Friday, June 3, 2011

Fast n' Easy Fridays: Vegetable Tacos

Last week I started a new job and it has been insane.   Leaving early, staying late and so many meetings, I’m lucky if I see my desk before 5pm.  Planning out careful breakfasts, snacks and lunches is a thing of the past.  I haven’t had a minute to sleep, let alone cook or write a blog post!  With that in mind, Fast n’ Easy Fridays is probably more important than ever!  Here’s a very fast dinner option that is healthy, fresh and of course, vegan and gluten free.

Small note:  For all of you non-vegans out there:  These tacos are great when combined with Fish (we like Tilapia) and Goat Cheese.  I’m still on the Whole Foods Healthy Challenge, so I had to pass, but through this challenged I’ve learned that a non-meat diet is not conducive to my (already very restricted) dietary lifestyle, so I’ll be excited to add some fish to this recipe very soon!

Vegetable Tacos:
1 peeled Jicama – cut into cubes (see Helpful Tip below for peeling)
1 avocado, sliced
½ cup shredded red cabbage
2 cups spinach
1 cup baby tomatoes
1 lime, juiced
Gluten Free Corn Tortilla shells

Cut up all vegetables and place on Corn Tortilla.  Liberally squeeze lime juice on taco and eat.  Fast, healthy and easy!

Helpful tip:  I love jicama and have been known to eat it like an apple.  But, it is such a pain to peel!  Don’t use a potato peeler which can take upwards of an hour due to Jicama’s thick skin.  Instead, cut the top off, and make a slit just below the peel.  Jicama has a distinct ‘grain’ and if you peel back the skin in the direction of the grain, it will come up easily.  Just keep cutting little slits under the peel and peeling back with your fingers in the direction of the ‘grain’.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Enjoy Life's New Chocolate Products!

Who doesn’t love chocolate?  As long as it’s dark chocolate, it’s one of the very few ‘desserts’ that (should) not have any gluten or dairy.  Still, it’s important to always read the label when picking out a new brand.  Although milk is completely unnecessary in dark chocolate, a lot of companies add dairy anyways.  Additionally, I am sensitive to vanilla and soy, so I try to steer clear from chocolate with vanilla or soy lecithin listed as an ingredient.  This is actually really hard!  I usually stick to Trader Joe’s Dark Chocolate bars which are the only ones I’ve found that meet all of my dietary restrictions, but it’s a pain when a recipe calls for chocolate chips.  That’s why I was so excited to find Enjoy Life’s new semi-sweet Chocolate Chunks.

All of Enjoy Life products are made in a dedicated nut and gluten-free facility and certified gluten-free by the Gluten Free Certification Organization.  All products are free of the top 8 allergens, including wheat, dairy, egg and soy.  Even though the bag clearly says dairy, soy and gluten free, I admit I still read the label.  Some habits will never die!  It’s so exciting to find a product that you can really trust and don’t have to worry about any hidden allergens.  Plus, they taste really good!  I added them to the buckwheat banana pancakes I made this weekend and couldn’t help eating them straight out of the bag.  Girlfriend couldn’t keep her hands off either and sprinkled the chips into Enjoy Life Double Chocolate Crunch Granola as an extra chocolaty dessert (which was a bit too much chocolate overload for me!).

Which brings me to my next chocolate ‘dessert’ find for the week.  Enjoy Life Double Chocolate Crunch Granola is so good!  It tastes kind of like Cocoa Pebbles or Cocoa Puffs and it’s hard to believe that it is gluten free and has some health benefits as well, with 4 grams of Fiber per serving.  I usually think of breakfast when I hear granola and I think in my younger days, I definitely would have dug into this granola for breakfast.  These days, this is the perfect sweet treat when I get one of my frequent chocolate cravings.  Unfortunately, I can’t partake in this granola too freely, because its main ingredient is rice which I am sensitive to.  I can have in small doses every other week or so, but any more than that and I will have a pounding headache lasting for up to 4 days.  It was hard to stop myself from eating the entire bag, but that wasn’t really an issue since Girlfriend also loved this granola and it was gone in about 3 days…

On a side note, I also tried Enjoy Life new Crunchy chocolate chip cookies and they were delicious!  You can pick up all of these products at Whole Foods and at certain Jewel’s in the IL area.  To find a store near you, check out

Friday, May 20, 2011

Fast n' Easy Fridays: Vegetable Coconut Curry

This flavorful and easy curry dish can be made with whatever veggies you have lying in your fridge.

Vegetable Coconut Curry
1 can coconut milk
2 cups vegetable broth
3 Tbsp Soy Sauce
2 Tbsp Coriander
2 Tbsp Turmeric
½ Tsp Cayenne Pepper
2 Tsp Agave
2 Tbsp chopped ginger
1 clove garlic

1 sweet potato, chopped
1 cup carrots, chopped
1 onion
1 cup green beans
1 red pepper, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 cup spinach
2 cup broccoli

Add all Sauce ingredients into large pot and bring to a boil, then simmer on low.  While sauce is heating, prep and cut vegetables.  Begin with sweet potato and carrots and add to sauce first because they take longest to soften.  Saute onion (using vegetable broth instead of oil) until soft and add to pot.  Add all other vegetables to pot and let simmer for 20 – 30 minutes, until all vegetables are soft.  Add salt and pepper, to taste.

Serve with rice, rice noodles or quinoa and squeeze fresh lime juice when serving. 



Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Day 8: The "Challenge" is a challenge...

One week is over and I’ve got to admit, I’m skeptical.  I’d like to say this diet, or should I say “Lifestyle” has been a breeze, but the truth is it’s hard.  In general, I love the focus on healthy grains, veggies and fruits and have found an entire world of fresh produce that I didn’t know existed or at least would have never considered buying.  Before last week, I had never tried kale or bok choy and it turns out they are good!  Consumption of plant-based foods has helped me to branch out to new foods I wouldn’t have tried and also made me more aware of how often I skipped the veggie part of a meal and stuck to meats and grains.  So, from that aspect, I’m loving the diet and my increased consumption of greens. 

Surprisingly, I haven’t missed meat and dairy at all and I find cooking much more enjoyable when I’m not worried about cleaning and prepping meat.  Although, I will definitely always choose goat yogurt over coconut yogurt which lacks yogurt’s characteristic tanginess.  So, why the skeptics then?  I miss oil!  Now that I’m looking, oil is in everything.  How do you make popcorn without oil and are there any oil-free tortilla chips out there?  Tortilla chips were my go-to dinner option when I was strapped for time.  Pared with corn, black beans, spinach and avocado, it made a filling and fast dinner.  I’ve substituted spinach and quinoa for the chips, turning the dish into more of a healthy burrito bowl, but there’s really no comparison to the salty goodness of tortilla chips.  And I’m not even going to mention the struggle I’ve been having with Angie’s Kettle Corn except to say that I bought it at Costco yesterday and started eating it before I left the store…  There are so few food items that I can truly enjoy without worrying about some sort of reaction or sensitivity and these corn-based items were two of my favorite indulgences.  When I’ve given up so much, why should I give this up too?

And what about when I go to a friend’s for dinner or a wedding?  My diet is already so limited due to medical factors, why should I make it even harder by choice?  The gluten and dairy free option at events is almost always meat.  And, I hate to admit it, but when I go to my friend’s wedding next week and they tell me the only gluten-free option is a chicken breast, I know I will eat it.  I will most likely feel intense guilt about this choice and who knows, maybe I’ll get lucky with some gluten free quinoa pasta, but I’m being realistic here.  Food already consumes so much of my life and my family’s life.  With so many restrictions, I feel guilty adding another one and expecting my family and friends to accommodate me.  In the past, when I’ve been worried about what I’ll be able to eat at an event, I’ve always held faith that, no matter what, there would be a plain piece of meat I could eat.  I don’t miss meat in my at-home life and think I might keep this veggie lifestyle at home even after the 28 days are over, but when I go out, that meat option has always been there for me and I don’t know if I can let that go.

So, I’ve had a few discouraging thoughts this week and a few slip ups.  I couldn’t stop myself from eating tortilla chips or kettle corn (both really good and both containing oil).  But, all in all, I feel great about eating more fruits and veggies and am surprised to see that in my daily life, a meat-free existence hasn’t been too painful. 

I promised I would spend this past weekend brainstorming new and more inventive menu options, so for the next month, I will post a new recipe idea every Friday.   For today, I will post my favorite lentil recipe which is fast and easy.  Not exactly inventive, but sometimes flavor and time are more important.

Quick and Easy Lentils:
1 cup lentils
2 cups vegetable broth
1 onion
2 garlic cloves
1 cup chopped mushrooms
Salt and pepper, to taste

Bring vegetable broth and lentils to a boil.  Cover and reduce heat to low.  Simmer for 20 minutes, until soft.  While lentils cook, saute onion and garlic until soft.  When lentils have cooked for 20 minutes, add onion, garlic, mushrooms, salt and pepper and cook for another 5 minutes, or until all broth has been absorbed.

See you Friday for Vegetable Coconut Curry.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Day 2: Whole Foods 28 Day Healthy Eating Challenge

When I decided to join Whole Foods 28 Day Healthy Eating Challenge, I thought it would be easy.  Increase consumption of plant-based foods, reduce oil, sodium and sugar intake and eliminate all animal products.  I figured since I currently avoid dairy, eggs and most sugar, I was already practicing this diet and it would be a snap.  But, when I asked Girlfriend if she wanted to join the challenge (after I had already signed up), she said “no way, I love meat!”  Wait… No meat??  I definitely interpreted ‘animal products’ as dairy and eggs and completely forgot about the biggest animal product in my life:  meat!  This might be harder than I thought it was going to be…  But, I’m up for the challenge and can do anything for a month, so I started researching and brainstorming meatless dinner options and new recipes.
Before I share my favorite veggie dish, let me give some background.  The Challenge follows the principles outlined in the book, Engine 2 Diet, by Rip Esselstyn which basically focuses on committing to a plant-based diet to lower cholesterol, lose weight and improve overall health.  I haven’t had a chance to read the book yet, but will share the highlights in the next few weeks.   Guidelines include the following:

- Complete elimination of animal-based products and processed foods
- Reduction in oils, sugars and sodium
- Increase consumption of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans and whole grains
- Exercise minimum of 5 times per week

So, for the next 28 days, I am going goat-free!  A little sad to put the “Goat” part of my blog on hold for the month, but I did discover So Delicious coconut yogurt, so at least I will have something to pare with my delicious granola

Throughout the month, I will update you on my progress, suggest veggie-friendly meal ideas and post vegan recipes.  Today I will leave you with one of my favorite salad recipes that’s fast, easy and very filling.  Feel free to change the ingredients with any fresh veggies you have in the fridge.

Jicama Arugula Salad
2 cups Spinach
2 cups Arugula
1 large Jicama, peeled and cut into small cubes
2 cups strawberries, sliced
½ can black beans (drain juice)
½ can whole kernel corn (drain juice)
2 ripe avocados
2 Tbs oil (avocado, olive or walnut work well)
1 lime, juiced
2 Tbs Cilantro, chopped

Toss all ingredients together in a bowl and serve!

Also, the official Challenge start date was Wednesday, May 11, so today is Day 2.  Since my OCD couldn't handle starting a new program mid-week, I started on Monday, so it's Day 4 for me.  From here on out, I will follow the Challenge dates, but let's recap since it's almost been a week.  Minus a small fiasco when I totally blacked out with a bag of tortilla chips, I haven't had any slip ups and the no-meat thing hasn't been too hard.  I haven't been very inventive at adding interesting dinner and lunch ideas into my diet.  For the most part, I've been eating spinach or arugula salad with vegan soup every day...  So, for this upcoming weekend, my goal is to start brainstorming and find some fun and interesting dinner ideas to spice up this diet.  Stay tuned! 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Gluten Free, Allergy Free Expo

This weekend I made the trek to Lisle, IL for the Gluten Free, Allergy Free Expo and it was well worth the drive.  After a month of unlucky run-ins with gluten contamination (see Monday's blog post), it was refreshing to be in a room where I could eat so many items.  Everything was gluten free and there were also a lot of egg and dairy free foods available.  It made me realize how paranoid I’ve become, as I couldn’t shake my vigilant need to read through every product ingredient to check for gluten, eggs and dairy.  The vendors must have thought I was crazy.  Even after reading the ingredients, I double-checked to positively confirm I was able to eat everything.  It was amazing!!  I really couldn't believe it!  I tried a lot of awesome products and met lots of great gluten free bakers, like Kelly Brozyna (Spunky Coconut), Amy Green (SS & GF) and Elana Amsterdam (Elana’s Pantry). 
I also met Alisa Fleming, author of Go Dairy Free, a guide and cookbook for people with lactose / casein intolerance.  She gave me a copy of her book, so keep an eye out for a blog post where I will review her book and recipes.  I've only had a chance to skim through the first few chapters, but so far it is great!  I love her detailed overview of different types of dairy substitutions available and am happy to see many of her suggestions are free of soy which I try to steer clear of most of the time.  More to come on Alisa's book when I've had a chance to read and try some of her recipes.  For now, here are some of the expo product highlights:
Andean Dream – Cookies made with quinoa flour and free of dairy, eggs and gluten.  Most baked goods on the market are made with rice and potato flour, so it’s great to see a product using quinoa flour which is much healthier and high in protein, vitamins and minerals.  These cookies were low in sugar, not too sweet, but still a satisfying treat.
Cru Creations – Gluten free, vegan cheesecake.  I tried Bananas Foster flavor and it was great!  Very surprising that a cheesecake mostly made out of nuts, dates and coconut oil could taste so deliciously similar to cheesecake.  I wanted a whole piece!
No Nuttin’ – Products free of nuts, dairy, eggs and gluten.  I tried the Blueberry Maple granola and Energy Explosion trail mix which were both delicious.  No Nuttin' also has granola bars which I would like to try soon.  Seems like a good option for a snack on the go - always a good idea to carry a back up snack in case there are no gluten free / dairy free options. 
I know we’ve all heard of Bob’s Red Mill as one of our favorite spots for gluten free flours and mixes.  They gave me a gluten free pizza crust mix that can be made using flax seed instead of eggs.  I plan to test it soon and am going to host a pizza party with gluten free pizza crust and different cheese replacements (along with goat cheese, of course!).  I recently tried making various nut cheeses and the cashew ricotta came out really well.  I’ll blog about it all soon and let you know how everything turns out. 
These are just a few of the amazing products I tried at the expo.  It was a great experience and I enjoyed finding great new products and talking with others who suffer from allergies.  Can't wait til next year!

On a separate, but related note, you may have noticed the 1 in 133 banner on my webpage.  1 in 133 is an important organization working towards FDA standards for gluten free product labeling.  Seven years ago, the FDA was tasked with developing and implementing gluten-free labeling.  These standards are still not complete which has left all of us gluten allergy sufferers at risk of eating contaminated foods.  And there are a lot of us out there!  18 million Americans suffer from gluten sensitivity and 1 in 133 people in the US have Celiac Disease!  Those stats are enough for me to know this is an important cause.  Please support this important organization by signing the petition or making a donation.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Giveaway: LOST AND FONDUE by Avery Aames

Avery Aames is an author with celiac disease and is living a gluten-free lifestyle. Her new book, LOST AND FONDUE, launched today and is the latest installment of the Cheese Shop Mysteries. This fun series even includes gluten-free recipes!

Synopsis: LOST AND FONDUE begins in the fair town of Providence. The town has settled down to normal after last year's murder. Charlotte’s Cheese Shop is thriving, and her romance with Jordan is flourishing. But when her friend, Meredith, decides to throw a fund-raiser to create a liberal arts college out of a long-abandoned winery--a winery that is rumored to hold not only buried bodies but buried treasure--Charlotte's joie de vivre deflates like a bad soufflĂ©. Charlotte's fears are realized when an art student is found dead in the wine cellar, and Meredith's niece is the main suspect.

We have 2 copies to giveaway and there are 3 ways to enter:

1. Follow me on twitter and put a note in the comments section with your email address to let me know

2. Follow Gluten Free Girl and the Goat (in the sidebar)
3. Reply to @GlutenFreeGoat on Twitter and say "I want a copy of LOST AND FONDUE by @AveryAames"

I'll announce the winner Friday, May 6!

Monday, May 2, 2011

I've been Glutenized... Again!

I had a great time at the Gluten Free Allergy Free Expo this weekend and can't wait to tell you about all the amazing products I tried and great people I met.  Tune back in on Wednesday for a full re-cap.  Definitely no stories of gluten poisoning at the expo which was a nice break from my bad luck this month...


This month we’ve had many joyous and fun occasions – weddings, baby showers, Seders and gatherings with friends.  While I’ve enjoyed all of these events, I spent the better part of the month calling restaurants and friends to ask question after question about how each dish was prepared to determine what I could eat safely.  Even with careful planning and erring on the side of not eating, I have been “glutenized” 4 times this month, suffering terrible migraines, stomach aches and muscle aches lasting for up to 5 days.

Needless to say, this is extremely frustrating and I’ve reached my limit, declaring we will never eat outside of our house again.  Obviously, eating at home for the rest of our lives is not the answer, but it’s frustrating to feel like I’m doing my due diligence and still getting sick.  With more events coming up in the next few months, I think our friends might be a little irritated if I show up at their wedding or baby shower with a Tupperware of gluten-free dinner and ask the chef to heat it up.   But, the risks of wrong information and gluten contamination are on my mind. How do you safely eat at a party?  How can we trust that a dish was truly made gluten free and proper handling was used to avoid cross contamination?

It all started when we went to Quartino's, usually one of my favorite restaurants for gluten-free options.  I ordered soup off the gluten free menu and it came with a huge piece of bread IN the soup.  Obviously, this was a misunderstanding in the kitchen, serving the regular dish versus the gluten-free presentation and I was lucky it was such an obvious mistake.  But, what if it had been more subtle like using a different sauce for the gluten-free option?  I wouldn’t have noticed until the next day when I was confined to bed with a pounding migraine.  My paranoia took over, I sent the soup back, and stuck to salad with no dressing. 

My next run-in happened during a recent work event at a local cooking school.  I asked the chef if the chicken satay appetizer was gluten free and, after listing several ingredients, gave a definitive yes.  Usually I ask multiple questions about preparation like whether the meat was dusted in flour before grilled or if soy sauce was used.  Since I was asking the chef directly, I felt safe with his answer and ate the appetizer.  Later, the chef passed out recipe packets that included the chicken satay recipe.  I was shocked to see soy sauce as one of the main ingredients in the peanut sauce!  I immediately confronted the chef and his response was “Oh yeah, I guess you’re right.  Well, you can eat the chicken”.  I said, “Yes, but I already ate the sauce."  He shrugged his shoulders, grinned and said, “Oh well, what now?”  I was astounded!  How could he be so blasĂ© and nonchalant about such an important issue!  I replied, “Now I’m going to be sick for the next four days.”

Even when people are being considerate and thoughtful in what’s being prepared, I have still been glutenized.  During Seder, I greatly appreciated our friend’s efforts to prepare gluten free dishes.  They graciously walked through every ingredient used to prepare the main dish and we determined it was safe to eat.  The next day, I was so sick I could barely get out of bed, let alone go to work.  I couldn’t understand it – all of the ingredients used were gluten free and I was so careful!  Thinking it over later with more clarity, it must have been cross-contamination.  As careful as our friends were, it’s difficult to understand that preparing chicken using the same surface and utensils used to make the matzah balls is enough to make a gluten-sensitive person sick.

Don’t get me wrong, not every event has been a cause for stress.  My friends and family have made a great effort to provide gluten free options and practice safe food handling.  My aunt is amazing about catering to my allergies.  She sets out a separate gluten free appetizer section during parties with gluten free chips and separate dip bowls so nothing is contaminated by bread or other gluten filled goodies.  She also cooks entirely gluten free dinners when my mom (who is also gluten free) and I are present, so there is no issue of cross contamination. 

It seems to me like it’s an issue of education.  In all of the interactions I’ve had lately, I’ve noticed a huge difference in how my allergies are treated when the waitperson or friend has a family member or close friend with a similar allergy.  Not only are they more knowledgeable, but they can truly understand the consequences of ingesting gluten.  Talking with other allergy sufferers, I know that this is a widespread issue that we all deal with on a daily basis.  I welcome you to share your stories and any helpful tips on how to safely eat out in restaurants or at friends. 

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Gluten Free, Vegan Passover Round Up Part 2

As promised, Passover Round Up continues with gluten free, vegan chocolate cake recipes.  Since we had Passover dinner obligations with both sides of Girlfriend’s family, I decided to make a couple different desserts.  More for myself, so I wouldn’t get bored eating the same thing every night.  Girlfriend’s family was so supportive of my food allergies and called to walk through all the ingredients used in the beef brisket and side dishes to make sure all would be completely gluten and dairy free.  Of course I had to pass up Matzah ball soup which was a bummer.  Maybe next year I’ll take on gluten free Matzah balls… 

I made Lexie’s Kitchen’s Egg-Free, Dairy-Free Chocolate Decadence which tasted great and had some very healthy ingredients too.  I was skeptical to make a cake with black beans and cashews, but it was delicious!  Note that I left out the baking powder which is not kosher for Passover.  In general, I really like Lexie’s Kitchen’s blog which focuses on recipes that are free of gluten and casein and has a lot of egg-free recipes which are harder to find.  Lexie suggests using a 5 inch round cake pan for this recipe, but I didn't have one, so I used cupcake tins instead and made personal portions for everyone.  I must admit Lexie's presentation is much more pretty than mine, but they still tasted great! 

For the next night, I made Living Without Magazine’s recipe for Macaroon French Silk Pie which is completely free of eggs, dairy and gluten and really delicious!  As mentioned in Monday’s blog post, I couldn't use store-bought macaroons because they are not egg free.  So, use the recipe I posted on Monday for Gluten Free, Vegan macaroons for the macaroon crust.  I tried making Living Without's coconut milk whipped topping recipe at the link noted above and it was a disaster.  First it completely separated and was very grainy and then it turned back into liquid.  It never came close to a creamy consistency.  Let me know if you have any tips on how to perfect this recipe!  The pie was still good without the whipped topping - how can you go wrong with chocolate and macaroons?

Here's a close up of the crust:

Hope everyone's Seder was delicious and lots of gluten free goodies were available.  What are your favorite allergy friendly Seder dishes?

Monday, April 18, 2011

Gluten Free, Vegan Passover Round Up Part 1

Passover is my favorite holiday, mostly because of all the amazing food.  It’s funny that a holiday which eliminates yeast and breads was my favorite holiday even before I was gluten free. Every year, I anxiously await the usual treats: beef brisket, matzah ball soup, sponge cake with fresh whipped cream and, my all time favorite, carrot kugel. This year, I felt the same excitement until I realized that all the dishes I just mentioned have some form of gluten, eggs  and  / or dairy.  What was I supposed to eat for Passover?

I spend the holiday with Girlfriend’s family and know I won't be able to eat many of the dishes.  So, I volunteered to bring dessert and started experimenting to find a dessert worthy of the old classics.  I found some great recipes which I will share with you throughout the next few days.  Unfortunately, my attempts at altering carrot kugel have been unsuccessful.  The original recipe requires 9 eggs and, so far, I haven’t figured out how to alter an egg-free version while maintaining the appropriate consistency.  I still have a few ideas up my sleeve, so hopefully I’ll be sharing the recipe with all of you very soon.

Luckily, my dessert attempts were much more successful.  I found some great recipes for a couple different chocolate flourless cakes which I will share later this week.  Today we will focus on gluten free and egg free macaroons. Since Passover requires elimination of all leavening agents (e.g. flour), it is fairly easy to find gluten free macaroons at the grocery store.  Finding egg-free macaroons is another story.  Living Without magazine comes through as usual with a great gluten free, sugar free, egg free and dairy free Macaroon recipe:

I made a few changes in my version to eliminate vanilla extract which is one of the 40 foods I am ‘sensitive’ to and try to avoid when I can. Living Without suggests using honey or agave and I used agave (of course!). It was really difficult to find unsweetened shredded coconut. Whole Foods used to sell it, but recently discontinued the product.  So, I reduced the amount of agave required in the recipe and used sweetened coconut. The results were still delicious! Come back later in the week for a continuation of Gluten Free, Vegan Passover Round Up where I will share some delicious chocolate cake recipes.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Popcorn, Candy and the Movies

As much as I’m swearing off sugar and moving towards a healthier lifestyle, sometimes I really miss candy.  Even before all the allergies, I very rarely allowed myself to indulge in a candy bar.  I thought about how bad it was for you, how many grams of fat each bite cost, and how long I would need to run on the treadmill after eating it.  The guilt was always too much to bear and I usually passed up any candy opportunities.  Strangely enough, the movie theatre was the only place where I allowed myself to go crazy and eat as much candy, popcorn and fat as I wanted.  In general, I don’t really like watching movies or going to the theatre, but my girlfriend would go every weekend if she could.  With the promise of Reese’s Pieces, Heath Bars and Movie Theatre popcorn, I allowed myself to be dragged along.
I haven’t been to the theatre since I found out about my allergies.  Without popcorn and candy, what’s the point?  Note that Reese’s Pieces and Heath Bars are gluten free, but unfortunately contain dairy.  Most movie theatre popcorn is gluten free, but there’s always the risk that a gluten containing seasoning was used and it may contain dairy if real butter is used (as if!).  Since I know my girlfriend will eventually wear me down and get me out to the theatre, I thought I’d take a proactive step in finding some candy and popcorn replacements.
For popcorn, I love Angie’s Kettle Corn which has the perfect blend of salty and sweet and is made with no artificial preservatives or chemicals.  It’s also certified gluten free and made in a facility completely free of nut and wheat products.  In the Midwest, it can be purchased at Costco and a bulk bag is definitely needed – this stuff goes fast!
My favorite candy is Chocolate Covered Raisins, but even the dark chocolate brands I’ve found contain milk.  So, I made my own.  It was really easy and delicious.  The first batch I made was gone before the chocolate dried (not gonna lie - I ate them all...).  One layer of chocolate was acceptable, but next time I’m going to do a double layer which I can’t stop thinking about.  Now all I need to do is practice enough self control and wait for the chocolate to dry before I eat them all!  Here’s the recipe, which takes less than 10 minutes, if you don’t count the waiting time…
Chocolate Covered Raisins
½ cup dairy free Chocolate Chips (try Whole Food’s 365 Every Day Value Dark Chocolate Chunks)
½ Tbsp Coconut Oil
1 cup raisins (make sure no sugar is added to raisins)

Melt chocolate and coconut oil using double boiler.  I don't have a double boiler, so I used a metal bowl over a pot filled with water.  When chocolate is fully melted, stir in raisins.   Spread mixture on wax paper and put in refrigerator for 15 minutes until chocolate is hard.  If you can wait, try adding a second layer of chocolate.

Now that I've got the popcorn and candy covered, I guess it's time to head to the movies...

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Okay I cheated! Gluten Free Crispy Rice Treats

Yes, I know, I’m not supposed to eat rice and I certainly shouldn’t be eating sugary, artificial marshmallows.  I can’t explain why, but I needed a Rice Krispy Treat.  Maybe it’s the nostalgia of younger days.  Or maybe it’s the instant gratification of knowing in ten minutes you will have a dessert you can eat immediately.  No bake time, no chill time, just easy, fast craving stopper.

After thinking about Rice Krispies for most of the week, I gave in this Saturday and whipped up a batch.  As I’m sure most gluten free eaters know, Kellogg’s Rice Krispies are not gluten free because they contain Malt Flavoring.  So, I went with Nature’s Path Organic Whole Grain Brown Crispy Rice.  If I’m going to eat Rice, at least it’s organic with very low sugar content.  Not so lucky on the Marshmallows….  Be careful when picking Marshmallows, as most are gluten free, but some are not.  Kraft Jet-Puffed marshmallows are gluten free. (definitely not sugar free, but sometimes you have to indulge!)

Here’s the recipe, modified slightly for elimination of butter:

Gluten Free, Dairy Free Crispy Rice Treats:
¼ cup coconut oil
1 package Kraft Jet-puffed marshmallows
1 package Nature’s Path Crispy Rice cereal

Melt coconut oil first, then add marshmallows and melt completely.  Takes about 1 ½ minutes.  Stir in Crispy Rice and press into greased pan.

Eat immediately!

Here’s a picture of mine.  Please excuse the huge missing section.  I couldn’t wait!  My girlfriend has given up sugar and wouldn’t eat these, so there was really nothing stopping me from taking a spoon right to the huge cake pan!  That is exactly what I did and it was glorious!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Gluten Free Chinese Food!

Before I went gluten free, I was the queen of going out to eat.  I loved trying new restaurants and spent hours combing through Zagat’s to find new spots to try.  When I found out about my gluten allergy, eating out at restaurants became difficult and seemed like more of a chore than a pastime.  It is stressful wondering whether the restaurant is truly following proper food handling and eliminating the items I am sensitive to.  Given the recent news that the former chef of Tavern on the Green in NYC was knowingly giving guests gluten, I guess my fears are valid! 

The anxiety of wondering what is truly being put into food preparation is one thing.  I was also embarrassed to call attention to my allergy and tried to pick menu options I knew were gluten free so I didn’t need to ask the waiter a million questions.  As I’ve gotten more used to living with food allergies, I feel more comfortable going out to restaurants and asking lots of questions.  And it’s great to see a lot of restaurants are catching on to the growing number of gluten intolerant folks and creating separate gluten free menus.

Tons of Italian restaurants are offering gluten free pasta options, like Francesca’s and Maggiano’s.  In Chicago, Quartino’s, has the best gluten free menu I’ve ever seen.  Gotta love any place that offers gluten free braised short ribs!

While it’s fairly easy to get my Italian fix, Chinese food  is still pretty tough to find since soy sauce is derived from wheat and contains gluten.  As hard as it is to find safe menu options in American style restaurants, I pretty much gave up hope of ever eating at a Chinese restaurant again.  I was greatly surprised and happy to see that PF Chang’s has an amazing and extensive gluten free menu, using gluten free soy sauce to make all of their dishes.  I went with a big group and we ordered everything off the gluten free menu and shared.  Even the gluten eaters loved every bite!  A couple other larger chains, like Ben Pao and Big Bowl also have gluten free menus which I haven’t had the opportunity to test out yet.  While I don’t think I’ll be walking into the local spots in Chinatown any time soon, it’s great to know I have a place to go next time I get a craving for Moo Goo Gai Pan.  Now if I could only figure out how to make gluten free vegan Crab Rangoon….

If you're looking to make chinese food at home, I like San-J Tamari Gluten Free Soy Sauce which can be found at most local grocery stores.  I found mine at Dominick's.

Monday, March 28, 2011

What's For Breakfast?

When you’re first diagnosed with food allergies, the Doctor usually recommends doing an Elimination Diet which requires eliminating all the foods you are ‘sensitive’ to and then adding them back in one at time to determine which foods cause symptoms.  However, it’s not enough to just eliminate the sensitive foods, the diet also emphasizes rotating consumption of the same food types each day.  For me, this was one of the hardest parts of the Elimination Diet.  First I had to cut out 40 of my favorite foods and then I had to figure out how to somehow vary the remaining foods I could eat.  This was especially difficult for breakfast.  Without dairy, gluten or eggs, how do you find multiple breakfast options to vary every day?

After a lot of searching and more than a few hungry mornings, I have found some great breakfast options.  If you read my last blog post, you already know about the wonders of goat yogurt.  Other options include corn cereal, buckwheat cereal, gluten free oats, and granola.

I love that Chex has multiple gluten free cereals, including Rice, Corn and, my personal favorite, Honey Nut Chex.  These are great when you’re on the go and need something fast. For a more hearty option, try Bob’s Red Mill Organic Creamy Buckwheat or Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Quick Cooking Oats which make for filling and fast breakfasts.  I make a big batch on Sunday night and bring to work a few times a week.  Throw some Agave, cinnamon and dried or fresh fruit on top and it makes a great breakfast that keeps me full until at least 12:30 which is unheard of, as I’m usually chewing my arm off by 10:30.

But, my favorite breakfast is granola with goat yogurt.  I used to buy gluten free granola from Rose’s Bakery, but it’s pretty expensive and also has cranberries which, I am very sad to say, is on the No List.  So, I made my own recipe.  I usually throw in whatever I have lying in the cabinet - you can add any nuts or dried fruits that you like.  Here’s what I like:

Gluten Free, Dairy Free Granola:
2 cups Gluten Free Oats
¼ cup Flax Seed
¼ cup shredded coconut
¼ cup chopped walnuts
½ cup sliced almonds
½ cup cut up dried prunes
½ cup dried raisons
½ cup dried cherry
½ cup Agave Nectar (Costco sells Organic Blue Agave in pairs)
5 Tbsp Coconut Oil

Mix oats, flax seed, coconut, almonds, walnuts and prunes together in large bowl. 

Heat agave and coconut oil over high heat until oil is completely melted.  Slowly pour oil / agave mixture into oat mixture, stirring constantly.  Stir until oat mixture is completely coated.  Spread onto greased baking tin

Bake:  Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees
10 minutes @ 350 degree
20 minutes @ 300 degree

Remove from oven after 10 minutes and mix granola so it does not clump together or stick to pan.  Remove from oven after 20 minutes, mix and add raisons and cherries to cook for last 10 minutes.  If you add earlier, the dried fruit burns and dries out.  (Prunes have a lot of moisture, so need to go in with the oats / nuts or they will be too moist)

When done, mixture should look darker (nice roasted brown), but should still be slightly soft.  Let cool in pan for 1 hour and once completely cool, mixture will be crispy.

I like to eat it with goat yogurt, but you can serve with any type of milk (goat, almond, soy, etc).   Feel free to comment with your favorite uses for granola or any ideas for different nut / fruit options to add!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Got Goat?

The most difficult task of embarking on this new lifestyle was saying goodbye to dairy, primarily, yogurt and cheese.

I’m an accountant by trade, so I’m definitely a creature of habit.  I have been eating the same thing for breakfast every day since I was in college:  fat free, plain yogurt with granola and, for a special treat on the weekends, yogurt with apples and cinnamon.  Yes, I do realize how lame and unexciting that sounds…. What can I say?

As with everything, there’s always a silver lining.  I was allergic to cow’s milk.  This still left goat dairy in the clear.  Note that goat dairy was specifically tested during my food sensitivity testing and came back okay to eat.  Sheep dairy was not tested, but I would like to add back to my diet soon and see how I react.    Before being diagnosed with food allergies, I was a huge cheese snob.  No Kraft singles for this lady!  I cannot wait to indulge in some Manchego (and cross my fingers that I’m not allergic).

Other than goat cheese (which I LOVE!), I had never seen any other goat dairy products.  It’s surprising what you start to notice when you’re actually on the look out.  The grocery store is full of goat products – goat milk, goat yogurt; I even found goat ‘cheddar’ cheese.  Trader Joe’s has been my go-to store for goat products.  I have only seen the ‘cheddar’ cheese at Trader Joe’s and it is great for making nachos which is a treat I thought I’d given up for good.  TJ’s goat yogurt is reasonably priced (relative to other goat yogurts on the market – they are expensive!).  Goat yogurt is delicious – a little more tart than cow yogurt, but very rich and a much needed indulgence, especially on Saturday morning when I need a ‘special’ treat!

I feel so lucky that I can delight in goat products.  But, what is the difference between dairy from a cow versus a goat or a sheep?  Why would I be sensitive to one and not the other?  I have heard that varying levels of Casein within dairy products affects allergic reactions in some.  These are the issues I am currently researching and would love to hear your thoughts.  In the meantime, what’s next on my list of indulgence:  Goat Caramel Candy.  Hmmm..  so far everything I’ve read says it takes at least 2 hours of constant stirring…  Looks like this is something for a true baker to tackle – I’ll put in the request and you’ll be hearing from my sister soon.  Maybe I can convince her to try something for the true vegans out there also – soy milk or almond milk caramel anyone?

Monday, March 21, 2011

Happy First Day of Spring!

My best friend and I have a long standing tradition of eating pink ice cream on the first day of spring.  It started out in high school as a way to fight the winter blues and has turned into a tradition we have kept up through the years.  Despite still freezing temperatures and a foot of snow on the ground, we welcomed spring in tank tops with pink ice cream and a camera.  Even now that we live on opposite sides of the country, every year, snow, sun or otherwise, we call each other and welcome spring with a bowl of pink ice cream. 

This year, I feared my new allergy free lifestyle was going to get in the way of a tradition lasting over a decade.  Instead, I pulled out the ice cream maker and whipped up this dairy free ice cream. 

I found this recipe from one of my favorite blogs, The Whole Life Nutrition Kitchen.  Their recipes have never failed me, and this one for Strawberry Coconut Ice Cream is no exception. 

Strawberry Coconut Ice Cream
2 cans full fat coconut milk
2 to 2 1/2 cups frozen strawberries (about 1 pound)
1/2 cup honey or agave nectar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Mix all ingredients in blender and whip until smooth.  Put in ice cream maker and follow ice cream maker instructions.

This recipe is really easy and fast – took about 40 minutes in ice cream maker until fully frozen.  I chose strawberries, but you can add any of your favorite ingredients, blueberries, chocolate (use unsweetened cocoa powder), nuts, etc. 

Even our puppy, Dally, helped welcome the first day of spring this year with Frosty Paws ice cream.  It wasn’t dairy or gluten free, but Dally didn’t seem to mind! 

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Never Enough Time! Quick and easy meals for planning ahead

As most of you know, one of the hardest aspects of cooking clean is planning for your next meal.  I work in business, so I’m constantly working late and skipping lunch.  I am lucky that my company provides catered lunches every day, but I’m always wondering if I can really eat the soup, if the meat has soy sauce or a spice on it with a gluten additive.  Not to mention cross-contamination!  There are a lot of foods we don't think twice about that can have hidden gluten.  Here's a partial list of foods to watch out for.

Ice Cream
Soup (vegetable / chicken stock sometimes uses gluten containing grain)
Lunch meat
Root Beer (contains Malt which is derived from Barley)
Soy Sauce (derived from wheat, but there are wheat-free Soy Sauces available)
Caramel Coloring
Modified Food Starch (if derived from Wheat, but usually derived from Corn)
Alcohol (beer, vodka, scotch, etc)

Again, I’m an accountant and a worry wart.  I carry a LaraBar in my purse at all times, just in case.  I can’t take the unknown of whether or not I can eat the catered lunch, so I generally bring my own food.  It takes a lot of time and work to plan lunches for a full week.  My staples usually rotate between big batches of quinoa, quinoa pasta and lentils.  I make a big batch on Sunday night and bring throughout the week.  But, let’s be honest.  Quinoa is not the most exciting grain.  I found this great Lentil Soup recipe which has tons of vegetables and is very filling due to the lentils.  I love making big batches of this soup and freezing for when I need a last minute meal.  My girlfriend loves it too.  Although she does not have food allergies, she has become my test rat and is loving it.  This soup is one of her favorites and I’m lucky if there’s any left for me to bring to work!

Note:  I also have a yeast allergy and most vegetable / chicken broth has yeast extract.  I found a great organic chicken broth from Costco that does not have yeast extract (Kirkland Organic Chicken Stock)

Lentil Soup: (Adapted from Better Homes and Gardens, January 2011)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup lentils
1 lb small mushrooms, cut into quarters
4 medium carrots, thinly sliced (about 2 cups)
2 stalks celery, chopped
½ head napa or red cabbage, chopped (about 2 cups)
32 oz box Chicken Stock
4 cups of water
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper

In large saucepan or Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat.  Add onion and garlic; cook until onion is tender, stirring occasionally.  Stir in lentils and cook for 1 minute.

Add mushrooms, carrots, celery, cabbage, water, chicken broth, salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, covered, about 30 minutes or until lentils are tender.

Per Better Homes and Gardens, one serving has 3g fat, 13g fiber and 12g protein. Wow!

As you can see, we added way too many vegetables, so we added a few extra  cups of chicken broth and it was delicious! 

Sunday, March 13, 2011


I have suffered from daily headaches and migraines since I was 12 years old.  I had spent years popping pills, undergoing numerous tests, MRI’s, CAT Scans, you name it.  After seeing dozens of neurologists and traditional doctors, I had pretty much given up hope.  When I heard about a natural homeopathic doctor who treated migraines, headaches and other symptoms that I had experienced for years, I thought it was worth a shot.  Well, I was in for a shock – I was seriously allergic to everything!  A list of 40 foods long, from gluten, cow dairy, and eggs to rice and potatoes,  even brussel sprouts and lettuce.  I did the whole elimination diet and in the end, narrowed my allergies down to gluten, cow dairy and eggs.  I still try to steer clear from my original food ‘sensitivity’ list, like rice and potatoes, but indulge once in awhile when I can’t resist the occasional French fry or gluten free pita bread. 

First off, I want you all to know that I am not a cook – I didn’t even like baking!  If I wanted something sweet, I put in a request with my sister, a talented and avid baker, and kept her company while she whipped me up a treat.  6 months ago, the only time I had used the kitchen was to toast a piece of Naan and cheese which was dinner most nights.  For the first 3 months of my new food allergy world, I didn’t even attempt to eat baked goods.  I stuck to the basics: meat, nuts, veggies and fruit.  The weight loss was great, but I really missed the occasional scone or sweet treat.  I knew I couldn’t survive eating almonds and cashews for the rest of my life – I needed a cupcake!!

So, I started experimenting with recipes that are free from gluten, dairy, eggs and sugar and try to stick to high protein / fiber grains like buckwheat, sorghum or gluten free oat flour.  Not everything turned out so well, but you have to start somewhere.  Remember, this is coming from a girl who used her oven as extra storage.  So, here it is:  my journey from take out and frozen food to all natural clean eating from scratch.