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Showing posts from 2018

Kabocha Squash Mac and Cheese and Pulled Carrots (Vegan & Gluten-Free)

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The family was all visiting and planned tailgating event was to occur. On the menu was pulled pork and my dad's famous homemade mac and cheese. I really wasn't in the mood to be too creative or work very hard in prepping my meal so I figured I would just grab some items that I already had and make it work.

I came up with carrot noodles for my kabocha squash (my favorite) mac and cheese.
Ingredients:
-Roasted kabocha squash
-Roasted onions
-Roasted garlic (to your liking).
-Unsweetened almond milk
-Turmeric
-Spiralized Carrots


For the pulled carrots, I went with a tomatillo sauce
Ingredients:
-Roasted onion
-Roasted garlic
-Roasted tomatillo
-Lime juice
-Apple Cider Vinegar
-A pinch of cayenne

Easy recipe - I took advantage of the grill being on and roasted all of my ingredients (minus the pulled carrots (shredded) and carrot noodles).

I then used the Vitamix to mix all the cheese sauce ingredients. I poured them over my carrot noodles and placed everything into a cast iron pan a…

Evolution Catering, Harrisburg, Pa (Gluten-Free and Vegan)

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Many many thanks to the creative team at Evolution Catering in Harrisburg, Pa. 
They provided a meal created from Love and creative-energy for this crazy allergy-free gal! I can’t wait to see what awesome meal comes next! 
My salad was based off the below recipe: -chickpeas -pickles -onions -apple cider vinegar  -mustard

Air Canada Rouge In-Flight Gluten-Free Meals

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On a recent flight abroad, My sister and I found a deal to fly via Air Canada Rouge and having no prior experience with this airline, I figured why not?

Now, the intention of this post is to focus on their in-flight meal accommodations so I won't dive deep into my personal experiences with the airline and the lack of accommodations and poor customer service that we ran into - because for just as much bad, there was also some good (or at least okay things) about the airline.

Navigating a request for a gluten-free meal was pretty easy. I just logged in online and made the request. I did, however, take an extra precaution step and also called the airline in advance to confirm they received my gluten-free meal request.

It was also here that I requested a gluten-free and (at minimum) vegetarian meal. Unfortunately, Air Canada and most other airlines are still new to the meal request game and don't yet have the means to accommodate for multiple diets. 

I just roll with what I can get…

Women's Weekend In The Woods 2018

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While I may have been faced with a number of challenges trying to stop me from getting to Gina's 2018 Women's In The Woods Weekend, the universe spoke louder than all other aspects and put me exactly where I needed to be... Gina's retreat.

Gina has a way of running her retreats where she provides a safe-grounding space for all, while at the same time leaving space for you to grow, explore, feel, struggle and mature in your own time and space.

I showed up on Friday evening a bit frazzled. I was concerned that I was taking off that weekend when I should not be, as in another week I was headed out for an extended vacation. I was exhausted and a bit cranky from the traffic that I ran into. BUT - I came with an open mind and couldn't wait to embrace what Gina had prepared for us.

We started the retreat with some free movement with mother nature. We moved with our breath and we set an intention for ourselves. I felt more at "home" than I had in a very long time. A…

Dehydrating Apricots

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To date, this may have been one of the easier items to prep and dehydrate (okay, minus the mushrooms, those are pretty simple as well...)

You want to be sure you have ripe apricots and that you have left to sit out on your counter for about 24-hours. This will help the process run much smoother.

You simply (and no knife is needed here) pull the apricots in half. Remove the pits. Flip them inside. Place the skin-side down on your dehydrator (I used dehydrator sheets to help control some of the fruit juice) and let them dehydrate on about 125 degrees for 24-48 hours... this will depend on your dehydrator as well as how ripe your apricots are.

P.S I made these with mom in mind - they are one of her favorite snacks. Look out gummy bears, I might just replace you! 

Dreams Do Come True... & A Gluten-Free, Vegan and Oil-Free Tailgating

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Seriously - when you least expect it, the universe has a way of working out.
I was staying busy with life and not really paying attention to my own self-care (we all let it slip from time-to-time) or things that would be of fun to me. I was trying to stay focused on helping mom achieve her summer wish list and was leaving mine to sit on the back burner.

Then, one weekday, when I was rather busy with meetings and running around, my sister sends me a screenshot of a Groupon Deal for the Maroon 5 concert in our local area. Umm... yes, yes, yes - no questions to be asked, if we already had plans, lady...we are rescheduling and we are making this happen! Yes, someone has a bit of a celebrity crush... let us be honest, a girl can and should dream!

We decided to tailgate a Nicole-Friendly style menu.
Our menu:
- Peanut Butter Cookies
- Curried Pinto Beans
- Cucumber Tomato Salad
- Pineapple Salsa
- Plantain Chips
- Marinated and Grilled Zucchini and Portobello Mushrooms.

Peanut Butter Cookies:

Gluten-Free & Vegan Oatmeal Zucchini Bread

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This recipe is super simple, healthy and delicious!



-2 1/2 cups oats -1ish cups mashed banana -1ish cups zucchini -1 tsp baking soda -some cinnamon -some vanilla -1/2 cup bee pollen -4/5 dried dates rehydrated into a paste (this will be used not only as a binder but a sweetener as well) -a touch of ACV
Bake at 350 for at least an hour. 
I placed every ingredient into the Vitamix, turned it on. Blended until everything was mixed to my desire. Bake for an hour-ish at 350.

Preserving Summer's Bounty

It's that time of year when produce is a bit more abundant than it has been and here in central PA, we have really struggled in 2018 to find fresh produce throughout the fall and winter months… well, actually, even for most of the early spring as well. This being for a couple of reasons, the weather was certainly a large factor but also random bugs and fungi (I recall having these conversations with the local farmers but not as well versed in this area to write about it….).
Trying to avoid being left desperate again this coming year, I plan to get what I can now and then preserve it in ways that will last me throughout the winter.
Some of the produce I have had recent access to in abundance: ZucchiniZucchini ChipsZoodlesZucchini Oatmeal BreadZucchini SoupZucchini Pasta SaucePickled ZucchiniSautee some for some Kitchari later in the fallBananasFrozen…. Those that I don't eat right away that isStrawberriesFrozen (can be used for a wide variety of things later)Dehydrated…. Turned…

Quick and simple summer squash soup in a rice cooker! (Gluten-Free & Vegan)

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It is not every night that I have access to the family stove and or oven. More often than not, I am either already creating 10 other recipes that require this appliance OR my parents are utilizing it. Perhaps they are making pasta or homemade bread, something that is very much so not Nicole-Friendly and I need to steer clear - which has forced me more times than not, to get creative in my cooking methods.
Knowing that I had a busier week than usual and that I had summer squash that was ripening faster than I was preserving it, I needed to find a way to get into that kitchen and cook up a storm in a very short period of time, as my to-list was continuously growing.
I pulled out the rice cooker and just as I would have with the stove top, I dry-sautéed my spices. I simply did this by plugging in the rice cooker and turning it on, not adding any liquids and tossing in my spices (turmeric, ginger, cardamom, star anise, fennel seeds, mustard seeds, garlic, garlic and seaweed strips).
Once I…

Family Reunion In Granville, Oh (Vega & Gluten-Free)

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Too many times I hear those with allergies complaining that travel is impossible and no one is willing to accommodate them.

For me, I have not found this the case, ever. While yes, traveling with allergies does require a bit more preparation and packing space, it is achievable! And by no means do I ever lay the burden on someone else to provide for me. I am always grateful when there are accommodations but I come prepared and with all of my meals and snacks planned out, just to be safe!

For this past weekend, the family was driving out to Granville, OH for a camping stay. I was aware that a microwave would be available for use, making my food options a bit more flexible than if I was to tent camp.

For my breakfasts, I had made a carrot, apple and celery juice. I packed a variety of fruit to snack on and Enjoy Life's new Sweet Potato with Maple Syrup bars.

For my lunch and dinners, I packed two options:
1. My vegan "meatballs" with Cybele's Lentil, Kale, and Broccoli p…

Enjoy Life Products for the Win! (Top 8 Free)

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Folks, if you follow me on istagram, than you saw my recent post on Enjoy Life's new Grain & Seed bars and how my mother (normally dislikes anything gluten-free or vegan) devoured these babies!

Check out my instagram post if you missed it.  And use the below code to save 15% (not available on individual bar purchases) on your next purchase of Enjoy Life's Grain & Seed bars!

Code: GRAINSEED15
Expires: 1/31/2019
*Available on all flavors!




Father's Day Goodies

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Last weekend we celebrated Father's Day and decided to revisit a local park for a family picnic. Little did we know when we planned this picnic that it would be close to 100 degrees and very humid out!

Good thing we got there is time to claim a fully-shaded picnic table!

On the menu for this event was a roasted asparagus salad and cauliflower wings.

Asparagus Salad
-Fresh asparagus
-Olive Oil
-Garlic, minced
-Balsamic Vinegar
-Onion
-Bell Peppers
-Tomato
-Salt and Pepper

Trim the asparagus

Toss the asparagus in some olive oil, salt, and pepper and then roast for 10-15 minutes at 350.

While the asparagus is roasting, chop your vegetables. Mix with remaining ingredients and let sit.

Once the asparagus has roasted. Remove from the oven and let it cool for about 15 minutes.

Cut the asparagus into smaller pieces and then mix with remaining ingredients.

Let the salad sit for better flavor, but you could serve immediately if need be.

Cauliflower Wings
-Cauliflower
-Milk
-Water
-Egg
-Salt a…

Vegan Carrot Pulp Tuna Salad (Gluten-Free, Oil-Free, Soy-Free, & Nut-Free)

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Vegan Carrot Pulp Tuna Salad

Ingredients
-Carrot Pulp
-Onions
-Celery
-Seaweed
-Spicy Mustard
-Cayenne Pepper
-Fresh Parsley
-Pickle Juice
-Lemon Juice
-Black Pepper

Process
Juice a couple of carrots (I then used them for a carrot, celery apple juice)
Soak some dried seaweed for about 6 minutes
Chop: celery and onions
Mix together: All ingredients and let soak a good 24 hours to really take in all of the flavors.

I choose to skip a tuna salad sandwich and went with a beet noodle salad instead!


My Favorite Vegan, Gluten-Free and Oil-Free Vegetable Burger

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I may have perfected the vegetable burger, too bad I measured nothing and was so exhausted the day I was cooking that I am not 100% certain what I had put into this creation - BUT while rocking these burgers during a work lunch, everyone assumed I was eating a real burger and was amazed when I told them it was a vegan and gluten-free burger.

I know they looked realistic, smelled delicious, but the taste and texture are what made this burger my favorite version thus far!

What I do know is that I started with a base of a white sweet potato, broccoli, carrots, beets, dried acorn squash, and then used spices like ginger, turmeric, garlic, onion, curry leaves and red pepper... and I know I rolled the burgers in my green banana flour - but other than that - not really sure what I did differently than I have been, but these babies rocked!

 So go have fun with whatever ingredients you have chilling in your fridge and cupboards and make something awesome, or making a complete fail, but either …

Trying Dehydrated Strawberries...again...

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This time, I was lucky enough to get in season and locally picked berries so I couldn't resist and of course, accepted the offer to purchase an entire case.

This time, I knew I still wanted to keep the berries in their whole form but wanted to help them dry out a bit quicker.

I took the time to cut off each berries top and then placed them in a strict line placement in the dehydrator. I set the temperature for 135 and time for 12 hours and walked away.




Broccoli Burgers (Vegan, Gluten-Free, & Oil-Free)

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Now, I won't take credit for this one, as I actually let the farmer know I did NOT want to purchase an entire case of broccoli. However, dad spoke up that he would, in fact, love a case of broccoli (and bell peppers, and beets (for me), and melons and the list just keeps on going).
So now I have been tasked with getting creative. My digestive system doesn't hate broccoli but it also doesn't always love it, so my creativity is more on my parent's meals but I have been experimenting as well.

So far, for my parents, I have made:
1. Broccoli and potato tots
2. Broccoli and cheddar soup
3. Broccoli and parmesan bites
4. Broccoli salad

None was hated, but my mom did screech, "What next? Will I find broccoli in my oatmeal?" Me, personally, I love savory oatmeal so I would have likely been all in on this idea, mom, not so much.

For my own little creations, I decided to add some to my veggie burgers that I have been having fun with. They are basically the same main in…

Dried Strawberries

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As summer is finally starting to approach us in Central PA, my favorite farmers market is getting ready to kick into high gear- which truly makes my heart sing. Okay, while not every piece of produce is local, all of the vendors do offer a variety of their own harvest and supplement from food auctions when needed- but this, to me, is still way better than supporting to mainstream grocery chains.

This past week, I ended up coming home with:
-potatoes, mom wanted to make potato salad
-onions, because onions are a kitchen staple
-1/2 dozen red peppers
-a case of portobellos
-a case of shiitake mushrooms
-1/2 case of oyster mushrooms
-a case and 1/2 of fresh ginger
-a case of strawberries
-a case of blackberries
-5+lbs cherries
-8 ears of corn, for mom...
-2 melons, for dad
-what they had left of bananas
-3 overly stuffed vases of mangoes - Yum!!

Needless to say, I’ve been busy cooking, preserving and getting creative!

But I knew I could not keep up with the strawberries. Does everyone el…

Shiitake Mushroom Vegan Ceviche (Gluten-Free)

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Mushroom Ceviche

Onion
Fresh Lime Juice
Fresh Lemon Juice
Jalapeno
Freshly Grated Garlic
Freshly Grated Ginger
Freshly Grated Turmeric
Apple Cider Vinegar
Fresh Cilantro
Black Pepper
Bell Peppers
Mango
Pineapple
Fresh Seaweed
Thinly sliced shitake mushrooms

Mix all ingredients, give it a toss, and let it absorb all of the flavors for a minimum of 24 hours

Carrot Curry Salad (Vegan & Gluten-Free)

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What does a girl do when she has fallen in love with her cold beet salad and no one has fresh beets?! Well, this girl finds carrots and substitute them in for the beets - let's see how well this pans out...

Carrot Curry Salad
Fresh Carrots (2-3)
Turmeric
Ginger
Garlic
Onion
Curry Leaves

Direction
Start by dry sauteing the spices.
Add a small amount of water
Mix in the carrots
Cover
**Be careful to watch and ensure you have enough water to get your carrots to a nice tender feeling.
Refrigerate
Add additional fresh curry leaves
Enjoy!

Oyster Mushroom Curry (Vegan & Gluten-Free)

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Oyster Mushroom Curry

Yes, I am truly obsessed and really enjoying simply curry recipes. All of my curry recipes (to-date) have been gluten-free, vegan, oil-free, no-GMO, no msg, no added sugar, corn-free, soy-free, and nut-free.

I try and start simple - dry roasting my typical spices (turmeric, garlic, ginger, black pepper, fresh curry leaves, mustard seeds, and cinnamon sticks) -IF I think I will want a little more "comfort" to the dish, I will add a little cumin as well. After about 30-seconds dry roasting, I begin to mix in water. Now, the amount of water will vary, you will want to watch this throughout the entire cooking process and be sure have enough not to burn the pan!

I like a little heat, so I usually choose to add a spicy pepper, whole thing, seeds and all, but this is a preference thing and not necessary. 

After all of my base curry ingredients have simmered to a tender touch - I add in my hearty portion of the dish. In this case, I added a mango and oyster mus…

Shiitake Mushroom and Spinach Stirfry (Vegan & Gluten-Free)

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What happens when I head to a farmers market alone? Well, I purchase cases and cases of food for myself...so off to cooking and preserving (drying, freezing, canning...) I go.
So expect many blog posts about preserving my goodies in the near future.

Shiitake mushroom and spinach stirfry.
Ingredients:
-Fresh turmeric
-Fresh garlic
-Fresh ginger
-Chopped Onion
-Lemon juice
-Curry leaves
-Cilantro
-Spinach
-Black Pepper
-Cayenne

Process:
Dry sauté the ginger, turmeric, garlic, and onions, slowly add water to the pan. I added a couple curry leaves and left everything to soften before mixing in my mushrooms (chopped thinly) to sauté. About 4 minutes later, my mushrooms had softened up. I removed everything from the pan and then quickly added some lemon juice, water, and spinach to the pan to sauté for 2 minutes.

Then assemble as you wish. I decided to add my curry carrots (recipe to come soon) and pickled beets. Top with fresh black pepper and a dash of cayenne.


Work Lunches Allergy-Free (Vegan & Gluten-Free)

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While at times, eating allergy-free for work events can be rather frustrating and may take a lot of extra work to prepare - I do love when I learn to let go, trust the process, and allow others to use their amazing chef-talents to create a safe, allergy-free meal.

In this particular case, the meal of choice was a gluten-free and vegan vegetable sandwich (mushroom, red pepper, red onion, lettuce and an avocado spread).

It was the perfect day for something simple, light and full of healthy proteins and fats!


Green Banana Flour Pancakes (Vegan & Gluten-Free)

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After having made a ton of green banana flour, I needed to get creative on my recipes and I really do love breakfast - so pancakes it is!

I simply added a bunch of ingredients to my Vitamix (banana flour, applesauce, cinnamon, lemon juice, banana...) and let it sit overnight. In the morning, I added a tad bit of water to loosen it up and then cooked my pancakes on the nonstick griddle.

While these took an extremely long time to cook and I was very worried that this would be a fail recipe, it all seemed to work out! I topped my pancakes with fresh blueberries, banana slices, and Norms Farm Elderberry Jam!


Life's Purpose

The past month- I have engaged in a number of conversations with others in regard to life and the purpose of life or more so our own purpose- how do we know we are living life’s purpose? I’ve defined my life’s purpose; now how can I achieve such? 
These are all difficult questions that we need to work through on our own and to toss in another monkey wrench, our purpose will change as we continue on this rollercoaster called life. 
When we, “society” ask for you to sit down and have these conversations with yourself- we are not asking you to become obsessed with such- don’t drive yourself crazy, just be open to exploring options and willing to take chances that help align with your purpose and happiness- because in the end, life’s purpose,  no matter who you are, your life’s purpose encompasses happiness and personal peace. 
By no means am I an expert on this subject matter- in fact, as I am sitting here typing this out, I am personally on that journey of determining my ow…

El Sol Mexican, Harrisburg PA (Vegan & Gluten-Free)

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I am definitely adding you to my favorites list! You have gone above and beyond to accommodate my allergies and the food was creative, fresh, and full of flavor! My hats off to the chef and his wife for owning such an amazing establishment!

From the bottom of my heart, thank you! Thank you for preparing an unforgettable dish.

For those curious on what I ate, I had a chargrilled mix of veggies (cactus, zucchini, red pepper, portabello, red onion, tomato, and avocado) with a homemade spicy Mexican sauce.

I call it the Nicole Special!

I will give it to El Sol, for being rated one of the best Mexican in all of Pennsylvania, I'd say, I am sure they are worth the ranking! 

Gluten-Free Unexpected Finds

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Since moving back to the Harrisburg, PA area and my new role requiring many more work lunches, I’ve been challenged with not only finding accommodating restaurants but also ones where I feel safe.

Living with as many food allergies as I do, it can be a real challenge- especially with regards to cross-contamination- to feel safe allowing someone else to prepare a meal for you.

I had told myself that the Harrisburg area would be an even greater challenge for me than Philadelphia, PA but so far- I’ve met some talented individuals.

A special shout-out to the VERY talented Chef Penny at Cafe Fresco for not only taking care of me but for taking the time to be creative and informative! It always puts my mind at ease when I know exactly what is in the food and how it is prepared. You have prepared a number of dishes for me thus far that have been 100% safe- and you have no idea how grateful I am! It was a pleasure having the opportunity to meet with you today!

And thank you Cafe Fresco for …

Curry Zucchini Pasta (Vegan & Gluten-free)

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I have been in love with fresh curry leaves recently and had purchased an entire case of zucchini so I needed to get a bit more creative than my typical zucchini recipes.

I still had some of my vegan meatballs leftovers and knew I wanted a pasta so zoodles where a must. I knew I didn’t want a nightshade (pepper or tomato) sauce but wanted something creamy.

I decided to wing it and just start making food and see where it would take me.

I dry roasted fresh ginger, turmeric, black pepper, a chunk of cinnamon stick, and curry leaves. I added in diced zucchini and let it simmer, adding water as needed. to soften the zucchini.

Once the zucchini was soft, I took half of the mixture and puréed it in my Vitamix. I poured the sauce over zoodles, added in the remaining sautéed zucchini, topped it with fresh baby arugula and vegan meatballs.

For some reason, the dish turned out a bit sweeter than I was anticipating, but nonetheless, I still enjoyed it.

Gluten-Free & Vegan Meatballs

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Having moved closer to the family this past winter, I have been immersed in traditional Italian comfort food all around me.

When I lived on my own, it was a rare thing to see me prepare any traditional Italian food. Instead, I found myself exploring as many new cultural cuisines as possible. 

I think some of my favorites turned out to be vegan rice paper rolls, Indian pumpkin, Miso Soups, and African Peanut Sauces.

I find that when I attend a family or friend's events, I try to essentially mimic my foods to their offerings. Meaning, if they are serving pasta, I too am whipping up some sort of Nicole-Friendly pasta dish.

Therefore, it was only a matter of time before I would be experimenting with some traditional Italian dishes.

This weekend blessed us with a gorgeous spring day and then BAM back to winter-like temperatures, freezing rain, and gusty winds. Making it the perfect day to bake until my heart is content.

I choose to make "meatballs". I mean, you can't real…

Sri Lankan Easter Dinner (Vegan & Gluten-Free)

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Mango Dahl (Indian Twist):
- Garlic
- Ginger
- Lentils (1 cup)
- Cinnamon Stick
- Turmeric
- 4 1/2 + cups of water
- Cumin
- Green Chillies
- Mustard Seeds
- Fresh Curry Leaves
- Raw Mango

Directions:
While it seems the traditional Sri Lankan dahl would include red lentils, I happen to have a mix of red, black, and green lentils on hand - so I winged it.

I added the lentils to my pot and covered with water and increased the water to have about 2 inches above the lentils. I did add more water later on in the process, as I like my dahl extra creamy. 

While the lentils were cooking, I dry sauteed my seasonings and then added in the mango to cook for about 10 minutes before adding to the prepared lentils.

How it turned out:
It was not the creamy yellow dahl (This would be why they use red lentils?) I recall having in Sri Lanka but I really enjoyed the heat from the chilies and the fresh curry leaves! 

Beet Curry (Dry / Coconut Free):
- Turmeric
- Fresh Curry Leaves
- Beets
- Onion
- Ginger

Di…