Category Archives: Healthy Living

Zesty Tortilla Soup

Zesty Tortilla Soup

For those of us in the Chicagoland area today, we could use a little warm comfort food today since this (below) is what it looks like out our front doors today.

Last week I had a question from Laura. She has a friend that just had a baby who has many of the same food restrictions that I have. And Laura, being a great friend, really wanted to bring her a warm meal. She said she had chicken stock and half a chicken worth of meat and wanted to make something using those ingredients. Since Tortilla Soup is one of my all time favorites this was my suggestion. I got so hungry for it just suggesting it, that I made it the next day.

Hope this Zesty Tortilla Soup will warm you right up while snowed in!

1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
1 (10.5 oz.) can condensed chicken broth (I used regular chicken broth)
1 1/4 cups water
1 cup whole corn kernels, cooked
1 cup white hominy
1 (4 oz.) can chopped green chile peppers (I used my whole 7 oz. can because I like it a little spicier)
1 (15 oz.) can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 boneless chicken breasts, cooked and chopped into bite size pieces

*It looks like a lot of ingredients, but I love it because it used mostly can goods and spices you’ll have on hand

1. In a stock pot heat olive oil and cook chopped chicken. Add onion and garlic once chicken begins to cook. Cook until onion is soft and chicken is cooked through.
2. Stir in oregano, chili powder, crushed tomatoes, broth, and water. Bring to a boil and simmer 5 to 10 minutes.
3. Stir in corn, hominy, chiles, beans, and cilantro. Simmer for 10 minutes.
4. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
5. Serve with chopped green onions, more fresh cilantro, or corn tortilla chips. If you can eat dairy and avacados you can serve it with shredded cheese, sour cream, and slices of avacados.

*Recipe Source:
(I slightly altered the recipe from the original and found it to taste a little better.)

I thought you may be wondering what hominy is, just like I was. (Above) Here’s what it looks like.
“Hominy is dried white or yellow corn kernels from which the hull and germ have been removed”
This is the first time I had eaten hominy and I loved it. It has a texture somewhere between corn and potatoes.
Hope you enjoy this new ingredient in this tasty soup!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies

Chocolate Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies

I thought you might enjoy these delicious cookies this weekend. They’re a childhood favorite of mine. A recipe from my grandma’s recipe collection book. When I went gluten free I thought I’d never enjoy them again. But hopefully you can take this replacement method I use here to still be able to make your favorite childhood sweet!

2 2/3 cup flour (I use a GF flour blend for baking, like Bob Red’s Mill Brand)
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup softened butter (I do eat butter, but if you can’t you could use margarine)
3/4 cup creamy peanut butter (Look for one without a lot of added stuff)
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs worth of egg replacer (I use Ener-G brand)
2 teaspoons vanilla extract (Look for a GF one)
1 package GF, dairy free, chocolate chips (the original recipe calls for Hershey Kisses. I couldn’t find any that are GF, dairy free, so I use these chocolate chips instead)

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Sift flour with baking soda and salt and set aside.
2. In a large bowl beat peanut butter and butter on medium speed with mixer until well blended.
3. Add the white and brown sugar and mix until light and fluffy.
4. Add egg replacer and vanilla and beat until smooth.
5. Stir in flour mixture.
6. Using a level tablespoon, shape the mixture into 5 dozen balls with your hands. Note: I only baked half the batch of dough and placed the other half of the dough in storage bags in the freezer to make later.
7. Roll each dough ball in sugar.
8. Place each dough ball 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 8 minutes.
9. Remove from oven. Place chocolates in center of each cookie. Place back in oven for 2 more minutes. Remove, cool, and enjoy!

Hope this replacement method will help you to still enjoy your favorite cookies even on a restricted diet!

Savory Cottage Pie

Savory Cottage Pie

I woke up this morning and its snowing again. Don’t get me wrong, if its going to be freezing cold at least the snow is pretty. But I’m ready for Spring and unfortunately its still January. So, I thought since its still cold and snowy out you might enjoy a hearty warm meal even on a restricted diet.

This Savory Cottage Pie is warm and filling to give you lots of energy during these frigid months. Its easy to make, follows my restricted diet, and is a great all-in-one meal for a larger group as well. So enjoy!

3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large yellow onion, diced medium
2 carrots, cut into 3/4-inch pieces
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 pound ground beef, lamb, or turkey
2 teaspoons thyme
1 cup gluten free beer, you can also use beef stock
2 tablespoons gluten free all-purpose flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill brand)
3/4 cup frozen peas
1 large russet potato (3/4 pound), very thinly sliced (I use a mandalin to slice it thin)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In large skillet heat 1 tablespoon butter over medium-high.
2. Add onions and carrots and cook, stirring often, until onion is soft, 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
3. Add meat and cook, breaking up with wooden spoon, until almost cooked through, 3 minutes. Drain fat.
4. Add tomato paste, thyme, and beer or stock and bring to a boil. Cook, stirring frequently, until slightly reduced, 2 minutes.
5. Sprinkle flour over mixture and stir to combine. Add 1 cup water and cook until mixture thickens, about 2 minutes.
6. Stir in peas and season with salt and pepper.
7. Transfer mixture to a 2 quart baking dish.
8. Top with potatoes, overlapping slices. Season potatoes with salt and pepper and drizzle 2 tablespoons melted butter on top.
9. Bake until potatoes are browned around edges and tender, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool 10 minutes and serve.

*Recipe says it serves 6. I found it serves more like 4. I made 1 1/2 times the recipe (shown) to feed 5 and have left overs.
*Recipe source: Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food: November 2010 Issue.

Snack and Decor?

Snack and Decor?

My husband and I love having friends over, but I never seemed to have snacks on hand to offer especially for last minute movie nights. I like to have at least a little something to offer guests, especially during these cold winter months. I need something nonperishable that I can leave out…Solution:

I was in the grocery one day and saw these shelled nuts you can buy by the pound. I never really even thought to buy them because I can’t eat them. With my husband on a high protein diet and needing a snack to munch in the evening and my need for snacks to have on hand for guests, I had a light bulb moment and bought a few different kinds (walnuts, filberts, brazil nuts, almonds, and pecans).

I got them home and wondered what I was going to put them in. I need them sitting out, easily available and covered so they don’t get all dusty. Solution: A Longaberger basket my Aunt Peggy gave me. I keep it out on a side table or coffee table in my living room with a nutcracker inside and a decorative bowl next to it for the shells.

This solution has become both a healthy snack for my husband and guests and decor in my living room.
Its always there, so I don’t have to get it out for guests.
And I know it doesn’t follow my restricted diet, but my secret: I keep a bag of pistachios in my pantry for me…shhhh, don’t tell!

Super Quick Soup

Super Quick Soup

I love quick, easy to make meals that use very few dishes to prepare. If you need a super quick, easy to make meal that’s hearty, warm, and uses left-overs you already have in your fridge, this soup is for you. This soup not only follows my restricted diet, but can also be made so its a vegetarian and vegan meal if you like.

The secret: These great boxed soups from Trader Joe’s or the health food section of your local grocery store. They generally cost anywhere from $3 to $5 and are so worth it.

Almost all of these boxed soups follow my restricted diet. Even the creamy soups a lot of times use coconut milk or soy milk as the base, so its still dairy-free. Its also nice that I recognize the ingredients listed in them; things like carrots, beans, lentils, spices, squash, etc. There are a lot of varieties available, everything from Creamy Corn and Roasted Red Pepper to Curried Red Lentil to Butternut Squash.

You can heat these soups right out of the box if you’re into thin, broth soups. But, if you’re like me and need something a little heartier here’s my solution.

What I put in these soups:
I use left-over vegetables, beans, lentils, rice noodles, and meat to add to these soups.

How I make this soup in one pot:
I cut up the left over meat or veggies that I want to add.
In a saucepan over medium heat I heat a little olive oil and add my veggies that need to be cooked a little.
Then I add the meat, beans, lentils, rice noodles (anything that needs to just be heated).
I then pour the boxed soup in, over the other ingredients. Stir and just heat it until its warm and bubbly.
I rarely add any other seasonings since the boxed soups have a lot of flavor, but you could add additional salt, pepper, cumin, or serve it with fresh herbs on top like cilantro.

Here are some ideas for yummy stuff to add to your boxed soups:

Veggies- I like to incorporate veggies that compliment the boxed soup ingredients. So if the boxed soup says that it has carrots as an ingredient, I like to add carrots, etc.
(carrots, onions, celery, butternut squash, broccoli, sweet potatoes, etc.)

Proteins and Starches- I use pretty much whatever is left over in my fridge for the proteins and starches. If I have a little left-over chicken or beans, that’s what I use.
(chicken, beef, lentils, black-eyed peas, split peas, kidney beans, cannellini beans, potatoes, corn, rice pasta, etc.)

Hope this is another yummy addition that can become a go-to quick, healthy meal for you! Enjoy!

Closer Look at Your Childhood Arch-Enemy: Brussel Sprouts

Closer Look at Your Childhood Arch-Enemy: Brussel Sprouts

Do you remember as a child sitting at the dinner table after everyone else had finished dinner, teary-eyed because your mother said you couldn’t leave the table until you’d eaten your brussel sprouts? You just couldn’t down those awful little things and you’ve hated them ever since. Well let’s be honest, a lot of time has gone by and your palette is different than it used to be and maybe your mother cooked them so thoroughly they were reduced to mush.

Today I’m saying give them another shot! That’s right…Today I’m taking a Closer Look at Brussel Sprouts.

These little guys have a bad rap, but I’ve grown to love them over the last few years. My theory is you might too, you just have to know how to cook them.

Why eat ‘em?
These little guys are full of folate (folic acid), which helps prevents birth defects if consumed during pregnancy. Brussel sprouts are packed with vitamins C and K that contributes to beautiful skin and increases immune function. They’re a great source of soluble and insoluble fiber that is important to keep weight in check and keeps your colon healthy. Eating brussel sprouts actually helps to prevent cancer because they increase your cells’ ability to detoxify and regenerate healthy cells.

How to select the best brussel sprouts?
Look for the smallest brussel sprouts. The smaller, the sweeter they are. They should be firm, not squishy and the layers on them should be tightly compacted.

How to cook ‘em so they’re tasty?
1. Peel the outer layers off and cut off the excess stem portion.
2. Cut each of them in half length wise.
3. Heat a skillet over medium heat with a little extra virgin olive oil and add brussel sprouts.
4. Stir frequently. Add about a tablespoon of butter to the skillet (butter makes everything better), a little salt and pepper, and more olive oil if they begin to stick or burn. Cooking about 8 to 10 minutes.
5. Add approximately 1/3 cup water to the skillet, cooking an additional 2 minutes.
6. Squeeze half a lemon over the brussel sprouts, stir and serve.

I hope you’ll give these little guys with a bad rap another chance. I’ve come to love them and I hope you will as well!


Indian Food Dinner Party Feast

Indian Food Dinner Party Feast

In my last post, Fabulous Spaces: Mary’s Victorian Apartment, I said that my friend Mary (that recently moved into her new space) was telling me how she wanted to have a dinner party but she presently only had 2 chairs for her dining table. Mary and I both love Indian food and Mary has in fact spent some time in India, so I suggested let’s do an Indian Food Dinner Party Feast, eating at a low table sitting on the floor.

The dinner party was a blast! It was different than your typical diner party, the company was great, and the food was super tasty. The best part is that I could eat almost everything at the feast. So, my restricted diet friends here’s some more yummy food options for you too!

Indian dinners usually consist of many dishes that are shared family style.

This first dish we made was a chicken curry dish. Mary started by sauteing sliced mushrooms, onions, and cubes of chicken breast in a skillet with a little oil. She then added some canned tomatoes (homemade courtesy of her mom, but you could used store bought can tomatoes) and mild red curry sauce from Trader Joe’s.

I’m normally not really a fan of premade, packaged food, but I love these and highly recommend them. They’re both from Trader Joe’s and are premade, packaged in a pouch and just need to be heated and served. The two that I could eat are Punjab Eggplant and Dal Makhani (a lentil dish). There was another one that was a paneer cheese dish as well that didn’t fit my diet, but if you can eat dairy try it.

We also made jasmine rice, sprinkled with saffron. Typical Indian meals are eaten with rice as most of the other dishes in the meal have a very concentrated flavor and the rice helps to balance the flavors.

There was a cucumber, tomato, and green onion salad that added a fresh crisp taste to the meal. We simply cut up the veggies and tossed them with a homemade dressing (equal parts extra virgin olive oil and red wine vinegar with fresh cracked salt and pepper).

Mary also served traditional Naan Bread that’s eaten with Indian meals and is used to scoop up and eat the saucier dishes. Since Naan has gluten Mary found these great Baked Lentil Chips from Trader Joe’s as an additional item that I could eat.

Mary served the meal with traditional Indian tea that was really delicious. She boiled the water with Tea Masala that she actually brought back from India (you could probably find it at a grocery that offers various ethnic foods). Once the water boiled she steeped corriander pods, rooibos (red tea), and ginger tea to create this delicious blend.

This was truly a scrumptious Indian Food Dinner Party Feast. Thanks to Mary for opening her home and preparing a great meal that was a lot of fun to eat! I hope this inspires others out there to explore and enjoy new foods from other cultures.

Gluten Free: Animal Cookies

Gluten Free: Animal Cookies

Here’s another product to add to your GF food index.
For those of us with restricted diets, the simple things in life like animal cookies that fit our restricted diets can be seriously exciting! This one is especially for those who have kids that have to be GF. Every kid should get to partake in the simple joys of being a kid, like eating animal cookies. Here’s good news for all the GF kids and those of us who are GF and young at heart.

I love the brand Nature’s Path because they provide great tasting GF options. Their line, Envirokidz, gives GF kids food options that specifically appeal to them. Their GF Organic Animal Cookies (Vanilla) are a tasty snack for those of us young and old.

You can pick up these animal cookies from your local health food store. I’ve also found them at my local grocery store that has a GF section and even at Walmart nearby that has a GF section.

Hope this opens up your GF food options!

Greens, Beans, and Sausage Pasta

Greens, Beans, and Sausage Pasta

I found love pasta dishes that are full or flavor. I fell in love with this one because its delicious despite the fact it doesn’t have cheese in it! Its a little spicy, a little saucy, and full of nutrient packed ingredients that’ll warm you from the inside out.
As you can see this is another kale dish; I’m really loving kale right now and hope you will too!

1 can (15 oz.) cannellini beans
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 large red onion, sliced thin
4 fully cooked spicy chicken andouille sausages cut into thin slices (I like Trader Joe’s Smoked Andouille Chicken Sausage)
1 pound greens (I use kale, but you can also use collard greens or mustard greens) cut into 1″ strips
1 can tomato based vegetable juice (I use V8 Vegetable Juice)
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 pound penne pasta (I use GF pasta)

1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Toss with a little olive oil and set aside.
2. Heat olive oil in large pot on medium heat and cook onions until translucent. Add chicken sausage and cook until fragrant about 5 minutes.

3. Add greens a little at a time and coat until wilted. Then add vegetable juice, cayenne, and sugar. Cover and simmer about 10 minutes until greens are tender.

4. Add beans and stir to combine. Cook uncovered until most liquid is absorbed about 3 minutes. Swirl in vinegar and stir to combine. Remove from heat.
5. Serve greens, beans, and sausage mixture over pasta. Enjoy!

* Recipe Source: A health magazine that I can’t remember the name of, sorry. Got it a couple years ago.