Showing posts from 2018

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

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 thier 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)

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 ingrediants to my Vitamix (banana flour, apple sauce, 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

Top of Form Bottom of Form

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 determin…

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

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! 

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 ha…

Curry Zucchini Pasta (Vegan & Gluten-free)

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 leftover 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 chuck 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 sweater than I was anticipating, but nonetheless, I still enjoyed it.

Gluten-Free & Vegan Meatballs

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)

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

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


Meeting with the Food Mood Girl

The Food Mood Girl made her way to the big old city of Harrisburg PA all the way from her home-base of Pittsburgh, PA.

Okay, so in reality, it is not that far or difficult of a trip to make, but since moving back to the Harrisburg area, I still find myself surprised when I find an awesome event (especially one that pertains to good wholesome food).

The event was hosted at Absolute Pilates, Mechanicsburg PA Location. Which, as it turns out, Food Mood Girl (Lindsey) and Allison (owner of Absolute Pilates) actually know one another from their school days.  What a small world, eh?

Lindsey is one of the most authentic people I have met. She is who she is and she is... and she is powerful!

While not adhering to any one diet (gluten-free, vegan, keto, low-carb, plant-based....) she does adhere to what her body is asking for on that particular day.

What an amazing gift she has given to herself, to not only honor her body's needs but to be able to define what it is her body is truly in need…

Banana Flour Brownies (Vegan & Gluten-Free)

As promised, I have been doing some recipe experimenting with the banana flour. While some recipes have sort of come out as planned, others failed. I sort of love when recipes fail, as it keeps me determined and adventurous.

For the brownies, I did not measure ingredients and instead just started mixing things until it looked like the right texture.

- banana flour
- mashed ripe bananas
- cinnamon
- water

I mixed well and cooked for about an hour at 375.

It came out moist, chocolate-like taste and a bit addicting.

Banana Flour Fruit Perogies (Vegan & Gluten-Free)

I have no idea what I am doing with all this banana flour that I created on a whim, but I know that one will only learn from experimenting.

This coming Friday evening is the last Lenten Church fish dinner of the season and the family and I will be getting together to celebrate. I know one of the many menu options will be perogies so I figured I would give this banana flour a try and create a Nicole-Friendly perogie. For some reason, I wasn't in the mood to make savory perogies, instead, I am going with a strawberry filling.

I used about 2 cups banana flour, some water, and a mashed banana to create the "dough", then rolled it fairly thin, added some sliced strawberries into the center and folded these babies shut.

The next step is to freeze the perogies prior to baking them - I don't think the dough will actually hold to a boil....?

I will top with some sort of nut butter and honey sauce or a mixture of jam and nut butter.

Plantain Burger & Plantain Burger Bun (Vegan & Gluten-Free)

It is burger night with the family and I needed to get creative quickly!
I looked inside my fridge and found plantains, red pepper, beets, and some other odds and ends and figured I would make it work.

I searched my parents' hose and found a good old George Forman Grill and felt like I was already winning.

I steamed the plantain while I prepped some quick pickled beets and prepped some seasonings for my burger (freshly grated turmeric, ginger, and a garlic).

When the plantain was steamed, I placed the red pepper on the grill, figuring it would need slightly more time than the "burger".

I took half the plantain and mashed it into a patty-like substance, adding some flavoring (pepper, ginger, garlic, turmeric....) and then placed that on the grill.

Lastly, I split the remaining plantain into halves and placed it on the grill to resemble a long bun.

I let everything grill for about 8 minutes and then assembled my burger: adding some lettuce, picked beets, scallions, and a t…

Sweet Potato Burger with an Elderberry Hot Sauce (Vegan and Gluten-Free)

Ingredients: -1 medium sweet potato -2 small bananas -some backing soda -Cinnamon -salt and pepper -lettuce -elderberry jam -hot sauce
Instructions: -steam the sweet potato, peel it. -mash the sweet potato with warmed banana (I heated mine in the microwave for 1 minute) -mix all ingredients together (except for lettuce, jam and hot sauce) -roll into a patty-like shape -heat in a sauté pan
To serve, place patties on a lettuce leaf, add your elderberry hot sauce (just combine equal parts hot sauce and jam), roll together and enjoy!

Beets Beet Beets

When the farmer practically gives you a case of beets, you make beet juice!
I think I have officially made every variety of beet juice I could think of - some of the additional ingredients added during my juicing are: -celery -ginger -turmeric -cucumber -sweet potato -apple -strawberry -carrot -green papaya -whatever else might have been lurking in my fridge.
I juiced in bulk. Packed them into freezer-friendly Ziploc bags and will enjoy fresh juice as needed.

Banana Flour

I've been hearing a good bit about banana flour and how versatile it is and all of its nutritional benefits.
Having not yet tried it, merely due to the fact that I couldn't bring myself to pay $8+ for a small portion and being allergy-free, you really need to choose wisely which "specialty item" you purchase, I was eager to explore just how versatile it is. I mean, I have seen posts on banana flour pasta, banana flour pizza crust, breads, muffins, waffles and so much more.
I purchase bananas by the case rather often. I typically eat a good 4-5 bunches during the week, bake with some and freeze the others for later use or for my favorite, banana whips.
I thought to myself, why wouldn't I be able to make my own banana flour? I have a commercial size dehydrator and a powerful Vitamix blender….So off to experiment I go.
I did a little bit of research and it seems to be split 50/50 between those that use the banana peel and those that do not. I am all about wasti…

Root of Lancaster - 100% Vegan and Gluten-Free Accommodating

Back in 2015, Rob Garpstas opened, what is now, one of the hottest Lancaster restaurants, Root of Lancaster. 

While Rob has not always been vegan, he was motivated to change diets after his father was diagnosed with cancer and his youngest daughter showed an accelerated interest in animal activism.

Having close to 20 years restaurant and bar experience, I imagine Rob thought to himself, I want to provide an option that is not only vegan - but offers a mix of modern vegan foods with the classic comfort foods we all hold very near and dear to our hearts (especially during the cold central PA winter season).

Since their opening, I have contemplated a visit to see how Roots stacks up. A couple of things were holding me back:
1. It is vegan, but how much of the menu is gluten-free?
2. Okay, so we offer gluten-free, BUT how about contamination?
3. I'm not a huge fan of small plates, if I am going to eat out, I prefer a larger dinner size portion
4. I had a not so great experience with V…

Gluten-Free, Vegan, Oil-Free Oatmeal Bread Machine Recipe

I’ve been reminiscing about the days when I would make my own bread and lather them up with a nut butter of choice, honey, and bananas!

I knew I had flours of all sorts all over the house and I was about 85% sure I knew where the bread machine was. Now, I just needed a recipe. I hadn’t saved my historical recipes and I know I have no idea where the bread machine cookbook, off to Google I go!

Of course, it was near impossible to find an already created “Nicole-Friendly” recipe but I figured I could find one that looked of interest and adapt as needed.

I found a recipe. Wrote it down. And marked it up with some thoughts on omits, add-ins and changes.The final recipe was formed.

-1 1/4 cup warm water. I needed to almost double this amount to more like 2 1/2 cups.
- 3 Tablespoons honey. I substituted Bee Pollen. Okay, so I’m vegan, BUT I do consume honey!
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons Yeast. I substituted equal parts of baking soda and lemon juice
- 2 eggs. I substituted 2/4 …

Green Papaya Salad (Gluten-free, Vegan, Oil-Free)