Little bit of spice

I used to hate spicy food.  But somewhere along the way I grew to not only like it but love it.  I ate quite a bit while living in China so that may have helped.  I’m not going to go and burn all my taste buds and mouth off for something spice though.  I want to actually enjoy my food and all the other flavors that are incorporated into the dish – whatever it may be.

I really enjoy cooking with red pepper flakes and Thai Chili’s (see my sweet and spicy chicken recipe!). While in Italy I brought home some red pepper flakes from the Campo de’ Fiori in Rome along with a few other herbs to bring home and try.  I didn’t think much of the flakes but, these were super flavorful!!  Probably the best I have ever had or bought anywhere else.  Don’t ask me why these were so much better, but they were…maybe it was just because I bought them in Rome. Those little flakes packed a ton of flavor! That market was amazing, if you are ever in Rome I highly suggest going there and checking it out.  There was a man there hand slicing procuitto!! And the olives…oh they were to die for.

One night when Bryan was here visiting I decided to be a nice girlfriend and make him stuffed peppers (being nice because I don’t eat peppers) and having never made them before I had no clue what I was doing…oh it was a mess!! We used some hot Italian sausage and added some red pepper flakes…a bit too many because neither of us could breath, had to open the window and everything.  Amazingly, he ate them and didn’t complain.  Probably one of the worse meals I ever made!!

With one failed hot Italian sausage recipe down, we figured we would give another one a try.  So a few nights later I used a jar of Trader Joe’s Arrabiate Sauce (has a slight spice to it and is really good), four links of Trader Joe’s hot Italian sausage and a bag of Trader Joe’s Brown Rice Pasta.  This meal came out so much better.  If I had the time would have made my own sauce but it was a weeknight and we wanted dinner to be quick and easy. I made this meal again last night but added chopped zucchini to the mix-yummm.  You can add in any other veggies you may like – onions, mushrooms etc.  The sauce is great because it has a little bit of spice already and plenty of garlic.

Red Sauce with Hot Italian Sausage

1 jar of Trader Joe’s Arrabiate Sauce (or any sauce is fine)

4 links of Trader Joe’s Hot Italian Sausage

2 medium zucchini

1 bag of Trader Joe’s Brown Rice Pasta

Cut the zucchini in small-medium cubes.  Remove casings from sausages and either cut or tear apart the sausage into chunks.  In a medium skillet brown sausage over medium heat until almost cooked through out.  Add zucchini and cook for an additional two minutes.  Add the jar of sauce and simmer for 15-20 minutes.

In a large sauce pan bring water to a boil. Add a 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of olive oil.  Add pasta and cook per directions on the bag (usually 9-12 minutes).  Strain pasta, reserving 1/3 cup of pasta water to be added to the sauce.  Return the pasta to the pot, add a few drizzles of olive oil to keep the pasta from sticking together and about a ladle of sauce.  Serve the pasta with sauce and enjoy.

I was on hot sausage kick this week!  Victoria (one of my current roommates) was craving pizza really badly and the only place around here for me to get any form of it is Whole Foods – 4.99 for tiny little pizza from Glutino one hot sausage link and about 15 minutes later (that pizza takes more than than it says of the package!) I had one tasty little meal.  I’ve never had one of their pizzas before and it was good…not my favorite but still good.


Brown Sugar Crusted Ham

In my second “make it stretch” meal I made Brown Sugar Crusted Ham steak with a baked potato with garlicy green beans.  When I was first diagnosed I was told that pork products are one of those products that you had to be careful about because many times it’s a source of hidden gluten.  Thankfully now many companies are labeling their products better with “gluten free” right on them!  I’m very happy and thankful that companies started doing this.  It makes life so much easier.

Trader Joe’s has gotten really good about labeling their products now.  When I was shopping there last week I noticed that their ham steaks have gluten free written right on the package so I grabbed one.  I figured this one little ham steak could stretch for two-three meals.  I used only a third of the ham for the first meal and plan to make a ham and cheese quice or frittata and use the remaining third to make “breakfast for dinner” one night this week.

Brown Sugar Crusted Ham

1 ham steak

1 tablespoon brown sugar

Coat one side of the ham steak with the tablespoon of brown sugar.  In a medium non stick skillet place ham steak brown sugar side down and cook over medium high heat for about five minutes or until it starts to caramelize – do not burn.  Turn and repeat on the other side.  (The good thing with these steaks is they are pre-cooked, you just need to heat them through out). This meal was made for one person so adjust the amounts depending on how many people.

Baked Potato

1 large russet potato

1 teaspoon canola oil

kosher salt

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Clean and lightly scrub potato and try off.  Poke several times with a fork.  In a medium bowl coat the potato with the oil and season with salt.  Place potato directly on the middle rack and place a baking sheet below to catch any drippings.  Bake for about 1 hour or until the skin is crispy and the flesh is soft.

Garlicy Green Beans

1/4 pound of green beans

1 small garlic clove minced

1/2 teaspoon olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

In a small/medium pan steam the green beans until they are a vibrant green color and still have a little crunch to them.  Strain.  In the same pan teat oil, garlic and salt and pepper.  Cook for about 1 minute and return green beans to the pan, sautee for an additional two minutes.

Trader Joe’s Vegetable Panang Curry – Gluten Free!

When I first was diagnosed with Celiac I was told that Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s were the best places to shop for Gluten Free items, and I don’t think I will ever forget the first shopping trip I did – it almost ended in tears!  No lie, I about cried in the middle of whole foods.  I was beyond overwhelmed with this new lifestyle.  Which is kind of funny seeing as in my opinion Whole Foods is by far the best place to shop for Gluten Free items because everything is labeled, not just on the package but on the shelves they have these little tags that say what is Gluten Free.   I just wasn’t used to this kind of shopping.  I wasn’t used to having to read everything on the label and learning what many of these ingredients that you need to carry a dictionary around with you to figure out if they contain Gluten Free or not.  If you have Celiac or shop for someone who does, I’m sure you can relate to my experience.  Over the past two years I’ve gotten better with reading the labels and figuring out where gluten “hides” on the ingredients list.

Trader Joe’s on the other hand doesn’t come right out and label everything.  Well they have gotten better over the last two years, but when I first started shopping for Gluten Free items it was so frustrating.  Their Gluten Free list isn’t store specific like Whole Foods is, they don’t put any markings on the shelves and for the most part you had to read every ingredient on the box, do some research online etc to figure out what was Gluten Free and what wasn’t.  Now thankfully they are starting to label many of their products as Gluten Free!  (Thank you Trader Joe’s!).  Their selection is still a bit limited compared to Whole Foods and they aren’t labeling everything but they are getting better.

For the most part I try to buy fresh ingredients, including herbs, meats, veggies etc. and try to avoid many of the processed/packaged foods, but lets be honest, sometimes its just hard to do.  Some days I just want to grab something quick and not have to prepare a whole meal just for myself.  I’ve tried a few of the frozen meals from Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s…they are okay for a quick meal, but I try not to eat them too much.  About a month ago I tried this frozen meal from Trader Joe’s and it was very very tasty, however I went to get another one to blog about and they were gone.  Today on my lunch break I tried to restaurants in town and both were extremely rude and unhelpful with my gluten free diet so I decided to run over to Trader Joe’s and see if by some chance they had any in the freezer section and they did!  So I grabbed one to bring home for dinner and decided to blog about it.

(You can find this in the frozen section at Trader Joe’s (items vary by location))

Vegetable Panang Curry with Jasmine Rice

Ingredients: Thai Jasmine Rice, Brown Jasmine Rice, Panang Sauce (coconut milk, Thai Chili, Shallots, Garlic, Basil, Galangal [Thai Ginger], Kaffir Lime Leaf, Palm Sugar  Lemongrass, Coriander, Soy Oil, Sea Salt), Vegetable Blend (Zucchini, Onion, Asparagus, Kale, Green Beans, Snow Peas, Baby Corn and Spinach).

Granted this isn’t the healthiest of meals but its tasty and good for a quick meal as long as you don’t eat it too often!!  So if you are looking for something tasty, quick (takes all of five minutes in the microwave), filling and GLUTEN FREE check this out!  You really can’t go wrong for only $2.49!!

Now if Trader Joe’s could stock my local stores with some Gluten Free baked goods I would be all set!!

Pumpkin Spice-Walnut Pancakes


The past few days here have been abnormally hot….about in the 90’s which is pretty rare around here.  Except yesterday that is…it was slightly chilly, very over cast and almost fall type weather.  I wanted something filling for breakfast, not cereal.  I was  going to try and make a flour blend that I could use for pancakes but realized I needed to order some more flours to do that and saw that I had half a package of Trader Joe’s GF Pancake mix left so I decided to make those.

I am not one for plain pancakes.  I love chocolate chips in mine.  I didn’t have any yesterday so I looked around to see what I had and could incorporate into my pancakes.  I found some cinnamon, some nutmeg, some pumpkin pie spice and some walnuts.

1/2 package of Trader Joe’s GF Pancake mix (follow directions on the back of package)

1 1/2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice (Trader Joe’s)

1/4 cup chopped walnut pieces (Trader Joe’s)

Prepare Pancake mix as the package says.  Stir in the pumpkin pie spice.  In a large pre-heated skillet with a little bit of non-stick spray drop in about 3 pancakes (about 1/4 cup each of batter…or however large/small you like them).  Then they start to bubble add walnuts and then flip over to cook on the other side.

Pancakes should only be flipped once.  When you see the bubbles start to form you know that is almost time to flip.  The bottom should then be a nice golden brown.

You can make all of the pancakes at once and either refrigerate or freeze them.  Or you can make what you would like and then save the batter for a day or two in the refrigerator.  I made all of mine at once and just put them in the toaster this morning to have again.  Very tasty.

Veggie Pad Thai


Simple recipe…thanks to Trader Joe’s!

Veggie Pad Thai

1 box of Trader Joe’s Pad Thai with sauce

1/2 of a white onion

1/2 cup of broccoli

1/4 cup edamame

1 can of baby corn

1/2 cup sliced mushrooms

(and/or any other veggies you might have: sprouts are great in this, but didn’t have any tonight)

1 egg

1/4 cup crushed peanuts

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Follow instructions on the back of the box for the noodles.

In a sautee pan add all the veggies and sautee for 3-5 minutes in oil until they are well cooked.  Scramble the egg in a separate pan and set aside. Once noodles have finished cooking add to veggies and mix in the sauce packet.  At the very end add the scrambled egg and crushed peanuts.


Cheese Cake187

I had a huge craving for cheesecake the other day. I’ve made some mini crust-less ones in cupcake pans before but never a full cheese cake. I figured I have the pan, why not try it. I’m so happy I did. I have to say it came out pretty tasty for being my first attempt at it. Best part, its 100% gluten free!
1 bag of the Trader Joe’s Gluten Free Ginger Snaps (about 1 1/2 cups of the crumbs)
1/4 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of melted unsalted butter

Mix the melted butter, sugar and cookie crumbs together in a bowl and then press into a 9 inch spring form cheese cake pan. Make sure that the crumbs come up a little bit on the sides.

Bake for 8-10 minutes at 375° – COOL


3 packages (8 ounces each) of cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp Vanilla
1 tbs Lemon Zest
3 eggs, at room temperature

Mix cream cheese, sugar, vanilla and lemon zest until creamy and smooth in an electric stand mixer
Add eggs (one at a time) until blended
Pour mixture into cooled crust
Bake at 325° for 45 minutes or until center is almost set. Cool and then refrigerate for a minimum of three hours or over night.

Serve with fruit or your favorite topping!

Cheese Cake189