Vegetarian Burritos – To Go

blog 005

It’s really hard for me to eat out.  I think I’ve mentioned before how I can’t eat anything at many of the chain restaurants because their menu items all contain soy.  I have found a few gems, though.  They’re nothing fancy, but they have fresh ingredients and have binders full of recipes, nutritional info, and ingredients that I can peruse through to help me easily pick foods that are safe for me. 

My top three favorites (so far) are:

Mellow Mushroom, of course (because there is a definite need for the occasional pizza in life). (www.mellowmushroom.com)

Sticks Kebob Shop.  They are an awesome “kebob” style restaurant (hence the name) that caters to me each time I go.  Basically you pick your meat (shrimp, beef, chicken, lamb, pork, kibbeh, or falafel), the way you want it (salad, sandwich (pita) or a platter with rice), your sauce (cucumber yogurt, fire-roasted red pepper, sesame lemon vinaigrette, or creamy cilantro-lime ) and your side (most are little salads like green beans or tabouleh).  I usually get the shrimp pita with the sesame lemon vinaigrette and it never fails to be delicious.  I have also tried the falafel on a pita with the fire-roasted red pepper sauce and that was yummy, too!  My husband likes the lamb and beef.  (www.stickkebobshop.com)

Qdoba Mexican Grill. While only some of you have been to the other two,  I believe most of you have visited a Qdoba (or some form of it like Moe’s or Chipotle) at some point in your life. Qdoba has been an awesome choice for Mexican style food for me.  (I have the hardest time with Mexican (all that cheese!) and Asian (heavy on the soy!) restaurants). Today for lunch, and probably for the next couple of days, I will have a version of my favorite dish at Qdoba.  I love to get this in one of their salad shells, but for me to bring to work the burrito it much easier since I don’t have my own deep fryer.  (www.qdoba.com)

Here’s how I make mine:

Vegetarian Burritos

Ingredients:

Flour tortillas (Burrito size!)

1 can black beans, drained (I got mine pre-seasoned)

2 cups white rice

1 Tbs. Olive oil

1 tsp. Cumin

1 tsp. Chili powder

Cilantro

Romaine lettuce

Pico de Gallo

1 Mango

S&P

***All of this food will last me about 3 meals. I like to cook ahead of time so in the morning on my way out the door I can just grab what I need.  This is delicious if you eat it fresh, or if you heat it up. 

Step 1: Cook your rice.  I have a rice cooker.  It is the BEST small kitchen appliance I have ever used.  I’m not exaggerating when I say that we use it about 5 times a week.  Rice is awesome!  Rice cookers will also steam veggies, fish, and I’m sure gobs of other things.  To be honest, I haven’t made rice in a pot the old fashioned way in so long that I don’t know how to tell you to do it.  If you don’t have a steamer, just follow the instructions on the packet.

Step 2: Season your rice.  Instead of butter, I always drizzle a bit of olive oil in my rice so that it will heat up nicely the next day.  I also put a little bit of salt, pepper, cumin and chili powder in mine to give it a Spanish rice kind of flavor.   

Bottom line: Don’t forget to taste your food!  I know I sound like a robot, but I really do feel that there should be NO need for salt or pepper on the table if you have tasted what you are about to serve and have seasoned it properly! I normally eyeball my ingredients (except for when I’m baking). So if you taste it with my measurements and it’s not quite right for you, just add a little more of whatever it needs. My taste buds and your taste buds might be different, so feel free to alter as you see fit!

Step 3: Start packing.  When I’m prepping for my lunches, I dole out the rice into 3 bowels, and then top each with some of the black beans.  If you are using the pre-seasoned black beans like I used, definitely drain them so your rice doesn’t turn black, but don’t rinse them or you will wash all those seasonings down the drain!  I store the covered bowls with just the rice and beans in the fridge until I’m ready to use them. They will probably last for about a week, but the longer you wait to use them, the harder it is to keep the rice moist when you heat it up.

QDOBA BLOG 004QDOBA BLOG 003

Step 4: Make your salsa.  I normally use a fresh mango, but this time I had frozen mango chunks on hand.  I just chopped a few of them up a little bit smaller than how they came,  mixed in a tablespoon of pre-made pico de gallo and threw it in the fridge in a tiny bowl.  By lunchtime, the mango had thawed and it tasted great! 

QDOBA BLOG 002

I’m sure some of you are wondering why I am eating pico de gallo after I tested allergic to tomato and onion.  I have been slowly incorporating some of my less severe allergies back into my diet to check for reactions.  So far, I have had tomatoes and onions in small portions and have not had any problems.  I have no intention of sitting down and eating an entire tomato or onion, but I know that I can handle a little at a time.

Step 5: Prep your greens and cilantro.  If you want a little crunch and extra layer of flavor, you can chop up some fresh romaine and fresh cilantro to throw on your burrito!  Cilantro is my favorite herb (another thing I’m fortunate to not be allergic to!)  Both the romaine and the cilantro will travel well to work with you in a little baggy.

Step 6: Eat. When you are ready to eat your burrito just heat up your rice and beans, dump onto your tortilla, top with your mango, romaine, and cilantro, and ENJOY!  You’re gonna make a mess (unless you are a trained burrito wrapper), but trust me, it’s worth it!

blog 006

*(Sorry this pic doesn’t have the romaine or cilantro.  OF COURSE I left mine at home today as I rushed to get out the door…but you get the idea!)

By the way, if any of you have suggestions for restaurants that might cater to my (strange) dietary needs, please let me know!  Bonefish Grill (another of my favorites) has been great for me since they are very fresh, but they are a little expensive and an option that the budget just doesn’t allow me to enjoy on a weekly basis. I love to try new foods and restaurants and have really been missing the dining out experiences.

Bacon

I got your attention with that title, didn’t I?

This one is for all of you that, when you found out about my allergies, made sure to point out to me that I couldn’t have anymore more bacon.  (Insert evil laugh).

Who says I can’t have bacon?  No, I’m not going to tell you how to make bacon out of some vegetable and pretend that it tastes just as good.  Let’s face the facts.  Not much comes close to a sizzling hot strip of pork.  Everything is better with bacon.  But, this is closest thing I have found to it:

FISH BACON!!!

 bacon 002

I know.  It’s weird.  And maybe an exaggerated comparison.  But with the help of a little bit of olive oil, and salt and pepper, fish skin crisps up perfectly and tastes so DELICIOUSLY close to bacon (at least for the girl that can’t have any of the real stuff).   My favorite is salmon. My mouth is watering just thinking of it! YUMMY!

bacon 001

Herbed Farfalle and Grilled Shrimp

herbed farfalle 007

I’m a sucker for pasta.  Mac and cheese, spaghetti, lasagna, ravioli… I love it all! It’s definitely a comfort food for me, and not one that I’m willing to give up.  I used to gobble up a bowl of buttered noodles (topped with some of that powdered parmesan cheese). Now that real butter and cheese is out of the question, I’ve gotta get a little creative!

I originally got this dish out of a grilling magazine.  I couldn’t find the magazine (no big deal for me since it’s engrained in my little brain) – but I’ve gotta give someone daps.  SOOOO I found the same recipe at Fine Cooking (www.finecooking.com) and made a few changes.  The original recipe calls for grilled chicken.  I changed it to shrimp, but the chicken is just as delicious with it. 

This is a great recipe for summertime!  It’s loaded with herbs and is spiked with some lemon juice, all of which make this recipe really refreshing at the end of a hot day.  It is also really good the second day, because the noodles have time to marinate in all of the yummy flavors (too bad it usually doesn’t make it until the second day in my house!). Try it out:

 

Herbed Farfalle with Grilled Shrimp

Ingredients:

12 oz. dried farfalle pasta (Bowtie pasta is the same thing!)

1/3 cup lemon juice (I needed about 6 lemons to get enough juice)

1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 tsp ground cumin

1 cup packed cilantro sprigs

1/2 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves, torn

1/4 cup packed fresh mint leaves, torn

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

S&P

***The original recipe also calls for ¼ cup flat leaf parsley leaves and 1 cup fresh arugula (stems removed).  I don’t add these two things because I don’t think they add much to the dish, but of course you are more than welcome to add them to yours!

Step 1: Cook pasta according to package directions.  And salt to your water – it helps!  Once the pasta is finished, you can drain it, toss it in a little bit of olive oil to keep it from sticking together, and set it aside.  This dish is good when the pasta is warm or cold, so it’s okay if it cools down a bit.

herbed farfalle 005

Step 2: Chop and tear your fresh herbs. The basil and mint release more flavor if you tear them rather than chop them.

herbed farfalle 001

Step 3: Whisk the olive oil, lemon juice, and cumin together.  I taste everything as I’m cooking to make sure the seasoning is right – especially this step.  I like a little more cumin than the recipe calls for, and sometimes it needs a little more lemon juice.herbed farfalle 003herbed farfalle 004                          

Step 4: Cook your shrimp! I tossed mine in some olive oil, cumin, and a little bit of chili powder to give it some UMPF.  I also threw mine in a pan on the stove because I was too lazy to fire up the grill.  It still tasted great (although I think grilling the shrimp would add another level of flavors).

herbed farfalle 006

Step 5: Combine your pasta, dressing, herbs, and shrimp in a large bowl, and season with salt and pepper.

 *** If you do this with grilled chicken, a little freshly shaved parmesan cheese on top goes great with this!

Step 6: At this point, you can get a fork and dig into the bowl, or be a little classier and dish it up into single servings.  Either way, you’re gonna love the freshness and will probably come back for seconds! Enjoy!

 herbed farfalle 008

Seafood, “Sand”wiches, and Pizza

I took a bit of a hiatus from the blog last week to visit the beautiful Panama City Beach, Florida.  I was born in Chesapeake, Virginia and have stayed in Virginia pretty much my whole life. Needless to say, I’ve been around the ocean for a long time and love the beach.  Whether it was a day trip to Virginia Beach or a week in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, I have been to the beach at least once every summer since I was in diapers. I remember my mom packing me and my sister up with to go to Virginia Beach for the day with friends and having a chicken salad “sand”wich at lunch time.  It still amazes me how, no matter how well you pack your food, sand always gets in it. I was pretty sure that this trip to Panama City would be like all the others… filled with sun, water, fun, and “sand”wiches.  The big difference, of course, was the journey that we went on to get there.  If you have never been on the Gulf, you should go.  The sand is like powder.  It doesn’t get hot and it doesn’t really stick to you.  Or your lunch meat. Overall the trip went pretty smooth (minus the tropical storm that we drove in for the last 30 miles and 1.5 hours of the trip). 

I’ll admit that I was pretty worried about what I would find to eat.  I knew we were going to a place that was well known for seafood, but I haven’t travelled since I’ve been on this crazy diet.  It’s a little awkward shopping in stores that you aren’t familiar with, especially when there is a need for such special foods.  I packed a few of my own things, but for the most part my intention was to continue to eat fresh and healthy, and stay epi-pen injection free.

I don’t have any specific recipes to post today, but here are some yummy foods I got to experience:

First of all, I found the best sandwich bread I have ever had. I can’t have most breads that you find in regular grocery stores because more often than not they have soy, milk, or eggs (or all of the above).  Pepperidge Farm makes a ciabatta bread that is out of this world. It’s soy, milk, and egg free, so it’s right up my alley!  I searched high and low in Panama City to find some bread, and finally found this little gem of fluffy, yummy  goodness at the local Wal-Mart.  This is them:

Image

It’s too bad there are only 4 in pack, because I could probably eat them by themselves.  (On that note, maybe only 4 in a pack is a good thing after all)!

My lunches at the beach consisted of two of my go-to meals:

  1. Tuna salad vegan pescatarian style (chunked-up avocado instead of mayo, mixed up with a little bit of olive oil and s&p).  I usually eat the tuna with some pita chips, but last week I put it on the ciabatta rolls with a little spinach.                                  ***If you like canned tuna, look at the ingredients before purchasing.  The low-sodium or extra low-sodium cans are the ONLY ones that have ONLY tuna and water.  All of the others have vegetable broth (with soy) or some other weird ingredients.  Do you really want tuna and vegetable broth soup?  The low sodium is so much tastier because it doesn’t have all that other crap that doesn’t go good with tuna.
  2. My simple favorite: Peanut butter and banana with a honey drizzle on spinach tortillas.  I can’t eat most tortilla style breads   because they have soy (GO FIGURE), but I found a great brand called Toufayan.  Their spinach tortilla is soy free.  I know that PB& B on spinach sounds like a strange combination, but the spinach isn’t a predominant flavor and the sandwich is very tasty. 

Image

*** Read your peanut butter labels!  I have switched to the natural peanut butter, not only because it tastes SO much better, but because I learned something very interesting about the typical Jiff’s, Skippy’s, and Peter Pan’s of the worlds:  turns out they are basically jars of peanut flavored hydrogenated oil.  YUCK! 

Dinners during the week for everyone else consisted of burgers, steaks, chicken, pizza, and the occasional seafood.  I was able to partake in the steamed shrimp and scallops (I had mine steamed separately without the butter), the splurge on crab legs, and fried catfish one night.  The other nights I had fish of some kind. 

The highlight of my trip was when I got to eat pizza.  (Okay, I lied a little.  The highlight of the trip was when I got kissed by a sea lion on the lips!).  We found a Mellow Mushroom pizza joint around the corner from our beach house.  I have eaten at Mellow Mushroom before, but it was years ago when I lived in Atlanta for bit, and long before I couldn’t eat normal pizza.  Turns out, their regular crust is vegan and soy free, and they offer vegan options for toppings!  

Fair warning:  Sorry of the pics.  I was so excited to find this stuff that I started eating before I remember to take a picture.  But you’ll get the idea:

I started with some hummus (which was much prettier when it was first put on the table, untouched):

 Image

It was really creamy and fresh and had some paprika, basil and olive oil in it that gave it an awesome flavor.  As you can see, it was enjoyed by all.  Even the kids liked this one!  I remembered to take the picture just before the last pita was snatched up.

For my main meal, I got the pizza called “Thai Dye”. Instead of tomato sauce, the crust is basted with olive oil, and then topped with all sorts of yummy stuff.  It’s supposed to have grilled curry chicken, mozzarella, roma tomatoes, and onions, and topped with fresh basil, cucumbers, and a sweet Thai chili sauce.  I made a few adjustments and wound up with curried shrimp, Daiya cheese (soy-free vegan cheese…kinda weird if you see it in the bag, but it’s REALLY good and cheesy once melted), hold the tomatoes and onions, keep the basil, cukes and spice. It was awesome. Beyond awesome, really.  I haven’t had pizza in months.   And this was one of the best that I’ve had:

Image

I thought I had heard about a Mellow Mushroom opening up in Richmond.  I quickly checked out their newest locations and sure enough, I can now have pizza as much as I want!  WOOT WOOT! I am one happy lady! 

So, to sum it up: we played in the sun, had lots of fun, and there was plenty of good eats!  I can’t wait to go back to the Gulf Coast!

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

chocolate chip cookies 006

Tonight my little family and I will be headed south for a much needed beach vacation. We’re caravanning for 14 hours with a sweet family of 4. Add our little family of 3 and that’s 4 adults, one 5 year old, one (almost) 4 year old, and a newborn. For 14 hours. In a car. And there’s only one way back….
So, in preparation for this exciting road trip adventure that we will start and end our vacation with, I made cookies. I’m not talking about just any cookie. I’m talking about warm, ooey gooey, melt in your mouth and chewy-the-way-they-are-supposed-to-be cookies. These should be world famous. Drum roll please…..

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies!!!!

If I left the word “vegan” out, you would want to try them right? Seriously, don’t let the word vegan scare you. I was terrified of that word before. I thought that becoming vegan meant I had to eat beans and rice and lettuce all the time. True, I’m not 100% vegan, but so much of the vegan lifestyle fits my diet needs. I don’t eat this way because I worry about the animal; I eat this way because I worry about ME! As I’ve said before, vegan baked goods are sooo much better. And all that scary little word means is that they are made with no animal products. No cow dairy, no eggs, no butter. So how in the world can these cookies be delicious without all those things? Especially the butter? Make them, and you’ll see why once you go vegan, you never go back.

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies
Ingredients:

chocolate chip cookies 001
½ cup coconut oil
1 cup brown sugar
¼ cup almond milk (soy or rice milk would work, too!)
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 cup vegan chocolate chips (I found some nut, dairy and soy free chocolate chips at Target!)

Step 1: Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Step 2: Cream together the coconut oil and brown sugar. I used my handheld electric mixer for this. Add the milk and vanilla to your mixture.

Step 3: Add flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Again, I used my handheld electric mixer for this because the dough gets a little thick. Fold in the chocolate chips. If you want to add nuts or anything else, now would be the time.

By the way, do you want to know the best part about vegan baking?  You can eat the raw dough without worry.  Oh yes… it is A-Okay to lick the bowl and the spatula. 

Step 4: Roll tablespoon sized balls and place them on an ungreased cookie sheet, then press them down with the palm of your hand to flatten them out a bit. Like this:

chocolate chip cookies 003

Step 5: Bake for 7-10 minutes. Let them cool long enough to not burn your mouth. Trust me, you won’t be able to wait much longer once you smell them.

chocolate chip cookies 004

Step 6: Eat them hot. Eat them cold. I don’t care. Just eat them.

Recipe adapted from Vegan Housewives (www.veganhousewives.com)

Salmon Burgers with Sweet Potato Puffs

blog pics 011

I like to cook healthy and fresh, but I also like to save money and make things as easy as possible.  It’s so unfortunate that eating healthy costs so much more than eating unhealthy.  It makes total sense that this nation is full of obese people when it costs less than $15 for a family of 3 to eat at McDonalds  versus the $30 or more it might take to have a fresh meal at home. ( And let’s not forget to mention the time it takes to cook a meal versus going through a drive-thru!)   Fast food, and even dining out at most restaurants, is just not an option for me.  Soy is commonly used as preservative, and since most restaurants serve foods that they got frozen off a truck and then heat them up, I can’t eat it.  As a matter of fact, the husband and I went to Friday’s not long after I found out about all of my food allergies.  I asked for the allergen menu and quickly realized there wasn’t a single thing on the menu I could eat.  ABSOLUTELY NOTHING!  Not even a salad was safe for me!  So, even though it might cost a little more and might not be as convenient as carry-out, at least I know what is in my food and that it’s safe for me to eat when I cook at home.

My sister has been helping me since day one by trying to find recipes that I can eat.  She recently made these salmon burgers on her blog (check it out: http://thesouthernspoon.blogspot.com/2012/04/salmon-burgers.html?m=1 ) but I made some changes that fit my lifestyle a little better.  My intention with this meal was to make enough burgers for me to have leftovers for lunch throughout the week.  This recipe ended up making me 7 salmon burgers.  You could easily cut this in half if you just wanted enough for dinner.

Salmon Burgers

Ingredients:

blog pics 004

2 cans (14-15 oz) salmon

4 Tbsp.  dijon mustard

1 cup bread crumbs (I used panko)

Salt and ground black pepper

Olive oil

Burger buns

I used canned salmon for a few reasons:  Its already cooked, which saves me time; it’s about $3 a can, which saves me money; and the only ingredients are salmon and salt, which means its not loaded with a bunch of unnecessary preservatives!  (The original recipe calls for fresh salmon that you have to put in the food processor to get to the right texture if you want to go that route.)

Step 1: Put the salmon, mustard, bread crumbs, and salt and pepper into a bowl.  Mix it.  Don’t be afraid to get your hands in there!  You’re gonna have to touch it to make the patties anyway (and a little soap and water will get the smell off your hands!)

blog pics 005

Step 2: Make your patties.  I let mine sit for a little bit so they could bind better, but I’m sure they will be just fine to make and throw right on the griddle.

Step 3:  Drizzle about 2 tablespoons of olive in your pan or on your griddle, medium-high heat should do it.  I have a large electric griddle that I love to use for things like this!  Once the olive oil is good and hot, drop your patties! (Don’t drop them on the floor though, just on your griddle or in your pan, please!)

blog pics 008

I also brushed my buns with a little olive oil and put them on the griddle to get all good and toasty.  There’s nothing better than a burger on a toasty bun! I wish you could hear the sizzle in the picture…. yum!

The original recipe calls for a lemon mayo to top the burger off with.  Obviously I can’t eat mayo because of the egg, but if you want it, here’s the ingredients:

1/3 cup mayo

1 bunch chopped parsley,

juice of 1/2 of a lemon

Just mix it all together and spread on your bun!

Step 4:

Stack it up and enjoy! Instead of the mayo, I used a little bit of the dijon mustard and some spinach.

blog pics 010

I served mine with some fresh cut strawberries and Alexia’s brand sweet potato puffs (Alexia’s also has sweet potato fries and some other products.  They are all natural and delicious!)

blog pics 006

I got my buns from Whole Foods.  If you have never been to Whole Foods, beware: It is so easy to spend a lot of money in there!  The buns I got are vegan, and are seriously some of the best burger buns I have had.  They are dense (in a good way) and would probably handle a super large pattie of any kind of meat.  My husband’s biggest food pet peeve is when the sandwich falls apart while you are eating it.  These buns won’t allow that to happen!  They also have an option with sesame seeds on top. Here they are:

blog pics 007

Overall, this meal got a great review from the husband.  I might be a little biased, but the flavors were all spot on and it was delicious!  I thought it came together great, and was super easy to prepare!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: