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I was recently contacted by a rep for Krave Jerky to receive some free product samples in exchange for a review on my blog. They sent samples of every flavor, both of the traditional jerky as well as a few of the jerky bars and sticks. All in all, I was quite pleased with the products and the unique flavor combinations and of course, the fact that the products are gluten free! As a celiac, I have to watch the ingredient list on jerky type products because many use wheat-containing soy sauce as flavoring. The Krave samples all indicated that the soy sauce is gluten free and made from soy instead of wheat – so that was a definite plus for me!

While I am not a big jerky person, it was convenient to be able to toss a bar or stick in my bag or purse if I knew I was going to be out and about and might need a snack. The bars and sticks have a decent amount of protein in them (7-8 grams per bar or stick) and they even have some plant proteins added in the form of quinoa, white beans or black beans (in the Spicy Red Pepper Pork with Black Beans Stick or the Rosemary Lemon Turkey with White Beans Stick or the Mango Jalapeno Pork with Fruit and Quinoa Bar). I will say that the texture of the bars and sticks was a bit different, perhaps because of the added ingredients? The texture was less chewy and meaty, and more mushy, but still tasty.

As for the more traditional jerky, I was surprised to find jerky made from more than just beef in the package. I don’t think I have ever tried pork, chicken or turkey jerky before. I will say that I think I am more of a traditionalist (beef!) when it comes to jerky as I wasn’t overly fond of the mushy texture of the turkey, chicken and pork flavors. One exception being the Lemon Garlic Turkey jerky – this one was quite chewy and my favorite of the non-beef flavors.

As I mentioned, the unique flavor combinations were fun to try but I discovered that I seem to prefer the more traditional flavors. Quite a few of the flavors seemed overly sweet to me – in particular the Wild Blueberry bar, the Grilled Sweet Teriyaki Pork Jerky, Sweet Chipotle Beef Jerky and even the Sea Salt Original Beef Jerky. In looking at the labels (for all jerky, not just this brand), jerky tends to be high in added sugar and of course, sodium. So comparing labels is a smart move, especially if you are watching either of these nutrients. Most of the Krave products I sampled had anywhere from 7-11 grams of added sugar per one ounce serving. Remember that 4 grams of sugar is equal to one teaspoon of white sugar and the recommendation is to consume no more than 6 tsp (women) or 9 tsp (men) of added sugar per day  And most of us don’t stick to eating only one ounce of jerky in one sitting. So the sugar adds up quickly! Be sure to read labels and make smarter choices.

As well, sodium is a concern when choosing jerky (or any other processed meat). The Krave products I received were moderate in their sodium content with anywhere from 6-17% of the recommended daily value (DV). Products under 5% of DV can be considered low sodium and products over 20% DV can be considered high in sodium content. Of course the concern here too is that most people don’t stick to just eating one ounce of jerky, so in reality they are eating 2-3 times (or more!) the amount of sodium listed for a single one-ounce serving.

The Krave website touts their products as being entirely gluten-free as well as free of added nitrites or MSG (some are naturally occurring). They also state they use lean cuts of meat, no artificial flavors, and the products contain less than 100 calories per serving.

Overall I thoroughly enjoyed the products I received – my favorites being the Sea Salt Original Beef Jerky, the Lemon Garlic Turkey Jerky, Garlic Chili Pepper Beef Jerky and Pink Peppercorn Beef Jerky. While I preferred the traditional style (loose) jerky over the bars, I will admit that having the bars or sticks available to toss in my purse was convenient. But I will probably stick to my preferred flavors of the loose jerky and just measure out an ounce portion into a snack sized baggie. Be sure to check out their website and order your sampler pack now! (Free shipping on orders over $35.) Enjoy!

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Hello hello!

School is going well, but busy. I just had my first exam of the new semester this week – whew! But I am so happy to finally be delving into the “meat” of the nutrition courses! This semester I am taking Methods in Nutrition Education, Energy Nutrients, Nutrition of the Life Cycle and Management in Dietetics; all of which are interesting in their own ways. Energy Nutrients is going to be toughest one because it is nutrition, chemistry and biology all coming together to talk about metabolism. Nutrition of the Life Cycle is the most interesting as we cover so much and get to do some case studies and “pretend” to be dietitians. I also started a new job at the local VA hospital as a diet aide. (I did the same thing previously, just at a different hospital, and for less money.) Three weeks in and all is well there too. Keeps me out of trouble, right?

And I am *trying* to be a good chairperson for our local support group. I have so many things I want to do with and for the group, but they all take time. Which is in short supply these days. And so I am working to improve my time management skills.

So, to honor that, I’ve been cooking, just nothing fancy. This is one of those easy and quick, no-recipe meals. An old friend of mine made this for me many years ago when I came to visit her (Hi, Jessi!). I’ve probably changed her recipe unknowingly over the years, but in spirit it is still her recipe.

Oh, and if you have some extra zucchini lying around from your overflowing garden, here’s another recipe to use up a couple of them!

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Italian Chickpea and Pasta Skillet

Adapted from Jessica’s recipe, as remembered by me

8 oz pasta, cooked

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 medium carrots, sliced thinly into rounds

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 small zucchini, halved and sliced

1 Tbsp oregano

1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed well

1 can diced tomatoes, or 2 cups of fresh, chopped tomatoes

1/2 tsp salt, or to taste

Parmesan cheese, grated, to taste, (or nutritional yeast for vegan)

Cook the pasta according to the directions. (Tonight, for the first time, I tried Trader Joe’s Organic Brown Rice and Quinoa fusilli pasta. It was pretty good but be careful, it overcooks quick. I set the time for 6 minutes and it was already past al dente.)

Heat the oil in a skillet over medium.Add onions and carrots and cook until the carrots begin to soften. (It will depend on how thinly they were sliced.) Add garlic and zucchini and cook until zucchini begins to soften. Stir in oregano. Then add the chickpeas and tomatoes. Add 1/4 cup water and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Stir in salt to taste.

Serve over the pasta with grated Parmesan cheese.

No official name here, not even a *real* recipe, just a framework for you.

We fell in love with kale salads a few years ago. And I was actually surprised that my husband went for it the first time I made one!

I almost always have a bag of Trader Joe’s curly kale in the frig – it lasts quite a while and is pre-prepped (torn and washed) so this salad is easily thrown together. I also always have a ripe avocado – they’re either ripening on the counter or there are ripe ones *on hold* in the frig. This salad frequently accompanies our other “go-to” meal item, our homemade frozen tamales, as the flavors are complementary.

"Go-To" Kale Salad

“Go-To” Kale Salad

Kale, washed and torn from stems

Olive oil

Salt

Garlic powder

Cherry tomatoes, halved

Avocado, diced

Lemon (or lime) juice, just a squeeze, to taste (a few drops of bottled works in a pinch too!)

Sriracha Sauce (aka Rooster Sauce), to taste, if desired

Roasted Sunflower Seeds

Place your kale in a bowl and drizzle with a bit of olive oil and a dash of salt. Massage kale with your hands until the leaves are coated. Sprinkle with garlic powder and let it rest while you make the other parts of your meal; the leaves will soften. Top kale with remaining ingredients and serve.

Well, we’re halfway through the summer semester and I still haven’t gotten back to blogging very much. I am cooking more. In fact, I am trying to select one recipe each week from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. I have had this cookbook for a couple of years and haven’t really utilized it very often. So it is a goal of mine to pick this cookbook up more often.

I did recently remake a recipe that I came up with last summer and never blogged about, so finally, here it is. I am always looking for good things to take with me in my thermos to eat during my lunch break at work or the long day I have on campus this semester. And I remembered this recipe when I started seeing those beautiful red, seedless grapes on sale. I also tried this recipe out on my group of gluten free girlfriends (last summer though) and everyone enjoyed it. I hope you will too! (PS: It does contain meat as it was just for me and my lunches.)

Yes, you’re probably already celebrating, with your holiday picnics underway as I type, but this recipe would be a good one to take to a potluck or summer barbecue later this summer.

And with that, I had better get off the computer and go get ready for the July 4th Extravaganza over at my friend, Heidi’s, house. I hope you’re enjoying your holiday!

Poppyseed Quinoa Chicken Salad

Poppyseed Quinoa Chicken Salad

1/2 cup dry quinoa, cooked according to instructions

1 cup chopped celery

1 cup grape halves

4 oz chicken, cooked and diced

2-4 Tbsp poppyseed dressing (such as Briannas or Ken’s)

1/4 cup almonds, sliced or chopped

Cook quinoa according to directions. Allow to cool completely. Mix together cooled quinoa, celery, grapes and chicken in a large bowl. Stir in dressing, as desired. (If your quinoa is still warm you will need more dressing as it seems to soak up more when it is warm).  Mix in almonds before serving.

Size up the recipe for a crowd. As written, this makes about enough for me for 3-4 lunch-sized portions. I often throw it over some mixed greens for some extra umph.

Well, it’s been a while! Let’s just say that it was a tough semester but I got through it with flying colors – and most of my sanity intact. (My husband may say otherwise.) Woo-hoo! In addition to school I was also volunteering and started working a couple of days per week at a hospital. So it’s been a blur, but I am finally beginning to feel like I can see straight again.

I am only taking one class during this summer semester and working two days a week so I should have a little extra time! Yay! I might actually be able to cook and blog about it again.

The past few months we’ve depended on more convenience foods than usual due to my crazy schedule. Dinners weren’t quite as elaborate as they had been. As well, there was one day per week this past semester where I was on campus the entire day and so I would bring a lunch and multiple snacks to keep me full and gluten free. I enjoyed using my thermos to bring hot or cold foods to eat, whether they were dinner leftovers, a can of soup or a heated up frozen dinner.

One of those items that I would make and stick in my thermos was Saffron Road’s frozen entrees. They have both vegetarian and non-vegetarian meals. I buy both, the vegetarian ones for both of us and the non-vegetarian ones for me. I started buying the non-vegetarian ones when my local grocery store had them on sale since they say right on the package “Gluten Free Certified” by GFCO. (Not every single one of their products are certified GF but the vast majority are, please check out their FAQ’s for more information.) And I also could feel good about eating these meaty meals because the animals are humanely raised.

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Recently I was offered some free samples of their vegetarian frozen entrees and I was game. Unfortunately, finding the vegetarian entrees was a bit more challenging for me in this not-so-vegetarian-friendly, cattle-heavy state! I don’t often venture to Whole Foods but I was finally able to find the vegetarian entrees there. They had two of the vegetarian entrees to choose from: Manchurian Dumplings and Chana Saag (but the company produces many others).

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Look! You can even see the little GFCO stamp of approval in the bottom right corner!

The dumplings were intriguing and different. They are made of rice flour and vegetables and they tasted good. But I expected them to be more dumpling-like, in that they would have stayed together on my fork, more like a meatball would. Instead, they sort of crumbled when I tried to stab one with my fork. Despite this, the flavor was good and although it says spicy on the package, I didn’t find it to be especially spicy, although others might. I liked the tangy sauce as it had an interesting flavor profile. The basmati rice was perfectly cooked (surprising for a microwaved entree). It should also be noted that this entree is vegan – no animal products whatsoever. It comes in at 340 calories, mainly from the generous serving of rice, and only 6 g of protein. In the end, it was a tasty entree but not one I would likely buy again since it didn’t keep me very full for long. I liked the unique flavor and concept but it didn’t pan out as well as I had hoped.

Chana Saag Entree

The other entree was the Chana Saag, chickpeas in spinach, with cumin rice. This entree is vegetarian, it does contain dairy in the form of cream, as is typical of saag. This one was more my style as I love chickpeas (chana) and I love saag. And the cumin rice was dynamite. Again, the basmati rice was light and fluffy and nicely flavored. I could recommend this entree to almost anyone new to Indian flavors as it is not spicy, although it does have a lot of flavor from spices (it’s different, you know?). This one came in at 420 calories, more than the dumplings but also 12g of protein, since the chickpeas are the star of the show here.

This entree was more filling although I did go ahead and throw it over some fresh greens once it was cooked. I often do this with a frozen entree, to get more bang for my buck and to fill me up. (It’s something I learned from my time at Weight Watchers.) You can use anything, mixed salad greens, lightly steamed kale, spinach, etc. I like how when I spoon the hot entree over the greens it lightly wilts them. Try it!

I will definitely buy the Chana Saag again. And I will also continue to buy the meaty entrees for myself for emergencies.

So now for the GIVEAWAY – Saffron Road is offering one of my readers coupons for three free frozen entrees. And you can get either the meat-based or vegetarian entrees, your choice. All you have to do is visit the Saffron Road website and then come back here and indicate in the comments below which of their frozen entrees you’d be interested in trying. This giveaway will close next Wednesday, June 12th at midnight, mountain time. The winner will be notified via email on Thursday, June 13th.

Also, when you’re over on their website, check out the flavored crunchy chickpeas!! They sound awesome – and all three flavors are GF. I love making my own but haven’t done it in quite some time. I am keeping my eyes peeled for these!

*Products were provided free of charge but the opinions expressed here are my own.

Well, this week I am on top of it. But only because after I posted last week’s (late) menu plan, I went ahead and wrote up this week’s menu plan since I already had it prepared.

I am not sure what the theme is over at this week’s Gluten Free Menu Swap, but be sure to go over and check it out for some added inspiration.

This week is focused on quick meals and make-ahead meals. With school and work now, I am trying to make dinner pretty uncomplicated. I’ve already made the soup and a batch of quinoa to get a jump start on things.

Here’s the line-up:

Red Beans and Rice – an old standby. Simple, with some rice and a green salad. A great one to stick in the frig for later in the week as ‘leftovers’.

Quinoa with Brussels Sprouts, Chickpeas, Cranberries, Blue Cheese and Pecans – it will be something along the lines of what I linked to, but I plan on modifying it a bit.

Wild Rice and Mushroom Soup – a new-to-us recipe. This is a recipe that I had pinned on Pinterest (dangerously addicting!) and I gave hubby the choice of three soups that I had pinned and he chose this one. I subbed the chicken with two cans of drained and rinsed white beans.

Thai Quinoa – my brother and his girlfriend really liked this and she and I both had pinned it. So I decided it was time to try it out too. Yes, I know we have two quinoa recipes this week but that is just how it turned out. Quinoa is so versatile and easy to throw together as a quick meal.

What are your favorite quick meals?

Meal Plan Friday…not Monday. This week has been crazy. I started my new part-time job working at the hospital as a diet aide. It’s kind of the starting point for clinical dietitians-in-training/schooling. I am sitting here with a nice glass of wine in me after being on my feet for 8+ hours today – the first time in years that I have done that (all day on my feet, that is, not the wine)!

And so, I have our belated meal plan for you, since I didn’t get around to posting it yet. This is the menu that we are working our way through now:

Mediterranean Salad with Socca – it’s been quite a while since we have had this salad and my husband claimed he loved it (I like it a lot too, I was just surprised that he did too). So, I guess I need to add this one back into our normal repertoire! And the socca I am still trying to perfect…I’ve tried multiple recipes and I am not happy with any one in particular yet, but I love the concept and will keep trying!

Rosemary Chickpea and Spinach Soup – recipe from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian cookbook. This soup was okay, nothing to write home about so I probably won’t be making it again.

Last Minute Sesame Noodles – always tasty!

Chickpea Picatta over Mashed Potatoes and Arugula – yum, another one we haven’t had in a while. It is super! Even hubby liked the arugula. And I am sitting here drinking the rest of the wine I used in it.

What is hitting the spot at your house this week?