05 December 2016

Foods When You Are Battling the Flu

05 December 2016 0
I have been feeling a bit under the weather the last week and food has not been appealing to me. Things I used to really enjoy all of the sudden taste like dirt or the smell freaks me out. All of this is very typical for when I am not feeling well - thank you people for sharing your flu with me, it was such a nice surprise! - I wish there was an emoji that rolled his eyes, I would totally insert it here. Okay, enough ranting...on to some topics of food.

I was pretty excited to try making a pumpkin sauce for my zoodles. I literally just added whatever I had laying around and included some zucchini and kale. It smelled pretty decent and appeared to set rather thick so I was pumped! However, when I prepped the dish and sat down to eat, I was no soo enthusiastic. It was NOT at all what I wanted it to be. Oh well, not every dish can be a success.

Not feeling great, the one day I decided to rock some soup for breakfast.

I made my basic vegetable broth and added in some scallions, cilantro (very cleansing for the body), and zoodles. The flavor was a bit too bland for me, but honestly, I think the bland flavor was exactly what I needed that morning!

I hope everyone is staying healthy this season - but if you are not, keep everything you do and eat SIMPLE!

30 November 2016

Philly Vegan Gala 12/10/2016

30 November 2016 0
To all my vegan folks in the Philadelphia area - come out next Saturday to join the Philly Vegan Gala- A Celebration for the Animals. Ticket prices range from $50- $250. 

Come celebrate with us and learn about The Humane League's groundbreaking efforts to reduce animal suffering! Hear from inspiring speakers, enjoy delicious drinks and mouthwatering vegan appetizers and desserts, bid on amazing prizes in our silent auction, and learn all about what your support of The Humane League means for animals!
Our Gala returns to Goldilocks Gallery this year. Nestled between Old City and Center City, mere steps from the Liberty Bell, Goldilocks Gallery occupies a space like no other in the heart of downtown Philadelphia. An enormous, loft-style complex houses its white-wall gallery, performance venue, and two floors of artist/production studios.

Additional information, including guest speakers and VIP ticket information, can be found at their website - https://donate.thehumaneleague.com/philadelphia/events/philly-gala-celebration-for-animals/e102573

I hope to see you there!


Soba Noodle Soup (Gluten Free & Vegan)

I have been feeling a bit under the weather - I have NOT yet gotten sick, but with everyone else around me coming down with the flu, sinus infections, pink eye and so much more, I have been certainly working hard to fight it all off!

Adding in some traveling for the holidays and I knew I wasn't going to be up for too much.

I grabbed my sister late Wednesday evening and headed into the big city of Harrisburg - or what I like to call "home".

Knowing that Thursday was going to be a busy day in the kitchen prepping and cooking for everyone else's traditional Thanksgiving meal, I decided to get an early start of my dish.

I made a large batch of vegetable broth to which I planned to add some additional vegetables and some King Soba Pumpkin and Ginger Rice Noodles.

I have had this pasta for some time now and struggled to decide exactly what I wanted to make with them and for some reason, this really clicked for me and I knew immediately this is what I was going to make!

- Ginger
- Seaweed (Dulse)
- Star Anise
- Lemon-grass
- Nutmeg
- Water
- Soba Noodles
- Cilantro
- Arugula
- Pumpkin Slices
- Gluten Free Soy Sauce (optional)
- Gluten Free Hot Sauce (optional)

I dry toasted the seasonings and seaweed. I then added about 8 cups of water and let everything simmer for about 2 hours before I turned it off to cool.

When dinner was approaching, I added in the pumpkin slices ( I used a fairy tail pumpkin) to steam.

The Soba Noodles were cooked right into the broth - I let it come to a boil and then added the noodles in to cook for about 5 minutes.

At the last minute, I added some of arugula and cilantro.

This made three meals for me and each one I did something slightly different  - one time I added gluten free soy sauce, another time, I added hot sauce and another I ate it as-is.

I enjoyed each one for what it was but would likely say the soy sauce variety was my favorite.

The noodles were, of course, everything I thought they would be and then some. The texture was my absolute favorite of any gluten free noodle variety I have EVER had! The taste was subtle on the pumpkin and ginger, but just enough that it added a bit extra to the dish!

Thank you King Soba for such an awesome product! I have my eye on the Ramen, Fair Trade Basmati Brown Rice, and of course the Organic Brown Rice and Wakame version!

28 November 2016

ProYo Frozen Probiotic Yogurts

28 November 2016 0
In attending the GFAF Expo this year, this was on of my family's favorites.

Flavors are as follows:
1. banana
2. vanilla
3. berry
4. chocolate

Keep in mind, I don't do a whole lot of dairy on my own - but an occasional treat doesn't kill me.

The family LOVED the banana flavor so much, they asked me to try and work some blogger magic to get some additional samples - which of course, the crew from ProYo was more than happy to share their products with anyone who was interested.

At the show, we only tried the banana and vanilla. Banana was loved, the vanilla was considered a bit bland after having the banana.

I was thrilled to review the additional flavors (berry and chocolate).
The company ships with dry ice so they schedule all shipments. I scheduled for my sampling to arrive on a Thursday and worked from home that day so that I could tear into it as soon as possible. "Fat Kid Loving Her "Cake"".

When the box arrived, I was a bit disappointed because the most loved, banana - well the box was in pieces as if someone had already rummaged through it.... :(

The vanilla was dispersed to others to try. Everyone enjoyed it but mentioned they were looking for more of a french vanilla taste - which was lacking here.

The banana remained a favorite and essentially fought over!

The berry was noted as a bit too sweet but packed full of flavor.

The chocolate rich but just the perfect amount of richness. It definitely carbs your chocolate craving in a healthy way!

ProYo is full of protein, probiotics, GMO free, Soy-Free and chalked full of fiber!

My vote, if you can handle dairy this is a great snack packed full of healthy nutrients with a great taste disguised as dessert!

Need to get your ProYo Fix in - Here is where you can find them in a store near you!

23 November 2016

Friendsgiving 2016 Gluten Free & Vegan Style

23 November 2016 0
Happy Thanksgiving Season to all! I love this time of year, not only because I truly find the fall colors magical but because I love being surrounded by friends and family.

I have been spending a lot of time reflecting on life - where I am at now - where I have been - where I want to go.
        - I am in a place of discovery of myself
        - I am in a better, or at least a more comfortable place with myself than I was a year ago
        - I used to know exactly who I was, what I wanted to do and felt confident and comfortable within my own skin.
        - What happened? I lost myself - I allowed other and my illness to discover who I should be.
        - What am I doing now? I am taking my time to rediscover myself and to heal - it's an amazing process that I want to embrace rather than rush. I want to feel every moment of sadness, confusion, happiness, joy, anxiety, all of it. I want every feeling to happen, embrace and then let it go.

While the doctor has personally prescribed that my life revolve around a routine, I have been working on being a bit more spontaneous as well - so a bit of a challenge but it is what makes life interesting.

On a last minute whim, a Friendsgiving was quickly pulled together. I wasn't sure how many attendees or what their eating preferences were and even though it was noted that I did NOT need to bring a dish, I felt obligated to - that is what we Italians do, right - feed people? That and I was dragging my sister along so it felt like the right thing to do. AND - I love to cook ( I may not be good at it, but I love to cook)

I ran home and ransacked my fridge. Things I found:
      1. Cauliflower
      2. Sage - that needed to be used
      3. Asparagus
      4. Collards
      5. Pineapple

I have been craving a vegan mac and cheese so that took care of the cauliflower and sage.
1. Mustard Seeds
2. Tumeric
3. Ginger
4. Almond Milk
5. Lemon Juice
6. Nutmeg
7. Nutritional Yeast
8. Cauliflower
9. Fresh Sage

I dry roasted my spices and then added almond milk. Once that arrived at a boil, I tossed in the cauliflower and allowed that to soften.

Everything was then tossed into the Vitamix and purred and then added it to some rice pasta and tada!

Verdict: Creaminess - was on par! Taste, I thought it lacked a little something but everyone else seemed to enjoy it!

As for the asparagus, I always enjoy a nice soup - BUT, it was rumored that someone else might make a soup, so I didn't want to "compete" and went with an asparagus gravy instead.
1. Cumin
2. Tumeric
3. Ginger
4. Seaweed (any kind will do)
5. Zucchini
6. Asparagus
7. A splash of almond milk

I dry roasted my spices and then everything was then tossed into the Vitamix and purred.

I made a batch of maple quinoa to go along with the asparagus gravy.
1. 2 cups of almond milk
2. Pumpkin pie spice
3. 1 cup quinoa

I tossed everything into a pot, brought it to a boil. Reduced heat to medium and stirred occasionally until done.

Verdict: Creaminess - was on par! Taste, I thought this turned out even better than the vegan mac and cheese.

As for the Collards, I made a Pineapple Collard Dish.
2. Tumeric
3. Apple Cider Vinegar
4. Apple
5. Pineapple
6. Cumin
7. Salt and Pepper to taste

Everything was tossed into a pan and roasted until soft.

Verdict: For collards, not too bad :) I want to add some toasted coconut next time.

With everyone else's additions, I think we had a nice Friendsgiving meal!

Things I am thankful for this year!

  1. For the hell I have been through - I am really learning a lot about myself and others
  2. For Ammie
    1. Ammie is the ONLY yoga studio owner who has never once questioned my weight, health, nothing - she has only been a rock, there to support me in whatever it is that I may need.
    2. This is the first time in 10 years, I have shown my skin to others.
      1. I practice in shorts and a sports bra, I have never even felt comfortable enough to wear a bikini! 
    3. Because she is a friend, and I do NOT have many of them! 
  3. My family
    1. I have been through some crazy shit and they have been there for me through it all!
  4. My job
    1. It may not always seem like the dream job, but it pays the bills, also for me to have a sense of worth and it is a challenge that keeps me learning something new all the time 

17 November 2016

Canyon Bakehouse Gluten Free Products

17 November 2016 1
Canyon Bakehouse Gluten Free products - thoughts?

As far as I can recall, this is the closests thing to "real" bread. It has a moist and sponge-like consistancy to it that I remember my peanut butter and jam sandwiches. I remember making my own school lunches at a very early age and lathering a mountain of jam on the bread. When lunchtime rolled around, I was left with a soggy jam soaked mushy mess. I still seemed to enjoy it! Homemade jam rocked! I "think" my favorites were blueberry and strawberry.

Positive ingrediant examples: brown rice flour, whole grain sorghum, millet and quinoa
Negative ingrediants examples: agave syrup, xanthum gum, palm fruit oil, yeast, enzymes, and eggs

So for me it is half-a-dozen of one - half-a-dozen of another. I will still enjoy their products but in limited quantities and I will keep my fingers crossed that they will eliminate some of the "negatives" and still have an awesome procuct!

Bagels are a weakness for me - espcially cinnamon raison loaded with any nutbutter, banana slices and honey!

15 November 2016

My Love for Vegan and Gluten Free Fall Foods

15 November 2016 0
I know I have been astray for a bit - life is busy busy this time or year with family birthdays, events, and just getting ready for my year-end responsibilities at work. 

Here is what I have been eating. 
Lots and lots of squash! My favorite is without a doubt, Kabocha Squash! I will steam them whole, eat them whole (skin and all) add a little cinnamon of mustard and boom - I am very happy! 

I really need to find a use for some of the already steamed seeds - not sure they would work for replanting and I am pretty sure they would loose some of their value / taste if I then attempted to roast them.....

I have been making some cilantro kabocha kitchari as well - it is likely one of my favorite varieties, it really adds that buttery-like taste to it!

Adding to the squash list, I have been enjoying the spaghetti squash variety. I have been dry roasting them in the oven with some ginger and garlic and then adding in some vegetable broth that I made out of left-over scraps of purple bok choy, seaweed, garlic, ginger, tumeric, and corriander. 
I used the same broth as I had for the spaghetti squash (add a bit more seaweed) and created a baby haruki turnip sauce - DELICIOUS! 

I have also been enjoyed steamed purple potatoes! These are truly a treat for me - I don't normally eat anything outside of sweet potatoes, and even those have been placed on a restriction for me - and purple potates are hard to come by and when you do, they cost you an arm and two legs! Again, steamed and served with some salsa and I'm a happy gal!
Sometimes it is the simple meals / food preparations that cause me the most joy!
What have you been enjoying this fall season?

31 October 2016

Butternut Squash Fudge (Gluten Free and Vegan)

31 October 2016 0
It's that time of year - winter squash!

I've been trying to be creatives and think of some alternative ways to prepare these wondrous vegetables!

While I could eat them steamed and sprinkled with a little seasoning any time of day or night - when it comes to attending Halloween events (pumpkin carving parties, work potlucks, etc) I try to be a bit more creative.

I won't lie, this recipe was developed because I was being lazy and didn't want to deal with hauling in the heavy slow cooker into work or having to reheat something in the microwave. Creativity kicked-in and I am up and running.

Who doesn't like fudge? Bingo, fudge it is. Now, which winter squash variety do I have the most of.... butternut,okay butternut it is. Now, the base, I know many recipes call for a nut butter base and I happen to have a new cashew nut butter or two that would work perfectly.

Now the juices are flowing. I bring out the saucepan. Toss in the cashew butter. I need something else...got it...coconut butter! I add in a couple of spices, some maple syrup (to keep it vegan yet give it a bit of sweetness) then I mixed in the mashed butternut squash. Once everything was in a smooth-like texture, I poured it into a pyrex pan and let it set in the fridge for a good 24-hours to settle.

* 4 Cups of any nut butter of choice (I had cashew on hand)
* 2 Cups of Coconut Oil
* Some pumpkin Spice
*1/4 Cup maple syrup ( or more depending on how sweet you would like it)
*2 - 2/12 cups mashed winter squash of your choice ( I went with the butternut)

Now, the true test - did the potluckers enjoy the fudge? They loved it!

28 October 2016

Pomegranate Juice

28 October 2016 2
What the doctor orders, the doctor gets! This time around, she ordered to drink a glass of pomegranate juice daily.

My initial thought was, lady, do you know how expensive good pure pomegranate juice is?

I moved past the thought of money and directly to okay - how can I make this work?

Good thing I have an awesome connection at the Farmer's Market and was able to snag an entire case of Pomegranates for $15.00.

Now for the work. I did a lot of research on what is the easiest way to open, de-seed, and juice these babies. Everyone was saying to place the seeds into a blender with a bit of water and pulse until the seeds have become loose. Honestly, this seemed like way too much work for dad and I after we just spent a good 90-minutes de-seedings this annoying little flying seeds! Poor mom watched up mess up her living room because you know, the living room is a practical place to set up a card table, old tablecloth and a large bucket to start this project. They always liked red on the walls, right?

Anyhow, with dad's brain in action - he dug out a food mill and started pushing the seeds through - Hey, it worked and it was a heck of a lot easier than what the web was suggesting!

Now I enjoy the juice (some I froze for later) every day, sometimes mixed with fresh concord grape juice!

While I was at it, I decided to make some dried pineapple - because well, we only have close to 20 sitting around. Thank you Farmer's Market guy!

Benefits of drinking Pomegranate Juice:
Contain a natural aromatase inhibitor, meaning they reduce your risk for breast cancer
Blood-pressure stabilizer
Has been known to increase your fertility
Reduces arthritis and joint pain
High in Omega 5 polyunsaturated fatty acid - meaning it is great for cell regeneration
Maintains blood sugar levels
Helps treat diarrhea
Boost your immunity
Helps fight cavities
Induces hunger and controls thirst
Soothes urinary tract infections
High in fiber
High in iron
Helps with cartridge regeneration
Reduces scars
Improves your skin texture

25 October 2016

Fall Flavors in a Savory Moong Dal Dish Without A Pressure Cooker

25 October 2016 0
I have spent the last week and a half eating off schedule, off routine and certainly cheating. To be clear, I was still maintaining a gluten-free and vegetarian diet, just also consumed some processed foods, dairy, oils, etc that I wouldn't normally eat while trying to heal my gut.

However, I was traveling, enjoying the GFAF Expo, and trying to enjoy my birthday as well.

It was time for me to get back into the rhythm of things and slow down. I needed to pay attention to what I was consuming and when.

I was approached with yet another traveling opportunity and could have been lazy and left it as such, but instead, I decided to get back into the swing of things and make a delicious fall dinner that I would enjoy and others would actually envy (or at least be intrigued).

I do get an enjoyment when others are intrigued and even interested in the foods that I am eating. It helps when I am eating such repetitive foods to make it a bit more self-fulfilling.

I choose to dive into the fridge and pick out one my many winter squash options.

Choose your spices.
      I used Tumeric, ginger, garlic, seaweed, fennel, cumin, ajwain seeds, yellow mustard seeds, and dried basil
Places spices in a pot and cook them at medium heat for about 2 minutes with an occasional stir
Add your soaked Moong Dal grains and fill the pot with water.
I start on high heat and lower the heat about 30 minutes into the cooking.
      *Note: Do not fully cover or the dish will cook over and cause a mess!
Once you have toned down the heat to medium - add in some cubed winter squash. I went with a Kobocha variety.

19 October 2016

GFAFExpo Secaucus, NJ Review

19 October 2016 0
Gluten Free AND Allergy Free Expo....Yes please!

Due to family events and life in general, I was unable to attend the GFAG Expo for the past couple of years so I was really really looking forward to this year's Expo.

My family was coming along for some support and I have to admit, I was a bit nervous as to what they would think and if they would find themselves bored and unsatisfied, but I was over it quickly and said, Happy Early Birthday to myself!

Some of the major sponsors for the event were Glutino and Udi's. While these are NOT my favorite gluten free brands, as they do contain some ingredients that I try to avoid for a daily consumption, I have to take my hat off and commend both companies for sponsoring and making events such as this happen! With that said, I went out of my way to visit their booths, try their products and engaging with their representatives.

Some new products:
-Gluten Free Delights - these remind me of hotpockets - not as good as I had dreamed, but heck, if you are craving some old-time comfort food, these will do the trick!

-Perfectly Free- AMAZING allergy-friendly frozen desserts! The salted caramel and vanilla is the fan favorite.

-88 Acres - gluten free AND VEGAN bars with some awesome texture and flavor to them!

Some old time favorites:
-Aleias - the Almond horns are a must!

-Veggie Fries - My family loves these adorable sneaky ways to get some additional vegetables into your day!

-The Greater Knead (formally Sweet Note Bagel) - these are 100% Nicole friendly (gluten free, soy free, vegan, corn free...) and texture and taste are approved!

Bagels are one of the hardest items to find in their gluten-free form that actually taste decent and not a solid brick, so thank you Greater Knead for accomplishing such!

The Family's favorites:
-Banza Pasta, stay tuned for their new meal kits including Mac and Cheese, Shells and Cheese, Mac and Cheese Deluxe and White Cheddar, these should hit the grocery store shelves shortly!  My fingers and toes are crossed for them to put out a vegan mac and cheese product!

-Carolina Rice - My sister was floored when she won a beans and rice packet! It is the simple things in life that seem to excite us!

According to the company's website, there are only two products that contain wheat (Chicken Rice and classic rice pilaf).

-Betty Lou's - The brother-in-law and I were the only ones who still had room in our bellies to try these babies! They Strawberry PB and J and the apricot fruit pie were the favorites! I can't believe they are both gluten free and vegan and this is the first I am hearing of them!

-SugarFlake Bakery - While their rainbow cookies were pretty awesome, but the plain cheesecake was the talk of the town! My aunt, a non-gluten free patron, is ready to purchase stock in this company! The plain cheesecake was the perfectly creamy and rich!

-Feel Good Foods - Feel Good Food's was there and showcasing their dumplings! This one of the few stands in which the family took more than one serving, with the vegetable being their favorite!

-Chebe - Garlic-Onion Breadstick Mix was the favorite!

-Against the Grain - The fiesta flatbread was hands-down the family favorite - now I'm just wishing they would have a vegan version!

-ProYo - the banana was the team favorite and vanilla was deemed to be plain after having had the banana.

My Favorites:
-Betty Lou's - honestly, I find it hard for me to really enjoy foods these days. If I like the taste, my stomach hates me for it. If my stomach likes it, I am bored and flustered with it. Betty Lou's products seem to be both kind to my stomach and enjoyable to the pallet. Knowing that the brother-in-law enjoyed these just as much as I did and because I want to share these babies with everyone, I did share my goodie bag, but now I am wishing I hadn't! :)

-Perfectly Free- AMAZING. Honestly, that is all I have to say! These perfect little-frozen balls are just the perfect snack!

-Canyon Bakehouse - 7-grain bread. The bagel bored me a bit, I think because I already had about 10 that day...but the 7-grain bread had that memorable "airy" texture that I had yet to find in gluten-free bread! The flavor was on par -and  I really enjoyed the crunchiness that the seeds provided.

I had been wanting to try this company for some time, but the expense of gluten-free products and the fact that I don't always enjoy gluten free bread,  (I find it dry, tasteless, and full of preservatives) I steered clear, but I have to say, Canyon Bakehouse, you brought your A- Game and I am sold!

The two representatives for Canyon Bakehouse were my favorite stand! They were engaging and really appeared to enjoy what they do!

-Maddalenas - This one is a stretch for me, not typically going for the dessert let alone something with dairy in it, but OMG the pumpkin cheesecake, fluffy, creamy, and just a wow-factor with flavor! Somehow my family missed this stand or I am sure it would be included on their favorites list.

-Pascha - allergy-friendly chocolate, need I say more?!

-Kevita - I have so far enjoyed the Mojita Lime Mint Coconut, Strawberry Acai Coconut, and the Meyer Lemon Apple Cider Vinegar Tonic. I am having a hard time finding all of the products I want to try in my local grocery store :(.

I have a lot of tummy / digestion issues and trying all the new product at the convention, I found these babies to be my savior! I just wish they were not close to $3.00 a bottle.

17 October 2016

Using Your Talents To Help Others

17 October 2016 2
I really enjoy cooking. It makes me happy - I can't say I am good at it, as there are plenty of times I make dishes and spit them out almost immediately proclaiming how disgusting they are. It's the joy of trial and error that it doesn't matter if I fail on 100 dishes, I have at least one that I truly enjoy and can feed my heart and soul with.

I enjoy cooking for others and thus had to develop awareness of my other senses as I can't taste-test the food in which I am providing to them.

A very good friend that we have essentially just adopted into the family, asked my sister and I over for a Halloween movie night. I figured, since I am off on a little mini-vacation and not working, I would give them a gift that I do not always get to have myself and that is, walking into a house with a home cooked meal!  I looked around my parents' house to see what we had an abundance of today. P.S there is always an abundance of one type of food or another as we do love our farmer's market finds which usually result in cases of food!

I found a case of butternut squash, a case of pineapple, and a very large pumpkin in which we needed to bake down.

I went with a fall favorite of chili and added my own spin to it - creating a butternut slow cooker chili. I pan roasted the onions, ground beef, and tomatoes / pepper mixture with coconut oil before placing it into the slow cooker. Then I left it on medium heat all day to prep for dinner.

Then I thought, what better to go with chili than cornbread? HMMM....pumpkin cornbread!? Why not, so I mixed everything up and backed my cute muffins tins for the drive over.

Lastly, we need a dessert for our mini-movie party!  I found a cute apple-pineapple hand pie recipe. It was pretty easy: cut up an apple and two sliced on pineapple into small pieces, pan fry with some butter, brown sugar and cinnamon until mixture is soft. We added a "touch" of rum to our mixture. Then take 8 pieces of white bread and cut them into a circular shape and flatten them (I let mom do this part as to not 100% contaminant myself). I left everything as is so that when we arrived at Chyle's we could just place the filling into the bread and pan-fry them with some more butter.

When we arrived at Chyle's that evening, I started heating the chili and baking the cornbread to discover that our night was about to have a twist to it. That is, Chyle's husband had received word that it was very likely he would be deploying much sooner than anticipated and that he would miss their second son's 1st birthday, the holidays, and much more.

They had asked for our opinions, but Mia had such a perfect way of putting it, "it wasn't fair for us to provide input as we had never been in a situation such as this". She was right, we have never been in love with someone, created a family, purchased a home and built a life with someone to know that without choice, that special someone would have to deploy at some point in time. How difficult that must be to not only miss and fear for the one you love but now also have the responsibility of an entire family, house, etc fall into your responsibility.

I felt the only thing I could provide was to reassure them that I was here (only 2 hours away) for anything and everything they might need. I was glad that we were that night to provide a nourishing meal and hugs where needed.

I spent the night thinking about how I would feel and what I would do. Wondering, am I strong enough for such a life occurrence or would I crash and burn? Do I have the support team around me that would allow for me to conquer this life event?

While I don't have the answers, I do have a profound new outlook on the lives of those that fight so nobly for our country, and for the families that they leave behind.

14 October 2016

Savory Oatmeal (Vegan & Gluten Free)

14 October 2016 0
It's pumpkin season! One of my favorites! I find that I LOVE comfy fall foods (reminds me of my younger carefree years - so bring on the carbs!), mother nature's colors, the smell of the crisp air mixed in with fall leaves blowing through the air and of course, all of the birthday celebrations!

I'm my happiest when I am around those that I love (family, friends, and adopted / extended family). I find my anxiety is slim to none, my joy is waking up and getting the opportunity to spend time with them in whatever capacity they can provide.

I awake, to the morning's crisp air for a refreshing walk with a cup of tea in hand. These are the moments of the day that I can just stop lift my head and my heart to the sky, I then take in a deep breath and watch as a smile emerges onto my face. Funny how the little, and most simplistic things can just make us smile and fee FREE. Free of regret. Free of fear. Free of obligations. Just free to be who you are in that exact moment of that day.

I spend a lot of my time trying to be someone I am not in an effort to please others - I am starting to see the pattern that when I am who I am and I am true to myself, that is when I am the happiest and content in life. It is when I am trying to determine who I should be for others that I have issues with anxiety and fear. I hope to take this lesson and one day put it into action and no longer worry about pleasing everyone. For those that matter, they will love me for who I am and only encourage such behavior.

I have been having a ton of fun with seeking out unique varieties of squash and pumpkins and experimenting with them. Most recent of my finds is a what they call a cinderella pumpkin. I did a little bit of reading on this pumpkin variety. The origin of a cinderella pumpkin in from France and it is rather difficult to find in the US. The pumpkin itself is a large round pumpkin that looks like someone squished it- hence it's nickname the cinderella pumpkin. The variety is said to be on the better pumpkins to use for baking, as the pumpkin lacks that startch-like taste and encompasses the creamy and velvety tastes of a pumpkin.

I was not in the mood to bake something for myself, nor do I bake in my parent's oven (Italian bread overload!)  and I have been loving and trying to create as many unique savory oatmeal dishes I can come up with.

I steamed the pumpkin and scooped it into a pot with water, turmeric, cinnamon, star anise, and seaweed. I let everything get nice and creamy and then I cooked the oatmeal into the mixture. I wasn't sure I was going to like it, as the smell was not what I had been expecting, but the taste was on-par. I would have this over and over and over and over again - as the cinderella pumpkin delivers on the creamy aspect!

10 October 2016

30 Flirty and Thriving

10 October 2016 0
Here we are, approaching the "real" adulthood measurement. The oldest of 4 Fia gals is turning the big 3-0. While I know many find celebrating birthdays to be a waste and a bunch of hoo-ahh, I find that the world today is tough and when you can find a reason, any reason at all, to celebrate, I say you take it and run with it.

When mentioning to my parents that we would be celebrating and kind of celebrating BIG, since it is the BIG 3-0 birthday this year - my mom sort of looked at me and said, BIG 3-0?! It was not a big birthday when we turned that age, why is it now?

I stopped and thought about it for a moment. Well, because school and post-graduate school takes up more time, people are getting married later, financially it is more difficult to find a way in which to survive, I'm not entirely sure when and how this became a big one, but life is hard so why not celebrate the fact that you are approaching a new decade and this one might be a bit easier on you?!

I asked Fran what she wanted to do for her birthday, and I asked with a bit of hesitation seeing as how I know the BIG 2-5 was rough for her, I wasn't too sure how she was going to feel about this one, five years later.

Fran noted she really wanted something simple, nothing too big of crazy just very low-key so we will go with a nice dinner with good friends and enjoy yourselves. Fran chose Vientiane Cafe for a couple of reasons: 1. they are a cure intimate setting not too far from her home and 2. they are beyond accommodating to my food needs and I have never been sick here, not once and this has become my go-to for dinners out.

I worked with Vientiane to make reservations, not something they always take and off to the planning I went. I recruited the twin and baby sister to assist as well, because honestly, every event always is that much better when their thoughts and talents are also incorporated in.

I had asked the baby sister to help with the table decor and the twin to help with some party favors (old schooling it up!). We kept checking in with one another to ensure we had everything necessary and felt confident we were good to go. We arrived at the restaurant in advance to ensure we had plenty of time to setup and Vientiane was awesome about letting us come in and essentially take over the place. We moved tables, lit some additional lights, placed confetti on the table, etc...

The birthday princess arrived (that's right, we got her her very own tiara and had some little hair-clip tiaras for the rest of the ladies at the table). We managed to get everyone to sit down and start completing their best memory of Fran to be stored in a jar. The thought process behind this was that on any given day she is feeling shitty, she can pull out this jar of love and remember how special she is to each and every single person in her life.

Everyone sort of paired off and started reviewing the menu and asking what was good and who wanted to share which appetizer. My recommendations, everything is good here. The curry, I had only once in the past was not my favorite BUT still wasn't bad.

I knew I had to get the rice porridge, so that was settled but for my main meal I was indecisive. Mainly because I was going to rock one of the entrees and the waitress so kindly let me know that when making it gluten free, they are excluding their house-made soy sauce and adding in tamari. Which of course ,tamari will alter the taste a bit. Sort of flustered and feeling rushed, and only because we have 18 other orders that were waiting on my decision, I said, can you have the chef just surprise me with a gluten-free and vegan dish? That they did!

They brought out the Aw Lao with my favorite fluffy tofu.Not a dish that I would have selected for myself and definitely not on my top favorite, but I blame that on the damn rice porridge! That rice porridge is just amazing that and.....the famous king soup. When you start your Vientiane experience with these two dishes, it is really really hard to top them!

After taking my time to enjoy my dish, I circled around and asked everyone else what they enjoyed. The Panaeng curry (peanut based) looked and smelled amazing! I tried the gluten-free version of the pad thai and that was pretty awesome as well but the fried rice is also calling my name....argh! I need them to offer me a sampler plate one of these days!

The verdict is that all of the attendees, even those that were afraid of trying "Thai" cuisine, absolutely loved their dishes and even the twin loved her food when she was afraid she would HATE it.

Vientiane ,as always, you rock and we all know how picking I am out about food and eating out and while I sort of feel the Aw Lao and the Green Curry dishes have let me down, that rice porridge, king soup, Pho, and my desire to try more will keep coming back.


22 September 2016

Gluten Free and Vegan Tailgating

22 September 2016 1
We take our tailgating very serious and with a noon game, we plan to arrive around 7:00am.

This year, life's funny little reminders that you can't plan life, you can't take life for granite, and that you can't plan your future tossed us a curve-ball as we were involved in a minor accident that morning.

While everyone was able to walk away from both vehicles and only complain about a small discomfort in their back, neck, and knee - I would consider ourselves very fortunate.

It is situations like these where you can't go on blaming anyone. It was an accident and just that. No one planned it, no one meant for it to happen and no one certainly wanted to incur the additional expenses - but life happens and it is rude awaking that you need to start treasuring life. Stop complaining, stop judging, stop fussing, so wake up every day with gratitude that you have the opportunity to make this day a great day. You have the opportunity to love - love yourself, love your family, love your pets, love significant others, etc one more day! Treasure life! Be there for others. Make time for you. Smile more often. Find happiness in the life you have!

After everything was some what worked out with insurance and the police, we made our way to have a great day! I started with some gluten free and vegan oatmeal pancakes.

  • Gluten Free Oats
  • Cinnamon
  • Pumpkin Pie Spice
  • Ginger
  • Nutmeg
  • Zucchini
  • Almond Milk
  • Banana
Without the Vitamix, I had to alter this recipe a tad bit in a normal blender....the Vitamix just mixes it up a bit smoother and thicker.

These were simple to heat on my Thermos Grill. Each side took about 4 minutes with the lid closed.
I then topped these with some homemade, sugar-free concord grape jam!

For lunch and dinner (that's right we rock out all day, seriously, anyone who leaves immediately after the game is missing out on all the fun people-watching) I made a stuffed patty pan squash and roasted pumpkin dish.

When I was web searching for creative squash recipes, everyone and their mother appeared to stuff patty pans, which I have never done and found it boring, but when I was crunched for time on the prep and noticed I had another serving of Kitchari left, I said, the heck with it - I am joining the cult!

I simply took 4 patty pan squash, cut their tops off, scooped out their centers and filled them with the Kitchari. I sprinkled a little extra nutmeg on top and some fresh cilantro.

For the pumpkin dish, I cubed up the pumpkin (removing seeds and the skin) and added cinnamon, pumpkin pie spice, nutmeg, scallions, dried dates and a small amount of my coconut oil and honey mixture.

 I must say, the stuffed squash was pretty legit and enjoyed! I guess it is okay to sometimes follow the larger crowd!

20 September 2016

Adventures in Squash

20 September 2016 0
Here is the situation: 
When your fridge looks like this - jammed packed with fruits and Squash - you tend to find yourself getting a bit more creative on your squash game.

I tried my best to do some web-searches for squash recipes but I found myself bored of the same things:
     Squash Boats
     Summer Pasta with Squash
     Squash zoodles
...with the lack of creativity, I was looking for, I had only once choice left, to take a look in my pantry and tune into my current food cravings. 

I knew I was craving a seaweed salad and hadn't yet made my own. I started there - soaking the seaweed (just a couple of handfuls) and then adding some flavor (ginger and garlic). I then took a zucchini (which, with the size of this one, it looked like it was on steroids) and spiralized it into noodles. I added some lemon juice, Akwain seeds, and fresh cilantro. Once the seaweed had a couple of hours to soak - I dumped it into my ziplock container with the remaining ingredients and gave everything a good shake. With my thought that this would be the next day's lunch, the entire dish had another 12+ hours to soak in all of the good flavors. 
The next morning, I figured I would want to add something a bit more substantial to this dish, I grabbed some coconut oil, coconut shavings and some patty pan squash which I steamed together and placed overtop of my pasta dish. 

This dish took me no more than 20-minutes prep time (and that is stretching it) and was ready for a light and healthy delicious meal.

Living healthy does not need to be boring! I understand the doctor currently wants me on a simple, light, and heavy squash focused diet, but who said I can't have fun with "simple" flavors?!

01 September 2016

Making your own rice flour

01 September 2016 1

I had some time off recently and it has forced me to learn to relax!

I remembered how much I enjoyed experimenting with new recipes and ingredients!

Before starting my new experiment...I spent some time during the morning to ignore everyone else and all of their needs, their bad moods, their everything. I wanted to enjoy a cup of Chocolate Matte Tea, on the porch, with a book and myself and that is it! I wanted no distractions, no demands just a little me-time!

I thought I might struggle with this and feel "lazy" as I often do when I take a moment to slow down and instead I felt joy and rather content.

I have actually been reading a lot of materials on how doing nothing can be of such benefit to a person. It helps you recharge and prepare to take on more. It helps your body get stronger as you take the time to rest. While I could continue to babble on and on about the benefits, the real trick is to discover and feel it for yourself. I dare you! Go do nothing for 5-minutes, 30-minutes, the whole day, a week - go crazy and just enjoy listening to your own breath and feeling alive in the sheer act of doing nothing!

I knew my peace wouldn't last forever as I was interrupted by other's needs - which I don't mind at all. I am happy to help where and when I can! Once I found I had some more free time, I decided to make my own brown rice flour!

I seriously took a bunch of brown rice, dumped it into the Vitamix and then BAM - flour!

Since I went through all that hard work (teheheh) I decided to get even more creative and I made healthy rice flour zucchini banana muffins! The family was a tad nervous to eat them but once they did, they admitted that for being gluten free, they really aren't that bad!

Lesson learned - stop worrying about everything and just enjoy every moment of every day!

22 August 2016

3 Ingredient Vegan & Gluten Free Pancakes

22 August 2016 1
3 Ingredient Vegan & Gluten Free Pancakes
* 1 cup oatmeal
*1 cup dairy-free milk of your choice
*1 ripe banana
*Cinnamon and ginger of your choice (I added some nutmeg as well)

Place all ingredients into a blender and zoom - blend until smooth.
I made small little pancakes and let them sit on a non-stick skillet for 2-minutes each side.

Topping ideas: honey, nut butter, maple syrup, jam / jelly, fruit, chia seeds, etc.

I decided to rock some elderberry jam on these babies. elderberry is well known for its healing properties.

My next project will be oatmeal banana zucchini pancakes - I will keep you posted on my progress!

Gluten Free & Allergy Free Expo, Secaucus, NJ 10/15-10/162016

It's that time of year again! Come out and join me at the Great Gluten Free & Allergy Free Expo is Secaucus, NJ!

For those of you that have attended gluten free or allergy free expos in the past, I can personally guarantee you they are nothing compared to this year's event in Secaucus, NJ.

The number of exhibitors alone is enough to bring you out - but then add in free samples and discounts and it is a win-win situation!

A couple of vendor on my excitement list are:
1. Hu Kitchen
2. M Superfoods
3. Sweet Note Bakery

A couple of the presentations / classes that I am also excited for:
1. Jenna Drew's essential oils
2. Kim Koeller's eating out gluten and allergy free

To register for the event, simply click here.
With the attached link you will be eligible for the following discounts:
30% off  w/ code EARLYBIRD (thru 9/14)
20% off w/ code ADVANCE (thru 10/14)

In addition, I will be raffling off a couple free tickets.  Please leave a comment below to become eligible for the giveaway!

Sharing some photos from past Gluten Free & Allergy Free Expo events. Again, this is an event not to be missed!

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