Category Archives: Gluten Free

Closer Look: Quinoa

Closer Look: Quinoa

Today I’m taking a Closer Look at Quinoa. Maria commented a while back that she wanted to know what to do with quinoa. So, here I’m posting why you should try quinoa and consider adding it to your diet. I’ll follow with a recipe post, so you know a tasty easy way to prepare it.

What is Quinoa?
Quinoa is technically not a grain, but is actually a seed from a plant that’s related to beets and other leafy greens. Even though its technically not a grain, its used as a substitute for almost any grain and therefore is often called a grain. Quinoa is an ancient crop that grows heartily in even poor soil or dry climates.
The quinoa grain itself is small, oval shaped and when cooked expands, much like rice. The grain itself is soft when cooked like rice, but the outer shell part that separates when cooked has a crunchy texture. Quinoa has various color varieties including red (shown in the photo), yellow, brown, and black.

Why eat Quinoa?
Quinoa is a great source of protein and dietary fiber. Its rich in minerals including iron, potassium, magnesium, folate, phosphorus, zinc, copper, maganese, selenium and calcium. So, no doubt quinoa is a great addition to your diet!

Where to buy Quinoa?
Most supermarkets carry quinoa in the rice section or with the health foods.

How to prepare Quinoa?
You can prepare quinoa much like you prepare instant rice. Follow the package directions, which most of the time say to boil 2x the amount of water as quinoa, add the quinoa and cook for 10-15 minutes. This is a pretty bland way to make it, so stay tuned for tasty quinoa recipes.

Kid Friendly Tacos

Kid Friendly Tacos

As an adult who has a fairly restricted diet, I can’t imagine being a kid or having a child that has food restriction…having to always tell your child “no” or “you can’t eat that.”
That’s why I’m launching this new segment called Kid Friendly Food, where I’ll post recipes that’ll give you more opportunities to tell your child on a restricted diet “Yes, you can have that.”

Although Matt and I eat pretty healthy, that doesn’t mean we both don’t crave junk food. In fact we passed a Taco Bell the other day and both missed those tasty tacos we once ate. So, I thought we can make those tasty tacos at home and I’ll be able to eat them. So, here are our tacos!

The taco seasoning packets you buy at the supermarket most of the time contain wheat, so Matt and I make our own seasoning in this large batch and keep it on hand, so its ready whenever we want to make tacos.
Here’s the Taco Seasoning we make:
1 tablespoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

My Taco Ingredients:
Ground Beef
Vegetarian Re-fried beans (I like them because they add a heartiness to the tacos since I can’t eat cheese. Add them first without telling your child and see if they’ll eat them. They may not even notice.)
Chopped Tomatoes
Chopped Lettuce
Chopped Cilantro
Premade salsa
Corn Tortillas
Corn chips (to eat with tacos)

Kid Friendly Taco Directions:
1. Sautee ground beef, turkey, or chicken in a pan over medium heat, sprinkling with a little taco seasoning. Drain meat.
2. Heat corn tortillas in microwave or in a pan on stove.
3. Heat re-fried beans in pot on stove.
4. Spread a little re-fried beans on tortilla. Add meat, then tomatoes, lettuce, and chopped cilantro.
5. Serve with salsa and corn chips and enjoy!

Next time your child on a restricted diet sees a Taco Bell and like me and Matt says “that looks good” and wants tacos, you can tell them “Yes, you can have that!”
*Note: if corn is not in your diet, you can use large lettuce leaves for the tortilla. Try Boston Lettuce or Iceberg Lettuce. It may be weird at first, but you’ll get used to it.

Closer Look: Salmon

Closer Look: Salmon

Today I’m taking a Closer Look at one of my favorite proteins: Salmon. There’s so many ways to prepare it to enhance its natural flavor and it has great nutritional benefits.

Why eat salmon?
Salmon has an extremely high amount of protein. Its a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins A, E, folate, and B vitamins. Salmon is rich in minerals such as calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, potassium, and selenium.

How to select salmon?
I buy wild caught salmon whenever possible. Even if its frozen, wild caught fish is always better than farm raised fish because the fish has been eating what it naturally eats in the wild rather than whatever the farms decide to feed the fish. Thus the nutritional value to you is much better. Look for a fillet that is dark pink or red in color. But, be careful because I’ve seen that a lot of stores carry salmon that has been dyed red to make it look better (check the label and make sure there are no dyes listed in the ingredients).

I love to experiment to find new ways to cook salmon and here’s one of the simplest, yet delicious ways to cook it.

Salmon Fillets
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Pike Place Fish Rub (or other prepared herb rub for fish; supermarkets carry various types)
*This Pike Place Fish Rub is simply a blend of brown sugar, paprika, cilantro, garlic, pepper, onion, salt, and other spices.

1. Rub fish fillets lightly with olive oil.
2. Sprinkle herb rub over fish fillets and pat into fillets. (Be careful if your rub contains salt not to add too much of the rub)
3. Heat some olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add fillets and sautee until the outside of the fillet is slightly browned; flip fillet and sautee until the other side is slightly browned and center of fillet is just cooked. Serve!

*I served my herb rubbed salmon with half a baked sweet potato with butter and oven roasted asparagus and broccoli.

Quick Valentine’s Dessert

Quick Valentine’s Dessert

Just in case you forgot, today is Valentine’s Day. So, you have no idea what sort of dessert you can have on a restricted diet or with limited time to make it…How about chocolate fondu!

Even with my restricted diet, chocolate fondu is a great no bake dessert that I can eat.

The best part about chocolate fondu for Valentine’s Day is its a fun activity that you can share with your loved one!

Here’s how I make my chocolate fondu:
I take a package of allergen-free semi sweet chocolate chips and melt them down in a double broiler. I swirl in a little water and a touch of vanilla extract; stir thoroughly and pour into your fondu pot with a candle or sterno lighter below.

I found this cute little fondu pot at a thrift store several years ago…the red color makes it feel even more festive!

My favorite fondu dippers that follow my restricted diet:
GF Animal Crackers
GF Graham Crackers
GF Pretzels
Bananas (I can’t eat em’ any more but used to be my favorite dipper)

Even with not much time to prepare and even on a restricted diet, you can enjoy this delicious dessert/activity with your loved one. Happy Valentine’s Day!

Homemade Pizza Crust You’ll Love

Homemade Pizza Crust You’ll Love

I don’t know about you, but Friday nights at my family’s house growing up was “Pizza Night!” And it was everybody’s favorite.

One of the things I hear people say when they have to go Gluten Free, with head hung low in the most sad voice I’ve ever heard is, “I can’t eat pizza anymore!”(Note: Keep reading even if you aren’t GF because this is a great recipe that’ll even give regular pizza crust a run for its money)

I’m here to tell you that despite the fact that you can’t eat Gluten, Dairy, or Eggs that you can eat Pizza! I know if you’re on a restricted diet, you’re singing “Oh, Happy Day!” You can buy premade GF pizza crust mixes and I’m sure there are some that are really tasty and I’m all for the convenience factor. But, this is one well worth making from scratch. It’s become my favorite and Matt loves it too, even though he can eat “regular pizza.”

This Quick-Bread Pizza Crust recipe is from one of my favorite Allergen Free Cookbooks.
It’s called Cooking Free, by Carol Fenster, Ph.D.

* I generally double the crust recipe. And making this pizza generally becomes not only dinner for us, but we make a night activity out of it, making the pizza then watching a movie while enjoying!

1/2 cup cornstarch
1/2 cup tapioca flour (I use Bob’s Red Mill or Ener-G brand)
1 teaspoon sugar or honey
1 teaspoon xanthan gum (I use Bob’s Red Mill brand)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon potato flour, or sweet sorghum flour, or brown rice flour (I use whatever I have on hand)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
2 tablespoons butter or margarine
1 large egg, or 1 tablespoon egg replacer powder mixed in 3 tablespoons water
1/4 cup milk (cow, rice, soy)
Extra rice flour

*A lot of ingredients, but this one is well worth it!

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease 12 inch nonstick pizza pan (for a thin, crispy crust) or 11×17 inch nonstick baking pan or 10 inch cast iron skillet (for a deep-dish crust).
2. Combine all ingredients except egg, milk, and extra rice flour. I cut up the butter into small cubes and mix with a spatula or my hands. Bled until mixture resembles fine bread crumbs. Add egg and milk and mix until dough forms balls. Dough will be stiff, but sticky.

3. Place dough on prepared pan and sprinkle with extra rice flour. Pat dough to 1/4 inch thickness with hands, just up to edges of pan (sprinkling with more rice flour as needed). Make dough slightly higher around outer edge to contain toppings. Bake for 10-15 minutes. Remove from oven and top with toppings. Bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, or until browned to taste.

(Watch the pizza develop, the right side is Matt’s and the left side is mine)

Ideas to top the perfect Allergen Free Pizza:

First layer> Base: You have to have some sort of base for your pizza. You can use pizza sauce or use (what’s become my favorite) blend olive oil and minced garlic and spread that on as a base. (The olive oil and garlic base is perfect for those who cannot tolerate tomatoes). If you can tolerate tomatoes, add a layer of sliced tomatoes on top of the olive oil garlic blend.

Second layer> Spices and Greens: Next, I like to sprinkle on Italian seasoning or fresh basil leaves. I sometimes add spinach leaves too.

Third layer> Veggies: I then add all the veggies. There are so many different combos you can use. I use what I have in my fridge. Sliced mushrooms, onions, peppers, artichoke hearts, broccoli, whatever else you love!

Last layer> Proteins: Last, I add the proteins. If you can eat cheese that’s an obvious topping. If you’re like me and can’t do dairy you could use a replacement cheese like Diayla brand from Whole Foods. You could also use a little goat cheese (use it more sparingly than regular cheese, as it tends to be strong).
Or you can do what I do and go without cheese. This crust has a great taste that compliments pizza without cheese as the onion powder and other spices provide a lot of flavor.
As far as meats go you can add my favorite GF pepperonies (I use Boar’s Head brand), or GF Italian sausage. If you can’t do processed meats precook chicken, shred it and use it as a topping.

(As you can see above, I like a lot more toppings on my pizza than Matt does!)

This pizza is great as leftovers, heated in the toaster oven!
Hope you and your family can have your pizza night, despite any food allergies! Enjoy!

Closer Look: Asparagus

Closer Look: Asparagus

Today I’m taking a Closer Look at Asparagus. Maybe you love it, or maybe you’ve hated it in the past.
Regardless, I hope you’ll try this delicious little veggie.

Asparagus is in season in early Spring. You may be thinking that it’s far from Spring, but I’ve begun to see it pop up in the supermarkets, looking really fresh and priced really reasonably.

How do you choose the best Asparagus?
Look for thin stalks. Our American mindset generally defaults to bigger is better, but not when it comes to Asparagus. The thinner stalks have a better flavor than the thicker stalks. They should be bright green in color and should look perky and fresh, not saggy and rubbery.

What are the nutritional benefits of eating Asparagus?
Asparagus is a great source of vitamins A, C, K, and folate. Its low in carbohydrates and actually contains a significant amount of protein and fiber as well.

How do I cook Asparagus?
Regardless if you boil, sautee, or roast it, start by washing Asparagus in cold water. Hold the stalks with one hand on each end and bend the stalks until they break. Use the top half of the stalks and toss the lower half (I sometimes save these lower halves of the stalks and use them for Asparagus Soup; I’ll post that recipe at a later date). The point where these stalks naturally break separates the undesirable portion to eat from the naturally tasty potion.

My favorite way to prepare Asparagus is to roast it in the oven. I preheat my oven to 400 degrees. I place the stalks on a cookie sheet and drizzle a little extra virgin olive oil, adding a little sea salt and pepper to taste; Toss to coat. I then spread the stalks so they’re a single layer on the pan and then roast them for 5 minutes in the oven. Cooking them at this high temperature for a short amount of time still leaves them bright green and crisp while making the tops a little crunchy.

What do I serve with Asparagus?
My favorite thing to eat with Asparagus is fish and sweet potatoes. The flavors just seem to work really well together.

Hope you’ll give this Spring veggie a try! Its become one of my favorite veggies!

Breakfast on a Restricted Diet

Breakfast on a Restricted Diet

One of my biggest challenges with my restricted diet has been what to eat for breakfast. Since I don’t eat gluten, dairy, or eggs (the main ingredients in breakfast foods) breakfast has been a challenge. But, I have some ideas…

I like to mix gluten free cereals.

I combine this sweet GF cereal (Sunrise Maple Crunch) with a more bland cereal like GF Chex. It helps vary the flavor as you eat it and the Chex is a lot less expensive so it makes the more expensive GF cereal go further.

I like to get some protein in the morning, so I generally add unsalted sunflower seeds. They add an extra crunch and 1 oz. of sunflowers seeds contains 6 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber. I then top the cereal with blueberries (when available) and rice milk.

Hope this gives you a start to a great breakfast even on a restricted diet!

Have a great weekend. I’ll see you on Monday! Happy Super Bowl!

Slow Cooker Chicken with Italian Sausage

Slow Cooker Chicken with Italian Sausage

Because its still freezing cold around much of the country today, I thought I’d share a warm, hearty slow cooker recipe with you. I served this Slow Cooker Chicken with Italian Sausage with oven roasted broccoli and asparagus and a side salad. It makes great left overs too. Talk about comfort food on a restricted diet…well, here you go!

10 oz. mild or hot Italian Sausage (GF), casings removed
5 or 6 boneless skinless chicken thighs
1 can (15 oz.) great northern beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (15 oz.) kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 cup (GF) chicken broth
1 medium onion, chopped
1 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
Chopped fresh parsley (serve on top)

1. Brown sausage in large skillet over medium-high heat, stirring to separate; drain fat. Spoon into slow cooker.
2. Trim fat from chicken. Place chicken, beans, broth, onion, pepper and salt in slow cooker. Cover; cook on LOW 5 to 6 hours.
3. Adjust seasonings, if desired. Chicken should be tender and fall apart as you stir (I like it to a shredded consistency). Garnish with parsley as desired.

* Recipe Source: Rival Crock Pot Slow Cooker Recipes

Closer Look: Loose Leaf Teas

Closer Look: Loose Leaf Teas

I thought I’d share something today that’ll warm you right up during this cold winter weather!
Today I’m taking a Closer Look at Loose Leaf Teas.
I fell in love with loose leaf teas a few years ago. They taste so much better than bagged teas and have healing properties as well.
I wanted to share my love of these teas with you by introducing you to my loose leaf tea source.

I met Lauren Heller, a friend of a friend, who owns her own loose leaf tea business called Our SpecialTEA . She is a wealth of knowledge on the subject and that’s why today I’m sharing an interview I did with Lauren on Loose Leaf Teas.
So, if you love tea, have never liked tea in the past, are interested in what loose leaf tea is, or interested in the healing properties keep reading. You can check out Lauren’s Loose Leaf Teas at:

Q: Lauren, how is loose leaf tea different than tea I could buy at the grocery in tea bags?
A: Lauren: “The tea bags that are available today are much different than the ones from even 3 years ago. The newest trend are tea pyramids and larger type filter bags for larger leaves. These types of tea “bags” are much better than your traditional tea bag. Tea bags are typically made from the “dust” of the picked tea crop. Company’s such as ours receive the top of the picking which are full, bright, fresh leaves and tea bags are made from the dust and broken pieces that fall to the bottom. The tea bags will also brew a much more heavy and harsher tea taste.”

Q: What are the different types of teas?
A: Lauren: “You can go greatly in depth with this question but the basics that the United States are familiar with are: Green, White, Black, Herbal (Tisane), Oolong and Rooibos. The difference is based upon processing techniques; wilting, firing, drying, etc.”

Q: What are the health benefits of loose leaf teas?
A: Lauren: “Where to begin??? If you go to our site you will find a lengthy section that pertains to the limited explanation of health benefits.”

Q: I know you have young children and use the loose leaf teas to treat a lot of ailments. What are some ailments that you treat with loose leaf teas?
A: Lauren: “A big treatment in our house is for cold or fever. I use a lot of peppermint leaf for fevers because it naturally cools the body. It also is wonderful for opening up the lungs and air passages. Some of my other favorites are our Chamomile Anthem (blend of Peppermint, Rooibos and Chamomile), Citrus Splash Wellness (all herbal mix with lots of citrus fruits, full of vitamins) and White teas…they are full of antioxidants.”

Q: What’s your personal favorite of all the teas?
A: Lauren: “My personal favorite category is Oolong. I love that an Oolong brews such a beautiful amber-like color. It’s taste is subtle yet holds its own. It is a nice balance between a Black tea and white/green tea. They offer such incredible health benefits as well.”

Q: If someone says they generally don’t drink tea, what is one loose leaf tea you think they may like?
A: Lauren: “I first ask people what they have tried. If it was grandma’s sun tea or tea from a restaurant, I like to suggest that they try something that doesn’t have such a harsh, “tea” taste from the tannins in the tea being steeped improperly. I would suggest an herbal or Rooibos. But if you have a good source of loose tea, and it is brewed properly, all the teas taste wonderful. Even to the pickiest of pallets.”

Q: What’s you favorite sweetener to add to tea?
A: Lauren: “I typically don’t add sweetener to my tea because I like to get the full flavor of the tea in its “naked” form but if I do, I make sure it is natural. So I choose either an organic sugar, raw sugar, honey or agave nectar. I do enjoy a good strong black tea and add just a touch of organic soy creamer. Tastes amazing!”

A special thanks to Lauren Heller for sharing her wealth of knowledge with us!

I wanted to share that I generally brew my loose leaf tea in a tea strainer like the one shown above. My personal favorite of all the teas are the Rooibos Teas. I find they really relieve my allergy and asthma symptoms even on days when allergy medicine doesn’t seem to work (and trust me the bagged Rooibos Tea just does not work the same).

You can find out more information about Loose Leaf Teas and purchase the teas and accessories from Our SpecialTEA online.
They really make great gifts! Drink up!

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!