Friday, May 24, 2013

Friday Finds: Free Smoothie Recipe Ebooks 5/24/2013

     It's Memorial Day weekend and summer is officially here!  That means warmer weather, backyard parties and outdoor activities. Cold drinks will be a high demand again right?  Instead of grabbing tons of not so good for you soda and sugary drinks, how about serving some healthier versions of juices and smoothies? Farmer's Markets will be popping soon so we'll have an abundant supply of fresh fruits and veggies. 
     Check out these free ebooks I found today.  With more than 200 recipes combined, I'm sure will find great tasting healthy drink ideas for your next party or just to have on hand in the fridge.  The best part, these smoothies can be frozen to make healthier ice pops and slushies.  There are also some weight lost tips and natural remedies. 
     What are you waiting for? Download them now before the prices go up. 
     Have a fun long weekend!
- Roz

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Gluten Free Vegan Lemon Poppy Mini Donuts

       Last month, when the Girl Scout cookies arrived in our house, my boys started to ask me if I can make mini donuts inspired by these treats.  I know what you're thinking. Why do we have those food allergy laden temptations in my house?  Well, I still have 2 Girl Scouts and yes, we still sold some cookies for that coveted badge. 
      Anyway, since my children already know that we are not having any GS cookies (I confess I got a box of Thin Mints and Samoas for me.), I decided to make some donuts and use these yummy cookie flavors as inspiration.  First on the list is the Savannah Smiles. These tart and sweet lemon shortbread cookies were released 2 years ago to celebrate the 100 years of the Girl Scouts.  It's a big hit in our home so I'm pretty sure a lemon poppy donut will do the trick.
        In this recipe, I used lemon zest, juice and even extract to bring out that bright sour flavor.  Though the donut itself is really flavorful, don't skip the glaze.  It makes these small treat extra special.  Just the like the original, one piece will not be enough.  Watch out if you're on a diet. :)
- Roz
2 Tbs. flax meal
6 Tbs. warm water
3/4 cup raw cane sugar
1 cup apple sauce
1/4 cup lemon juice
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 tsp. lemon extract
1/4 cup coconut oil
2 1/2 tsp. poppy seeds
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup rice flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
Lemon Glaze
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 cup powdered sugar
3 Tbs. lemon juice
1. Preheat a mini donut maker.  If you are using the oven, preheat at 350 F and grease mini donut pans. 
2. Make a flax goo by combining flax meal and water in a small bowl.  Set aside for at least 5 minutes before using.
3. In a big bowl, whisk together sorghum flour, rice flour, tapioca starch, salt, poppy seeds, baking powder and baking soda.

4. In a separate bowl, cream the coconut oil, sugar and flax goo.
5. Add the apple sauce, lemon juice, zest and extract.
6. Slowly add the flour mixture and mix just until combined.  Make sure not to over mix.
7. Pour about 2 tablespoons in each canal of the donut maker.  Bake for 5-7 minutes or until it can easily be removed from the openings.  If using the oven, bake for 10-15 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean after poking it.
8. Transfer to a wire rack on top of a baking sheet.
9. Cool for 7 minutes before pouring the prepared Lemon Glaze on top.
10. Enjoy!
Lemon Drizzle
     Combine the lemon zest, powdered sugar and lemon juice.  Mix well. You can add more lemon juice if you want the glaze to be thinner.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Healthy Dairy and Gluten Free Vegan Mac n Cheese

      One of the dishes that my children can't live without is Macaroni and Cheese.  Three out of my four kids who have lower levels of food allergies for wheat and milk would sometimes compromise with me just to have a serving this creamy, yellow, cheesy dish when we eat out.  Even if the two older ones already know that they will get some slight eczema irritations for at least 3 days after consuming it, they are willing to endure it.  Crazy right?
       So, what's a food allergy mom got to do?  Since I can't control those cravings and I don't like to start with the blaming game, I decided to experiment on ingredients to make an allergy friendly and healthier version of the dish the kids love.  With so much trial and error, I finally found a version that is closest to the real thing and the children truly gave it a huge thumbs up. 
     My secret ingredient for this so called "Mac n Cheese" is sweet potato puree.  It provides the familiar yellow color and creamy texture. Even if you are not really dairy free and is just looking to save some calories, this version will make your comfort food much healthier by using less cheese and butter.  Give this a try and I'm pretty sure you'll love it too.   

     Have a great day!

- Roz


1 lb. cooked pasta preferable al dente (gluten free if you're like us)
1 Tbs. Extra Virgin Olive oil
1 Tbs. fresh garlic (minced into really tiny pieces but don't puree)
1 1/2 cups sweet potato puree (recipe below)
1 cup broth (chicken or vegetable)
1/2 cup original flavored almond milk (you can use unsweetened coconut milk not the canned one)
1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. paprika
4 pcs. fresh sage leaves
pinch of chili flakes
1 Tbs. vegan buttery spread (I use Earth Balance Soy free)
2 inch cube cheddar style Daiya vegan cheese

1. In a big pan, with the heat on low, sauté the garlic in olive oil until the oil gets much of the flavor of the garlic.  Make sure not to brown or burn the garlic.  After about 3 minutes, you can remove the garlic if you like.
2. Add the sweet potato puree and broth.  Increase the heat to medium and bring to a slight boil.
3. Season with salt, pepper, chili flakes and paprika.
4. Add the almond or coconut milk and sage leaves.  Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
5. Remove the sage leaves and let the buttery spread and Daiya cheese melt in the sauce.
6. Once all the "cheese" is melted, add the cooked pasta.  Sauce is a little loose but let the noodles absorb most of the sauce.
7. Serve immediately. 

Sweet Potato Puree

1 big sweet potato (peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes) About 2 - 2 1/2 cups total
2 1/2 cups water (enough to cover the sweet potatoes)

     Bring the sweet potatoes and water to a rolling boil.  Cook until the sweet potatoes are fork tender.  Let the mixture cool for 10 minutes.  Transfer the sweet potatoes and 1 1/2 cups cooking liquid to a blender or food processor.  Puree until smooth.  Use immediately or let it cool and transfer to a freezer bag.  Freeze until ready to use.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

How to Cook the Perfect Gluten Free Pasta

     When I first found out the news that our family needs to switch to gluten free pasta because of my sons' wheat allergy, my entire world was shaken.  Pre food allergy, being a Frugalista Mom , I never paid more than $1.00 for a 16 oz. box of pasta. Since I have no other choice, I took the plunge, waited for a sale and started buying. 
      After trying numerous brands and types (corn, quinoa, rice etc.), I realized that the gluten free versions aren't really bad at all.  Sometimes one can't really tell the difference in a dish.  In fact, my kids liked the texture and taste of GF better than the whole wheat version.  Yes, all my children have eaten the later pre diagnosis.   The most critical thing I learned about Gluten Free pasta is the preparation. Unlike its wheat counterpart, GF pasta tends to become really soft and soggy within a few minutes of cooking.  Spaghetti varieties in fact, can easily break apart and turn into a huge mess.  It can turn into a sort of couscous in a matter of seconds. 
       Having cooked GF pasta every week for more than 8 months now, I have gone through times of frustration and even crying over the messy goop and the idea of throwing precious expensive food that nobody wants to eat.  Can you relate?  Anyway, after much trial and error, whatever brand I used, (I now stock up if I find GF pasta on sale.), I was able to find a way to properly cook my Gluten Free Pasta.  The best part is that I am more than happy to share it with you. 

       Without further introduction, here's my foul proof way to cook gluten free pasta at home. Take note, keep the original packaging of the pasta you are using.  The number of cooking minutes the manufacturer suggests is very important. 

1. Bring a large stock of water to a rolling boil.
2. Once the water is boiling, remove the lid and add 2 Tbs. salt.
3. Add your gluten free pasta.  Mix well to make sure the noodles don't stick.  I usually use a wooden spoon to do this because I find it less harsh to the delicate pasta.
4. Cook the pasta in hot water for 2 minutes. (The water is no longer boiling after you add the pasta.) Turn off heat.
5. Mix to make sure the noodles are not sticking to each other.
6. Cover the pot with the lid. 
7. Let the pasta  noodles soak in the hot cooking water. The soaking time depends on the package's suggested cooking time and some math.  Subtract 4 minutes from the minimum suggested cooking time to get the soaking time.  For example, the package says 8 - 10 minutes cooking time. (8-4 = 4). Soaking time is 4 minutes. 
8. After the soaking time, drain the pasta and rinse in cold running water until the pasta are room temperature.  Mix a few times to make sure the pasta evenly cools.
9. Drain again and transfer to a serving bowl. 
10. Pour your preferred heated sauce over the pasta and mix.   

Here are some notes. 

*  If you are going to make a casserole and will put the cooked pasta in the oven, instead of soaking, remove the pasta from the boiling water after 3 minutes and immediately use it for your baked recipe. 

* Hot boiling sauce and too much sauce can make your pasta softer.  Serve immediately once the sauce is added. You can also put the sauce on the side and just pour it on top of the pasta when ready to serve.

         I hope this post helps you the next time you cook your GF pasta.  If you have any questions or suggestions, please I would love to hear from you.

- Roz

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

How much do you know about Food Allergies?

     This week is Food Allergy Awareness Week.  With this in mind, I decided to show some support by writing some interesting information on this topic.  Though it was estimated that at least 15 Million Americans have food allergies, (more are still undiagnosed), it is sad to realize that many are still clueless on this health concern. I confess I was one of those people until my children were diagnosed and I had a long conversation with their allergist.      

     Just a little reminder.  I am not a doctor or  medical practitioner.  Yours truly is a food allergy mom to 4 kids with multiple food allergies.  The things I will mention below are some of the common facts concerning the topic. If you think, you or your child is experiencing any of the symptoms below, please talk to your doctor about your concern and ask for a blood or prick testing.           

Did you know?

 - Hives and rashes aren't the only indications of a food allergy.

 - Eczema, though not always, is often a result of a food allergy or sensitivity.

 - Wheat allergy and Celiac Disorder though both requires a gluten free diet, are not the same.  

-  Asthma can be triggered by a food allergy.

- Food allergies can be outgrown or experienced later in life.

- Stomach pain, diarrhea and even vomiting can be symptoms of a food allergy reaction.

- Not all food allergy reactions are readily visible.  Sometimes, it can be as simple as a child complaining over a very itchy ear canal or saying "There are bugs in my ears." or the food is too hot or spicy even if it's not.

- Some food allergies can be airborne.  The smell of food cooking can cause sneezing, runny nose or even congestion.

- There is no exact cure for food allergies.  Symptoms can be prevented by avoidance.

- Allergic reactions are not the same all the time.  Sometimes, it will trigger eczema after 24 hours or so of exposure.  In severe cases, difficulty breathing (almost like choking) immediately after consumption.

- Food allergy reaction can be life threatening. 

- The 8 most common food allergens are wheat, dairy, egg, soy, peanut, tree nuts, shellfish, and fish.  However a person can be allergic to other common foods like beans, corn, strawberries, apple etc.

- For severe allergic reactions such as difficulty breathing, one will need immediate medication call Epinephrine or commonly known as Epi-pen.  Usually a child or a food allergy mom has one all the time. 

         I hope I was able to give you some basic knowledge about food allergies. You'll never know when these will come handy.   Please help me spread the word too.  You might even save a life in the process. 


- Roz

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Asian Style Slow Cooked Braised Beef - Lo Soi

       When I first learned that I have to remove soy from our diet, my heart sunk.  Almost all of my trusted recipes require soy sauce. Plus my children just love Chicken Adobo. We usually have it every two weeks, alternating chicken and pork. Then it's a big No-no. Ouch! 
        For those of you who don't know what that is, Adobo is considered the national dish of the Philippines.  Each region has it's own variations but the concept is simple --- it's simmered meat or even vegetables in a balanced concoction of vinegar, soy sauce, garlic and black pepper.  It is served with steamed white rice or fried rice if you'll eat it for breakfast.  As a child, I remember pouring the dark brown (almost black) yummy sauce over the rice and I am a happy camper. 

         After more than a month in a food allergy friendly diet, my children started requesting for some Adobo.  Not to feel defeated, I started browsing Asian cookbooks for inspiration or soy sauce substitutes.  Then I came across a recipe that's called Lo Soi (Lo Shui in some books)  or simply translated as Master Sauce.  Actually, it is more of a braising liquid than a sauce which most traditional cooks or even Asian chefs use to flavor their meats. 

        Since I have all the ingredients in my pantry, I decided to give this braising liquid a try.   Though the original recipe calls for a tablespoon of soy sauce and fish sauce each, I  omitted both and increased the salt.  After a few hours of simmering the meat, I was so surprised how delicious this simple recipe turned out.  It was so flavorful that my children ended up using it as a sauce for the rice.

         The best thing about the Lo Soi or Master Sauce is that the cooking liquid was meant to be used over and over again just like a sour dough starter.  I even read somewhere that some Chinese cooks had theirs for more than 10 years!  Interesting right?  I'm not sure though if my own Lo Soi will last that long. Mine is already 6 months old.

      One thing is for sure though, I did save the leftover cooking liquid. I stained it, transferred it in an air tight container and froze.  Whenever I want to make this dish, I'll just reheat the Lo Soi, add more water and spices and boil the meat.  The taste is always perfectly delish!

      This dish is very crock pot friendly too.  I've added the slow cooker version all the way at the end of the post.

    Whether you like to try something easy to cook or would like to impress a crowd, give this recipe a try. I am certain that you will love it too.  Though it didn't have the same taste as my children's beloved Chicken Adobo, this Lo Soi Beef is just as delicious and comforting.  I'm getting hungry now. 

       Love to hear from you.

- Roz


3 pcs Star anise pods
2 in Cinnamon stick
1 tsp. Ginger powder
3 tsp. Chinese 5 spice powder
2 tsp. palm sugar (you can also use brown sugar or raw cane sugar)
1 tsp. cloves
4 cups water
2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
4 cloves garlic (smashed and skin removed)
2 pcs. bay leaf (dried)
3 lbs. chuck steak or london broil

1. In a Dutch oven or heavy stock pot, combine all the ingredients except meat and bring to a slow boil.
2. Add the beef.
3. Once it starts to boil again, turn the heat to low and simmer for at least 2 hours or until the meat is very tender.  Check and stir every 30 minutes to make sure that the meat does not stick on the pot and there is enough sauce.  If the sauce starts to really thicken, add a cup of water and stir. 
4. When the meat is tender, remove from the pot and transfer to a platter. If using a whole steak, you can either cut into bite size pieces or shred the meat.
5. Serve the beef on top of rice with some sauce.

Crock pot version:
       Oh, this recipe works well with a slow cooker too.  Make sure to boil the master sauce on the stove top ahead of time. Let the sauce cool down and store in the fridge. When you are ready to make this, just put the sauce and whole chuck steak or london broil in the crock pot, cover and cook on high for 7 hours.  

       There will be more than enough sauce left in your slow cooker.  Save and freeze it for future use.  The sauce is good for about 6-8 months frozen.    

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Firmoo Sunglasses Review and Discount

         Okay Frugalista Moms, I have exciting news! Last month, I was contacted by  to test and review their eyeglasses.  Though I am not new to writing reviews, (I used to review items on my other blog) I was so delighted because I will get to pick what type of eyeglasses to receive and I can even turn it to sunglasses. With the summer arriving soon, I sure am in need of some fun eye wear.
          When I checked their website, I was surprised by the good number of selections and designs they offer.  One can find glasses from prescription to fashion, metal to plastic, goggles to designer frames and countless shapes.  The best part is that the items are very affordably priced below $70.  Who can go wrong with $30 frames? 
         Since I just bought a new pair of prescription glasses from an optical shop, (Duh!  I could have saved big bucks), I decided to be a little creative.  I chose a big unisex frame, got non prescription lenses and have it tinted.  Instant sunglasses! Oh did you know that you could virtually try the glasses too?  Simply upload a picture and you will have an idea how the frames will look on you.  Isn't that cool?
          When my new glasses arrived in the mail, I was surprised that a hard case, cleaning cloth, tiny screw driver and a soft drawstring bag were also included. With that kind of careful and thoughtful packaging, I felt that I was getting something really special.  Intentionally, I picked one of the biggest frames and paired it with the darkest tint.  Boy! I'm glad I made that choice! The sunglasses turned out really nice. It looked well made and quite sturdy.  Only negative thing I can say is that the temple length is a bit longer than I expected.  With that in consideration, I am still happy because it didn't affect the fit and yes, the sunglasses are very comfortable. 
          Getting jealous already?  Don't be.  The people in Firmoo are very generous and will give all of you free yes, I said FREE pair  of eyeglasses.    You get to pick what frames you like at that page and all you have to do is use the coupon code FIRMOOFREE at checkout and pay for the shipping which is quite reasonable.  If you are outside the US, you can still get the offer. Just check whether your location is included in this list of countries.
       What are you waiting for?  Grab your freebie now!
       Check out my Spring look.  Those big fashionable glasses instantly hid my red, itchy, irritated, pollen sensitive eyes.  :)
- Roz  

P.S. I got the free glasses in exchange for this review.  This however, hasn't affect my honest opinion and experience using the product. 

Friday, May 3, 2013

Friday Finds - Free Healthy Smoothie Recipes Ebooks

      I can't believe it is already Friday.  With the seasonal allergies kicking in and the pressure to lose those winter bulges, the need to eat more fruits and vegetables is definitely on demand.  But who  actually consumes the recommended amount from this food group?  Okay, my vegetarian and vegan friends are raising their hands!
       For us mere mortals with good intentions who are easily tempted, I found out that the best way to get more veggies and fruits in our diet is to make smoothies. Even my pickiest child would agree that a delicious concoction will surely get a thumbs up whatever is in it. Aside from the health benefits, a big glass of smoothie is a perfect treat on a warm day. 
       If you are looking for smoothie combo ideas, check out what I just found out.  I'm pretty sure you'll get some exciting fruit and vegetable combinations.  The best part is that you can download these e-books for free.
       What are you waiting for?  Get them now!
       Have a great weekend!
- Roz


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Food Allergy Friendly Vegan Creamy Chocolate Frosting

       So, what is the most important part of the cake?  For most people especially my kids, it's the icing or frosting! In fact, given a choice, they will just eat the frosting and leave the cake naked! 

       On my part though, I am not a big icing eater.  I like the cake part more.  That is why taste is really important.  If I ever eat some frosting, I am quite the picky type too.  It should be not too sweet, creamy and loaded with flavor too.  Come on, if I'm going to indulge, it should be worth all the calories right?

        Here's my take on a creamy chocolate frosting.  You'll notice that I did add a pinch of salt in it.  It's a trick I learned from my teacher in one of those cake decorating classes. Since butter is out of our diet, I used oil. Since I added some fresh apple sauce, I am happy to give this treat to the kiddos.  Hey, it's still fruit!

       Without much more intro, here's the recipe for the yummy food allergy friendly chocolate frosting.  Give it a try and please let me know if you love it too.


- Roz    


1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup coconut oil (you can also use grape seed or canola oil)
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup apple sauce
1/4 tsp. sea salt (finely ground)
3-6 Tbs. coconut milk (you can also use almond, rice or flax milk)

1. In a big bowl, combine cocoa powder, powdered sugar, apple sauce and sea salt. 
2. Slowly whisk in vanilla and coconut oil.
3. Add 3 Tbs. milk and beat until creamy (about 3 minutes). To incorporate more air and make a lighter frosting, I suggest you use an electric mixer.
4. If the frosting is a bit stiff, add a tablespoon of milk at a time until you reach your preferred consistency. 
5. Use immediately. 

* Refrigerate frosted cupcakes.  High heat will make it loose its consistency.  You can make it fluffier by putting the prepared frosting in the refrigerator for 30 - 40 minutes and whipping it before using.
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