Friday, December 28, 2012

The Christmas Ham

      Growing up in the Philippines, a country where Christmas season officially starts on September 1st and ends on the Feast of the Epiphany, there are so many beautiful traditions that now I would like to pass on to my children.  Since we don't have the same 4 or so months of celebration here in the United States, I try to make December 24th and 25th as special as possible.

       Noche Buena or the Christmas Eve Meal is the highlight of the Filipino celebration.  This festive meal which usually takes place at exactly midnight, according to my late grandmother is a birthday party for Jesus Christ.  I remember family members would gather around the table, say grace and enjoy each other's company (or not! Well, one has no choice coz the elders require your attendance) while eating what seems to look like more than a week's worth of food. 

       For this year, I still continued the midnight feast.  However, I have to change the menu since most of the almost all the traditional food are not allergy friendly. Goodbye to the cheese platter, Buco Fruit Salad, Chicken Macaroni Salad, Embutido, Morcon etc.

        I was about to scrap the idea of having the star of the Noche Buena which is the Chrismas Ham since most of the pre-made hams aren't allergy friendly or if so, it's crazy expensive.  Come on, it's not Christmas without the ham!  

       While doing last minute grocery shopping at the local Asian store, I came across this nice sized fresh pork shoulder labeled as  Pork Ham.  Call it a light bulb moment but I was inspired to make my very own Christmas Ham.  Though I forgo the curing and the drying steps necessary for regular hams, this version is so easy to follow and delicious you'll come back for more.      


3 1/4 to 4 lbs of fresh bone in pork shoulder
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 1/2 cup pineapple juice
3 1/2 Tbs. sea salt
1 1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/2 tsp cloves
1 pc sliced pineapple

1. In a big bowl, mix all the ingredients except for the pork shoulder.  Make sure the sugar and salt are completely dissolved.
2. Score the skin of the pork shoulder and put in the bowl with the seasoning mixture.
3. Cover the bowl and let the pork marinate for at least 2 hours.
4. Transfer the pork and marinade to an oven proof dish and bake at 400 degrees for an hour.
5. Lower the temperature to 350 degrees, cover with foil and bake for another 2 1/2 to 3 hours.  Baste the pork with the marinade every 30 minutes.
6. Once cooked, slowly remove the skin and glaze the ham with the sauce collected in the pan. Let the ham rest in the pan for 20 minutes.
7. Transfer to a serving dish and top with a sliced pineapple.
8. Slice thinly and enjoy!

- Roz

Friday, December 21, 2012

Chicken Marsala - Gluten Free Recipe

      Chicken Marsala is one of my favorites. It's simple to prepare and only requires just a few ingredients.  When our household became gluten, dairy and egg free, I thought I will have a tough time remaking this dish.

        Last month, while wine shopping at Wegman's, I accidentally passed by the Marsala wines. With just 2 bottles remaining, I had this urge to grab one.  The next day, I worked on my new version of Chicken Marsala.  With a little tinkering on the breading, I was able to come up with a dish that I'll say even better that my regular recipe. 


5 pcs. Skinless, boneless Chicken breast portions

Breading Mix:
2/3 c Waterchestnut powder (you can also use corn starch)
1 tsp sea salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp chili powder

1 cup Marsala wine
16 oz chicken broth
2 Tbs. sea salt
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 tsp chili flakes
2 Tbs vegan buttery spread (or regular butter)
4 Tbs olive oil
3 medium sized bell peppers (cut into strips)
1 medium sized onion (sliced in half moon shapes)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

1. Prepare the chicken breast by slicing it in half and pounding it to about 1/4 inch thick.  Set aside.
2. In a big shallow bowl, combine the ingredients for the breading mix.
3. Heat a big skillet and add the olive oil.
4. Coat the chicken pieces with the breading mix and pan fry in batches.  About 3 minutes on each side.  Do not overcook.
5. Using the same pan, add the butter and saute the bell peppers and onion.
6. Once the onions turned translucent, add the marsala wine to deglaze the pan. Make sure to scrape the browned bits.  Those are full of flavor.
7. Pour in the chicken stock and bring the mixture to a boil.
8. When the stock starts to boil, season with the oregano, black pepper, chili flakes and 1 Tbs. of sea salt. 
9. Taste the sauce.  If you think it needs more salt, slowly add the remaining 1 Tbs. tasting after each addition. The amount of salt you will use depends on the type of stock you used. 
10. Put the chicken pieces on the the pan with the sauce and simmer covered for 20 to 40 minutes.  Stir occasionally to prevent the meat from sticking on the bottom of the pan.
11. Turn off heat and add the chopped parsley.  Mix before serving.



Monday, December 10, 2012

Ham & Cheese Breakfast Roll Ups

       Breakfast is always big in our house.  Since it is the first meal of the day, I want to make sure that everyone gets to have their fill of carbs, protein and even vitamins. After that, they can eat crappy right? (Yeah right!)

        Anyway, while I was making some pancakes the other day, I was inspired to use the left over ham and Daiya shreds in the fridge.  What could possible go wrong?  After all, when I was still in school, I remember having those Waffles filled with salty ham and gooey cheese at the cafeteria. Ah!  I know what you're thinking when I said the C word.  Well, I confess I am one of those lucky ones whose food were made from scratch by the Sisters everyday and these nuns are such great cooks.  Having said that, this simple recipe brings great childhood memories.  Plus, it's so easy to prepare and can be made ahead of time. 

Your favorite Pancake Batter  (I used the Cherrybrook Kitchen Pancake Mix)
Organic Deli Ham Slices
Daiya Cheddar Style Shreds or regular shredded cheese (your fave)

1. Prepare the batter.  Since I used a mix, I followed the directions to make 7 pancakes.
2. Pour the batter on a hot skillet or griddle. Pancakes should be at least 4 inches in diameter. 
3. Once the surface looks like it's ready (about 2-3 minutes), place a slice of ham and flip. You will hear some sizzle.
4. Cook for another 2 minutes.
5. Transfer to a plate with a ham side up. 
6. Sprinkle with shredded cheese and roll.
7. Enjoy!


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Passion Fruit Sherbet - Dairy Free

      I can't believe the Thanksgiving weekend is over. With so much preparation and research (this was the first celebration where everything was wheat, dairy, egg, nut and soy free), I was so surprised how the dishes turned out way better than I expected. 
      For those who are asking what my kids with food allergies eat, here was our menu:
                          Beef Bougignon
                          Chicken Marsala
                          Cheesy Corn Bread
                          Garlic Mashed Potatoes
                          Easy Stir Fried Green Beans
                          Roasted "Turkey" with Citrus Glaze
                          Steamed Rice (of course!)
      You might notice that I used "Turkey".  Well for years now, I am roasting a big chicken instead of the regular turkey because there's just no way we could finish a whole bird. So far, I can still get away with it.
    Anyway, after days of binging and finishing leftovers, I can't help but look for light and refreshing treats.  This dessert not only satisfies that craving but is packed with Vitamin C. What's not to love?

- Roz


1 bag 14oz Passion Fruit puree (I used the Goya brand from the frozen aisle)
2 cups sugar
2 cups unsweetened almond milk (or any non dairy milk that you like such as rice, flax etc)
pinch of salt

1. Defrost the passion fruit puree.  Usually overnight in the fridge.
2. Combine milk, puree and sugar. 
3. Whisk until the sugar is dissolved.
4. Place the mixture in the ice cream maker and follow your machine's manufacturer's instructions.
5. Enjoy!

No Ice Cream Maker?  Here's an easy version using a Blender or Food Processor

1. Combine the sugar, salt and milk.
2. Blend for 1- 2 minutes or until the sugar are well incorporated. 
3. Add the frozen passion fruit puree.
4. Process until well combined. Depending on your equipment, it can be from 30 seconds to about 2 minutes. 
5. The end texture is more of a soft Italian ice.  You can serve it immediately. If you like a harder texture, transfer to a freezable bowl with a lid. Freeze for at least 35 minutes or until it reach your desired consistency.   

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Cheesy Garlic Breadsticks with Baked Bean Dip

       With 4 active children in the house, it is a fact, that I always need easy to prepare and healthy snacks.  Oh did I mention that they are good eaters too?  That is why when we started to convert to a  food allergy friendly home, I am more worried on what they will have for snacks than regular meals.  Let's put it this way, snacks at our home include starch, protein and fruits too.
         Since I am still in the learning / experimenting stage of baking wheat, dairy, soy and egg free healthy breads, muffins and snack cakes, I now rely on gluten free and allergy friendly mixes to fill in the starch they need. While working with mixes is often a hit/miss situation texture wise, as long as the end product tastes good, my kiddos will not complain.  After all, it's supposed to be just a snack right? 
          Anyway, this snack or appetizer recipe turned out as a surpise hit. The breadstick mix is very affordable ($2.89 a box). Plus it only required few extra ingredients that are already in the fridge.  A little warning though, this is quite addictive. 

     For the Breadsticks, I used Chebe Garlic-Onion Gluten Free Breadstick Mix.  Since the instructions on the box ask for eggs, milk and cheese, I decided to use these ingredients instead.
       1 box of Chebe Breadstick Mix
       1 Tbs. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
       1 Tbs. Canola Oil
       1/4 cup Vanilla Almond Milk (or you can use Rice Milk too)
       2 Tbs. Flax Seed Meal
       6 Tbs. water (lukewarm)
       1 cup Daiya Cheddar Style Shreds
1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
2. In a small bowl, mix flaxseed meal and water.  Set aside.
3. With a stand mixer running on low, make the dough by combining the Breadstick mix, oils, flaxseed mixture and Daiya cheddar. 
4. Slowly drizzle with milk.
5. Mixture will look more like soft sand which is fine.
6. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes or until smooth.  
7. Divide the dough and roll into sticks. The thinner the better.
8. Place into ungreased baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
9. Bake for 20-25 minutes. 
      - The breadsticks do not brown well so check at the mininum baking time to avoid over baking.
      - These have a crunchy texture and not soft, bread like.
      -  I found out that it is better to make the breadsticks thinner to avoid a gooey center.
      -  Perfect for dipping.
      For the Baked Bean Dip, I did a little cheating this time.  I used my favorite brand of canned baked beans and pureed it. Surprisingly, it complemented the breadsticks quite well.  

Friday, November 16, 2012

Gluten Free Rice Krispies Treats

      When I first found out about my son's multiple allergies and was searching for affordable snacks, I instantly was drawn to his favorite --- Rice Krispies Treats.  I mean what could possibly go wrong? It was made of puffed rice anyway right?
       Oh well, after a few investigation (label reading that is), I realized that the ready made Rice Krispies Treats aren't as safe as I thought it was. One big reason is that the packaged ones contain SOY. 

        So I decided to make the treats from scratch. With just 6 easy steps, I'm pretty sure the freshly made rice treats are definitely worth every bite.  This version with a little melted chocolate drizzle not only takes these humble bars to the next level, it also becomes a fun dessert even for grown ups.

3 Tbs. Earth Balance Soy Free Buttery Spread
1 10z package Marshmallows
7 cups Kellogg's Rice Krispies Gluten Free Cereal
2 Tbs. Enjoy Life Semi Sweet Mini Chocolate Chips
1/2 tsp. canola oil
1. Line a 9x 13 pan with foil. Using a pastry brush, grease the foil with the canola oil.  Set aside.
2. In a big microwaveable bowl, combine marshmallows and buttery spread. Heat for 30-50 minutes on high until the marshmallows are very soft.
3. Stir in the rice krispies until well coated with the melted marshmallow mixture.
4. Transfer to prepared pan. Using a spatula, spread the mixture evenly.
5. In a another microwavable boil, melt the chocolate chips on high in 10 second intervals.  Make sure you don't overheat or else the chocolate will be clumpy.
6. Drizzle on top of the rice krispies. Let it set for about 1 hour before cutting into bars. Enjoy!!!

- Roz

Friday, October 26, 2012

Our First Trick or Treating with Food Allergies

      It's that time of the year.  Both children and adults' minds are occupied with just two things --- costumes and candies!  (Hurricane Sandy is slowly getting some attention here in the tri-state though). Anyway, as a mom with kids who have food allergies, I know that it can be a stressful, VERY stressful time.
      Since this is our first trick or treating with food restrictions, I decided to make a deal with my children.  We will still go out in our costumes and gather some sweets.  Just like the previous years, they still have to give me all the candies to check out before they can eat any. Once sorted, they will get to keep those that do not contain ingredients they are allergic to. As for the rest, we will all donate it to my son's past pre-school which in turn will send it as part of the care packages for our troops abroad. 
        Did they like the idea? Oh yes!  They are even more excited because they are doing something for a good cause.  Since I am pretty sure that might they will only get to keep about 10% of their hard earned goods, I also started to prepare. 
         After a lot of label reading, I was so surprise to find these treats at the local Home Goods store.  Organic candies and lollipops from Yummy Earth. These candies are all gluten, egg, dairy, nut and soy free. They even use natural food coloring from carrots, beets etc.  A real treat and yes, they do taste great.  Other health food stores carry them too but I suggest get these at Home Goods.  Why? Well they cost a lot cheaper.  As in 30 to 40 percent off the retail price.    

      So, are you trick or treating this year too?


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Dairy Free Mango Ice Cream

       "No more Ice Cream?" This was one of the first questions my children asked when we found out that our family has to avoid dairy totally.  Since they already knew that regular baked goodies mostly have wheat and so is pizza, they were at least hoping to get to enjoy this well loved frozen treat.  
        When my husband heard the kids' inquiry, he wanted to immediately say "Yes, no more ice cream." That response would have been the easiest to do and to deal with but it's just not me.  One, I don't like my children feel deprived or outcasts because of our family's new lifestyle. Two, for the sake of my sanity, I want to avoid chaos among the siblings. The situation where the majority blames the one who has the special food requirements thus starting a "victim/bad guy" episode.  So what did I say instead? "Let's see if we can make one without dairy."
        One day, I just realized that I have been eating dairy free ice cream all along. Having spent my childhood in the Philippines, I am accustomed to see an ice cream man or Mamang Sorbetero as what we all call him at almost every street corner. Sorbetes or "dirty ice cream" (I really don't know how that later name came about. Maybe, it's called that way because this type of ice cream was considered street food. I have no clue), is tradionally, made with coconut milk, sugar and natural flavorings such as chocolate, coconut, cheese, ube and my favorite Mango. 

     Since I don't have any access to a real Sorbetero (as if he will share his secret recipe), I tried to recreate this delicious dessert using the most basic ingredients. The result was simply divine.  Armed with my ever reliable ice cream maker, I can now confidently say to my children, "Yes, you CAN have Ice Cream!"
1 13 oz can coconut cream
1 1/2 cups mango puree
1 cup sugar
pinch of salt
1. In a medium bowl,  whisk together mango puree, sugar and salt until all the sugar is dissolved. 
2. While  mixing, slowly add the coconut cream. 
3. Once fully incorporated, transfer to a container, cover and refrigerate for at least 3 hours.
4. Follow your ice cream maker's instructions for churning time.
5. Enjoy!
       - If you have no ice cream maker on hand, you can improvise by placing the container of your ice cream mix (make sure the lid has a tight seal) inside a bigger vessel (at least double the size of the one that holds the ice cream). Fill the bigger container with ice and a tsp of salt, cover and shake/ roll for about 10 to 20 minutes. 
        - You can also just freeze the ice cream mix.  Results wouldn't be as creamy though.
      Do you have a favorite ice cream flavor that you would like me to make dairy free? Let me know.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Fish Cakes

       As a Frugalista Mom, I always try to make easy snacks from last night's dinner. Even before our family started to go wheat, egg, dairy, soy and nut free, the practice of creating something out of leftovers is already a must. Not only this habit saves me some precious time but most importantly, it helps a ton in staying within our grocery budget.

       These fish cakes made with already cooked tilapia fillets are a breeze to prepare and are very affordable.  In fact, this recipe enabled me to use the super pricey cheese substitute that we bought and my kids later refused to eat. 

        If you are not concerned about any food allergies, feel free to use regular cheese and mayonaise.  I'm pretty sure, it will turn out good too. 

5 cups cooked white fish (I used tilapia fillets)
1/2 cup Daiya mozarella style shreds (If you can have cheese, feel free to use it)
1/2 cup Earth Balance Original Mindful Mayo (You can also use regular mayonnaise)
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground black pepper
pinch of chili flakes
1 tbs chopped scallions
1 tsp fresh lime juice

1. Using your hands, flake the fish into small pieces.
2. Add the remaining ingredients to the fish.  Mix until well combined.
3. Form into patties about 3 inch in diameter and 1/2 inch thick.
4. Heat a non stick pan or griddle. (medium heat)
5. Place about 4 patties and cook about 4 minutes or until the side near the pan is golden brown.
6. Flip carefully and cook for another 2-4 minutes.
7. Serve hot. 

     - I used leftover cooked fish in this recipe.  If you don't have any available, you can either bake or steam the fish fillets. Then cool before using. 
     - Since mayo was included in the recipe, you don't need any oil to fry the fish cakes.  In fact, you will see some oil in the pan as it cooks.
     - Make sure you are using a non stick pan and is properly heated before adding the fish cakes.  This prevents it from sticking to the pan.
     -  Depending on your diet, you can serve this over rice, salad greens or even with bread.     


Monday, October 15, 2012

Turkey and Pasta Dinner

     Pasta is always a favorite in our household.  It's versatile, affordable, healthy and easy to prepare. So when we first found out that our family needs to totally avoid wheat in our diet, the kids got worried if they will be able to enjoy their beloved recipes.  Thank God, there is now an abundant selection of gluten free pasta - corn, rice, brown rice, quinoa and more.   Oh, they do come in different shapes too.
      Though I have to admit these gluten free pasta are quite pricer than their regular wheat based counterpart, they do pass the taste challenge. In fact, my kiddos like them better than the whole wheat variety which tends to be too hard or grainy. With little alterations in ingredients, we are now able to enjoy pasta dishes that are gluten, egg, dairy, soy and nut free. 

       This ground turkey and pasta dinner is one of the easiest to prepare and is always a crowd pleaser. Yes even those who aren't concerned about food allergies love it. I tend to make a big batch all the time since my children request it for their school lunch the next day.  Plus the extra sauce is an excellent dip for chips too.

1 16 oz package of fusilli pasta (I used the Wegman's Corn Pasta)
Big pot of hot water for cooking the pasta
1Tbsp. salt (for the pasta)

2 Tbsp. Extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 lb ground turkey
1 23.5 oz Marinara Sauce (I used Wegman's Organic Chunky Marinara)
1 23.5 oz Wegman's Organic Grandpa's Sauce Goes Vegetarian
1 cup water (I used 1/2 cup each to "rinse" or get the leftover sauce out the jars)
2 tsp salt
1tsp ground black pepper
2 Tbsp fresh basil leaves (chopped)

1. Cook pasta according to package directions. Put the salt in the boiling water before adding the pasta.  In my case, I took out the pasta 2 mins before the suggested 14-16 minutes because I don't want my pasta to be very soft when I add it to the sauce.  Rinse the pasta in cold running water. Set aside.
2. In a large pan, heat olive oil and saute the garlic until fragrant. About 1 minute.
3. Add the ground turkey and brown the meat. Stir often to prevent sticking on the pan and to cook evenly.
4. Once the meat is cooked all the way through, pour in the marinara, grandpa's sauce and water. Bring to boil.
5. When the mixture starts to boil, season with salt and pepper.
6. Lower heat and simmer for about 5-7 minutes or until thick. Transfer about 2 cups of the meat sauce to a clean storage container. Set aside.
7. Add the cooked pasta to the remaining sauce in the pan. Mix well to coat all the noodles. 
8. After 5 minutes. Turn off heat and sprinkle the basil leaves.
9. Serve hot.

   - I found out that rinsing the pasta is a very important step.  Not only it stops the cooking of the noodles prevents it from being soggy but it also removes some of the starchy or grainy taste most non wheat pasta often possess.
   - Feel free to use your favorite homemade pasta or marinara sauce.  I just specified the brand I used because it gave me good results, the ingredients complied with our family's food allergy requirements and each costs less than $3.00.  Making this dish really affordable. 
Try it and let me know what you think.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

30 Days and Counting

         We made it!  Our first month going wheat, egg, dairy and soy free has just passed.  Okay, I confess, we have cheated a few times.  Come on, a Frugalista Mom can't just throw 2 dozen eggs!  So my husband and I had to finish the whole batch.  I let my daughter no.2 finish the jar of peanut butter coz she has no allergy to it.  Plus, we did eat out a few times too.  After all my children's food allergies aren't life-threatening (I thought?). So what could go wrong if they'll have a few bites of something with allergens.

         This week after a thorough consultation with my son's allergist, my less cautious attitude towards Food Allergies changed. What I thought before as nothing unusual, might have already been a symptom of an allergic reaction. The one hour question and answer series has opened my eyes to the real world that families such as mine are challenged with everyday. 

         That day I learned that my son's condition (He got 5 out of the 8 common food allergies) is not something to be taken lightly. Though I haven't seen him with hives and swelling, he could have described an allergic reaction whenever he says:

              "This food is so spicy."

              "My ears are itchy. Can you remove the bugs in my ears."

              "I can't remove the hair on my tongue."

              "This food is too hot."

              "It tastes funny."          

           So far, there is no cure for food allergies. Over the years, a child may or may not outgrow it. The best way to prevent a reaction is Total Avoidance of the allergy causing food.  For our family, that means no more "cheating" and absolute overhaul of our home.

          Living with allergies is quite overwhelming but we are doing it one day at a time. Do you have any tips?  I would love to hear from you.  After all, it's just been 30 days. So, let's start counting towards an allergy friendly home.


Saturday, October 6, 2012

Ginisang Mungo (Green Mung Bean Stew)

      Looking for an easy and very affordable stew that can feed an army?  This mung bean recipe is one of my favorites.  While growing up in the Philippines, my grandmother used to cook this dish every Friday and serve it with rice and fried fish.  As for me, I prefer to eat it as is.  
      When I first learned that our family needs to be wheat, egg, dairy and soy free, this dish was one of firsts that came to my mind.   With just simple basic ingredients, this recipe can easily be converted to suit any diet. It is packed with protein and makes use of whatever meat you have on hand.  You can even use fish or tofu (if your diet permits).     

2 tbs. canola oil
1 tbs. minced garlic
1 medium sized yellow onion sliced
1 cup tomatoes (chopped)
1/2 pound pork chunks (1 inch cubes). You can also use shrimp or bone in chicken thigh meat 
1 bag 400g green mung beans (about 1 1/2 cups)
2 quarts chicken stock (Feel free to use beef or vegetable stock)
4 tbs fish sauce (or you can use Salt. Just start with 1 tbsp and add according to your taste)
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
2 bags spinach
1. Heat canola oil in a dutch over or big stew pot. (medium heat)
2. Saute garlic, onions and tomatoes for about 3 mins or until the tomatoes becomes mushy.  Make sure to keep on stirring to avoid burning.
3. Add pork or chicken. Brown meat about 5 mins. (If you are using shrimp, add it at step 8)
4. Stir in mung beans and saute for about 3 mins.
5. Add stock. Cover with lid. Increase heat to high and bring to boil.
6. Once it started to boil, lower heat and simmer for 20-30 mins or until the beans are tender.  
7. Season with fish sauce ( or salt) and ground black pepper. Start with 2 tbsp fish sauce or 1 tbsp salt and taste before adding more. Remember most stock has some added salt already.
8. If you are using shrimp or fried tofu (if you are not allergic), add it at this point. Stir until shrimps turn pink.
9.  Add spinach and mix the stew. Cover and turn off heat. 
10. Wait 5 minutes before serving.  The heat of the stew will cook the spinach making it soft but not mushy.
- The key to this stew is adding flavor. So make sure you use a good brand of stock or if you can make your own, the better.
- I find that using bone in meat produces a richer flavored dish.
- Fish Sauce can be found in the Asian Aisle of most groceries.  It is also readily available at the Asian Market.  If you have soy allergies, make sure you read the label because some brands (the cheaper ones) tend to have additives. Don't be afraid to try it.  Though it smells really fishy, it adds a really nice flavor to dishes.  If you like to taste it purely, dip a finger on it and lick it.  I don't recommend using a teaspoon because it's like salt water. A little goes a long way.
- The dish will thicken if you save it for later. Yes, you have to refrigerate the leftovers.  Just add some water to lighten the consistency when you reheat it.
      Try it and let me know what you think.  Have a great Saturday!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

FREE Jules Gluten Free Thanksgiving E-book

     Looking for Gluten-free recipe ideas for Thanksgiving?  Just for today (Oct.3, 2012), you can download this E-book by Jules at no cost.  It's filled with more than 20 recipes (with substitutes if you're GEDS free like us), holiday tips, 6 week planning timeline and more.
      I just got mine and I can't wait to try the recipes.  Hurry! You have a few hours left.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Quest for a GEDS free Brownie Part 2 - Simply Organic

       It's Thursday again and here I am sharing with you my search for a delicious gluten free, egg free, dairy free and soy free Brownie.  This week, I tried another brownie mix I picked from my shopping expedition at Stop&Shop. 
       At first, I was a bit hesitant to try this. It's $4.39 a box, not on sale and the mix still needs 2 large eggs.  After a few minutes of back and forth holding and returning to the shelf, I finally gave in and put it in the cart. The "please mom" look from 2 small boys sealed the deal.

Cocoa Brownie Mix
      The day came to try this brownie mix.  Again I followed the directions to the dot.  With my big mixing bowl and trusted wooden spoon, I slowly added the prepared egg replacement and melted butter.  Since no electric mixer required, I carefully folded the ingredients making sure not to overmix. As the batter come together, it became really thick and gooey. Spreading the batter evenly to fit the greased pan was a big challenge.  After a few minutes of patting down, the super thick goo went to the oven.
        Waiting for the brownies to bake seems like eternity.  I've been looking at the glass oven door every 4 minutes or so to make sure that I don't burn it.  Finally, the sweet sound of the alarm went off.  Top looks good and the sides aren't burnt.  Just by it's looks, I thought, I was able to come up with the best GEDS free brownie. (Fingers crossed)
        When the pan of brownies finally came to room temperature, it was time to start phase two which is cutting.  My plastic knife went through the brownies wonderfully.  Yes, I always use a plastic knife to cut bars because nothing sticks to it and the cuts are clean.  Wow! These really looks like real brownies!!! The top has a shiny, crackled finish and the middle has a soft moist cakelike structure.  It also holds it's shape well. Not bad eh?
       Here's the final test - Taste.  What can I say? Looks are deceiving! The brownies didn't have the chocolate flavor I was hoping for.  Actually, there's not much flavor at all. It was so bland.  Not a hint of cocoa or vanilla.  It even needs some sugar. Plus, these brownies have a grainy feel that sticks to the tongue. Unappealing.
       My kids did ate them but they kept on asking me to make the "Blakie brownie" next time.  They said that even if the "Blackie" is very gooey and sticky, it tastes so good.  Way better than this batch.  Who am I to argue right?
        So the verdict is, these Cocoa Brownies from Simply Organic have the good looks of a real brownie but the taste is just not there. I even went online check the reviews for this product and yes, we all agree that this mix is not a keeper. Some of the reviewers even used the 2 eggs the recipe called for. Oh well... the GEDS free Brownie Quest continues.... See you next week.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Easy Beef and Veggie Stew

     Fall is here.  As the leaves change colors and the temperature slowly cools down, a hearty stew seems to be the most comforting meal after a long day of work.   

     This dish is one of our family's favorites. Since we are now on a GEDS free diet, I have made some revisions but it's still delicious and so easy to prepare.   

3 tbs canola oil
2 lbs beef chunks (about 2 in squares)
1 tsp minced garlic
1 large yellow onion sliced (half moon)
1 cup chopped celery
2 cups chopped tomatoes (you can also used canned)
1 cup chopped parsnip
1 cup chopped carrots
2 pcs dried bay leaf
1 Quart chicken broth (I used organic, gluten free)
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
2 cups potatoes cubed
1/4 tsp ground pepper
2 tsp salt (Start with one tsp and slowly adjust according to your taste. The chicken broth has added salt)
2 tbs chopped fresh parsley
1. Preheat a dutch oven or a heavy stew pan.
2. Sautee the garlic and onions in canola oil.
3. Add the tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes are mushy.
4. Slowly add the beef chunks and brown the meat. It will not get a nice caramelization which is fine.
5. Pour in the chicken broth and mix well. Make sure to scrape the brown bits on the pan. Bring to a boil.
6. Once boiling, add the carrots, celery, parsnip, bay leaf and rosemary. Cover and simmer for 35 mins.
7. After 35 mins, check if the meat is almost tender.  Add the potatoes and season with salt and pepper.
8. Cover and simmer until the potatoes are done.  About 15-25 mins.
9. Serve hot over rice or gluten free pasta.
10. Enjoy.
          Are you having a get together or a party soon? You can easily double the recipe and feed a big crowd. Transfer it to your crock pot to stay warm.  Your friends will love this allergy friendly recipe. 
          Happy Wednesday!
- Roz

Friday, September 21, 2012

Where to find Affordable Gluten Free Flour

      One of the challenges of going gluten free is finding flour substitutes especially for baking. Even before we went gluten free, I bake mostly from scratch.  For me, that method is way affordable and I exactly know what's in it.

       Since baking food allergy friendly can be a hit or miss, I realized that it is way more practical to create my own mix.  Though I still try boxed baking mixes for product reviews, I always have my flour collection accessible.  
      If you think I spent a month's supply of grocery shopping to build my collection, you're absolutely wrong.  Today, I'm sharing with you where to find most gluten free flours at tremendously low prices. No shipping costs as well.  

 1. The Asian Stores
          As some of you may have already known, I am of Filipino descent and is a frequent Asian store shopper. Can you just imagine how my face cringed after reading the ingredient list of most GF flour mixes?  Even before I was introduced to the word gluten, I have known most of the flours mentioned below as my grandmother use them all the time.  The weird thing though is that I have known them more by their brand name as that is what my grandma used to call them.  
        Most of these gluten free flour costs around $2.00 a bag which is almost half the price of those bought from supermarkets and organic food stores.  Some brands even go on sale!

        There are even some ready made flour mixes for rice cakes, buns and steamed muffins or bread.  Here's a list of what you'll see there:

     - Rice flour
     - Glutenous Rice Flour (also known as Sweet Rice Flour)
     - Corn Flour
     - Potato Flour
     - Potato Starch (yes, it's different from the flour)
     - Cornstarch
     - Tapioca Starch
     - Mung Bean Flour
     - Chestnut Flour
     - Soybean Flour (Though our household can't use it. Soy free remember?)
     - Sesame Flour (Also out for us because of Child#2's allergy)
     - Purple Yam flour (Ube) 

2. Indian Food Stores
          Often called "Cash and Carry", these stores not only carry assorted spices and beans in bulk, they also sell protein rich flours.  As a culture, India has the most number of vegetarians and vegans. This means that grains and beans are their primary source of nutrients. My finds here includes:

       - Sorghum flour
       - Millet flour
       - Amaranth flour
       - Chickpea flour
       - Lentil flour
       - Bean flour mix
       - Coconut flour
       - Almond flour  

      So if you're looking for some wheat flour substitute, I suggest check out your local Ethnic stores first.  Don't worry, most of the labels have English translations.  Also, feel free to ask for help from other shoppers.  More often than not, they are more than happy to give you the English translation or which brands are better.  

        That's it! My secret is out of the bag. Enjoy shopping.

- Roz

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Quest for GEDS Free Brownies Part 1

       It's that time of the year.  Halloween, school bake sales and even birthday parties are fast approaching.  You know what that means right?  Cupcakes, cookies, brownies and candies will be the talk of the town.  So what's a Frugalista Gluten, Egg, Dairy and Soy Free mom got to do?  So far, there are two options I am considering. 1. Say NO to every event and hide my kids inside the house. 2. Challenge myself and make the above mentioned treats only now GEDS free.
      Though the first option seems to be the easier thing to do, I think my children will appreciate it if I choose the later. Okay ladies, I am not running for any "Mother of the Year" award here. I simply want my children's transition to their new diet as easy as possible.  How hard will it be to make a  GEDS free Brownie anyway? I may not be a trained pastry chef but with more than 10 years of baking from scratch almost every week plus some catering in between, I'd say, I should be confident in my skills right? 
      For starters, I decided to try some ready made brownie mix. Hmmm.. I'm seeing some eyebrows raised here. Why would a self professed baker use something out of the box? Well, it is because right now, my food budget prohibits me from buying all the different types of flour most recipe books require me to have. Since specialty items are crazy expensive, I invested on the most basic such as egg replacement powder,  xantham gum and magarine (dairy and soy free).
      While shopping at Wegman's last weekend, I came across this Double Chocolate Brownie Mix.  At $3.49 a box that makes an 8x8 inch batch, I think, it will not hurt to try it.  After all, it's half the price of the All Purpose Baking flour that still requires extra pricey additions.
         I made these brownies last Monday. There were extra steps such as melting the included chocolate chips and beating the eggs with a mixer. Nothing complicated. The instructions were clear and so easy to follow. Instead of the required 2 eggs and butter, I used the egg replacement (prepared according to the package instructions) and the nondairy, soy free magarine. The batter looked good and had the consistency of a regular brownie batter.
         After about 15 mins, my kitchen smelled great.  I was so excited how these will turn out. Oven timer sounded off at the minimum baking time and when I checked, the sides seem to be done but the middle isn't firm enough.  I kept on checking until the maximum baking time.  Since the toothpick test isn't the best indication of doneness according to the package, I decided to take it out right after the timer went off the second time.  The center looks set and perfect but the sides are in the borderline of getting burned. 
        Now the verdict.  The brownies looked darker that the regular brownies and they are not burnt.  It didn't have the cakelike texture and can't hold it's shaped when cut.  It's very gooey and chewy just like a japanese mochi or rice cake.  A little greasy or oily too.  The taste however, is phenominal.  Not too sweet and full of chocolate goodness.  It passed the kids' taste test with flying colors.  In our home, flavor is much more important than looks.
        Technically, this treat didn't look anything like a brownie, so my children started calling it the "Blackie".  It was devoured within an hour and they actually asked me to make it again which is a good sign. For now, I would say this Wegman's brownie mix will have a place in my pantry.  It will take a few more alterations aesthetic wise but as for the taste, it is a keeper.

      Wow! I just realized that making a GEDS free brownie is not as easy as a regular one.  Even for a boxed mix, it can be complicated.  So here I am in a quest to find an affordable and delicious brownie so that my children will not feel deprived and actually enjoy as a treat. 
      Today, I have decided to make a batch of brownies weekly and post it every Thursday.  I definitely need your help in this quest  - your IDEAS that is.  If you have a go-to brand of brownie mix or a favorite recipe you'd like to share, please let me know at Just make sure that it is Gluten, Egg, Dairy and Soy free.  I'm sure there's a group out there waiting for to make that coveted dessert. 
       Hope to hear from you soon.
- Roz

Monday, September 17, 2012

Garlic Tuna with Wilted Baby Spinach and Roasted Red Peppers

      Our family loves Tuna.  Whether from the can, cooked, or even sashimi (okay, the last one is just for me), it is one of our go to protein at home. So when the news about each child's food allergies came out, we were so  thankful that FISH was not in the list. 
       This easy to prepare dish is one of our favorites and goes perfectly with steamed white or brown rice.  Surprisingly, our household has been enjoying this GEDS (gluten, egg, dairy, soy) free recipe way before the diagnosis came out.   

4 Fresh Tuna Steaks (about 1 1/2 lbs total weight)
2 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. ground Black Pepper
1/2 tsp. Garlic Powder
6 tbs. extra virgin olive oil
2 tbs. fresh garlic sliced thinly
1/4 cup roasted bell peppers *
2 bags of baby spinach
1/8 tsp. chili flakes (add more if you like it a little spicy)
2 lemons

*Roasted Red Bell Peppers
        I often have a homemade version ready and I provided the recipe at the end of this post.  Just in case you don't have the time to make your own, feel free to substitute a store bought one.  I prefer the one that is packed in oil. 

1. At medium low heat, saute sliced 1tbs sliced garlic in 4 tbs of olive oil until golden brown. Make sure you don't burn it. Transfer to a plate and set aside. Increase heat to medium and keep the pan hot.
2. Combine 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp black pepper and 1/2 tsp garlic powder.
3. Pat dry tuna and rub both sides with the salt, pepper and garlic powder mix.
4. Pan fry tuna. Wait at least 2 minutes before flipping.  Cook according to your desired doneness and transfer to a platter.  We always have ours well done.
5. Add the remaining oil to the pan.
6. Saute sliced garlic and chili flakes until garlic turns golden brown.
7. Add the roasted bell peppers and spinach.
8. Season with remaining salt and black pepper.
9. Cook until the spinach are slightly wilted.
10. Turn off heat and drizzle with juice from 1 lemon. Mix.
11. Transfer veggies to a serving platter.  Top with seared tuna and sauteed garlic. 
12. Serve with rice and lemon slices.

 * Make sure the pan and oil is hot (medium to medium high) before putting the fish. This will help prevent the fish from sticking to the pan.

* When it comes to doneness, some likes the tuna just browned on both sides while the inside is still pink or red.  For my family (since we have young children), the fish is cooked through. Depending on the thickness, it's about 3-5 minutes on each side. Use your fingers to check for the desired firmness. It is always better to go a little undercooked.

* Homemade Roasted Peppers
    - Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
    - Wash and dry the bell peppers.
    - Place bell peppers on a foil lined cookie sheet. 
    - Bake in the oven for about 14-20 minutes  Turn the peppers every 4 mins to make sure all the sides get roasted and to avoid burning one side. 
    - Transfer to a glass bowl and cover with a plate for 5 minutes. The trapped steam will help loosen the skin,
    - While still warm, remove the skin and the seeds.
    - Add some extra virgin olive oil.  Mix well.  You can add some spices or seasonings at this point.
    - Once cooled, transfer to storage containers.  Refrigerate for 3 days or freeze.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Return of the Pancakes

      It has been a week since my first attempt to cook GEDS (gluten, egg, dairy, soy) free.  Looking back, I can't help but smile and laugh about my early Saturday morning Pancake meltdown. Thank God my Facebook friends were blessed with so much patience. Last time, I've checked, no one has removed me from their friend list yet. So without further intro, here's the story.
      Saturday is always about having pancakes for breakfast.  Just like any mom who would like to keep the transition as smooth as possible, I stayed up all night looking for a pancake recipe that is GEDS free.  When I finally found "the one" that looked very basic and easy to follow, I bookmarked it and got ready for an early trip to the store.  At 7:30 am, my kitchen was husling. 
      After carefully following the instructions, I was so surprised that my first 2 batches of supposedly pancakes turned out to something else. It was so gummy, sticky and inedible. Most would just throw the whole thing right away. The Frugalista in me however kicked in. Come on, that's a big batch of expensive ingredients --- all purpose gluten free flour, almond milk, xantham gum!  I may not be a professional chef but I totally know my way around the kitchen.
      Trying not to give up, I turned on my laptop and started browsing maybe 3or 4 blogs including the one where I found the recipe, looking for remedies.  After making the batter somewhat edible, I started working on the texture without any success. At 10:00 am, my family is no longer happy so I decided to prepare my homemade sausage and rice instead.
      While the new dish was cooking, I once again read the post trying to figure out what went wrong.  Finally, I raised my hands in defeat! After scrolling through the list of comments, the writer said that "a particular type of  FLOUR was used in the recipe and when tried other types of flour, the result is a gummy mess".  My goodness!  That was the first rule when going Gluten Free. There is no exact substitute for wheat flour. The success relies on the combination of the different types of flour and its reaction to the other ingredients in the recipe.
      Finally, after some trial and error, I was able to have an affordable and  decent GEDS free pancake. Okay, it's not from scratch but this pancake and waffle mix from Cherrybrook Kitchen is a real lifesaver.  All my four children love it.  
      At $4.49 for an 18 oz box, (I got mine from the local Wegman's) I say, this is worth every penny.  It is so easy to prepare and is error-proof.  I just added almond milk and canola oil (even tried it with olive oil) in the specified amount printed on the box and the batter is good to go.  Though the uncooked batter may feel a little grainy, it will not be noticeable once cooked.  The manufacturers even specified that there will be no bubbles to indicate when the pancake is ready to be flipped.  Once the sides of the pancakes look firm and set, it's time to flip.         
Click to view larger product image.
        Aside from having the right texture and good taste, I found out that I can make these pancakes ahead of time and will stay fresh quite well.   It can be refrigerated and later microwaved without problems.  My children brought it to school yesterday and it stayed moist and fluffy until lunch time. 
        Isn't it great to find something that will make our lives easier?  This brand is now part of our pantry staples.  How about you? Do you have a Go-To Pancake helper?  Love to hear from you.
 - Roz

Friday, September 14, 2012

Our First Week without Gluten, Egg, Soy, Dairy, Nuts and Peanuts Menu

       It's Friday and we made it!  First week of school and yes seven days of living allergy friendly.  Guess what?  It was not as bad as I thought it would be. The kids ate without any complains on what's on the table.  They even enjoyed their food as if nothing has changed.
       I know most of you are curious. Our household is now wheat, soy, dairy and egg free. So, what then did we eat? Actually, we did quite well. Here is a peek of our menu this week:

* Sauteed Corned Beef with Oven Baked Breakfast Potatoes
* Pork Vigan Style Longanisa (Sausage) with Rice
* Bacon and Rice
* Pancakes

* Pork, String Beans and Peppers in Coconut Stew
* Mung Beans with Spinach Stew
* Rice Noodles with Beef Ragu
* Chicken and Tomatoes Stew
* Chicken Wrapped in Pandan Leaves and Bagoong Rice

Lunch Box /Snacks
* Marinated Chicken Nuggets
* Popcorn
* Rice Cereal Treats
* Corn Tortilla Chips with Salsa
* Snickerdoodle Cookies
* Tuna and Rice
* Fruit  Cups

      Just like any child with food allergies, my school age kids brought their own snacks and lunch.  They either picked something from the breakfast or dinner menu and 1 or 2 from the snacks.  Plus something from the fresh fruit basket --- apples, bananas, kiwi, peach, watermelon. Seems like a lot of food? Well, I am not joking when I said that my family are good eaters.  Don't worry, I will be posting the recipes as we go. 
     It has been a crazy week.  I have never thought and studied food as much as I did during my catering days in Jersey City.  At the end of the day, all the effort was worth it.  For now, I will have my break from cooking --- leftovers for dinner. 
                                          Chicken Wrapped in Pandan with Bagoong Rice
                                                 (inspired by a recipe of FitChefTrina)

- Roz

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Journey to a Food Allergy friendly home

      It has been six days since I was adviced by my children's gastrointerologist to completely eliminate wheat, soy, eggs and dairy from their diet.  Boy! What a week it has been.  I haven't felt so much emotion from denial to anger to helplessness in such a short amount of time. To think about it, I am not even the one with food allergies. 
      As a mom, I know you mothers out there will agree that when something will affect our child, it will definitely be a big issue.  In my case for instance, all my 4 kids who are under the age of 10 were tested positive for multiple food allegies. Thank God, their reactions are not life-threatening and they all have a chance to outgrew their conditions. (Fingers crossed)
     So far, the children took the news graciously.  Maybe it is because they were too young to realize the extent of their restrictions or they have so much faith that Mom will always give them something good to eat.  I don't have a clue. What I do know is that the transition towards an allergy friendly home will not be easy.  A big lifestyle change for the self confessed Frugalista mom. From coupon and sale matching, it will now be right food hunting. From waiting for discounts to finding alternatives.
     After countless hours of researching online and asking around about food allergies, I realized that I am not alone.  There is quite a number of people out there who have the same food issues. With the encouragement of friends and for the sake of my sanity, I decided to start blogging about our family's adventure - the good, the bad and maybe the ugly as well. No drama just embracing the challenges of this new lifestyle.
     Whether you have food allergies, know someone with food allergies, trying an allergy friendly diet or simply interested on the topic, please feel free to post a comment or question.  I am not an expert but I love to share our experiences, recipes, product finds and more.  Hopefully, we could all learn a thing or two in the process - making this journey a little bit easier and full of excitement. So who is with me?
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