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Hello, world! Sorry I have been away the past couple weeks, but we have had company – and we worked them like slaves!

No, really, we did.

Well, somewhat. You see, my husband’s parents came to town for their annual visit and we like to do home improvement projects with them while they are here. I should probably rephrase that… my husband and his father are really good at doing home improvement projects together! My mother in law and I are good at buying supplies and new home goods and supervising their work!

We’ve been in this house for about two and a half years now and there are a variety of cosmetic things we have wanted to do. But my husband and I prefer to work outside on the yard instead of inside and so we haven’t done much inside. My in-laws help to motivate us, especially since we have more helping hands to get things done! Last year they helped us figure out a good lighting solution for our kitchen, which had horrible, poorly located, contractor-grade lighting. And of course, while we were at it, we had to repaint the kitchen ceiling too, because for some reason, the previous owners liked to paint the ceilings the same color as the walls and the dark beige ceiling in the north-facing kitchen didn’t help the lack of proper light in the kitchen.

This past week we tackled a couple of projects. We, by which I mean they, my husband and father in law, hung cabinets in my tiny laundry room – now I can easily reach the detergent and rag towels – and I can hide all the dog paraphernalia in the cabinets – yeah! I love hiding things out of sight!

We also are preparing to get our concrete floors stained and sealed later this month and figured it was a good time to do a  couple of other things before that chaos begins. Like repaint the office/third bedroom. Once again, the ceiling had been painted, and this time it was dark blue. Along with one wall. I am not sure how I lived with it so long, actually. Probably only because I placed two giant bookcases on that wall which hid most of the blue. But nothing could hide that dark blue ceiling, except a couple of coats of paint! Now the office has four nice creamy walls, a white ceiling (I love white ceilings!), and fun, new curtains, which my mother-in-law and I shopped for while the boys were working on the cabinets.

We (they!) also hung a ceiling fan where there had previously been a horrid old light fixture. It looked like something that would be in your grandmother’s house that hasn’t changed in about 30 or 40 years. I am already loving the fan! This room doesn’t get the best circulation and we can’t leave the window open very far in here since the rain frequently beats this side of the house during monsoon season (now), so the fan feels wonderful here as I type.

Please don’t notice the messy, messy desk…I am a “piler” – I organize by piles. But I have 4 weeks to get this room organized and some stuff thrown out before we have to move our entire house into the garage so we can get our floors finished. Firm deadlines motivate me. But wish me luck. I am not good at organizing and throwing things away.

We also tackled another project that has been lingering for over a year now too. Once again, we had these horrible 1990’s-era brass and oak handles on our cabinets. They matched the cabinets fine, but they just looked so 90’s. (I guess the house was built in ’98.) But, they totally dated things. So over a year ago, I found some brushed nickel handles that looked really nice and changed all the cabinet handles in the kitchen, except for two. The two on the small, ‘fake’ cabinet fronts in front of the kitchen sink, the ones above the big doors below into the cabinet. You know which ones I mean? We could not find a tool small enough to get between the sink and the cabinet to be able to unscrew the handles. (Why the fake handles are there in the first place is a whole other question.) And we also had a sneaking suspicion that one of them was not screwed on, but glued on, for some reason. (Please, think before you do weird home improvements!! We often ask ourselves, why did they think that was a good idea?) So we decided to tackle removing the sink and replacing it, just to FINALLY change out those two stray, fake cabinet handles. Of course, my mother-in-law thought we might as well get a whole new sink and faucet while we were at it. So I let her twist my arm and we picked one out for the boys to install. Luckily it all went fairly smoothly and I now have a new, pretty, shiny, non-hard-water-stained sink and faucet to go with my final two cabinet handles! Yeah! Project finished after a year!

So after all that, we did take at least one day to do something fun. We drove up to Taos and visited the town and Pueblo, between summer thunderstorms. We also ate some yummy, gluten free food at Rellenos Cafe (more to come on that). My husband and I have visited Taos previously but we normally just headed for the hills for some hiking. This time we stopped at Taos Pueblo and took a look around. It was such a beautiful spot and I would recommend stopping and touring. It is one of the few Pueblos where you can take photographs (for a fee) and so I’ll leave you with a couple of my favorite photos from the day.

Tomorrow it is back to reality and back to the daily grind. And I will be posting more now that we’re back to a regular schedule. See you around!

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This past month I haven’t been blogging so much about each of the individual meals I have been making, although most meals have been photographed. So I thought I would do a little round-up of photos of the meals and a brief yea or nay vote on some of them.

Spinach Avocado Grapefruit Salad from In My Box

I enjoyed this salad, although my husband, who is not a big fan of spinach, did not. The oil in the avocado and then the tang of the grapefruit is all the dressing this needs. The leftovers even held up and made it into my lunch the next day. Yea for me.

Gingered Skirt Steak with Snow Peas from goodLife{eats}

Instead of steak, we used tofu ‘steaks’. We also omitted the oyster sauce and added 1/2 Tbsp more of both the hoisin and soy sauces. We served this over rice vermicelli noodles which I had attempted to pan-fry. (They didn’t turn out so great.) The stir fry was delicious and next time I will serve it over rice instead of the noodles. The noodles didn’t have much flavor and actually detracted from the rest of the dish. Snow peas were fresh from our garden. Yea for us both.

Baked Salmon (me) and Baked Tofu (husband), Stir-Fried Snow Peas with Scallions and brown rice

I baked the tofu in Book of Yum’s Yummy Grilled Tofu marinade. And the snow peas and carrots were sautéed in sesame oil with green onions. I baked my salmon with a red pepper/five spice powder rub and a rice vinegar/honey marinade. It was very tasty. Yea for us both. And yea for using up the rest of the snow peas we had from our garden this year.

Sichuan Tofu with Garlic Sauce from Fat Free Vegan

We’ve made this dish before and really enjoy it. We used canned, sliced water chestnuts instead of fresh ones. On the side we had some brown rice and steamed broccoli. I follow Susan’s recipe for the most part except I have found that we like a little more sauce in the final dish and so I double the marinade. Yea for us both.

That’s it for now. More to come this week…

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In honor of Celiac Awareness month, May, the Gluten Intolerance Group and Pamela’s Products are hosting a Gluten Free Challenge. They are challenging YOU to live gluten free for one weekend – just two days, May 22-23 – in support of those of us who must live gluten free. The goal is to show our gluten-consuming friends and family that you can enjoy great gluten free food with us. It is also our hope that you will come away with a better understanding of what we face every day on a gluten free diet.

Can you do it? I think you can.

Sign up here and you’ll receive tips and daily recipes to prepare you for your experience.

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Where’s the Protein?

When most people hear that I am gluten free and vegetarian (mostly), they wonder how on earth I get my protein for the day. Generally most Americans eat plenty of protein, in fact most probably eat too much, especially those on the standard American diet (SAD). Perhaps this is where the misconception lies that it is hard to get enough protein on a vegetarian diet, let alone with the additional restriction of requiring a gluten free diet. Since as a vegetarian I am not overdosing on burgers and giant chicken breasts, I must not be getting enough protein!

First, let’s review how much protein an average person really needs. The Recommended Daily Allowance for a man is 56 grams and for women, 46 grams.

Out of curiosity, I counted my protein grams one day this week. My breakfast and lunch are pretty much the same every day. I know, boring! But it works for me, mainly for weight control.

3/4 cup Greek non-fat yogurt = 17g (a lot more protein than regular yogurt)

1-1/2 cups strawberries = 1g

1 Tbsp honey = 0g

1 oz baby carrots = 1g

1/2 cup cherry tomatoes = <1g

1 small apple = <1g

String cheese, low fat = 6g

Rice crackers, 1.5 servings = 1.5g

1 cup blackberries =2g

So, where are we after my typical breakfast and lunch? 29.5 grams, not bad. On some days I bring in some non-fat milk for chai and once every couple of weeks I will go across the street from my office and get a Starbuck’s tall non-fat chai. So let’s add that in there at 6g, or 4g if I bring my milk from home. Or, if not a chai, I will allow myself a snack of a rice cake with a bit of almond butter on top. Rice cake: 1g and 1 Tbsp almond butter: 3.5g.

So we’re at 33.5 grams, assuming I had a homemade chai. I only need 12.5 more grams the rest of the day. For dinner, let’s assume we had a tofu stir-fry with rice.

1 cup brown rice = 5g

1-3 oz. serving of tofu = 9g, but I probably had more like 1.5 servings for 13.5g of protein

So where does that leave me? 52 grams and I didn’t even count the vegetables we had with dinner.

Nor did I count the ice cream I had for dessert…we’ll pretend that didn’t happen since I shouldn’t count on it! (But I did go look in the freezer, a chocolate fudge bar has 4g and a 1/2 cup of ice cream has 2g, at least the kinds we have in our freezer right now.)

Now let’s look at some other typical protein sources for lacto-ovo vegetarians. (Remember that lacto-ovo means that we do consume dairy (lacto) and ovo (eggs).)

Yogurt, 1-6oz. container: 5g

Skim Milk, 1/2 cup: 4g

Egg, 1 large, cooked: 7g

Almonds, 1 oz.: 6g

Quinoa, 3/4c cooked: 6g

Chickpeas, 1 cup, cooked: 15g (!)

Cheese, 1 oz.: 7g

Brown rice pasta, 1 cup: 4g

Veggie burger: 5g

So, in reality, if you are eating a healthy, well-balanced, vegetarian diet, getting enough protein shouldn’t be much of a problem. If you are vegetarian and eating mostly junk or processed foods, you may or may not be getting enough. You may want to write down a couple day’s worth of meals and count them up to be sure. I know it has helped me pay a little more attention.

Are you vegetarian? Or partially vegetarian? What are your favorite protein sources?

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Why?

Does the world really need another blog?

Do I think that I have something to offer the gluten free vegetarian world?


Well, I am not sure, but I do know that more and more people are being diagnosed with celiac disease every day. And more and more people are finding that they feel better without wheat, celiac or not. In fact, over the past year I have had a number of friends who have been either diagnosed with celiac or gluten intolerance or have decided to follow a gluten free diet for another health reason (migraines, behavioral issues, etc). Many of these friends have asked me for advice since they know I have been “around the (gluten free) block” a few times and that I previously advised and educated people about celiac disease and the gluten free diet as a support group leader.

It is through this blog that I wish to help these friends and others, vegetarian or not, ease into their gluten free lifestyle with fewer bumps. As you will see on my About page, I am not a creative, original cook. And I am not a baker. I am a cook, and so the goal of this blog is to help people with the basics of gluten free cooking and meal planning, mainly with putting meals on the dinner table. Occasionally I will write about a baking experience, but generally I avoid baking as I have found that it is not healthy for my waistline to keep such goodies around the house. And yes, most recipes on here will be vegetarian, in fact I would say that 99% of them will be vegetarian.

But you aren’t a vegetarian? That’s okay. I am not either (read my About page). But I cook almost entirely vegetarian meals. My goal is to help you learn that vegetarian cooking is more than rice and tofu. That it is more than just leaving out the meat. That it is more than salads and sprouts.

So even if you have never deliberately cooked a vegetarian meal, I would encourage you to read along and get a feel for things – you just might stumble on something you’d like to try. Or maybe you have thought it would be a good idea to reduce your meat consumption, perhaps in keeping with Meatless Mondays. Or if you happen to be one of our friends, you might find something on here that you can make for us the next time we come over for dinner! I hope this will help demystify the world of gluten free and vegetarian cooking for you. Welcome!

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