Monday, October 1, 2012

Pumpkin Pasta

I have become exceptionally frugal in the last few weeks. I just can't afford to throw anything away. So, tonight when deciding what to cook for dinner, my first priority was what was in the fridge that needed to be used or it would get tossed. I came up with leftover feta from last weekend's pasta, leftover bacon from Sunday breakfast and leftover pumpkin from pumpkin biscuits. This may have been one of my best meals ever. It was so good! (this recipe makes 2 servings with a side or 1 big one if you're hungry like I was!)


  • 1/2 cup pureed pumpkin
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened rice milk
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 slices cooked bacon
  • 1/4 cup diced onion
  • 2 oz GF rice fettuccini noodles 
  • 2 tbsp roasted pepitas
  • sprinkle of feta cheese
  • salt & pepper to taste
Heat olive oil in a sauce pan on med heat. Add onions, cook 5 min. 
Add bacon & cook until bacon is hot & onions are transparent
Add pumpkin puree & rice milk
Simmer on low heat while you cook the noodles according to package directions
Drain noodles & add to pumpkin mixture
S&P to taste
Toss well 
Serve topped with pepitas and feta

Refrigerator Oats

Easy, healthy, no-cook breakfast or high energy snack!


  • 1/2 cup gluten free rolled oats
  • 3/4 cup rice milk
  • 1 scoop UltraMeal Vanilla Rice Protein (or 1/2 serving any vanilla protein powder)
  • 1/2 cup diced apple
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • pinch sea salt
Combine all ingredients in a small bowl, cover & put in the refrigerator overnight. Sprinkle with chopped walnuts or pumpkin seeds before serving.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Pumpkin Biscuits

I started with the basic biscuit recipe on the package for Bob's Red Mill Biscuit Mix and added a few things. The insides stay moist so this would probably also work pretty well as muffins or a bread.


  • 1 1/2 cups Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Biscuit Mix
  • 1 cup canned or pureed pumpkin
  • 1/4-1/2 cup rice milk or milk substitute
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp Galangal (opt.)
  • handful of roasted pepitas
Preheat oven to 350. Combine biscuit mix with pumpkin until crumbly. Add rice milk a little at a time, stirring until the dough is smooth but firm. Stir in spices and maple syrup. Drop spoonfuls onto greased cookie sheet and top with a few pepitas. Bake 25-30 minutes.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Butternut Squash Soup

My proportions will be vague here because that's how I cook. Don't get caught up in measurements-season to your taste.

1 med butternut squash
1 lg sweet potato
3 carrots
3 small apples - gala, red, braeburn, whatever
1 yellow onion
8 cloves garlic
Chicken or veggie broth
Rice, almond or coconut milk
1 lb bacon or bacon ends if you can get them
Olive oil
Sea salt
Ground clove
Ground nutmeg
Roasted pepitas

Preheat oven to 400
Peel & cube squash, carrot, sweet potato & apples
Place in a large baking dish or roaster
Add about a cup of broth & drizzle with olive oil and stir to coat
Bake until soft (30-45 min stirring every 15 min

Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large pot- med heat
Add chopped onion & cook until transparent
Add chopped garlic & cook another 3 mins
Add roasted veggies to pot & equal parts milk & broth to 3/4 height of solids
Use an immersion blender to blend, adding more liquid until desired consistency

Sautee bacon and add to soup.
Season with salt, clove & nutmeg to taste.
Top with roasted pepitas or, if you are ambitious, roast the seeds from your squash & use them instead.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

All Purpose Bourbon Glaze

This easy glaze adds huge flavor to just about any meat. Use it on chicken, pork, seafood or fish on the grill.

1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup bourbon
1/4 cup sugar (light brown or raw)
3 tbsp Annie's Naturals Dijon Mustard
2 tbsp soy sauce

Combine all ingredients and marinate meat for a few hours or overnight. Remove meat from marinate and baste while while grilling. Be sure to flip meat after last glazing and cook for 5 minutes.

Reserve leftover marinate and put in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil stirring frequently. Simmer about 10 minutes. Use glaze to drizzle over meat and sides. It's great over simple rice and vegetables!

Monday, July 2, 2012

Accidents Happen: Natural Ways to Manage Allergic Reactions.

I am fortunate in that, since my multiple food allergies have been diagnosed, I haven't had any 911 emergencies. Before diagnosis was a totally different story. 3 ambulance rides and 5 ER visits makes for a single week I'll not forget! I have had a few close calls though. As hard as I try to screen ingredients and not take chances while eating out, every once in a while something slips through. Sometimes I know exactly what happened, like the grilled chicken at the deli counter which I had been told "is just plain chicken" but had been marinated in Italian Dressing. Other times I don't know, like the grilled tuna over mixed greens salad I had at a restaurant in New Orleans. Lucky, Benadryl was enough to stop the reaction both times.

The after effects of both the reaction and the medication can be difficult to deal with. I am usually exhausted for 24-48 hours and often have other symptoms such as stomach cramping, nausea, bloating, gas, diarrhea and headaches. Over the past few years I have found that there are things I can do to minimize both the reactions and the after effects.

Disclaimer: I am not a doctor and am not qualified to diagnose or treat any disease. Take responsibility for your own health. Do your own research. Find a good Doc that involves you in your treatment and listens to what you have to say.


  • Do your research. When I was first diagnosed by my local allergist, I was told I had a tomato allergy. I was given an Epi-Pen, warned not to eat tomatoes and sent on my way. It took me months of continued reactions to figure out that I was also having problems with other foods in the same family---nightshades.
  • No Dairy. There are many theories about dairy proteins and people feel very passionately on both sides of the dairy argument. I'm not an expert so here is some basic info from someone qualified to speak on the subject. But really the proof is in the pudding (so to speak). Try eliminating ALL dairy (butter is OK) from your diet for 7 days and see what happens. The first few days will be tough. According to some, dairy, especially cheese, has addictive qualities, making it very hard to give up. Remember, there are a lot of other great sources for calcium like leafy greens, garbanzo beans (chickpeas), broccoli,  almonds and enriched non-dairy milks like rice or soy milk. 
  • Manage environmental allergies. If you have food allergies, chances are that you have other allergies or sensitivities as well. Limiting your exposure to other allergens, sublingual immunotherapy , and antihistamines if needed can reduce the overall allergic stress on your body. To simplify:  if your body is already on alert from dealing with exposure to an environmental allergen, like tree or grass pollen, you may have a stronger reaction to an allergenic food. I have also discovered that I can reduce the severity of my seasonal allergies by avoiding foods that are cross-reactive to my environmental allergies during peak allergy seasons.
  • Listen to your body. Pay attention to your body's signals when you eat. Not all reactions are sudden or severe. Notice subtle signals like a slight flush in your face, neck or ears or a tingling feeling on your tongue or even just a gut feeling. These signals can help you catch a mistake before it's too late. I had a funny feeling about a sauceless pizza at a restaurant. They assured me there was no sauce and the cutting board had been wiped down. I insisted to the server that there was something wrong and just then the chef coming running from the kitchen to stop me from eating. He had just realized that the pizza cutter hadn't been cleaned before they cut my pizza. It was cross contaminated. Noticing your responses can also help you and your Doctor diagnose an allergen that may have given false negative results on an allergy test, which are not always accurate. 
  • Control overall inflammation. More and more studies are showing that inflammation could be the root to many chronic health problems.  Reducing inflammation in the body can improve your overall health and ability to deal with allergic stress. Eating a healthy diet, managing stress and specific supplements can help reduce inflammation. I take Vitamin C daily in addition to some of the supplements listed in the link as prescribed by my doctor.
  • The most important step I have taken in minimizing the severity of an allergic reaction and is sublingual immunotherapy. Sublingual Immunotherapy is antigen drops taken under the tongue to reduce sensitivity to known allergens. It can be used in cases where the allergy is too severe for standard allergy shots, such as peanut allergy or in small children, and has a high rate of effectiveness. There has never been an anaphylactic reaction recorded in connection to the use of sublingual antigens. Ex:  My son was diagnosed with a severe walnut allergy at age 3 1/2.  Even a very small amount could be life threatening.  Standard allergy treatment would suggest total avoidance and no preventive treatment other than daily antihistamine. Allergy shots could not be given because of possible danger of a reaction to the shot itself. However, at Allergy Associates of LaCrosse, he is being treated with sublingual immunotherapy to reduce his sensitivity to walnuts.  The LaCrosse MethodTM can help reduce the severity of the allergy so that accidental exposures may be less severe.  
After Exposure:  (Always follow the treatment protocol advised by your Doctor for any allergic reaction.  The following steps are meant to minimize discomfort and side effects after the reaction has been treated.)
  • Rest: Remember that both an allergic reaction and the medication create stress on your body. It is typical to feel tired for a day or 2 after a reaction. Take it easy if possible and honor your body's need for additional rest.
  • Hydrate: Lots of water will help your body process the offending food, histamines and other byproducts of the reaction from your system.
  • Vitamin C is a natural anti-inflammatory. Histamine creates an inflammatory response in the body. I usually take 1000mg vitamin C with a large glass of water at the onset of a mild reaction. For more severe reactions that require medical intervention ask your doc if it would be appropriate to up your dosage of vitamin C for a few days to help reduce inflammation.
  • Give your gut a break. Allergic reactions to food can cause all sorts of GI distress. Pamper your digestive system by giving it healthy, whole, non-processed, easy to digest foods.  Peppermint and ginger also aid digestion and soothe the stomach.

Colorful Summer Slaw

I came home from the Farmer's Market yesterday with such beautiful produce. I could hardly wait to start finding creative ways to use it. For this fresh summer coleslaw I used chioggia beets but any variety will do. This is also an easy recipe to vary depending on which veggies you have on hand. You'll want to end up with a total of  3 cups grated of any of the following: carrot, radish, kohlrabi, cabbage (any variety), beets (any variety), broccoli (stems and florets). This recipe has no mayo so it's a little lighter/healthier, easier to keep fresh for a picnic and appropriate for those with egg allergies. At a pot-luck or picnic people will "ooh" & "aah" over the visual appeal of the dish with it's bright mix of colors & it's packed with nutrients like potassium, vitamin C, iron, magnesium and folate.

  • 2 tablespoons Annie's Naturals Dijon mustard
  • 4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seed
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Cracked black pepper
  • 2 Beets (any color or variety)
  • 3 Carrots (buy carrots with greens and use can use the tops instead of the parsley)
  • 1  Kohlrabi
  • (use about 1 cup of each veggie when shredded)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley leaves or carrot tops


Wash & shred beets, carrots & kohlrabi
In a small, non-metal bowl whisk together mustard, red wine vinegar, mustard seed, honey, salt and olive oil. Season with pepper to taste. combine beets, carrots, kohlrabi and parsley in large serving bowl, pour dressing over salad, toss to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. This can be served immediately but is better if given a few hours in the fridge for the flavors to blend.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Vietnamese Noodle Salad

Through most of high school I worked in a little family operated Vietnamese restaurant called Pham's. The owner, Hong Pham, worked mostly in the kitchen while his sister ran the front of the house. His parents, who didn't speak english at all, helped in the kitchen prepping the huge quantities of fresh veggies needed for a day's service. I wore a beautiful traditional dress while I waited tables and, with my bleach blond hair cut in an angular bob, people often thought I might be Hong's daughter or niece.

Now we have wonderful restaurants from all the different parts of Asia and Northern Africa in most areas but at the time Asian food was strictly chow mein and fried rice. I instantly fell in love with the unusual fresh, bright flavors and colors. This was so far from the meat and potatoes my midwestern family favored. 

My favorite meal was always the Bun Noodle Salad; warm, marinated meat and onions or crispy spring rolls over chilled noodles and fresh veggies with a zingy fish sauce dressing. This has been a go-to summertime meal and no matter where I have lived over the years, the local Vietnamese restaurant soon got to know me and my love for this salad. It was a special heartbreak the first time I realized it was off-limits with my nightshade allergy due to the chilies and peppers that are in the dressing.

So, of course, I figured out how to make my own version. The first couple of tries were pretty boring. The dressings were so watery and flavorless. I wasn't sure I would be able to get the same zing without chilies. Last night we were really craving a light, healthy meal after a weekend of eating steaks and burgers so I decided to give it another try and it turned out amazing. My husband didn't even add any rooster or scotch bonnet sauce. He always adds spice to my asian cooking! The secret is a special marinade on the meat for extra flavor and to use less water and more ginger in the dressing. For anyone who has stumbled on this recipe who is not avoiding nightshades just add a tablespoon or so of finely diced jalapeño or thai chili before blending the dressing. Also, I used beef but this recipe works with just about anything; chicken, pork, shrimp should all be equally yummy. Measurements are approximate and easy to vary according to taste. Make it your own!

Lastly, this is not a quick recipe. It is easy but time consuming. If I'm taking the time to make it I make extra of everything except the noodles and eat it for lunch over rice for the week.

Meat & Marinade:
1 lb Sirloin Steak or other meat
1 med onion-sliced
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/8 cup honey
1 lime - juiced
  • combine soy sauce, honey & lime juice
  • thinly slice beef and combine with marinade at least 6 hours
  • saute or stir fry beef with onion & keep warm

2 cloves garlic - minced
2 tbsp fresh ginger - minced
1/8 cup fish sauce
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp sesame oil

  • Combine all ingredients in a blender or food processor
8 oz rice noodles (vermicelli or fettuccine style) 
1 cup fresh cilantro - chopped
3 lg carrots - julienne or shredded
2 cups napa cabbage-finely shredded
1/2 cup cucumber - seeded and sliced thin
1/8 cup fresh mint - chopped
1/8 cup fresh basil - julienne

  • cook noodles according to package directions, rinse in cold water
  • combine vegetables and herbs
To assemble salad:
  • place about 1/2 cup of noodles in the bottom of a bowl.
  • layer 1/2 cup veggies on top of noodles
  • drizzle with 2 tbsp dressing
  • top with beef & onions 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Gluten Free Berry Shortcake

My wonderful family went all out last night to make me an awesome birthday dinner. On the menu: steaks with sautéed onion, mushroom & garlic, baked sweet potatoes, salad with tons of veggies and Berry Shortcake.

My mom was pretty excited when called to tell me the Bisquick now makes a GF blend. Unfortunately, she didn't notice that it does contain potato starch and the biscuit recipe called for 3 eggs. I told her not to worry, I would find a safe recipe and pick up the ingredients. I found one that looked pretty good and only required 1 egg. Typically, when substituting eggs in a recipe, the more eggs in the recipe the more you notice the substitution. I just needed to stop & pick up some Bob's Red Mill Egg Replacer. It's the only one I've found without potato starch. I tried 4 different stores including 2 GF specialty stores and no one had it.

While scanning the shelves for another option I found Bob's Red Mill Biscuit Mix---no potato starch, no eggs required. Add butter & milk (or water). Perfect!

My birthday dessert was saved! Here's how we did it:

We used strawberries, blueberries, raspberries & blackberries. We kept them separate so everyone could choose their own mix. Slice strawberries and sprinkle a little sugar on them. Put in the fridge for a few hours. This creates a syrup without cooking them down.

Make the biscuits according to the directions on the package & whip up some heavy whipping cream. I used vanilla rice milk in the biscuits and no sugar in the whipped cream.

Too easy! So good!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Strawberry Season

There is nothing like a strawberry picked fresh from the vine. (I used to think the same thing about tomatoes!). We live in an area with plenty of farms and the strawberry sellers are spread around the town parking lots & street corners for a few weeks each spring & fall.

This is our first stop this year. They've been out for a few days already but I don't usually carry cash, except during Farmer's Market season. Time to get back into that habit.

I bought the 5 pint bucket thinking I would freeze some or find a recipe for sorbet. I may have to go back for more later! He keeps coming to me pushing a half eaten strawberry into my face.
"Mom, you just have to try a bite of this one!"

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Ayurvedic Oatmeal

Yum! This recipe is one I modified from a 7 day Spring Cleanse by Yoga International and The Himilayan Institute. It didn't contain any nightshades to begin and I tweaked it it the tiniest bit. I ate it every day for 7 days and didn't get tired of it.

1/2 c. steel cut oats
1/2 c. Whole rolled oats
2 c. Rice or almond milk
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/8 c. Currants
1 tbsp grade B maple syrup

Combine all except maple syrup & bring to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce to low & simmer 10 min. Cover& remove from heat for 5 min.

Stir in maple syrup & serve. Serves 3-4.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


This is what I'm eating all week this week for lunch and dinner.  It is a traditional ayurvedic dish used for cleansing.  It's very nutritious, easy to digest and tasty!


I think it's important for those of us with food allergies to take extra measures to take care of our gut.  For me, this means occasional cleansing.  I am not a believer in extreme diets with severe calorie restriction or highly processed meal replacement shakes.  I couldn't make it a day on a juice cleanse and the Master Cleanse seems ridiculous to me.  If you want to do a cleanse (and your Doc says it OK) you could eat fruit for breakfast and Kitchari for lunch and dinner for anywhere from 1 - 14 days.  For more info on a complete cleanse protocol click here.

You can also follow the results of my personal 7 Day Cleanse here.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Every Time!

I am so conscious and cautious of foods in most circumstances. In a restaurant I always check, double check, triple check and take the first few bites slowly, noticing any signals of a reaction. I read labels at the grocery store and don't compromise on mystery ingredients like "spices" and "natural flavorings". I even double check labels of things I use all the time in case they change the ingredients.

Every once in a while I slip and something comes in under the radar. This afternoon I started feeling off: sniffly, watery eyes, stomach cramps. It came on too quickly to be a virus so I started backtracking my foods to see if I could have made a mistake somewhere. No time for breakfast this morning and lunch was leftovers from dinner last night, which was a simple recipe I use often and I knew was clean. The only other thing I'd had today was a cup of tea-a new tea I'd ordered online. I had read the label which said it was a blend of green & white teas but I didn't bother to check the complete ingredients list which shows "flavoring" as one of the ingredients. I don't know if it's the mystery "flavoring" or the rosebuds also listed (which I try to avoid because certain flowers including roses make me sneeze). I'm guessing it's the rosebud as a nightshade would likely have caused a more serious reaction but the lesson is the same. NEVER assume. Never take it for granted that something is safe.

So on this beautiful afternoon that I promised my son a trip to the park, I am instead trying to fight the Benadryl drowsiness while I sit sniffling and sneezing on the couch, the seat nearest the bathroom for when the stomach upset hits. And I'm thankful because at least I didn't have to call 911 this time.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Chicken with Morel Mushroom

Since discovering the joy of Morel mushrooms a few years ago while hiking at Camp St. Croix with an experienced camp employee, I have made a deal with myself.  Where I would previously have turned up my nose at the high price of the interesting looking mushrooms in the small basket that appears for a few short days at the local co-op I have agreed (with myself) that if I am lucky enough to be shopping on a day when these rare beauties are available I will buy them - no matter how tight the budget.

On Sunday I was planning on a quick trip to the market to grab a few items for dinner when I spotted them, the basket of Morels.   They are only available a few days out of the year and I usually find them after they are picked over, small and shriveled, if I get them at all.  This time they must have just been brought in this morning.  They are huge, soft, alive looking.  YUM!

The original recipe that I converted is from Robert Irvine at  It was actually nightshade free to begin with but I made a few modifications anyway.   Not exactly a "healthy" or low cal, low fat recipe but was so yummy I wanted to lick the plate.  I have enough restrictions on my diet that I feel no guilt indulging in a luscious cream sauce occasionally.

Morel Mushrooms (1/2 -1 cup sliced)
5-6 chicken thighs (on the bone with skin)
4 tbsp butter
1 cup red wine
1 cup Swanson's Chicken Broth
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 lemon
Tinkyada Rice Spaghetti or Fettuccini
-italian parsley & parmesan to taste

  • preheat oven to 375
  • slice the morels in half and rinse to remove any dirt or bugs, pat dry and slice crosswise, set aside
  • sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper on both sides
  • heat 2 tbsp butter in large sauté pan on med
  • cook chicken skin side down for 8-10 min until browned
  • turn over and cook another 5 minutes
  • remove chicken and place in a baking dish - cook uncovered
  • add the remaining butter to sauté pan
  • add mushrooms and cook on low for 2-3 minutes
  • add wine, turn up to med and reduce
  • add chicken broth and cream, bring to gentle boil and cook, stirring frequently, until it thickens (5-10 min)
  • pour the sauce and mushroom mixture over the chicken and bake 25-35 minutes until chicken is done
while chicken is baking prepare 16 oz. noodles according to directions, drain and set aside

Toss noodles in a bowl with a enough sauce from the chicken to coat.  Place noodles and chicken on plate, spoon on sauce and top with parmesan and parsley.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Citrus Soy Glazed Chicken

This recipe comes from one I saw in a magazine ages ago.  I don't remember which magazine it came from as I transferred the instructions to my IPhone Menu Planner right away but I made enough modifications to it that I think I can call it my own.   It turned out great and I wish I had taken a picture of it but I got a late start on dinner last night and by the time it was done we were starving and dove right in.  Originally it was pork loin but we were in the mood for chicken.  You could certainly do this with a pork loin, fish or other protein.

1 whole cut up chicken
1/2 cup GF tamari or soy sauce
1 cup white wine (sweet is preferred but any will do - I used La Linda Torrentes)
1 lime
1 orange
1 lemon
2 tbsp minced fresh ginger
4 cloves minced fresh garlic
1/4 cup apricot preserves (orange marmalade works too)
grape seed oil

1 head napa cabbage washed and chopped
1 can sliced water chestnuts
1 can sliced bamboo shoots
1 cup chopped snow peas

Jasmine rice or rice noodles (if desired)

Preheat oven to 400.
Spread chicken in a shallow baking dish and rub, baste or drizzle with oil
Out chicken in oven & set timer for 30 minutes

While chicken is roasting, prepare sauce by combining tamari, wine, juice from all fruits, ginger, garlic and preserves in a saucepan & heat on med stirring frequently.

While it heats, prepare napa and snow peas.  Drain & rinse bamboo shoots & water chestnuts.

When 30 minute timer goes off.  Use a baster, spoon or cup to pour a small amount (1/2 cup) of sauce over the chicken.  Stir the sauce into the juices in the pan and baste the chicken.  Continue to simmer remaining sauce - it should reduce a bit.

Return chicken to oven and baste every 10-15 minutes until it is done.  (Around 75 minutes , skin will crisp and brown, but make sure it is cooked through and juices run clear)

During the last 30 minutes of cooking time prepare white rice or rice noodles according to package directions if desired.  

During the last 10-15 min of cooking stir fry veggies on high heat with a little oil until cabbage is slightly wilted.

When chicken is done remove from oven, add remaining sauce to the pan and cover for 10-15 minutes.  Serve chicken & veggies over rice or noodles, spooning sauce over the top.  Yum!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Simple Asian Slaw

Ethnic food is challenging when you have a nightshade allergy.  My first job was in a Vietnamese restaurant and cultivated a deep love for all varieties of Asian and Southeast Asian cuisine.  Now, in restaurants, I'm restricted to fried rice or stir fry with Soy Sauce only.  Rather than deprive myself of my favorite foods I've learned to modify many of them into suitable alternatives.  This is a recipe for a simple veggie slaw that I almost always have in the fridge.  It keeps well and is very versatile.  
  • 4 cups total of any combination of red or green cabbage, bok choy, napa cabbage
  • 1 cup broccoli stalks – shredded
  • 2 lg carrots – shredded
  • 1 cup peapods or sugar snap peas – thinly sliced
  • 5 green onions – thinly sliced
  • 1/4-1/3 cup Bragg’s Ginger Sesame Dressing (or other safe asian ginger dressing)
*chop or shred and add any other veggies that you happen to have on hand – broccoli florets, cauliflower, brussel sprout leaves, celery, radish, whatever!
combine all ingredients in a large sealable container
store in refrigerator 
  • Serve chilled as a side for teriyaki grilled chicken or fish
  • Add chilled cellophane or rice noodles for a cold salad. 
  • Drain well and make it into a wrap for lunch or snack
  • Quick stir fry and serve over rice  -  heat on med-high just enough to heat through, be careful not to overcook or it will lose it’s texture (try adding stir fried shitake mushrooms, meat or tofu – stir fry the mushrooms or meat  first and add the slaw for the last minute or two)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Big Bowl O'Love - Dad's Special Soup

There is no denying the relationship between food and emotion.  Some foods can bring us back to childhood.  Candy Buttons always make me smile.  They taste gross but they make me smile because they remind me of the summer my cousin, John, stayed with us for the summer.  He babysat my sister and I.  I idolized John and have so many memories of that summer full of trips to the pool and riding our bikes up the road to Kenny's Market to buy candy necklaces, candy buttons and brown cow suckers.

When you have food allergies those strong emotions related to food can cause quite an internal conflict, especially when you develop an allergy to a food with ties to strong memories or emotions.  The last few years I have worked on changing my perception of food.  Looking closely at labels and ingredients helps me to shift my thinking from craving and desire to nutrition and sustenance.  It works for me, most of the time.  Sometimes though, a food holds such a strong connection that I would do just about anything to taste it again.  This is true for my Dad's special soup.  It is a recipe passed down from his mom but to me, it is my Dad's soup.  Just the smell of this soup makes me feel safe and loved, the kind of feeling a little girl gets from knowing that her Daddy is there watching out for her.

Last week was rough.  I had a wicked cold and was struggling with some personal stuff.  I was sad, frustrated, sick, tired and feeling like a lost little girl.  Every day I thought about Dad's soup.  I wanted nothing else.  Finally I called him and asked for the recipe, knowing it was full of tomatoes and potatoes but determined to see if I could make a safe version that would fill that void.  We didn't really talk about anything other than the soup recipe but just talking to him made me feel better.

I made the soup yesterday.  It wasn't the same as Dad's but it was pretty good.  I was a little disappointed until I remembered one of the secrets of the soup:  it's always best after a day or 2 in the fridge.  I tried it again today for lunch and it warmed my heart just the way a good comfort food should.  I'm also finally starting to feel like I'm getting a leg up on this cold or flu I've been fighting.  Quantities are flexible.  Put in more of what you like and less of what you don't.  It takes all day to cook so it's great for a weekend when you can enjoy the aroma filling the house but a crock pot works too.


  • Beef Soup Bone with plenty of meat on it - or a bone and some stew meat (Dad likes to use a chuck roast slow roasted in the oven and added at the end but I think that without the tomatoes you need the extra flavor from the marrow of the bone)
  • Carrots - 4
  • Yams or Sweet Potato - 2 med
  • Onion - 1 lg
  • White Cabbage - 1 med head - don't skimp on the cabbage!  This is the ingredient that makes or breaks it.
  • Garlic - 4 cloves thinly sliced
  • Beef Broth - 3 x 36oz boxes- I used Pacific Foods, all ingredients listed and no nightshades
  • Olive Oil
  • S&P

Heat some olive oil over med/high heat in a large soup/stock pot.  Add Beef to pot and sear on one side about 5 min.  While beef is searing, chop the onion.  Cut your veggies into large chunks.  Turn the beef and add onion to the pot.  Cook another 5 min.

Add Garlic, cook 3 min
Add Broth & turn to High Heat
Clean and chop remaining veggies and add to pot.
Bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer all day (6-8 hrs).  Before serving, remove the beef to a cutting board, trim fat, remove bone and pull apart.  Meat should pull apart easily.  Return meat to the pot. S&P to taste.

Cool the leftovers in the fridge.  Remember, it's better the second day.  As always, let me know how you like it and what you do to personalize it.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Asian Spiced Pork Tenderloin with Red Cabbage

There are a few bonuses to having tricky multiple food allergies.  One of the big pluses is that I have learned to be a very creative cook.  I am always looking for good recipes that I can modify to suit my Nightshade Free diet.  This one was a big hit with my husband.  He loves pork tenderloin but honestly, it's not my favorite so I usually don't make it.  I'll definitely make this one again.  I got the original recipe from Food Network and modified it to eliminate peanut oil and changed the slaw quite a bit based on another recipe I have used in the past.

Here it is.  I hope you enjoy it and I always love to hear other twists you might put on it!

1 Pork Tenderloin
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp Chinese 5 Spice Powder (traditionally nightshade free but ALWAYS double check the label!)
salt & pepper
1 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp tamari
1 tsp mirin
juice 1/2 lemon
1 tbsp finely grated fresh ginger
1 tbsp sesame oil
thinly sliced red cabbage (about 2 cups)
1 small red onion thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup)
1 red apple, washed and thinly sliced

1)  Preheat broiler to high and position oven rack 1 level below the top rack

2)  Rub tenderloin with oil, then rub with 5 spice powder and season with salt and pepper.  Place on broiler pan and roast about 10 minutes on each side or until outside browns and meat thermometer reads 150.  Let sit 5 minutes before slicing.

3) While meat is cooking heat remaining sesame oil in a skillet on med heat.  Add cabbage, red onion and apple and sauté until soft.

4) While cabbage sautes, whisk together rice wine vinegar, tamari, mirin and lemon juice.

5) When cabbage is done (some like it barely heated, some like it very wilted - it's up to you!  It could also be kept raw and tossed with the dressing) remove from heat and stir in vinegar mixture.

This recipe serves 2-3.  Serve with rice or a side of crusty french bread.

Dining Out with Food Allergies - New Orleans

Last summer I found myself in my own personal food allergy hell - New Orleans.  Beautiful city full of art, music, history, interesting people and amazing restaurants... restaurants specializing in spices, tomato sauces and seafood, especially shellfish.  Until this trip I had been managing my allergies pretty well and thought I had a good system for working with restaurants to help them accommodate my needs safely.  This town put me through the ringer.  The first night I was literally on the verge of tears as we wandered the streets of the French Quarter looking for a place to eat.  Around 10 pm a suited older gentleman, smiling, dancing and eating from a plate of italian food on the sidewalk in front of a restaurant gently took my husband's arm and turned us toward the door.  He smiled and nodded towards the door.  "Go eat,"  he said.  My husband  shook his head and explained my allergies (nightshades, shellfish, egg, nuts) and told him italian wasn't usually a good choice for me.

"You go in.  Talk to the waitress.  They'll make you whatever you want."  The relief and gratitude was overwhelming when combined with extremely low blood sugar.  My tears flooded over as we sat down on a terrace overlooking the spectacle of Bourbon Street.  After some discussion with the waitress and the cook we decided the only safe bet was grilled chicken and steamed veggies.  This was not the food I was hoping for in one of the culinary centers of the world but I was grateful for a safe meal and enjoyed the view.  

After that experience we realized it might take a little more planning than usual so I polled my FB friends, some of whom lived in Nola, and talked to the hotel staff to find out which restaurants would be most able to accommodate a special needs diet.  I specifically asked for small, chef run places where the chef was likely to be in the kitchen and food was cooked to order.  Everyone said the same thing - The Green Goddess Restaurant - and it was just a block away from the hotel.  I checked it out online and it looked amazing!  I was going to eat there every day, lunch and dinner.  That night we stopped in around 5:00pm.  It was a weeknight and they didn't open until 6.  We planned it this way knowing the chef would be likely to be in the kitchen prepping for dinner but not too busy since they hadn't opened yet.  We talked to the hostess who was setting up and she sent us on our way.  "No, we cannot accommodate you."  It was as simple as that.  I was so stunned I didn't argue, ask more questions or ask to speak to the chef.  I had never, ever been turned away from a restaurant before.

The next day I sent an email to the chef and received a nice reply that they were sorry but they just really couldn't guarantee that their food would be safe for me.  I have spent the last 20 minutes trying to put into words that I appreciate their concern for my safety and respect their decision but I can't do it.  I am a 20 year veteran of the restaurant business and have worked every position in the house, front and back, from dishwasher to manager.  I understand how a kitchen functions and I know what "can" be done and what "can't".  My understanding of the situation is not that they "could not" accommodate me safely, but rather that they chose not to.

It was still early so we continued our search for a safe meal and ended up on one of the most beautiful patios I have ever seen at Cafe Amelie.  We checked the menu which looked less traditional New Orleans and more California but very appealing and were assured by the hostess that the kitchen could accommodate special orders.  We were seated by the fountain, ordered a glass of wine and sent my list to the chef for suggestions.   My heart sank when I saw the waitress returning with a manager.  It wasn't so much that she had the manager with her, it was the look on both of their faces.  He knelt by the table and apologized sincerely for not being able to help me on this particular evening.  He explained that all of their proteins are pre seasoned or marinated early in the day to prep for dinner.  Here I am again, crying over dinner.  He suggested that I call in the morning and let him know which protein I would like and they would set something aside for me for dinner the next day.

The next day, my last in New Orleans I was wandering the French Quarter on my own while my husband attended work conferences.  I was going to go have lunch at our lunch spot where I could get a plain ham and cheese Po-Boy, boring but safe, and listen to some live Jazz while sitting outside.  I got there a little early so decided to wander a little more and came across a little place in the French Market called Meals from the Heart.  It was a food counter in the Market.  I stopped to look at the menu because it was obviously different from the other places.  The focus was on heart healthy food.  The plates in front of the diners looked and smelled delicious but it didn't look like someplace I could eat.  The lady at the counter who I later found out was one of the owners invited me to sit down and have lunch.  I explained my situation and she said, "Don't you worry.  We'll take care of you."  And she did.  The chef made me a beautiful grilled salmon on brown rice with veggies and it was seasoned so it had flavor!  After days of plain veggies, dried out chicken breasts and dry sandwiches (which are a last resort due to a mild wheat allergy) I was so very happy.

Later that night we went back to Cafe Amelie and had one of the best meals I have ever had in my life including meals eaten before my allergies.  I don't even remember what I had but I can remember the feeling of pure bliss as I savored my food on a rainy night seated in front of a fireplace.  The same manager was there and he coordinated our service with the waitress and the kitchen.  I cannot wait to go back to New Orleans and eat here again.

When relaying some of these stories and going through similar experiences the following week while vacationing with my in-laws my father in law asked, "Well, you can always just get some greens or vegetables and plain chicken can't you?"  Sure I can.  And I have.  At some places the only safe food is lettuce greens with oil and vinegar.  I have made this my lunch multiple times.  But food is connected to our culture and while traveling I have always tried to eat in local eateries vs chain restaurants.  The food of a place is part of the experience of traveling and I don't believe anyone should be condemned to boring, tasteless nutrition while those around them enjoy not only the nutritive aspects of food but the variety of flavors and textures that are unique to each culture or chef.  As someone who loves to cook, I know it can be done.  As someone who has experienced some truly amazing meals in restaurants I know it can be done in a restaurant kitchen.  It doesn't matter what is on the menu as long as there are some ingredients in that kitchen that are safe and a chef who is both creative enough to come up with something wonderful within your limitations and willing to do so.

I tip my fedora from Goorin's to those managers and chefs in New Orleans who were both.  Thanks to Cafe Amelie and Meals from the Heart for being creative, skilled and compassionate and giving me some excellent food memories from New Orleans.

Nightshade Free Foods - reviews and recommendations

This is the one word on an ingredient list that causes me the most frustration followed a close second by "natural flavorings" and "fruit and vegetable juice".  Requiring companies to list the 8 common allergens is a start but it's not enough.  There are so many of us out there with allergies that don't fall into the common category.  I've met people allergic to beans, beef, chicken, oranges, sesame and all sorts of things.  Requiring ALL ingredients to be clearly listed on labels would help those of us with allergies to make safe choices and it might also make everyone who reads labels more aware of what goes into their food.  At this point, even without the allergies, I don't think I would want to eat many of the things they are putting in our food.

I've spent a few years dealing with this and am compiling a list of companies, brands and products that provide hard to find items that are Nightshade Allergy Safe.  Please ALWAYS double check labels and trust your instincts.  This list is based on my personal experience.  I am not an authority, doctor or nutritionist.  These companies may change their formulations or recipes at any time.  Take responsibility for your health and read the label EVERY TIME!

This find made me so ecstatic!  I love Asian food but usually have to cook it myself to make it safe or stick to steamed rice and veggies at restaurants.  These are found in the frozen section.  I love making a quick soup by tossing a few in Swanson's Chicken Broth.

Other Asian Treats are:


Salad dressings:
* almost always list "spices" on the label.  Here are some that have clear labeling and are Nightshade free at the time of this blog post.

Anne's is one of my favorite companies because they clearly list the ingredients.  The 3 dressings listed above are the only 3 I've tried.  There may be more options.  Read your labels.  They also offer an Organic Dijon mustard that has no Paprika!  That is like finding gold!

Beware of boxed broths.  Many use green peppers in the chicken stock and a variety of nightshades in the veggie stock.  I haven't yet found a safe veggie broth so I usually stick with Swanson's Chicken Broth.  Pacific Foods Beef Broth is also safe at the time of this post.  

Have you discovered Nomato Pasta Sauce yet?  I found this treat at a specialty store in Woodbury, MN.  I was so happy I almost cried.  You can make pasta or pizza!  It's not the same but it is close enough to keep me from feeling sorry for myself when my kiddo and husband have pizza or pasta.  Go ahead, do your happy dance!  You know you want to!  This product does list "herbs" on the ingredients.  Normally nightshades would fall under the heading of spices rather than herbs and I haven't had any trouble with this product but if you're unsure you can always contact the company.  I emailed them about their other products; Nomato Ketchup and Nomato Barbecue Sauce and confirmed that the Ketchup does NOT contain nightshades but the barbecue sauce DOES contain cayenne pepper:(  Oh well, 2 out of 3 ain't bad and I always appreciate it when a company responds.

Another product that lists "spices" is Reed's Original Ginger Ale.  I contacted the company and they confirmed it's safety.  It has pepper, not peppers.   Bonus points to them for responding to my email within 24 hrs.

Here starts the "Boo" List - those companies that do not clearly list their ingredients and are unwilling to provide information.   Most will not give you detailed information but are willing to at least tell you if their product is safe or not.

*Early into my diagnosis I picked up a bottle of Blue Goodness.  After having a severe reaction in which my tongue swelled and I went to the ER I contacted the company to see if there was nightshade in the ingredients.  It was early into my diagnosis and we still hadn't figured out exactly what I was reacting to.  If there was no nightshade I would know that I needed to look for other possible allergies.  I explained the situation and also that I didn't need to know details - just if any of the following items were in the smoothie & listed the nightshades.  I was told they could not give me any information on the ingredients and that if I suspected I was allergic to their products I shouldn't use them.  Done.  I recommend you don't use them either.

If you have found other hard to find products or have had experiences with other companies please comment below.  I will continue to update this list as I find more resources.