Thursday, August 30, 2012

Chicken with heirloom tomato and mozzarella salad

The other night I got home from work and was absolutely exhausted.  I really wanted to be "bad" and just get takeout, but I already had chicken thawed in the fridge.  I also had a small bowl of tomatoes from my garden that needed to get used up.  I have been seeing so many recipes lately for caprese salads that I had to figure out how to combine the two.  I started out by cooking the chicken very simply in the skillet.  I seasoned it with salt and pepper and a light coating of coconut oil in the skillet.  I diced up the tomatoes, finely chopped some fresh basil, and then cubed up some goat cheese mozzarella.  I finished it off by drizzling the tomato salad with an aged Pomegranate balsamic vinegar.  I topped the chicken with the tomatoes and served it with a side of a rice pilaf mix that my sister made (I added shredded zucchini to the rice...gotta get rid of it any way possible!).  It was a delicious, quick dinner that only took about 30 minutes to make, start to finish.  I really liked the goat cheese mozzarella.  It was a bit tangy, as most goat cheeses are, and a little bit more crumbly than regular mozzarella.  We were eating way sooner than if I had waited for Dave to get home from work, clean up, and go get something...somewhere.  And this was way better for us than anything we could have got anywhere :)

Don't you just love the colors of the red and green heirloom tomatoes?

Chicken with Heirloom Tomato and Mozzarella Salad
2 large or 4 small boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Salt and Pepper
2-3 teaspoons coconut oil
1 lb heirloom tomatoes, diced
1 handful basil leaves, finely chopped
7 oz goat cheese mozzarella, diced
2-3 tbl balsamic vinegar

Heat a skillet over medium high.  Season chicken with salt and pepper.  Cook chicken until just done, but not longer pink in the center, about 4 minutes each side for smaller breasts, longer for larger breasts. 
In a separate bowl, combine tomatoes, basil, mozzarella, and balsamic vinegar.   Season to taste with salt and pepper.  

Serve tomato salad on top of chicken.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

BLT tacos

What happens when you have an open package of bacon you need to use up and an open package of taco shells?

You make BLT tacos. 

I remember seeing an awesome recipe for BLT spring rolls a couple months ago, and I've been meaning to make them. 

But this night I was feeling extra lazy and spring rolls were way too much effort. 
(They really aren't that much effort, it was just a bad excuse to be lazy)

Tacos.  One of my favorite foods.  

They are quick and easy and faster than a 30 minute meal.

So what happens when you have an open package of bacon you need to use up and you want to have tacos for dinner?

You make BLT tacos. 

Dave asked me to marry him all over again when he ate these. 

BLT Tacos

Chopped lettuce
Sliced tomatoes
Sliced avocado 
Taco Shells

Cook bacon to desired level of crispness.  Cut strips in half.  Place two halves in a taco shell.  Add a slice of avocado, top with lettuce and tomatoes.  


Sunday, August 26, 2012


Remember a couple weeks ago when I adopted a half dozen zucchini babies?  

Well, I finally got around to shredding them up so I can use them in all sorts of wonderful recipes.  

I knew it was going to make a lot.  

I didn't anticipate that it would overflow my 16 quart stock pot. 

Now, on to make all sorts of wonderful zucchini-y things. 

What are you favorite things to make with giant zucchini babies? 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Joys and Perils of Organic Gardening

This week was so crazy busy that, once again, I didn't get to check on the garden at all.  

We have everything set up on a drip system, but are trying "dry farming" our plants this year and only water them when they start to wilt, maybe 2 times a month at the most. So far, I think it's working pretty well.  Our tomatoes are doing much better than they did last year.

Saturday morning, I made myself walk the 10 steps out in the back yard and go visit my garden to see what was waiting for me.  

The random zucchini plant that sprung up out of nowhere gave us one zucchini and it's over a foot long!!!  And there are more tiny ones waiting to grow this week.  

The yellow pear tomato plant that also planted itself from last years rotton tomatoes gave us more tomatoes than all the plants we planted COMBINED.  It's also loaded with green tomatoes that will be ripening up over the next several days.  

And then the cucumber plant....  

The cucumber plant that I put on the side of the house in bad clay soil because I ran out of room in the raised beds in the backyard....  The cucumber plant that never gets watered or fertilized....

I am pretty sure that I picked 50 pounds of cucumbers.   Last week, there were several the size of pencils.  Today, they were the size of baseball bats. 

Note to self:  Check the garden more than once a week.  It takes 10-15 minutes.  You aren't THAT busy...

While I was pecking a peck of peppers to make into pickled peppers, I saw what I thought was a pepper move.  Only it wasn't a pepper.   

I screamed and started having a panic attack.  I don't like bugs at all.  They creep me out and give me nightmares.  But I dislike eating chemicals more than I dislike bugs, so I don't spray my garden and let nature take it's course.  But this is the first time in three years here that we have had a tomato worm. 


I made Dave grab the gloves and extract him from the garden.  These guys are scary and they BITE!!!

Once the garden intruder was disposed of, I checked the garden throughly before I finished picking and weeding.  Don't want this guy and his family munching our garden away.  

How is your garden growing this summer?  

Are you tired of cucumbers and zucchini yet?  

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Beach Love

One of my favorite loves is the ocean. 

My Mom loves the ocean.  

My Grandma loves the ocean.

It's in my family's blood to love the ocean. 

I spent so much of my childhood at the ocean (or some other body of water).  




Spending time with family and friends. 

As much as I hated it as a teenager, what I wouldn't give to spending carefree days waking up to the smell of coffee by the campfire.  Going poke hole fishing at low tide.  Spending the afternoons climbing the cliffs or trying to get lost in the campground.  Eating family feasts of fresh fish, abalone, and s'mores.  

There is something about the ocean that just makes everything in your life right.  All your cares get swept out with the current. 

A few weeks before I met Dave, I was having a pretty rough time in my life.  I was overwhelmed and unhappy with every facet of my life.  I called in sick to work one day, made my way to the ocean and sat on a rock for hours just staring as the waves crashed onto the beach.  Major life decisions were made that day.  I came home and quit my job, dumped the old boyfriend, stopped looking for love, and started living my life for me instead of for everyone else. 

Less than three months later, I met the man who would soon become my husband.

It really is true that once you stop looking for love, it will find you. 

The past few months have been a big change for me.  Going from feeling sick all the time, to almost always feeling great.  Making major changes in my diet to work on healing my gut and hopefully overcoming many of my food allergies and intolerance. Being able to do things that I haven't done in years...or ever. Being virtually pain free.

People come up to me and assume that this has been such an easy change for me because I always feel so great and how they wish they had my willpower.  

It hasn't been easy.  It's been really rough.

I have no willpower.  I was just really sick and this was the only way to get better.  You can't break your leg and expect it to magically get better. To me its been no different than having to wear a cast to heal your broken leg. Now, my cast if off, and I'm in the clunky blue boot phase.  Almost healed, but a long ways to go.

Making such a major change in your life is never easy, even if it's exactly and even more than you ever wanted and dreamed it could be. 

I miss going out to dinner.  

I miss going away for the weekend and not worrying about planning everything around what I can eat. 

I miss mac n cheese and cupcakes.

 I don't miss feeling terrible all the time, and I'm adjusting pretty well, and actually eating some foods that were on my list and not feeling sick.

I love the challenge of trying to make foods that hubby will love that are "safe" for me to eat.

But I'm still overwhelmed and some days are just rough.
(yes, I know it's *just* food. I never realized how food-centric our entire culture is until it was taken away)

So when Lo said she needed a beach day and asked if I wanted to come, I said yes.  I had a million things I needed to be doing instead, but I needed a beach day too. 

Because I get horrible motion sickness out on Highway 1 and all the roads that take you out there, I requested to go to a San Francisco Beach.  No windy, narrow roads in sight. 

I found some food I could eat at an amazing deli-bakery

I got to see my little sis for a few minutes when we surprised her at her work!

We sat on the beach taking in the natural beauty as well as the man-made beauty that is the Golden Gate Bridge.

Even though I physically refused to get in the icy cold water, the salt water cleansed my soul of every care, every worry. 

I was ready to get back to life.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Lemon Shrimp Pasta with Roasted Asparagus

After the disaster I had the other day, I decided to play it safe and cook something I know and love...


When I first started eating GF, I was really bummed and thought that I would never be able to eat pasta again. 


Now that many more people eat GF, be it for allergies, intolerance, or a diet fad, GF products are becoming more and more accessible and more and more tasty.  Trader Joes carries some yummy brown rice pasta that tastes so much like real pasta, you don't even notice that it's not the real thing! 

I still wasn't feeling incredibly inspired, so I went to one of my favorite cooking blogs, For the Love of Cooking, for inspiration.  The author Pam always has amazing recipes that are light, fresh, and flavorful.  I looked through all her pasta recipes and found this yummy sounding recipe for Penne with Shrimp and Roasted Vegetables in a Roasted Garlic Lemon Sauce. I was inspired to recreate this using only the ingredients I have in my house! 

Lemon Shrimp Pasta with Roasted Asparagus

(It tastes much better than it looks)
1 bunch asparagus - ends removed, cut into 2" pieces
3 small bell peppers - seeded, cut into bite sized pieces(red, yellow and orange are pretty)
1lb pasta
1 tin anchovies in olive oil
1 pound shrimp - thawed, peeled, deveined, tails removed
2 tbl fresh pesto
1 bunch green onions - chopped
1 can Artichoke hearts - drained and quartered
1 can black olives - drained
1 pint Cherry tomatoes - sliced in half
Juice of 2 lemons

Preheat oven to 400*.  Place asparagus on a baking sheet covered in foil (or use a stoneware large bar pan) and bake for about 15 minutes until veggies are soft.  Remove from oven and set aside.

Cook pasta according to package.  Reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid.  Drain pasta, rinse if desired, and set aside.

Heat a large, deep skillet over medium high heat.  I always use my giant enameled cast iron skillet from Costco (Thanks, Mom!!!!).  Add entire tin of anchovies, including olive oil (be careful, it may splatter).  Allow the oil to heat and the anchovies to melt, about 2 minutes.  Add shrimp and pesto.  Stir constantly until shrimp begin to turn pink, about 2 minutes.  Remove shrimp from pan and set aside.To the skillet, add green onions and cook briefly, about 30 seconds.  Then add artichoke hearts, black olives, cherry tomatoes, and roasted asparagus and bell peppers, and heat, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Add pasta and shrimp and toss (use tongs, it makes it way easier than the pasta spoon scoop thingy).  Squeeze two lemons over the top.  Add a little bit of the reserved pasta water if needed.  Season with salt and pepper and serve immediately. Enjoy!!!

Shared on: Food on Friday

Thursday, August 16, 2012

How To Keep a Well Stocked Pantry

“Even the most resourceful housewife cannot create miracles from a riceless pantry” ~Chinese Proverb

Even though I'm not a housewife, this quote really reminded me that unless I have my key ingredients on hand, I cannot create a "miracle" in the kitchen when I'm exhausted after a long day at work.  I've found that by keeping a well-stocked pantry, it helps alleviate the "what's for dinner" headache, and also saves us so much not having to eat out all the being able to stock up on an item when it's on sale for a fraction of the normal cost....and by eliminating the "I-had-to-run-to-the-store-to-get-milk-and-bread-and-spent-$50" catastrophe.

Source  Extreme Couponing turned hoarding 
Now when I say to keep a well-stocked pantry, I don't mean to get crazy and have so much stuff that you can't use it up in a reasonable amount of time. I don't want to see your house on "Doomsday Preppers" or "Hoarders."  Unless you own a hot dog stand in NYC, there is no need to have 14 gallons of mustard on hand.  Your children should not have to sleep with cases of olives and chili in their bed because you are out of storage space for your "stockpile."  Just because you have good coupons that you can stack with a good sale, does NOT mean you should buy 432 packages of spaghetti even if they come out to FREE, unless you plan on donating at least 400 packages to your local food pantry.  But if you find a really good sale, AND you can use the items before their expiration date AND you have the space to store them AND you have the extra money, then buy a dozen cans of your favorite tomato sauce or your favorite tuna.  It's all about finding a balance between becoming cost-effective and prepared, yet not greedy and wasteful. 

One thing that I find that is different from my pantry than many people's pantries, is that I choose to stock an almost completely organic, all-natural kitchen, free from artificial or unhealthy ingredients.  You will (almost) never find anything containing artificial sweeteners, MSG, HFCS, GMO, pesticides, or fake ingredients.  We eat butter, not margarine.  We eat eggs, not egg beaters.  We eat organic sugar and honey (in moderation) and not aspartame.  We eat bacon, rib eye steaks, and dark meat chicken in addition to chicken breasts and tofu.  We don't eat anything that's made to be "Sugar-free" or "fat free" unless it naturally happens to be that way.  We try to eat food in the closest form as it occurs in nature.  My rule of thumb is that if the ingredient list looks like a science experiment, if there are more than 5-10 items long, and it's something that my Great-Grandma wouldn't have eaten, I shouldn't eat it either.  While we tend to eat a very "clean" diet, we don't follow a specific way of eating, such as Atkins, South Beach, Paleo, Weston A. Price, Vegan, Vegetarian, Low Fat/Carb/Sugar.  We take the best of all methods and combine them into something that works for us.  However, we are always changing, always evolving as we continue learning and growing and discovering how our bodies react.  Being diagnosed with food allergies has really made me read labels and clean up my diet more than I already had.  

Typical Trader Joe's Shopping Trip
I do most of my shopping at the local farmer's market, Trader Joes, Nugget Market, and sometimes Amazon Grocery.  I shop the sales and with coupons as much as possible to keep costs down.  I also try to grow some of my own produce and fresh herbs, can homemade tomato products, jams and jellies, and pickles, and freeze fresh produce when it's in season.

Home canned peppers and salsa
Home canned Jelly, pickles, and Relish

Trays of fresh, seasonal fruit make great ice cubes or smoothies in the winter months when fruit is out of season and expensive. 

Frozen edmame, a good, quick snack.  Frozen shredded zucchini from last year's "monsters" ready to be added to a soup, stew, or pasta sauce for an extra serving of veggies

I have a large pantry, a deep chest freezer in the garage, and have just added an extra fridge in the garage to store bulk produce for juicing and canning as well as large jars of fermented foods like kimchi.
Wild fish from Costco in individual portion sizes make for quick, weeknight dinners
Organic fruits and veggies
Organic, GF treats
Homemade Pasta Sauce and Organic Frozen Meal for a Quick Dinner 

The remainder of the ground beef from our 1/4 side
Still have lots of steaks and roasts left!

Kimchi and zucchini monsters
Strawberries ready to be made into jam

While I may not always have every single one of these ingredients on hand, I try to keep the majority of them around, because they tend to be the main ingredients in my "go-to" dinners.

Feed your dogs a spoonful of yogurt with their meal, it helps alleviate the stinky farts :) 
Leftovers make quick, healthy meals!
Ghee, coconut spread, and organic butter

Organic, grass fed beef hot dogs, wild cold smoked salmon, goat cheese, soy free dark chocolate

Healthy drinks
His and hers condiment shelves

More fresh fruits and veggies
Fresh fruits
Peppers, onions, and sweet potatoes

Use your inside freezer for things you use regularly
Freeze your brown bananas for smoothies and recipes

I love to cook, I love to entertain, AND I eat most meals at home due to food allergies, so I try to keep a well-rounded variety of everything on hand for a cooking binge, a last minute get together, and prevention of going out and eating something I shouldn't.

Canned goods, spices, and condiments

Mostly our "junk" food.  Keep junk on the top shelf. 

My "safe" shelves.  Nothing goes on these shelves that content my allergens.  That way when I'm exhausted, I don't even have to read the labels, I know it's good for me to eat.  

Bulk items like organic olive oil can save you lots of money

High protein snack, no cooking required

Even my poor dog has developed a grain allergy so I keep healthy, allergen friendly snacks on hand for her
After a couple weeks of taking wheat and corn out of her diet, she stopped scratching and chewing on herself and her "hot spots" disappeared. 

Just because you eat healthy, doesn't mean you can't have the occasional treat.  Plus, if you bring in treats to your coworkers, they (usually) end up being in a better mood the rest of the day!  

Come over, have a drink, relax, and let's chat over a meal.  

Always have cold beers waiting for friends

Spices, Seasonings

  • Bay Leaves*
  • Chili Powder*
  • Cayenne*
  • Cinnamon
  • Coriander*
  • Cumin*
  • Garlic Powder
  • Onion Powder
  • Pepper Plant Dry Rub Seasoning*(I put this on everything from popcorn to pizza)
  • Whole Nutmeg
  • Oregano
  • Herbs de Provence 
  • Sage salt
  • Paprika* (regular and smoked)
  • Poultry Seasoning
  • Red Pepper Flakes*
  • Thyme
  • Salt and Pepper grinders
  • Red Hawaiian Sea Salt 
  • Sea Salt 
  • Liquid smoke


  • Cornstarch*
  • Almond Flour
  • Coconut Flour
  • Rice Flour
  • All Purpose Flour*
  • Pamela's Gluten Free Baking Mix*
  • Other assorted Gluten Free flours and baking mixes 
  • Baking soda and powder
  • Organic Mexican Vanilla Extract
  • Organic Sugar - Brown, Powdered, Cane (white)
  • Chips* (Chocolate, butterscotch and white)
  • Organic Blackstrap Molasses
  • Assorted (raw and dry roasted) nuts:  Almonds, Pecans, Walnuts, Peanuts*, Pistachios*
  • Shredded coconut, no sugar added
  • Cocoa Powder
  • Cupcake Papers
  • Cake decorating kit (colors, sprinkles, tips, bags, etc)
  • Assorted extracts (almond, coconut, etc)


  • Green Tobasco
  • Bone Daddy's Spitfire Sauce 
  • Pepper Plant  Hot Sauces: Original, Chunky Garlic, Chipotle, and Habaneros*
  • Siracha
  • Sweet Red Chili Sauce
  • Tomato Salsa and Salsa Verde * (Home canned)
  • Assorted Mustards*
  • Ketchup (Muir Glen)
  • Worcestershire Sauce*
  • Peanut Butter*
  • Almond Butter
  • Tahini
  • Mayonnaise*
  • Local Raw Honey
  • Organic Maple Syrup
  • Soy Sauce*, Gluten Free Soy Sauce* or Coconut Aminos
  • BBQ Sauce*
  • Assorted Vinegars: Red Wine*, Balsamic*, Raw Apple Cider Cider, Seasoned and Unseasoned Rice* 

Oils and Vinegars

  • Vinegars: Red Wine*, Balsamic*, Raw Apple Cider Cider, Seasoned and Unseasoned Rice*
  • Cold Pressed Olive Oil
  • Coconut Oil
  • Garlic Oil 
  • Toasted Sesame Oil
  • Olive oil cooking spray*

Canned Goods/Pantry

  • Chicken Stock*
  • Beef Stock*
  • Canned fish - Sardines in Olive Oil, Tuna in Water, and Anchovy Filets or Anchovy paste in a tube
  • Tomatoes* - Fire-Roasted , crushed, diced, sauce, and paste (Muir Glen is the only brand of tomato products I buy, they taste like summer.  I also can my own tomatoes.)
  • Canned Beans* - Black, Garbanzo, Pinto, Refried
  • Ortega Chilies (whole and diced)
  • Artichoke Hearts in Water
  • Pinapple chunks in 100% juice
  • Coconut Milk (Regular and Light)
  • Olives - Black, Green, and Kalmata*
  • Pasta - Brown Rice Spaghetti, Rice macaroni or other shapes, Linguini-style Stir-Fry rice noodles
  • Organic Corn Taco Shells
  • Rice - Brown, White, Sushi, and Arborio
  • Quinoa
  • Seaweed - Nori sheets (sushi) and wakame (miso soup)  
  • Almond/Rice/Coconut Milk


  • Assorted teas and coffees
  • Kombucha
  • Hansens Sodas
  • Santa Cruz Organic Juices and Lemonade
  • Wines - Red*, White, and Sparkling
  • Hard Alcohol - Vodka, White and Dark* Rum, Whiskey, and Scotch
  • Beer - Assorted for all tastes

Frozen Foods

  • Organic Grass fed and finished beef - we bought a quarter of a cow from a local farm and got an assortment of ground beef, steaks and roasts
  • Organic Chicken (breast, thighs, drumsticks)
  • Organic whole pastured chicken for roasting and then making stock
  • Organic Pastured Bacon
  • Wild caught or sustaniably farmed seafood - salmon, mahi mahi, tilapia, shrimp, etc.
  • Organic Pastured Pork (chops, shoulder)
  • Organic Pork or chicken sausages
  • Shredded zucchini from last seasons harvest
  • Peas and corn
  • Edamame (whole or shelled)
  • Frozen fruits for making smoothies or as "ice cubes" for water or cocktails (berries, peaches, bananas, grapes, etc)

Fresh Foods

  • Fresh Fruit - Apples, lemons*, limes*, avocados, tomatoes, bananas
  • Fresh Vegetables - Salad Greens, spinach, kale*, bok choy, cucumbers, mushrooms, onions, sweet potatoes, red potatoes, radishes
  • Fresh herbs - cilantro* , basil, rosemary, thyme, mint
  • Raw, Organic, Grassfed Milk*
  • Ghee made from grass fed milk
  • Butter* - salted and unsalted
  • Farm Fresh Pastured Eggs*
  • Assorted cheeses* - Sharp cheddar, Parmesan, goat, manchego, etc.
  • Organic white miso*
  • Cold smoked salmon
  • Fermented foods - Kimchi, sauerkraut, sour pickles, etc. 
  • Any seasonal produce that catches my eye at the farmer's market!
  • Corn* and Brown Rice Tortillas (freeze if not using immediately)
  • Sprouted whole grain bread or traditional sourdough bread (no yeast)

"Junk Food"

  • Annie's Mac n Cheese*  
  • Annie's or Cascade Farms Granola Bars*
  • Annie's Bunnies Crackers* 
  • Amy's Frozen meals and burritos*
  • Applegate all beef hot dogs
  • Organic Tortilla Chips*
  • Organic popcorn* (to air or stove pop) 
  • Pints of ice cream* or sorbet (small containers to prevent binging!)



*****This list is my pre-allergy testing list.  I have marked the things that are taking a break from or limiting in my diet with an "*".  I do hope that they will eventually make them into my normal rotation one day soon.  For now, I feed these items to my hubby, family and friends and stick to things on my "safe" list.  

    Tuesday, August 14, 2012

    It's just one of those days

    Ever had a day where it feels like everything goes wrong? 

    Yesterday felt like a "Break Stuff" kinda day. 

     I woke up in tons of pain and ended up calling out sick from work.  

    I headed to the first available appointment at the doctors office. After an hour of milling around with the germ infested folks, I was sent home with anti-inflammatory pain medication, and ice pack, and instructions for light stretching and lots of rest for the next few days. Thankfully, nothing was torn. Just a simple, yet very painful strained calf muscle (which i obtained at the hands of a poor trainer at the gym). That's really getting me off track for my first 5k prep and my new-found gym dedication.

    I tried to cook dinner last night. 

    I tried to make a green bean recipe that I made a dozen times before and it turned out watery and flavorless. 

    I tried to BBQ chicken and only succeeded in catching it on fire and starting a grease fire on the gas grill. 

    I tried to make an awesome sounding recipe for homemade goat ricotta cheese and succeeded in only making hot salted goats milk {GAG}.

    I hate days like that. 

    It really makes me feel awful about myself and my abilities and my goals. 

    Hugs from Dave made it mostly better, but today I'm still feeling a little down. 

    I'll get over it. 

    Just because I failed one day, doesn't make me a failure. 

    Today is a new day.

     I couldn't have got hurt if I wasn't at the gym. 

    I couldn't have ruined dinner and the other recipes if I wasn't so dedicated to eating healthy and had just had Dave pick up fast food on his way home.

    So today I got to sit at work with ice packs on my legs, took frequent stretch breaks and walks around the office.  

    I'm being forced to take a couple days to relax.  

    I've been go go go ever since I started feeling better. I'm trying to make up for lost time.

    Sometimes I think we have days that feel like failures to slow us down and regroup and focus on where we should be headed in our life.