The Perfect Snack a.k.a. Street Vendor Style Chili Lime Cucumbers

Street Vendor Style Chili Lime Cucumbers

In the theme of replicating street vendor food treats, like yesterday’s post, I wanted to share my favorite easy snack. it is especially great during the summer when cucumbers are in season and plentiful. Every time I see a street vendor selling cucumbers, I cannot resist getting one. 🙂

Ingredients:
1 peeled and sliced cucumber
juice of 1 lime
salt
chili powder

When the street vendors make it, they toss all the ingredients in a bag and shake to blend the ingredients together. I usually just put everything together in a bowl and mix to make sure all of the cucumber pieces get coated, but either way works!

Better-Than-Street-Vendor Hot Dogs Recipe

Better-Than-Street-Vendor Hot Dogs

In most parts of Los Angeles, you can often find street vendors selling some amazing bacon wrapped hot dogs. We never see any in the part of the city where we live, so I decided to make my own version of this greasy yummy mess. Plus, by making it myself, I can make sure it is actually free of my long list of food allergens. I was even able to find some hot dog buns from Ener-G that have no wheat gluten, dairy, soy, or egg! They were surprisingly tasty!

Ingredients:
1 diced green bell pepper
1/2 diced red onion
1 diced tomato
2 very finely chopped cloves of garlic
butter or margarine (I used the dairy-free, soy-free Earth Balance margarine)
juice of two limes
dash each of salt & pepper
bacon
hot dog
hot dog bun

I started by adding some margarine to a pan and cooking the bell pepper, onion, tomato & garlic over medium heat. After a couple of minutes cooking, I added in the juice from two limes, and the salt & pepper. I continued cooking until the onions were cooked through.

Next, I removed the vegetable mixture from the pan and set it aside in a dish. Then I wrapped the hot dogs with the bacon, and cooked them in the pan until the bacon was cooked to my liking.

I heated up the Ener-G buns in the microwave, which helps soften them up a little, then assembled everything together. They tasted even better than how I remember the street dog versions! The recipe above made enough topping for 6 hot dogs. Perfect for summer entertaining!

My Guide to a Healthy, Toxin-Free Pregnancy

Alicia in Wonderland Blog - My Guide To a Healthy, Toxin-Free Pregnancy

If you read my previous post about my full pregnancy journey (seen here), you already know that it has not been easy for us to become parents. Since I knew that things would be difficult for me, I started early adjusting my lifestyle choices to try to get myself as healthy as possible to try to better my odds of getting pregnant and having a healthy pregnancy. The most important thing that I adjusted was with what we were eating. While I have pretty much always eaten healthy, I took extra efforts to eliminate toxins from our diet, keeping it as organic as possible.

There are a million articles out there of things you should avoid while pregnant. To err on the side of caution, I eliminated anything that may be potentially hazardous while pregnant. I did a lot of reading, and put together my own master list of things to avoid. Here is my own list of things that I eliminated throughout the course of my pregnancy to try to ensure the healthiest possible outcome for our baby.

1. The obvious things like sushi & alcohol. I even limited myself to only consuming the host when going to Communion at mass (during the phases of my pregnancy when I was allowed to attend mass).
2. Cheeses made from raw milk (I know there is some debate on this issue, but again, I didn’t want to take any chances).
3. Soft and unpasteurized cheeses (e.g. brie, feta, camembert, blue cheese, and Mexican-style cheeses).
4. Coffee, soda & other sources of caffeine. Once I started developing issues with my heart later in the pregnancy, I even had to completely cut out chocolate per my doctor’s advice.
5. Any foods with nitrates (e.g. lunch meats, hot dogs, etc.).
6. Any high mercury seafood.
7. Any raw seafood such as lox.
8. Eliminated sugar as much as possible.
9.  GMO’s and fruits and vegetables treated with pesticides, etc. I continuously snacked on organic fruit and veggies (made easier since much of it was growing in our garden).
10. Canned foods (since these contain BPA).
11. Water in plastic bottles (I started carrying around my stainless steel water bottle everywhere I go).
12. Food with large amounts of preservatives and additives.
13. Anything with MSG.
14. Any food with any artificial coloring. I am allergic to red food dye, and figured I might as well eliminate the others as well.
15. Processed and bleached starch options (e.g. white bread, white flour tortillas, etc.) – replaced with whole grain alternatives.
16. Any artificial sweeteners. I haven’t read anything in specific showing any issues that these might cause with pregnancy, but with my goal to cut out anything that isn’t natural and healthy, I eliminated these as well.

In addition to eliminating certain types of foods, I also eliminated a number of things in my beauty routine as well.
17. Any skin care products with salicylic acid.
18. Any skin care products with retinols.
19. Standard perfumes (since these contain surprisingly high levels of formaldehyde).
20. Standard sunscreens – replaced with natural, paba free versions without lots of chemicals.
21. My regular facial moisturizer – replaced with a natural version with SPF 30.
22. Standard nail polish and remover – replaced with natural versions without acetone, formaldehyde, or other strong chemicals.
23. All over hair dye.
24. Any of my “fancy” lotions – replaced with lotions with natural and organic ingredients, all paraben and phthalate free.
25. Any self tanners. Even though I wasn’t going anywhere most of the pregnancy, I was tempted to use some on a couple of occasions but refrained. After months of only getting sun exposure through a window, I have never been so pale and pasty in my life! I haven’t specifically read anything discouraging the use of these, but again…why bother with any extra unnecessary chemicals going into your system?
26. Any “regular” makeup – replaced with natural and mineral products (although most days I just went without makeup anyway).
27. Any whitening toothpaste or tooth whitening products.
28. Basically any other products with any artificial scents, etc. That was also largely driven by my sudden super sensitive sense of smell and never-ending morning sickness. Even the pets had to switch to hair care products without lots of artificial scents. 🙂

Also, this was already part of my normal routine, but if it hadn’t been, I would have switched out to all natural cleaning products as well. You can read more about my eco-friendly cleaning routine here. I also started myself on organic prenatal vitamins with probiotics and herbal supplements long before I got pregnant, as well as some DHA supplements as well. Also something I had been doing anyway…we made sure any paints being used in our house were zero VOC paints.

I am not trying to encourage paranoia about what you should or should not do while pregnant, nor am I trying to pass judgment on anyone who does not avoid everything on my extensive list while pregnant. I instituted these changes in order to feel as healthy as possible, and feel confident that I am giving this baby the best possible start to his life that I can.

Lamb Kabobs Recipe

My grandfather used to make some amazing kabobs that everyone in our family remembers fondly. He used to say that his recipes were from his Lebanese mother’s family recipes. After both of my grandparents on my mom’s side had passed away, I found a middle eastern cookbook in their kitchen with two very well-worn pages; a tabbouleh recipe and a kabobs marinade recipe (two things that he cooked frequently). Unfortunately, we will never know if he was actually following these recipes, and whether or not his mother’s recipes actually existed. I tried the kabob recipe in the book, and after some experimentation and modification to my own tastes, I came up with a similar version that my husband and I love. I can’t remember if it is exactly like my grandfather used to make, but we think this version is pretty darn tasty.

Ingredients:
16 oz. can of peeled tomatoes
juice of 1 lemon
1 yellow onion, diced
2 dried bay leaves, crumbled
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tsp garam masala
salt & freshly ground pepper
lamb steak
chopped vegetables for skewers

I start by crushing the diced onion in a mortar and pestle to release some of the juices. Then I combine the onion, tomatoes, lemon juice, bay leaves, olive oil, garam masala, salt and pepper into a large bowl and mix to create marinade.

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I use a jar of peeled tomatoes from our garden, but regular canned tomatoes can be substituted.
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The marinade before mixing it all together.
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Then I trim the excess fat off the lamb steak, and cut it into cubed chunks.
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Once the lamb is cut up, I put it in the marinade and let it sit in the fridge as long as possible, usually a full day. When we are ready to cook them, I skewer the lamb chunks on with some chopped veggies, and grill them on the barbeque. I usually put them with some red and yellow bell peppers, onion, mushrooms, and sometimes some cherry tomatoes. The final result is shown below!5

Balsamic Scallops & Gnocchi

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I absolutely love gnocchi, and was so excited to find some frozen gnocchi recently that are both egg-free and gluten-free. I decided to do something a little different with the gnocchi than what I usually do and paired them with scallops. If you have never had gnocchi before, they are delicious little Italian potato dumplings, and a great substitute for pasta. They are very filling so you don’t need as much as you would with pasta.

Ingredients:

frozen scallops (I used 6 scallops per person)
frozen gnocchi
cherry tomatoes
fresh basil
balsamic vinegar
lemon
3 cloves of garlic
olive oil
salt & pepper

I started by lightly browning the garlic in a few tablespoons of olive oil. While that heated up, I started boiling the water for the gnocchi. Once the garlic is lightly golden, I crushed the garlic and reduced the heat to low. Then I added about 5 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, the juice from one lemon, salt & pepper. I put in the scallops, and covered while they cooked. Once the scallops were about halfway cooked, I turned them over in the pan. When the scallops were closed to being finished cooking, I added in a bunch of cherry tomatoes with the scallops to lightly cook. I also added the gnocchi into the boiling water.

Gnocchi cooks very quickly, so once they were all floating at the top, I strained out the water and rinsed the gnocchi. I combined the gnocchi, scallops and tomatoes and topped with the balsamic mixture left in the pan. To finish the dish, I topped it with a few leaves of julienned fresh basil. So easy and so delicious!

Shepherd’s Pie: Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Soy-free, & Egg-free

shephard's pie - gluten, dairy, soy & egg-free

One of our favorite frozen dinners from Trader Joe’s has been their pre-made shepherd’s pie. Unfortunately, now that I have cut wheat gluten, soy & dairy out of my diet for the baby, those frozen dinners are no longer an option for me. I decided to try making my own version, with none of the offending allergens, and we loved the end result! The best part…it made enough for dinner that night, and the other half frozen for another night. It was a little more time consuming than most of the dinners I usually make, but since we love it so much, it was definitely worth the effort.

I started with making this soy sauce alternative, recipe found here. I modified the ingredients a little and used 1 1/2 cups of organic beef broth instead of the boullion cubes and water.

For the shepherd’s pie, I started with the recipe from Alton Brown, found here. However, many of those ingredients listed are on my avoid list. Below is my list of modified ingredients. I used ground turkey instead of ground lamb since that was what I had on hand. I also made a couple of other changes, to add even more veggies into the recipe. 🙂

For the potatoes:
1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes
1/4 cup almond milk
2 ounces Earth Balance soy-free margarine
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 Ener-G Egg replacerFor the meat filling:
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 cup chopped onion
4 carrots, peeled and diced small
3 stalks of celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 container ground turkey
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-free All Purpose Flour
1 can tomato paste
1 cup beef broth
1 teaspoon soy-alternative sauce
2 teaspoons freshly chopped rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon freshly chopped thyme leaves
1/2 cup frozen corn kernels
1/2 cup frozen English peas

I didn’t have to make many changes to the process Alton listed. The only notable change was with the potatoes. Since I added almond milk instead of half and half, they were a little runny. After combining the potatoes, almond milk and margarine, I brought it all to a low boil and cooked for a few minutes until thickened.Read more at: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/shepherds-pie-recipe2/index.html?oc=linkback

Turkey, Quinoa & Mixed Veggies Casserole

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One thing that I used to make fairly regularly for dinner before our son was born was a turkey and couscous casserole. Since there are quite a few things that I am now avoiding eating after noticing reactions from the baby via my breastmilk, I am trying to modify some of my old standbys so they are now free of wheat gluten, dairy & soy (as well as no egg or chicken for my own allergies). Since couscous is made from wheat, I decided to try using quinoa instead. Very similar to the couscous I am used to using, but it has the added benefits of being higher in protein and gluten-free!

I started by cooking four servings of quinoa in water in a medium saucepan. In a separate pan, I added some olive oil, two cloves minced garlic and half a package of ground turkey. I cooked the turkey until opaque, then added in about a cup and a half of beef broth. After that, I added in a variety of veggies: red and yellow baby tomatoes, chopped yellow squash (blanched and frozen from the garden), peeled and chopped sweet potatoes, and baby spinach. Once the quinoa was finished cooking, I added that into the mix as well, added salt & pepper to taste, and cooked for a few more minutes. Super easy, and I had extras to save for later!

Tomato/Prosciutto Pizza Recipe: Gluten-free, Dairy-free, Soy-free, Egg-free

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For the most part, our baby boy has been feeling better now that the dairy and soy seemed to have worked their way out of my system and his. However, after snacking on a bunch of tortillas one evening, I noticed that his stomach started getting really upset again. He didn’t have all of the extreme symptoms he was getting from the dairy & soy, but it was still enough to raise a few red flags for me. I decided to try to add wheat gluten to my list of potential allergens to avoid while breastfeeding. I was really craving some pizza, so I decided to try making one from scratch that would not have any gluten, dairy, soy, or egg in it. Seems like a tall order and that the result would not be worthwhile, right? It came out amazing! I cannot wait to make this again. Just as good, if not better than any “regular” pizza that I have had in a while!

Ingredients:
3 fresh artichokes
1 package Bob’s Red Mill Pizza Dough Flour
1/2 large tomato
handful of basil leaves
Earth Balance Soy-Free Margarine
Daiya dairy-free soy-free cheese
Two slices of prosciutto

I started by steaming a few artichokes from our garden. Next I started preparing Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Pizza Dough Mix, and made the dough according to the instructions. Since I have an egg allergy, I used Ener-G Egg Replacer instead of real eggs.

After the initial short baking of the crust, I brushed on some melted Earth Balance Soy-Free Margarine with a pastry brush, all over the crust. Then I sprinkled on some Daiya dairy-free and soy-free mozzarella cheese. I added some thinly sliced tomato and julienned basil. I removed the leaves from the artichoke hearts (and saved the leaves to eat while the pizza finished cooking), and broke up the artichoke hearts into chunks and added on top of the pizza. I cooked for the remainder of the time recommended on the dough flour package.

Once I removed the pizza from the oven, I finished by adding the julienned prosciutto slices. I added the prosciutto at the end so it didn’t end up overcooked. The end result was amazing…I can’t wait to make it again! On a side note, you could always leave the prosciutto off for a great vegan option. 🙂

Happy Earth Day!

Today, I was so happy to find an abundance of goodies in our garden, despite months of neglect from me being laid up with the pregnancy! I did a little Earth Day photoshoot with baby E to celebrate. Be sure to check out all of the pictures on our photography blog, here!

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Lemon Rosemary Turkey

I made this recipe with a bone in turkey breast, but it could easily be made with chicken as well for a more affordable (and easier to find) option. Unfortunately, I am allergic to chicken, so I get excited when I find a small cut of turkey like this in our local store.

Ingredients:

1 bone in turkey breast
4 large lemons
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
salt & pepper
green/yellow beans

1.Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Use a fine cheese grater to get the zest off all of the (washed) lemons.
2. Juice all of the lemons.
3. Finely chop rosemary leaves.
4. Place turkey breast in casserole dish, and pour lemon juice over turkey.
5. Sprinkle top of turkey breast with lemon zest, chopped rosemary, and a sprinkling of salt & pepper.
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6. Cook covered in preheated oven for approximately an hour and a half. Time will vary depending on the size of the meat you are using. The important thing is to cook it until the inside reaches a minimum of 165 degrees F.
7. Halfway through the cooking time, take out and baste turkey with juices from casserole dish. At this point, I also added in the frozen green & yellow beans (preserved from our garden!).

That’s it! This was a super easy dinner, and the turkey came out so delicious and juicy. 🙂

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