Nina’s Pantry Staples

Here is part 3 of our pantry staple series!

I (Nina) have a pretty long list of food intolerances, but the main things I try to stay away from completely are dairy, gluten/wheat, and soy. I try to bring lunches to one of my jobs, and on days that I spend in the studio I make lunch at home. My other job is at a restaurant, so I don’t usually bring food there, but it also means I’m not cooking on those nights. But when I do cook I generally make as much as possible from scratch, and I try to use local ingredients when possible.

Here are some of my staple ingredients. It was actually quite difficult to narrow it down, there are a lot of things I use regularly (and many of them are already on Annika and Marissa‘s lists).

chickpeas

  1. Chickpeas: So versatile! I often make a coconut curry with these, some coconut cream (see below), curry and other spices, and spinach. Great for lunch on a cold day!

coconut cream

2. Coconut cream: I don’t know how I would cook without this. It’s creamy and not super sweet, so it works in savory sauces (it does require a bit more adjusting than heavy cream or sour cream would, but it works), dishes like creamed spinach or corn, and when cold it can be whipped for dessert or turned into chocolate mousse. It’s a bit thicker than canned coconut milk, and while that means it has a bit more fat, I think it’s absolutely worth it!

eggs

3. Eggs: (I’m sorry, Marissa!) I stayed away from eggs for a year and a half before reintroducing them, and aside from cheese (which I still miss dearly), they were the thing I missed the most. I usually just soft-boil or poach them and eat with roasted potatoes, or hard-boil them to put on a salad. Eating eggs also means I can eat mayo again (at least the whole foods store brand, because it doesn’t use soy oil, unlike most regular mayo brands), which is great in dressings and when making spicy mayo or aioli to have with french fries, which leads me to the next number:

potatoes

4. Potatoes: (Confession: I think french fries are my favorite food). Potatoes are so versatile, I think I could eat them every day. Roasted with herbs, as gnocchi, or mashed (try adding a bit of coconut cream when mashing them), they’re amazing. And since I can’t eat wheat, they’re a solid starch that replaces bread or pasta as a side.

honey

5. Honey: I don’t think I’ve ever not had honey in my pantry. These days I eat it with a little peanut butter on rice cakes (both also staples), and put it in tea. And sometimes you just need a spoonful to make the day better. I also eat local bee pollen regularly, to help with my seasonal allergies.

Do you have any staples you can’t live without?

Rosemary Syrup

Gluten-Free, Vegan, Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Corn-Free, Soy-Free

Cost of Ingredients: $          Time: 30 mins

rosemary syrup 1

As a former bartender, I often try to think of ways to make simple drinks a little more interesting. I recently bought some habanero shrub that adds a great bit of spice to a smokey mezcal margarita. In the winter I make various spice syrups that work equally well in an old fashioned or a latte. But these days it’s starting to feel like summer around here, and one of my warm weather go-to drinks is a cold gin and tonic, preferably with lime and lemon (yes, both, try it, you won’t regret it!).

rosemary syrup 3

While I try to grow my own herbs often, I seem to have no green thumb at all, so when we bought a grill recently (stay tuned for food recipes using this new gadget!) I decided to buy some herbs to add to our dinner. While my partner was cooking outside, I prepped some quick cocktails to enjoy in the sunshine.

rosemary syrup 2

Simple syrup is just that, super simple. Combine equal parts water and sugar, and heat until dissolved. Once cooled, store in a jar or bottle in the fridge. This is a great way to sweeten iced coffee without ending up with a layer of sugar granules in the bottom of the cup. And it’s a great way to add a variety of flavors to drinks!

rosemary syrup 4

I let this mixture just barely boil before taking it off the heat to cool down. The rosemary infuses as the mixture cools, and it will be ready to use in about 30 minutes.

rosemary syrup 6

The syrup will keep for a week or two in the fridge, so I make small amounts to make sure I use it all up. A one cup of each of water and sugar fit perfectly in these little bottles, and they make pouring the finished syrup mess-free.

rosemary syrup 7

I didn’t have any fresh lemons and limes on hand when I made this G and T the other night, but the rosemary syrup added a nice bit of earthy and fresh flavor.

Ingredients:

1 cup sugar*

1 cup water

herbs of your choosing**

  1. Add water to pot, turn to medium heat.
  2. Add sugar and herbs.
  3. Heat until just barely boiling.
  4. Remove from heat and let infuse and cool for at least 30 minutes.
  5. Strain into bottle or jar.
  6. Mix drinks and enjoy! ***

*I used white granulated sugar for this one, brown sugar also works well, the syrup will be a bit darker in color and have a bit more of a caramel flavor. Honey is also an option!

**I used a few sprigs of fresh rosemary in this version, but feel free to experiment! Lavender makes a great floral simple syrup, make a citrus version with orange and grapefruit peels (remove as much of the pith as you can), add a few drops of rosewater, or use some fresh sage leaves. Let me know what combinations you come up with! When it gets colder outside I’ll make sure to post the cinnamon spice syrup recipe, too.

***In a 16oz glass with a few ice cubes, add 1.5 to 2 oz of gin (Hendricks is great, but Tanqueray is our less expensive go-to, if you can find it, Half Moon Orchard Gin is my favorite!), add few slices of lemon and lime (or a splash or two of lime juice) and top with tonic water.

Pizza Dough We Can All Eat!

I’ve been thinking a lot about how a restricted diet sometimes comes along with some strong feelings of guilt or anxiety, especially if you’ve had a not-so-healthy relationship with food in the past.

I’ve been listening to Christy Harrison’s Food Psych podcast, and I really like her approach to food and what it means to be eat healthily. Harrison is a “registered dietitian nutritionist and certified intuitive eating counselor who specializes in helping people make peace with food.” Her podcasts usually are casual interviews with people in the nutrition field and I get the sense that it all about making people feel positive about themselves and their diets. Food should not be a source of anxiety.

This idea of making peace with food is an important one for me. Throughout high school and college, I had a very unhealthy relationship with food. Eating was a pretty big source of anxiety for me and it took me a very long time to stop obsessing about calories or the odd pound added on the scale. I now don’t do any tracking of food or calories and purposefully don’t weigh myself anymore.

Part of this peace-making process is also not beating myself up for giving into cravings or for eating (or not eating) certain foods. That was a little bit more difficult than kicking the tracking and weighing habits because guilt is a tricky little voice inside your head. Where does that even come from?

Eating a meal is a privilege and a blessing. It should nourish not only your body but also your mind. It should involve gratitude, not anxiety. And yet, I spent years feeling nervous about food groups, or portion sizes, or caloric content. I didn’t listen to what my body needed and am now trying to repair damage that I insisted on causing.

So I’ve been practicing grateful and intuitive eating. I’m trying to keep the feelings of guilt and anxiety at bay by replacing them with gratitude that I am able to buy groceries — especially the more expensive specialty items that I “need” because I made the choice to follow a vegan lifestyle — and to eat whenever I am hungry. If you’re interested in this gentle approach to healthy eating, here is a good introductory outline to intuitive eating.

In the spirit of feeling good about eating, I’ve been experimenting with a pizza dough that tastes like a pizza dough but also fits into my restrictions. Pizza feels like a treat sometimes, and home-made pizza is really fun to make (even if you, like me, don’t consider yourself a cook). The best part is that everyone involved can customize their meal to fit their needs or wants. At my house, there are usually two pizzas: one small gluten, yeast, sugar, and dairy-free one that I can eat, and one large glutenous, cheesy, and meat-topped one that my partner wants eat.

This recipe is super simple and customizable. I’ve tried it with a few different flours, but here’s my favorite.

Pizza Dough We Can All Eat! No gluten, no yeast, no sugar, no dairy, no soy! And vegan! And still crispy and delicious! 

prep time: about 1 hour all together

ingredient cost: $

  • 1 cup of Gluten-Free All-Purpose Flour (I used Pamela’s Artisan Blend and highly recommend it. It’s a little more expensive than other brands but worth the money.I’ve also made this recipe with Quinoa flour which is also very good)
  • 1/2 c (plus some more depending on your flour) water
  • 1/2 t baking powder
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 2 T olive, sunflower, or other cooking oil plus a little more to brush into a pan
  • some basil or oregano if you want to mix it into the crust
  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Mix all the ingredients together gently until the dough resembles a lumpy pancake batter. I’ve played with varying amounts of water and haven’t been disappointed with the end results of both thick and thin doughs. It all depends on how you like your pizza dough. I usually add 1/2 a cup of water to start and then add additional 1/4 cups until I reach a good consistency.
  3. Brush some oil into an oven-safe pan (I use a 10″ cast iron) or flat cake-pan.
  4. Pour in your pizza dough and bake for 12-15 minutes.
  5. Once the bottom is crisping up, flip the pizza dough and bake for another 12-15 minutes. I’ve noticed that, depending on your consistency, this timing can be very different. Sometimes 10 minutes works better, sometimes you need the full 15.
  6. Take the pan out of the oven and top your pizza with whatever you liked. This time around I used some tomato sauce, baby arugula, some vegan mozzarella (I really like Follow Your Heart’s Vegan Mozzarrella but sometimes they are hard to find in my area. Chao Vegan Cheese Slices are also good) and, yes, 3 slices of the local and organic salami my partner picked up for his pizza. I know, I know. I’m vegan and therefore don’t eat meat, but I’ve been craving it a lot lately. Again, this is all an exercise of being kind to yourself and listening to what your body wants. On very rare occasions my mind is vegan but my body wants to eat some meat. And that’s OK.
  7. Bake topped pizza for an additional 10-15 minutes. Again, this all depends on your mixture.
  8. Enjoy!

 

Traveling with Food Restrictions

Eating nutritious food while traveling is difficult enough when you don’t have any allergies, but throw in a few food restrictions, and it gets infinitely more complicated. I have my fair share of junk food cravings while on a road trip, and always want something salty when flying, so the key to enjoying any trip (and not getting hangry!) is being prepared.

One thing I try to always have in my purse is Cashew Cookie Larabars (I get them here and I’m pretty sure I packed about 10 of them for this trip, with allergies, you never know if a wedding buffet will have the right food!). They are made from only cashews and dates, have a bit of sweetness, and are filling enough for in-between meals. They are a life-saver during a busy shift at a restaurant, a traffic jam, and when we got stuck overnight in the delta terminal at the Detroit airport recently.

Turns out spending the night in a terminal is not as much fun as Tom Hanks made it out to be! And while we didn’t get much sleep, we managed not to go hungry, despite the lack of actual restaurants that are open past 10 in that particular airport (we arrived at 10:30, and due to a rain-delay and missed connection stayed until 5am). Luckily one newsstand was still open when we got there, so we stocked up on some overpriced snacks to make it through the night. I thought I had prepared well enough by bringing my own snacks, but I had been prepared for a 6 hour trip, not a 24 hour trip…

In addition to the Larabars I had brought some salted pistachios. I’m allergic to almonds and hazelnuts, so despite wanting the variety of a bag of mixed nuts, I opt for the more boring but safe single variety. One way to still have some variety is to buy the smaller bags of various nuts or seeds, but even when buying these ahead of time at my local grocery store the price adds up. So single variety it is!

Pistachios and granola bars do not make a meal, so I picked up some sea salt Pop Chips at the newsstand. I generally don’t travel with crushable snacks, who wants a bag of chip crumbles? But arriving in Detroit hungry, having missed dinner due to the delayed flight, I wanted something in addition to the pistachios. The pop chips are simple, but they are not as high in calories as some other chips, and the ingredients are simple enough to be safe. Another brand I love is Food Should Taste Good. Just salty enough, and a variety of options without unnecessary ingredients.

To add in some variety, and balance the salt with some sweet, I also bought a bag of gummy bears (actually this was a mixed bag of bears and worms, yes, I felt like such an adult sitting in an airport terminal at 3 am eating gummy worms!). I had meant to bring some coconut caramels that I recently found here. But they accidentally spent the weekend in my kitchen cupboard. So the gummy worms hit the spot.

I also packed a few Justin’s single serving peanut butter pouches, which almost replace a meal with Suzie’s thin rice cakes (here). Because we were flying I didn’t bring the rice cakes (again, crumbles, but they are great for a road trip!), so I had a packet of peanut butter with a Larabar as an early breakfast around 4am.

Fresh fruit would be another great thing to bring (though make sure to pack bananas in a container to prevent banana puree in your purse), but I have allergies to most fresh fruit that travel easily (apples and various other stone fruit). So while my terminal meal was not the healthiest, I managed to replace dinner with some travel snacks that weren’t completely terrible for me.

Packing snacks is much easier for a road trip, where space isn’t limited to what you can (and want to) carry in your purse for hours at a time. In addition to something sweet and something salty I always make sure to bring seltzer water. The bubbles help keep motion sickness at bay, at least for normal trips, driving on curving mountain roads requires a little extra help.

Do you have any trips planned for the summer? What’s your go-to road food?

 

 

Sausage and Kale Stew

Gluten-Free, Corn-Free, Dairy-Free, Soy-Free, Egg-Free, Sugar-Free

Cost of Ingredients: $          Time: 45 minutes

I live in a fairly cold place, most of the year, anyway, and I love a recipe that transitions well between the seasons. This is a simple one-pot dish that comes together quickly and doesn’t require lots of prep, so it’s perfect for a weeknight, and makes enough for leftovers!

stew 1

I usually follow the original recipe pretty closely, making one or two substitutions based on what I have available, but I recently made dinner for a friend who has just as many restrictions as I do,  it’s just that some are different. In addition to dairy, eggs, and wheat, she can’t eat corn, tomatoes, and chicken. Even though this recipe calls for a giant can of tomatoes, I think the substitutions I made worked really well.

stew 2

It’s possible that this also is one of my favorite recipes because it allows me to use one of my favorite kitchen gadgets, my lovely and brightly colored Le Creuset pot. I buy spicy Italian sausage for this stew, because I like the added heat, and remove the casings and crumble the sausage a bit before browning it in a little oil. You could also buy already loose sausage, or some with a different flavor profile, as long as they’re not cooked yet.

stew 3

As a tomato substitution I used red and orange peppers and butternut squash, both add a bit of sweetness that balanced the heat nicely.

stew 4

The juice from the tomatoes usually replaces any need for stock in the original recipe, but since I was missing a bit of that flavor I used half vegetable stock and half water, instead of only water.

stew 5

Another key to turning this soup into a hearty stew is the lentils. Once all the ingredients are in the pot, you just simmer for about 30 minutes. This is a great dish in winter, but it works just as well on a cold and rainy spring or fall day.

stew 6

I forgot to take a picture once the stew was plated, but it looks quite similar to this, nearly finished, stage.

Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen.

1/2 cup olive oil

4 spicy Italian sausage links, casing removed and chopped*

1 medium onion, chopped

2 celery stalks

2 peppers, red and orange**

2 cups of cubed butternut quash***

4 cloves of garlic, sliced

 

salt and pepper

a pinch of crushed red pepper flakes

1 cup lentils****

2 bay leaves

3 -4 cups vegetable stock*****

2-3 cups water

3-4 cups thinly sliced kale******

  1. Heat 1/4 cup of olive oil in a large pot.
  2. Add the broken up sausage and brown, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add the onion, celery, peppers, squash, 2 cloves of garlic, a generous pinch of salt, and red pepper flakes. Cook for another few minutes.
  4. Add the lentils, bay leaves, vegetable stock, water, and a little more salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook for 30-40 minutes, until the lentils are tender.
  5. In a separate, small pot or pan heat the remaining olive oil with the remaining garlic slivers until the garlic softens and hisses. This doesn’t take very long at all, just a few minutes.
  6. Add the kale to the stew and cook for just a few more minutes.
  7. Remove the bay leaves before serving.
  8. Ladle the stew into bowls, and add a tablespoon of the garlic oil. Don’t burn your tongue, you’ll want to dig in right away, but it’s best to let it cool a tiny bit.
  9. The original recipe calls for serving this topped with some grated Pecorino Romano, which, of course, is delicious. But this stew is truly just as good without the cheese, and I’m not just saying that because I can’t eat cheese.

*We like how hearty this stew is, and lots of sausage helps that. It’s also delicious with less sausage. And feel free to experiment with what kind of sausage you use, I like a little spice.

**Any color pepper will work, I just happen to like the red and orange ones, especially with the orange squash.

***A little more or a little less will work just fine.

****Red ones or green ones work best, but really any kind of lentil will do. Make sure to rinse and sort them.

*****If you have allergies or restrictions, make sure to check ingredients when buying stock, some companies hide all kinds of things here.

******Chard (the swiss or the rainbow kind) will work just as well as any of the kale varieties.

This is a great base recipe that allows for substitutions and experiments. Let me know what you come up with in the comments! The leftovers freeze well also. I usually store about two servings in glass jars in the fridge for the following few days, and then another one or two servings in the freezer.

 

 

 

Biscuits 2 Ways

Gluten-Free, Vegan, Soy-Free, Corn-Free

Cost of Ingredients: $          Time: 1 hour total

This blog is meant to be a collective of recipes that are safe for a variety of allergies, and yet delicious for those without allergies. I believe that we succeed in finding, making, and posting many of those recipes, but there are some dishes I have yet to perfect. So today, rather than posting one recipe, I am posting a solution.

Compromise is a huge part of any successful relationship. But sometimes even the best of relationships can use differing opinions. In my house we stick to his and hers orange juice, because he likes as much pulp as possible, and I like no pulp at all. I think a compromise on this topic would lead to some unhappy orange juice drinkers, and since we don’t want that, we buy two bottles. The same applies (for now, I’m not giving up hope!) to biscuits.

bisquits 1

Biscuits are pretty easy to make, so it isn’t too much of an imposition to make two kinds at the same time. To make sure I don’t mix up the bowls I use different colors. While the gluten-free biscuits don’t rise quite as much as the regular ones, I found that the recipe I use for the normal ones adapts pretty well to my allergy substitutions. Following only one recipe also makes the simultaneous baking a little simpler.

In these pictures the regular biscuits are in the green bowl, the gluten-free ones are in the turquoise bowl.

At this stage they look quite similar. I make sure to use different forks to mix the dough so that I don’t cross-contaminate the allergy safe biscuits. Since I don’t have two sets of measuring spoons I measure the allergy safe biscuit ingredients first, then the regular ones. Since this is a simple one-bowl recipe that doesn’t complicate things too much!

When rolling out the dough, I also start with the gluten-free biscuits, that way I don’t have to clean the surface before rolling out the regular ones.

I’m not a fan of one use kitchen gadgets, so I don’t have a biscuit cutter, but a water glass will do the trick. I bake them on the same tray, for the same amount of time, and so far that has worked well for me. If you have very sensitive allergies, however, you might want to use separate trays.

I follow The Smitten Kitchen’s Biscuit recipe, adapted here to be allergy-friendly. Since I usually am only making biscuits for two people, and making two separate batches, I’ve started cutting the recipe in thirds.

3/4 cup gluten-free flour (such as Bob’s Red Mill 1-to-1 Baking Flour)

2/3 tsp sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp baking soda

3 Tbsp coconut oil or vegan butter (I use soy-free vegan earth balance)

1/4 cup buttermilk substitute (1/4 cup coconut milk and 1 tsp lemon juice)

  1. Preheat oven to 400 Degrees fahrenheit.
  2. Mix dry ingredients in medium-sized bowl.
  3. Prepare buttermilk: Mix coconut milk with lemon juice and let sit for a few minutes.
  4. Add coconut oil or vegan butter to dry ingredients and break up/mix with a fork (I don’t have a pastry cutter, but if you do, feel free to use it here). Dough should be quite crumbly at this point.
  5. Add buttermilk to dough and mix until it comes together. The dough will be quite soft.
  6. Turn onto a floured surface and roll or press to about half an inch thickness.
  7. Cut round shapes with biscuit cutter or glass (water or rocks glass, depending on what you have and what size biscuits you would like).
  8. Place on parchment covered cookie sheet and bake 12-15 minutes until slightly browned.
  9. Enjoy with vegan butter and honey, or nut butter and jam, or however you enjoy biscuits the most!

There is a bit of sugar in these biscuits, but they are by no means sweet. If you would like to adjust the sweetness to make strawberry shortcake, experiment with adding a bit of sugar.

 

 

Cauliflower “Alfredo” Sauce

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Soy-Free, Corn-Free, Sugar-Free, Egg-Free

Cost of Ingredients: $          Time: 20 minutes

I love pasta, and I love a dinner that I can easily put together after a full day at work. Before I realized that I might have some food sensitivities I often made those frozen Bertolli one-pot pasta meals for dinner. Not the healthiest option, but I did usually add some fresh vegetables, and every once in a while they are a great option. It’s just too bad they’re not gluten-free and dairy-free. I’ve been searching for something similar that I can make easily, that is safe, and possibly a little healthier, and I found lots of recipes using cauliflower!

cauli 2

Cauliflower is an easily accessible vegetable that cooks super quickly, so it’s perfect for lots of dishes! (See Marissa’s Cauliflower Soup here!) I adapted a found recipe a little, adding more flavor (we love garlic!), and using coconut cream instead of coconut milk.

cauli 3

My handy immersion blender turned this vegetable into a creamy soup in just a few minutes. If you don’t have an immersion blender, go buy one! The recipe will actually work just as well if you transfer the ingredients to a regular blender and then reheat in the pot on the stove. But I do love my immersion blender, and think they’re absolutely worth having!

cauli 4

I served this cauliflower sauce with gluten-free penne pasta, caramelized leeks, chicken, and bacon, but it would be great with broccoli and shrimp, or as a vegetarian option with red peppers.

Adapted from this recipe.

Ingredients:

1 head cauliflower

1 cup coconut cream (I get mine at Trader Joe’s)

1/2-3/4 cup chicken or vegetable stock

3-5 cloves of garlic, minced*

1-3 tsp salt*

1-2 tsp nutmeg*

  1. Boil cauliflower in water until tender. (If serving with pasta, start the water before you boil the cauliflower, and the pasta should be ready when the sauce is finished)
  2. Drain, and in same pot, add all other ingredients.
  3. Blend with immersion blender until creamy.
  4. Taste, and if needed, add more liquid (this will depend on the size of your cauliflower, and how you like your sauce) or more garlic, salt, and nutmeg.
  5. Blend again until smooth.

*I use fresh garlic for this, and we like the sauce to have lots of flavor. The cauliflower itself is quite mild, but makes a great base for this garlicky sauce. Feel free to start with less garlic, salt, and nutmeg, and taste as you go. In fact, that’s probably the best way to make this recipe, that way it’s exactly the way you like it!

This sauce usually makes enough for 4-6 servings. We have two the first night, I’ll have leftovers for lunch the next day (make sure you cook enough pasta to have leftovers!), and I freeze about a cup or two of it for a later date. It reheats really well on the stove, though I’m sure a microwave would do the trick also.