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It’s taken me a long time to get around to this. Not because I didn’t want to write, but because I wasn’t sure of what to put in my 100th post. I cannot believe it’s already my 100th! In a way, I feel like I could have written more, but I’m not going to dwell on that. Instead I’m going to think about what I’ve learned over the years.

I started this blog over two years ago with a purpose to share my experience with others when it comes to food. I started off with three “culprits”. Gluten, corn and soy. I’ve made the adjustment to having a restriction free diet to a somewhat limited diet. Only it opened up a new world to me. I became excited about finding recipes, whether it’s my own or from others, that had food that made you forget it was “missing” anything. I’ve learned that gluten is an ingredient that I can easily go without. EASILY. I was fortunate to have a cousin pave the way for me. Olivia found out she was Celiac a year before I found out I was gluten intolerant, so I had a year of practicing with gluten-free recipes. I prided myself in finding food that she would enjoy! I was adamant that Olivia enjoyed her food as much as anybody else. So when I found out gluten also made me sick, I thought “okay”. Then there was corn and soy. That was a bit more difficult because they were in everything, so it seemed. But I made the adjustment.

Coffee is a mutual passion of ours, always looking to try local flavors: grown, roasted and brewed all at this place in Molokai, Hawaii!

Coffee is a mutual passion of ours, always looking to try local flavors: grown, roasted and brewed all at this place in Molokai, Hawaii!

Then I met my boyfriend Alexander (now husband) who easily adapted to my culinary lifestyle. I still thank God that his mother, Laura, trained him to eat the way he did! I remember the day she and I shared recipes (flaxseed bread, to be exact) BEFORE my first date with Alexander. Funny how life works out! He did his research and took me to this restaurant with gluten-free options, Wagamama in Harvard Square (we went to Harvard Museum of National History and Castle Island that day! It was an amazing day). When the waiter walked over, he immediately explained that I had food allergies and was shown dishes I could choose from. I knew there was something special about this guy.

Sure enough, we’ve been together ever since. Alexander was also the one who pushed me to find out more answers when I wasn’t feeling good. This lead to my next discovery: that I was allergic to other foods. Dairy, cane sugar, cranberry, sesame, and baker’s yeast. The first two made me cry. When I read the email that had the results from the allergy test I took, I remember sitting in my car with tears streaming down my face. I thought I was doomed to life without sweets. Without pizza. Without… anything worth eating.

Ecstatic at my rehearsal dinner, the night before I married my best friend at CAV (an incredible restaurant in Providence, RI)!

Ecstatic at my rehearsal dinner, the night before I married my best friend at CAV (an incredible restaurant in Providence, RI)!

How quickly did I forget? Eating without gluten proved to me that there was more to food than wheat. With my family’s encouragement, I made the adjustment, slowly but surely. I was engaged to Alexander at that point, so we had to go back to the caterer and modify our menu. They did this without complaint! We had an incredible spread for our wedding dinner! My sister-in-law Rae also baked the most scrumptious carrot cake for our wedding cake. Baked, yes you read that right. Instead of cane sugar, she used coconut sugar and date sugar. WHOA! People clamored for our wedding cake instead of the gluten-full cupcakes provided. Sure they tasted good according to several guests, but nothing like the carrot cake we had reserved for our gluten-free guests.

Thanks to our guests, our kitchen was also well stocked. I had almost everything I wanted to create whatever I wanted. Seriously. I’m extremely fortunate to have people in our lives that wanted the best for us. My now-husband also encouraged me to experiment with recipes or come up with new ones. I want to say we ate deliciously every night, but that wasn’t the case. We certainly ate WELL, but I had my share of mess ups. Dishes that came out bland, dishes that came out screaming for masking agents (such as mustard, Alexander’s favorite go-to cover-up). But we also had many, many, many and many meals that left us in awe.

My “diet” also led me to a willingness to try new recipes, from various sources. Although I have to say I have a few favorites: Whole Foods’ website, Epicurious, Elana’s Pantry (and ALL of her cookbooks! I’m now addicted to her Paleo Cooking from Elana’s Pantry and Gluten-Free Cupcakes) and Whole Life Nutrition (go to http://www.nourishingmeals.com). While I have never met them, they’ve truly inspired me with their continuous search for better food.

10 years ago I ate whatever I wanted. And guess what? I ate like crap. I’m serious, I had pasta maybe three times a week, with a favorite being Kraft macaroni and cheese. Appalling, I know. Then 6 years ago, that disappeared from my diet. Hello gluten-free, corn-free and soy-free food! My choice in food improved drastically. I still loved pasta, but now it was rice pasta. It was easy for me to boil a pot of water and dump uncooked pasta in it. I baked a lot more. I started checking out farmer’s markets. Slowly, I added more fresh ingredients to my diet. I began to crave the sensation of chopping onions and other vegetables. I loved fresh food. But it was still about convenience at times, especially since I was in graduate school. Then a year ago… all that changed. I still enjoy rice pasta, but maybe once every three weeks? My favorite section of the store? Produce, by far! I love looking at the colors of the rainbow (I don’t mean Skittles). If I saw something I didn’t recognize, I became giddy at the prospect of bringing them home and figuring out what to do with them! Ask Alexander, and he’ll tell you that it’s a guaranteed way to make me smile. That’s one thing I LOVE about living where I live: a few minutes walk to Whole Foods. Close by where we live is also a store that sells only olive oil and vinegar. Can you say heaven?! We recently purchased blood orange olive oil. My mother in law treated herself to a peach-infused white balsamic vinegar.

Basically, what I’m trying to say is, that since I’ve started this blog- and long before that- I have learned so much about food. Not only did I learn about edible delights, but I’ve also grown so much on my journey. I’ve become more accepting of circumstances while refusing to settle for less. Additionally, my health has improved drastically! Compared to a decade ago (I cannot believe I’m saying that), I feel younger and I can do so much more physically!

Delighting in a marble cupcake!

Delighting in a marble cupcake!

And know what’s awesome?

I’m eating a marble cupcake I baked an hour ago, courtesy of Elana Amsterdam’s Gluten-Free Cupcakes!

Keep on delighting your taste buds and please share with your feedback!

I think the kitchen’s calling my name once again…

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Stuck in a blizzard: did you stock up?

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Alex and I agreed that we had enough to tide us over for the storm. Now we don’t have extra meat in the freezer or anything like that- in fact were now a meatless apartment. But after doing a quick inventory, we agreed that we had enough. The only downside it’s not a feast that includes fruit salad or jalapeño poppers. But we do have food!

Let’s see…. We had kale leftover from last night (braised with garlic and ginger yum!) and beans (Alex had the leftover red pepper sauce mixed with red kidney beans and avocado while I had chickpeas cooked in chili oil) for lunch.

Baked sunflower seed cookies this morning with what we had on hand. We typically have seeds, nuts and flour on hand- all gluten-free of course!

Supper will be…. Pasta with tomato sauce and spice that we decide to add in. Depends on our mood later on. Fortunately we’re already stocked up with hard cider!!!

What about breakfast tomorrow you say? I’ll probably open up my flour bin and try to figure out which pancakes we can make along with slices of apples and orange juice. We both have milk (I have unsweetened almond milk while he had lactose free milk) for our coffee. Then lunch probably will be leftovers. There’s also brown rice tortillas to make cheese quesadillas with or faux garlic bread.

Know what? Even though my fridge doesn’t look stocked up, I think we’re good to roll!

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Scouting for food in Montreal

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Traveling is something I both love and get really nervous about. The experience of exploring a new area often leads to unexpected finds. Typically my husband, Alex, and I go on adventures in our “backyard”, as in America. Just the East Coast for us, together, that is.  Until New Year’s Eve weekend. We had planned a trip to Montreal, thanks to an incredibly generous gift by a dear friend of ours. They still speak English, don’t they? Well, apparently there are many French speaking cities in east Canada, especially Quebec where French is it’s official language.

Why does that make me nervous? Was I unsure about finding my way around? Nah, that wasn’t one of my concerns. Communicating with others? Getting warmer. OH! How the heck was I going to communicate my food allergies with others when ordering food? I did NOT want to become sick. That was what I was the most anxious about. How am I going to do this? Even if they speak English, I can’t understand people with accents (if you are unaware, I am Deaf and rely on lip-reading when conversing with people who do not use American Sign Language). Oh yeah, that’s something to be worried about. What to do?

The French version of my food allergy card
The French version of my food allergy card

       The fabulous friend I mentioned earlier? She offered to help translate my food allergy card since her family was fluent in many languages, including French. Hallelujah! What food allergy card? My husband had several made for me for my birthday last year. What a lifesaver! I recommend it to EVERYBODY with food allergies; since it’s something tangible a waiter can bring back to the chef to ensure that the meal is free of allergens. Otherwise things can get lost in translation. Maybe if its just gluten free, but what if it’s among seven other allergens? How can anybody memorize eight? That’s where the card comes in. It takes away that hassle.

Zero 8, an allergen free restaurant, where my meal was composed of several appetizers

Zero 8, an allergen free restaurant, where my meal was composed of several appetizers

Armed with both English and French versions of my food allergy cards, I felt more confident going into restaurants. In the first one, I had an English menu given to me so I assumed they would understand the English card. I have never seen a waiter’s face fall that fast. He immediately grabbed another waiter who apparently could read English. So I waved them over and gave them the French version. Talk about relief!!!

From that point and on, whenever Alex and I went out to eat, we whipped out the French translated allergy card. Made my dining experience so much more enjoyable! And the best part? We kept finding restaurants where we were the only customers. It’s due to two factors: we ate earlier than the locals. Apparently people in Montreal eat later in the evening, around 8’o’clock or later (or 2000 hours). We ate around 6 PM. We were hungry!

Being the only people at the restaurant meant extremely personalized services. At Serafim, an organic bistro that was on the other end of rue Saint-Paul (it’s a generally busy street, but this place was just past the crowd). The waiter there was not fazed by my allergy card, they are already familiar with gluten-free and is a part of their menu. They were able to assist me in selecting a meal that would be the most enjoyable and easily modified. I ended up having salmon with a delicious Mediterraen inspired vegetable medley, heavy on oregano and dill. Oh, I also had a yellow lentil soup to start with. I told my husband that the true marks of a restaurant that can meet my needs are ones that can serve me soup. I find that many places add flour to their soup, so if they make soup that’s “straight up”, that’s a plus in my book. I also had an antipasto salad. They asked us if we wanted dessert and realized that it was a challenge for me. But not one they were going to give in to. Instead the chef came up and led us to the dessert shelf. After some musing, he made an aha sign with his finger and gestured for us to hold out our hands. He placed a date in a small napkin and gave it to us. The sweetness of this often forgotten fruit was just perfect for our filling meal. So light yet SO nectarous. We left the place with a smile on our face.

Enjoying wine during our New Year's Eve dinner at Kashmir

Enjoying wine during our New Year’s Eve dinner at Kashmir

The next evening led us to an Indian restaurant, Kashmir, where we once again found ourselves being the only ones there. Again, this meant personalized service. Can I say how much I love Indian food? We realized that it’s becoming equivalent to comfort food in our book. I LOVE their cuisine. We had a table by the window overlooking the street, watching people hurry by, ready to celebrate New Year’s Eve. It was so much fun sipping wine while chatting about our resolutions and admiring how people figured out ways to stay warm. It was around 10 degrees Fahrenheit, if not below.

Since I’ve learned about my food allergies, the days of grabbing food from vendors on the street were LONG gone. This includes hot chocolate, ice cream, and popcorn from wherever we were. Walking down Rue Saint Paul, there were several wooden sheds in front of Marche Bonsecours, a two-story public market. Curious, Alex and I peered at what the vendors were selling while customers spoke with them. Then I saw one thing that made me glee with delight. Seriously, I think I squealed. There was this guy with a huge tray filled with broken ice. Think slush. Where am I going with this, you ask? Especially on a FREEZING night in Montreal, Quebec? Think maple syrup. Yes, maple syrup. The dude poured maple syrup right on the ice along with candy sticks. He rotated them in the ice, slowly hardening them to eat them as if they were popsicles! Alex saw my face and asked if I wanted one. He probably thought he was talking with a five-years-old, trying not to jump up and down with giddiness. Not caring about how cold it was, I whipped off my gloves and grinned as I savored the sweetness of pure maple syrup. We checked with the guy first, naturally. And you just KNOW it when it’s the real deal instead of that fake stuff that has artificial sweeteners. I could and probably never will understand why people eat them. But that’s just me.

We also had delicious breakfasts at our hotel, Auberge Bonaparte. Immediately upon being seated, we were served orange juice and creamy coffee. What can I say? I’m a goner for those who knows how to do food well.

But Montreal isn’t all about food! We also went up the world’s tallest leaning building which is also an observatory overlooking the city. It’s a part of the Olympic Park, where the summer Olympics was held in 1976. Their biodome was converted into the COOLEST zoo, or whatever you call it. You felt as if you were in the actual environment with animals roaming about. They used natural barriers such as a specific plant that acted as curtains between two types of monkeys.  I actually got to see an otter slide down a slide! Birds flew over our heads. I saw puffins up close, with only glass separating us, and Canadian lynxes napping on the rocks. It was stunning and is a must-see in Montreal. The Basilique Notre-Dame was also jaw dropping. It’s already beautifully lit up at nighttime, but the inside? Whoa. I’ve grown up going to Catholic churches but nothing prepared me for this. The architecture was mind blowing with the details. Old Montreal is definitely my favorite part of the city. And the fireworks on New Year’s Eve above the river was AWESOME! I don’t think I’ve ever watched fireworks in the wintertime.

photo 5             Basically if you want an international experience, but you only have a few days (such as a long weekend) and you’re nervous about your food allergies, why not start with Montreal? Be sure to make a food allergy card! Both English and whatever language spoken where you’re going. I think that’s KEY to a successful trip. Ever since Alex made me those cards, I’ve felt so much more comfortable ordering food in restaurants. Just seeing how they react to the cards is a sign of whether I’ll be able to safely eat there or not. By this I mean how much they seem to freak out when reading the card. When waiters seem familiar with the concept of food allergies, that’s a good sign. If they have that “uh-oh” look, get out. Don’t feel bad for leaving. It’s not worth your health. What’s the point of eating if you’re unable to enjoy it?

If you’re traveling to Montreal anytime soon, I suggest checking out these restaurants since they were very accommodating to me and I had delicious food there! I have also added links to these restaurant to my list of websites under restaurants for future reference!

Serafim, Old Montreal- http://www.serafim.ca/

Zero 8, Downtown Montreal- http://zero8.com/index.php/fr/

Restaurant Kashmir, Old Montreal- http://www.restaurantkashmir.com/

Playing with food leads to delightful discoveries!

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I finally used my dry grain container for the Vita-Mix! It’s long overdue, I know that. But I just… I have way too many things I want to do that it’s a matter of remembering and prioritizing. But on Saturday a few weeks ago, I opened my cookbook and saw a recipe for buckwheat pancakes. Ooo, it looked DELICIOUS. But I didn’t have any flour. Then I saw a bag of buckwheat grains. A bulb went on in my head. It couldn’t have been any more obvious! Make my own flour!

Buckwheat

Buckwheat

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Homemade buckwheat flour

So I did. I emptied the bag in the container and turned it on. It wasn’t even a minute before it was pulverized before my eyes. I decided to give it a few more seconds. Then I shut it off. When I took off the cover, my jaws dropped. That is one powerful motor. It was dust. Or in another word, flour. Entirely.

Buckwheat pancakes with homemade buckwheat flour

Buckwheat pancakes with homemade buckwheat flour

I made pancakes. The interesting thing about this recipe from Whole Life Nutritions cookbook was that it said it made only 5-7 pancakes. Mmm.. oh, you make HUGE ones! It was delicious! It wasn’t sweet, but after eating only almond pancakes for awhile, we were ready for a change. With pure maple syrup (we don’t use any other kinds), it was perfect. I want to say savory, but that’s not quite the word… it was appetizing and filling. It was perfect for our mood that morning.

Then on Christmas, I went to my parents and found my mom ready with recipes she had found. She wasn’t sure about how to modify one since it called for brown sugar. It was a squash recipe, wrapped with bacon and fresh thyme. She had gone ahead and bought date sugar. I told her to go for it. Instead of using just date sugar, she mixed it up with maple syrup. She covered the acorn squash  with the sweet mixture and I helped hold the thyme sprigs in place as she wrapped it in bacon.

It was beautiful. So elegant looking! It was something I would expect at a restaurant but not at home. I was so proud of my mom for trying something new!

Acorn squash wrapped in bacon and thyme sprigs, prior to roasting in the oven.

Acorn squash wrapped in bacon and thyme sprigs, prior to roasting in the oven.

The dish turned out to be my favorite part of the entire meal. We had a delicious coconut lime chicken with almond dipping sauce, salad, garlic bread (gluten free bread with roasted garlic spread on it as if it was butter… mmmm… who needs butter when you’ve got roasted garlic? I even popped one in my mouth. It’s almost like candy), and broccoli.

Who doesn’t love great food? I cannot imagine enjoying life as much as I do if I didn’t appreciate food. I really cannot. Taste is one of the five senses (maybe 6?), and with my hearing out of the picture, I’ve got four left. So I value each one of them very much. But taste? Ooohh… it’s what makes my body sing, even if it’s off-key. It makes me dance (ask my husband, I’ve got a picadillo dance). It makes me smile. It makes me giddy. It gets me excited when I see other people taking risks with food. Especially when they enjoy it “straight up” which is what I call cooking from scratch.

I. Love. Food.

I think my New Year’s resolution is going to include making my own flour more often AND trying DIFFERENT recipes. Do you have a food resolution?

An Adventure with Cookbooks: SUCCESS!

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Earlier I said I would try cooking 5 different recipes from 5 different cookbooks or websites. Well, I did it! I consider it a wild success!!! I felt AWESOME. I actually had a decent lunch. I typically grab whatever leftovers I have so I end up eating the same thing twice a day often. Alex, my husband, asked that I make a meal for myself to eat for lunch. So I did.

It was an-one-time shopping trip, without going back to the store at all for the rest of the week. No quick trips, which helped us SO much considering our long commute! No more wondering what we’ll cook that night. It was all planned out. We did this last Sunday.

Here’s the menu for 11/4-11/10, including where the recipe’s from:

 

SUNDAY

Fall Vegetable Stew with Moroccan Spice

(Whole Life Nutrition Cookbook, p. 258)

 

Spicy Pumpkin-Seed Quinoa

MONDAY

Spicy Pumpkin-Seed Quinoa

(Going Wildly in the Kitchen, p. 155)

Sweet Acorn Squash

(Healthy College Cookbook, p. 124)

 

TUESDAY

Leftovers

 

WEDNESDAY

Roasted Veggie Wrap (my best friend created this, with roasted carrots, beets and onions in brown rice wraps)

Broccoli Pizza

 

THURSDAY

Broccoli Pizza

(Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook, p. 57)

 

FRIDAY

Leftovers (We ended up throwing all vegetables left into a soup along with brown rice. YUM!)

 

SATURDAY

Ate out with friends at this delicious Ethiopian/ Eritrean restaurant!
LUNCH

Roasted Potatoes, Shallots, Kale with Caramelized Garlic Dressing

(Epicurious)

 

SNACK

Fruit Salad

Homemade Applesauce

 

My Menu for Week 2

Know what? I loved it so much- Alex did too- so I created another menu for this week! It’s already off to an incredible start with Mushrooms and Pine Nuts (it also has potatoes and had me and Alex raving about it from our first bite! No I’m not exaggerating, I was mumbling with my mouth full and trying to sign while holding the fork). Then the Warm Red Lentils with Coriander and Currants. Wow. Just… WOW. It’s from Vegetarian Bible and Simply Delicious Vegetarian cookbooks, respectively by the way. I love love LOVE it. I’m SO excited about the fruit salad I’m going to make this week- very different from last week with pomegranate, Pink Lady apples, blackberries and red grapes. Ooooo! Why do I have to get full, can’t I just eat all the time? But then I wouldn’t be able to appreciate all that Earth has to offer. Oh the medley of flavors! The recipe that I’m most excited about this week? I will have to say it’s Kale Tart with Cranberries (I’m subbing cranberries with currants since I’m allergic to cranberries. I know! Thanksgiving is coming up and I’m not having any cranberry sauce. Boo).
And I’m going to make chocolate mini-cupcakes with creamy yam frosting. How awesome is that?!?

On the top of it all, I got to RELAX today, along with going to church, getting inspired, chilling with my adorable kitten (in fact she’s sitting on my shoulders right now).
Chow away! But be sure to ENJOY it- and one of my favorite part of it all? I know I’m keeping myself healthy. And it’s FUN! Granted, it takes time. But it’s well worth it, I guarantee it.
Monopoly time with my hubby!

A flop that crushed my hopes on a snowy night

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Okay, maybe I’m being a tad dramatic. But really, what happened was… Oh did you get snow last night!? It’s gorgeous although it was nasty to drive in. One particular highway wasn’t plowed at all…. Scary. Anyways, what’s an essential on a snowy night? Hot chocolate? Yes!

So I tried making some.

Okay remember this…. No came sugar. No dairy. So what did I do?

Date sugar seemed obvious to me!

Problem: it didn’t melt while making the chocolate sauce before adding milk.

Milk? Almond milk!

Result? Other than sad faces, it was a very gritty hot chocolate that barely had any sweetness to it. It was almost… Bitter. I was so disappointed. I am NOT going through the wintertime without the ultimate hot chocolate. So I’m on the hunt for the perfect recipe. Do you have one?

Remember…. Dairy free and sugar free. That’s all I ask. Easy right? Hah. Off I go hunting!

Okay, I’m actually getting ready for work. Can’t I be dramatic today? The snow and lack of hot drinks calls for it!!!!!!!!

Stay safe and enjoy the snow!

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Blogging brings people together- a cliche but so true!

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Somebody very dear to me asked me to write a guest posting for their blog. I was so flattered!!! Check out Eliz’s blog at http://www.aphotographicyesterday.com/ and you’ll find what I wrote for her. Once a college roommate, a friend, briefly a coworker (twice actually!) and ALWAYS a friend who holds a permanent spot in my heart!

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