Middle Eastern?

I’m a mixer. The way I see it, everything on your plate is headed to the same place. So, why not mix it? Nothing beats getting a little bit of everything in one bite! This dish is definitely one for the mixers.

This is an incredibly easy and quick recipe for busy weeknights. My family refers to this as middle Eastern- it isn’t. My guess is the name stemmed from the pita. Whatever you opt to call it, it’s delicious!

Ingredients:

1 pound ground sirloin

1 red bell pepper

a handful of cherry tomatoes

a bunch of chopped green onions

1 cucumber

1 pita – Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods have a few options for soy-free pita.

Ranch dressing – Annie’s Naturals Organic Cowgirl Ranch is SOY FREE. It is not, however, dairy free. If you’re lactose intolerant, I suggest Lactaid pills.

Salt/Pepper to taste

Directions:

Tear up your pita into bite sized pieces and spread on your plate.

Chop all of your veggies into bit sized pieces (I typically cut the tomatoes in half). Spread your veggies onto your plate. If you’re serving for company, spread them out on a cutting board and let your guests build their own plates.

Brown your meat with some salt and pepper.

Toss some of the meat on top of your veggies and pita. Pour ranch on top.

What I love most about this meal is the variety of temperatures (cold veggies/hot meat), textures (pita, veggies, meat, ranch), and flavors. Feel free to add your favorite vegetables!

Summertime Pie

Ice cream can be tough for soy-free, dairy-free dieters. This summertime dessert, however, is easy as pie- because it is! This blueberry-raspberry pie is an easy dish for company because it can be prepared in advance. If you’re making it for yourself, be careful- so addicting!

Ingredients:

Pie Crust- Many crusts contain soy because they’re made with shortening. You can make your own with lard or all butter. I’m not that talented. Luckily for me, Pillsbury makes a pie crust with lard that is entirely soy-free. For my fellow lazy bakers: Pillsbury Soy-Free Pie Crust

1 egg white

1 tablespoon water

1 cup sugar

1/4 cup cornstarch

1 teaspoon grated lemon peel

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 cups fresh blueberries

2 cups fresh raspberries

Directions:

Line your pie plate with the bottom portion of the crust. Beat the egg white and 1 tablespoon of water and brush over the crust.

Combine sugar, cornstarch, lemon peel, vanilla, and cinnamon. Mix and then gently stir in the berries.

Pour mixture into crust.

Place the top crust on and seal the edges. Put slits in the top. Brush with remaining egg white/water mixture. Sprinkle on sugar if you’d like.

Cover the edges with tin foil. Bake at 400 degrees for 50 minutes. Remove the tin foil for the last 10 minutes to crisp the edges. Cool and then store in the fridge!

Rachael Ray’s Spinach Pasta with Asparagus Pesto

Rachael Ray is a phenomenal resource for soy-free eating. Her thirty minutes meals are simple to follow and make weeknight dinners a breeze. She also makes everything from scratch and uses EVOO instead of vegetable oil.

Rachael featured this recipe on her show last week. I tried, and loved it! If you’re dairy-free, like myself, substitute the cheese with rice cheese by Galaxy Nutritional Foods. You’ll find it at Whole Foods.

Thank you, Rachael Ray!

http://www.rachaelray.com/recipe.php?recipe_id=4626

And you thought we couldn’t eat chocolate…

I am two things for certain: a dog person, and a chocolate person. I don’t believe you can be indifferent about either. So, the prospect of eliminating chocolate from my diet killed me. Luckily for us, we don’t have to! Below is a quick and simple recipe for a delicious chocolate dessert.

Ingredients:

Strawberries

Soy-free, dairy-free chocolate chips (http://www.enjoylifefoods.com/chocolate-for-baking/?cat=chocolate_for_baking -Whole Foods carries them!)

1 spoonful of Earth Balance natural buttery spread -Also Whole Foods

Directions:

Rinse and thoroughly dry strawberries.

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Boil a small pot of water.

Put your chocolate chips and butter into a glass bowl.

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Once the pot of water has boiled, turn off the heat and place the glass bowl on top of it. Stir with a spoon until all of the chips and butter have melted.

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Hold the strawberries by their leaves and dip.

Place them on parchment paper to harden and enjoy an hour or two later!

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In the case that you have a chocolate craving you’d prefer to satisfy with less work, buy a chocolate bar! Trader Joe’s carries a milk chocolate candy bar that is soy-free and organic. It is not, however, dairy-free.

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Mom’s Chili

Nothing beats a hot pot of my mom’s chili in the fall/winter. But, who am I kidding? I eat it year round. This is a (slightly) adapted version of the chili I grew up on.

Ingredients:

1 1/2 pound of ground round- I use sirloin, not because it’s leaner, just because I’m lazy about straining.

1 medium onion

1 can of kidney beans (the size depends on how bean-y you like it)

1 28 oz can of diced tomatoes

1 15 oz can of whole tomatoes- I cut them into quarters to have some larger tomato chunks. I strongly suggest you not wear white during this process- lesson learned.

1 can tomato paste

Chili powder, oregano, salt, and pepper to taste (I also add cumin)

1 cup of water

1 bay leaf

Directions:

Brown meat and onion, drain fat (again, I’m lazy). Dump everything else in a pot. Add the meat and onion and simmer four an hour or so. Taste periodically to adjust flavors. If you have a crock pot (yet, another sign of my laziness) then you don’t have to brown the onions, just the meat. I plug it in before work and return to an apartment filled with the scent of chili! Love that.

Thanks, Mom!

Steve’s Spicy Flank Steak

I’ve adapted this recipe a few times- I was initially inspired by my pseudo-cousin, Steve (a fabulous cook). Thanks, Steve!

I suggest you avoid this unless you have an extreme love for SPICY food. This recipe yields about 6 servings. I typically half it.

Ingredients:

1/2 red onion, chopped

2 limes, juiced

3 tablespoons brown sugar

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

3 tablespoons sherry- this replaced chicken broth. While there are broths that are soy-free, they are very difficult to find. If you’d prefer chicken broth, I suggest making your own.

1 tablespoon of canola oil

1 medium jalapeño chile pepper (or three serrano chiles)

3/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1 1/2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes

1 1/2 teaspoons paprika

1 1/2 teaspoons chili powder

3/4 teaspoon dried parsley flakes

2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves (dried works fine if it’s easier!)

1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves (I tend to add extra – yum)

2 tablespoons of honey

1 1/2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce (WARNING: Does contain “natural flavoring”!!! It has never bothered me in this dish- it’s such a minute amount. If at all nervous, omit it!)

3 pounds beef flank steak

kosher salt to taste

Directions:

Puree the solids and liquids into the bowl of a blender or food processor until the ingredients are well incorporated. Marinate the flank steak with 1/2 cup of the puree in a resealable bag overnight in the refrigerator. Reserve the rest of the puree to use later as a sauce.

Preheat a grill for medium-high heat.

While grill is warming, remove the meat from the refrigerator and let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Discard any marinade left in the bag. Liberally season the steak with the kosher salt, and cook to desired doneness, approximately 4 minutes per side for medium-rare. (for medium-rare, a meat thermometer should read 145°; medium, 160°; well-done, 170°)

To serve, slice the steak against the grain into 1/8 to 1/4 inch slices.

Pour yourself a bold red wine and enjoy!

WHAT TO DO WITH THE EXTRA SAUCE:

My favorite part- Coarsely chop your favorite veggies (I use onion and bell peppers). Toss them in a wok with the extra sauce and a few cups of water. Simmer until the water evaporates. They are to die for! Heed warning: the leftovers get so much more spicy!

Steve and I in the kitchen. Don’t be fooled- I didn’t do any of the work.

Favorite Chicago Restaurants

Eating out can be very difficult when it comes to managing soy allergies. Most restaurants cook with a blend of vegetable oil. More often than not, they contain soy. You’re best bet is to find restaurants that do not use a blend.

Authentic Mexican restaurants typically use corn oil. Their flour tortillas are often made from water and flour. My favorite Mexican restaurant in Chicago is El Tapatio, located on the corner of Ashland and Roscoe in Lakeview. It’s safe to eat, the staff is extremely friendly, and you can’t beat their margaritas! http://www.cafeeltapatio.com/ I suggest checking it out!

Authentic Italian restaurants are also typically a safe bet. Most of them use pure extra virgin olive oil. Quartino Ristorante & Wine Bar at State and Ontario has always been very accommodating. I love their bolognese sauce! http://www.quartinochicago.com/

Chop houses also tend to be very accommodating, and the chefs always seem to know what to look for. Keefer’s at State and Dearborn is a great one! Not only are they extremely helpful and knowledgeable, our server asked me to name a few appetizers and entrees I was interested in, and checked on each of them! http://www.keefersrestaurant.com/index.html

I always suggest calling ahead and asking them to check their cooking oil. It’s not uncommon that restaurants have the misconception that “soy” refers solely to soy sauce. Don’t be afraid to be specific!

Great Grandma’s Oatmeal Cookies

Great Grandma Baker on her 100th birthday! How cute is she?

My great grandmother (Grandma Baker- last name, pun not intended) made the BEST oatmeal cookies. Being soy-free has significantly affected my sweet intake. The oatmeal cookies, however, were not one I was willing to sacrifice. Below is my adapted version of these remarkable cookies. To be honest, they taste the same!

Ingredients:

1 cup of butter- I use Earth Balance natural buttery spread which is soy and dairy free. If you are going to buy regular butter, check the ingredients! So many brands include “natural flavoring” which is code for SOY.

1 cup of brown sugar (dark)

1 cup of granulated sugar

2 well beaten eggs

1 tsp vanilla

1 1/2 cups of flour

1 tsp of salt

1 tsp of soda

3 cups of quick cooking oatmeal- I buy a can of Quaker Oats. Any packs of flavored oats for instant oatmeal will contain soy.

1/2 cup of finely chopped walnuts- The baking aisle is the best place to find plain nuts. Any nuts for snacking (cans and medleys) will most likely be cooked in soybean oil.

Directions:

Thoroughly cream the butter and sugars. Add the eggs and vanilla. Beat well. Add sifted dry ingredients. Add oatmeal and nuts. Mix well. Refrigerate overnight. Use a spoon to place on cooking sheet and flatten with a fork. I use parchment paper for easier clean up. Bake for 10 mins at 350 degrees. Cool on rack and enjoy!

Tip for leftover oats – while we may be limited with pre-flavored instant oatmeal, we CAN eat oatmeal prepared the old-fashioned way! Boil some oats in water. Sprinkle on brown sugar, cinnamon, and raisins. Yum!

Pizza Night

I grew up having a weekly family pizza night. Every Sunday entailed pizza, America’s Funniest Home Videos, Married with Children, and on the late nights, X-Files. The idea of life without pizza was unfathomable. I now make my own pizza. It’s easier than you’d think!

Trader Joe’s has a pre-made pizza dough with no soy. Whole Food’s (my typical go-to) does not! T.J.’s also has a fresh sauce that’s safe (kept in the refrigerated area next to the dough).

For most of you, regular mozzarella should do the trick. For those of you (like myself) who are also lactose-free, Whole Foods does carry a brand of rice cheese by Galaxy Nutritional Foods.

I suggest purchasing a pizza stone or pan. I love mine from Crate and Barrel. http://www.crateandbarrel.com/pizza-grilling-stone/s104322 The best part- you’re not supposed to wash it!

Let the crust sit out for about twenty minutes prior to rolling out (it gets much bigger). Toss some corn meal on the stone. Use flour to role out the dough. Put it on the stone, toss on your sauce and cheese. Add whichever toppings you like. I love tomato and fresh basil! Bake for about twenty minutes at 425 degrees.

A tip if you’re a pesto person- Williams Sonoma has a safe pesto sauce. It’s pricey, but I love it! If you’re really daring, you can make your own. Toss some pesto, pine nuts, parmesan, salt, pepper, and olive oil in a food processor. That’s the simplest way I know- but Rachael Ray offers some much more tasty options.

Enjoy your pizza night!

Protein Bar Plug!

On my first date with Brett (boyfriend), I had the dreaded conversation with the server. As it turned out, the restaurant had NOTHING soy-free and only cooked with vegetable oil (always contains soy). I was embarrassingly limited to a cup of fruit. I’m sure Brett thought I was a freak (or an under-eater).

Instead of running for the hills, he texted me promptly Monday morning asking for my email address. Five minutes later, my inbox dinged with an email labeled “Protein Bar” containing only a link. I dismissed it thinking it was literally a bar of protein, something comparable to a granola bar. I later found myself in an awkward position when he asked me on a second date to Protein Bar (yes, a location, not granola). Oops.

When I was first diagnosed with my allergy, I thought for sure fast-food was off the table. Protein Bar is the exception! They are cognizant of all allergies, and incredibly accommodating. I had a burrito (quinoa) and chocolate shake (whey protein, cocoa, and almond milk) on that date! Their food is incredibly healthy and delicious! Try it.

They currently only have locations in D.C. and Chicago. However, they’re spreading rapidly. I suggest writing letters petitioning them to open a location in your city.

Here’s the link: http://www.theproteinbar.com/

And, credit goes to… Brett!