port (can replace with stock)
28oz can peeled Italian-style tomatoes
19oz can Cannellini beans, drained & rinsed
1 tbsp Herbes de Provence or Italian herbs
3/4 cup GF bread crumbs (can just skip this)

Directions:
Saute' parsnips, celery and onions with olive oil and salt on medium heat until the vegetables begin to soften.

Add the meat and continue to saute' until the meatis well browned and the onions are translucent.

Deglaze the pan with red wine being sure to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

Add the chicken stock and tomatoes.

If the tomatoes are whole, break them into small pieces using a spoon or spatula.

Add the beans and herbs and slowly bring to a simmer.

Simmer for 20 minutes, or until the liquid has reduced by 2/3.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Transfer mixture to a large casserole (you can skip this step if you started with a dutch/french oven instead of a sautee pan) and top with bread crumbs, if using.

Bake for 35-50 minutes or until mixture is thick and bubbly and the bread crumbs are a deep golden brown.

A Bit About Curry

I've come to realize that there are a lot of misunderstandings about curry and thought I'd take a quick moment to explain a little bit of what I know.

I have found that when people think of Curry, most people usually think of one of two things: SPICY hot or the flavor of curry powder. However, neither is always true.

Think of Curry as we Americans think of the dish Chili - there is a spice chili powder, but not every chili dish recipe contains chili powder, and not every dish of Chili is the same - everyone has their own recipe and no two are exactly alike. Some use tomatoes, some don't, some have kidney beans, others pinto or black, some are spicy, some are sweet ... you get the idea.

So, like the dish Chili, the dish Curry doesn't have to contain the ingredient known as curry powder and there is a HUGE variety of types. First of all, there are many different countries that make their curries - Africa, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Nepal and Pakistan - just to name a few. Each of those countries have their own ways of preparing curries, what they're served with (rice, cous cous, wheat) and what goes into them - which vegetables, meat, etc. Indian curries are different from Thai curries, which are different from African curries, etc. Furthermore, within a country, there can be several different types of curries. For example, in Thailand, there three main types: green, yellow and red, but there are several different types even within that! How do they get so many different kinds? Well, like I said, the dish Curry does not have to contain the spice curry. The dish Curry can contain many different spices - cinnamon, ginger, garlic, nutmeg, cardamom, tamarind, red pepper, bell peppers, etc and can be made with water, goats milk, cows milk, coconut milk, etc. Some are very spicy, some are more sweet, some are bland. Some have vegetables, some have nuts, some have meat ... you get the idea.

Anyway, so now you know there are a bajillon diffierent curries. Even if you think you don't like curry - I'd say give it a shot. Try one of a different color or a type from a different country. You'd be surprised at the vast differences.

So, today my focus will be on my two favorite types of Curry, the ones I grew up on and know the most about. Obviosuly, having a Thai mother, they are both Thai Curries, Masaman and Panang.

Masaman is usually the curry that I give to people who say they don't like curry or to people who have never tried it. Masaman is a mild, sweet yellow curry. The ingredients for the paste include cinnamon, bay leaves, cardamom and tamarind. You could buy all the ingredients separately and mix them up to make your own paste, but in the interest of saving time and room in my spice cabinet, I simply buy this paste. Then, to make it, all you have to do is mix the paste with coconut milk. I always use this one. What's nice about this is you can totally adjust it to your tastes - start with the amount of coconut milk and water that the can instructs, then taste a tiny bit of it. Should it be too spicy, just add more coconut milk. And, if you're worried about all the saturated fat in coconut milk, you could even add in cows milk, rice milk, almond, hemp, etc here, but be care not to add too much other milk as it will then throw off the flavor. In the end, you still want to taste all the masaman spices with a sweet, rich creamy finish from the coconut milk. Anyway, once the milk and paste have combined to your liking, and has come to a boil, you add your other ingredients. Traditionally, it is made with beef or chicken, potatoes, onions and peanuts, but you can really throw in whatever you like and have on hand. I usually throw in some carrots just to get in some veggies. Oh, and if you're using chicken, I would go with dark meats - thighs or even whole drumsticks - because the simmering tends to dry out breasts and other white meat. Anyway, once you dump in all that, just let it simmer until all your veggies/meat are done, then serve it over rice (particuarily jasmine rice)! Yum Yum.

Panang is made another sweeter, milder curry (milder than most, but usually spicier than masaman), from the red type. It is flavored with dried chillies, galangal, lemongrass, coriander, cumin, garlic and shallots. I use this one. It's made pretty much the same way as I listed for masaman, except traditionally, it's filled with just meat (usually beef) - no veggies. So, just the meat and curry over rice.

Anyway, I hope that I've helped you understand curry a bit more, and hopefully encouraged you to give a new type a try! :D

Gluten Free Nutty Maple Cranberry Granola from Bakery On Main

Bakery On Main makes 5 different flavors of gluten free granola. I can only have 1 though, the Nutty Cranberry Maple Granola, because all the other flavors have walnuts in them. If you try the other flavors, be sure to leave a comment for other people who might be reading this that can have walnuts and let them know how it tastes! Oh, be careful when you go to find/purchase these, Bakery On Main also make non-gluten free (or glutenful!) granolas. Make sure your buying the right one. Both have the same type of packaging, but ours has a nice, big "Gluten Free" on the front, right under their name.

So, my thoughts on this product? This is a GREAT on-the-go snack. I usually just eat it by the handfuls, by itself, on the run. Or, sometimes, I eat it for breakfast and throw some in my yogurt. I could probably eat it as a cereal, too, and just throw it and some milk in a bowl, but I haven't tried that yet. The only thing I'm not crazy about is that I'm not much of a cranberry person, as I find that they are too tangy for me. I do make myself eat some since I know they're good for me, but I do pick out some and throw them away. If only they would come out with another flavor without the cranberrys and without walnuts (Bakery On Main, are you listening?) :D

Hormel's Turkey Pepperoni


Again, before I was GDSYWP-free, but post Weight Watchers, I loved this product. I never miss "real" pepperoni when I'm eating this, really I don't. It's just that good. Even my Hubby, who loves "real" pepperoni enjoys this. Maybe not as much as I do, but he doesn't complain, so I guess it's good enough! :D

Since I can't have cheese (no dairy or soy), I don't eat it on pizza anymore, but I do enjoy it many other ways. I eat this pepperoni on crackers, on sandwiches, in soup, on salads, etc. It is so tasty, but without all that pesky fat.

And now, being allergen concious, I especially love this product because it is clearly listed as gluten free! :D Hormel is wonderfully allergen aware. They clearly list the top 8 allergens:

Peanuts
Tree Nuts
Milk Products
Eggs
Soy
Wheat
Crustaceans
Fish

Boy do I love it when companies are not all secretive and mysterious with their ingredients! It makes life SO much easier!

Another Constant: Vegetarian Bush's Baked Beans



Before going GDSYWP-free, even before Weight Watchers, I have loved this product.

I've never understood why baked beans always have to have ham or bacon in them. Growing up in the South, it's like a requirement for beans of any type (green beans, baked beans, etc) to have some sort of pork product in them. Ick. I've never been a fan. I like my baked beans sans pork. Always have. (Sorry, that all came off a bit strong - no offense to those who DO like pork with their beans! hehe)

That's why I love Bush's Vegetarian Baked Beans. No pork, not too sweet and the beans aren't to mushy. Just right. Yum.

And, what I love even more, is that these are gluten and dairy free, as confirmed by their website, and even kosher!

Hubby and I eat these with hot dogs, hamburgers, steak, chicken ... everything!

No really, everything. I'll prove it. I eat them in the morning ... for breakfast ... with toast and over easy eggs. Yes, I do. Apparently, it's an Australian thing. I picked it up from my Australian Step-Dad ... boy is it GOOD! The richness of the runny egg yolk with the subtle sweetness of the baked beans with the crunch of the toast. Uh ... I'm drooling now. Anyway, you really have to try it. I know you think it's gross, but really, try it ... at least once. You'll be hooked!

Natural Peanut Butter by Smuckers


This is my peanut butter of choice. Has been for years ... pre-GDSYWP-free, even pre-Weight-Watchers. And now, I love it even more. You know what's in the ingredients? Peanuts and ... salt. That's it. Yup. Seriously. No oils, sugars, sweeteners, etc. Just plain 'ol nuts and salt. Can't get any simplier than that! It's so simply, wonderfully delicious!

Oh, and just a heads-up. If you haven't had an all-natural peanut butter before, when you open this jar, you'll see a huge pool of oil on top and then a peanut butter substance underneath. This is normal. Just shove a butter knife in there a few times, then start mixing and swirling around. The oil on top is the separated peanut oil from the solid peanut stuff. It will take a few minutes and some elbow grease at first, but this is a one-time thing. You shouldn't have too much mixing to do after that. The first time I saw this, I dumped the oil out and used the crumbly peanut-butter-like substance on the bottom. This is NOT good. Hahaha. It was NOT spreadable at all. So, learn from my mistake! Just mix it all up real good and you'll love it! :D

Avocados


Growing up with a Thai mom, I never ate avocados. I mean, it's not like they are called for much in Asian cooking. I never ate them, so I never liked them. I also hated guacamole.

But then, I married a Mexican man. He loves avocados, so I decided to give them another try ... by itself, just a small slice. Whoa! Delicious! Buttery, rich, creamy - wonderful! I ate them by themselves, over tacos, over soup, in salads, yum, yum, yum! Then I attempted guacamole ... and it was good! I realized that all the other guacamole that I had before had 4 main faults (at least for me): too much garlic, not enough cilantro, not enough lime juice and they were too dry/pasty (probably from the lack of lime juice!). So, over time, I perfected my own guacamole recipe, and I'm here to share it with you today. I'm so glad that it is naturally GDSYWP free! And, it's just so naturally simple! Oh, I will apologize in advance: I do not measure, and have made this recipe a million times, so I just sort of know what "feels" like the right amount ... although I still tend to put in too much lime juice from time to time ... weird? Anyway, here we go:

2 ripe avocados
1/2 - 3/4 onion (depending on your tastes), finely diced (in my order of preference: red, then Vidalia, then sweet yellow)
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
pinch of kosher salt
dash of granulated garlic (actual garlic provide a flavor that is too strong for me)
dash of adobo powder (be very careful with this - it is quite strong and salty)
splash or two of lime juice

I usually throw everything in, then mash it together. When it's done separately, I don't think the flavors mesh as well. Usually, I try not to mash everything super well. I like my guacamole to be a bit chunky. Note that there are no tomatoes in my guacamole. I don't like them in there. I think it takes away from the flavor and messes with the creamy texture. But, if you like them, just fold them in after everything is mashed! Oh, and if you can have dairy, it is really delicious if you add a couple spoonfuls of sour cream and mix it in!

I always serve this guacamole with My Tacos and love it as a dip for these chips.

Other things that I love to do with avocado:
Slicing it up and eating it alone with a dash of salt
Slicing avocado onto any sandwich
Or, over any salad ... especially:
Cobb Salad (obviously leaving out the cheese and subbing turkey or beef bacon for pork bacon)
Mexican Poached Eggs over Polenta with Tomatillo-Avocado Salsa from Weight Watchers

Another Constant: Garden of Eatin' Black Bean Tortilla Chips



I discovered these chips back when I was on Weight Watchers. They had a decent amount of fiber in them, so they were lower points than some of the other tortilla chip options. They are still a constant in my kitchen though. I love them! They are flavorful, stay nice and crunchy and are sturdy enough for my dips. They're great with soup, with sandwiches, with salsa (of course), alone, or with my yummy guacamole (I will share the recipe to that with you tomorrow!).

A Constant: Chicken (or Beef, Vegetable, Turkey, etc.) Stock by Kitchen Basics


Even before going GDSYWP free, Kitchen Basics was my favorite stock brand. Now, knowing what I do about ingredients and the useless stuff companies add to their processed foods, I love this stuff even more! It is not only a constant in my kitchen, but a MUST. It is not unusual for me to buy 2-3 of these at a time. My favorite is the chicken stock (mostly for its versatility), but the others are tasty, too. If I can't find this brand, I go without, that's just how awesome it is!

On their website, as of today, Kitchen Basics says that their "formula contains NO *milk, *eggs, *peanuts,*glutens (wheat, oats, rye, barley), soy, tree nuts, fish, shellfish or corn. We test for cross contamination of peanuts, milk, eggs & glutens at 5 parts per million in all production runs."

Woo hoo ... just plain 'ole delicious stock here, naturally GDSYWP free! This will continue to be a MUST in my kitchen!

Kale

,
When I went GDSYWP-free, I knew that I would need to branch out my fruit and veggie repertoire. So far, I haven't done so ... until recently!

I am becoming friends with Kale. Kale is a beautifully dark green, leafy form of cabbage. It is low in calories and high in vitamins. You can read more about Kale here and here.


With kale, I tried:
Sauteing it with onions and garlic as a side dish. I added a splash of chicken stock and it turned out yummy!

I had some of the sauteed kale left over, so I added it to an omelet along with onions, tomatoes and mushrooms - it was great!

I also added raw kale to my Tweaked Spanish Rice, sauteed it with the rice, then added the boiling water on top, letting the kale simmer with the rice ... not so great. The kale totally took over the flavor. It was edible, but not wonderful. I finished the left overs, but Hubby avoided it like the plague.

Then, I decided to try Gluten Free Mommy's Pesto Penne with Kale, Bacon and Mushrooms
I used freshly made pesto sauce and beef bacon. This recipe was YUMMY. My only complaint was that the recipe called for 2 cups of chicken stock and by the end of my 10 minute simmering, I still had a good cup or more of liquid. I used a wok (the largest pan I have to accommodate all the kale before it cooked down), so maybe that's why? It still tasted good, I just used a slotted spoon to pull the mushrooms and kale out to put on top of my noodles, but next time I won't use as much liquid. If you can have cheese, I think that would have really made this dish pop. I can just imagine it with some yummy Parmesan or Feta ... but that's all I'll get to do - imagine!

Next time, I'm going to try Kale this way.

My New Favorite Milk


This is seriously my new favorite milk. It is the closest thing to cows milk that I've had so far. And, I've tried SEVERAL brands of rice milk, almond milk and even oat milk (which, by the way, is NOT labeled gluten free ... so decide for yourself if it is worth trying). Out of all of the ones I've had so far, this is better by leaps and bounds! It is SO creamy, it has a nice neutral flavor and has so far, worked well in everything I've tried it in.

As if that wasn't enough, Living Harvest labels it as Gluten, Dairy, Soy, Nut, Trans-fat, GMO and Cholestrol free. It's even Kosher and Vegan! But wait, there's more! If you order now ... wait, uh ... I mean, it's also high in protein, Omega 3s and 6s and calcium. Yes, for us dairy-free people, that elusive calcium. 1 cup of Living Harvest brand Vanilla Hemp Milk has 40% of our daily value of calcium. 1 cup of cows milk (depending on the type - whole, 2%, skim, etc), has between 25%-35% ... hemp milk wins out! Oh, and that Vitamin D that everyone says has to be with the calcium in order for us to absorb and use the calcium properly, well cows milk has between 20% and 25% of the daily value, and Living Harvest brand Vanilla Hemp Milk is right in there - with 20%.

So, to me, Hemp Milk is now my new milk of choice. It tastes great and compares to or exceeds all the nutrients/vitamins of cows milk!


Oh, and one final note. When I've talked to people about Hemp Milk, they always ask me if they could get high off of it or if it's a version of marijuana or something like that. Um, NO! Come on people, what kind of person do you take me for? I have never done drugs of any kind and don't intend to start! Wikipedia gives a nice description of the difference between hemp seeds for consumption and the illegal drug marijuana in their article found here.

And, directly from Living Harvests website:
"... While Hemp and marijuana are both varieties of cannabis sativa L, hemp is grown for food and fiber, and contains only trace amounts of THC (delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol), the psycho-active component of marijuana ..."

So, what are you waiting for? Give Hemp milk a try (oh, and of course report back and let me know what you think)! :D

MOSTLY Dairy and Soy Free Butters

When I first found out that I was both dairy AND soy free, my first thought was "buh bye yummy, delicious, beloved cheese" ... then, "uh oh, ice cream" (because Hubby LOVES ice cream) ... then, "ohmigosh! butter!" How will I eat baked potatoes with no sour cream OR butter? And how will I bake? What about adding just the tiniest dab to my grits? It was then that I realized just how hard life was going to be for a while ... but all is not lost! One can be both dairy AND soy free and still survive ... with or without butter, ice cream and cheese.

So, when I first started looking, I immediately went to my local Roots Market. Being a specialty/gourmet food grocery store, I just knew that they would have something for me ... uh, or not. There was plenty of dairy free, but everything had soy ... soy lectin, soy oil, soy protein! What do the butter Gods have against me? Against all us dairy and soy free people? For the next couple of months, I searched high and low in every grocery store I could find. I went into grocery stores I had never been to before, went down streets I had never even seen before - all in search of butter. Well, at one local grocery store, Magruders, I found this:


This stuff is totally dairy and soy free. I was SO excited. I rushed home and made baked potatoes that night ... seriously! I was so thrilled and I got to end my tireless search for butter ... or so I thought.

Although I am very happy and so thankful to have this product, it does have it's limitations. First off, it is not recommended for frying or for baking ... urg. Back to my baking problem. I think it's because it is just so liquidy - it does not melt and does not really spread all that well. But, it is great on baked potatoes, bread, corn, and the like.

But, I was still out to find a replacement for my baking. I mean sure, I could replace butter in baking with applesauce, palm oil or coconut oil, but what if I wanted that "buttery" flavor in my muffins or cake? I needed butter!

So, then I decided to try this:

I found this at Trader Joes. But, it is NOT COMPLETELY DAIRY AND SOY FREE. It contains a soy protein and it's natural flavoring contains some milk derivative. But, I figured I'd use it VERY little and give it a try. Over a couple of months, I used it in baking, on bread, and on baked potatoes. Hubby and I both liked the flavor, it melted well and worked beautifully in my baking. Another great thing? I haven't had an adverse reaction ... so far.

But, I know that even if I don't feel anything, it still could be hurting my body. So, I continued my search. And found this:

This time, totally dairy free, but still NOT SOY FREE. It contains Soy Protein Isolate and a Soy-Based Natural Butter Flavor. But hey, I tried the Canoleo, so I figured I'd give this a try, too.

Oh my ... it was too bad to even describe here ... but I'll try. First off, the flavor was TERRIBLE. It seriously tasted like it had gone bad. It was sour and bitter ... but the expiration date was many months away, so I can only figure that that is how it was *supposed* to taste. Ick. Second, the texture was even worse! It was foamy, but thick. Kind of like marshmallow creme/fluff, but denser. And, when pressed down upon, it sprung back! SO NOT butter. I tried it on bread and then considered using it in baking ... but was afraid it would contaminate an entire batch of muffins or cookies or cake ... so, it sits ... still ... in my fridge.

So, more research ...

After doing a lot of reading online about dairy and soy free butter alternatives, I kept seeing one name popping up, again and again:



Everyone raved about it's delicious flavor, perfect texture, ability to both melt and bake ... all while being both dairy AND soy free! Woo hoo! It seemed like the perfect solution ... if I could find it! I literally searched for months, re-combing all those grocery stores that I searched to find Smart Squeeze. I was just having NO luck. I had heard that Wegmans, a local grocery store carried this product, so I drove out to the closest one to me (30 minutes away). No such luck. I was so disappointed. Then, Wegmans decided to allow you to put together an online grocery shopping list, therefore listing what products were carried and which stores! Great! Just find out where they carry this butter ... urg. The closest one was an hour away, but luckily, not too far from my Sister's house. So, the next time I went out there, I went out of my way to get it. Yeah! And only $1.99 for 1 pound of butter in 2 adorable little blue-lidding containers? Please, hop in my cart!

I brought it home, I had it on bread, I baked with it (no baked potatoes this time) ... YUM-O! Yeah! Then, Hubby wondered what was in it if it was both dairy and soy free but tasted so wonderful. So, I flipped over the package ... and saw the dreaded "Contains: Soy" in bold red letters at the bottom of the ingredients list. Huh? This is NOT SOY FREE? Everyone had raved, everyone agreed (okay, everyone being total strangers on the internet). So, I read around some more, and apparently this was a recent change. What?! Urg ... ick ... ah!

So, I'm back to my wonderful but limited Smart Squeeze ... with small amount of Fleishmann's being used in baking and other areas that the Smart Squeeze just doesn't cut it.

And the search continues ...

I'm a Quirky Eater

I'm a picky eater. There. I've said it. I embrace it ... sort of.

I mean aside from being GDSYWP-free, I pretty much always have been. I just didn't want to admit it. "But, I'll try anything once!," which was true, but that doesn't make me any less picky about my food! Of course, once I went GDSYWP-free, I guess I had to learn to embrace that I'm now not only picky, but VERY picky ... and difficult to feed ... for most processed-food-loving-Americans.

I'm a ... picky ... eater ... I've got to keep saying it to convince myself. I still don't want to believe it. Can I just say that I'm quirky when it comes to food? That sounds so much better than picky ... and sort of cute and enduring ... okay, that's it! I'm a quirky eater!

Okay, let's discuss it then, besides being GDSYWP-free, how else am I quirky? Well, I don't eat peas (gross!!) or bell peppers (sort of long story) except in very few and rare cases. I like black olives, but no other type of olive, and I do love olive oil. I love guacamole, but not if it has garlic in it, and I don't prefer it when it has tomatoes mixed in. I generally like bananas. Okay, I LOVE them on a banana-and-peanut-butter-sandwich (oh, that's heaven right there), I like to eat them for breakfast by themselves, and can handle them in banana bread (but still not a big fan), and HATE them mixed in a smoothie - I will not drink it! The banana flavor is just too powerful and I can't taste anything else in the smoothie except for the banana! I love egg whites, but only like egg yolks if they're running and I'm dipping my bacon/steak/etc or homefries/hashbrowns in them. I cannot stand them when they're solid ... unless they're in egg salad or deviled eggs ... see what I mean?! ;)

But the weirdest one? Okay, were' going to get personal here ... ready? Well, I have very specific rules about what foods can touch others ... I mean, some people don't like ANY food to touch, others don't mind one bit if everything touches ... I'm sort of in the middle. Like, potatoes (cooked any way) can touch anything, but gravy cannot. Gravy can touch potatoes and usually meat, but not veggies. Salads must be in a separate bowl so as not to get soggy or flavored from the other foods, and so the salad dressing doesn't get on the other foods. Beans and rice and touch, tacos/enchiladas and rice can touch ... tacos/enchiladas and beans can not touch! Eggs can touch meat and potatoes, but not other starches like grits, bread, waffles or pancakes ... ick. Syrup can touch waffles, pancakes and sometimes meat, but definitely NOT eggs. I know it all goes in the same place! But, it's all about flavors here, people! Really! I don't like the taste of egg with syrup, that's just gross. And who wants bean juice making their taco soggy? I don't! Yuck! Okay, all mixed food talk has me kinda grossed out ...

Please tell me that I'm not alone ... some of you out there have to be quirky eaters like me ... right?

Revelation!

This post on the blog Gluten-Free Girl by Shauna James Ahern was such a revelation to me and I just had to share it. I know that hers is a specifically gluten free blog, but I think this particular post (or at least the first half of it) can apply to any food intolerance. Think of it as Chicken Soup for the (insert your food intolerance)-free Soul! ;)

To sort of give a couple-sentence sum, in the post, among other things, she compares gluten free food to Tootsie Rolls. You know how Tootsie Rolls have a sort-of, not really chocolaty flavor? Oh how I miss them, by the way! (They contain milk and soy) Like Shauna, they were also my favorite when I was growing up, but I still distinctly remember their taste. Anyway, people used to ask Shauna why she liked Tootsie Rolls when they were a bad imitation of chocolate. To that, she would reply, “I know. I like chocolate too. But Tootsie rolls have their own taste. I like that.” The post continues and she talks about how she views gluten free food the same way - that you have to appreciate it for what it is - not what you hoped or want them to be. I know that seems so simple, but to me, it was like a smack on the forehead ... DUH! I mean, all this time, I had been searching for gluten free replacements and substitutes for the gluten-filled (or dairy or soy, etc) foods that I loved when instead, I should just be seeking out foods like that Hubby and I like, as they are, for what they are, not what I want them to be.

Seriously, the thought sticks with me daily. I constantly remind myself to appreciate my foods as they are, not what I hoped or want them to be. I just think "Tootsie Rolls" and I am instantly relieved, inspired and motivated. Letting go of finding the "perfect" substitute is sort of like lifting a boulder off my shoulders. I'm not pressured to make or find replacements, just to find an make things that Hubby and I like. I mean, With that stress gone, I am simply inspired and motivated to try new things, new recipes, to tweak old ones just a bit ... whatever it takes to make/find safe and nourishing foods for my body. I guess I had a glimpse of this all along - trying to focus on delicious things that are naturally gluten free, but now, it's so much more than that. I know this may sound strange, but I think I am at really peace with my diagnoses for the first time, and I was diagnosed 8 months ago!

So, Gluten-Free Glirl, aka Shauna James Ahern, from the bottom of my heart, I thank you!

Hot Kid Rice Crisps


When I saw these Hot Kid Rice Crisps in a store that I was visiting near my Sisters (an hour away from me), I was excited! They looked just like a rice crisp that I used to get at the Asian Market prior to being GDSYWP-free. Those were covered in a sweet soy sauce, so I had to stop buying them, but they were so tasty and SUPER crunchy.

These looked like they had the same texture, but without that pesky sweet soy sauce, oh how I hoped!. And, I was even more excited to see just 4 basic ingredients on this product - Japonica Rice, Corn Oil, Sea Salt and Onion Powder - well, for the onion flavor (which is the first one I decided to try). The "Natural" flavor had only the first 3 ingredients, no onion powder. I also saw a Sesame flavor and a Wasabi flavor (though I don't like Wasabi).

When I got them home, I ripped open the package a threw one in my mouth - no dips or sauces - just the cracker. These were indeed just as I expected - the same yummy flavor and crunchy texture as my previous crackers! Yeah! These are my new favorite cracker! They are reasonably priced (at $2.30 a pack) and tasted great! I can see myself using them with tuna salad, bean dip, salsa, egg salad, hummus, with a bit of lunch meat on top, chili and even by themselves ... now, I just need to find a store that carries them closer to me ...


Disclaimer

The opinions and thoughts expressed here are purely my own and are not coerced, swayed or influenced by a company, organization or other person. The information contained here is to the best of my knowledge at the date posted. I am NOT an expert and am NOT responsible for anything that you do with this information. Please do your own research, seek out professionals and read all ingredients yourself in order to ensure that the choices you make are right for your lifestyle.

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