Friday, November 30, 2012

Gluten-Free Friday: Lundberg’s Brown Rice Couscous

Couscous was a frequent side dish back in my gluten days.  There were so many delicious flavors in the grocery store, and it was ready in less than 10 minutes – hard to beat that!  Thanks to Lundberg’s, couscous can still be a part of a gluten-free diet. 

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Added bonus that it’s a lot more nutritious than regular couscous, which is generally made from white flour pasta.  Brown rice definitely has a lot more going for it!  It still has that great couscous texture, it’s just a bit heartier and a lot more filling.

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One little box makes a whole lot of couscous – once cooked up it filled my 1 quart saucepot!  All in just about 15 minutes, significantly less time than it would take to boil up some brown rice.

It comes in 4 flavors, but so far I’ve only found the plain and roasted garlic with olive oil.  The garlic flavor is my favorite, but I’ll often get the plain kind so that I can make it in smaller batches and not worry about divvying up the seasoning packet properly. 

I’ve found Lundberg’s brown rice couscous at both my regular grocery stores and Whole Foods, priced at around $3-$4/box.  To find a store near you that carries Lundberg’s check out their store locator.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Baked Sweet Potato with Bacon & Apples

Earlier this week I had a fantastic, simple meal that really surprised me. I have made baked sweet potatoes before, but generally just as a side. When I saw this blog post from How Sweet Eats, I knew immediately that I needed to make a meal where sweet potatoes took front and center!

It was super simple to put together. I pierced the sweet potato with a fork, wrapped it in foil and popped it in the toaster oven for an hour. While it was baking, I cut a couple slices of bacon into pieces and crisped it up in a skillet. Then I removed the bacon pieces to a paper towel-lined plate, drained most of the fat from the skillet, added half of a diced Gala apple and a dash of nutmeg, and cooked it until soft and slightly caramelized.

Once the potato was done, I cut it in half, topped it with the bacon and apples, and served it up with a side salad for a very tasty meal filled with delicious, sweet fall flavors. The bacon and bacon-fat browned apples are definitely indulgent, but I like to think that the nutrition of the sweet potato cancels it out somewhat!

Now, it would probably have been even better with the goat cheese called for in How Sweet Eats' recipe, but I didn't check the recipe before I went to the store, and by the time I looked at it the potato was in the oven and I was in no mood to run out to Publix. Next time!

 

Monday, November 26, 2012

Meal Plan Monday

Meal PlanAfter a few weeks of last-minute meals, I’m finally back to regular meal planning!  Without Hubs around I haven’t been cooking as often and eating a lot of big salads, but I’m trying to make an effort this week to get in the kitchen a bit more.  I do love to cook, after all!

Monday

Tuesday

Wednesday

  • Leftovers

Thursday

Friday

Saturday

  • French Bread Pizza (because I know they will be amazing and I will want another)
  • Green Salad

Sunday

So that’s it – not very exciting, and it’s nearly all chicken, but it’s a lot more variety than what I have been eating lately. 

Also I know it’s odd to see cranberry sauce on the menu after Thanksgiving, but I have leftover cranberries from my jeweled cranberry carrots dish and I hate wasting food.  And besides, who says cranberry sauce has to be reserved to just once a year?

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Simple Thanksgiving Success!

I hope that you all had a very happy Thanksgiving weekend.  Ours was pretty busy, as we spent the majority of our time packing, cleaning, and working on getting the house ready for sale.  But we did manage to have an absolutely fantastic gluten-free Thanksgiving dinner!

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As I had planned, we kept it pretty simple.  We opted to just do a turkey breast, which we brined in a solution of water, kosher salt and peppercorns overnight.  After just over 2 hours in the oven, it was ready to for carving.

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We did try to put in some special touches to the meal – Hubs went all out with some amazing caramelized bacon and onion green beans with parmesan cheese, and I contributed a version of Gluten Hates Me’s cornbread stuffing with leftover corn muffins I had in the freezer. 

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I wish I’d done more as her recipe looked absolutely fantastic, but I ended up omitting all of the ingredients except the onion, celery, garlic rosemary and chicken stock.  It was still fantastic, though! 

For dessert, I whipped up a very quick pumpkin mousse based on a recipe from Taste of Home.  I ended up having to modify it a bit – the proportions of 1 oz pudding mix to 1.5 cups of milk seemed a bit off, so I went with the instructions on the pudding box instead for that part.  It came out really good and we both loved the flavor, but I wish I’d had some gluten-free graham crackers or something to crumble over the top to give it a little more texture.  

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I flew home last night, thankfully an uneventful trip, and was greeted by a big box of gluten-free goodies!

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No, I didn’t win a contest – I actually had a LivingSocial voucher for Glutenfreely.com that was about to expire and they were having some great sales on the site, so I got this huge haul for just $35 including shipping!  Some of the products I’ve had before, but there are some new things in there I’m eager to try, in particular the Schar’s gluten-free baguettes – I posted this photo to Instagram earlier today and 2 people have already commented to tell me how wonderful they are!  (Pssst – they are still on sale too if you’re interested)

I ended my Saturday evening with this beautiful girl and a bowl of Annie’s gluten-free mac & cheese with fresh tomatoes. 

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Perfect way to cap off a great holiday weekend Smile  Today was spent just catching up on chores around the house, but I’ve got a great dinner on the menu for tonight – an apple-bacon stuffed sweet potato (recipe from How Sweet It Is), and a green salad on the side.  Really looking forward to trying it!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Traveling Gluten Free at the Airport

Hello from Orlando International Airport! I am joining the masses and flying home to see Hubs for the holiday weekend.
Thought it was going to be a really nasty trip when my flight this afternoon was reporting a 6 hour delay thanks to the mess in Chicago (my plane was coming from there), but shortly after I got to the airport it suddenly flipped to just a 1.5 hour delay. Awesome surprise, as I went from expecting a midnight arrival to being able to keep our original plans for dinner tonight at Bella Monica!

Anyway, I thought I'd take this opportunity to post some tips for air travel while gluten free. On the road you at least have some flexibility in finding a place that works for you, but in the airport you're pretty much a captive audience.

Tip #1 - Be prepared!

I know I've given this tip before, but packing snacks is the best way to make sure you'll have something safe to eat. Bonus, it's cheaper too! I like to pack Gopicnic meals and shelf stable snacks like bars, nuts, chips, and dark chocolate (a few treats go a long way when you're stressed out from crowds and delays!). If you want to bring something chilled, I picked up a great tip from Tina over at Carrots n Cake - wrap it in tinfoil and it'll stay cold for awhile without an ice pack. I just finished enjoying a nice high-protein snack of GF crackers, deli turkey and cheese thanks to this trick!

Tip #2 - Plan Ahead

Research the airport ahead of time. Look at what's available in your terminal, or in the main area before security. There are great apps with terminal maps like Point Inside or Gate Guru, and the Find Me Gluten Free app works in airports too! The Orlando airport actually has an Outback, and I had a great experience at the Five steakhouse at the JFK airport. Just be careful as always! And if you can't find anything that works, eat before you go to the airport or see tip #1.

 

Tip #3 - Hit Up the Newsstand

If all else fails, check out the newsstand and sundries shops, I have always been able to find safe snacks there, even if it's just a bag of chips. It might not be good for a complete meal, but it'll at least keep the hangries at bay!

I apologize for the lack of links on the apps - apparently the free wireless here at the airport is pretty overloaded and I'm having trouble getting sites to load. But all of them are in iTunes :)

 

 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Simple Thanksgiving Menu for Two

Confession – we actually weren’t going to celebrate Thanksgiving this year.  I am flying home to spend the holiday with Hubs, but we have a lot on our plate finishing up with packing the house and getting it ready for sale, so we figured we’d just bypass the traditional meal.  But this week we got to talking and decided that it would be nice to celebrate, but keep it very simple and scaled down.  It’s hard to pass up the idea of turkey, gravy and (gluten-free) stuffing!

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So I came up with a simple menu plan, which we may or may not stick to entirely once Hubs inputs his opinion, but I think it’s a good start!

Simple Thanksgiving Menu for Two

  • Turkey Breast & Gravy
  • Gluten-Free Cornbread Stuffing (basic version, using leftover cornbread muffins from the freezer)
  • Mashed Sweet Potatoes
  • Steamed Green Beans
  • Cranberry Sauce (whole berry from the can)
  • Pumpkin Mousse

Aside from the stuffing, I’ll be taking a lot of help from the store.  Between that and the smaller portions, I think it’ll be fairly easy to put together!

Want some help with last-minute holiday meal planning?  Be sure to check out my latest post for PadGadget - Gluten-Free Survival Guide: iPad & iPhone Apps for the Holidays!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Gluten-Free Holidays: Cranberry Jeweled Carrots

Last week we had a potluck at my new office, and I immediately knew I wanted to bring a gluten-free dish since I figured most of the offerings would be things I could not eat (I was right).  When I spotted this recipe that I had scanned into my Evernote back in October, I knew it was perfect.  Simple, healthy, colorful, and best of all, inexpensive!

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It’s an easy casserole dish consisting of grated carrots, chopped granny smith apples and fresh cranberries tossed in a mixture of apple cider and brown sugar, then topped with butter and baked until soft and sweet.  You can get the exact recipe on the All You website.

If you don’t have a food processor, I recommend buying the bags of pre-grated carrots – otherwise it would be quite a task to grate all those carrots…

I think it was a hit, it was almost all gone after the meal and I even got a couple requests for the recipe!  The instructions say to serve it warm, but my casserole dish wouldn’t fit in the office microwave so I ended up serving it cold, and it was still really good.  Also, I made it the night before and refrigerated it overnight and it held up well, so you could do this one ahead of time.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Gluten-Free Review: Erewhon Buckwheat & Hemp Cereal

Happy Saturday, everyone!  I meant to do this post yesterday for Gluten-Free Friday but the work week wore me out and I was not in the mood to get on the PC last night…

Anyway, on to the review!  The lovely people at Attune Foods contacted me recently to see if I was interested in checking out their cereals, and of course I said yes as I love trying out new GF products.  They sent me a couple of boxes of Erewhon cereal to try out, and I opened up the Buckwheat & Hemp variety this week to check it out.

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Erewhon cereals are organic, high in fiber and protein, free of anything synthetic or artificial, have no refined flour or sugar, and are pretty much exactly what you are looking for in a healthy cereal.  Note that not all of their cereals are gluten free, but most of them are.

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Verdict?  If you like healthy cereals, you will really enjoy this cereal.  It’s hearty and crispy, and definitely holds you for awhile.  But if you’re looking for sugary sweet cereal, look elsewhere!  I ate mine with unsweetened almond milk so there was basically zero sweetness, but you could sweeten it up a bit by serving it over yogurt or with sweetened almond or soy milk. 

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And in case you’re sitting here thinking wait, the word “wheat” is in the name, that can’t be gluten free, think again!  Despite the incredibly misleading name, buckwheat is naturally gluten free.

So if you want a treat, stick to Gorilla Munch, my top pick for gluten-free sweet cereals.  But if you’re looking for a nutritional, hearty breakfast, pick up a box of Erewhon Buckwheat & Hemp Supergrain cereal!

I haven’t opened up the crispy brown rice variety, I try to only open one box of cereal at a time, but I will be sure to post a review when I try that one out!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Pumpkin Apple Berry Smoothie

I had some leftover pumpkin and apple cider from the Thanksgiving potluck dishes I made, so I decided to get a little creative with my breakfast smoothie today.  The weather might not be very fall-like here in Florida, but the flavors of this smoothie definitely got me into the spirit of the season!

Pumpkin Apple Berry Smoothie

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Serves 1

Ingredients

  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1/4 cup frozen raspberries
  • 1/4 cup pumpkin purée
  • 1/2 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 tbsp ground flaxseed
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1/2 cup apple cider

Directions

Combine all ingredients and blend until smooth.

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Note – the above ingredients are estimates, I always eyeball what I put in my smoothies.  I highly recommend the Magic Bullet for quick single-serving smoothies, it’s really easy to portion ingredients and get the amount of liquid just right. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Fitness Frustration

So, I’ve been trying to get back on track.  Really, I have.  But the past two nights I’ve hiked all the way over to the fitness center at my apartment complex in the dark only to find it completely full (there are only 2 treadmills and 2 bikes, so it’s not exactly hard to fill).  So frustrating!

Last night I let it get to me and ended up deciding that the walk there and back was enough exercise (it’s about a half mile round trip, so not totally unjustified).  And I channeled my frustrations into making a couple dishes for my work’s Thanksgiving potluck lunch, which happily turned out pretty good!

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            Cranberry Jeweled Carrots                          Pumpkin Muffins

But when it happened again tonight, I knew I couldn’t let it keep keeping me from a workout, so I busted out an old favorite – Jillian Michaels.

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Short, sweet and to the point, but definitely not the run I was hoping for.  By the time I got back it was all I had time for though, and unfortunately the short daylight hours and my work schedule makes outdoor workouts not an option.

I don’t want to keep trying to go out to the tiny apartment gym, so I’m either going to have to join a real gym or start amping up the at-home regimen.  Only problem is, once I get home I’m more likely to want to change into my PJs than my workout gear, so I’m thinking the gym is the best option, but I’m also not sure I want to spend the money right now.  Decisions, decisions!

How do you handle fitness setbacks and frustration?  Anyone have a good at-home system they recommend that keeps you motivated?

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Spoonful Sunday: Get Back on Track

I’m one of those people who gets off track fairly easily when dealing with changes to my routine – even just a short vacation has a negative effect on my healthy living motivation, so needless to say this past week of moving to a new state and starting a new job all at the same time has completely thrown me for a loop.

I’ve been getting up at about 6:30AM to get myself ready for work, and getting home at about 6PM ready to collapse on the couch.  I know I need to get back into exercising regularly ASAP or I’m going to start heading downhill fast, so this week I’m going to prioritize making time for fitness. 

The question is, morning or evening?  I’m already getting up pretty early, and getting up early enough to get in a good workout seems kind of daunting to me.  But then if I leave it until evening, I’m more likely to skip it because I don’t have time.  I’m thinking maybe a combination of the two, at least until I figure out which one works best for me, and making sure to hit it hard on the weekends when I have extra time.

I started my spoonful off right this evening and hit the mat for some yoga. 

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It felt so good!  It wasn’t as fun as my usual class from O2 Fitness with Jennifer, but it was still a good flow and stretch routine, and I clearly needed it.  Tomorrow I’m going to hit the treadmill at the fitness center here at my apartment complex when I get off work, no excuses!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Finally Made it to the Beach!

Happy Friday!  Got out a bit early from the office today so I knew immediately I wanted to head to the beach and check it out, as I have (shamefully) been here over a week and not made it across the bridge yet.

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Gorgeous, right?  I still can’t believe the beach is just a few minutes from where I work now.  The 17th street bridge dead ends at a state park right on the beach where parking is free, so I definitely want to head out there as often as possible on my lunch hours – at least during the off season!

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It’s been a pretty crazy week, and visiting the beach at sunset was the perfect way to cap it off and decompress for the weekend Smile 

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Heads up for Instagram users – be sure to look for your new Instagram profile, they’re rolling them out this week.  The URL will be Instagram.com/your user name.  I found mine up today, and it’s pretty cool – has kind of a Facebook feel with a collage header that rotates through some of your pictures.  They didn’t actually email me about it, but I spotted a Blogher tweet about it so I knew to go looking for it.  Great way to use Instagram on your PC!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Traveling Gluten Free

Traveling is probably one of the most difficult things if you’re gluten free, especially if you’re trying to eat while on the road and can’t do much research ahead of time.  This past week I ended up having to eat out quite a bit, and I wanted to share some of my best tips for eating out while traveling gluten free.

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  • Research, Research, Research – I cannot stress this one enough.  Be prepared!  If you’re staying in a hotel, get online before you leave and check out the area for restaurants that will work for you.  The Find Me Gluten Free app is great for this – you can use it to find places around your physical location, or you can also input an address for searching around your destination.  No smartphone?  All the more reason to research ahead of time using their website!
  • Pack Food – I always pack snacks for satiating my hunger when there are no GF options around.  GoPicnic meals are great for a complete shelf-stable meal, especially if you can find them on sale (check Target).  Other favorite packable snacks of mine are GF crackers with a Sargento cheese stick and deli meat, almonds, baby carrots and dip, and Envirokidz bars.  For breakfasts, I like to pack Greek yogurt (add raw almonds for extra staying power) or baggies of GF oats and packets of nut butter if there’s microwave access.
  • Stick to What You Know – I tend to stick to chains when I’m out on the road if I know I can eat there safely.  Obviously every place is different, but at least you know the food is reasonably consistent across locations and you’re familiar with the menu already so you know exactly what to ask if needed.  My favorites for sit-down restaurants are P.F. Changs and Outback Steakhouse, who both have great GF menus and usually reasonably well-trained staff.  For fast food the options are more limited, but I’ve always done well at Chick Fil A (grilled chicken nuggets with waffle fries or fruit cup) and Wendy’s (baked potato with bacon and cheese). 

It might not be the most adventurous way to eat, but at least I didn’t spend my moving weekend or first day at work sick!  I plan to start trying to branch out and find good gluten-free places here in Vero Beach soon, but for now I’m staying safe (and frugal) by eating at home!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Hello from Vero Beach!

After a loooong week of packing, loading, traveling, unloading, and unpacking I'm finally back to blogging! It has definitely been quite an adventure trying to get down here and settled in just a couple days - I haven't even made it out to the beach yet! But at least my apartment has a fairly decent view.
I definitely could not have done it without Hubs, who drove the truck down here and spent the long weekend helping me unpack, shop, and put together/set up everything in my new place. Thanks, honey! It's definitely odd being here without him, but at least I know he will be joining me soon.

Unfortunately we weren't able to get everything done, but I am definitely in the home stretch in terms of unpacking. Good thing, because yesterday I started my new job! Feels great to be gainfully employed again :) I even managed to land a job in my field, as a data coordinator for an advertising technology firm. I've barely gotten my feet wet, but I'm liking it so far. The view alone was enough to make me fall for the place!

Note that this is the view from the building, which I took from the parking lot. This is my personal view - not quite as stunning...

It's actually my first-ever cubicle, and it's not too bad - pretty roomy, and I've got some privacy, so it definitely could be worse! And it'll be better once I get a PC and add some personal touches :)

Now I might be pretty enamored with the place - the weather is amazing and the people are great - but Kitsa isn't adjusting quite so well unfortunately...

 

She was pretty good during the drive and in the hotel on the way down, but ever since we arrived she's been having issues. Seems okay most of the time when I'm around, but hides under the bed when I'm gone (pretty sure she spent the entire day there yesterday) and has been waking me up every night around 3am and meows nearly constantly and very loudly for a couple of hours. Now I sort of know what you parents deal with all the time - I haven't slept through the night since we got here! I got some calming spray yesterday but she woke me up again last night and it was just as bad. If any cat owners out there have tips for me I'd really appreciate it.

Well, lunch break is nearly over, time to get back to training!

 

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