About Laura@EmptySpoonful

Who am I? I’m Laura Graves; just a former small town girl who now lives in the big city of Chicago…well errr…the big suburbs that is! Welcome to EmptySpoonful.com; this is a great place to learn some exciting new gluten-free recipes, discuss what allergies or intolerances you’re dealing with, and maybe even indulge in a laugh or two!

EmptySpoonful MOVED!

Here we go!

Oh yeah, said we’re movin’ on up…to wordpress.org….

Moved you say? Yes, I moved! Don’t worry, I didn’t go far. I only moved around the corner to WordPress.org! If you happened to visit earlier and got this message:

Screen Shot Error

I am very sorry! As with any move, nothing ever seems to go exactly as planned. There were some slight technical difficulties; but now we’re back on track! For those of you who have made this transition from another blog site before, whew, you know what a HUGE undertaking it is!

For those of you who haven’t, well just compare it to your last actual move…it’s completely exhausting. The toughest part is, as much as you like your new place and you try to unpack, decorate, and settle in; it just doesn’t quite feel like home yet.

What does this mean for you, you ask? I know, it’s all about you.

Don’t worry, the hard work is over. You don’t have to pretend that you have big important plans this weekend; I’m not going to recruit you and six of your strongest friends to help move my furniture for a pizza and six-pack of beer (all gluten-free of course). Nope. Not today.

You don’t have to do anything…well close to nothing. I do ask that you please double-check your subscription because you might need to re-subscribe.

Yuck. I know, you have enough on your plate. But otherwise you could miss out on some of the great stuff that’s coming up, and as your friend I can’t let that happen to you!

Hooray, it's MOO-ving day!

Hooray, it’s MOO-ving day! 

Well c’mon, what are you waiting for? Let’s go check out the new diggs:

http://www.emptyspoonful.com

If you have any issues or get lost along the way, just leave me a comment or email me at: emptyspoonful [at] gmail.com. I would never leave you behind and thanks again for hanging in there; I truly appreciate your support!

Back From Vacation and End of Summer Blues…

sunset

Goodbye Labor Day. As much as I love a good vacation, there is inevitably the brutal letdown that follows. “Time to get back to reality” people say. Well…Reality Bites (no, I’m not talking about the 90’s flick…which I completely forgot about until I read the recap here…now it feels like I just watched it again yesterday).

Unpacking and laundry...yuck and double yuck...welcome home...

Unpacking and laundry…yuck and double yuck…welcome home…

I’m talking about unpacking the car, dragging your suitcases into the house (here it’s up two flights of stairs and Das Boot hates acting as a bellhop), unpacking luggage, facing mounds of dirty laundry, actually tackling all of that laundry, throwing away the moldy remains of what was once food in your refrigerator, grocery shopping so you can now prepare, cook, and eat a home cooked meal that feels long overdue after all of the dining out you inevitably did over said vacation, oh and by the way…now summer is officially over.

It has been years since I have had the opportunity to travel as much as I have this summer. You have already read about my Florida trip, but don’t worry, I have a lot more to tell. A last minute quick trip to Hawaii (last minute? quick trip? Hawaii? how does that even go together…don’t worry, I’ll explain…more posts to come!). Then home to quickly repack because we were back on the road to Wisconsin for a Labor Day weekend getaway. We had planned this trip months ago as an early second wedding anniversary celebration, and since we can’t seem to stay in the same state together for more than five minutes (did I mention Mr. EmptySpoonful travels a lot for work? Yeah, he’s a road warrior) we figured we had better celebrate sooner rather than later!

WI traffic

We are usually able to travel outside of the peak travel days/times, but this year we were forced to deal with the returning Labor Day traffic. A trip that should have taken 6 hours turned into 9 thanks to traffic. Everyone stuck in that bumper to bumper traffic with us looked sunburned, exhausted, and miserable. Rightfully so; summer fun is done.

But wait, before you leap in front of that speeding ice cream truck, the best news is still to come. Guess what? Summer may be over, but fall is almost here!

I don’t know about you, but fall is the season I live for every year. Fall is the reason I had to move out of Florida years ago; I live for jackets and sweaters! Cooler temperatures, leaves changing colors, a crisp snap in the air and everyone’s fall favorite…Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Lattes (I am so jealous of those of you who can still handle these…you can’t take away my memories though…yumm…in my mind I’m drinking one right now…).

How do you handle your end of vacation/end of summer blues?

Amazing Chocolate Tofu Cupcakes (Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free)

tofu cc2

I know what you’re thinking. Tofu cupcakes…is she serious? I know…it sounds disgusting. Stop that train of thought immediately though because this is soon to be your favorite cupcake recipe!

Tofu Cupcake Collage

These cupcakes are so moist and chocolatey they are going to knock your socks offTofu gets a bad wrap, but that’s mostly because people don’t understand it. It completely blows my mind how many people still don’t really know anything about tofu. There is a common knee-jerk reaction when I mention tofu, it usually goes along the lines of “ewww, tofu is gross”. Tofu is essentially a block of soy. So yes, if you were to go grab it out of the fridge right now and start chewing on it, you might think it’s a little gross…and I might agree with you.

Long before all of my gluten issues surfaced, I was a vegetarian for 7 years and tofu became my best friend. It can be yours too. What I adore about tofu is:

  1. The texture, it reminds me of my favorite food in the world – cheese!
  2. The fact that it takes on the flavor of whatever you cook it with. Tofu is a chameleon ingredient that adds protein to whatever you cook or bake it with. To me, it doesn’t get any better than that!
  3. Tofu qualifies as low FODMAP, hooray! (It is listed here on Kate Scarlata’s blog, she’s a registered dietician and another FODMAP blogger I love).

Tofu Mix Collage

On that note, enjoy tofu, but if you have IBS don’t overdo it. I find that if I go tofu crazy it does cause issues for me. One week I made this amazing tomato sauce and I decided to slather it on my tofu. It was so good I ended up eating it for dinner every night that week! Needless to say, it caught up with me and I haven’t touched that combo since. That being said, moderation is key to any low FODMAP diet success…which is exactly why it is so hard for me. I am an ALL or nothing kind of girl…but hey, I’m working on it!

Now, back to the yummy chocolate tofu cupcakes. Here’s my recipe, which was inspired by Kim Sanders at Gluten Free Real Food, she’s a girl after my own heart; it’s all about keeping it simple with this recipe! Enjoy!

Ingredients:

Cupcakes:

  • 3/4 cup Firm Tofu (drained but not pressed, I like Nasoya brand…you can even buy it already cubed if you want to!)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup Coconut Oil (you can sub Earth Balance if you prefer), melted
  • 1 tsp. Vanilla
  • 1/8 cup Tapioca Starch
  • 1/8 cup Coconut Flour
  • 1/4 cup Cocoa Powder
  • 1 tsp. Baking Soda
  • 1/4 tsp. Salt
  • 1/4 cup, plus 2 Tbsp. Sugar (weird measurement, I know…just bear with me!)

Chocolate Frosting:

  • 3 Tbsp. Coconut Oil, melted
  • 3 Tbsp. Rice Milk (or Almond milk if you prefer)
  • 1 Tbsp. Vanilla
  • 1 Tbsp. Earth Balance, melted
  • 1 Tbsp. Cocoa
  • 1 1/2 cups Powdered Sugar (aka Confectioners Sugar…this is making me feel old!)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375°
  2. Drain the water from the tofu package and cut it into small cubes (don’t bother pressing it, you want the extra moisture and don’t let your perfectionism win here, it doesn’t have to be pretty, you’re going to smash it up!).
  3. In a blender, food processor, or whatever you have (I used my magic bullet) blend the tofu cubes and the egg together until smooth.
  4. Combine the tofu mixture with the melted coconut oil and vanilla in a medium sized bowl.
  5. Add in the dry ingredients and mix until combined.
  6. Line and fill your muffin tin. Each liner should be 2/3 of the way full, I was able to get 7 cupcakes from this batch.
  7. Bake cupcakes 11 – 15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. If you burn them…well they are chocolate, they will still look pretty!
  8. While the cupcakes are baking make the frosting.
  9. Combine all of the frosting ingredients except the powdered sugar. Once your frosting base is mixed, slowly add the powdered sugar until it reaches the consistency you prefer. You might end up using more or less powdered sugar.
  10. Chill the frosting in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before attempting to frost the cupcakes.
  11. Once the cupcakes have finished baking let them sit in the muffin tin for 5 minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack to allow them to cool completely.
  12. Make sure they are completely cool before frosting them, otherwise your icing will melt into a puddle…don’t you watch Cupcake Wars?!

Recipe Notes/Thoughts:

  • I know, getting the blender dirty in addition to the bowl goes against everything I stand for. But in this case you really do have to liquefy that tofu otherwise you’re going to get chunks of it in your cupcakes. I am trying to build a better reputation for tofu here, people are not going to like chunky tofu cupcakes, that I am sure of. If you are into it though, definitely try it and let me know how they come out…you are a rebel!
  • You don’t have to melt the coconut oil or earth balance beforehand for the cupcakes or the frosting. I do it because it makes mixing by hand a lot easier. If you are the queen of using an actual mixer, then don’t bother melting anything, you just do you!
  • Don’t worry, there WILL be extra frosting!
  • If you prefer vanilla frosting over chocolate frosting simply omit the cocoa.
  • If you don’t have an issue with dairy, I would use cream cheese in the frosting. Seriously, 1 oz of cream cheese will change the entire frosting experience!
  • Using the coconut oil in the cupcakes didn’t seem to change the flavor but you can definitely taste it in the frosting. If you aren’t a fan of coconut flavor I suggest substituting  the 3 Tbsp. of coconut oil with earth balance. I personally love the smell of coconut oil but the taste doesn’t do it for me.
  • You can put tofu in the frosting if you want to…again, keep me posted!

tofu cc1

           Are you willing to take a chance and try tofu in your cupcakes?

Why Can’t I Ever Get to the Pineapple Before it Molds…A Metaphor for Life That Extends Beyond the Grocery Store

Pineapple1

Life is full of good intentions. When I buy fresh fruits and vegetables I don’t do it to be sadistic. It’s not like I enjoy watching them slowly wither on my countertop as the days slowly creep by. You would think I’m in it for the guilt, I must be, because why else would I spend money that I am essentially just going to end up throwing away? Not just once, but week, after week, after week.

It must be that grocery store high. When I’m grocery shopping I think of all the fresh, exciting and healthy dishes that I am going to whip up this week. At the grocery store I feel like wonder woman; I buy odd and exciting new fruits and vegetables; every ingredient under the sun is at my fingertips! I don’t need frozen food; I can peel, chop and dice until my heart is content and my stomach is full. I transform into a creative culinary genius. I tell myself “this week is going to be different, you’ll see, I’ll prove it to you…just buy that pineapple, we’ll chop it up and make a gorgeous fruit salad as soon as we get home”. I fill up my cart (along with my expectations) and then float home on cloud nine to get started.

This is where things go wrong…oh so terribly wrong. Once I schlep all of those groceries into the house and organize them in the refrigerator, in the pantry and on the counter, all of the superhero energy and excitement I had at the grocery store slowly slips away. Life happens. There are dishes in the sink, there’s laundry to do, emails are piling up…who has time to cook? What was I thinking?

Day by day the fruits and vegetables slowly wither. As hard as I try I can never seem to get to all of them. I start thinking off odd new ways to make strange combinations that in no way go together, just to get them off the back of my mind! Have you heard about my green bean, carrot, parsley and pineapple turkey meatloaf? No, you haven’t, because it was disgusting and I am looking out for you!

meatloaf collage

Turkey-Veggie Meatloaf Fiasco

Each time I walk by those fruits and veggies I make promises to them…empty promises. “Just give me a few hours to handle some other things, don’t worry pineapple, I WILL get to you tonight”. Tonight leads to tomorrow night and the next night. Then we’re both out of time because guess what? Pineapple molded.

Old pineapple collage

It’s a horrible cycle and I’m stuck, so completely stuck. Once I actually sat down to think about it, I realized that there are so many other avenues in my life where I find myself in the very same predicament. This is an issue that goes way beyond the grocery store. I try to take on the entire world in only a few hours just to find myself feeling completely defeated by the end of the day. I make empty promises to myself – whether it’s with weight loss, putting myself first, spending more time with my friends and family…I constantly set myself up for failure and then every day I wonder how I could have lost the battle.

They say acknowledging, accepting, and understanding your denial can be freeing. I’m trying to focus on the bigger picture every day. Starting with setting smaller goals and fully realizing that it’s not humanly possible to conquer the entire world in just one day. It’s not easy, but at least it’s one small step in the right direction.

               What cycles in your life keep you running in circles?

Low FODMAP Friendly Lasagna (Gluten-Free)

L Slice

“Whoa. A healthy lasagna? Nope, no thanks, definitely not eating that”. Those were the exact words out of my husband’s mouth when I mentioned what I was cooking for dinner.

Don’t worry, this lasagna is going to blow your mind. It is so flavorful that you’re not going to even miss the onions and the garlic. And if you think a squash and a zucchini can’t make awesome gluten-free “noodles”, well guess what? You’re wrong again!

I have to confess, I was doing so great at making this lasagna dairy-free. So great that is, until my mind caught up with what was actually about to happen and freaked out! Lasagna without cheese?! Not in this lifetime. So naturally, just before I put it in the oven things got severely out of hand, and I ended up putting an entire POUND of fresh mozzarella in this lasagna!

Wait, (you say) fresh mozzarella doesn’t even come in pounds…it comes in tiny little mozzarella balls. Nope. Also wrong. Curse you Trader Joe’s. I was seduced into buying this pound of fresh mozzarella because at Trader Joe’s a full pound of fresh mozzarella costs almost the same amount as a normal 8 oz ball would cost in any other grocery store. And me, not being able to do things any other way than completely over the top; at the last moment I felt the need to use the entire package! I only bought this cheese as a backup, just in case this recipe needed a little cheese…trust me, it doesn’t anymore!

TJ mozz

Part of the problem is that I’ve never cooked with fresh mozzarella. I have really only used it for tomato caprese salad (yum!). I wanted to give it a try it because fresh mozzarella tastes so fresh and light compared to regular mozzarella, perfect for a summer lasagna. I was terrified that it wasn’t going to melt, and if it wasn’t going to melt, I wanted to be sure that I had enough cheese in the layers so that each bite included cheese…who wants a cheese-less bite? Hello?

Much to my delight, I found that fresh mozzarella melts exactly like regular mozzarella. That being said you really can use HALF of the amount that I did. I’m not saying it’s not delicious with a full pound, but it would be just as fantastic with half a pound…yes, half!

top layer

Still doesn’t look like enough cheese right?! Wait is that an open spot over there…seriously??

I considered just telling you that I had used half a pound and not even admitting to my own cheese madness (that’s right, and I’m saying this right to your face!) but you deserve the truth…and I know I’m not the only one out there worrying if the cheese has enough real estate on any dish. Since both ricotta cheese and cottage cheese are not FODMAP friendly, there had to be mozzarella…there just had to be.

Look, perfect cheese coverage!

Look, perfect cheese coverage!

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb Ground Turkey
  • 1 28 oz can of Plain Diced Tomatoes (I used Hunt’s)
  • 1 large Zucchini
  • 1 large Yellow Squash
  • 2 cups Raw Kale, chopped
  • 1/2 lb Fresh Mozzarella Cheese (Or a full pound, hey, do you!)
  • 2 Tbsp Cornstarch (and 2 Tbsp Water)
  • Keep close by: Salt, Pepper and Olive Oil Spray

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°
  2. Wash the squash and zucchini, then slice into strips on a mandoline (be careful, don’t cut yourself, blood does not add flavor to this recipe!).
  3. Place the vegetable strips on paper towels to absorb the moisture while you cook the ground turkey.
  4. In a large skillet sauté the ground turkey until cooked through.
  5. Drain off the excess fat and continue to brown the turkey in the skillet.
  6. Once you have achieved the desired brownness on the ground turkey, add in the full can of diced tomatoes (if you are worried about a sloppy sauce you can drain the tomatoes first, I didn’t).
  7. After 5 – 10 minutes slowly add the kale to the skillet and fold it in until it cooks down.
  8. If you feel your sauce is too thin, mix the cornstarch in with the water (in a separate bowl) and then add it into your sauce mixture, it will thicken almost immediately.
  9. Next, spray your baking dish with olive oil (I used an 8 x 8 square glass dish) and make a thick layer with your sliced zucchini on the bottom of the dish.
  10. Add half of your sauce mixture on top of the zucchini layer.
  11. Then make a layer of sliced mozzarella.
  12. Follow with a thick layer of your sliced squash.
  13. Layer the rest of your sauce mixture on top of the squash.
  14. And the final top layer will be cheese (don’t worry, it doesn’t have to look pretty, it WILL melt!).
  15. Finally, bake it in the oven for 45 minutes, uncovered. **See recipe notes/thoughts about cooking times

Recipe Notes/Thoughts:

  • I used an 8 x 8 baking dish for this recipe; had I known how delicious it was going to be (and how much work) I would have made a much larger pan of it.
  • I also like the idea of mixing the zucchini and squash together to make the layers; I didn’t do it this time because I wanted to see the colors separately in each layer, but you might want to mix it up!
  • My mandoline is a cheap-y and only cuts one thickness…paper thin! I would have cut the zucchini and squash much thicker than it came out, but that’s me, I like thick layers. Which is also the reason I decided to pile it on top of itself and only make 2 layers. If you prefer your layers thin you can layer them up to the sky…it really is your limit!
  • I wasn’t sure how watery the zucchini and squash would make the lasagna, so I did lay them out on parchment paper covered baking sheets after slicing them, and I broiled them in the oven for 4 minutes per sheet to remove any potential excess moisture. I truly think this is an unnecessary step, honestly, not that much moisture came off of them (because they were sliced so thin) and I almost burned them!
  • If you decide to use thicker cuts of veggies you may want to 1. Let the slices rest on paper towels as I suggested in the recipe above 2. Salt them and then rest them on paper towels 3. Go ahead and pre-roast them to remove the excess moisture 4. Or, cook the lasagna an extra 15 minutes and be sure to drain off any excess water you notice around the 45 minute mark.
  • Also, be sure to put either a sheet of aluminum foil or a cookie sheet on the rack under your lasagna; I had minimal spillage, but you never know, better safe than sorry and I hate the smell of a burnt oven.

squah Collage

zucc dish

meat layer

cheese layersquash layer

meat layer

top layer

Look, perfect cheese coverage!

Look, perfect cheese coverage!

L Slice

In the end, once he was forced to try it, this dish was 100% husband approved!

What did you think? Could you or your family tell that this is actually a low FODMAP and gluten-free lasagna? 

Das Boot and My New Ice Friends

Das BootI have a new friend for the summer, have you met Das Boot? Isn’t it fun and fashionable?

What happened you ask? I know you’re curious (please, random people stop me on the street to ask what happened, so don’t act like you don’t want to know too). I picked the wrong bull to ride at the rodeo, I was trampled by a herd of frightened giraffes, run over by a produce truck…

No, I made those up. The problem is that the real story is so boring that I feel the need to spice it up a little and I will usually answer different strangers in a variety of different ways. You should see their reactions; priceless!

Sm boot shot

The real scoop is that I got a bad case of plantar fasciitis  which aggravated my achilles, resulting in achilles tendonitis. After months of stretching, cortisone shots (ouch!!) and awful pain, the result is this boot. The good news is that das boot is actually healing my foot! And my new ice friends really help with the pain. From frozen 2 liter bottles to frozen vegetables (hey, anyone else need help defrosting dinner?) anything that I think might help my heel, I freeze it and ice with it! That’s right, don’t come too close or you too could end up in my freezer (don’t worry, it’s a small freezer, you probably won’t fit).

iced spinach

Frozen spinach…I can’t eat it anymore so it might as well make itself useful…

Beer pong anyone? Oh wait...wrong cups...

Beer pong anyone? Oh wait…wrong cups…

inside ice cups

Frozen Dixie cup heaven!

ice cup

Another downfall of IBS is that my stomach can’t tolerate anti-inflammatories (aka NSAIDs: aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen, etc.) so that’s hindering my progress a little. But it could be worse…that panther could have chewed my leg completely off instead of just mangling my foot, right?!

2 liters of frozen bliss

2 liters of frozen bliss!

In honor of  my new BFF I think a Letterman style top 10 is in order. Here are 10 signs that my boot has a major attitude problem:

10. It is super clingy; it never leaves my side – even when I ask politely.

9. It has anger issues; it is constantly at war with my laptop power cord. boot cord

8. It thinks unstable vacuuming is the latest and greatest extreme sport.

7. It mocks me like a drill sergeant when I want to sit down with comments like “what are you, weak? You sissy!”

6. It believes it always has the best recipe ideas and conveniently every single one of them calls for ingredients that have been crushed on the floor.

5. It encourages random break dancing sessions at the worst possible moments.

4. Not only is it an alcoholic, but also a sloppy drunk; always loud, clumsy, and awkward.

3. It is convinced that it’s battle scars are far worse than mine.boot toe

2. It refuses to dress for dinner…or any other event for that matter.

And the number one reason that I know my boot has a major attitude problem is:

1. It thinks it is better than any other footwear in my closet because it’s not co-dependent on a matching mate; it goes solo!Boot

Have you been forced to befriend a boot before? What are your survival tips?

Faux Bagel Research…and a Dunkin’ Donuts Rant

gbagel

Glutino gluten-free bagel

The faux bagel research in order to perfect my “Fake-els” continues! I feel like it’s only right to give you an update on my faux bagel findings before the weekend gets here because if you are anything like me, the time when you crave bagels the most is usually on the weekends.

bagel slice

I’m not exactly sure why that is, but I have three ideas:

  1. The weekend is usually when I have some extra time to luxuriate in the morning and actually sit down to enjoy a bagel versus during the rest of the week when I would have to scarf it down in my car on my way to work.
  2. Maybe I’m still having a hard time breaking my Dunkin’ Donuts habit. Before these food allergies turned my life upside down I used to adore going to Dunkin’ (this habit literally started when I was in high school) for a vanilla iced coffee and a blueberry bagel (wow…old habits die hard…) it was always my favorite reward during the week and a fun weekend treat.
  3. I miss the entire bagel experience; bagels used to equal love for me. When someone would bring me a bagel, whether it was just while hanging out with friends at someone’s house, or at a corporate meeting; it made me feel special. Even the simple act of stopping in at Dunkin’ Donuts with the girls; it used to be so nice not to have any worries beyond “this bagel is totally going to make me fat”.

Now when I go to Dunkin’ my options are pretty much narrowed down to hot tea. Exciting right?! Wait (you say) they have a few other gluten-free, dairy-free options, like iced tea! Well for some reason I always end up with an iced tea that tastes like coffee and even those yummy Strawberry Coolatta’s (which I though would be safe in my quest to remove dairy) contain both milk and soy!

But I digress…

plain bagel

I am still working on the “Fake-els” recipe, so don’t worry! In the meantime I decided to sample how the pro’s are doing gluten-free bagels. Not only to see how high this bar is set but also to find out if a gluten-free bagel already exists that can make me as happy as a Dunkin’ Donuts bagel. I have eaten Udi’s gluten-free bagels before and as much as I adore their bread, the bagel just didn’t cut it for me texture wise. It wasn’t awful, it just wasn’t crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside like I remember a really good bagel to be.

gbagel pkg

Glutino bagels on the other hand, now they are getting close to where I want my gluten-free bagel to be! The texture is there, they have that dense-ness that I am seeking. The flavor was pretty good too, but I did find it a little salty. The bad news is that these bagels contain milk and soy. I’m willing to let it go this time because I broke my own rules and slathered this bagel with cream cheese! I had to…it was calling me. To combat the saltiness I put some strawberry jam on top of the cream cheese (Welch’s Natural Strawberry Jam to be specific, because they don’t use high fructose corn syrup) and it was AMAZING!

cream cheese bagels

jelly bagel

So maybe just this weekend, instead of firing up the oven, wander over to the grocery store and get your bagel fix from a frozen Glutino bagel. Let me know what you think!

**Please note: I am not affiliated with any of the brands I mentioned. I am also not receiving any compensation for my product reviews; they are purely my opinion** 

If you’re going to buy a gluten-free bagel what brand is your favorite? What foods are you still emotionally attached to that you used to eat ?

 

The Good, the Bad, and the UGLY…A Food List

Fruit Collage1

It is now officially time for a heart to heart. As you check out my recipes, I think it is very important for you to know why they are the way that they are and exactly how they got this way. It was (and still is) a painful and twisted game of elimination, trial and error style. Would I love to add exotic and spicy flavors to my recipes? Absolutely! Is it possible? Absolutely NOT…well at least not right now. I have found that the best rule of thumb for me is “the blander the better”. That being said, it’s not the saddest thing in the world (though yes, it is pretty sad…) it’s a challenge and I am working really hard to make food taste great without making myself sick. I know it can be done, and I know I’m not alone with my weird food issues! Check out my food sensitivities list below and see if any of these sneaky culprits are affecting you too. Sometimes just hearing that someone else has an issue with a food that you thought was safe brings on a “lightbulb” moment. I know it has for me.

My Food Sensitivities List

The low FODMAP diet was originally developed by Dr. Sue Shepherd in 1999. The information on her website is very helpful, but my favorite FODMAP list is the one that Cassandra Forsythe has put together. There are a million different versions of the FODMAP list out there, along with some confusing disagreements on food classifications, but this is a good guide to get started. If you prefer more of a table versus a list you might like this outline better from ibsgroup.org. At the end of the day, what it truly comes down to is what foods you yourself can tolerate. The hardest part is that it is completely different for everyone.

Also, an honest disclaimer: I am not a doctor, quite frankly, my food sensitivities list is just a list of foods and food items that either work or don’t work for me specifically. Not all of my recipes are low FODMAP friendly. Yes, rebel that I am (why rebel against myself? I’m still working on the answer to that ridiculous question…) sometimes I just eat foods that I shouldn’t. It is as simple as that. I don’t ever eat gluten of course, but sometimes I get carried away with the foods I know I can only tolerate small amounts of. Sometimes when I’m feeling froggy I gamble with my stomach because I still have hope (however delusional it may be) that my stomach issues will just magically disappear and suddenly I won’t have to worry so much about this whole eating thing.

My biggest FODMAP vice at this moment? Onions. I want to eat them day and night. I have been adding them to everything…I might put them in my cereal, I dream of eating them apple-style; it’s crazy, especially since I never even used to like onions.**An important note, FODMAPs accumulate in your system over time. When I started writing this list a few days ago I was on my “onion-palooza” kick and right now I am so sick from the onions that I NEVER want to see one again….EVER. The more I learn about food sensitivities the more I’m starting to realize that my body is hard-core craving things that are really bad for it, things that hurt it…this is frustrating, but also really important to understand in this struggle to gain back control. 

What does your food sensitivity list look like? Did you find anything on my list that made you question if what you’ve been eating is making you sick?

 

Delicioso Tex-Mex Fajitas (Gluten-Free)

chix fajita

¡Ay Chihuahua! it must be fajita night! Only the thought of fajitas could make me excited enough to throw on a sombrero and dig my maracas out of the closet! These aren’t just any fajitas; these are simple yet delicious gluten-free fajitas…even better…arriba arriba!

I can never choose between chicken and beef fajitas, so I make both (whew, if only more life and death decisions were that easy!). These fajita’s were great before, but now that I’ve found Trader Joe’s pineapple salsa, they are on a whole new level! If you don’t have a Trader Joe’s near you I am so sorry…you might want to consider moving…just sayin’!

pinapple salsa

I have to tell you my pineapple salsa story. It all started one random day a few months ago when I was picking up some groceries at Trader Joe’s. Up at the checkout counter the cashier noticed my obsession with pineapple; there was a definite theme going on with my groceries that day. He asked if I had tried the pineapple salsa. I honestly hadn’t even heard of it at that point, and when I told him that, he literally stopped everything and ran to the salsa aisle! He brought back a jar of this magical salsa, put a flower sticker on it, and then he packed it in my grocery bag!

TJ sticker

I was floored; he said it was all part of their “customer experience” and then he gave me a few recipe ideas for the salsa! Awesome experience, and you better believe that as soon as I got home I was all about tasting that salsa. It was so good! Kudos to Trader Joe’s and Kevin the cashier, I’m officially addicted to their pineapple salsa. I literally buy it every time I go there now. It tastes great on chicken, pork, beef, lettuce, a spoon…that floorboard over there…you get where I’m going with this, it’s delicious! The best part is that my husband (who hates pineapple) even likes this salsa too. And it’s what? Gluten-free of course!

Thanks Kevin, this one’s for you!

beef fajita

beef fajita rolled

Ingredients: (Serves 3 – 4)

  • 3/4 lb fajita style sliced beef (the grocery store sells them raw, pre-sliced; easy!)
  • 2 skinless boneless chicken breasts
  • Salt and pepper, for seasoning the meat
  • 1 medium onion, sliced thin
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • 1 splash of olive oil for the skillet
  • 4 Toufayan gluten-free wraps

For Topping:

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350° (for the tortillas)
  2. Season and cook the fajita beef strips and chicken breasts (separately). I prefer to use a George Foreman grill; cook the beef 4 – 6 minutes and the chicken 8 – 10 minutes or until cooked completely through. You will notice the juices running clear when it is finished.
  3. While the meat is cooking, add a splash of olive oil to a skillet on medium heat and then add the thin sliced onions.
  4. Cover and stir occasionally for 5 – 10 minutes.
  5. Once the onions have softened and are starting to turn clear remove the cover and add the chopped tomato.
  6. Saute´ for another 5 – 10 minutes or until the tomatoes have cooked down and are heated thoroughly.
  7. Once the chicken and beef have finished cooking set them aside to rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing (the chicken, the beef is ready to go) and plating.
  8. Cover 2 baking sheets with aluminum foil. Put the tortilla wraps on the baking sheets, 2 tortillas on each sheet.
  9. Heat the tortillas for 5 minutes or until they reach your maximum level of toasty-ness. The edges will brown quite quickly.
  10. Remove the tortillas from the oven and cut them in half for maximum fajita rolling size.
  11. Chop the lettuce, grate the cheese, and put the salsa and sour cream in serving dishes.
  12. Transfer the tomato and onion mixture to a serving dish and call your amigos! Dinner is ready, let the fajita assembly begin!
Gluten-free "Tortillas"! Hurra!

Gluten-free “Tortillas”! Hurra!

Recipe Notes/Thoughts:

  • If you prefer your tortillas to be softer you can microwave them (10 – 15 seconds each) instead of toasting them in the oven. I like the crunch the oven gives them, but they are definitely easier to roll if you microwave them. Sometimes I just use the whole tortilla toasted in the oven to make a salad-esque creature, like a salad “shell” if you will.
  • I use Cracker Barrel Vermont Sharp White Cheddar because it’s naturally lactose free, FODMAP friendly and it’s not colored with annatto like most yellow cheddar cheeses. I’m not 100% sure annatto is an issue for me, but whenever I can avoid eating it, I do.
  • You can use any kind of beef that you prefer, I like the fajita beef strips because they are pre-sliced (hooray…errr…hurra!) and so thin that they cook really quick, but they can also get really tough really fast if you overcook them.
Sauteed tomatoes and onions

Sautéed tomatoes and onions

Beef fajita strips

Beef fajita strips

Chicken

Chicken

Shredded lettuce

Shredded lettuce

Cheese!!!

Cheese!!! El queso!!!

Have you tried Trader Joe’s Pineapple Salsa? Do you love it as much as I do?

What other toppings are you adding to your fajitas…are you getting fancy or keeping it simple like me?

Quick Fettuccine Alfredo with Grilled Chicken (Gluten-Free)

Fett alf with veggies

There is nothing like coming home to a decadent, rich and creamy plate of fettuccine alfredo after a long day. Honestly it’s a little plate of heaven. You can dress it up or keep it simple, either way it’s an elegant treat. This recipe isn’t quite like the Olive Garden version (that I still eat in my dreams…) but it’s still closer than I expected to be able to achieve in a gluten-free version, especially with a simple jar of sauce. It’s also a little less greasy than the original (that means more healthy too! Just saying…). I can still remember all of that butter in the alfredo sauce at Olive Garden, (oh how I love butter) which would inevitably drip out of the sauce and off of the end of the fettucine on my fork (and onto my clothes, especially if I was wearing something cute). Don’t worry, you won’t have that problem with this recipe.

gf alfredo

Classico lists gluten-free very clearly on their sauces

Classico lists “gluten-free” very clearly on their sauce labels

Rice Pasta Brand

Ingredients:

  • 1 15 oz jar of Classico Creamy Alfredo sauce (or another GF flavor,check, not all of the versions of Alfredo actually state “gluten-free”)
  • 1 14 oz package of Tinkyada Fettucini style gluten-free brown rice pasta
  • 2 raw boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • Salt and pepper, for seasoning the chicken breasts
  • Assorted cooked vegetables, (optional). Carrots, green beans, zucchini…

Instructions:

  1. Boil 4 quarts of water and then add the pasta.
  2. While that is heating up, season and cook the chicken breasts. I prefer to use a George Foreman grill; cook the chicken 8 – 10 minutes or until cooked completely through. You will notice the juices running clear when it is finished.
  3. Place the cooked chicken on a cutting board to the side and allow it to rest while the pasta cooks.
  4. Cook the pasta for 13 – 15 mins stirring occasionally, the water will get cloudy and it won’t smell like traditional pasta, but trust me, you’re in for a treat!
  5. After cooking the pasta, strain, rinse with cold water and transfer it back into the pot.
  6. Pour the jar of Alfredo sauce onto the pasta, mix, and keep the mixture on the stove on low heat.
  7. Cut the chicken into slices or large chunks and add to the pasta mixture. Cover and continue to cook on low, stirring occasionally for 5 – 10 minutes. You can also slice the chicken and put it on top of the pasta after you plate it if you want the true authentic Olive Garden style. Up to you.
  8. Plate and enjoy! Gluten-free never tasted so good!

Recipe Notes/Thoughts:

  • If you choose to add vegetables you can either mix them directly into the pot or I plated them underneath my pasta since I was the only one who wanted to add veggies. I had leftover veggies in the fridge that were already pre-cooked, so I used french cut green beans and yellow squash which really added to the texture, plus vitamins, score!
  • You can cook your chicken breasts in any manner that you feel is quick and easy, I just love my Foreman.
  • This pasta absorbs a lot of sauce. If you prefer a dish that is “saucier ” you may want to add an additional half of a jar of alfredo sauce, or have extra bowl of sauce heated on the side to drizzle over the top once you plate.
  • This dish holds up quite well once cooked just warming on the stove. You can leave it if you’re 1). waiting for the family to get home, 2). need to walk the dog, or 3). if you’re just not in the mood to eat right away (not that number 3 would ever be the case with this dish, you won’t want to wait a second longer than necessary before digging in!).

sliced chicken

fett alf

Fett alf with veggies

                Did you add vegetables to your alfredo? Which did you choose?