Gluten free Thanksgiving 2015 and decor ideas

Hey guys, 

So this was my Thanksgiving last year and I wanted to share it with you to give you ideas for this year’s Turkey day! 

So let’s talk decor first!  I wanted to keep it simple and clean so we could focus on the food! 

So I started with some butcher paper and laid it the length of the table and cut it.   

Then place your table settings how you want them.    I’m a poor college student, so I just used my everyday dishes but if you keep it simple,  it should still look acceptable.  

Once your table settings are laid out where you want them,  add your centerpiece.  Mineis my usual wicker basket filled with pinecone,  but I supplemented some fake guords from the dollar store for a more festive feel. I also threw some placements underneath it to draw attention to the centerpiece.   

Then I took a permanent marker and wrote out the ‘Give Thanks’  section.    I did this last to make sure I had enough room and that it was placed where I wanted it. 

Finish off your decor with a cute glass/vase with markers for people to write what they are thankful for in the blanks.  

We enjoyed doing this before we ate because it gave us a chance to appreciate to really be in the moment and enjoy our meal. 

And that’s it for decor!  Easy Peasy! 
Now to the good stuff… The food! 

Two things to note: I always have a completely gluten free meal and try to make it healthy to boot.    And I always cook for an army (because who doesn’t love leftovers?!) 

Now I’m not gonna share all the recipes because honestly,  I kinda wing it, but the goal is to give you some ideas on gluten free options! 
Turkey- most are gluten free,  just watch out for glazes.    We got ours from schnucks and it was good,  but other times I have gotten from honeybaked and it was good as well.

For dressing-there are many gluten free turkey gravies you can buy, but we use my grandma’s recipe which basically uses leftover turkey juices mixed with cornstarch, water, booked egg, onion, celery,  and butter. Salt and pepper to taste. 

Ham- we got ours from schnucks,  but honestly,  honey baked hams have much better (and more pricey)  ones.   Be sure to double check glazes! 

Honey mustard- super simple honey mustard if you like dipping your ham in that. Just mix w parts mustard, 2 parts mayonnaise,  2 parts honey and mix it all together.    Taste test as you go to find the level of sweetness best for you. 

Green bean casserole-  alright so I love gb casseroles,  but it can be hard to get the yummy goodness of non gf versions with some of the watery versions of gluten free cream of mushroom soups.    But this year,  I tried a local brand that was much more thick in consistency so was able to achieve the same flavor. Top with gluten free crunchies.  You can find lots of options for these on Amazon.com.

If you wanna kick it up a health notch,  try my green beans with almonds and cranberries.    It is literally that simple… Throw it in a skillet with some olive oil and cook until soft.  Toss in some almonds and cranberries and cook for just another couple of minutes. Serve!  That simple. 

Gluten free stuffing… Well this one is definitely a cheat… I use the boxed one with store bought GF bread and honestly.. It’s really good so I don’t see a whole lot of reason to go out of my way on that one.   The one I most like is the schnucks brand,  but if you don’t have a schnucks,  a Amazon sells the glutino one which is pretty good too.   They also have gf bread crumbs you can buy,  but I usually just use actual gf bread. 

Creamed corn. So this is a slightly different take on corn because honestly I don’t like creamed corn,  but this one is really good and should probably be called more a cheesy corn.    Cook your corn,  whatever kind you are using and put kernels into a skillet.   Then add butter, maybe 1/3 cup of milk, and pepper jack cheese.   Let cheese and butter melt and stir frequently to get milk to absorb in there too.    Once it’s a nice cheesy mess,  sprinkle with parmesean as well. 

Yams.   So again,  not a big fan of marshmallows or candied yams,  so this is my yummy healthy alternative.    I literally just cook them in olive oil…. Ya I know,  crazy that it’s that simple,  but they come out a little sweet and very yummy.   You can bake them until tender (maybe 45 min at 275) or you can cut them up and toss them in a skillet and cook until tender.    

Mashed potatoes,  well that’s pretty much a given.   We used real potatoes and cooked then with just a bit of milk and butter.    This year I will b probably do cauliflower ‘mashed  potatoes ‘ but it takes some prep work for that. 

This meal may seem like it has all the same things you usually eat for Thanksgiving,  and it does…. Minus a ton of the sugar and butter that can so laden so much of turkey day food.   This meal is a much healthier alternative while still helping you feel like you had all the staples! 

I hope that helps give you some ideas on what to make for your gluten  free Thanksgiving!  If you like this post  please like,  follow,  and share! 

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Back to school, organics, yonanas, new apartment, food challenge, and recovery #whew

Hey guys,

I know it has been a bit since my last post and with graduate school underway, it has been difficult to find a time when I am not studying, cleaning, sleeping, or totally spaced out to work on this blog! BUT some interesting updates:

Back to school– oh graduate school sucks! That about sums it up! Haha.  But really…

Anatomy is trying it’s best to drag me down but I am trying very hard to be positive and not self-defeating.  Thus far, I am staying afloat in it…and that’s all I need to do to get through this trimester.

Still it is good to be back at campus, more active than my online classes. Which brings me to update on my online Masters in Nutrition program…I am almost done with it but as the remaining courses are concurrent with the DC program (you take them in the DC program so to save money/time you just wait to take them in the DC program and they will count towards the MSN program), I have currently gone as far as I can for a bit.  But I  did well enough to get Dean’s List twice!

Organics-

The funny thing about that MSN program…is that it has totally motivated some extreme changes in our diets.  I took this one class about food from farm to your plate and it was truly eye opening.  You can find many of the videos we utilized by scrolling through the TEDx videos on YouTube.   Anyways, we were motivated to go almost completely organic.  I say almost because some things are hard to find at a reasonable price and every now and then we aren’t able to do the organic version.  But I figure as much as we can is what matters.   It has been an expensive transition for sure, but one that we both believe is well worth it.  I could espouse all the reasons we believe it is so much better but unless you watch some of those videos and are ready to make the change, it will fall on deaf ears.  So instead, I will just make a short list of the positives and negatives we believe have been a result of going organic.

Positives

  • The food simply tastes better ( my boyfriend at first said that it tasted like something was missing from the produce and we laughed and said ‘ya, pesticides!’)  But since that revelation, food tastes so much better that I would never go back! In fact now, the produce that is not organic has a weird taste to it!
  • It is healthier for our bodies.  The more I learn about it, the more it makes me believe that the more chemicals and hormones we put into our body through conventional foods, the more damage we are doing to ourselves and that this damage is what is leading to many of our widespread diseases and the obesity epidemic.  This is coming from a patient’s perspective.  I cannot say that I ‘feel’ differently since going organic, but I can say that I feel better about what is going into my body.  Knowing that I am not constantly building up toxins in my body and eating clean, healthy food makes me feel like I am making progress. That doesn’t even scratch the surface of it: Definitely check out the TEDx videos on antibiotic resistance due to antibiotic use in livestock.
  • It is better for the environment.  You have got to check out those TEDx videos about how pesticides has damaged soils, air, and waters. Listen to families talk about how their whole town stinks and has unbreathable air due to the pesticide useage and to the stinking waste water pits of factory farms.  Learn about how important crop rotation is to soil and what it takes to be an organic farm. Then take a look at what a factory farm looks like and compare that to the farms of your imagination….see any green pastures and free roaming cows? Now check out organic farms…
  • It is better for the animals. I know they end up the same way but ultimately so do we and that does not change our continuous desire to improve our daily lives.  So check out the way organic farmers treat their livestock and the way they are treated in conventional factory farms.  You will quickly  discover that the animals in factory farms are sickly and being made to produce unnatural characteristics (genetically choosing for larger breasts in chickens, so much so that  they cannot walk…does that sound like a healthy chicken?) which are no doubt having their effects on the consumer who eats them. Furthermore, watch the antibiotic resistance videos to learn about low-level maintenance doses of antibiotics are given in the food but actually end up contributing to poor health of the animal and antibiotic resistance.
  • It IS sustainable! This paragraph could go on and on and on.  But I won’t do that to you. I will just say this…If we raise animals the way they are designed to raised, let them roam freely in the sun with access to plenty of good food and clean water, you are going to get a healthy animal product.   If you let crops grow the way nature intended and utilize natural insects and pest controls, the plants will be healthy.  This mean that the soil, water, and air which are crucial for all life can remain healthy. This means our food supply is healthy which in turn means we are healthy.  So many worry about feeding the population if we switch to organic….but it’s counterintuitive: how can contaminating our waters, producing sick animals, wearing out our soils, and playing God with the DNA of our food lead to a sustainable supply of food?

Negatives

  • it’s expensive

I’m not gonna lie, it costs a pretty penny to go organic, especially in regards to meats! But I do believe that a reduction in medical bills and health problems will balance that out.  In addition, I justify it by knowing it’s better for the environment, the animal/plant, and for myself.  Still, sounds great but how can you afford it on a budget?  I plan to write a blog on this subject, but for now check into local farmers markets and CSA programs. We currently are using Green Bean delivery and they provide us with fresh produce and groceries delivered to our door for $35 a bin.  But we also shop at a handful of places to obtain the best prices on our organic foods.  Currently we get:

Produce- Fresh Thyme or local farmers market (check out amish foods which are raised organically but they don’t pay to have the organic label)

Whole Foods- Meats, lunch meats, eggs, snacks, fresh foods, oddball items- I wont lie…this can get pricey.  We get 2 bags of frozen chicken at $8.99 each (3 lbs each), 2 lbs ground chicken or turkey (cheaper than beef),  2 packs of catfish (about 4/pack) for about $5 each, and then about 2 lbs of whatever meat is on sale that week…usually a roast/ steak of some kind.   This lasts us about a week, maybe 2 and can cost about $50.  Then we get lunch meat from them…try to go on sundays for $2 off/lb.  We usually get about 3 lbs of cheese and meats which end up being another $20.  So we spend about $70 on meats.

Aldis- salad, pasta, sauces, tuna, milk, miscellaneous items- does have some organic produce but its pretty sparse.  Where they shine is for oddball items like pasta sauce and pastas.  They also have a gret price on a large container of organic salad greens.

Other miscellaneous places to try- Walmart, Dierbergs, Schnucks, Costco, CSAs. farmers markets, and Amazon.

Items we have trouble finding for a decent price: tuna, canned chicken, diced tomatoes, avocadoes, bell peppers, olives

As I said, I will probably be doing a few posts on this soon to give you more info,

 

Yonanas

We just finished a 21 day sugar detox and found orselves going crazy needing a little something sweet.   we first tried making ice cream in a blender….well its just not ice cream, more like ICE.  I happened to stumble across this Yonanas machine which makes ice cream- like creamy ice cream- by using ONLY fruit! No sugars, no milk…just fruit.  So we tried it and we love it! I will definitely be posting on this soon!

New apartment-

Well I guess it; snot that new anymore as we have been here almost 6 months already!  BUT still lots to finish up and we plan to get it all done during spring break which is right around the corner so I will be finishing up our apartment part soon here!

Food Challenge-

I KNOW I HAVE BEEN SO BAD ABOUT THIS! But I promise I will be coming back to it! I really loved incorporating new and different foods!  But because of school, this will no longer be a consecutive week challenge but more so a ‘down week’ challenge…when there aren’t finals or a crazy amount of tests!   But I will be picking it back up very soon, promise!

Recovery

Recovery has been slow but steady.   I still do not have the strength to lift much or bend a lot.  Pain is a pretty constant reminder of surgery, but it is better than it was before surgery.  I am now receiving regular chiropractic care from school and I think it might be starting to help. I will be starting acupuncture soon as well so hopefully that will be good too.

 

I think that’s it! Stay tuned and I will definitely have some good stuff headed your way!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Final apartment sneak peak! #projectnewapartment

Alright guys,  sorry it has been so long but moving day is now imminent! It is 1 week away!!!!    I actually allotted about 5 days for us to move because we are going to paint and it just seemed easier.  But now I am wondering if it will be more like a marathon of exhaustion rather than a helpful spread…we will see.
Anyways so moving day is right upon us and it has been chaos here!  I have over 80 pictures of new projects to show you and will add more as we move!  So bear with me!   
Here is one last sneak peak before moving day.

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This is my new apartment color scheme.    Unfortunately I put the gray next to the green and it looks a lot greener than it is… And the dark colors are barely discernable… Sigh.  But I will show you the walls when they are painted.   This is just a taste.
See you at the new place!!! 

Please comment as I love to hear from my readers!

New food challenge week 4-plaintains Recipe 1: Puerto Rican inspired stuffed sweet plantains #gf #healthyeating

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So this post is a LONG TIME COMING!  Like 2.5 months!  Note to self: if you want to use plantains,  they take FOREVER to ripen… So don’t have a time line.
It worked out because I am moving so I was able to work on other projects (wait til you see! )  and packing.
Then last week,  one plantain ripened… And unbeknownst to me,  my boyfriend decided to cook with it… So no pictures.
But I will tell you briefly what he did,  if you want to skip down to this recipe,  it starts in the next paragraph. He made a salsa to top the chicken.  He baked chicken and cut and cooked the plantain on the stove over medium heat until it fell apart… In the same pan.   This was important because they both had a bit of the flavor!  He seasoned with salt,  pepper,  garlic,  and Sriracha sauce and added a bit of raspberry jalapeño jelly in.    When it was melted and the chicken cooked, he topped the chicken with the salsa and served… It was delicious; sweet and spicy!

OK but onto this recipe!    For this recipe I was inspired by Gina’s skinny recipes version found here.   But I’ve actually had this before.   When I was in vet school in the Caribbean,  a girl from Puerto Rico made this for me and I fell in love.   But she couldn’t really tell me the recipe for whatever reason,  so I was a bit intimidated by how to cook this.   Then I saw Gina’s version and I knew I could do it!
So mine is actually a lot different from hers,  because well, I don’t follow recipes well and I only had like half the ingredients she used lol.
So you will need…
-2 RIPE plantains (mine were yellow and soft)
-1/2 pound ground beef
-8 Oz tomato paste
-Sriracha sauce
-salt
-pepper
-garlic
-rosemary
-thyme
-cumin
-pepper jack cheese
-cilantro
– 1/2 an onion
– 1/2 a tomato

My sides
-black beans in a can
-rotel or diced tomatoes in a can
-salt
-pepper
-garlic
-cilantro
-rice

1. Heat the oven to 400.
2. Take a small knife and make a few shallow cuts in the skin of the plantain,  all the way around and from top to bottom,  to make it easier to peel.   Peel the plantains.
3. Grease a baking dish.   Make a slit in the plantain, from top to bottom,  about halfway through.   Mine were very  soft so they went all the way through… Oops.  It’s fine this way,  just makes a banana boat with holes hehe.

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Notice the ugly brown spots?  Down worry,  it was a little bit of the rind(?) left over that did not effect the overall product.
4. If you are going to make my dish,  now would be a good time to start your rice.

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(yes I use a rice cooker…. Stop judging me… For whatever reason,  I am inept at cooking rice lol)
5. Cover the plantain dish with foil then place in the oven.  Let cook for about 40 minutes or until the plantain is super tender.    You can actually smell how sweet it is when it is ready.
6. Cook your ground beef in a pan with olive oil over medium heat.    Season with salt,  pepper,  garlic,  rosemary,  thyme, a dash of cumin, and cilantro.

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6. Dice tomato and onion while meat and bananas cook. Shred your cheese.

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7. Open a can of black beans and rotel,  if you are doing my sides, and put in a pot with garlic,  salt,  pepper,  and cilantro.   Cook over medium low heat.

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8. When the meat is done cooking,  drain and add back to pan.   Toss in the onions,  tomatoes,  and a can of tomato paste and put over low heat.

9.Drizzle a bit of Sriracha sauce over the meat,  stir,  and let simmer… You can skip this if you are heat sensitive,  but it really was not spicy at all.

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Check and stir your black beans now.

10.  About now,  your plantains should be almost ready.   Test with a fork,  if it’s super soft, you’re good to go.

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11. Use tongs to widen the slit you made earlier.

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12.Stuff it with the meat mixture you made. Its kinda difficult to do this so use a spatula or spoon to scoop it in with one hand while using tongs in the other to hold open the plantain.
Top with shredded pepper jack cheese.

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13. Place back in the oven,  uncovered,  for another 5 minutes or so,  until the cheese is melted.
14. Stir your black beans
15. Everything should be wrapping up about now.  I threw the extra cheese over the extra meat in the pan and let it melt.   This extra meat is really helpful to have on the side because once you start eating the plantain,  you find yourself wanting more of the filling too!

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16.  Plate and serve hot!

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So yummy!!!!

I hope you enjoyed this recipe!  Stay tuned because I have one more plantain  recipe before moving on to next week!

Please comment as I love to hear from my readers!

New food challenge week 3: grapefruit recipe 2. FAIL 2-Grapefruit salsa on baked fish

OK,  I’m going to keep this one short because I really did not like this one!
I am not even going to pin the person I got the inspiration from,  because I did not follow their recipe and whatever went wrong with mine was yuck!  For that reason,  I won’t even really give you the recipe I used… Just a basic review.
I baked fish with typical salt,  pepper, garlic, and lemon juice.  Fish came out perfect.   To make the salsa,  I cut the grapefruit into wedges and then cooked over medium heat until they kinda crumbled on their own.

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I added some honey and lemon juice into it.   I let it stay warm and a bit chunky.
I served it on top of the fish.
I put it all on one plate for the picture.

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Yuck!  I don’t know what I did wrong or if it is just because I really don’t like grapefruit,  but this was gross.   Even my boyfriend,  who loves grapefruit,  found it mediocre at best!
Fail #2!    It’s a good thing I made the sweet potato because it’s all I ate!
Because of this fail and my overall dislike of grapefruit… Oh and my boyfriend eating all the others,  I decided that I was done trying grapefruit recipes…. Onto plantains!

Please comment as I love to hear from my readers!

Food Challenge Week 2-3: Bok Choy and Grapefruit Recipe 3-1: Lemon-Butter- Caper Tilapia with Spicy Roasted Bok Choy and Baked Cinnamon Grapefruit

This recipe actually ended up happening on Monday, not Sunday; tsk tsk, I know.  SOOO for this reason, I decided to do both bok choy (from wk 2) AND grapefruit (from Wk 3).

With that said, this recipe definitely handsome high and low points. Let me explain, I really liked the bok choy thus far, but I generally don’t like grapefruit…hence why it is on the New Food Challenge List!   My boyfriend loves pretty much anything I put in front of him, so he liked all of it haha!

Ok so my recipe inspirations were:

Bok Choy from The Wheatless Kitchen. This recipe was amazing. I added a few modifications, but so easy and so good! Great way to end bok choy!

Grapefruit from He and She Eat Clean. This recipe was very easy, and made grapefruit semi-tolerable for me, and my boyfriend liked it too.

The fish is just generally how I make fish! 🙂

You will need:

Fish

-Tilapia (I made 4 fillets- from frozen)

-1/4 c lemon juice

-1/4 stick unsalted butter

-capers (as many as you like!)

-foil

Bok Choy

-6 stems bok choy (I did not have much left over so that’s what I used but you can definitely make more!)

-splash of olive oil

-splash of GF soy sauce

-2 tbsp. garlic powder

-3 or 4 shakes of red pepper flakes (or as many as you like-this is a SPICY version)

-2 tbsp. honey

-1 tbsp. chili paste

Grapefruit

– 1 large grapefruit

– cinnamon as desired

1. I always cook my fish in foil because it helps keep it moist, but you can just cook it in an oven-safe dish if you  like.

Set oven to bake at 400F.

Line your pan with a layer of foil.  Then place your fish fillets inside. Season with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and lemon juice. Slice the butter into a few pats and spread throughout fish. This will keep it moist.  Top with capers as well.
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Cover the top with foil and place in oven.

Set timer for about 30 minutes.

2. Wash and then slice Bok Choy as below.

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3. In a bowl, mix together the olive oil, soy sauce, garlic, red pepper flakes, honey, and chili paste.

4. Place the bok choy on a baking sheet or in a dish.

5. Toss with the sauce mix and coat all the bok choy pieces.

6. Spread pieces out as much as possible and set aside.

7. Cut grapefruit in half and place in a baking dish.

8. Sprinkle desired amount of cinnamon onto the top.

9. Check on your fish.  To test, use a fork and place into fillet. Twist it gently.  If fish flakes it is done, if it has some resistance to flaking, then it needs a bit more time. The amount of resistance + the amount of pink still left determines how much longer you need to cook it.  Mine was frozen, so at the 30 minute mark, it needed another 15 minutes or so.

10.  When the fish has 15 minutes to go, place the grapefruit into the oven.

11. When the fish has 10 minutes left, place the bok choy in the ovimage

en.

12.  When time is up, remove fish, bok choy, and grapefruit from the oven.     The fish should be white and flaky. The bok choy should be wilted and somewhat tender. The grapefruit should be warm throughout.
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13.  Serve warm!

The bok choy and fish came out amazing! I loved that I mixed a side that contained soy sauce with a lemon-butter fish successfully!  It was so so good.  The grapefruit was warm which helped sweeten it a bit. The cinnamon was a bit strong but when mixed thoughout, was good.  I don’t typically like grapefruit so it was pretty noteworthy that I ate almost all of it.  My boyfriend loves grapefruit.  He says this version was good but he prefers it raw and cold.

Overall, I would say this was 2 successes and a great way to end Bok Choy and start Grapefruit!

Check out my other Bok Choy recipes an stay tuned for my grapefruit ones!

Shrimp Bok Choy with Rice

Chicken and Bok Choy GF crepes

Sneak peak 3 and 4 and food challenge update

Okay so,  as promised,  I’m trying to keep your appetite wet with sneak peaks…. So here’s my latest!

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Can you guess what I’m up to?    Here’s a few  hints… 2 will be made into drink/coffee bars and  one will be wall art.

Let me know what you think I’m up to!

As for the food challenge,  the plantains are starting to look ripe-ish.   I have them sitting next to a bunch of apples and am pretty sure I’m gonna try it next week regardless because it’s been like 2 months now!  Grr! 
But anyways stay tuned because I got more good stuff coming at ya!

Please comment as I love to hear from my readers!