Thursday, March 31, 2011

Ole! Ole, Ole, Ole...

I love Mexican food all year round. It’s easy to eat gluten free friendly for one thing, and who can resist those flavors? Lucky for me, there are plenty of awesome restaurants around here to choose from that hit whatever kind of “Mexican food” you are in for. I choose my Mexican restaurant wisely. See here's the thing, when I crave food, I crave very specific food. I don't crave chocolate, I crave a specific dark chocolate from a specific brand. Usually something out of my reach. Yes, I know, I must be awesome to live with when one of these cravings hit. So when I crave 'mexican food', a burrito from Bueno won’t satisfy this Indie. When you have plenty to choose from, you get to be a little picky even when you have food allergies or food specifications.

Spring in Tulsa brought some warm weather earlier on this year. I am certainly not complaining! When the mexi-bug hits me this time of year, I am not headed for the loaded down enchilada by the cozy fireplace. I want an outdoor patio, a fresh squeezed lime margarita, smooth salsa and corn chips, and a heaping bowl of guacamole. To start with. And I know exactly where I’ll head. Café Ole on Brookside.

Café Ole has been a restaurant staple for me for years. It opened it's doors in 1987 and has since been serving up sassy southwestern style cuisine to the locals. Tucked into the heart of brookside, this charming establishment is a breath of fresh air. I love sitting on their outdoor patio, listening to the occasional live music, and feeling the spring air wisp around me as I sip the best margarita in town. Yes, it’s my favorite. My husband loves a margarita, but I love a perfect margarita. No mix for his gal. I want the real deal. Like I said, when you can picky and get the best, why wouldn’t you? This margarita doesn't need a fancy schmancy margarita glass masking the real deal with a ring with colored salt facade around the rim. Nope. This lime monster looks innocent in it's plain jane appearence and delivers the best tasting experience. You may not want to drink more than two though warn. If you do though, please share below ;)
We started our meal with their house made guacamole and complimentary chips and salsa. Oh, I could eat that peppery salsa all day. After a couple margs we decided it was best to order. I usually go for the Spinach Enchiladas anyway, but this visit was unique. I wanted to see if this dish was chalked up to vegan standards as well. Would my enchilada bring the heat without the ooey gooey melty cheese?

Si amigos. It delivered and as always the staff was overly accommodating. I used to get so embarrassed asking the waiter to prepare things differently. Here, it’s never a problem. My husband and I split the order and they brought it out on separate plates for us. Absolutely wonderfully prepared as always. The corn tortilla was thickly stuffed with fresh spinach and topped with sliced, crunchy green onions and juicy tomatoes.Their black beans are always cooked just before mushing point, and accompagnied by fluffy rice and plump corn. I topped it all off with some of our guac and as always it was flawlessly filling and simply satisfying.

If you haven’t tried this local spot, head there now! It's great for date night, friends, or with the kiddos. Kid tested by this mommy so I speak with confidence when I say it's okay to cart them along.When the weather is brisk the patio glows with their outdoor fireplace. Otherwise, wait until the sun peaks and head and enjoy some wonderful southwestern cuisine on the shaded breezy patio. You won’t be disappointed.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Black Bean Brownies

I know what you are thinking…this GF Indie has gone mad and all those veggies have finally gone to her head. Why would I EVER put black beans in my brownies?? Believe me I was there. And in this case, seeing isn’t believing. Tasting is believing. If you are looking for a healthy, nutritious, and fudgy brownie then you HAVE to try these! My first go around did come out a bit too fudgy consistency, if there is such thing, so I think a little flour, a chia egg, and some more oats will be in order for next round. I also need to use a smaller square pan vs longer pan. Small set back from living with the rents while we build our house. Trial and error. But tasty trial and errors. I am happy to make them again! Which quite possibly might be tonight since I may have gobbled up the first batch already…
Oh and confession: I thought about renaming them yummy poo brownies because that is what my husband said they looked like (not tasted like mind you) but I figured if I was going to convince you readers to try them, that probably wouldn't be the best way...

Black Bean Brownies
  • 15 ounces black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 whole bananas, chopped
  • 1/3 cup agave nectar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 tbs ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp organic vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup raw sugar
  • 1/2 cup instant oats

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Grease an 8x8 pan and set aside. Combine all ingredients, except oats (unless you used raw oats like I did) in a food processor. Blend until smooth, scrapping sides as needed. Stir in your oats (if using instant) and pour batter into the pan.

Bake for approx 30 minutes. I used a longer pan instead of square so my baked quicker. Let cool before slicing. Pop in the fridge or freezer for an easy treat!!

*Recipe adapted from HappyHerbivore

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Grey Days, Souper Comfort

Springtime storms are officially here. It is another gray and rainy morning here in Tulsa. I keep reminding myself that the heavy clouds are pouring colors into our dreary surroundings. I am happy to see the lavender buds on the trees, and the pops of white petals drifting in the warm breezes. This morning I have yet to fully awake as I write but alas I do have to be at work early this week so I have no choice but to wipe the sleep from my eyes and begin. So bear with these stiff fingers and clouded mind as I share with you a delicious vegan soup!

Ah soup. Such a perfect comfort food. I have been on many soup binges in my life I must admit. Hey, don’t judge, we can’t help what we crave sometimes. It could be a hundred degrees, humid, and sweltering, and my soup fix could get me itchin’. Maybe because it is such a versatile little bowl of nutrients. Or the fact that it seems to warm my tummy and easy my troubles simultaneously.

Regardless of why I crave it, it’s important that I pay attention to what kind of soup I am eating these days. And not just because of the lurking gluten monster disguising itself in the ingredients. Canned soups can pack a ton of extra sodium that makes my joints cry out with swollen sobs. Plus, who wants UFI’s (unidentified floating ingredients) in their bowl? Well, not me. But hey, if you’re comfortable teetering that Area 51 line go right ahead! It’s not to say that I haven’t divulged in a cup of Ramen in my day. Now I just am aware of how puffy I plump with the additives so I think I personally will steer clear. Maybe it was also a sign when I managed to catch my ramen noodles on fire in the sorority house microwave. No water = flames. See, we all have to grow our “natural” cooking skills from somewhere.

My remedy to the soup equation I have rolling here would be to make your OWN soup! That is much more satisfying anyway right? I looked at a ton of soup recipes over the weekend and managed to settle on my one to share. My past soups were good, but I wanted to try something new for you. A couple blogs mentioned this stew, and after a couple of my own little tweaks I think it was PERFECT! I am thrilled also because it makes a lot so I have a comfort food dinner to last me through the next gray days.

Here is the original recipe below, and you can find my changes in the notes. I had to take in account some g-free factors of course in my recipe and directions. Both I am sure are delicious and nutritious.

Kathy's Veggie (vegan) Pasta Stew

  • 4 ounces sliced mushrooms
  • 1 medium tomato
  • 1 large sweet onion
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
    I think a better camera is in order...
  • 1 tsp garlic powder or 2 Tbsp chopped fresh garlic
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 Tbsp Italian Herbs
  • 1 potato, diced
  • 1/3 cup nutritional yeast or 1/4 cup vegan cheese
  • 1 cup dry fusilli pasta
  • 1/3 cup leftover roasted tomato salsa
  • 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 1 can of beans, drained (I used white cannellini beans)
  • 6 ounces leafy greens (spinach, kale, chard, collard..)
optional: a few dashes of cayenne for added heat.


1. In a large soup pot, add the onions, tomato, mushrooms, garlic and olive oil. Stir and saute for about 5 minutes, until the onions become translucent.

2. Add in all the remaining ingredients (except the beans and leafy greens). Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover with lid. Allow to simmer for 20 minutes. Do a few taste tests midway through and check on the salt/spice levels.

3. When you are just about ready to serve the soup, you can add in the beans and greens. Adding the last keeps them tender and not mushy. If you want your greens a bit more hearty, use kale or collard. Spinach wilts very easily.

4. Serve warm! With a nice slice of crusty bread.

My changes to the Recipe:

  • 4 ounces sliced mushrooms – I used a blend pack of portobella, cremini and shitake
  • 2 small/medium vine tomatoes
  • 1 large sweet onion
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbs pepper
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 cups organic, low sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 Tbsp Fine Herbs
  • 3 Yukon gold potatoes, chopped
  • ¼ cup vegan cheddar
  • 1 cup dry gluten free fusilli pasta
  • 1 tbs kosher salt (or to taste)
  • 1 can of beans, drained (I used white cannellini beans)
  • 6 ounces leafy greens – I used a large bunch of fresh spinach since it cooks down
I added a tbs or so of Cajun seasoning to bring out the flavor and spice.


1. In a large soup pot, add the onions, tomato, mushrooms, garlic and olive oil. Stir and saute for about 10 minutes, until the onions become translucent.

2. Add in all the remaining ingredients (except the beans, pasta and leafy greens). Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover with lid. I transferred to my crock pot and let it simmer on low for 40 minutes. Do a few taste tests midway through and check on the salt/spice levels.

3. While your soup is simmering, cook you gluten free pasta to al dente. With the potatoes begin to soften, about 30 minutes, add in your pasta to the pot.

4. When you are just about ready to serve the soup, you can add in the beans and greens. Adding the last keeps them tender and not mushy. If you want your greens a bit more hearty, use kale or collard. Spinach wilts very easily.

5. Serve warm! I toasted Food for Life’s gluten free rice bread in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil and a dash of Cajun spice to accompany the soup.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Burger. What's in a Name?

What's in a name? That which we call a burger by any other name would smell as savory…

Burgers. We all love ‘em. And that is exactly what was on the menu last night! But like dear Juliet portrayed in her soliloquy, this burger is far more than its mere given title. This is not your meat packed patty that pops in your noggin when you hear ‘burger’. No, this burger is better is better than that. Yes, I am calling you out. My burger is better than your burger.

Nanner Nanner Boo Boo.

This burger is packed with protein, and oh was it delicious! I saw the recipe on “Oh She Glows” and knew that my first homemade veggie burger would be this one. A couple gluten free adaptions and we were ready to go! Obviously these can me made with non gluten free ingredients as well. So let’s bust out the food processor and start patty cakin’ those veggie patties together. Oh and if your grill has not shed its winter cover, no worries! These are baked to goodness in your oven!

Vegan & Gluten Free Lentil-Walnut Burgers

• 3/4 cup lentils, picked over and rinsed
• 3/4 cup walnuts, toasted
• 1 piece gluten free bread, toasted OR 1/3 cup GF breadcrumbs
• 1 tsp ground cumin
• 2 tsp ground coriander
• 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
• 3 cloves garlic
• 1/4 tsp sea salt
• Freshly ground pepper
• 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
• 1 chia/flax egg (1 tbsp ground chia or flax + 1/4 cup water)


Preheat oven to 350F. In a small bowl make the chia or flax egg and set aside. Place lentils in a small pot and add a couple cups of water. Bring to a boil and simmer for about 25 minutes. Remove and rinse in colander.
While the lentils are cooking, toast the walnuts by placing the walnuts on a baking sheet and cooking at 350F for about 12 minutes until golden brown and delicious. Let cool.

In a food processor, process the garlic, walnuts, toasted bread OR breadcrumbs, garlic, spices & seasonings until combined. Now add oil and lentils and pulse until coarsely chopped (some lentils should be visible and left chunky). Add the flax or chia egg and pulse a bit more until combined.

Now shape 4 patties with hands and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment or a non-stick mat. Bake at 350F for 20-22 minutes on each side for a total of 40-45 mins. bake time. Makes 4 patties. Adapted from Martha’s Great Food Fast Cookbook from the Blog Oh She Glows.

We topped ours with fresh spinach and ripe tomato. The tomato is a must! I was planning on adding guacamole but they had over ripened. But no worries, we have 2 left for tonight and I am headed to the store at lunch to pick up some avocados!

Our burgers didn’t need the whole 22 minutes once they were flipped. I was being careful that didn’t turn out too dry either. Make sure that you make your patties even. If the ends are thinner they are likely to dry out an burn. Nobody wants a burned burger.

I have yet to find a Vegan & Gluten Free Bread or Hamburger Buns so unfortunately I strayed from my vegan diet last night. One step at a time. I have cut out milk and cheese. Eggs were baked in this bread but I have been cutting them out otherwise. If you know of any gluten free/vegan breads let me know!

I cannot wait to experiment with different recipes after making this one. Of course I will be changing it up and posting new ones for you!

Friday, March 18, 2011

The BAR Exam

No I am not taking that BAR, but I am examining a product for you! LÄRABARs. They are a
“delicious blend of unsweetened fruits, nuts and spices. Made from 100% whole food, each flavor contains no more than nine ingredients.”

AND they are VEGAN & GLUTEN FREE!! Something that I can eat, enjoy, and reap health benefits from is definitely something I will sign up for! Here is some information from their website about their products that you can check and see if they are something that would fit in your diet:

Pure and simple, just as nature intended.

I had heard a lot about these little guys and decided that I had to try them. Now, usually my snacks aren’t store bought bars of any sort. Most granola bars on the market at packed high with unnecessary sugars and ingredients I would never put in my body! Plus, a lot of them are hiding gluten between their corn syrup sated grains. No thank you.

Larabars are truly different though. Their mission statement says it all:

“At LÄRABAR, we believe that the foundation of a sound mind, body and spirit is derived from what you eat. And what you eat is healthiest and most satisfying when it's in a whole, natural state.”

GLUTEN FREE/CELIACS LÄRABAR and JŎCALAT are Gluten Free. They have no gluten-containing ingredients, and we have manufacturing controls in place to ensure that there are no cross-contact concerns. We also periodically verify our practices using Gliadin gluten testing.

RAW DIET LÄRABAR products are made by a simple process in which fruit, nuts, and spices are ground and mixed together. They are not baked or cooked. We use simple ingredients, as close to their natural state as possible.

VEGAN/VEGETARIAN LÄRABAR and JŎCALAT are made entirely from plant-based foods. Though the vast majority of chocolate chips in the world are made with dairy, soy or both, we specifically asked our supplier to provide us with chocolate chips which are Vegan—containing no dairy. While no dairy products are used to make our chocolate chips, they are made on a line which also produces chocolate chips made with dairy products. Due to the potential for cross-contact between the types of chocolate chips made at the facility, the chips we use may contain trace amounts of dairy from those other chips; thus we cannot claim that our chocolate chip flavor varieties are Vegan.

All well and good. But how do they TASTE? That is the most important part right? My husband and I tried four different flavors. I tried peanut butter and jelly, and blueberry muffin. The Blueberry Muffin had blueberries, cashews and dates with a dash of lemon and vanilla. Soft and chewy with a hint of crunch, this Blueberry Muffin was less than 200 calories! My PB&J with the crusts cut off (hehe) had dates, peanuts, unsweetened cherries and a touch of salt. Oh and the bonus? It comes with 6 grams of protein! My husband picked Cherry Pie and Apple Pie. Oh, you gotta love that man of mine. His sweet tooth won’t be packing anything in the tummy though! Cherry pie larabar consists of unsweetened cherries, dates and almonds. Apple pie contains cinnamon and raisins, almonds, and walnuts. He said both were absolutely delicious. I’ll trust him.

The LÄRABARs were chewy, decadent, tasty, and very filling! No where near a power bar consistency that most people find disgusting. I personally always liked them at a track meets but to each his own. I suppose it did kind of resemble a rectangular block of poo.

I am always fascinated by the stories behind the idea. Why the ingredients? Why that consistency? What sparked the need for the product? Where were you when it popped in your head? Lara, the founder of Larabars (naturally), shared her story:

“It started out as just a hike, no different than countless others I've taken into the beautiful Rocky Mountains of Colorado. Little did I know I was about to come up with a mountain of an idea: Combine wholesome ingredients such as fruits and nuts to create a food product that's tasty, healthy and convenient.

In that instant, in May 2000, LÄRABAR was born. After scouring the aisles of grocery stores and noting popular flavors of ice cream and cookies, I delved into my own product development. Natural foods, I believed, should be fun and enjoyable as well as good for you. With friends and family serving as focus groups, I tinkered with recipes until a consensus on yummi-ness was reached.

The next step was to launch a company to market what would initially be five delicious LÄRABAR flavors: Cherry Pie, Apple Pie, Cashew Cookie, Banana Cookie, and Chocolate Coconut Chew. I also assembled a sophisticated manufacturing arm...what amounted to be a Cuisinart and a rolling pin. The first batch of bars I produced for retail had to be sealed by hand — all 500 of them!
Thank goodness we have machines for that job today. After all, we're producing millions of LÄRABAR's every year! They are a wholesome indulgence you can feel good about eating

And "feeling good" is what it's all about. Believe it or not, I used to be a junk food junkie — until I discovered how natural foods enlivened my mind, body and spirit. A passion for healthy living soon followed, and continues to be a driving force behind everything I do professionally and personally. I really appreciate the opportunity I have to make a positive difference in the world we live in.

Health is indeed your greatest wealth.”

Great Story. I love storytime on cloudy days like this. I look forward to trying more flavors and hope that you give these natural gems a shot as well!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

No-Nonsense, Tough Love

Sorry if I have been on a bit of hiatus from the blogging. I have been engulfed in a new read that many of you readers have encouraged me to pick up. I read all the time and it doesn't usually grip me in this way, but I wanted to dive in as much as possible before sharing my thoughts.What words have me so enthralled that I have diverted from writing? Skinny Bitch. Now, before you think I should go wash my mouth out with soap, or in my childhood experience vinegar (thanks mum for going easy on me…confession I kind of liked the taste), I want to give you an explanation of this in-your-face “no nonsense tough-love guide”.

Well, let me back up a tad. Remember when I said that my New Years Resolution was to incorporate more veggies into the menu? I know you’ve slept since then and probably can’t recall but that is what I said. In pursuing my goal, it turns out I stopped eating meat all together! Kind of accidentally I suppose. I didn’t have it as my main star of the plate and I was so focused on my goal that I disregarded the ol’ animal flesh all together. I realized this about a month into it. The crazy thing was I didn’t want it anymore. I didn’t crave it. I found things that taste better than meat.

I had tried going vegetarian for a 30 day challenge with my husband before and I am not going to lie, it was an epic fail. I was yo-yoing with my energy levels and I felt deprived. There, that word, DEPRIVED. This time there was no deprivation. If I wanted it, I would eat it. But I haven’t yet. It’s been 2 ½ months now and I haven’t. Milk seems to be seeping away from my diet as well, being replaced by almond milk and soy milk. They taste better and I feel better after I eat/drink it.

The results so far? My energy levels are skyrocketing, my body feels incredible, and I have never run like this in my life! It was all a choice. It’s interesting that since I started eating this way, other things are becoming less appetizing to me as well. Eggs and milk primarily. Cheese and fish are still going strong. Well, cheese maybe not so much as of this week. Weird I know.

Okay, back to the book. Skinny Bitch. Read it. It truly is amazing. And no I am not trying to brainwash you or anything. Maybe just trying to help de-brainwash you. I don’t believe in converting the world into my opinions. But I do believe in educating yourself and knowing what you are putting into your body. Not preaching, just sayin’.

I bought the set of Skinny Bitch & Skinny Bastard for my husband and I to read. Skinny Bastard is the same information that is tailored to the male. C’mon, we don’t always think the same as the opposite sex and you know it. Every night we have been reading and discussing. It’s quite fun!

I digress, and as you well know my blog is essentially about FOOD. So get ready for some new recipes to come! Vegetarian or not, those good little numbers won’t hurt you to incorporate into the diet. I promise. I am still here after all, and in no pain I assure you.