Category Archives: Gluten-Free

Quinoa Salad with Tomatoes, Corn, Black Beans, and Feta

Quinoa Salad

When I first tried quinoa, I thought it was horrid. And this disappointed me tremendously because quinoa is one of those grains that seems to be a staple in the gluten-free diet and one that everyone loves.

I’m not sure when my feelings for quinoa changed, but I know it had something to do with it being served cold, rather than warm.

Suddenly, I loved it and couldn’t get enough.

This summer, I’ve been making a variation of this simple salad. It’s so flexible and easy. You can eliminate an ingredient or add others, such as onion, cucumber or avocado.

Quinoa Salad with Tomatoes, Corn, Black Beans, and Feta

one package of Trader Joe’s fully cooked organic quinoa (so easy; just microwave)
half of a corn on the cob
canned black beans, about a cup or so, drained and rinsed
1 yellow plum tomato
1/2 of a red beefsteak tomato
handful of feta cheese
You could also add onion and/or avocado.

Mix together.  Refrigerate.  Enjoy.

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is post #85 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project.

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Cookbook Review: Carb-Conscious Vegetarian (71/99)

Carb Conscious Vegetarian

“The downfall of some vegetarian diets is a tendency to rely on white rice or pasta as the focus of the meal. After all, pasta and rice dishes can be quick, tasty, and economical. While it’s true that a little pasta or rice in moderation is harmless for most people, sometimes you can find yourself eating more refined carbs than anything else and ultimately putting on extra pounds — a telltale signal that it’s time to reevaluate what you’re eating.”  — Robin Robertson, Carb Conscious Vegetarian

This, in the proverbial nutshell, describes my approach to being vegetarian for two decades. Rice and (gluten-free) pasta are the mainstays of my go-to meals, and the former has definitely increased since going gluten-free several years ago.

Now, as I’ve mentioned in some very recent posts, I need to focus on reducing my carbs and lowering my cholesterol.  My triglyceride levels are in a super-high range and combined with the cholesterol numbers, I’m pretty sure statins are in my future.  Needless to say, I’m not pleased about any of this. The problem is, there doesn’t seem to be many cookbooks that are gluten-free AND vegetarian AND low-carb AND low cholesterol. I feel like I need to create my own repertoire of recipes. Expect to hear more about all this in future posts.

So, I’m trying to embrace this and using the need for new recipes as justification for borrowing piles of cookbooks at a time from our library, which has a very extensive cookbook collection spanning every possible cuisine, device, food group, diet and lifestyle, etc. We’re very fortunate in that regard.

Carb Conscious Vegetarian by Robin Robertson seems to be a good place to start. It’s from 2005, and a bit on the basic side with no photographs, but these 150 recipes “contain no refined carbohydrates, such as white bread, white rice, sugar, or pasta.”  Recipes using soy (including vegetarian crumbles and burgers, tofu, and tempeh) are included. Robertson describes this as a “moderately low-carb/all good carb” cookbook and includes an extensive list of food items and the carb counts for specific amounts.  She also includes an explanation of the glycemic index, including the number for certain foods. Most of the recipes are either already gluten-free or easily modified to be GF.

Recipes I’m interested in trying (none of these have any cholesterol) include:

Guacamame  (9 g. carbs) – avocado with the addition of edamame

Summer Vegetable Bisque (14 g. carbs) – the creaminess of the bisque is accomplished by pureeing the vegetables and stock

Bountiful “Big Bowl” Chili (28 g. carbs)

Victory Garden Stew (23 g. carbs)

Tabbouleh-Style Quinoa Salad (28 g. carbs)

Sloppy Josephines (18 g. carbs) – a variation on Sloppy Joes, with a note that it tastes better the next day. This sounds like it would be good to make ahead and eat for an early dinner, particularly when we are going someplace where we are unsure of the vegetarian food options.

Rich Man’s Pesto (2 g. carbs)

Wintertime Spinach Pesto (2 g. carbs)

Creamy Cucumber-Dijon Dressing (2 g. carbs)

White Wine Vinegar and Fresh Herb Marinade – for grilled vegetables (2 g. carbs)

Spinach-Mushroom “Frittata” – egg free (10 g. carbs)

Carb Conscious Vegetarian: 150 Delicious Recipes for a Healthy Lifestyle
Robin Robertson 
243 pages

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is post #71 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project. 

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Weekend Cooking: Waking Up to Overnight Oats

Blueberry Banana Overnight Oats

The Girl and I have a busy day today, as tends to be the norm on the first Saturday of the month. I knew I would need a powerful, healthy breakfast to hold me over until lunchtime, and I decided to make overnight oats.  If you’ve read any food blogs or perused Pinterest lately, you know that overnight oats have been trendy for awhile now.

I had been meaning to make these for awhile, but never have — until last night. I can’t find the exact Pinterest recipe I based this on, but it went something like this:

Blueberry Banana Overnight OatsBlueberry Banana Overnight Oats

3/4 cup low-fat vanilla yogurt
3/4 cup almond milk
1/2 cup gluten-free rolled oats (I like Trader Joe’s brand)
1 smashed banana, more on the brown side than ripe
handful or two (or three) of blueberries

Combine all ingredients In a mason jar or bowl. (Personally, as much as I love the aesthetics of this in a glass jar, I don’t feel its essential.)  Stir. Refrigerate until morning, stir a few times, then top with blueberries before enjoying.

This couldn’t be any easier and it turned out to be fantastic. Although I would have preferred a thicker consistency, that’s easily adjustable for next time. And I am planning to make overnight oats again, especially since my cholesterol and triglyceride levels are being stubborn as hell.

I’m now on the hunt for more overnight oats recipes, just to have a variety.  (Although I don’t want any with seeds — especially chia, which I find to be incredibly vile. And I’ve seen some versions with chocolate and additional sweeteners like honey but that’s probably not the best way to go either.)

Do you make overnight oats? Tell me about your favorite!  

Weekend Cooking - NewWeekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog’s home page.

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is post #69 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project. 



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Restaurant Review: Sienna Mercato, Pittsburgh, PA

After spending the day Downtown on Wednesday, I met up with a former coworker for drinks and appetizers at Sienna Mercato (942 Penn Avenue, Pittsburgh). Although I hadn’t been there before, I’d eaten previously at their sister restaurant a short distance away, Sienna On the Square. I remembered that my meal — with The Girl, before last year’s One Direction concert at Heinz Field — was very, very good.

IMG_20150802_164732_930IMG_20150802_164739_069 - Copy (2)

(These are pictures from Sienna on the Square.  I wish I could remember what we had, but I do know it was damn good.  Anyway, I’m using these because I need a related picture for this post but I didn’t take pictures at dinner on Wednesday and I didn’t want to take an image off of Sienna Mercato’s social media without asking permission first.)

Anyway, yes. Back to the present day and Sienna Mercato, which has a tagline of Good. Times. Three.  This restaurant is unique in that they have three dining establishments under one roof.

Emporio: A Meatball Joint features gourmet meatballs, soups, salads, etc. as well as a full bar with 32 draft beers, wines, and cocktails. It’s located on the ground floor. Upstairs, Mezzo highlights Italian fare including house made charcuterie, wood-fired pizzas, savory panini, creative pastas, and fine wines. Finally, Il Tetto is a rooftop beer garden and a perfect atmosphere for an outdoor gathering. They offer drafts, wine, cocktails and light fare.

My friend and I opted for Emporio because of the happy hour specials; we ordered wine, thinking it was cheaper than it was based on misunderstanding our waitress’ explanation, but no big deal.

Emporio is known for their gourmet meatballs.  Choices are classic beef (“grandma’s secret”); spicy pork (chili pepper, herbs); vegetarian (mushroom, white beans and cauliflower); and chicken (parmesan and herbs).  Only the chicken version  is gluten free, which my friend chose and which presented me (a gluten free vegetarian) with a dilemma. I hedged my bets on the meat being more problematic for my crazy messed up stomach and went for the vegetarian.

I will say that the vegetarian and gluten free distinctions are very clearly marked on Emporio’s menu (and yes, I could have selected something GF, but I really, really wanted a meatball.)

A sauce comes with the meatball and guests have their choice of marinara (vegetarian and GF); pork bolognese; creamy parmesan (vegetarian); chicken gravy; government cheese (vegetarian); mushroom gravy (vegetarian); arribiatta (vegetarian and gluten free); tzatziki (vegetarian and gluten free); spinach-almond pesto (vegetarian and gluten free) and chicken-chili. Adding serving options are as sliders, paninis, grinders, or over a side — including a gluten free pasta.

I was undecided between the tzatziki, the marinara, and the spinach-almond pesto and wound up selecting the tzatziki, again on my friend’s recommendation.  (She has never steered me wrong in the almost 3 years that I’ve known her.)

The meatballs are presented in a little silver bowl with a small flag that says “Emporio.”  SO FREAKING CUTE. You can see it here.

As my friend and I talked and ate and drank our wine, I realized I was hungrier than I thought. We perused the sides, deciding on a basket of tater tots. These arrived piping hot and crispy. Our waitress was very pleasant and very accommodating throughout the meal.

Sienna Mercato was a perfect place to catch up after work while enjoying a drink and snack-type dinner. The meatballs more than earn their reputation.  Next time I’d plan to try them over the penne and with their vegetarian, gluten-free marinara sauce or the pesto.

All in all, a wonderful dining experience which I recommend and look forward to repeating.

99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is post #68 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project. 







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Weekend Cooking: Gluten-Free Bread Salad with Goat Cheese (41/99)

High on my list of favorite summer foods is Tomato and Bread Salad, also known as Panzanella. I love everything about it. Bread salad makes a perfect lunch as well as an easy dinner (for me, that is). It’s cheap and simple with seasonal ingredients.  What could be better?

Oh, yeah. That little thing called bread.

I’ve missed this salad since going gluten-free.  I thought about trying to make it with GF bread, but the brand I usually buy (Aldi’s LiveGFree) seemed too thin for this dish.

A week ago, my boss and I were at my favorite Pittsburgh lunch spot (EatUnique, which I really need to do a review of soon). I’d ordered a tomato and mozzarella sandwich on a gluten free roll. It had a light pesto spread and it was AMAZING.  It tasted just like my beloved tomato and bread salad.

A few days later, I noticed that Aldi now has gluten-free hamburger rolls (which is FANTASTIC because, let’s face it, some things just taste better on a roll). Inspiration struck; when I had two extra, slightly stale rolls after the Fourth of July, I knew what I needed to do.

GF Bread Salad

This version is as simple as it gets:

Chop tomato and cucumber; combine in a medium sized bowl. I happened to have a few fresh basil leaves, so I added those. Then, tear the hamburger bun into cubes and add those to the mixture.  Combine all ingredients by stirring gently. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. (I didn’t measure this, but I used more oil than vinegar.) I added a little goat cheese to this.

You can adjust the portions, depending on how many people you’re serving. I’m the only one who likes this in our house so this made enough for my dinner.

And then I repeated the same for lunch today.

So delicious to have you back, Tomato and Bread Salad!

Weekend Cooking - NewWeekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads and is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book reviews (novel, nonfiction), cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs, restaurant reviews, travel information, or fun food facts. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog’s home page.


99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is post #41 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project. 


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feeding the mother of all adrenaline crashes


Holy mother of all adrenaline crashes.

When I tell you that I am in a nearly comatose-like zonked out state from my Listen to Your Mother experience this weekend, I am not exaggerating.

Well, okay, maybe a little. But Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, am I exhausted. I feel like I could sleep for the rest of the week. The month.

Hell, make that the rest of this year.

I don’t know how you people who do things like run marathons or perform for thousands are able to function after this kind of rush. I really don’t. I took today as a vacation day from work and after doing some errands, I spent most of the afternoon in bed.

I know this is the aftermath of an intense week, which included heightened stress — some good (pre-show prep) and some that I could have done without, thank you very much. I’ve had a jackhammer of a headache since Thursday.  I haven’t been sleeping more than a few hours per night nor eating very well. It’s Mercury retrograde. And this weather — steel-gray sky, colder than usual even for Pittsburgh — ain’t helping matters.

No wonder I want to retreat to my bed.

Time to recharge the batteries, starting with tonight’s dinner.

I wanted soup, something hearty and healthy and fast. Enter this bowl of deliciousness, right here.


Tortilla Soup from Cook the Pantry: Vegan Pantry-to-Plate Recipes in 20 Minutes (or Less!) by Robin Robertson.  (Note that the addition of shredded cheddar is my doing.)  I really like Robin Robertson’s recipes for their simplicity and speed.

I couldn’t find the exact recipe online and since I noticed that other bloggers include a publishers’ permission when posting Cook the Pantry recipes, I’ll refrain from posting it here because I’m not interested in being sued. It’s pretty basic; you probably have something similar in your culinary repertoire.

All these ingredients are staples in our house — olive oil; garlic; chili powder; salsa; diced tomatoes; frozen corn (I used canned because our frozen corn has been recalled); vegetable broth (I used homemade stock); and black beans.  I didn’t have scallions and we didn’t miss them.  I did have an avocado and vegetarian chicken strips, which I substituted for the Soy Curls listed as optional in the recipe.

Tortilla Soup and Salad - 5-9-2016It came together quickly, as promised.  I served the soup with a simple green salad (lettuce, tomato, and cucumber, with a slight drizzle of olive oil for dressing) which was last night’s leftovers.

The Husband and I liked the Tortilla Soup. The kids, as expected, didn’t want anything to do with this.  Whatever. Their loss. They opted for leftover rotisserie chicken and nothing else. They’re 14 and perfectly capable of making their own dinner if they didn’t like what was offered.

Simple, convenient and fast. Can’t ever get tired of recipes like that.







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Zagat N’at: My Best Pittsburgh Eats in 2015

If you live in the ‘Burgh and like to eat  — which probably applies to all 2.3 million of us in this region,  give or take — it was hard to miss the buzz earlier this week that esteemed foodie guide Zagat has named Pittsburgh as the Top Food City of 2015.

That probably comes as a surprise to those around the country whose knowledge of ‘Burgh bites is limited to the NFL’s broadcast footage during Steelers games of Primanti’s sandwiches piled high with fries and coleslaw.

Now everyone knows what we know: there’s more to Pittsburgh food than fries, pierogies, and Iron City Beer. Pittsburgh has some fantastic restaurants and eateries that appeal to every palate and pocketbook.

I say most because, with certain exceptions, we do tend to be a bit meat-centric ’round here. As a vegetarian, I feel that choices can be limited.  Taking things even more extreme as a gluten-free vegetarian, dining out can present some challenges; however, Pittsburgh happens to be a friendly and creative town. I’ve found that most restaurants are more than accommodating to patrons who, like yours truly, have certain quirks regarding their food.

Because we don’t eat out very often, I consider my expertise about the local food scene to be somewhat limited in scope. I tend to rely on the opinions (and posts) of my blogging friends BeezusKiddo and The Steel Trap for such matters.  That being said, I did have some enjoyable Pittsburgh dining experiences in 2015 that I thought I would recap here:

Vallozzi’s Pittsburgh
220 Fifth Avenue, Pittsburgh  (Downtown/Cultural District)

Because it’s not every day that one gets to sing along with a Beatle, The Husband and I treated ourselves to Ringo Starr’s October concert.  Before the show, we indulged even further with dinner at Vallozzi’s.  We’re not adventurous eaters — certainly not before something like a concert — so Italian is always a good option for us.  Vallozzi’s, which was close to Heinz Hall, advertised the availability of gluten-free pasta on their menu.

I started with a glass of the house pinot grigio.  We were starving and had some time before the concert so we selected the fried arancini as an appetizer. (This was not gluten-free, but they looked so good — and had quite a few rave reviews on various online sites — that we decided to try it.)

Vallozzi's aranciniphoto credit: Vallozzi’s Pittsburgh Facebook page

Vallozzi’s arancini were absolute perfection: five lightly breaded balls of risotto stuffed with buffalo mozzarella and nestled in a thick tomato sauce.  They were delicious.

Next, onto the entrees. (We skipped salads and the soup of the day was Italian Wedding.) Our pleasant waitress informed us that they were out of the gnocchi, which was The Husband’s first choice.  He opted to keep things simple and chose the Vallozzi Pizza, with tomato sauce and provolone.

I inquired about the gluten-free pasta, which was also mentioned on the menu at the restaurant. After checking with the chef, our waitress reported that they could substitute gluten-free spaghetti in any of their regular pasta dishes.

And did they ever! I chose the Creste Di Gallo with wild mushroom, truffle, and parmesan cream baked with brown sugar bread crumbs.  Our waitress very helpfully pointed out that the bread crumbs were not gluten-free, nor was the cream; I thanked her and said that this was perfectly fine and shouldn’t be an issue. And it wasn’t. It was a spectacular meal, one of the most memorable I’ve had this year. I could eat this for dinner every night. It was sublime.

(Listening to Ringo was pretty awesome, too.)

Alexander’s Italian Bistro
5104 Liberty Avenue, Pittsburgh  (Bloomfield)

When you want authentic Italian in the ‘Burgh, Bloomfield is the place to go.  It’s also where you want to go when you’re invited to be part of a literary reading at East End Book Exchange, located four blocks up the street. Back in January, our family headed to Alexander’s for dinner after the Acquired Taste event I participated in as a reader.

We found Alexander’s to be very family-friendly yet with a more upscale ambiance than most restaurants that are categorized as accommodating to patrons dining with children. As with Vallozzi’s, the availability of gluten-free pasta on the menu was appealing to me. (Are you sensing a theme with this post yet?)  I choose the pasta with clam sauce which was absolutely delicious. It had the perfect amount of clams, oil, herbs, and parmesan.

Alexander's Pasta with Clam Sauce

This dinner occurred nearly a year ago and some details are lost to time and memory, but I do recall that the four of us enjoyed the experience and our meals (with leftovers for several days!). We would definitely return again.

The Porch at Schenley      (Oakland)
221 Schenley Drive, Pittsburgh

I work in Oakland, which makes The Porch one of the preferred lunchtime places when dining with colleagues. In addition, The Girl participates in a workshop that often brings us to the Oakland vicinity on the weekends. Occasionally, we treat ourselves to brunch at The Porch.

Recently, The Girl ordered a cinnamon roll. Decadent doesn’t begin to describe this.

Cinnamon Roll - The Porch

It was almost as big as the plate.

Cinnamon also has a starring roll in these warm cinnamon-glazed donuts with fruit syrup.

Cinnamon Donuts at The Porch

Garden Harvest Salad, with field greens, chicken, roasted vegetables, goat cheese, walnuts, and tarragon vinaigrette. The Girl opted to forego the roasted beets and oyster mushrooms.

Garden Harvest Salad - The Porch

Although the Quiche du Jour is always an excellent choice at The Porch, the star of this meal is the Crispy Taters. Smashed potatoes, perfectly seasoned … I could eat a plate of these for brunch. (And dinner. And a snack.)

Quiche - The Porch

Cheers to all the chefs, restaurateurs, food staff, waitresses and waiters, and enthusiastic diners (especially my food blogger friends!) who make our city such a fun foodie town!

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