Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Quick Cilantro Lime Green Chili Rice

The past few weeks have been crazy busy.  Every spare moment has been spent preparing for our annual fundraiser for the Batten Disease Support and Research Association.  Our very dear family friends have two children afflicted with this horrible disease and it's something that, while exhausting, I am very happy to be a part of it.  

Because I have been so busy, I haven't been cooking, which means I also haven't really been eating right either.  I can definitely tell that a couple weeks of eating foods I shouldn't have really started to take a toll on me.  I'm tired, achy, and feel run down.  I joked with a friend that I should probably go to rehab for a month and get treated for exhaustion just like all the celebrities.  A month of sleep, massages, yoga, and healthy foods is just what I need.  

Unfortunately, I am not a celebrity with tons of money, and my insurance will only laugh at me if I try to get a 30 day spa retreat covered, so I just need to get some focus, learn to say "NO," and put myself first (I'm not good at doing that AT ALL). So that means lots of cooking, menu planning and eating at HOME.  It's so easy to stop and get take out, but that gets really expensive and has way too many things in it that I shouldn't be eating (and lots of things NO ONE should be eating either).

One of my favorite quick lunches at work is Chipotle.  It's the better choice if you have to get lunch out, it's gluten free if you don't get tortillas, and it's easily customizable to your diet restrictions or your mood.  I usually end up getting a burrito bowl without cheese or sour cream for a yummy gluten free, dairy free treat.

Last night, when I was making our weekly Taco Tuesday dinner, I decided to try to make one of my favorite Chipotle Menu item: Cilantro Lime Rice.  I already had some pre-cooked rice, so it only took me about 5 minutes to make this tasty side! I love green chilies, so I had to add those as well.  It was so yummy and I will be making this often!

Quick Cilantro Lime Green Chili Rice

2 cups cooked rice (I like the frozen Trader Joe's rice in microwaveable pouches, or leftover rice would work great)
1 4oz can diced green chilies
juice of 2 limes
 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 tsp. coconut oil

Heat rice. Add rice, green chilies, lime juice, cilantro, and coconut oil to a sauce pan, skillet, or microwaveable dish.  Heat over medium heat (or 2-3 minutes in the microwave) until warmed thoroughly.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Quinoa Edamame Salad

When we went to Game 6 of the NLCS, we stopped at the store and got some snacks to eat before the game. We got some quinoa edamame salad (the only gluten free choice) in the deli along with a bunch of other goodies.  After one bite, I knew I had to try to recreate it at home.  Luckily the ingredient list was on the container so it didn't take too much to figure out what I would need.

It is great as a meal or a side dish. I've made this several times and so has my friend.  Last time she also added a can of drained  and rinsed black beans and it was even better!

Quinoa Edamame Salad

1 cup of quinoa, cooked according to package directions and cooled to room temperature
2 cups shelled edamame
2 cups corn kernals
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 bunch of cilantro leaves, chopped
6 ounces crumbled feta cheese (I use raw goat feta)
1 small red onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 small jalapeño, seeded and minced
1/2 cup olive oil
Juice from 2 lemons (at least 1/4 cup)
Salt and Pepper

Mix together all ingredients in a large bowl, seasoning to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Homemade Ghee

I don't know about you, but I have always had an aversion to all foods "diet."  

Diet sugars taste like chemically dirt. 

Diet milk tastes like white water. 

Diet butter tastes like the plastic tub it comes in.

Diet cream cheese tastes like paste. 

Diet desserts taste like their cardboard packaging. 

It just never made sense to me....

Why eat a bunch of diet foods, when you can just eat a small bit of the real food?  If you eat 2 boxes of diet cookies, you are still overeating...

But like every young, overweight girl, I fell prey to the media marketing of girls needing to have a body that looks like an 8 year old boy.  I ate my fare share of everything diet, sugar free, and fat free.  Those foods never satiated my appetite and always left me hungry and craving more food, as well as craving REAL food.

As I got older and started to have so many health problems, I always knew that my problems were somehow connected to diet despite what my doctors were saying.  I spent hours researching about all the harmful pesticides on and in our foods, the genetically modifying of crops, the chemicals, preservatives, and additives that are in so many of our foods.  I really started becoming mindful of what we ate, choosing organic over conventional, as well as drastically reducing the amount of processed foods we ate.  We started eating real foods. 

I found that eating a small portion of real food kept me energized and full for much longer than a large portion of diet foods.

One thing I have always had a love affair with was butter.  Real butter.  


Paula Deen has it right on the butter part for sure. 

Butter became a staple in my kitchen once again.  However, it was used in moderation, just like everything else.

But then the food allergy/intolerance tests came back and I had to eliminate dairy.  

I have felt so much better since going dairy-free, and can definitely tell a difference in my overall health if I have dairy.  Bleh.   I miss cheese and butter. 

But then I hear about ghee. It's butter that has been clarified, thus removing all the milk solids which contain the lactose and casein, which most people are allergic and intolerant to.  I gave it a try and was happy to find out that I was able to tolerate it.  YAY!!!  I could have butter back.  

If you have ever purchased organic ghee from grass-fed cows, you know it can be pretty expensive.  I was paying $7 for an 8 ounce jar at the grocery store.  Ouch! I figured that it couldn't be that hard to make, so I found a recipe and tried it on my own.  

It turned out just as good as the store bought stuff!  I was so happy.  

I followed the DIY Ghee Recipe from Nom Nom Paleo exactly and will make it over and over again. Because I'm so busy and ghee keeps for a long time, I tripled the recipe, using 3 pounds of organic grass-fed butter.  It make a quart size jar, plus filled up my little 8 ounce jar from the grocery store.

Supposedly, you can keep it at room temperature, but I keep it in the fridge just to be safe. 

I was surprised how easy it was to make.  This is one DIY project that is worth the minimal time and effort! 

Friday, November 9, 2012

My Long Lost Love Affair with Baseball

In a yellow paged photo album hidden somewhere at my mom's house is a picture of me from when I was about 5 years old.  I'm standing in front of my Aunt and Uncle's roses with a giant grin on my face, and a new Gold and Green Oakland A's hat on my head.  

Baseball.  It used to be mine and my dads thing.  He grew up in Seattle, but the A's were his team.  My brother wasn't born until I was 7, so from birth to 7, I was Daddy's girl and did all the boy things with him, like go to the hardware store and watch the games together.  

Every year, when other little girls were going to tea parties and getting manicures for their birthday parties, we were going to baseball games. 

As I got older, my love for baseball grew.  I knew all the players and their stats.  I collected baseball cards.  I had pins and hats and posters and pennants all over my room.  

1989 World Series.  

Battle of the Bay.  

Bash Brothers.

It was an amazing year for Bay Area Baseball, despite the Earthquake.

Where was I during the earthquake?  
Making prank phone calls with a friend to a local grocery store. I didn't even feel it.

I was so jealous of all the kids you saw on TV at the playoffs and World Series games, but I was still glued to the TV.  How often does YOUR team go to the World Series?

Spoiler alert....the A's, not the Giants won that series. 
I was one happy little girl baseball fan. 

Then early 1991, my dad died very suddenly at age 33.  

Words cannot even describe how devastating that was. 

Some days, it's still so painful. 

 I tried to still watch baseball, but love I had for was gone.  

Maybe I only loved it because it was something special I shared with my dad? 

Maybe I really loved it but the void of my dad not being there were too painful?

I love watching sports, I always have. 

I loved watching football (GO 49ers!!!) and Basketball (GO Kings!!!), but baseball just fell to the wayside. 

As I got older, I developed a bitter hatred of baseball.  I couldn't stand to watch it.  I never went to games.  I didn't even like to be around people who liked baseball.  Too many memories. It was a painful reminder that my baseball partner was gone forever.

Then I met Dave.  He played baseball all his life.  He grew up loving the Giants (rivalry relationship in the making?).  For a while he played softball, and I went to his games.  Once we went to an A's game with a group of his co-workers, but I tried to just act like the girl who hates sports and was just there for the beer. We never really watched baseball on TV.  Not sure if that's because of my negative attitude towards baseball or what.  So many of my friends love baseball.  I wanted to love it with them and go to games, but I just couldn't.  My heart wouldn't let me. 

If you know anything about me, you know that I would rather be given experiences and vacations rather than any material possessions.  Birthday and Christmas lists always include trips to Tahoe, Disneyland, or Paris...or experiences like BBQs at the beach, fancy restaurants, or concert tickets.  To me, a thing is nice, but memories last forever.  I know I'm crazy, but hotel reservations get me more excited than jewelry boxes, hahaha!  

(Not that I'm discouraging jewelry boxes whatsoever...Keep them coming!)

So this year, Dave surprised me with tickets to the A's Giants game for my birthday.  Luxury suite tickets, complete with beer and food and sodas.  So cool!

I quietly mentioned how my dad used to take me to the game all the time for my birthday, and I think he felt a little bad.  I don't think i really ever mentioned it.  It was just one of those painful memories that I kept locked deep down in the basement of my heart.  

Did I still want to go?  It was ok if I didn't.  

No, I want to go.  I can't keep living my life like this.  I need to face things instead of keeping them buried.  It's time to start making new memories and enjoying life.  

We went to the game and I had so much fun!  We sat in the suite that we shared with a family.  It was so cute to see the little girls all dressed up in the team gear and stuffing themselves with way too many sodas and hot dogs. It was defiantly an amazing baseball experience, and we had our own private bathroom and our suite had a host who took care of anything we needed!

It was such an emotional night for me.  So many memories at that park.  I did my best not to cry, but I shed a few tears.  Happy tears.  Sad tears.  Healing tears.  

I could do it.  I could enjoy baseball again.  It's not the same, but it's a new chapter of my life, and a new and different way to enjoy it. 

It's different because as much as I was an A's fan in the past, I decided that it is something that needs to stay in my past.  Those memories are in a cherished part of my heart that I want to keep there forever.  I don't want to add to them.  New chapter of my life, new team, new memories.  

We went to a couple more Giants games in the regular season, including the awesome Star Wars Day! Every time, I had so much fun, and I fell in love with baseball all over again.

We were lucky enough to be chosen in the ticket lottery to buy tickets to game 6 of the NLCS.  It had always been a dream to go to a post season ever since watching the 1989 season.  I was so excited.  I was like a kid going to Disneyland for the first time!  

The morning of the game, I packed enough jackets, scarves, and gloves to clothe a small country.  Going to games in the bay area can be so unpredictable.  One minute is sunny and 75* and the next minute the fog rolls in, the wind picks up, and it starts misting.  Bay Area cold is so COLD.  

The drive to the game was pretty uneventful, and just a little bit of traffic.  There was a chance of rain, but the sky couldn't make up it's mind.

We tailgated for a bit before the game.  Nothing crazy.  No grills and tents and seating for 20.  Just the two of us and a cooler and some foods I could eat without getting sick.  

GF Pumpkin Cider
Quinoa Edamame Salad from the good I'm going to make my own knock off recipe

We got to the game just after the gates had opened.  The crowd was a little bit more mellow than I had anticipated.  I think everyone was scared because this was a do or die game.  

I saw this shirt and knew that my girlfriend needed it.  
Saying that she has a crush on him is a drastic understatement.  

We got the orange towels before the game.  You should have seen the cloud of orange lint flying around the stadium when people first started waving them.  

We got to our seats, and had a great view of the field, the stadium, and the bay. 
We may not have been at field level, but at least we could see the entire field!
A close-up of the Post Season Symbol on the Field!

For the National Anthem, they brought out a giant flag that covered much of the field.  It was so beautiful and totally gave me chills, and brought tears to my eyes. 

Earlier I had told Dave how cool it would be if Metallica sang at the game.  I didn't get my wish, but James Hetfield, lead singer of Metallica, came out on the field and got the fans excited and called "Play Ball."  


The fans really got into the game.  There was a guy with a giant mohawk that he dyed orange and black.  Everyone was wearing Giants gear and orange and black, except for 4 lonely Cardinals fans sitting a few rows in front of us.  The atmosphere was electrifying.  It was everything I had hoped it would be.

A tiny, adorable fan!!!

Sunset is so beautiful in San Francisco!

"I'll be sittin' when the evenin' come
Watching the ships roll in
And then I watch 'em roll away again"

San Francisco fog rolling down over the top of the stadium
The Giants won.  The crowd was nuts!  And of course, they played one of the best songs ever, just like they do after every game.  I love that song.  It reminds me of my Grandma who grew up in Marin County, and walked the Golden Gate Bridge the day it opened, and adores Tony Bennett and always played him when my mom was a kid and still to this day.  

When we left, all the palm trees were wrapped in orange lights.  We saw the news interviewing people and someone was holding a sign that said JOE BUCK SUCKS. 


I'm so glad to have baseball back in my life.  It's really healed a dark part of my heart. 

To me, it's like hanging out with your best friend from second grade after 20 years of losing contact with them.  It's the same in many ways, but so very very different, but in a good way.

I'm really excited for next season!  Opening day at AT&T park.  Can't wait!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Spaghetti Squash Casserole

I discovered this adorable tiny little farm stand out in the country when I went to pick  up the last of the chickens from the now closed Soul Food Farms.  

Can we please have a moment of silence?  

I had a nice conversation with the farmer, Michael, and got a little star struck when I found out he sells his produce to Alice Waters at Chez Panisse. The little stand is set up on the honor system complete with a scale and a money jar. Love love love! I was so excited to find that they sold organic winter squashes for a really good price. Usually organic anything is expensive, so I had to stock up and walked away with 3 giant spaghetti squashes.

I, like so many other people, have a bad habit of buying winter squashes and letting them sit on the counter until the bottom rots out.  I love them, but they can be time consuming.  I do not have the patience to cook a squash for an hour after I get home from a 12 hour work day.  But not this time.  I immediately cooked it up, ON THE WEEKEND, using my friend's tutorial as a guide.  It came out perfectly and we ate it that night with spaghetti sauce.  

But I still had a ton of squash leftover and no sauce left.  What to do, what to do.  

Normally, I would just put butter and parmesan cheese on the top, but the pesky dairy allergy is keeping that from happening.  Booooo.  

So I searched on all my favorite cooking websites and blogs and finally came across this yummy sounding Spaghetti Squash Casserole from Peas and Thank You.  Doesn't it look mouthwatering? 

I changed it up a bit to fit our tastes and added some organic, grass fed and finished hamburger because it just sounded good.  It was so yummy and made a huge dish.  I made this on the weekend, covered and refrigerated it and then cooked it during the middle of the week.  The leftovers were even better, and I portioned out half of it into single servings and froze them in microwaveable containers for work lunches.  

Spaghetti Squash Casserole

Yum!  I want to make this every week!!!

1 large organic spaghetti squash
Coconut oil
1lb organic, grass fed and finished hamburger
1lb sliced mushrooms
15-16 oz tomato sauce (home canned or organic brand)
1/4 c chopped fresh parsley
8oz non-dairy cream cheese (organic cream cheese if not dairy-free) 
1/4 c. nutritional yeast (Parmesan cheese if not dairy-free) 
2 c. non-dairy shredded mozzarella cheese (organic mozzarella if not dairy-free) 

Prepare spaghetti squash and set aside.  

Preheat oven to 350*.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add coconut oil and melt.  Add hamburger and cook completely and crumble.  Remove hamburger from pan to a bowl and set aside. In the same skillet, add a little bit more coconut oil, if necessary, and cook the mushrooms until they are completely cooked but not yet beginning to caramelize.  Add the hamburger back to the pan with the mushrooms.  Add the tomato sauce, non-dairy cream cheese, and nutritional yeast.  Cook until the cream cheese has melted down and the sauce is warmed throughly.  Turn off heat.  Mix in spaghetti squash and parsley.  Transfer to a large oven safe baking dish (like a 9x13) that has been greased.  Top with mozzarella cheese.  Bake uncovered for 30 minutes until cheese is melted and dish is bubbling in the middle.  Makes 6-8 servings.  

If you are making this ahead of time, do not bake.  Just cover and put in the fridge or freezer.  If frozen, thaw overnight in the fridge.  Then bake for about 45-60 minutes until bubbling in the middle.  

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Vegetarian Tostadas

After I made that yummy Taco Bell wanna be sauce, I knew I had to use it for more than just eating like soup.  I wanted to make bean burritos, but gluten free tortillas just never seem to want to be made into burritos.  They are always cracking and falling apart so you end up with a burrito in your lap instead of in your belly.  

I needed a quick dinner, so I ended up deciding on bean tostadas.  

I took my gluten free tortillas, crisped them up in the oven.  Then I topped them with refried black beans, an extra generous portion of the sauce, and then topped it with lettuce, tomatoes, olives, and avocados.  After I took the picture, I dumped on at least 3 gallons of the sauce, but didn't want to show that my finished product looked like a crime scene....which may be ok, since Halloween is this week, but not very appetizing to stare at. 

Vegetarian Tostadas
2 brown rice tortillas
Your choice of oil or cooking spray
1 can refried beans
Taco sauce
Assorted veggies (lettuce, tomatoes, avocado, olives, jalapeño slices, onions, bell peppers, etc)
(Non-dairy) Cheese and sour cream (optional)
Preheat oven to 400.  Brush or spray tortillas on both sides with oil or cooking spray.  Bake in the oven for about 5 minutes until crispy.  You can turn them halfway during cooking but it's not completely necessary.  Be careful to watch the tortillas closely because they will finish suddenly and will go from done to burnt in what seems like half a second.  

While the tortilla is cooking, heat your beans, chop up your veggies, and get out any other toppings you may want.
As soon as the tortillas are done, put them on your dinner plate.  Spread each tortilla with half the beans.  Top generously with sauce.  Pile on your toppings and then finish with more sauce.  
Enjoy right away or your tortilla will get soggy.  Enjoy!!!!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

At the end of the week, we sometimes find ourselves with a banana or two left on the bunch that are too mushy to eat.  I used to throw these away, until I found out that you could throw a whole banana in the freezer and then later use it for baking.  Then, when you are ready to bake, just thaw the banana on the counter for a couple hours, or microwave it for a minute. No waste!

Don't toss me!  Freeze me and make me into yummy breads and muffins!!!

Now that I am eating with so many restrictions, I rarely bake anymore.  It's not that fun to make something that you can't enjoy or even taste test to make sure it's edible.  But, I still will occasionally bake for Dave, and make some extra for each of us to share with our co-workers.  

When I am making food that I cannot eat, I tend to stick to recipes that have been in my family for years.  Recipes that I grew up making with my mom and grandma.  I know they will turn out great every time without even tasting it! Although I now use as many all-natural and/or organic ingredients as possible in every recipe I make, this can me made with non-organic ingredients as well.   I love making this because I get to bring out my pink Kitchen Aid stand mixer!!!

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread

1 2/3 c. organic sugar
2/3 c. organic, non-hydrogenated shortening
2 large organic eggs, pastured if available 
1 tsp. organic vanilla
4 overripe bananas, mashed
2 1/2 c. organic unbleached white flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. organic cinnamon
2/3 c. organic buttermilk
1 10 oz bag organic chocolate chips

Cream together sugar, shortening, eggs, and vanilla.  Mix in bananas.  Add flour, baking soda, and cinnamon and stir until just combined.  Then mix in buttermilk and chocolate chips.  

Spoon batter into 2 greased loaf pans.  Bake at 350* for 60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Cool and remove from the pan.  Store in a covered container for a day or two on the counter, or longer in the fridge or freezer.

Can also be baked as muffins for 20-25 minutes.  I used my mini loaf pan from Pampered Chef and it took about 50 minutes to bake.  One recipe was enough batter to make 5 mini loaves.    


Friday, October 26, 2012

Recreating Childhood Treats

Although I don't eat fast food anymore, one thing I will always have a soft spot for in my heart are Taco Bell bean burritos.  When we were growing up, we didn't have much money for extras, especially after my dad died.  Mom would occasionally get us lunch out, which was a huge treat.  Usually it was 39 cent tacos and bean burritos.  You could feed four hungry kids plus mom for about $5!

I was excited when Taco Bell came out with their grocery store line, but was dismally disappointed when I saw all the ingredients.  What are "natural flavorings?"  Usually MSG?!?!?!  Ick! 

I've tried to recreate it at home, but never had good results.  I'm guessing it's because I don't keep a stash of "natural flavorings" in my kitchen.

Then, a few days ago, I found a recipe to recreate those childhood memories.  Yum Yum Yum!  I made it right away.  Hubby declared way better than Taco Bell and said that it tasted way better than something you could buy in a jar from the store!

So if you are like me, and are eating healthy, but still have the occasional cravings for your favorite chidhood treats, go visit Peas and Thank You and make Momma Pea's recipe for  

While you go make this...I'm going to go back to my bowl of sauce which I will be eating like a bowl of cold soup...

What favorite childhood treat do you no longer eat but still crave?

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Awesome gifts!

Back in August, I wrote about how I keep a well stocked pantry to make it easier on me to eat healthy. 

 A couple weeks later, I received an email from Muir Glen Organic thanking me for recommending them and asking if they could send me a thank you gift.  

I was really surprised becuase first of all, I really didn't think that anyone read my blog, especially not a big company.  Also, I wasn't asked, paid, or bribed to mention the brand and I didn't write to them asking for free stuff.  It's just a brand that I adore and have been eating since my mom started buying them when I was a teenager.  I think anyone who loves tomatoes....and I mean fresh picked from the garden on a hot August afternoon in California, not the crap in the grocery store in mid-January...should buy these tomatoes, because they do taste like those "fresh-picked-garden-on-a-hot-August-afternoon-in-California" tomatoes.  Just like the ones Mom and Grandma used to grow or pick at Larry's and can for us to enjoy all winter long.

So a few weeks later, I come home and find a box of goodies on my porch!  

On top was a handwritten note and a cool tomato sticker that I promptly stuck on my fridge!

Attached to the note was a coupon for a free item at the grocery store.  I love their pasta sauces, so I will pick up one of those next time I go out.  Not only do their sauces taste homemade, they are free from all the gunk that many other brands have in them like HFCS and MSG.  


Then were was a cute canvas grocery bag and a matching dishtowel!  Can't have enough of this stuff when you are cooking as much as I do! 

 Then there was 4 cans of my favorite tomato products!  No salt added diced tomatoes, fire-roasted diced tomatoes with green chilies (I use this in any recipe that calls for Rotel....a million times better), Fire roasted tomatoes, and pizza sauce.   

 So thank you Muir Glen for the awesome goodie box.  I totally appreciate it.

And if anyone actually reads this, buy these tomato products.  I'm not being paid to say this, I promise. You should just do it becuase you like good food that tastes awesome!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Lime & Coconut Chicken Legs

Organic chicken legs were on sale, and in my effort to keep my menu from staying in a rut, I looked for a fresh new idea on how to prepare them.  

I found this yummy sounding recipe by Rachel Ray and I knew I had to make it.  It had many of my loves in it:  Lime, coconut, and green onions.  

I had all the ingredients on hand, AND it fit within my restrictions, so I didn't need to make many adjustments to the recipe!

I served it on some brown rice that I had tossed with cilantro and lime juice and a side of sauteed squash.


I didn't have to make many changes to the recipe (which is shocking considering all my restrictions)!  Hope you enjoy it!

from Everyday with Rachel Ray

3 cloves fermented garlic  
1/2" fresh ginger, peeled
1 bunch green onions, white and green parts, ends trimmed
1 bunch cilantro, large stems removed
1 tsp sriracha
2 tbl coconut aminos
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tbl toasted sesame oil
1/3 cup raw local honey 
1 cup light coconut milk 
juice and zest of 2 limes
salt and pepper to taste
8 skin-on chicken drumsticks

In blender or food processor, combine all ingredients except chicken; puree. Marinate in coconut milk mixture overnight. Transfer chicken to rack placed on foil-lined baking sheet. Bake at 450 degrees for 30-45 turning chicken every 15 minutes so that it does not burn.  (I think this would be really great grilled as well.  Just be careful of the flare up from the faty chicken skins!)

Friday, October 19, 2012

Making comfort foods allergy friendly (and healthier)

Just like every other kid that was born in the 70's and early 80's, you probably had red-labeled condensed cream of something soup based casseroles make frequent appearances on your dining room table.  Those soups were great dinner starters/helpers.  

Mom even had a cookbook published in the mid '70s dedicated to soup based meals.  My sister was helping mom reorganize the house recently and found this recipe and texted it to me.  I'm so glad mom never made this recipe.  Instantly, the old Sesame Street song came to mind..."One of these things is not like the of these things just doesn't belong..."

Besides the traditional green bean casserole, mom made two cream of mushroom soup dishes that us kids ate without too much complaint and we even requested that she make them.  The first was "pea patch chicken."  It was a one skillet meal of chicken pieces, a can of soup, and a bag of frozen peas.  Let that cook for a while and serve on top of rice.  Another was hamburger gravy.  Same concept, just hamburger and soup served on top of rice. 

Those two meals are a couple of my favorite childhood dinners.  Maybe it's just the memories associated with the dinners, but occasionally I find 
myself craving them now, especially after a rough day at work, or when I'm sick.

I don't buy the condensed soup anymore because it's full of things I'm allergic to, as well as preservatives and additives that I choose not to eat anymore.

One day, while surfing around on Pinterest for allergy-friendly recipes, I saw a recipe for "Homemade Cream of Something Soup" with many different options to make it allergen free, vegetarian/vegan, etc. I was so excited when the pin took me to a legitimate website and I ended up at Once a Month Mom, a website dedicated to once a month freezer cooking.  I was pleased to see that there were so many options for making all the cream of something soups I had grown up eating.  

I decided to make a cream of celery soup.  Because this recipe has several steps and can take a bit of time (and I am always pressed for time), I decided to quadruple the recipe, and freeze the equivalent of one can of soup into a Ziplock.  

Make sure to use a large pot if you quadruple the recipe, because you will outgrow your standard sized sauce pan...not that I know this from experience or anything...

Condensed Cream of Celery Soup
from Once a Month Mom

1 tbl of coconut oil
8 cloves garlic, minced
2 small onions, diced
2 cup celery, diced
1 cup Earth Balance Coconut Spread
1 cup brown rice flour
1 quart rice/almond/coconut milk
3 cups chicken stock or vegetable broth
salt and pepper

1 tsp dried thyme

Heat a large, deep skillet or dutch oven over medium heat.  Add about 1tbl of coconut oil and heat.  Saute garlic, onion and celery and set aside. Melt coconut spread over medium heat. Whisk in brown rice flour. Cook for about 3-4 minutes. Add “milk” and stock/broth. Add sauteed garlic, onion and celery mixture and thyme to the milk. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, stirring regularly, until it reaches desired consistency (about 20-30 minutes). Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Makes the equivalent of 4 cans of cream of celery soup.  Each can is approx. 1.5 cups of soup.  Store in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.  You can also divide into separate portions and freeze in freezer bags.   

looks better than the stuff from the can!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Mac & Goat Cheese with Bacon

My #1 favorite food of all time is mac& cheese.  Like if I was choosing my last meal, it would be mac & cheese.  (Followed by risotto and cheesy garlic bread...notice the carb and cheese trend?) Nothing says comfort food to me like a bowl of creamy, cheesy goodness.  My grandma makes the most amazing homemade mac & cheese on the planet, and passed her recipe on to my mom, who in turned has passed it on to me.  When I was first living on my own, boxes of mac &cheese were a regular staple in my kitchen.  I would eat any kind of mac & cheese, from the generic box, the blue box, frozen tv dinners, homemade, all the way to fancy lobster macs.

A few years ago I heard about a trend of "item specific" restaurants that were opening.  Instead of a varied menu, they would focus the majority, if not all, of their menu to variations of one item.  A restaurant that specialized in cereal.  Another in Peanut Butter Sandwiches.  And another that was nothing but french fries with many different sauces for dipping.  And then I heard about S'Mac.  An entire restaurant that serves nothing but mac & cheese. That place sounded like Heaven.

Sadly, I have never been to NYC, and have never got to experience S'Mac.  When my sister went to NYC a couple years ago to visit her friends, I couldn't convince her to bring it back with her on the plane (not sure it would pass security either...).  

Is it bad that I want to go on food-centered vacations? 

When I had to start eating gluten-free, I was sad to no longer eat much of the foods I love, but relieved that, with a few modifications, I could still make homemade mac & cheese.  

In early 2011, a friend told me that a mac & cheese restaurant called Homeroom had just opened much closer to home.  It was only about in hour away in Oakland, CA.  Even better, they serve gluten-free versions of all their mac & cheese!  Dave and I went and I was hooked.  It's so adorable inside, decorated like an old school, complete with a card catalog file and a giant blackboard.  The menu is based around varieties of mac & cheese as well as a few of your childhood favorites like buttered peas, homemade Oreos, and homemade root beer.  We have been there several times and have always had amazing mac & cheese and great service every time we have visited.

Then, this year, I found out that I had to start eating dairy-free.  Don't get me wrong. I love feeling better, and sacrifices are really worth it, but I miss cheese.  And you can't have mac & cheese without the cheese.  Yes, yes, I know there are dairy-free, gluten-free mac & cheeses out there.  But have you tried them?  Most of them are SO GROSS.  Amy's makes one that's the best of any I have ever tried, but it's still nothing like the real stuff.  I could try to make my own, but I'm not super happy with the taste or texture of dairy free cheeses.

As I've been experimenting with my diet, I have found that I can tolerate goat milk and goat cheese pretty well.  Goat milk/cheese is one of those things you either love or hate, and luckily for me, I love it!  

We ended up going to Homeroom on our way home from Santa Cruz a few weeks ago, and I tested my stomach out to try their Mac the Goat mac & cheese.  It still has some cows dairy in it, but much less than a normal bowl of mac & cheese.  I opted for the gluten free noodles, no toasted breadcrumbs, and added some yummy bacon to the mix.  It was amazing.  And it didn't hurt my stomach at all, which made me very happy! 

Mac the Goat with added bacon.
Menu at Homeroom
Unfortunately, I do live an hour away from Homeroom, so I can't go there as often as I'd like (B,L,&D - 365), so I challenged myself to make my own version at home. 

I started out by chopping up some pastured bacon and frying it up until it was crispy. 

Then I started out making a cheese sauce, just like my mom and grandma had taught me to make.  Melt butter in a saucepan (I used Earth Balance Coconut spread), whisk in flour and cook briefly (I used brown rice flour), add milk (goat milk) and cheese (goat cheese) and cook over low until thick and creamy.  

Then I cooked some gluten-free macaroni noodles and mixed it with the cheese sauce.

I topped it with the bacon and green onions and gave it a taste.  It was delicious!  It was very close to tasting like Homeroom, but saved me a long car ride! 

And then I decided to get fancy and sauteed some crimini mushrooms in the bacon fat and put them on top of the mac n cheese.  It was so heavenly and I'm pretty sure I saw Dave's eyes roll back in his head as he took his first bite. 

Mac & Goat Cheese with Bacon 
(inspired by Homeroom's Mac the Goat)

4 slices bacon, chopped
8 oz crimini mushrooms, slices
12 oz brown rice macaroni noodles
3 tbl Earth Balance Coconut spread
3 tbl brown rice flour
2 cups goat milk
6 oz soft goat cheese
4 green onions, sliced thinly

Fry bacon.  Drain on a paper towel.  Set aside. 

Saute mushrooms in bacon fat.  Drain on a paper towel and set aside.

Cook noodles according to package directions.  Drain and rinse.  Set aside. 

Melt Earth Balance Coconut Spread in a sauce pan over medium low heat.  When the spread is completely melted, sprinkle in rice flour and mix until its completely combined.  Cook for a couple minutes, stirring constantly.  Add milk and cheese.  Cook over medium low until cheese is melted and sauce is thickened, about 15 minutes.  Stir in noodles.  Spoon into serving bowls and top with bacon, mushrooms and green onions.  Serve immediately.  

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