Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Mexican Supper with Quinoa

Mexican food is my absolute favorite, after Greek food of course. I always find myself frustrated at Mexican restaurants though... Right when I sit down, corn chips and salsa stare me in the face, taunting me, reminding me how difficult its going to be to find something on the menu that's safe. I can't drink margaritas or pina coladas because they're loaded with sugar. And anything made with any sort of tortilla or shell is totally out. Half the time, the guacamole has tomatoes in it, so I can't even eat that.

Then, once I do order something that seems safe, I have to remind the server to leave out the sour cream, salsa, and cheese. Then I have to ask if the rice is made with tomato sauce (which it usually is), and after that I get to drill them about the meat marinades. Eating out is such a joy isn't it?

Naturally, my solution to this problem is simple: I do it myself. If I'm in charge, I can make something delicious and satisfying that I don't have to think twice about eating. Enter Mexican Supper. This skillet has got it all: grains, legumes, veggies, and the perfect amount of spice, with a killer guacamole to boot. I hope you enjoy it as much as my family did! Direct quote from my mom: "Well, you did it again babe!"

Mexican Supper with Quinoa

2 tbsp. olive oil
1 cup chopped walla walla sweet onion
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1 1/2 tsp. chili powder
2 tsp. minced garlic
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup quinoa
1 cup chopped red pepper
1 can pinto beans
1/4 cup chopped green chilies
1 tsp. honey
1 tbsp. dried cilantro (fresh would also be good, I didn't have any on hand)
Guacamole (recipe below)

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Add the onions, celery, pepper flakes and chili powder and cook until the veggies are soft, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute. Stir in the water, salt, quinoa, red peppers, beans, chilies and honey. Cook 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add cilantro and cook 5 more minutes, or until water is gone.

Top each serving with homemade guacamole. Makes 4 servings


2 ripe avocados
1 tsp. garlic
Juice from 1/2 of a lime
1/2 tsp. sea salt

Put all ingredients in a blender and process until whipped. This will give it a light, fluffy texture. I completely made up this recipe today, and I promise I have NEVER tasted guac this good. Hopefully you yield the same results I did!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Be Well Tip: Out with the old

I have Mondays off work. Which is awesome when you have lots of fun plans in the sun with your friends, but that requires your friends to have days off as well. Yeah, doesnt work out that way. So instead, I took on a little project: cleaning out our pantry.

Going through shelf by shelf, I could not believe the stuff I was finding. Gravy flour that my mom says probably hasn't been used in 5 years, old meat seasonings ridden with MSG, beef granules (um..eww!!), lemon scone mix that was never opened...how we acquired this stuff I can only guess. We even had a half used can of UW Husky hot chocolate mix that turns purple when you add hot water. My sister and I both went to WSU...yeah that got dumped down the drain real fast.

Then there was the more obvious stuff, like corn starch, corn syrup, wheat pastas, flour, and powdered sugar, which used to get used all the time in our house, but haven't been touched in months. While my dad and sister could have been using this stuff, lets be honest, my mom and I are in charge of the food in our house, so it all just sits there.

My mom and I both have trouble throwing things away. I hate the idea that we paid for something, only to watch it go down the drain. Not to mention the fact that there are hungry people in our country and others who would happily take our half used box of popcorn. For this reason, anything that hadn't been opened, I donated to our church, who takes it to a food bank. However, I'm not sure what to do with the perfectly good stuff that has been opened. I haven't thrown it away yet, so if you have any brilliant ideas, please share!

I wanted to share this with you because I think its something that can really liberate you when you change your diet. Lately, I've been having a hard time sticking to mine 100%. Already, I feel more empowered now that I know that almost everything in my house is safe for me to eat. It motivates me to be better about my eating so I can truly heal. Plus, it feels great to give unneeded items to someone who needs them. It may be a little late for spring cleaning, but hey, summer cleaning has the same effect, I promise. So get rid of all that stuff thats weighing you down, and start getting well!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Take Back "Pizza Night" with Crab Artichoke Pizza

In the Vitort house, Friday night has always been pizza night. Since going gluten, dairy and tomato free however, we've been experimenting with new ways of making pizza that wont make anyone sick. I'm proud to say I've finally perfected my pizza recipe to the point where it is worth sharing!

Usually we just put Daiya cheese on it, but I was in Cannon Beach the other day, looking at the menu of our old favorite gourmet pizza parlor, Pizza a Fetta, and noticed they had a crab meat pizza. I looove crab so I figured I could test out my own crab pizza recipe. Let me tell you, first time was definitely the charm on this one. My mom and I both loved it; in fact, I'm getting ready to eat the leftovers for lunch as we speak!

Crab Artichoke Pizza

Dough: Your favorite pizza dough mix. I prefer Namaste Pizza Crust mix because its gluten, dairy, potato and corn free, and the recipe doesn't call for eggs. Chebe is also good if you like a chewier crust.

1 jar roasted red peppers
1/2 c. cashews
2-3 cloves garlic
2 tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper

1 c. crab meat (don't use fake "krab", it isnt gluten free and its disgusting)
1 can artichoke hearts
1/2 pkg. Daiya mozzerella shreds (this cheese is dairy AND soy free and melts like regular cheese - its awesome)

Bake crust according to package directions. The Namaste bakes for 20 minutes at 450 degrees. In a food processor, combine the sauce ingredients and mix well. Spread sauce over warm pizza crust, top with crab and artichokes, then sprinkle cheese over the top. Bake 8-10 more minutes at 450 degrees.

Serves 3-4.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Go Greek, Eat Well (Review of Dorio Restaurant Plus Mediterrabean Chicken Recipe!)

This is a two part post, dedicated to the best 6 weeks of my life: my study abroad trip to Greece! I know I mention this all the time, but I can't help it, I'm obsessed. Hope you don't mind, because this won't be the last you'll be hearing of it ;-)

I don't do Greek restaurants often, because it makes me sad that I have to avoid the tatziki, feta, tomatoes, pitas, yogurt and anything made with phyllo dough and it absolutely breaks my heart. On top of that, the only Greek restaurant I've eaten at in Portland, Greek Cusina, went out of business sometime in the last year (not that it was very good anyways).

So I'm skimming the Oregonian a few weeks back (this has become my new morning ritual) and I notice a place called Dorio's Taverna highlighted in the Cheap Eats column. I read on, discovering that Dorio's is a new restaurant on NW 23rd that serves inexpensive, authentic Greek food. Obviously, I had to check it out.

Yesterday, I headed to Dorios with my mom and my boyfriend to grab some dinner. And let me say, I was not at all disappointed. The decor is classy, making you feel like you are in a much more expensive restaurant. The menu isn't extensive but it has all the Greek staples: Greek salad, Souvlaki, gyro sandwiches, Spanikopita, greek meatballs, moussaka, kalamari and greek fries. They even serve Ouzo!

I ordered lamb souvlaki, Greek salad sans tomato and feta, and hummus. Everything was beyond incredible, and very reasonably priced. My mom and Ryan shared greek fries (which I tried and were amazing as well), and Ryan ordered a gyro sandwich that he was also very pleased with. The souvlaki was perfectly seasoned, the salad was fresh and light, and I can't even begin to tell you how good the hummus was. Turns out the owner's son makes it from scratch and its his own secret recipe; none of the other restaurant employees know how to make it!

All in all, I would highly recommend Dorio's to anyone with or without dietary restrictions. The staff was very accommodating to my mom and I, and Ryan, who has no allergies, was happy with his meal as well. So no matter who you are, you should try it out!!

The second part of this post is a recipe I made my family the other night. Again, in the mood for Mediterranean cuisine, I made Mediterranean chicken with falafel. Everyone loved it, including my boyfriend Ryan who isn't used to allergy free cooking. So you can imagine I was especially proud of myself. This stuff is amazing, you'll love it! The chicken recipe is below, and the falafel was a packaged mix from Orgran that I got at Lingonberries market.

Mediterranean Chicken

2 tsp. olive oil
2 tbsp. white wine
2-3 cups precooked chicken, cubed
3 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 cup diced onion
2 cups roasted red peppers, diced
1/2 cup white win
2 tsp. thyme
1 tbsp. basil
1/2 cup pitted kalamata olives
1/4 c. parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil and 2 tbsp white wine in a large skillet over medium heat. Add chicken and saute until golden brown. Set aside.

Saute garlic in same pan, sans chicken, for 30 seconds. Add onion and saute for 3 minutes. Add roasted red peppers and cook for another minute. Add 1/2 cup white wine and reduce heat to a simmer for 10 minutes. Add thyme and basil and simmer another 5 minutes. Return chicken to skillet, add olives and parsley, cover, and cook for 1 minute. Add salt and pepper, remove from heat, and serve.

Serves 5-6.

Yamas! (Thats Greek for "Cheers" :) )

Monday, June 21, 2010

A little change...

Hey all,

Seeing as I'm all into cooking now and am getting some real training in the kitchen, my parents, who will soon both be working 40 hours a week, have decided to hire me as their personal chef. I will be planning the meals, doing the shopping, and cooking dinner every night that I'm available to do so. Since this will be a new and probably challenging venture for me, I've decided to blog about it. I will continue to post recipes and review restaurants, but my main focus will be on my everyday experiences in the kitchen, sharing with you what I'm making, how it turned out, what the verdict was, etc.

I'll probably get started on this next week, so here's a little background about my family and what challenges I'll be facing as I do this. My mom is sensitive to wheat, dairy, sugar, chocolate, caffeine, corn, peanuts and dehydrated garlic and onions. As of today, she found out she has candida, which will eliminate sugar from her diet altogether, including honey, agave nectar, and some fruit. They also found that she has antibodies for gluten and casein, so full-on celiac may be a possibility. She's also supposed to lower her intake of grains in general. This new information is really going to challenge me; I love using fruit and honey as sweetners.

My dad, as far as we know, is just lactose intolerant. He also eats a low sodium diet because of cholesterol or kidney something or other. He's easy when it comes to restrictions, but he will be harder to please with new concoctions. Thankfully, he's open to me cooking and I'm hoping that this diet will improve his an my moms health either way.

As you know, I stay away from wheat, barley, spelt, amaranth, dairy, eggs, corn, potato, tomato, sugar, peanuts and oranges. I also may switch to gluten free oats, because if my mom has gluten antibodies, I might too (haven't been tested).

My house is going to see a real change in the way we eat. I'm about to become the food allergy nazi, I kid you not. So I can promise that my blog posts from now on will be both entertaining and enlightening and I hope you will enjoy following me along my journey!

Black Bean Crackers

Don't get me wrong, I love me some rice crackers, but they do get boring after a while. Unfortunately, most other gluten free crackers are off limits to me because of potato flour, eggs, dairy, etc. These crackers are delicious and pack some protein into your crackers by using beans as a base. They are great topped with hummus or lunch meat.

Black Bean Crackers
1 c. canned black beans
1/4 c. olive oil
1/2 c. rice flour
1/4 c. flax meal
1/4 c. tapioca starch
1/8 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a food processor, puree black beans. Add remaining ingredients until dough ball forms. Roll dough into 1 inch balls and flatten on a cookie sheet with the bottom of a cup. Sprinkle with salt, then bake 20 minutes. Serve and enjoy!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Rice Balls

Funny story behind these little buggers...

My first night in Greece (well, technically the second since I slept from 3 p.m. till 9 a.m. the first day), our group went out to eat together in Athens and ended up at a Spanish bistro. The menu had a lot of really unique items I'd never heard of, so I went with something that sounded appetizing: Rice Balls. Basically, they are balls or rice and cheese rolled in bread crumbs and fried. Healthy right? But definitely delicious. The name struck my friend Kim and I's funny bones...we couldn't stop saying it all night.

Later, we were playing a lively game of kings cup in our hotel room, and someone made a rule that everyone had to nickname the person to their right and the name had to stick throughout the entire game. (little did we know, the names would stick throughout the entire trip). Still amused from our dinner convo, we decided to nickname our friend Paul "Rice Balls". I still call him that to this day.

So, of course, I decided to make them, sans cheese and with GF bread crumbs. Enjoy!!

Rice Balls

2 c. arborio rice, cooked
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 c. canned pumpkin
1/4 c. water
1 tbsp. tapioca starch
1 tsp. vegetable oil
1 c. Orgran rice crumbs
salt and pepper

Mix rice, olive oil, pumpkin, salt and pepper. In a separate bowl, whisk the veggie oil, starch and water. Form the rice mixture into balls, cover with the starch mixture, then coat with bread crumbs. Fry in safflower oil in a hot skillet until golden brown, then flip to brown other side. Serve and enjoy!!

Salmon Fettucini with Basil Pesto Sauce

Ahh the wonders of untouched pantry items. My parents have decided that, since I need cooking practice, I am now the Vitort house chef. I do the shopping, come up with menus and prepare our dinners. Which allows me to convert my parents into full-on "Vitortarians". (Vitortarian = a word I made up to describe one who steers clear of common allergens, refined sugars, artificial sweeteners and other gross chemicals, and tries to eat almost 100% organically). I now have control over what food gets brought into the house, therefore giving me all the dietary power :).

So anyways, as I'm making my dinner menu for the week, my mom starts rummaging through the pantry, trying to get me to use things we already have in my menus. We had a bunch of rice pasta, and randomly, two cans of salmon, and my wheels started turning. Some sort of salmon pasta perhaps? Then I came across a recipe for dairy free basil pesto in my Anti-Inflammatory Diet cookbook, and it clicked! Salmon fettucini (which i have the HARDEST time spelling) with basil pesto sauce!

Last night I tried out my experimental dish on my dad, and he loved it! And let me tell you, I was actually really impressed with myself as well. I'm really starting to get better at this whole cooking deal!

Salmon Fetuccini with Basil Pesto Sauce

1 pkg. DeBoles Rice Fettucini
2 cans salmon or pkgs smoked salmon
3 cups fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts
3 tsp. minced garlic

Boil 4 quarts of water on the stove. When water boils, add noodles, return to boil, and cook for 7 minutes. Meanwhile, add basil, oil, pine nuts and garlic to Cuisinart and blend. When noodles are cooked, drain off the water and rinse with cold water. Break salmon up into small pieces. Add noodles, pesto sauce and salmon to a serving dish and toss so that the sauce covers all the noodles and the salmon is distributed throughout.

Serves 4.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Melt-In-Your-Mouth Pumpkin Bars + Updates!

Hey all! Sorry I haven't been updating very consistently...I don't like to post without photos but my camera really sucks. So I'm giving in, sorry I don't have any photos this time but I promise you'll like this recipe so please try it anyways!

Before I hand that over, I wanted to do a couple shout outs.

First of all, if you are from the Portland area and haven't checked out Abby's Table, you are seriously missing out. She caters and does private cheffing, and best of all, she hosts a 4-course gluten, dairy and soy free dinner at her kitchen (609 SE Ankeny St. in Portland) every Wednesday. Cost is $18 per person and I promise, you get more than your money's worth. All you have to do is sign up ahead of time at her website www.abbystable.com.

Next of all, Lingonberries, the gluten-free grocery store I work at in Vancouver has some new exciting products. Snyder's of Hanover, which is a hu
uuge pretzel company, now makes a gluten free version of their famous pretzel! And not only that, they are cheap in comparison to the other GF pretzels out there. They still have corn and potato, so I personally stay away from them, but we've had them one day and are almost sold out!

Also, we accidentally received a product we didn't even order, Quinoa Macaroons. And let me tell you, they are my new favorite. I don't normally do GF cookies because one way or another, I can never eat them. But I can eat these and they are AMAZING! I've never seen them before so I'm guessing we are the only local store that carries them, so I recommend you high-tail it over to Lingonberries before they sell out too!

Now for the most exciting part: a new recipe. This is one of my favorite new things you guys, I swear by this recipe and I hope you'll love it just as much as I do!

Sarah's Melt-In-Your-Mouth Pumpkin Bars
1 c. organic canned pumpkin
1/2 c. vegetable oil
3/4 c. coconut sugar (we sell it at Lingonberries, I highly recommend it)
1 c. brown rice flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 c raisins or fruit juice sweetened cranberries (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix pumpkin, oil, and sugar in a food processor. Add remaining ingredients (except raisins) and blend until batter is smooth. Stir in raisins or cranberries by hand. Pour into a greased 8x8 glass pan. Bake 20-25 minutes or until you can insert a toothpick and it comes out clean. Let cool, then enjoy!

My whole family went nuts over these; I cut them in tiny squares and they were still gone suuper fast. And its a sneaky way to get a serving of veggies in thanks to the pumpkin!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Shrimp and Bacon Fried Rice

Before I get to this recipe, I want to share some exciting news! As of yesterday, I am now a proud employee of Lingonberries Market, a gluten free grocery store in Vancouver. Its awesome; not only is everything in the store gluten free, but they have options for people with almost every food allergy. And I basically get to check out all the products and build my knowledge about food allergies. It is seriously the perfect job for me.

I've also been apprenticing at Abby's Table. Abby is a natural chef who caters healthy food for people with special diets, like myself. She catered my graduation party a few weeks back and her stuff is amazing. She also has a line of sauces that are absolutely to die for. So I'm learning the ins and outs of working in a kitchen. I'm also going to be assisting her with product demos for her sauces at various places. It's been such a great opportunity for me, I'm so happy with the direction my life has taken!

So, about this recipe. When I was in school, my roommate Emily would always cook absolutely fabulous meals for me and our other roommates. 99.9% of the time, whatever she made was something I should absolutely not be eating, but I ate it anyway because that girl could cook! One of my favorite recipes was her fried rice recipe. It's been on my mind for months, so I decided to recreate it with my own twist. Emily's secret was that she added bacon to the mix. You will not believe how good this stuff is.

Shrimp and Bacon Fried Rice

1 packet Trader Joe's frozen jasmine rice
1 leek, chopped
1 c. broccoli
1 c. red bell pepper, chopped
2 tbsp. wheat-free tamari
2 c. precooked frozen cocktail shrimp
6 slices turkey bacon (we cook all the bacon and then freeze it, so you can reheat it whenever you need it without having to wait for it to cook)
Olive, sesame, or grapeseed oil

Thaw the shrimp for an hour or so before you begin cooking. Cook the packet of rice according to the directions. You can also make a batch of regular jasmine rice, I just love the TJ's stuff cause it cooks in 3 minutes in the microwave. Chop the veggies and put them in a large skillet with the oil. Once the rice is done, add it to the skillet. Chop up the bacon and add it and the shrimp to the mix. Add the tamari and saute all the ingredients until shrimp and bacon are cooked through. Serve and enjoy!