Busy Busy Bee

Even though I got things wrapped up for my spring coursework at the end of April, May has been a busy whirlwind for me!  I’m already leaping ahead trying to make sure I’m prepared for my summer capstone and independent study, so I haven’t really felt like there has been much of a breather between semesters.  On top of that, lots of traveling in a week’s time and I’m still a little spun around.  When I’m busy and I’m not in my own environment, eating well and making any attempting to sticking to the FODMAP diet are pretty tough!  The conference I went to had some pretty limited food options; for example, breakfast consisted only of muffins/baked goods or a horrific looking “egg”-croissant sandwich!  Ew..  Luckily I had thrown in some bananas at the last minute and of course had my trail mix handy, so that was my breakfast both mornings.  Lunch the one day was also a little rough: choice of chicken, beef, or veggie burrito!  Come on people, where are the GF options here??  I was thankful that avoiding gluten is simply a choice for me and not a requirement since I did not have time to go hunt down a better option.  Definitely nothing low FODMAP about these burritos (wheat, beans, onions, garlic, etc??).  Luckily dinner had some more options and then the second lunch was open choice of restaurants in town.  But yes, my GI system was not feeling so hot all day Saturday!

The one meal I made between trips was inspired by sage I bought a little while ago because I thought I had tons of recipes that I could use it for, but then really didn’t have time to hunt down said recipes.  Plus the sweet potato fries appetizer from the prior trip really got me digging sage! I used this ravioli recipe as inspiration, but made quite a few tweaks.  Here’s my recipe:

Brown Butter Pasta with Chicken, Walnuts & Sage

4 chicken breasts (only needed two for the pasta, so two were leftover)
Rubbed with a mixture of smoked paprika, thyme, salt and pepper.
4ish servings of pasta (I did two servings of GF pasta and two of regular spaghetti for the hubby)
1/2 cup walnuts
4 tbsp butter
1/3 cup fresh sage leaves
1 thick slice of smoked gouda, chopped into small chunks
2 tbsp (ish) of grated parmesan

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Rub herb mixture over both sides of the chicken.  Heat a skillet sprayed with garlic olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken and cook for 2 minutes until golden brown. Flip and cook for two more minutes. Transfer chicken to oven-safe dish and continue cooking  in the oven for 25-30 minutes. Allow the chicken to cool for 5 minutes, then chop into bite-sized pieces. Boil and drain the pasta according the to package directions.

Place the walnuts in a large skillet over medium heat and toast for 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove and chop. Wipe the skillet clean, and melt 4 tablespoons of butter in the same skillet over medium heat. When the butter just starts to turn brown, add the sage and stir constantly for one minute. Immediately add the pasta and stir to combine. Add the chicken, chopped walnuts, smoked gouda, and parmesan and stir. 

GF pasta with chicken & sage

GF pasta with chicken & sage

Ended up very tasty- I asked the hubby if this was a repeater and he said yes!  Again, the smoked gouda may have played a role… 🙂

Otherwise, we have been nibbling on leftovers or going out to eat or just having salads this week so far!  I’m hoping to make up some burgers tonight for something different!  I did make up another batch of coconut milk yogurt with a slightly different formula.  4 cups Aroy-D coconut milk, 4 cups of homemade coconut-oat milk, 1 heaping tsp of agar and 3 tbsp tapioca starch (with half a container of SO Coconut yogurt as starter).  I wanted to see a) if using half “real” coconut milk and half homemade would still work and b) if having less agar would still make it fairly thick.  I just felt like the last few batches I could see little pockets of agar (like a small clear ball of gelatin), so I thought perhaps it didn’t need as much.  It seems to have turned out just fine, perhaps slightly less “firm” but I always felt like it wouldn’t hurt for it to be a little more runny!

My other project has been trying to get my granola to clump, without having to add more sweetener!  I think I have had success, though I still want to experiment a bit!  Still using the oats & amaranth granola recipe as a base, I again replaced the amaranth with sesame seeds as well as some sunflower seeds, did 1/2 cup hazelnuts and 1/2 cup pecans, and still used the egg white.  Oh and I also added some cardamom and smoked salt for slightly different flavor.  The big differences I made were I lined my pan with parchment paper (most recipes say to do this but I was lazy before) and I left it out overnight to cool.  When I went to break it up: tada!

granola clumps!!

granola clumps!!

So much easier and yummier for snacking!!  I will say, it tastes just a touch stale, so my next batch I’m going to just use the parchment paper, but not let it sit out overnight and see if that still yields clumps but keeps the crunchy-ness.  I also found a granola recipe that uses homemade milk pulp, so I might give that a try since I have a full gallon ziploc in the freezer full of coconut-oat pulp!

I really gotta get back to meal planning, that was so nice!!  The summer is going to be hectic, so it would be nice to have some meals already planned out to reduce brain-strain.. 🙂

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Even MORE New Foods!

I tackled a few more new recipes this week as well as buying some new foods to try through Vitacost.  My first new recipe was a Spaghetti Squash Veggie Bake, with several adjustments.  First, I omitted the red pepper, second I used garlic olive oil, and I used my homemade Turkey Tomato Basil marinara for the sauce.  I thought it turned out tasty, the hubby was just okay with it, but I supposed I wasn’t surprised by that.

spaghetti squash veggie bake

spaghetti squash veggie bake

Next, I wanted to find something that I could use some of my date paste for, especially since I just recently realized that it’s not something I should really be having, per FODMAP.  I knew dried fruit was technically off limits, but I guess I thought it was more because it can be hard to digest, not because of the fructose content, but apparently dates have VERY high fructose content.  Darn.  I found this recipe, Sugar Free Chocolate Chip Cookies, which I ended up also using my leftover oat-coconut pulp from making milk instead of just oats. I had to play with the amount of liquid since the pulp was more moist than oats would be.  I thought they turned out okay, not wonderful, but a good use of things I had on hand.

oat-coconut pulp, date paste cookies

oat-coconut pulp, date paste cookies

We had leftovers a few nights this week, which was really nice- I love knowing that I have several kinds of already cooked veggies in my freezer to choose from at any time!!  I did make this Tandoori Spiced Fish last night and I thought it turned out pretty tasty.  I think the chicken curry I made last week was much better though!  A good use of my homemade yogurt though 🙂  I had the fish with a side of this awesome pumpkin, ginger, rice pasta that I just got through Vitacost- yummmy!  I wanted to see how flavorful the noodles were by themselves, so I just melted a little bit of the coconut manna I also got (aka coconut butter- yes different than coconut oil) and some salt.  I didn’t necessarily get an overwhelming taste of pumpkin or ginger, but they were very good even as plain as I had them.

rice pasta; coconut manna

rice pasta; coconut manna

Some of my other findings at Vitacost, which had some products cheaper than Amazon but definitely not everything, was raw pumpkin seeds for only $5.79/lb (almost a dollar cheaper than Amazon), organic pumpkin for almost the same price as Hy-vee brand, and quinoa flakes cheaper than I’ve seen anywhere else!  I definitely am going to stock up big time on pumpkin come the fall, I use it all year round so it’s really dumb to be paying twice as much for it right now!

organic pumpkin- no BPA!

organic pumpkin- no BPA!

pumpkin seeds

pumpkin seeds

quinoa flakes

quinoa flakes

I’m excited to give the quinoa flakes a try, they can be used similar to oats and I have several recipes pinned that I want to give a whirl!  Since I finished off my homemade yogurt, I was able to do another batch of yogurt, but this time I wanted to try coconut milk yogurt!!!  I used the Aroy-D coconut milk that I got at the Asian grocery store, plus a bit of my homemade oat-coconut milk.  It ended up being about 6 cups Aroy-D plus 2 cups of homemade, mostly because that was all that I had of my homemade.  I used this thick and rich coconut milk yogurt recipe, but doubled it and like I said, used a little more coconut milk than she did since I didn’t have much homemade on hand.  I was very nervous if this was going to work, I had read other blogs that said never to mix in things like tapioca starch or agar while it’s cooking!  But I think it turned out GREAT!  It has a natural bit of sweetness, so I didn’t really need to add a whole lot of maple syrup to make it palatable.  I do think I might try next time to use less tapioca starch, it was plenty thick and I feel like I could kind of tell there was a starch in it.  But maybe I would need that much tapioca starch if I had had more homemade milk, not sure..  OH and I used a store bought SO Coconut milk yogurt as the starter, since the starter I have is dairy based and I wanted to make this one with no dairy whatsoever.  In any case, I think it was a success!!  A return trip to the Asian store to stock up on Aroy-D will be made next week!  🙂

homemade coconut milk yogurt!!!

homemade coconut milk yogurt!!!

I swung out to Trader Joe’s tonight so that I could gather some more ingredients to make another batch of homemade granola this weekend- can’t wait!  I think I’m going to try a version that uses egg white, I know I don’t really eat eggs, but I think it wouldn’t be all that much and supposedly that is what makes it nice and crunchy, which I missed with my last version.  While there, I was looking at beer for my husband and came across this NGB gluten free lager!  I’m enjoying it now after a chill in the freezer and it’s pretty good 🙂

ngb GF beer

ngb GF beer

New Purchases & Recipes

I managed to fit in a few more new recipes in the last few days as well as taking a trip to a local Asian grocery store to hunt for some hard to find items.

Yesterday, I wanted to give making milk out of oats a try.  I started with the instructions from Oh She Glows Homemade Oat Milk, and then decided to do half oats, half coconut.  I thought that might help with the flavor and thickness.   So I soaked 1 cup of steel cut oats and 1 cup of shredded coconut, then rinsed them because I guess the oats can get a slimy consistency otherwise.  I forgot that the oats would expand after soaking, so I realized I had a lot more than I meant to.  I had to kind of guess on the amount of liquid, but I think it was about a 1 to 1.5 ratio of oats/coconut and water.  Then I blended and strained with my nut milk bag (seriously, it’s worth the $10) and got a bunch of great looking milk!  I wasn’t sure what to do with the pulp, but Oh She Glows suggested keeping it and mixing it in with oatmeal.  Now I’m sure you’re wondering about the flavor.  I would say it is okay, it’s not wonderful, but I didn’t add any flavorings and sweeteners to it, so that would help.  I had it with homemade hot chocolate (using raw cacao) and I thought it tasted fine for that.  I think next time I will do 1/2 cup oats with 1 cup of coconut milk and that should help the flavor.  I like the idea of adding some oats to help reduce the cost as well as the calories and fat.

oat-coconut milk!

oat-coconut milk!

oat-coconut pulp

oat-coconut pulp

Tonight, I wanted to try my hand at making date paste and pumpkin seed butter.  The date paste will be nice to have as alternate sweetener- it was definitely tasty!  I had a bunch of dates in the freezer that I got at CostCo several months ago.  Since it seems that almond butter is not something I’m going to be able to have in large quantities, I wanted to try some other butter.  I’ve made walnut butter before and it was just okay, it just had kind of a weird after taste and never got that smooth.  So I was curious to see if you could make pumpkin seed butter, and of course, the wonderful world of Pinterest came to my rescue!  I mostly followed the “maple cinnamon” version, though added a little date paste and added a bit more coconut oil and maple syrup because it just didn’t seem that smooth.  It is tasty, though not quite the nice spreadable-ness of almond butter.  But I think it will be an interesting alternative!

date paste

date paste

pumpkin seed butter

pumpkin seed butter

For dinner, I made Chicken Curry with Cucumber Raita.  It turned out SUPER yummy!  Another hubby pleaser- yay!  I subbed water chestnuts for celery because I didn’t have any celery on hand, but otherwise I mostly followed the recipe, though I didn’t have fresh coriander.  And I used way less cumin, I find that can be overpowering so I never use as much as a recipe calls for.  It was nice to get to use my homemade yogurt!  I had mine over quinoa and my husband’s was over jasmine rice (that I found in the back of the freezer :)).  It was a fun foray into a totally different meal!

chicken curry

chicken curry

My final fun adventure was to a local Asian grocery store over my lunch hour.  There is just something so fascinating with checking out another culture’s or country’s grocery stores!!   That was always my favorite thing when traveling abroad, but I haven’t really ventured out to local ones until recently.  I had read about this coconut milk brand, Aroy-D, that was in cartons, not cans, and it was 100% coconut milk, no additives, and no BPA since it wasn’t in a can.  Now canned coconut milk can be really expensive, $3 a can, but I had heard it was much cheaper at Asian grocery stores.  Is it ever!!  I got a 33 oz carton for $2.79!!  Amazing!   I have plans to give it a try for coconut milk yogurt.

cheap coconut milk- no additives!

cheap coconut milk- no additives!

Then I wanted to check for agar powder, which is used similar to gelatin but is vegan.  It’s expensive online, so when I found these packets for $1.49, I couldn’t pass it up!

agar powder- for thickening

agar powder- for thickening

I also got tahini, which is blended sesame seeds, for super cheap, 8 oz for $2.99.  This can be used for dips and dressings.  I went ahead and got some sesame seeds too because I know when I’ve gone to buy them at Hy-Vee it is very expensive.  It is also a great place to buy spices in bulk, seriously if you are looking for some spices, check out your Asian grocery store first, they had a ton of different spices for SO much cheaper than Hy-Vee!  I had read from a blogger that you can sometimes get decent priced GF flour (like rice) and tapioca starch at Asian grocery stores, but I didn’t see tapioca starch (might have just missed it) and they did have a wide variety of flours, but most I had never heard of!

tahini

tahini

cheap sesame seeds!

cheap sesame seeds!

My last purchase there was some candy 🙂  I have gotten these coconut candies before when I went to Chinatown in Chicago and really liked them, so when I saw these ginger ones, I had to try them.  I checked the ingredients and really they aren’t too bad!

ginger coconut candies- YUM

ginger coconut candies- YUM

understandable ingredients, surprisingly

understandable ingredients, surprisingly

So needless to say, I’m going to give these new items a whirl, but I have a feeling I will be revisiting this store in the future!