Life Lately

Life lately has been crazy busy. I’ve done a ton of writing and eating in the past few weeks, but most certainly not enough cooking. I started an internship with the McClatchy Tribune news service, which was an amazing opportunity, but one that made me insanely busy. It was so worth it, though – I wrote over 20 stories, including some about food and exercise!

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The never ending list of stories

The best part was that I was working in DC. I drove down each week and stayed with family and, while it was stressful, it was an amazing experience. Second to writing, my favorite part was the food! I worked in Metro Center, super close to a ton of food trucks. My favorite was Stella’s Popkern - a popcorn only food truck that had nut free and all natural ingredients. Yum! I also visited several local farmer’s markets in preparation for the school year. Peaches from the Riverdale Market became a favorite for sure.

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Riverdale Peaches!

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My first roadtrip alone

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I made avocado pasta for my family

 

 

Eaten on my second food truck Friday...Stella's Popkern!

Eaten on my second food truck Friday…Stella’s Popkern!

But I didn’t just drive around and eat (contrary to popular belief, I do more than that). I went to a local YogaFest, and afterwards, I ate at an amazing Mexican restaurant called Emiliano’s with my boyfriend…it’s my new Pittsburgh favorite.

Fajitas...yum!

Fajitas…yum!

I also joined a mailing club called The Owl Post. Ladies from around the United States, joined through their mutual love of mail are participating, sending packages and swapping letters. My favorite part of it (aside from PACKAGES) is that a lot of the women involved are a little older than me, so most know how to cook and live on their own…all I have to do is ask their advice on things!

Some lovely mail (and a new recipe!)

Some lovely mail (and a new recipe!)

I made Carmelitas to send in my first package

I made Carmelitas to send in my first package

My family also recently found out that my younger sister has Celiac. Soon we will be transitioning from a family who has one person who can’t eat wheat to two, which means we’ll be eating a lot less gluten around here. While I’m leaving for University of Maryland in a week, I plan to try a lot of gluten free recipes so I can impress my little sister with some great recipes. Be sure to look for our new favorites!

My little sister, enjoying life gluten free

My little sister, enjoying life gluten free

In these next few weeks, I hope to be cooking and baking a lot more, so expect some new and interesting recipes. Look for some new summer salads, as well as two new breakfast recipes (both oatmeal! :)) I also hope to have some new features on the blog in the weeks to come. One will be about allergen friendly businesses and allergy news – a carousel of links to really interesting stuff on the allergy front. The other will be one that melds my love of tea, and my love of baking…it’s going to be all about pairing tea with favorite baked goods. 

Until next time!

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Bean Taco Bar with Grilled Peach Salsa

In my family, we eat a ton of tacos. We are not at all Hispanic, so these tend to be an American-ized version of tacos, but nonetheless, we love them. I think it is in part because we all have a penchant for spicy food (aside from my picky sister, unfortunately). But, more importantly, it’s because this meal is so easily customizable. We serve tacos by putting all the fixings out on a table, and each person takes what they want.

Taco bar goodness

Taco bar goodness

When my father was diagnosed with Celiac, we relied heavily on this meal. He ate corn tortillas, while the rest of us ate whole wheat. And I, the vegetarian of the family, went for refried beans, while everyone else ate ground beef. And, of course, my picky little sister avoids all the vegetables and spiciness she can ;)

We still make this meal quite often, but try to switch it up with different salsas or bases. Most recently, we made bean tacos with a grilled peach salsa. The salsa was, as I’m sure you can imagine, to die for. Grilling peaches is a huge flavor boost – it brings out more flavor, and the char flavor complements the sweetness of the peach nicely. The best part is the fresh jalepeno peppers – these are kept tame by that peachy sweetness as well.

I LOVE SALSA

I LOVE SALSA

While the salsa goes great on fish, I love having it on tacos. In this recipe, its rustic flavor compliments the beans well.

Grilled Peach Salsa

Ingredients

1 Tablespoon olive oil, plus some for grilling

3 peaches, halved and pitted

2 teaspoons garlic powder

2 chile peppers (you pick the heat!)

2 chopped plum tomatoes

2 tablespoons lime juice

course salt

1/2 cup basil, cut in ribbons

1. Heat grill to medium high. Clean and oil.

2. Toss peaches with oil.

3. Grill peaches, turning occasionally until charred and softened. Transfer to a cutting board and let cool.

4. Cut the peaches into small chunks and combine with the rest of the ingredients. Let stand for about 15 minutes to get the juices flowing, then serve!

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Bean Taco Bar

Ingredients

(To serve 4)

1 can refried beans

4 tortillas (can be corn or whole wheat)

Grilled Peach Salsa

Shredded cheddar cheese

Shredded lettuce

Green and Red peppers, cut into bite sized pieces

Tomatoes, cut into bite sized pieces

1. Heat the refried beans on the stovetop on medium-low heat. While they are heating, wrap the tortillas in a wet paper towel, and heat in the microwave for 10 seconds each.

2. Serve all the rest of the ingredients on the table. Fill your tortilla and enjoy!

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Healthy Banana Blueberry Muffins

I’m a sucker for breakfast food. Experts say it’s the most important meal of the day, and I have to agree (not just because it’s healthy! ;) ) Breakfast also can be the most delicious meal of the day, so long as you have a few recipes on hand to make it right. On days that I have time to bake, I love coffee cake, eggs or french toast.

Those breakfasts, though, are difficult to whip up on a moment’s notice. Busy mornings make for skipped breakfasts far too often because of this. And around here, there will be no shortage of that in the coming weeks, as I start my second job (which involves spending three days in D.C., and the rest in Pittsburgh). Instead of just planning to skip my most beloved meal, I whipped up some muffins that are perfect to take on the go. They aren’t crummy or flaky, which means no spillage in the car. And the fruit inside gives you an extra serving for your busy day.

Banana Blueberry Muffins

Banana Blueberry Muffins

Bananas are one of the best muffin bases – they anchor the flavor of berries better than just a plain muffin. And I love the combonation of blueberries and bananas – it just tastes plain good.

This recipe is not entirely allergen free, as it contains both wheat and eggs. However, it is free of milk, soy, peanuts and treenuts, and is full of whole ingredients. I made a massive batch of muffins with this recipe (about 32 muffins), but I shared them with my boyfriend’s family as well as my aunt’s. If you don’t have someone to share these muffins with, I recommend freezing them and defrosting as you need.

Banana muffin batter

Banana muffin batter

Healthy Banana Blueberry Muffins

Ingredients:

2 cups whole wheat flour

1 and 1/2 cups white flour

1/2 cup wheat germ

2 teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 Tablespoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 cup canola oil

2/3 cup white sugar

2/3 cup brown sugar

4 eggs

4 ripe bananas, mashed

2/3 cup rice milk

2 and 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

2 cups fresh blueberries

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a large bowl, combine flours, wheat germ, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg.

2. In a separate bowl, beat oil, brown sugar and white sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, beating in between.

3. Add smashed bananas and beat. Then add the milk and vanilla, beating those as well.

4. Gradually add the flour mixture. Be sure to beat the mixture just until combined.

5. Stir in the blueberries gently with a wooden spoon.

6. Spoon mixture into paper muffin cups. You can top the raw muffins with turbinado sugar for a nice touch.

7. Bake for 25-27 minutes, until golden brown on the tops. Enjoy!

The final product

The final product

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New Kitchen Supplies!

There are only six weeks left until I move into my apartment at school, and I am getting really excited. The biggest piece of excitement stems, of course, from my own kitchen. I’m on the hunt for the best (and cutest :D ) gadgets. Lately I’ve come across three different pieces that I love – a chalkboard jar for storing little candies, spices or snacks, a cutting board covered in cute polka dots (I ADORE polka dots), and a zester for cheese and lemons. I was able to find the jar and cutting board really cheaply at Marshalls, while the zester was a great birthday gift!

What are some of your kitchen essentials? What is the cutest tool in your kitchen?

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Creamy Avocado Pasta & White Bean Bruschetta

Last night’s dinner was good. Not just “oh yum that was tasty” good. Like, “I think I just became the next Barefoot Contessa” level of good. I think this is because it’s one of those meals that feel really fancy – bruschetta and creamy pasta always remind me of a classy Italian restaurant – but it didn’t take long to make, and it was really healthy and nourishing

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I originally got the idea for an avocado based cream sauce from Oh She Glows. Avocados are my favorite food (I may or may not be like those ladies on the Subway commercial), so when I saw the recipe, I just had to make it. It turned out surprisingly creamy – I never expected an avocado to so easily replace heavy cream! That was probably the most exciting part of the recipe, because one of the more difficult dishes to make dairy free is a sort of alfredo pasta. This recipe, despite it’s nutty, almost pesto-y flavor, contains no nuts, dairy, gluten, eggs or fish.

The bruschetta kind of started as one of those “kitchen sink” recipes – I had a can of white beans, a couple of tomatoes, and some buns left over from the Fourth of July. What I ended up with, though, was a delicious appetizer perfect for serving before a light Sunday dinner. You can adapt this recipe to make it gluten free, or you can use regular bread. It contains no other allergens, which makes it great to serve to guests with multiple allergies.

Creamy Avocado Pasta

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Ingredients

(to serve 4)

2 medium avocados

Juice of 1 lemon

1/2 clove garlic (you can add more or less as desired)

Salt, to taste

1/2 cup fresh basil

4 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4 servings pasta, gluten free

1 small mug pasta water

1. Boil the water for pasta in a medium pot. When the bubbles are rolling, add enough pasta for 4 people, and cook until al dente. Drain and place in a medium bowl. Be sure to save a mug of pasta water.

2. While the pasta is boiling, make the sauce by putting the garlic clove, lemon juice and olive oil into the bowl of a food processor. Process until smooth.

3. Add the pitted and shelled avocados, basil and salt to taste. Process until smooth.

4. Pour a small amount of pasta water over the pasta, to make sure it doesn’t stick. Then cover with the sauce. Enjoy!

White Bean Bruschetta

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Ingredients

1 can cannelloni beans, drained

1/4 cup chopped celery

2 tomatoes cut into bite sized pieces

1 tsp tarragon

juice of 1/2 lemon

1/2 tsp garlic powder

2 sprigs rosemary

Salt & pepper to taste

3 Tablespoons olive oil

Gluten free bread

1. Turn oven onto its broil setting. Toast the bread in the oven.

2. Meanwhile, mix the remaining ingredients in a bowl.

3. When the bread is finished toasting, top with bruschetta and drizzle a little extra olive oil to taste. Enjoy!

Slawvocado (Tasty Avocado Slaw)

I’ve always been partial to the Fourth of July – it’s a day situated between mine and my mother’s birthdays, (mine’s the 3rd, my mother’s is the 5th), so it always feels like a big celebration. And truth be told, it is. While many years we end up at a cookout at a neighbor’s or family member’s house, this year we decided to host our own.

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The great thing about a cookout is that while you have hot dogs and veggie burgers cooking on the grill, you can whip up a salad of sorts to pair with your meatier main dish. Honestly, I oftentimes end up liking the salads so much better than my veggie burger!

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A Fourth of July apple pie!

 For this year’s Fourth of July festivities, in addition to making an apple pie, I created an Avocado Slaw, or what my family has taken to calling it Slawvocado. And while my boyfriend insists on calling it Grinch food, I promise it doesn’t taste anything close to that Christmas-stealing meanie.

Grinch greens (not!)

Grinch greens (not!)

This recipe was originally printed in the I Love Trader Joe’s Vegetarian Cookbook. It caught my eye mainly because it features my favorite food, the avocado, in a dressing. Better yet, it has no gluten, dairy, egg, nuts, soy or fish of any sorts, so it’s completely allergen free!

I tweaked it a little, of course, to fit my own taste palate and what I had on hand, and I ended up with one of my new favorite dishes. It’s full of healthy fat and veggies, and the best part is that it takes less than a half an hour to make. It’s a recipe I know I’ll be able to take back to school and make over and over.

Absolutely delicious!

Absolutely delicious!

Slawvocado (Tasty Avocado Slaw)

Ingredients

1 Tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon garlic powder (add more to fit your taste palate)

2 avocados

1/4 cup chopped parsley

juice of 1 small lime (microwave for 10 seconds to get the juices flowing)

sprinkle of salt

1/3 cup of water (add more for thinner dressing)

1 bag slaw (I used Trader Joe’s Organic Broccoli Slaw)

8 grape tomatoes, chopped

1/2 jalapeño pepper, diced with seeds removed

1. In the bowl of a food processor, combine olive oil, garlic powder and avocados and pulse until smooth.

2. Add the parsley, lime juice and salt and again, pulse until mixed.

3. Add enough water to make the avocado sauce the consistency of a creamy dressing.

4. In a separate large bowl, toss the dressing with the broccoli slaw, tomatoes and jalapeño pepper. Enjoy!

Simple Tomato Salad

For about as long as I can remember, my family has had our own garden. While most vegetables came and went, there was one that I was a little bit sweet on. Each year, as the summer ended and I started to pick out back-to-school clothing, my favorite would reappear in the garden and we would resume our affair from last year, and I was as passionate and desirous as ever.

I think I just waxed poetic on a tomato. That’s right ladies and gents, my one true love is a big,  juicy, ripe, red tomato. But who can blame me? It’s a bit early for garden tomatoes, but you can still pick them up in local grocery stores, thank goodness. While they’re great just to bite into, tomatoes do well with a little extra flavor of olive oil and salt.

Here’s a simple summer tomato salad recipe that, without the optional parmesan cheese, is entirely allergen free and really tasty.

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Summer Tomato Salad

(For one serving)

1 medium sized tomato

1 Tablespoon olive oil

3 leaves of basil

Salt and Pepper to taste

Parmesan Cheese to taste (omit if allergic to dairy)

1. Slice the tomato into bite-sized chunks. Make sure to remove the core.

2. Slice the basil into ribbons. Roll the basil into small tubes and slice the tubes in order to do so.

3. Place the tomato on a plate and top with basil, olive oil, salt, pepper and parmesan cheese to taste. Enjoy!

Gettin’ Fresh

I picked fresh berries for the first time yesterday and just about lost my shit. Black raspberries? From a bush? Like right off the bush?

As you can tell, I’m a bit of a city kid at heart, despite growing up in suburbia. However, I was visiting my grandparents’ house with my family and boyfriend, and when my grandma told us to pick the berries right from the bush and eat them, I got excited. Maybe a bit too excited, but hey, they were fresh berries right off the bush!

But wait, it gets better. Apparently these black raspberries grow rampant in the woods behind my boyfriend’s neighborhood. OH. MY. GOD. So, as long as the season is right and the berries are growing, he and I are going to be making some fabulous nut-free and soy-free black raspberry pie in the very first post in a series of nut-free, soy-free baking from the both of us.

But wait! There’s more! (There always is). Because this blog is about making adaptable foods, I will also be making a simple gluten-free black raspberry dessert that can be served alongside the pie to please those who can’t eat wheat.

Stay tuned!

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Homemade Ice Cream Sandwiches

Ah, summertime. The livin’s easy, the fish are jumping and the number of ice cream sandwiches nearby is high. I always forget about how much I love these as a treat, mostly because I’m too cold to actually enjoy ice cream from about September 1 to May 31. These next three months, then are prime sandwich time for me, and most certainly for you. The perfect treat for summer, ice cream sandwiches cool you off and are easy to eat in the sun, as long as you do it fast. Not to mention, this treat reminds me of one of my favorite songs by Battles called Ice Cream!

While some sandwiches are not cross-contaminated with nuts, they aren’t always easy to find. And gluten free ice cream sandwiches? Unless you’re lucky enough to live next to a specialty gluten free shop, finding those is highly unlikely, unfortunately. And a dairy-free version? You’re in the same boat.

The finished sandwich!

The finished sandwich!

So what’s a food allergy kid to do? Thankfully, Claire Thomas at The Kitchy Kitchen posted an easy chocolate ice cream sandwich recipe. This recipe is the perfect combination of rich and sweet. The cookies, without ice cream, taste of crisp, bitter dark chocolate. Putting ice cream in between two balances the cookies’ original bitterness, making a not-too-sweet treat that tastes amazing. I tweaked her recipe to create mini ice cream sandwiches that are peanut, treenut, egg, shellfish and fish free. The recipe can be adapted for those with dairy allergies by substituting margerine for the butter, and by using a dairy-free ice cream or sorbet for the filling. While finding similar gluten-free recipe to create was difficult, having some K-toos or gluten free Joe Joes on hand can make a similar gluten-free version of these treats.

I cut out the cookies with a small beer glass, about 2.5 inches in diameter.

I cut out the cookies with a small beer glass, about 2.5 inches in diameter.

Easy Ice Cream Sandwiches

Dark Chocolate Cookies
8 ounces butter, room temperature (or 8 ounces of margerine, for dairy-free)

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

2 cups flour

1/2 cup cocoa powder

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup grated or finely chopped bittersweet  chocolate (make sure it’s dairy-free)

The cookies all rolled out and ready to be popped into the oven!

The cookies all rolled out and ready to be popped into the oven!

1. Preheat oven to 350 F.

2. Blend together the butter and sugars with a mixer until pale and fluffy.

3. Sift together the dry ingredients and add to the mixer on low speed.

4. Add the vanilla and chocolate and blend until the dough turns dark brown.

5. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to a 1/4 inch thickness and using a small glass (mine was 2.5 inches in diameter), cut out the cookies.

6.  Place on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper to bake.

7. Bake for 12-13 minutes and cool completely on a rack before serving.

Pulling the crisp cookies out of the oven!

Pulling the crisp cookies out of the oven!

Ice Cream Sandwiches

1. Scoop one rounded scoop of vanilla ice cream (dairy free if you are allergic) in between two dark chocolate cookies. Serve and enjoy.

You can use just about any type of ice cream or sorbet to fill these cookies. You can create them each individual, or make a lot, wrap them in wax paper and freeze them for later.

Vacation’s All I Ever Wanted

Ahhh the beach. The sandy shoreline is, for most people at least, the most relaxing place on earth. When asked in yoga class or therapy to visualize the most relaxing place on earth, so many people visualize the beach, and for good reason – it’s calm as hell. But the thing is, going on a beach vacation – or any vacation for that matter – is not so relaxing when you’ve got multiple allergies. Because of this, so many people with allergies cower from vacations. But that, my allergy friends, is what I like to call letting your allergy rule you. You CAN go on vacation, just like you CAN have a life (as I’m sure you know). Planning ahead is key, but once you do it, you’ll find that going away with an allergy is not so bad.

When Eating Out…

1. Do Research

The internet is a life-saver. I thoroughly recommend looking up the menus of local restaurants before eating out, that way you don’t have to hunt when you’re starving and end up settling on something that might not be so safe. When you have questions about a menu, calling ahead can do wonders. Here in South Carolina, my family called one of the restaurants, the Jasmine Porch Restaurant ahead of time to ask about certain menu items. When we arrived, the staff was so knowledgeable and kind about our needs that we ended up having one of the best meals of the week.

I ended up with an allergen free meal! A tomato tasting to start...

I ended up with an allergen free meal! A tomato tasting to start…

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Lavender pasta with a tomato béchamel cream sauce for an entree…

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And a sorbet trio for dessert!

2. Don’t be afraid to speak up

Always tell a waiter your allergy needs so they can alert the chef. If you feel like the waiter doesn’t understand exactly what you need, don’t be afraid to ask to speak to the chef. A little extra talking goes a long way. Many people have pre-made business cards with their allergy information written on it. This can help you so much in a foreign country too, where the word for nuts could be something like noix.

Something like this is very easy to read!

Something like this is very easy to read!

3. Trust your gut

If a restaurant feels unsafe, unknowledgeable or even unkind, I urge you to trust your gut. That overly unconcerned waiter? Yeah, he probably forgot to tell the chef about your allergies. And those peanuts just sitting on the table over there? Well they’re not going away any time soon. If your gut is telling you that eating out isn’t the best plan, please please please follow it. It’s the difference between an allergic reaction and staying safe.

Don’t be afraid to eat in a few times…

1. Have a simple, adaptable meal!

Local vegetables are the best find when going away from home. When I travel to the south, I am always eager to pick up tomatoes months earlier than my garden at home would yield them. These veggies can help make a quick, adaptable and delicious meal, too – grilledvegetable pasta.

Garden vegetable pasta

Garden vegetable pasta

Here’s how!

Grilled Vegetable Pasta

Any type of fresh local vegetables

Gluten Free Angel Hair Pasta (cooked and drained) – enough for four people

4 Tablespoons olive oil (divided in half)

Salt and Pepper to taste

2 Tablespoons Parmesan Cheese (omit if allergic to dairy)

1. Slice the vegetables into bite sized pieces. Slice peppers into strips, zucchini into round disks and tomatoes into chunks.

2. Turn on your girl and set it at a medium heat.

3.  Toss vegetables with 2 Tablespoons olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.

4. Cook the vegetables on the grill, about 5-10 minutes until well done.

5. Combine the cooked pasta with the vegetables and remaining olive oil. Top with parmesan cheese if desired and enjoy!

2. Find a local farmer’s market

These peaches were to die for!

These peaches were to die for!

So you have this great, adaptable dish you want to make. But where will you find the vegetables? You can always visit a local grocery store, but, as many of you foodies know, farmer’s markets are where it’s at. And by “it,” I mean fresh produce that is both cheap, and probably the best thing you’ve ever eaten. These markets give you a chance to try local favorites, and to support small business. And, for those nut allergy kids out there, these markets are about 100 times safer for you to visit than a grocery store in the south. (The open containers of nuts everywhere in Piggyly Wiggly are cute and all, but they can also be pretty scary!)

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As always, be sure to check with the vendors to make sure anything baked, fried or cooked is safe. If they don’t seem knowledgeable, don’t buy it.

3. Bring certain essentials from home

And, finally, bring certain things that you know are hard to find from home. Where you’re staying might not have the great gluten free store that’s just down the road from you, and the local grocery store may not carry lactose free yogurt (hell, the grocery store I was visiting didn’t even have mini Chobanis!). When you know something essential is hard to find, always be safe and pack it in your car. A little cooler pack goes a long way for those things and helps make sure you are well-fed all week.

How do you stay safe on vacation? Where are your favorite allergy-friendly spots to visit?

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