Saturday, June 30, 2012

Foodie Pen Pal Reveal

It's that time again- Time for my Foodie Pen Pal Reveal!  

The Lean Green Bean

This month I was paired up with two readers. My Pen Pal was Shannon and she sent me package filled with awesome dairy free goodies.

My first glimpse into my goodie box.

I am not quite sure how she fit all of this into that small box!

The first thing I did was read the very sweet card she included. My mom always taught me that whenever you get a gift, you always read the card first.:-)  Shannon herself is not dairy free, but she was so sweet and made sure to read all the labels and make sure that everything in the box was.  

These chips were my favorite items.  I am a huge chip fanatic- I'll take salty over sweet any day. The PopCorners Chips were so good!  I have been wanting to try them for some time, but just never picked up a bag.  They are easily my new favorite snack food!  The Pita Chips were also very good- they tasted like the fried won-tons you get in Asian restaurants.  I did share this bag with my husband since he loves pita chips.  (I did not share very many of the PopCorners though). 

Quinoa is easily one of my favorite grains so I was thrilled to get a brand new box of it!  It's still unopened but I have some plans for it once we get home from vacation.

I always love to try a new tea, and Shannon sent me 3 to try. I had the Tazo Rest tea one evening after dinner when I was not feeling so great (allergy season has been tough on me this year).  It tastes similar to Chamomile to me.  It is a very relaxing tea- perfect before bed or if you have the sniffles. The Cold Brew tea is being packed for the beach so I can make myself a couple glasses of iced tea while we are there.   The Yogi Perfect Energy tea I am saving for those afternoons when I need a pick me up.  (I'm a bit of a food hoarder, I like to save and savor things like this).

I had never had one of these bars before, and I tried it just the other day.  It's a very sweet, nutty bar with a coconut flavor.  I reminded me of eating a candy bar, but without the chocolate.  Very sweet, and a great snack to have in my purse. 

I have been saving this specifically for vacation.  I didn't want to open it before we left and have it go to waste, so I have wrapped it up and we are taking it with us.  I love key lime, and so does my husband.  I am thinking this will be perfect in the morning on a bagel or toast while we sit on the deck and sip our coffee.  And I wanted to be sure to share it with our friends.

So there you have it- this month's Foodie Pen Pal box.  Thank you so much Shannon for all the wonderful goodies you sent!  And for taking the time make sure each item was dairy free!  

Are you interested in participating in the Foodie Pen Pals Program?

-On the 5th of every month, you will receive your penpal pairing via email. It will be your responsibility to contact your penpal and get their mailing address and any other information you might need like allergies or dietary restrictions.
-You will have until the 15th of the month to put your box of goodies in the mail. On the last day of the month, you will post about the goodies you received from your penpal!
-The boxes are to be filled with fun foodie things, local food items or even homemade treats! The spending limit is $15. The box must also include something written. This can be anything from a note explaining what’s in the box, to a fun recipe…use your imagination!
-You are responsible for figuring out the best way to ship your items depending on their size and how fragile they are. (Don’t forget about flat rate boxes!)
-Foodie Penpals is open to blog readers as well as bloggers. If you’re a reader and you get paired with a blogger, you are to write a short guest post for your penpal to post on their blog about what you received. If two readers are paired together, neither needs to worry about writing a post for that month.
-Foodie Penplas is open to US & Canadian residents.  Please note, Canadian Residents will be paired with other Canadians only. We've determined things might get too slow and backed up if we're trying to send foods through customs across the border from US to Canada and vice versa.

If you’re interested in participating for July, please CLICK HERE to fill out the participation form and read the terms and conditions.

You must submit your information by July 4th as pairings will be emailed on July 5th!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Product Review: Attune Foods Erewhon Cereal

Not too long ago I was offered the opportunity to try Attunes line of Erewhon cereal.  Their cereals are organic and made in nut free and dairy free facilities.  Both of the cereals we tried are also gluten free.   

I have never been a huge breakfast eater, especially as a kid.   My kids, on the other hand, LOVE breakfast and especially cereal.   The minute their feet hit the floor in the morning they are looking for breakfast.  One of the challenges is finding cereal they will like that is still healthy.  So far we have been pretty successful at keeping the junk cereals out of the house but they get tired of the same old thing. So we are always on the hunt for something new, tasty, and healthy.  They were just as excited as I was when our box of cereal arrived in the mail.  We got to try the Rice Twice and the Strawberry Crisp. 

Even though I have never been a huge fan of cereal, as I have gotten older I have found that there are a few types that I  really like. I have pretty high standards and won't eat just anything. Actually, I am super picky about cereal.  I don't like super sugary cereals, or ones that get soggy quickly. I want my cereal to be healthy, but to not taste like cardboard. See?  High standards.  

The first box opened the morning after it arrived was the Strawberry Crisp.

I was especially excited about this one because it is similar to an old favorite of mine that happens to contain dairy. (Why would corn flakes with strawberries contain dairy anyway??  That doesn't make sense to me.  But I digress...)
 My Middle One was the first to dig in to her bowl and she gave it Two Thumbs Up.  That's our rating system for food, by the way.  If something gets two thumbs, it's really good!

 We also tried the Rice Twice cereal.  We gave that one to the Littlest One.

This still sleepy little monkey also loved her bowl of cereal.

Of course I had to give it a try too, so I had a bowl of the Strawberry Crisp with  almond milk.  It was so much better than my old favorite!  The flakes stay crispier, and there are a ton of the strawberries. I seldom finish a bowl of cereal, but I certainly finished this one.  Sadly, I have already eaten the entire box.  I am still on the hunt for it at my local grocery store but have not had much luck.  As soon as I find it I will be stocking up!

 I have been wanting to make a batch of homemade granola and I had found a recipe that called for crisp rice cereal as part of the ingredients. I will be sharing that recipe soon, but I will tell you that this worked perfectly!

I will also be using the Rice Twice to make those marshmallow treats for the kids from now on. 
As a Mom, I am thrilled to find a wholesome, great tasting cereal that my kids love.  As a dairy free consumer, I am so glad there is a company out there that is catering to the needs of those with food intolerances.
For more information visit the Attunefoods website.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012


As a family we try to do at least one meatless meal each week.  We actually have a few nights of the week themed to make meal planning easier: Meatless Monday, Taco Tuesday, Fun Friday, and the one night my oldest daughter gets to cook.   Last week's meatless meal was Gazpacho with homemade croutons and lemon basil aglio olio.  The Gazpacho recipe was from Ina Garten ( one of my favorites) and it was so simple. I love her recipe because there is no cooking involved at all!  No blanching, no peeling, very little chopping.  The food processor does all the work! I couldn't ask for an easier meal. I did change a few ingredients to match what I had on hand.

  • 6 Roma tomatoes, coarsely chopped
  • 1 red pepper, seeded and chopped*
  • 1 English cucumber, chopped
  • 1 white onion (or purple) roughly chopped**
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 23 oz tomato juice (3 cups)
  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar*
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • dash cayenne pepper*
  • 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
  • fresh ground pepper
  • Handful fresh basil for garnish
*Changed from original recipe.
**I  used half of an onion because a whole onion seemed overpowering.  

Roughly chop each vegetable. Put each veggie into the food processor separately and pulse it until it is coarsely chopped.  Do not over process. I did the tomatoes first, then the pepper, cucumber, and the onion last.

Combine them in a mixing bowl.  Add your garlic, tomato juice, vinegar, olive oil, cayenne pepper, salt and pepper.  Mix well, and let chill in the fridge for at least an hour.  The longer the soup chills the better the flavor gets.  
Not the best idea to use a red bowl for this- oops.
 While the gazpacho was chilling, I made some homemade croutons to go with it.  I cut up a loaf of Italian bread, tossed the cubed pieces with garlic infused olive oil, salt, and pepper. Then I baked them at 400F until they were toasted and slightly browned.
Be sure to spray your pan with a little cooking spray to prevent sticking.
 We served the gazpacho with the croutons and some fresh basil from our garden.  Paired with my Lemon Basil Aglio Olio (recipe to come soon), this was the perfect meatless summer meal.

You can also serve this as an appetizer.  I made gazpacho "shooters". for dinner with my parents and served them in small ball jars while the rest of the meal was cooking.  They were just the perfect appetizer size (and healthier than chips!)

You can kick the spice up in this by adding more cayenne, or some Tabasco.  I kept it pretty mild since the girls were eating it too.

To keep this completely gluten free, you can omit the croutons, or make them out of gluten free bread.  Or you could toast and spice some nuts- walnuts or almond slivers would work great- and use those as a garnish.

What is one of your favorite easy summer time meals?

Recipe Adapted from: The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook Copyright 1999

Thursday, June 14, 2012

(Vegan) Fried Green Tomatoes

The first time I ever made Fried Green Tomatoes was years ago after watching the movie "Fried Green Tomatoes".  I had seen the movie several times and each time I ended up with a  serious craving for this dish.  So one afternoon I found green tomatoes at a farm stand, and my husband and I tried our hand at them.  They turned out really good!  For some reason we haven't made them in years so when I saw some green tomatoes at the store the other day, I had to get some and make this dish for my girls.

Since I can't have dairy anymore, I had to adapt the recipe a bit. I am also running low on eggs since I've been  baking a lot this week, so I didn't use those either.  That makes this a totally vegan recipe!  I didn't really follow a recipe for these, I just used a few methods I've used for breading other foods.  They turned out so good and definitely took care of that craving. 

(Vegan) Fried Green Tomatoes 
Serves 4 as a side or appetizer
  • 2 green tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup corn meal
  • 1/2 cup non-dairy milk (I used almond)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • smoked paprika
  • garlic powder
  • Canola oil ( for frying)


1.Slice your tomatoes into medium size slices- if they are too thin they will fall apart, too thick and they won't cook right.

2. Put your breading mixture together: the breadcrumbs, corn meal, smoked paprika, salt, pepper, and garlic powder.  All of these are to taste. I added roughly a teaspoon of the smoked paprika and garlic.  You could add more or less.

I used my hands to mix up the breadcrumbs. 
 3.Whisk together your 1/2 cup almond milk and 1 tablespoon olive oil.  I much prefer this to using egg as a coating for frying veggies.  It's cleaner, not sticky at all, and the breadcrumbs stick better and stay on during cooking.  Plus, you don't have to worry about dealing with raw egg and cross contamination.

 4 Add enough oil to the pan to a cast iron or heavy bottomed skillet for it to come about halfway up the slices of the tomatoes. Heat the oil over medium heat, but don't let it boil.

5 .Dip your tomato slices in the liquid mixture, and then coat with the breadcrumbs. 

6. Add your coated tomatoes to the hot oil- you'll know the oil is hot enough when it bubbles as you are adding the tomatoes.  Be careful- hot oil spatters!

7. Cook on one side until gold brown.  Flip and continue to cook until the other side is browned.  Remove from the oil and drain on paper towels.  

Keep an eye on your oil and make sure it doesn't start to get too hot, otherwise it will burn the tomatoes.  Add more oil if needed.

We had these with my Italian Chicken.  You can dip them in tomato or spaghetti sauce, or just sprinkle with salt and pepper and eat plain.  I don't like to add too much to them, I want to taste the tomato and the coating, not the garnish.

My girls really liked them!  The love all veggies, but especially if the have been fried!  Next time we make these I may add more spice to the bread crumbs since we loved spicy food. 

*Special thanks to my husband for taking all the pictures for this post!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Cooking with Cat: Pork Chops with Sauteed Apples and Minted Roasted Carrots

Since summer is here and my oldest daughter has a lot more free time in the evenings she wants to help cook dinner more often.  We came up with a plan that she would pick out one recipe per week that she wants to cook and we will add it to our weekly menu.  Last year my Mom gave her a cookbook especially for kids, so we are going to work our way through that one. The recipes are very simple, definitely geared towards kids, but still very good.

She is also already very aware of my issue with dairy (she herself has no food allergies or intolerances and she will eat anything), so all the recipes she picks are either dairy free or ones we can adapt.
The first one she chose is sauteed pork chops with apples, and minted carrots as a side dish. She did a lot of the work on her own, but I did handle the raw meat.

Sauteed Pork Chops with Apples:
  • 4 pork chops
  • 2 granny smith apples, peeled, cored, and sliced
  • 1 Tablespoon of dairy free butter


1.Season the pork chops with salt and pepper.

2. Melt the butter in large skillet.  Add the apples and cook over medium heat for about a minute on each side. 

3. Add the pork chops and cook for about 4 minutes, or until the start to brown.  Turn the pork chops over.  The butter will brown, but do not let it burn.  Cook the chops until they are cooked through.

3. Remove the pork and apples from the pan and serve immediately.
Super simple!  

Minted Carrots:
  • 1 lb baby carrots, sliced in half
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 bunch fresh mint
1.Preheat the oven to 375 degrees

2.Cut the baby carrots in half, or into sticks if you prefer. Toss with olive oil and put on a greased cooking sheet.
We also  made kale chips to have as an appetizer before dinner.  The kale takes just a fraction of the time so they were done and ready for us to snack on while everything else was still cooking.This kale is fresh from my garden picked that afternoon.  It was so good!

3.Sprinkle the carrots with salt and pepper and roast for 20-25 minutes or until tender. I always turn them at least once while they are cooking. 

4.  When they are done, transfer them to a serving dish.  Sprinkle with fresh cut mint, about 2 tablespoons.  Serve hot. 

 And dinner is done! Pork chops with apples, served with minted carrots and rice pilaf. Such a simple dinner, but it was all dairy free, healthy, and simple enough for a child learning how to cook to make.  She was very proud of herself for making this meal.  I can't wait to see what she picks out next!

What was one of the first things you ever learned how to cook as a child?

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Dairy Free Travel: A Wedding Weekend

Traveling with a food intolerance or allergy always requires some sort of planning and bringing of extra food.  I thought this would be a good time to share with you how I survived a weekend away from my kitchen.

This past weekend was one of our very best friend's wedding.  It was a much anticipated event- he is not only our best friend, but one of my husband's fraternity brothers, he was our Best Man in our wedding,  and he is our youngest daughter's Godfather.  Since my husband was one of his groomsmen we needed to be there on Friday evening for the rehearsal. This meant we would be gone from Friday morning to sometime on Sunday.  That's at least 7, maybe 8 meals plus snacks that I had to think about. For 5 people.  The good thing was we were headed to Charlottesville, and since we already know the area pretty well we had a plan as to what restaurants we could eat at.
A few days before we left I called the hotel to see if they had refrigerators or microwaves either in the rooms or available for use.  (Some hotels may not have them in the rooms, but you can request to have  a "Microfridge"  brought to your room upon arrival).  Sure enough, the rooms all already had fridges and microwaves.  That already made planning easier!
Before we left I made sure I have enough food to get us through no matter what was going on.  We hit up Target (I love that they have groceries now!) and I got:
  • Single serve cups of Frosted Flakes (they are dairy free) for breakfasts
  • A loaf of dairy free bread and single serve peanut butter cups for lunch
  • Chex Mix ( it's our favorite road trip food)
  • Small bags of animal crackers
  • dairy free peanut butter crackers 
  • Shelf stable almond milk
  • Powdered dairy free coffee creamer (Not the same, but it works in a pinch!)
  • Healthy Choice Pasta meals 
  • Snacks for the girls: Pop snacks for the toddler, raisins for the bigger girls
  • Take and Toss cups and utensils for the kids (mostly the toddler)
  • Paper plates 
  • Banana chips
That bag of peanut butter pretzels was sent to my by my Foodie Pen Pal Beth.  I had kept them hidden specifically  for this trip!

I decided to get these Healthy Choice Fresh Mixers just in case the food at the rehearsal dinner or wedding was not dairy free.  They weren't bad, not the best, but they work in a pinch.  It's better than starving, which I can tell you from personal experience is not fun.

I sent an email to one of Charlottesville's most famous restaurants- Bodo's Bagels- to ask if they had an allergen menu.  I explained that I had an intolerance to dairy.  I got back a response less than an hour later- talk about service! Turns out all of their bagels were vegan.  And while they did not have an allergen menu, they would be happy to answer any questions when I got there.  So guess where lunch was Friday? Yup- Bodo's Bagels.  I got the BLT on a plain bagel and it was so good!  There are no words to describe just how good their bagels are.

The rehearsal dinner was at the Boars Head Inn.  I have been to quite a few weddings and social dinner events over the past 5 years, but this is the first time  I have gotten to eat and enjoy my meal at a function like this.  The dinner was set up buffet style, and when I asked one of the wait staff if there were any dairy free options, she went to the kitchen and had them make me my own plate- completely dairy free! The best part- it was the same thing everyone else had, just without the cream sauces on the meat!  Normally I'll get a vegan meal which is hit or miss, or they just won't understand what "dairy" means and will bring me food covered in butter.  This meal was AMAZING!  I had 3 kinds of meat- all three that were on the buffet: roasted chicken, baked salmon that was to die for, and roast beef. They also brought rice pilaf (I happen to love rice pilaf.)  There was so much food on my plate I could not eat it all!  My husband commented that I should have taken a picture of it-oops.  Here's what it looked like after:
Obviously it was delicious  because the plate is almost empty!

Saturday we had most of the day to run errands or just relax. After a rather late start and an absolutely horrific cup of hotel coffee, we headed out for some lunch.  Guess where we went?  That's right- back to Bodo's Bagels.  This time I opted for the roasted turkey with lettuce, tomato, mayo on a plain bagel.  

And I had to stop at Dunkin Donuts for a  decent cup of coffee.

 I decided to call the caterer for the wedding to check and see what I would be able to eat at the reception.  The wedding and reception were outdoors at the 4H camp the Bride had spent her summers at growing up. In keeping with the outdoorsy theme they had BBQ from the best BBQ place in that part of the state.  The woman I spoke with was incredibly nice and went through all the ingredients for everything on the menu.  Turns out it was all safe except for the bread (No surprise there! Here's a hint- breads, rolls, muffins almost ALWAYS have some sort of dairy in them). 

The wedding was probably the most beautiful I have ever been to.  It was not fancy at all, but the setting was just so perfect for the two of them.  It was outside in a hilly field with  trees on all sides, under a small arch surrounded by their family and close friends.  It was truly about THEM.  It was simple, and there is beauty in simplicity.   They are two people that were truly and without question put on this earth to be together. 

Dinner and dancing were in a pavilion  just feet away from where the ceremony was held. It was decorated with paper lanterns, paper umbrellas over the lights, and candles. 
The only picture I have of them- I brought the wrong card in my camera so I had to use my phone.
Dinner was buffet style and it was delicious!  Pulled pork BBQ, pulled chicken BBQ, 2 pasta salads, baked beans, fruit platters, veggie platters. It was kid friendly ( always a plus when the kids are included!) and just laid back fun.  
Dancing with their Uncle Ed.  The only thing they really wanted to do- get to dance with him.  
  Our girls were given a very special job of handing out kisses to all of the guests.  They were thrilled that they were asked by their Uncle Ed and Aunt Ginny to be a part of the day.  
Handing out kisses to some of our college friends that made the trip to the wedding as well.  It was great to catch up with them!
The party ended with a bonfire and old friends catching up.  It's funny how so many years can pass by, but still there are some things that never change.

Sunday we packed up and headed home, but first we stopped off at Bodo's Bagels again.  This time we got lunch, ( A BLT again- it's my ultimate favorite) and 2 dozen bagels to bring home.  Before we hit the road we stopped off at UVA's campus to wander around, take some pictures, and enjoy the beautiful weather.

Maybe someday one of my girls will be a student here... maybe.

Our oldest is learning how to use my camera.  She does a decent job!

Planning ahead and having your meals with you, or options for meals means the difference between a good trip and terrible trip.

Do you plan ahead when taking trips by bringing your own food or calling restaurants to see if they have options you can eat?

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Black Beans and Roasted Potato Bowl

My husband's job requires him to have dinner meetings from time to time.   On nights when he is at one of these dinners, I am the only one here to deal with dinner time, or what my friend and I call "the witching hour".  If you have young children, or have had a toddler you will completely understand what I mean.  If not, here is what the witching hour is: Somewhere between 4 and 6pm babies/ toddlers/ kids seems to get louder, crankier, more hyper, more demanding than at any other time of the day.  This is the time of day the toddler is getting into EVERYTHING- climbing on things, emptying my cabinets, stealing crayons and attempting to write on stuff  ( like walls).  When Daddy is here he  keeps the little one entertained while I make dinner.  When he's not here, I need quick easy meals that require very little attention.  We still have to eat a healthy dinner after all!
A few weeks ago I came up with this easy dish on the fly.  I had black beans in my cabinet, fresh potatoes from the farmers market in my fridge, and a spice cabinet full of spices to play with.  So I put it all together and made a really tasty, filling, easy dinner for myself and my oldest daughter. The middle one and little one had chicken tenders (don't judge), some of the potatoes, and veggies.  I didn't know it would turn out so good so I didn't take pictures.  When I made this again a few nights ago I made sure I had my camera on hand.  With the help of my 8 year old we recreated this delicious meal (with a few changes and a lot more spice).

Black Beans and Roasted Potato Bowl
  • 4-6 medium white potatoes- diced
  • 1 can black beans
  • Olive Oil
  • 1 can Rotel Tomatoes with green chilies
  • 1 jalapeno diced (remove seeds for less heat)
  • 1/2 red onion- diced
  • juice of 1half of a  lime
  • 1 teaspoon Hot Mexican Chili Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Cumin
  • Trader Joes South African Smoke Seasoning (optional)

Preheat your oven to 430F. Spray your cooking sheet with your favorite cooking spray.  Dice your potatoes, toss with olive oil and seasonings of you choice.  Roast in the oven until done. (I usually broil mine for the last few minutes to help crisp them.)

This is the best seasoning blend ever!  If you haven't tried it ( and you live near a Trader Joes) you really must try this!  It's awesome on just about anything.

While the potatoes are roasting: Saute your onions until they are slightly softened.  Add your jalapeno and cook for about 2 minutes.  Add your drained and rinsed black beans, tomatoes, lime juice and your seasonings. Let simmer until the liquid is mostly gone.

If you don't have canned tomatoes, you can use fresh diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, or even some salsa.  

Serve the black beans over the roasted potatoes. 

This recipe was really pretty spicy.  The first time I made this I did not use the jalapeno so it was a lot milder ( and I ended up adding sirarcha ).  It's totally your preference as to how hot you want it. I love it with the potatoes instead of  rice because it makes it so much heartier and more filling.  Plus if you season your potatoes you get even more flavor.

After I made it I realized this was a totally gluten free, vegan meal. It's actually free of most allergens. While this version is vegan, I think I may try it with a fried egg on top one of these days.