Wednesday, October 17, 2012

We moved North

This blog has been quiet of late. We had the opportunity to move to the Portland, OR area, and jumped all over it. Living near Houston, TX was difficult with our food, and my seasonal allergies. Houston has fantastic food, but it's all gluten, corn, and soy based. Houston has beautiful people, but they are known for big hair, and lots of make up. Which requires corn, and gluten based products. Hubs wasn't able to grocery shop because of the allergens in the stores. Being outside was difficult most of the year because of my seasonal allergies. While we found one restaurant we could both eat in without getting sick it was 30+ miles from our home.

Portland, OR is known for their preference for local-seasonal eating. It is one of the top food allergy friendly places in the US. The people are down to earth and less frequently drenched in perfumes, hairsprays, body powders and make-up - triggers for those of us with gluten or corn in-tolerances.

We are delighted to be here. Currently we are in an apartment, where I wasted no time setting up a porch garden to continue to grow seasonal produce. Our search for a few acres has begun and we hope to purchase a place that will allow us to keep chickens and bees in addition to a large garden. Eventually we'd like to add a cow or 2 goats for dairy.

Hub's new company is much more educated on food allergies. His immediate supervisor has Celiac Disease and understands the need for safe foods, and preventing cross contamination.

There are dozens of allergy friendly bakeries, restaurants and grocery stores within 15 miles of our apartment. It has been wonderful. Even though I still make the bulk of our food from scratch, it sure is nice to go for fish and chips at Hawthorne Fish House occasionally. We can have breakfast at
Old Wives' Tales where they are happy to accommodate all of our allergies. We have tried two other places so far as well. Both fantastic.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Waste Not Want Not Wednesday

Oh my goodness I'm so excited about this. I read a blog ( and the author is hosting a "Waste Not Want Not Wednesday" blog share. I often rant about despising the idea of throwing out food. I'm excited to read other bloggers methods of avoiding of the trash can.

Some of my favorite ways to prevent throwing away food:

Meal planning: We plan meals for at least one week in advance. When life is really busy, I usually plan a month or more in advance. I try to plan just enough food for those present at the meal. As a back up plan I typically schedule a "leftovers" dinner a couple of times a month.

Glass container storage: I can see the leftovers in the fridge when I open the door. No mystery packages of food in foil or dark storage containers.

Leftover "remake" meals: Hubs really does not prefer most leftovers, so I always keep baking potatoes on hand. Just about any kind of left-over can go on spuds and it "feels" like a new meal. Whole chicken carcasses are made into chicken stock. Left-over chicken is chicken fried rice, white chicken chili (rather than cooking chicken breasts or thighs I just throw in the already cooked, chopped chicken with the beans and other cooked items), BBQ chicken on top of a potato, and so on. Rice and Quinoa also make a great base for leftovers to "top" and make a new meal out of yesterday's dinner.

Freezing leftover meals: I love to have a "freezer meal" on hand. Since we have multiple allergies we don't have many fast food or pre-made options. When there is enough leftover for a second meal, I freeze it in an oven safe dish. On a day when I know cooking will be a hassle, I put the frozen meal in the fridge to thaw then right into the oven to re-heat.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

We have a garden.  It's all vegetables and herbs.  We have a persimmon tree and an orange tree but both are too young to produce.  Maybe in a year or two.  I love knowing where my vegetables come from.  My back yard.  We use our own compost and neem oil (derived from a plant) in our garden.  None of our allergens are in our garden. 

This was dinner a few weeks ago.  I usually make a huge pan of lasagna with rice noodles that are safe for both of us and fresh ground pork or lamb and safe cheeses.  Then I freeze over half of it so we have "frozen meals".  I usually freeze two or three containers that hold enough for Hubs and I to both have dinner and then the rest as single serve meals, most in portion sizes for Hubs (which is close to twice what I need).  On nights when cooking seems like way too much effort we pull veggies to steam and throw a frozen pan of lasagna in the oven.  And on nights like that we sometimes even eat dinner in front of the computer to watch something on Netflix...

I hope to one day have our own bees for honey, our own chickens for eggs and meat and our own goats for milk and cheese.  And it'd be nice to also have a pond with fish....  For now I maintain a huge garden that enables us to forgo the purchase of supermarket vegetables.  It's a nice start.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Chicken Stock

Every week or ten days I throw a whole chicken in the crock pot. It's the easiest way to cook a chicken. The chicken can be thrown in frozen and it'll still cook beautifully. I usually just throw it in and crack pepper and salt over the top then leave it on low until 5p or some where in there.

After we eat it for dinner with (usually) potatoes and steamed veggies I dump the veggie cooking water (minus what I pour on our pups dinner) into the pot with the carcass, skin, fat and other bits left over from the chicken. I usually need to add water as there is typically only 3-4 cups of veggie cooking water on hand. When I know I'm making broth I try to save the veggie cooking/steaming water for a couple of days before I make broth. Celtic Sea Salt, cracked pepper and whatever herbs are handy go in. Usually some garlic. If there are older onions in the fridge they go in also.

This sits on low in the same crock pot on my counter for two days. Usually dinner on the second day (the house smell so fantastic) I'm ready to use that broth. I like making thick hearty meatless dishes like split pea soup or potato soup or I'll make a chicken based soup such as good old fashioned chicken soup (with rice or noodles) and we always love White Chicken Chili. When using the broth the same night I just send the broth through a colander right into the soup pot on the stove. If I'm not using it immediately (pictured) I skim it into my four cup glass measure cup and pour it into jars. Once it has cooled I stick the jars in the fridge if I am going to use it within a day or two or the freezer if longer. I usually get 10-12 cups of stock but it varies on how much water I put in. If the carcass is very small I tend to add less liquid so that the stock has strong flavor. I try and keep a few jars in the freezer all the time so I always have a quick meal. The jars of broth thaw quickly in a pan of warm water.

Whatever lands in the colander is trash. Usually everything cooks down into a very mushy three cups or less mess.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

(our) Allergen Free Beer

Over the last year I haven't had beer. Hubs brews his own and controls the ingredients to exclude his allergens (primarily corn and soy) but hasn't attempted a gluten free beer. Mostly because the GF beers I have tasted were horrible. Prior to my gluten intolerance discovery I enjoyed beers such as St Arnolds Brown and Amber ales. I never tolerated the Bud or Coors beers. I liked, in small quantities, a good Guinness but having been through England and Ireland the beer imported to the US just wasn't the same and I never did drink much of it. Greens Dubbel Dark Ale was the first beer I had tasted in about six months. I'd given up on beer, which was okay I prefer wine and had found some labels that were vegetarian (to avoid beef which I'm allergic to) and were really good. The Dubbel Dark was delicious. I had two when usually I'd limit myself to one. I had it with fish and chips that had been coated with brown rice flour and fried in rice oil. The combination was amazing and I can't stop thinking about it. The beer was sweeter than Guinness but richer than St Arnolds Brown. Hopefully I can get Hubs to make a few comments about this beer because all I can really say is it was delicious and before you write off GF beers - try this one. (It's made without corn also. Which I have never seen before.)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Menu Planning Saved The Day

We lost one of our dogs quite unexpectedly over the weekend. I have no appetite and no interest in food but life must go on despite grief and today has been an utter waste except for dinner. One look at my menu and I knew to drop a frozen chicken in the crock pot. So now I can smell chicken and I'm thinking about mashed potatoes and carrots. Comfort food. Nearly 12 hours have passed since I got up and I have no idea where it went... But we have dinner! :) Sunshine would be happy about that. My sweet girl didn't miss a meal for anything. So even if I didn't mop my floors or fold my laundry. I walked our dog Scratch and made dinner. That has to count for something considering how hard we have to work to have a meal around here. =) The weekend wasn't just a sad affair. Only a few hours prior to the death of my precocious doggie I discovered a beer. It is all of our combined allergens free. So NO corn, soy, wheat, beef..... Give me a few days to wallow in my misery and then I will give my review of this beer. I haven't had a Gluten Free beer I have liked. And I'll see if I can get Hubs to chime in - he makes his own corn free brew and actually knows his beers. Me - I can only speak to whether or not it tastes good.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

February Menu

By meal planning a few months at a time I can make purchases on meat and other items that are costly but can be frozen for later use. It also helps me utilize all leftovers. For instance, I purchase whole chickens (the healthy ones with room to roam and adequate time to grow with out hormones and antibiotic use) and cook them in the crock pot. Then I make broth by adding water, spices and herbs to the pot with the bones, skin and other bits of leftovers from the chicken once it has been cleaned of meat. It usually sits on my counter for two days on low. Then I use the broth to make a soup, lentils, gravies and so on. Left over chicken means fried rice or another dish that calls for cooked chicken. Meal planning also cuts down on trips to the grocery store. I go each Friday to get fresh fish and keep a little list of other items I'll need like fruit or veggies. This is a very quick trip to the store and usually not very expensive. I do a really big shopping every month but I'm working to make it every 6-8 weeks (I think I was successful in January) that blows the bulk of our grocery budget minus dairy which we purchase from Gramen Farms.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Fast Food Night: Bison Burgers & Sweet Tater Fries

So we miss fast food. We don't miss the gross after eating it feeling but I really miss a huge burger and fries. When Hubs was diagnosed, we got really good at making burgers at home. A friend introduced us to home made sweet potato fries and it was a perfect addition to burger night. Now with no gluten it's impossible to find a good burger bun and I'm still trying recipes. Mostly the best thing to do is make a top 1/2 and bottom 1/2 of a bun rather than try and bake something to be cut in half. Since I'm allergic to beef we use bison.

First I chopped up several raw sweet potatoes. I like the skin on so I don't peel them, I just wash them off and chop them. The sit and dry while the oil heats (they are also good in the oven, baked rather than fried but for fast food night frying is a must).

While the oil gets hot I mix buns. I used a grain free recipe this time that was butter, almond flour, an egg and a little salt. They mix up quickly and go into the oven right before I put in the first batch of sweet taters, and mix the bison. I use 2 pounds because when you're going to make burgers you may as well have leftovers. They freeze well if they make it that long.

Hubs came in and dug out some bacon and beans too. In the bison I mix finely chopped onion, garlic powder and home made chili powder mix. Also an egg to help it stay together. I mix it all well and make four large burgers and two smaller ones - sometimes David will eat two burgers but even he can't do a pound of meat in addition to sides...

The first batch of fries is done before everything else and usually gets eaten before the rest of the food is done. Kind of like an appetizer. Just as we are done with the rest of the food and load up our plates the second batch of fries is complete. The third batch cooks as we eat.... and usually we eat some off the pan like dessert.... They reheat well in the toaster oven so we try not to eat them all.

Hubs made navy beans with a little of this and that. He's getting more creative in the kitchen and likes to throw everything in. It's usually how I cook, but for him it's very new - he's a recipe guy. The beans had kick which he likes.

Oh and don't forget some delicious cheese.... a chunk of grilled onion, some tomato, lettuce and some homemade BBQ sauce for the top....

We didn't get any plated pictures because we ate so fast. And it was amazing. I love good food. I should be a huge person but thankfully I'm not (thank you 24 hour fitness).

Home Made BBQ Sauce
1 cup tomato sauce (I use an organic olive oil, basil & garlic)
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup + 2TBSP vinegar (I use Bragg's Apple Cider)
3/4 cup brown sugar (I use an organic brown sugar)
3 TBSP olive oil (I use about 1.5 TBSP b/c my sauce I use has olive oil in it)
2 TBSP Paprika
1 TBSP Home made Chili powder
2 cloves garlic minced
1 tsp cayenne

So the original directions say to heat the oil and saute the garlic first then add everything and simmer 15 mins but I just dump all of the above into a sauce pan and simmer it, stirring occasionally until it thickens. Which is usually more like an hour of simmering but only because I like a thicker sauce. The apple cider vinegar is a natural preservative so it keeps in a tightly sealed jar in the fridge for a month or more. Usually we eat it in less than 6 weeks so I'm not sure how long it'd actually last.

Ethiopian Food

We love food from all over the world. Prior to discovery of all our allergies we would go out for Indian food, Ethiopian food, French food and more. With our myriad of allergies we are very limited in our dining out. At home we primarily eat organic foods, so even if we can find a restaurant we can both eat in, the food is sometimes difficult to digest when it's conventional.

I meal plan a few months in advance and do one big monthly grocery shopping trip then pick up fresh fish, fruits and veggies as needed on Fridays. This helps us stay within our food budget and keeps me from getting bored with cooking. I incorporated several labor intensive dishes for weekends when I have more time to cook.

One night last weekend was Ethiopian night. I started the Injera a few days early so it would have time to sour. The link is to the recipe I'm going to use next time. The recipe I used last weekend didn't have me feed it and then keep some for later like a sour dough bread. It was more like using just a starter - which made for a very flavorful bread.

I also mixed Berbere, their traditional spice mix. I omitted the spices we are unable to use (ginger for instance) and I made my own Chili Powder for adding to some of the dishes while cooking. (Chili powder is a mix of spices/herbs that nearly always has an additive to prevent clumping or caking. It's usually corn based.)

The morning of our Ethiopian dinner I made Niter Kebbeh (scroll down about 1/2 way), the traditional Ethiopian butter. It's clarified and flavored with herbs and spices.

A few of the steps in this T'ibs recipe is making a mock Niter Kebbeh of sorts. Rather than follow that portion I used a Tablespoon of the Niter Kebbeh I'd made that morning.

The afternoon before I cooked, I set the lamb for T'ibs (lamb stew) to marinate and I chopped all the vegetables I would need for all of my recipes.

I organized the recipes by the length of time it would take them to cook. I made Yemiser W'et (spicy lentil stew) which required lentils to be cooked prior to seasoning. I put a pot of lentils on to boil while I had Hubs sear the lamb.

I also made Yetakelt W'et (spicy mixed vegetable stew). But since all the veggies were chopped this took minimal work.

Once everything was to the simmering for flavor point I got out my huge pan and started cooking Injera. I made about 6 pieces. We didn't have a platter large enough to serve it traditionally with one communal plate so I served it on two plates. Basically when everything is cooked you put down Injera then servings of each dish on top. It's served with extra Injera and everything is eaten with one hand scooping up servings in pieces of Injera torn into chunks. I made three dishes because traditionally there would be a selection of dishes. Injera doesn't store well. It requires that one eats it at the meal for which it is cooked. For the left overs I made a large pot of rice and we ate the dishes with rice in lieu of Injera.

The dishes were delicious. The Injera will be better when I make it over the course of a few days and use it as intended, like a starter. Also I was completely grossed out because there was a bit of mold on it one day. Upon research, I discovered this is (mostly) normal and the mold should be scooped out of the starter and the starter should be fed and stirred well. I scooped it out but since I wasn't doing the starter method it wasn't fed and what not. This effected my enjoyment of the Injera though and next time I'll keep a closer eye on it and do the starter method.

The recipes were very easy to modify for our allergies. Teff flour is naturally gluten free and I simply omitted the spices we were allergic to and made our own mixes. Next month I'm doing Ethi night again but I'm going to try Doro Wat (Ethiopian chicken stewed in red pepper paste) rather than the lamb. The lamb was delicious but I can't see making two meat based dishes for two people.