gluten free

It is true…You are what you eat

photoToday I am sitting back and thinking about food and all the ways it has formed me in my life.  As I was growing up I was an athlete.  I was a swimmer, a diver and a dancer.  There was not a day that I was not moving and there was never a day that I was not eating.  I ate alot.  I moved alot.  I was able to burn the thousands of calories I was consuming everyday just by moving.  As I crept through school and finally made it to college I began to see the way food affected those around me.  I was in the dance department of my college and I saw so many girls starving themselves to be the perfect dancer size.  One of my friends ate carrots all day.  Yes, carrots and only carrots. I knew other girls who would eat all day then run to the bath room only to throw up the insane amount of food they had just consumed.

How are we supposed have good eating habits when we are surrounded by people who are obsessed with their body?  The magazines, film, and theater are full of people starving themselves to have what they think is the perfect body.  Food is portrayed as the enemy.  What we consume will only end up in places on our bodies that is unsightly. I am here to tell you I have been there.  I have starved myself, I have been a glutton, and none of it has been beneficial to my body. Over the years I have taken all the tests to finally find out the foods my body can tolerate.  Through that knowledge I am able to put the right food into my body to fuel it for the day.  Isn’t that was food is anyway? Fuel.  We are so obsessed with food.  We use it to satisfy not only hunger, but pain.  We use it as therapy and to socialize.  But really it is just fuel.  We don’t over fill our cars with gasoline, or never put too little oil in the engine.  The car would not run, it would have too much or not enough.  Our bodies are the same way.  Too much or too little just is not good for it.  It won’t run. We also have to look at what we put in it.  Is it the best for your specific model?  I have a friend who posts pictures of meat on the grill everyday on Facebook.  That is how his body is fueled. My body would stop running with all that meat in it.  I have a different model.  The tip is to find what your body type is and fuel it accordingly.  It doesn’t mean you have to deprive yourself of food, or the enjoyment of eating.  It is just finding the right brand of gasoline to rev the engine.

I did the LEAP diet about 2 years ago.  I went to my doctor and dietitian and they took my blood and tested over 100 foods to see what foods I had an intolerance to.  Then I removed the bad food and started a new way of eating.  Over the last 2 years my “Bad” foods have made their way back into my diet and I am here to tell you my engine was not running smoothly. I am so happy I have started this blog and have been back to feeding my engine with the foods that are right for me.  I stay away from the pantry and, I eat clean fresh food everyday.  I feel better and in the last 3 weeks I have lost 9 pounds. Today, I made pasta.  I was in the mood for macaroni and cheese, but since I cannot have dairy I decided to make my sauce from avocados.  It was creamy and delicious.  I used the left over chicken from Giada’s Feel Good Food, page  220.  It was a match made in heaven and I was totally satisfied with my little cup full of “mock” mac and cheese.

Macaroni with Avocado Sauce
1 bag of gluten free macaroni (I used Wegmans)
1 avocado
1/2 onion
1 clove garlic
1 lime
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 left over chicken breast, chopped (optional)

Boil water to cook pasta according to package directions.  While pasta is cooking, put avocado, onion, juice from 1 lime, garlic, salt and pepper in a small food processor.  Mix until smooth.  When pasta is done, pour off water and place in a large mixing bowl. Mix with avocado dressing with the pasta adding the chicken at the same time.  Toss well.  You can sprinkle chopped parsley over the top or even a bit of parm.  Enjoy!

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Vegeterian Chili Verde for Cool Summer Days

The storm blew through Alexandria last night, and cooled our entire area by a couple of degrees. I spent the night inside of the basement with my sickie daughter, Katie, and it gave us quite the chills. So, we decided that it was the perfect night for Giada’s vegetarian chili verde (page 185 of Feel Good Food) to warm us up while we watched Netflix’s best drama, Orange is the New Black. (We’re addicted, by the way!) I know I was just ranting about what a great idea it is to avoid the stove, but on cool days like this, I am willing to make exceptions.

This was by far the best thing that I have cooked from the book. Well, at least that’s what I think. My husband was not here to weigh in, and I have yet to ask my daughters. Perhaps because of my southwest roots, I love the spice! Anything with cumin can win my heart. It was certainly not lacking on the heat, but we did note that the sugary sweet potatoes were a great addition to cut back on some of that bold flavor.

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I start all my chilis in my favorite heavy stockpot. After chopping all my veggies, I couldn’t resist taking a photo of the beautiful summer bounty that goes into this pot. Notice that I keep my chopping board close to the stove for easy transfer. It’s a big time saver, and far more convenient than moving the chopped ingredients across the counter.

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Since I live in a small townhouse, I don’t have a very big kitchen, so making room for everything isn’t the easiest thing in the world. Yet, as an everyday cook, I have lots of yummy ingredients for my meals, so I have to get clever with my organization. I keep my spices all together right next to the stove on my own magnetic spice rack (i.e. the side of my fridge). You can get your own at World Market for $9.95 for five or Ikea for $7.99 for three. It makes it easy for me to just grab that cumin while I’m mixing the pot!

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Now, don’t forget that any town-home dwellers can also keep live herbs around their home, too. I keep all of my herbs in pots outside, making sure they get just the right amount of sun and shade right on my porch behind the house. They make my little back nook look so much prettier (live plants always do), and they smell great when we’re sitting back there on summer days. Tonight, I had to head back there for the oregano for the chili.

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All together, it made for a beautiful, colorful pot, and a delicious chili that I will sure to make again when it’s not too hot outside!

Giada’s Whole Wheat Linguine with Shrimp, Asparagus, and Cherry Tomatoes

Good evening to all of my lovely followers! It was another Giada dinner night, with pasta from page 219 of Giada’s Feel Good Food. I know I keep saying that her recipes are easy to make, but this one really takes the cake! It only took me thirty minutes from prep to table! I’ve said this before, but there are some picky, picky eaters in this house. Tonight, my vegetarian daughter wouldn’t eat the shrimp, so I wasn’t able to mix it into the pasta. That didn’t stop me from topping it onto my own dish, though.

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There was nothing on the side tonight, but you really don’t need a side dish if you plan on filling up on pasta. Some might like a baguette to mop up the sauce, but since we’re gluten free, we opted out. This was another dish that incorporated basil and mint; I’m realizing that if I keep cooking like this, I’m going to have to invest in another mint and basil plant! I grow my own herbs on my porch, and they do so beautifully in the summertime. Even if you have a small town-home (like myself), you can pot your herbs and grow them just about anywhere outside. I know that mine always grow bigger and greener than the grocer’s. Because I grow my own herbs, I keep an herb mill around the house. It’s a super handy tool for chopping and grinding up the herbs very quickly. It should be a staple in every fresh chef’s kitchen.

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I am a huge fan of Wegman’s, have been ever since my family lived in Buffalo, New York. If you have one nearby, you should hop in there and check out their gluten free section. They have an entire line of Wegman’s brand gluten free products that are just as good as anything else I’ve tried…and they’ll save you a buck on your grocery bill! If you don’t have a Wegman’s, you should try out Trader Joe’s brand items. They have a handy little “G” symbol on the front of all of their gluten-sensitive products for an easy shopping experience. Tonight in the pasta, we used Wegman’s corn spaghetti pasta. Corn holds up well, but be sure to measure it out carefully because it doesn’t make for very good leftovers.

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In the recipe, Giada advises that you mash the tomatoes with a fork after they’re tender. I myself use a potato masher or pastry blender for this step, and any time that I have to mash veggies. Careful while you’re mashing, those tomatoes are hot, and the juices will splatter around!

It’s been three days now, and it’s amazing to me how much better I feel already. Making sure I am staying hydrated, washing my face in the morning, and doing my yoga is really starting to pay off. Imagine how good I’ll feel in three weeks! Stick around until then, and you’ll get to find out!

Simple Tips for an Easy Lemon Cumin Chicken Breast

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Again today, we chose to make our dinner from the Giada’s Feel Good Food cookbook. For years, I have been the sort of chef who likes to experiment with her food, and I create most of my recipes on the fly. My family thinks it’s always a success, but I’m starting to see that there is something special about using a cookbook. Giada is using ingredient combinations and techniques that I simply would never have thought of. It’s like getting great advice from an old friend. What a blast!

Dinner, lemon cumin chicken with mint and spinach pesto from page 220, called for extra virgin olive oil, an ingredient I rarely keep around. When I went shopping for it, to my pleasant surprise, I found an organic bottle at Aldi for only $3.99! Of course I grabbed it, and it was lovely in the meal.

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One of the first things that I did this morning was marinate my chicken. Giada tells you in the book that you should marinate for at least four hours, and I agree wholeheartedly. If you can marinate overnight, then even better! Just get that chicken soaked all up in her delicious marinade, which I’ll have to tell you now is some of the best I’ve ever eaten. For years, I’ve had a very specific method for marinading my meat, one that I will surely be sticking by for years to come. I begin my placing the thawed chicken in a Ziploc bag inside of a large mixing bowl. This way, you don’t get messy chicken juice all over the kitchen counters. I am very careful to always use tongs when handling my raw meat so that I only have to wash my hands once or twice during the entire process. Like Giada, I get my hands manicured weekly, something my mother has always taught me to do. In between the manicures, I like them to stay as full and moisturized as possible. I’m sure you know that constant hand washing is no friend to that kind of goal.

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Then, I add all of the ingredients for the marinade, and zip that puppy right up. Be sure if you use this method to get most of the air out of the bag while you’re closing it tight. I find it best to use the Ziploc brand bags if you don’t want any leakage. Once I’m sure those yummy juices aren’t going anywhere, I place the bag on the counter and rub the marinade all over the meat, as shown below. It’s a little like a shake n’ bake without all the nasty gluten or preservatives!

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 This evening, once the chicken was all marinated, we got to grilling. One thing I’m absolutely sure to do every time I am searching for a new home in a new city is look out the windows. I cannot live somewhere if it doesn’t have a view. Well, lucky for me, not only did I get a great town-home with a lovely little forest of trees in this new city, but I got great neighbors who love to be outside just as much as I do. The view from my grill makes me want to go out there every day in the summer!

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The marinated chicken grilled so perfectly out there today, too. When I was young, my daddy was the one who taught me how to own the barbecue, and while I’ll never be quite like him, I must say I’ve become quite the griller over the years. One thing to always remember when grilling is that you should never force it. If the chicken won’t budge, it’s not ready to flip. Life on the grill takes time and patience, and if you have it, then you can get great grilled chicken every time! I love the look of grill marks on a charred breast.

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We paired the chicken and pesto with a butter lettuce salad which added just the right pop of green and red to the plate. To the salad, I added organic grape tomatoes, cucumbers, and avocado. I learned recently that it is very important to purchase organic if you’re eating fruits or vegetables with a very thin skin (like tomatoes or apples). Pesticides can get through the skin and into the meat of the food, which is not something anyone needs!

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Now, for that pesto! You need Giada’s newest cookbook, if only for that pesto recipe! You wouldn’t even know it has spinach with the tangy lemon and sweet mint to balance it out. I’m sure even your kids would love this light summer pesto! I can’t wait to make it again. What really tied it all together, though, was the cosmo that I made to go with the delectable dinner. Look out for my own personal recipe for that one later on.

And So it Begins

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It’s dinnertime on day one, and I believe I made the perfect choice for the first meal of the blog. On page 97 of Giada’s Feel Good Food, you’ll find delicious stuffed bell peppers, Italian style and complete with tofu, eggplant, olives, and capers. Yes, indeed, it is the perfect dish for anyone’s vegetarian diet.

I started my afternoon grocery shopping for Giada ingredients that I don’t typically keep in my own home. The list was surprisingly short, so I guess we have similar tastes! That’s a good thing for my wallet. While shopping at Wegman’s, I noticed that the capers were about $4 cheaper in the Italian section than they were in the cans and jars section. So, be sure to look over all the ethnic foods in your local grocer to assure you’re getting the best prices! I also purchased the Wegman’s brand basil sauce for this recipe (I trust anything with a Wegman’s label). I searched high and low for Japanese eggplant, but couldn’t find any; fortunately traditional eggplant made a good substitute.

When I got home, it was time to get cooking! I had to separate the pepper stuffing into two separate pots because I have a couple of picky eaters here who aren’t smart enough to enjoy the decadence of an olive. I did roast the eggplant with olive oil, though, which is not the norm for me. I’ll definitely have to get used to Giada’s different cooking style. I paired the peppers with a mix brown rice and ginger (which I had made for dinner last night) and white rice (from a Chinese restaurant…also not the norm for me). Shh…don’t tell Giada! I visited the herb garden in my backyard and picked out some thyme, oregano, and basil to mill into the rice for added flavor. Talk about semi-homemade!

If first impressions are telling, I already know from this first dish that I’m going to have a blast on my way to a healthier self! I can’t wait to see what the next 90 days have in store for me!