Category Archives: Gluten-Free

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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Weekend Cooking: Small Bites

For this week’s contribution to Weekend Cooking, I thought I would offer you what I’m calling “small bites” – a few fun-sized book reviews that are shorter than regular posts but ones that you might enjoy sampling nonetheless.

Grain BrainGrain Brain: The Surprising Truth About Wheat, Carbs and Sugar – Your Brain’s Silent KIllers
by David Perlmutter, MD with Kristin Loberg 
Little, Brown, 336 pages, 2013

As a child, I remember my dad having frequent headaches (they run on that side of the family). When I got my first headache in first grade, I knew that I inherited this trait.  One of the reasons I decided to go gluten-free two years ago was to see if dietary changes would help with my migraines – and they absolutely have. They’re not completely gone (I doubt they ever will be) but they’re much better than they ever have been…so much so that I was able to discontinue the daily migraine prevention medication I took for several years.

Neurologist David Perlmutter’s belief is that we have the power to change our genetic destiny. Inflammation – particularly in the brain –  is a major culprit for many chronic diseases and he offers a 4 week plan for potentially reversing the course of Alzheimers and other conditions by addressing our consumption of wheat, carbs, and sugar.

“How often do we hear people say things like, ‘I’ll probably get [insert disease here] because it runs in my family.’ No doubt our genetic heritage does play a role in determining our risk for various health conditions. But what leading-edge medical research now understands is that we have the power to change our genetic destiny….We now know that the food we get or avoid, the quality of our sleep, and even the relationships we choose actually choreograph to a significant degree which of our genes are active and which remain suppressed. Here’s what is most compelling: We can change the expression of more than 70 percent of the genes that have a direct bearing on our health and longevity.” (pg. 126-127)

Salt Sugar FatSalt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us
by Michael Moss
Random House, 446 pages, 2013

It’s fitting that the cover of Salt, Sugar, Fat looks like a ransom note because in a sense, the food giants that Michael Moss calls out by name in his Pulitzer Prize winning look at the industry are holding the health of millions of Americans hostage with obesity, high blood pressure, skyrocketing cholesterol counts, diabetes, and much more.

What makes Salt, Sugar, Fat especially eye-opening is how deliberate and strategic these efforts have been on the part of nearly everyone involved in getting food on our plate. This is a very well-researched book, with countless examples of how the food manufacturers, chemists, and marketers have exchanged one crappy ingredient for another (reducing fat but increasing the sugar, for example) and how government incentives (who remembers free government cheese?) exacerbate what is an epidemic and major health concern.

Pandoras LunchboxPandora’s Lunchbox: How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal
by Melanie Warner
Scribner, 267 pages, 2013 

Pandora’s Lunchbox is similar to Salt, Sugar, Fat, but with a little more of a “just-a-regular-mom-like-you” kind of tone. Inspired by Ms. Warner’s quest to discover how long a slice of processed cheese really does last and other similar experiments. Like Michael Moss’ book, Pandora’s Lunchbox also is incredibly well-written and well-researched (Ms. Warner has a background as a reporter writing about the food industry) while shedding a light on the marketing of processed food and the chemicals in some of the most common things we (and our kids) are eating.

Animal Vegetable MiracleAnimal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life, by Barbara Kingsolver
Harper Perennial, 2008 (audio)

My first reaction was that this didn’t seem any different from other books and blogs promoting eating locally-grown, in-season food  – and then I remembered that Animal, Vegetable, Miracle was published in 2008, before concepts like farm-to-table and eating what’s currently available were household words.  Seven years later, it’s still relevant and worth reading because there are still people who don’t understand this – although, chances are, if you’re reading this, you probably do.

The Kingsolver family decided to eat locally for a year, either by growing their own food or purchasing very locally, and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle chronicles their efforts by the seasons. While this tends to get a little preachy and repetitive at times (you kind of feel bad if establishing a vegetable garden that’s the equivalent of a small farm operation isn’t for you) but it’s well-written and includes brief sections by Ms. Kingsolver’s husband and daughter.

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.

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Weekend Cooking: Toasted Avocado and “Chicken” Sandwich

Toasted Avocado and Chicken Sandwich

Every summer seems to bring its own particular food or simple meal that I become completely obsessed with and crave nonstop. Before going gluten-free, it was pasta salad  – which I still love, of course, but it’s been difficult finding the right GF pasta that can make it into a second day of leftovers. There also was the summer of hummus, cucumber and tomato sandwiches. So good.

This year belongs to the avocado. More often than not, my go-to dinner is smashed avocado and tomatoes (a humble guacamole, nothing fancy) for dinner with tortilla chips. That’s it. I don’t need much more than that.

Avocado toast is all the rage on many of the food blogs I read.  I hadn’t really been swayed to try it one way or another, but it certainly wasn’t out of the question because, avocado, yo.  I’ve been instituting “Buffet Night” once a week  – usually a Saturday or Sunday – where dinner becomes a free-for-all, a smorgasbord of still-good leftovers where at least one damn thing on the table is bound to meet the approval of everyone in this picky-eater family.  So one night we had some leftover mock chicken strips but not quite enough to make fajitas for all or something resembling a meal.

I had an avocado that had just reached perfection, and I looked at it and the fake chicken strips and thought, hmm … this has possibilities. And so, the Toasted Avocado and “Chicken” Sandwich was born.

(This is definitely not a Melissa Original, by any means; a Google search on “avocado and chicken sandwich” yields 2 bazillion hits, but I certainly felt like a brilliant five-star chef.)

It’s so easy. And so good. All you need to do is toast some bread (I used Aldi’s gluten-free white bread), and mash an avocado. Spread on the toast.  Add chicken. I used Beyond Meat’s Lightly Seasoned Chicken Strips. You can add tomato, as I’ve done on several occasions.

A simple and satisfying summer sandwich.

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.


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