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 ...

Hummus

One of my favorite GDSYWP-free snacks is hummus and veggies! I chop up some carrots, English (seedless) cucumber and celery and dip into the hummus. If I have some GF bread or crackers (I'll talk about a type that I LOVE next!) on-hand, I'll dip those, too.

I originally found my recipe here, but as usual, I tweaked it a bit.

Hummus
Originally by Saad Fayed, Tweaked by Clara

Ingredients:
1 16 oz can of chickpeas or garbanzo beans
1/4 cup liquid from can of chickpeas
4 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons tahini
1 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil + extra
Paprika
Optional: Cumin, Coriander, Chili Powder

Directions:
Drain chickpeas, reserving some of the liquid from can.

Combine remaining ingredients in blender or food processor.

Add 1/4 cup of liquid from chickpeas.

Blend for 3-5 minutes on low until thoroughly mixed and smooth.

Place in serving bowl.

Create a shallow well in the center of the hummus and pour in some more olive oil, sprinkle paprika (and any other spices) all over.

Tips:
This recipe is highly adaptable. Add more of the chickpea juice if you like liquidier hummus, leave some out if you like thicker - add more/less lemon juice or garlic depending on your tastes. Also, experiment with different additions for lots of different flavors! After everything is good and creamy, I like to add in a small can of black olives (drained) and blend it just until they are all in tiny pieces. If I have roasted garlic on-hand, I replace the raw clove with an entire head of roasted garlic (SO good). I've also seen others throw in a roasted red pepper or cheese and even sesame seeds.

Pamela's Peanut Butter Cookies


I've never been a big fan of Peanut Butter Cookies, but since Pamela's Peanut Butter Cookies were GDSYWP-free, I felt that I just had to give them a try!

I must say that I was pleasantly surprised. These cookies had a nice peanut butter flavor, even with little bits of peanuts, but the overall peanut flavor wasn't too strong, which was always my main complaint with Peanut Butter Cookies. Also, many GDSYWP-free cookies are gritty/crumbly, but these were nicely chewy.

Pamela's makes several other flavors, so I will have to try them soon and will certainly report back once I do!

Crock Pot Smoked Beef Brisket

I have decided that I need to use my crock pot more. Aside from the fact that it produces a quicker/easier meal, most stuff that goes in there are whole, simple foods and are healthier for you.

I was inspired by the Smoked Beef Brisket recipe that I saw over at CrockPot365, but couldn't find mesquite wood chips (I guess because it's not summer anymore?), so I searched the internet for a Crock Pot Smoked Beef Brisket recipe that called for liquid smoke (which I nearly always have on hand) instead. Then, I found this recipe (also typed out below):

---
Ingredients:
3 to 4 pound beef brisket
1/4 cup liquid smoke
1/2 teaspoon celery salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon onion powder

Preparation:
Sprinkle brisket with liquid smoke and seasonings.

Wrap well in large piece of aluminum foil. Refrigerate overnight if desired.

Place wrapped brisket in slow cooker; cover and cook on low 9 to 12 hours (high 5 to 6 hours).

Serve brisket with juices.

Serves 8.
---


Mine was altered just a bit though (I know, it seems that I rarely can make a recipe as-is anymore!):
I did not refrigerate mine overnight with the smoke and spices.
The smallest beef brisket I could find was 4.5 pounds
I used celery seed instead of celery salt and granulated garlic, not garlic salt
I doubled the spice mixture (using 1 teaspoon of everything versus 1/2) just because it didn't look like enough for my huge piece of meat.
I had mine in the crock pot on low for 10.5 hours.

The Result:
YUMMY! It was very "smoky" flavored, EXTREMELY tender and SO simple! Hubby and I had it with a GF macaroni salad and I gobbled it up as-is. Hubby thought it was a bit bland/dry and wanted to put some BBQ sauce on it, but we were out, maybe next time.

Bonus: This meal it was pretty economical. My 4.5 pound brisket cost $18 and produced enough meat for at least 3 meals - dinner that night, lunch the next day and the next night we had it again in corn tortillas with salsa and guacamole, and I STILL had some left over!


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.

Comments on this website may not represent the views of the blog owner and their claims, advice, etc. are the sole responsibility of their original writers, NOT the blog owner.

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