Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Some Quick and Easy Sloppy Joes For Dinner the Night Before Thanksgiving

You have enough Thanksgiving food in your refrigerator to feed a football team, but you still need to feed your family dinner, how about a kid favorite - sloppy joes! Just grab your favorite allergen free bread and if you have some extra potatoes, try my herb roasted potatoes as a side (see Lisa Shops Allergen Free at Rose's Bakery and Hamburgers with Roasted Potatoes).

I am so thankful for all the blessings in my life, my family, my wonderful husband Mark and most recently my health. I am also thankful for the new friends I have met thru learning about my food allergies, the "cyber shoulder to cry on" and cheerful encouragement have meant the world to me. I encourage you to share your families stories about food allergies with me, I would love to feature some on my blog, there is so much to learn from others...

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving Holiday!

Sloppy Joes

Serves 4
Kids love these sloppy joes and they are so easy to make. You can use any color peppers you have on hand, yellow peppers were on sale when I made these.

1 pound lean ground beef
¼ cup onion, minced
¼ cup green bell pepper, minced
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon dried mustard
¾ cup ketchup
2 tablespoons honey
Kosher salt to taste
ground black pepper to taste

In a skillet over medium heat, brown the ground beef, onion, and green pepper; drain off liquids.
Stir in the garlic powder, mustard, ketchup, and honey; mix thoroughly.
Reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes.
Season with Kosher salt and ground black pepper.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Toasty Soups for Chilly Days

Chicago is where I call home and we finally got the weather we have all been dreading. COLD! Nothing helps take the chill away like nice hot soup. There is this great little place in Chicago that serves nothing but soup and fresh bread; I really missed their cream soups after I was diagnosed with dairy allergies. So, I played around a little and think you will be pleased with the results of the first recipe, its a little time intensive, but a winner if you like cream of chicken soup. The second soup, a black bean soup, is a family favorite, my brother Jeff drives 1 hour out of his way to pick up some soup to take home when I make it. You may have a hard time finding a ham bone; you can substitute with pieces of ham added the last hour of cooking.

Cream of Chicken Soup (Minus the Cream!)

Serves 8
The lemon in this soup really brings out the flavors. You can have it with the shredded chicken or without, either way, YUM!

2 chicken breasts, cut in 1/2
2 tablespoons uncooked rice
2/3 cup celery, diced
3 cups hot chicken stock
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 cups hot rice milk
Kosher salt to taste
ground black pepper to taste
8 slices lemon
chopped chives (optional)

Cover chicken with water and bring to a boil.
Turn down flame and simmer chicken for 5-7 minutes or until center of breast is white.
Strain chicken and set aside to cool.
Once cool, shred chicken between your fingers.
Boil rice and celery until tender, drain and run through sieve or blend on high.
Combine rice and celery mush with chicken stock, lemon juice and rice milk.
If you don’t have a sieve, blend rice and liquid mixture in a blender in small batches until smooth.
Add shredded chicken breast to soup.
Season to taste and serve with lemon slices and chives on top.

Black Bean Soup

Serves 8
A nice hearty soup to warm up after a cold day. Add your favorite hot sauce for a little kick!

2 cups black beans
½ pound lean beef, cut into ½” cubes
1 ham bone
celery leaves
1 carrot, diced
2 large onions, sliced
¼ teaspoon thyme
½ teaspoon sage
dash of mace
dash of ground cloves
dash of cayenne pepper
⅛ teaspoon Kosher salt

Soak black beans overnight,
In a saute pan over medium high heat, brown beef cubes on all sides and set aside.
Drain beans and add to 3 quarts of water to a large stockpot.
Add ham bone, beef, celery leaves, carrot, onions, thyme, sage, mace, cloves and cayenne pepper and bring to boil.
Simmer several hours until beans are tender.
Remove meat and bones and mash beans and vegetables.
Return mashed mixture back to pot.
Add Kosher salt to taste.
Bring pot to a boil and stir well, add slivers of ham cut from the bone.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Lisa Entertains Allergen Free: Appetizers to Serve at Your Next Party

I just can't believe another year has passed, the one year anniversary of my food allergy diagnosis is this week. It's amazing how much my life has changed in one year. Who would ever think food would make you sick? My diagnosis was a blessing for me, my allergies had affected me for so long, I just assumed everyone felt bad all the time like I did. I am hoping as time goes on, more and more doctors consider food allergies when their patients have the symptoms. The good news is the word is getting out there, look for more information from this site, it will be growing very soon (Jan 2009). With that said, let's party!

Appetizers are so fun, I will make some more fancy appetizers closer to New Years Eve, enjoy!


Serves 6

Need I say more? Guacamole is everyone's favorite, you can be loose with this recipe and add ingredients to taste using this recipe as a starting point, it is all good!

½ cup tomato, diced
½ cup onion, diced
1 tablespoon cilantro, chopped
2 clove garlic, minced
½ lime, juiced
½ teaspoon Kosher salt
small pinch ground black pepper
3 Hass avocados

Mix tomato, onion, cilantro, garlic, lime juice, Kosher salt and ground black pepper in a mixing bowl.
Mash avocados in serving bowl and add other ingredients, mix well.

Honey Lime Chicken Wings

Serves 9

Sweet and tangy, cooking these wings really stink up your house from the oil, perfect for watching the game!

18 whole chicken wings
¼ cup honey
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon grated lime zest
1 clove garlic, minced
¼ teaspoon Kosher salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ cup rice flour
¼ cup potato starch
2 quarts canola oil for frying

In a large bowl, mix together the honey, lime juice, lime peel, garlic, Kosher salt and ground black pepper.
Place the flour in a plastic bag and shake the chicken wings in the flour to coat, shake off excess flour.
In a deep stock pot, fry the chicken wings in a single-layer in hot canola oil until cooked through.
Place the cooked wings in the honey/lime mixture and toss to coat well. Serve immediately.


Serves 6

I loved the Bruschetta they used to serve at the Willowbrook Ballroom in Willow Springs, when I worked there as a kid, although there is no cheese and the bread is wheat, gluten and dairy free, it is just as yummy, enjoy!

1 pound fresh tomatoes, diced
3 ounces onions, diced
¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt to taste
ground pepper to taste
4 slices rice bread, toasted
½ teaspoon granulated garlic

Preheat broiler to 350°F.
Brush bread with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with granulated garlic and bake for 5 minutes on each side. Set aside.
In a large bowl, mix all remaining ingredients.
Quarter bread slices and spread tomato mixture over bread slices.

Next post: Toasty Soups for Chilly Days

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Thanksgiving Sides Your Whole Family Will Love

Making a turkey with food allergies is no problem, it's the sides that are so difficult, especially when you exclude all 8 allergens plus gluten. Now bear in mind if there is something you can have, for example soy, I would replace the applesauce and chicken stock in the mashed potatoes with Smart Balance, but if you can't have soy, our mashed potatoes are pretty creamy and smooth. It seems adding in things is way easier than taking them out, so have fun with it and don't forget to give thanks.

The Menu

    Fresh Cranberry Sauce
    Dinner Rolls
    Mashed Potatoes
    Vegetable Gravy
    Glazed Carrots

On to the food!

Cranberry Sauce

Serves 12

3/4 cup water
1 cup sugar
12 oz bag fresh cranberries
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest, freshly grated
Bring water and sugar to a boil in a small sauce pan until sugar is fully dissolved.
Add cranberries to pan and reduce heat to simmer, stirring occasionally, until berries pop.
Add lemon zest, stir in and cool.

Dinner Rolls

These rolls turned out pretty good, they are not as dense as others I have tried. They are a little gooey, but really yummy when dipped in vegetable gravy.

Serves approximately 8 rolls

4 tablespoons vegetable shortening
3 tablespoons honey
1 packet yeast
1 cup apple sauce
1/2 cup potato starch
1 cup tapioca starch
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon baking powder
2 teaspoons xantham gum
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon white vinegar
equivalent of 2 eggs (I used Ener G egg replacer)

Preheat oven to 350°F.
Combine all ingredients, egg replacer should go in last as it needs to be mixed immediately.
The dough is gooey, add water if it sticks too much.
Use a 1/4 cup measure to scoop dough into balls of uniform size and place in greased cupcake pans.
Bake 18-20 minutes.

Mashed Potatoes

Serves 6

3 pounds yukon gold potatoes
1/4 cup rice milk
1/4 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup apple sauce
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
Fill large stock pot with water and put on medium-high flame to boil.
Add whole potatoes to water and boil until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.
Drain potatoes and return to pot.
Add remaining ingredients and mash, don't over mash as the potatoes will get too pasty.

Vegetable Gravy

This gravy is great if you need to make it ahead of time, of course, you can always add turkey if you are making it for immediate use. Even better the next day!

Serves 8

1 small carrot, diced small
1 small celery stalk, diced small
1 small onion, diced small
3 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 cup rice flour
3 cups chicken broth
1 cup beef broth
1 bay leaf
1/4 cup fresh thyme, diced
4 whole black peppercorns
Kosher salt to taste

Heat canola oil in a medium saute pan over a medium high flame.
Add carrot, celery and onion and saute until nicely browned.
Stir in flour and cook, stirring constantly for about 5 minutes.
Using a whisk to continue stirring, slowly add broth.
Bring mixture to a boil and then reduce heat and add seasonings.
Simmer gravy for 20 minutes while stirring occasionally.
Strain vegetables and seasonings out of gravy and enjoy!

Glazed Carrots

I have sugar sensitivities, so I make this dish substituting honey for the brown sugar.

Serves 6

8 carrots, cut on a diagonal in 1/4" pieces.
1-1/2 tablespoons canola oil
2/3 cup brown sugar, packed
grated lemon rind and juice to taste

In a saute pan over medium heat, add canola oil, brown sugar and grated lemon rind and juice.
Stir until brown sugar is fully mixed with canola oil.
Add carrots and cook for 15 minutes (or until carrots are tender), stirring occasionally.

Next Post: Lisa Entertains Allergen Free: Appetizers to Serve at Your Next Party

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Salads, Dressings and How to Mix Ingredients for Best Taste plus Recipes to Get You Started

Are you tired of the same old salads, lettuce, tomato, maybe a cucumber? Let’s shake it up a little and start exploring new combinations for robust and scrumptious salads. First let’s take a look at different ingredients to include, it’s good to include different textures and tastes in your salad:

• something juicy and something crunchy
• something sweet and something savory

The Chicken, Avocado and Mandarin Salad recipe below has a nice mix of taste and texture with the celery and red pepper providing crunch and the mandarin orange giving a juicy burst of sweetness. This list is only a start of the many foods you can add to salads for appetizers or main-courses. Have fun with it and try different things. I have some recipes for salads and homemade dressings for you to try; they are good starters to expand your salad horizons.











Bibb Lettuce





Boston Lettuce


Rice Noodles

















Romaine Lettuce


Ok, so you have picked your ingredients for your salad, a few things:

  • Refrigerate your plates; it keeps the salad crisp and fresh.
  • Don’t dress until you are ready to serve, the salad gets soggy.
  • Try to use lighter dressings for delicate greens so the dressing doesn’t overpower the ingredients.
  • When using pastas in salads, cook al dente as the pasta absorbs moisture from the vegetables and if it is cooked too long, the pasta will become mushy.

Let me know what delicious combinations you discover, the options are endless.

On to the food!
Enjoy the recipes for Sweet and Tangy Salad Dressing (tastes like French dressing), Tomato Salad - a yummy appetizer and the Chicken, Avocado and Mandarin Salad, our main-course.

Sweet and Tangy Salad Dressing

¼ cup honey
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ cup ketchup
¼ cup white wine vinegar
1 cup canola oil

Combine honey, celery seed, Kosher salt, dry mustard, garlic powder, ketchup and white wine vinegar.
Add canola oil slowly with an electric beater.

Tomato Salad
My father-in-law, Walt, loves to call dibs on this salad, best in August when fresh, local tomatoes are available.

Serves 4

4 ripe tomatoes
5 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
¼ teaspoon Kosher salt
ground black pepper to taste
2 teaspoons dried basil
2 clove garlic, minced
2 small onions, finely chopped

Slice tomatoes ¼ inch thick.
In salad bowl, combine oil, balsamic vinegar, Kosher salt, ground black pepper, basil and garlic. Whisk the dressing until thoroughly mixed.
Add tomatoes and onions and toss together gently.
Serve chilled.

Chicken, Avocado and Mandarin Salad
I love making this salad for company, everyone loves it!

Serves 4

3 chicken breasts
1½ tablespoon Italian flat leaf parsley, minced
2 tablespoons honey
¼ cup of canola oil
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
½ teaspoon Kosher salt
small pinch ground pepper
small pinch garlic powder

1 head romaine lettuce, cut into bite-sized shreds
2 stalks of celery cut on angle
½ of a red pepper, chopped
1 Can of Mandarin oranges, drained
1 avocado, cut into ½” squares

In a large sauté pan over medium high heat, add canola oil.
Lightly season chicken with Kosher salt and ground black pepper and add to pan.
Cook thoroughly on both sides until breast reaches internal temperature of 165°F or until the juices run clear, set aside to cool.
Combine Italian flat leaf parsley, honey, canola oil, white wine vinegar, Kosher salt, ground pepper and garlic powder in a blender and blend for 30 seconds.
Add lettuce, celery, red pepper to bowl.
Top with Mandarin oranges, avocado and chicken breast, cut into strips.
Pour dressing lightly over salad, reserve a little, mix and add remaining dressing to taste.

Next Blog: Preparing for Thanksgiving…

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Lisa Shops Allergen Free at the Gluten Free Store and Chicken Strips with Homemade Potato Chips

Have you scoured the shelves at your local grocery stores and can’t find that treat for your kids or a product that is free of all the allergens your family has? Well, you are in luck because in Northbrook you will find the Gluten Free Store that has all kinds of meals, treats and condiments that accommodate almost every possible combination of food allergies.

Kathy Rockaitis and her son, Joseph own the Gluten Free Store and have allergies that include gluten, tomato, onion, celery and garlic to name a few between them..Kathy prides herself on knowing which products fit your allergies and will walk you thru the store and direct you to the right products for your family. Good news for non-Chicagoans: Kathy will be your personal shopper in the store and ship you your treats (frozen products cannot be shipped).I asked Kathy some questions about her store; let’s see what she says…

Q. What is your favorite product?
Arico peanut butter cookies

Q. What ideas do you have for kids for their lunches/snacks?
It all depends on their allergies, but check out some of these brands to see if they are safe for your family.
• Nana’s Cookie Bites
• Ener-G Pretzels
• Glutino Pretzels
• Cherrybrook Kitchen cookies
• El Peto blueberry muffins

Q. What products do you wish you could find a good substitute for?
Heads up readers – Kathy is working on a new product, keep your eyes out for a pop-tart like product! I can’t wait.

I really like the variety of products at the Gluten Free Store; I grabbed my favorite bread mix while I was there, made by Breads From Anna, in fact my house is filled with the smell of banana bread as I write this post. The Gluten Free Store has all of the products you will find at your major grocer, but also carries unique brands from smaller manufacturers, it’s definitely worth a stop if you are headed to the northern suburbs of Chicago, if not, give Kathy a call. The Gluten Free store is located at 807 Waukegan Rd., Northbrook, IL 60062, 847-513-6515.

On to the food!

For the weekend, let’s do some kid friendly foods, like chicken nuggets and homemade potato chips. These potato chips are time intensive, but the kids really get a kick out of them, it is hard to make a full order, they seem to disappear quicker than I can make them, Enjoy!

Baked Chicken Nuggets

Serves 6

3 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
½ cup seasoned flour (see the post “Avoid Dinner Dread…”)
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon dried basil
½ cup canola oil
2 tablespoons honey

Preheat oven to 400ºF (200ºC).
Cut chicken breasts into 1" x ½" pieces. In a medium bowl, mix together the seasoned flour, thyme and basil. Mix well. Put canola oil in a separate bowl and mix in honey.
Dip chicken pieces into the canola oil and honey mixture first, then coat with the flour mixture. Place well coated chicken pieces on a lightly greased cookie sheet in a single layer, and bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Turn chicken after 10 minutes.

Potato Chips

Serves 8

4 medium potatoes, sliced paper-thin
3 tablespoons Kosher salt
canola oil

Place potato slices into a large bowl of cold water as you slice them.
Drain bowl, rinse, then refill the bowl with water, and add Kosher salt.
Let the potatoes soak in salty water for at least 30 minutes.
Drain bowl, rinse and drain again.
Heat 1” deep of canola oil in a large stock pot over a medium high flame.
Thoroughly dry potato slices and add to oil in small batches, do not stack. Once they start turning golden, remove and drain on paper towels. Continue until all of the slices are fried. Season with additional Kosher salt if desired.

Next post:
Salads, Dressings and How to Mix Ingredients for Best Taste

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Fall Vegetables and Spaghetti Squash Spaghetti and Sweet Potato Fries

Having food allergies restrict what you can eat, so let’s refill our diets with new foods we may have not tried before. Fall is filled with lots of great alternatives including:
Bok ChoyBroccoli RabeBrussel Sprouts
Celery RootGarlicJerusalem Artichokes
Snow PeasSpinachWinter Squash
Sweet PotatoesSwiss ChardWatercress

I chose three fall vegetables to look at a little further, winter squash (including acorn, spaghetti and butternut squash), sweet potatoes and parsnips.


Winter squash, including spaghetti, acorn and butternut squash, is an excellent source of vitamin A & C, potassium and fiber, and a good source of folate and thiamin. When looking for a good squash, the skin should be thick and hard without any marks and heavy for its size. A great thing about squash is that you can store it for a month or more in a cool, dry place. Squash gets a bad wrap at being hard to cook, but really it is quite easy.

Cooking Squash:

Roasting – a sweet and a savory method for you to try…

Halve, remove seeds, put small puncture marks on the outside skin and poke a fork into the inside meat and sprinkle with salt, pepper and olive oil. Roast in 400ºF for 30-45 minutes until the flesh is tender. Great alone or added to soups and risotto. Kids never know the difference when we use spaghetti squash as spaghetti try my recipe below.
Halve, remove seeds, put put small puncture marks on the outside skin and poke a fork into the inside meat and sprinkle with canola oil and lightly press brown sugar onto inside of squash and all along the rim, place down on pan and turn slightly to form a seal. Roast in 400ºF for 45 minutes or until the flesh is tender. Sprinkle with more brown sugar to taste and mash together.

Boiling – Peel and cut into bite-sized chunks and cook for 7-9 minutes in boiling water. Wonderful when added to stews, doesn’t work as well with spaghetti squash.

Microwave – Depending on the squash: Approximately 5-6 minutes per pound for spaghetti squash, 8-10 minutes for acorn squash and 5-10 minutes for butternut squash depending on size. Make sure to puncture skin 4-5 times before putting in microwave.

Spaghetti-like strands emerge when you use your
fork to scrape the inside of the spaghetti squash.

You can also save the seeds - a great treat for the kids:
Pre-heat oven to 300ºF.
Clean and soak seeds in salt water solution for 1 hour.
Sprinkle lightly with Kosher salt and bake for 1 hour.


Not only do sweet potatoes possess a sweet flavor, but they're also one of the most nutritious vegetables out there. Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin A and vitamin C and a good source of vitamin B-6, fiber, copper and potassium. When looking for the best sweet potatoes, find firm, medium-sized potatoes with tapered ends. Avoid ones with blemishes, sprouts or any sign of decay. Sweet potatoes will keep for several weeks when stored outside the refrigerator in a cool, dark and dry place (try a brown paper bag). Scrub well before using.

Cooking Sweet Potatoes:

Roasting – Put in oven unpeeled at 350ºF for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Things to try with sweet potatoes: cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, rosemary or brown sugar. For another way to roast sweet potatoes see my recipe below for sweet potato fries! My sister Claire shared it with me - it is a family favorite!
Boiling – Peel sweet potatoes, cut in half, place in a pot with cold water, and bring to a boil. Boil about 30 to 40 minutes, depending on size; drain and mash.


Parsnips are an excellent source of vitamin C and folate. The best parsnips are well-shaped and small with firm roots. Large, older parsnips require more peeling and have a woody core. If refrigerated, parsnips will keep for a week or more.

Cooking Parsnip:

Add to stews - Cut parsnips into cubes and use them in soups or stews. If you look at my beef stew recipe in the blog titled “Avoid Dinner Dread” you will see parsnip used, it adds a nice sweet taste to the recipe.
Roasting - Parsnip is great roasted with a variety of other fall vegetables. Roast for 20-40 minutes (depending on the size) at 375ºF.
Boiled – Boil for 10-20 minutes and then chill to enhance flavor. Mash and mix with mashed potatoes for a sweeter, richer taste.
The recipes for this post are using two of the three vegetables we talked about, Spaghetti Squash Spaghetti and Sweet Potato Fries, I make the fries just to snack on, it is a great treat filled with nutrients, enjoy!

On to the food!

Spaghetti Squash Spaghetti with Meat Sauce

1 pound lean ground beef
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
2 teaspoons oregano
2 teaspoons basil
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
½ cup onion, diced
¼ cup orange juice
1 bay leaf
¼ cup water
3 cloves garlic, minced
12 ounces tomato paste
14 ounces diced tomatoes

Brown ground beef and onion in stock pot over medium high heat, season with Kosher salt and ground black pepper.
Drain meat if necessary.
Once meat browned, reduce heat to low and cook covered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add tomato paste, water and diced tomatoes.
Continue cooking on low covered for at least 1 hour or until ready to serve, stirring occasionally.

See above for directions for cooking spaghetti squash.

Sweet Potato Fries

4 sweet potatoes, skinned and cut into small strips
1 onion, sliced into small strips
2 sprigs rosemary, removed from stem and minced
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

Pre-heat oven to 350ºF.
Place sweet potato, onion and rosemary in a ziplock bag and add extra-virgin olive oil to cover.
Mix ingredients in bag until fully coated.
Spread ingredients in a single layer on a cookie sheet and bake for 30-45 minutes. Do not pour oil from bag onto baking sheet, only use oil to coat.
Turn fries after 15 minutes and check every few minutes after first 30 minutes.
These fries won’t be crispy, but gooey and ever so tasty! Enjoy!

Next blog: Lisa Shops Allergen Free at the Gluten Free Store