Wednesday, February 26, 2014

My Anti-Raisin Broccoli Salad

"Raisin cookies that look like chocolate chips cookies are the reason I have trust issues." - Unknown

You know how people say you should never grocery shop hungry? I know that’s usually so you don’t over buy, but my true fear is that I’ll gorge myself on everything I bought the moment I get home. Whenever I’m pretty sure this fear is going to materialize, I buy broccoli salad right before I hit up the check-out line. I picked broccoli salad as my go-to grocery day snack for two reasons: it’s a vegetable hidden by the delicious taste of bacon, and also, bacon.

Fortunately it’s pretty filling (I think it’s mostly the gas produced by the broccoli, but still…) so the rest of my groceries can usually make it to the cupboards unharmed. 

But I do have a complaint about grocery-style broccoli salad, and that is one pesky ingredient. I think you know what I’m talking about. RAISINS. Not only do they taste gross, but I think I'm especially bitter at raisins because those little grapes could have become wine. Such lost potential. 

Lets face it. Raisins are the oompa loompas of the food world. Small, icky, and just plain wrong.
So this is my new and improved version of broccoli salad, heavy on the bacon, failed-wine free, and…

Argh, sorry, forgot what I was going to say. I started thinking about bacon again. Anyway, here is the recipe. Enjoy!

5-6 cups broccoli florets
¾ cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup white sugar
3 1/2 tablespoons white vinegar
½ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
1/3 cup dried cranberries
8 strips of bacon, cooked and crispy
½ red onion, finely sliced


Step 1: In a small bowl, mix mayonnaise, white sugar, vinegar, and salt. Add bacon, cranberries, and sunflower seeds. 

Step 2: In a larger bowl, toss broccoli florets and onion. Slowly pour the small bowl mixture over the tossed mixture in the larger bowl. Stir until all pieces are equally coated. Enjoy!

Serves 4-8 sides. 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Black Bean and Corn Vegan Chili

"Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances of survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet." - Albert Einstein 

Vegan chili! Yum yum yum. As you can see, the quest to make more vegan dishes continues. Although, I have a confession to make. I've outlined this recipe as vegan, but I did add a little sour cream at the end...

(Remember this? Oh, how I miss Sex and the City!)

Making great vegan recipes is hard. I never realized how much I rely on meat and dairy for flavoring my dishes. I will admit, this one was very good vegan, but sour cream just gave it that extra something. 

I don't know. I'd love more tips on how to create delicious vegan foods. I'm getting the hang of it, but need more inspiration. 

Anyway, this recipe is perfect for the winter time, even though in California winter is like, long sleeve weather.  Maybe a decorative scarf. One quick sidenote: I'M SO GLAD I GOT OUT OF MINNESOTA.

Here is a picture from last year, taken from my car, which I was stuck in for FOUR HOURS on the highway, completely snowed in. And before you lecture me on the dangers of driving during a blizzard (I KNOW. I just said I was from MN!), I was trying to get to the hospital where we were short-staffed. Still, big mistake. 

Even though I live in not-hell now, and am completely warm and sunny today, the horrible snowstorm pictures popping up on my facebook are enough to make me crave something hot for my belly. So here it is. High-protein vegan chili, with a vegetarian alternative. Enjoy!

1 onion, diced
2 cups cooked black beans
1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 can corn
2 tablespoons butter
1 cup cooked quinoa
16 oz salsa verde
2 teaspoons chili powder
¼ teaspoon cumin
1 tablespoon cilantro (fresh and torn)

Sour cream for topping (if making the non-vegan version)


Step 1: In a small skillet, heat butter on med/low until melted. Add onions and cook for 5 minutes. Set aside.

Step 2: In a large pot on low heat, add black beans, tomatoes and corn (NOT strained), cooked quinoa, salsa verde, and onions. Mix well, then add chili powder, cumin, and cilantro. Increase heat until chili is boiling. Then reduce to simmer and leave, covered, for 30 minutes. Serve hot!

Serves 5-8. 

(ahhhh, that's better!)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Truffle Fries Street-Food Style

"In a lot of ways I think food is starting to take the place in culture that rock and roll took 30 years ago, in that eating has become incredibly political. And just as the street has always dictated fashions on music and other things, its starting to happen that way in food." - Jonathan Gold

I went to eat street food in San Francisco with co-workers a few weeks ago and one of the girls got truffle fries. This was the first time I'd heard of such a thing, and they were incredible. I decided I had to make them for myself.

After searching around online to figure out what kind of truffle oil to buy, I found that truffle oil is actually a pretty controversial thing (as far as food goes, at least haha). There are a lot of purists out there who think truffle oil is an abomination because it discourages people from using actual truffles, and tastes far less superior to the real deal.

But if you've been reading my blog for a while, or know me in person, you probably know my opinion before I even knew I had one on this. Who cares! If it tastes delicious, if its easy, if it works for you, then ignore the elitists. Food should be fun. Truffle oil fries are fun. End of controversy, in my opinion at least (and as my spouse will tell you, I'm always right)!

So, to all you stuck up chefs, smirk at my lowly truffle oil if you must. I'll be too busy stuffing my face with these amazing fries to notice!

3 russet potatoes
4 tablespoons white truffle oil
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon fresh grated Parmesan

Coarse salt


 Step 1: Peel your potatoes (my least favorite step!). Then cut to your ideal fry size (this will effect cooking time—I did mine traditional fry size). Soak cut fries in cold water for one hour.

Step 2: Preheat oven to 425F. In a small bowl, combine truffle oil, garlic, and parsley. Pat dry the potatoes and put them in a large bowl. Toss potatoes and oil mixture until every fry is coated.

Step 3: Lay fries out evenly on a cookie sheet (I had to use two!). Cook for 25 minutes, then flip. Cook for an additional 25 minutes, then take fries out of the oven. Sprinkle with freshly grated Parmesan and coarse salt. Crank your oven up to 500F and cook for an additional five minutes. Let cool for a few minutes and enjoy!

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Gluten-Free Chicken Pot Pie

“Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this is the ideal life.” - Mark Twain

Recently I went to a fellow gluten-free friend’s house for dinner and she made a fantastic chicken pot pie. I hadn’t had chicken pot pie in years. I can’t tell you how great it tasted. Better than I remembered it as a kid. Anyway, this recipe is adapted from hers. She actually makes hers dairy-free which I think is amazing, but this one isn’t.

She also introduced me to the wonder that is Pillsbury’s gluten-free crusts. So yummy! I can’t tell that it’s gluten-free, and I’m pretty picky about my crusts. Honestly, when I wasn’t GF, I still rarely ate crusts on pies. But this crust is divine. I’m telling you, you have to try it.

The dough is a little tricky to work with, especially since I didn’t read the instructions first. Since I don’t have wax paper at home, I ended up just kneading and then flattening out the dough on a plastic cutting board. I transferred it into my dish using a spatula, and then connected the crust. This actually worked pretty well for me! I’ll probably keep doing it this way, because I’m lazy and I like the path of least resistance. I just used a fork to smooth out the top at the end, and it turned out…well, see for yourself!

1 Pillsbury gluten-free dough crust
½ cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon margarine
1/3 cup bob’s red mill gluten-free all purpose flour
1 ¾ cup gluten free chicken broth
½ cup milk
¼ teaspoon onion powder
¼ teaspoon thyme
2 cups frozen mixed vegetables (your choice! I used a frozen combination of peas, carrots, corn lima beans, and green beans and it was fabulous)
1 cup cooked shredded chicken
A pinch of pepper


Step 1: Preheat the oven to 425F. Prepare the pie crust in the pie plate as stated on the Pillsbury container, or if you’re like me, just kind of mash it into the shape of the container haha.

Step 2: On low/medium heat, melt the margarine in a large frying pan. Add the chopped onions and cook until tender, about 3-5 minutes. Add the gluten free chicken broth, pepper, thyme, and onion powder to the pan and bring to a boil.

Step 3: In a small bowl, mix the milk and the gluten-free flour, stirring well. Slowly pour the milk/flour mixture into the boiling chicken broth mix, stirring frequently. Stir in all the milk/flour and until your mixture is nice and creamy!

Step 4: Add the mixed vegetables and the chicken to the large pan. Lower the heat to simmer and cook for five minutes.

Step 5: Pour your pot pie filling into the crust and cover with additional crust (This is the part where I flattened out the dough and transferred it using a spatula. Works great if you don’t have wax paper!). Transfer your pot pie to the oven and cook uncovered for 40 minutes. (If you made your pot-pie with a decorative crust, make sure you follow the Pillsbury directions to avoid burning it! I chose to not make a crust, again, because I’m lazy and I think it tastes the same!)

Step 6: Let cool for 10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Serves 5-8.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

I Made Stephen King's Tomato Soup Recipe

I don’t think there’s anything that makes me happier than a good book and a delicious meal. Okay, world peace yada yada would make me happier, but lets be realistic. In the real world, being able to sit down and read, alone, in the wonderful quiet, is nothing short of bliss. Having a belly full of yummlys straight from the book—mind blowing.

Confession: I didn’t finish the book before I made Marnie’s lunch. To be honest, I was about 500 pages in when I skipped to the last page.

I KNOW. Bibliophile blasphemy! But I was dying to find out if my Jakey changed the past. Thank God King knew better than to put spoilers on the back page, protecting greedy little readers like me from myself.

In fact, what my prying eyes found were recipes straight from the past, the same meals Jake ate. The foodie in me exploded with glee. I threw down the book (Okay, gently set it down. One doesn’t simply “throw” Stephen King!) and ran to the grocery store. That would buy me some more time.

See, finishing a great book is hard for me. Its like saying goodbye forever to something that was new and special. Of course, you can always go back and re-read a book. It’s not like it disappears when you’re done. But it’s never the same. When you finish a book you loved, its like the book becomes a memory. You can re-read and relive that memory, but it still feels like a memory. You never get that “first time” excitement back again. (Which is probably why I made a very unladylike squeal when I found out King was going back to Derry—my Derry! If only he’d brought me back Bill…but at least we see my favorite ginger, Bev! And on an interesting note, I had just dyed my hair red. See, everything harmonizes with itself, doesn't it JIMLA?)

(She thrusts her fists against the posts and still insists she sees the ...toast? 
Sorry, little tuna salad humor...I'm all done now)

Anyway, making my Stephen King time-travel meal was the perfect way to make this book last just-that-much longer. To wait just a little longer before saying goodbye.

Now about that food. The tomato soup had a wonderful chemical free taste, which is rare unless you make your own food, and I think that was what King was going for by putting recipes in the back. The 60s had a beautiful simplicity to food that we don’t usually experience in 2014. I mulled over this fact for a while, let it marinate, shall I say, and then thought F-it, I’m going to add a shit ton of cheese! To put it bluntly—the soup was kind of bland as laid out. I think my 2014 palate is quite spoiled, so after my initial taste test, I ventured from the recipe and threw in a handful of Italian cheeses and parsley. After it had time to simmer for a while--delish.

The tuna salad was perfect on its own. Simple, classic, clean. Don’t change a thing.

I won’t post the recipes here for obvious copyright reasons, but there is another reason, too. You should go out and experience this book (and food) for yourself. I finished it this morning, before I even had a chance to heat up my leftovers. You know that need you get from books? Its like nothing else. Well, I needed to know how this one ended. Something in it connected to my heart and wouldn't take its hooks out until I finished it.

Friends, if you've ever wished you could change something in the past, read this book. If you've ever wondered if you’d be willing to destroy the entire world in order to change your broken heart, read this book. If you just plain-old love a solid story, read this book.

And then make some tomato soup to cry into when its over. Just throw in a little cheese, first.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Rosemary Roasted Chickpeas

“Life turns on a dime. Sometimes towards us, but more often it spins away, flirting and flashing as it goes: so long, honey, it was good while it lasted, wasn’t it?” - Stephen King, "11/22/63"

I'm at the tale end of a completely absorbing (and exceptionally long--it is Stephen King, after all) book right now that is sucking up all of my free time, including my cooking time. I can't complain, there are few things I love more than a great book, but that means I've been making food that takes as little time as possible.

I'm also still trying to create more recipes with more beans, less meat. It's going really well. This week I tackled the most consumed legume in the world--the chickpea. Now, I had all kinds of ideas about creating the perfect hummus, or inventing a new chickpea casserole, but like I said, this book is hella addicting. So I made something easy, fast, and delicious. And actually, quite addicting itself.

Roasted chickpeas aren't a new thing, or maybe even all that exciting. But sometimes a new take on an old recipe can revive it again, and this oil combo on the chickpeas is a winner. So ditch the plain old salt and garlic standby and spice it up with this twist! I ate these as a snack, but I intend to make them again and throw them on  a salad. They can be as versatile as you'd like!

1 cup olive oil
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1-2 inch chunk of aged Parmesan
1 can of chickpeas 


Step 1: In a small saucepan bring olive oil to a boil. Add rosemary, thyme, and reduce heat to simmer. When the oil is warm and no longer hot, add the Parmesan. Let sit for 1 hour. 

Step 2: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Rinse chickpeas and blot with a paper towel, or let dry. 

Step 3: Remove rosemary, thyme, and Parmesan cheese from the oil and set aside.  Spread chickpeas evenly on a tin foil covered cookie sheet. Drizzle chickpeas with oil, keeping in mind you will probably have lots of extra oil. (Return the seasonings to the remaining oil and refrigerate for your next batch of chickpeas or potatoes!)  

Step 3: Bake for 30-45 minutes, turning halfway through. Salt to taste. Wait until the chickpeas have cooled to serve. 

(sidenote: If the Parmesan doesn't melt, which is what you want, you can shred it at the end and put it on your chickpeas. I didn't do it the first time but I'm going to try it on round two!)

Serves 2 (snacks).

Friday, February 7, 2014

On the Dangers of Telling Vegans You’re Eating Vegan

“I’m trying to eat more vegan,” I said. My friend looked at me, then at my sushi, then into my eyes, then to my sushi. The look of pure judgment. Hey, I’m not saying I didn’t deserve it.

Trying,” I took another bite of raw flesh, maybe the most “un-vegan” thing I could do, as I told her about all the new recipes I’d been trying.

“Uh huh, uh huh, uh huh,” was her only response, her phone far more interesting than my stories. Because, after all, what vegan credibility did I have while devouring delicious, delicious meat?

(my niece modeling the look of pure contempt)

And that’s when I realized the danger of telling vegans I was trying to be more vegan.

Vegans are passionate. They are the go-balls-out believers of the conscientious food movement. They are disciplined, they are creative, and they are a tight knit group of devotees. And although all of these traits are great, they also produce a sort of clique that can be difficult to break into unless you show the same level of zealous.

Truth: anytime you tell someone who is fiercely passionate about a cause that you are going to half-ass it, I think there will be backlash. And maybe a little well-earned pomposity.

And for me, well, I’m just not disciplined enough to be a full-blown vegan. In fact, I have a startling confession: I’m a recovering vegetarian.

I spent three years in my late teens/early twenties completely meat-free, but one snowy afternoon a warm Chinese dumpling was ultimately my downfall. (Damn your greasy goodness!) 

I was a terrible vegetarian anyway. I used vegetarianism as an excuse to eat pasta and candy all day (this was before I found I had celiac, obvs). Nutrition was a non-issue, because I was completely uneducated on what my body needed. All I wanted was to save the animals and eat sweet, sweet candy. The fact that I’m not a diabetic is actually quite shocking (thank God for exercise and a young metabolism). But it’s not at all a surprise that I was constantly tired, often sick, and overall unhappy with how food affected my body. I also missed meat so much during  those three years that even my own cat was looking tasty. (Just kidding kitty! Although, with a little barbeque sauce…)

I know better now. I know my own limitations. I would love to be a vegan, but I accept myself for who I am. And who I am is not disciplined enough to be a vegan. I celebrate those who have the devotion and will-power to be completely animal-free, and I’m okay with never being able to join the club.

But that doesn’t mean that my heart isn’t in the right place. That doesn’t mean I’m not trying. I can do my best to reduce my earth footprint, save more of my furry friends, and be healthier by being “more vegan” without going all the way. And when I explain it to my vegan friends that way, they couldn’t be more supportive. They listen to my recipe ramblings, give me advice, and  bonus: now my cat can sleep soundly at night, too. 

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Sweet and Spicy Kale

"Imagination is everything." - Albert Einstein 

Sometimes the most creative recipes are born from a single craving. That's how this recipe came to be. I woke up craving, of all things, sweet chili sauce. But I didn't really have anything that went with sweet chili sauce in my cupboards, and I'd just gone grocery shopping and I refused to go buy something just to dip it in sweet chili sauce!

So I sat with my refrigerator, staring and ho-humming, when I had a brilliant idea. See, I love the health benefits of kale, but the bitter taste does turn me off a little. But sweet chili sauce might be the perfect solution to tone it down. Add a little lime, and I came up with a delicious dressing. The feta cheese helps even out the taste to make a great slightly-cooked salad.

You definitely have to have an open mind, and open palate, to try this one, but if you do I don't think you'll be disappointed! I paired it with a lime-marinade chicken breast (recipe forthcoming).

2 tablespoons sweet chili sauce
Juice of 1 lime
3 teaspoons feta cheese
6 cups of kale
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil


Step 1: In a small bowl mix sweet chili sauce and lime juice. Set aside.

Step 2: In a saucepan heat grapeseed oil on low/medium. Add kale and stir continuously, for about 1 minute or until the kale has started to wilt. Quickly remove from heat.

Step 3: Pour sweet chili sauce dressing onto kale and toss. Top with feta cheese and serve. 

Serves 2.

(lime-marinade chicken served with sweet chili kale)

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

On Culinary Disasters...

I had my first real culinary disaster a few weeks ago. I was planning on making this delicious looking bean recipe, and I pulled it straight out of a cookbook (not even the internet!). I’ve been trying to eat more vegetarian and vegan recipes, so lately I’ve been cooking in unfamiliar territory. I feel like I’m pretty solid when it comes to meats, but cooking beans is an all new challenge (especially since I made the choice to start raw).

I followed the recipe to a T.

I shopped and bought ingredients especially for the recipe (and some were pretty obscure!). I even prepped for the recipe, since it required some aspects of the recipe be given time to marinate overnight. I invested my time, money, and energy into this recipe. And it turned out AWFUL.

And I mean, I couldn’t even eat it awful. The beans were crunchy, the spices were off. Honestly, it felt like someone had just guessed at how this would work and taste, and never actually tried it. Which is kind of shocking for a recipe in a published book. Usually my spouse will eat anything I make, he’s far less picky than me, and he doesn’t like to hurt my feelings. But even he didn’t eat it.

I threw the whole mess away.  I tried for a while to change the recipe to make it work, but it was just terrible. Waste of time, money, and energy, and that sucks.

But I did learn something very important from this whole mess.

To me, sharing recipes is a matter of integrity. Every recipe I share has been tried and true, and is not only easy enough for a novice cook, but is also made with ingredients that you can actually buy in a store. The point of my blog has always been to help other newly diagnosed celiacs make simple, delicious recipes. Especially for those who have never cooked before.

When I was first diagnosed with celiac disease, I didn’t know what spices to use. I didn’t know what temperatures meant what on the stove, and how long to boil/bake/sauté/simmer. I had to learn everything from scratch (with a little help from the internet, and other wonderful gluten-free bloggers).

Being diagnosed with celiac disease was hard enough, but learning to cook? Ufftah. But I knew I had to learn to cook in order to still be able to eat the foods that I loved. And I want to help others who find themselves in that same situation.

Sharing recipes is meant to help teach and inspire new cooks. For me, great recipes are meant to make other’s lives easier, and to improve their overall health and nutrition. I also want to make the transition into gluten-free living just a little bit easier for someone else who might have felt the same shock that I did.

I strive to respect people’s time, energy, and money when I share my recipes.

So no crazy, unmanageable recipes on this blog. No random, obscure ingredients (unless I have a really, really good reason!). An easy recipe shouldn’t take 40 steps to complete, or require a week of prep, or the promise of your first born child to turn out right.

Cooking is art, but it’s not magic. It should just taste like magic.

Happy eating. 

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Perfect Peanut Butter Cookies

"I'm not a vegetarian! I'm a dessertarian!" - Calvin and Hobbes 

There's no denying it, I have a huge sweet-tooth! But one thing I've noticed since I've gone gluten-free (GF) is that there is a huge lack of GF sweets, at least ones that don't taste bitter or have that 'GF texture'--you know the one that I'm talking about. I blame GF flour. There are some great products out there, but I think we have a long way to go in terms of perfecting GF all purpose flour and other baking necessities.

This recipe is super simple (one of the most simple recipes I've posted!), bypasses the flour problem, and tastes great! I made them for a work celebration and many people told me that they liked them better than regular cookies. Feel free to give them a try and let me know what you think!  The quality of these cookies greatly depends on the quality of the peanut butter that you cook with, so I really do insist that you use natural crunchy peanut butter! Otherwise they won't turn out nearly as good. Enjoy!

1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup natural peanut butter
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
Coarse salt (I used Himalayan pink salt, but you don’t have to get that fancy!)


Step 1: Preheat oven to 350F. In a large bowl mix brown sugar, white sugar, and peanut butter. Stir until thoroughly mixed.

Step 2: To the dough add vanilla extract, baking soda, and egg. Stir for at least 2 minutes.

Step 3: Form one inch balls by rolling them in your hands. Press flat gently with a spoon (you can add a design here as well!). Put them on a cookie sheet with tin foil. Bake for 10 minutes, until light brown.

Step 4: Remove cookies from the oven and sprinkle lightly with coarse salt. Cook for an additional 2 minutes, or until done. 

 Makes a dozen cookies.