Vegan and Gluten-Free Baked Beans

The first part of this past weekend kind of felt like a bust.  I did a ton of work, got my oil changed finally(!!!), and even managed to sleep in (if you consider waking up at 7:30 sleeping in), but it just did not feel incredibly relaxing.  My husband said he felt the same way and we came to the conclusion that it was because we had not spent any time outside.  It rained all day on Saturday, and Sunday started out pretty gross too.  The weather finally cleared up Sunday afternoon and we got outside as quickly as we could so the weekend could redeem itself.

Duck friend says hello (actually, I think she just wanted food)!

After a nice walk outside, we decided that dinner on the patio would be a great way to finish off the weekend.  One of my favorite picnic-style foods is baked beans.  So I decided to whip up a batch of my homemade, vegan baked beans (gluten-free too, of course)!  These are pretty easy to make and are not as ridiculously sweet as the canned ones.

Vegan and Gluten-Free Baked Beans

2 cups dry navy beans
2 cups gluten-free vegetable stock (unsalted)
¾ large yellow onion (diced)
¼ cup tomato paste
3 cloves garlic (minced)
1.5 Tablespoons brown sugar
1 Tablespoon maple syrup
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
A bit of olive oil for sauteing onion and garlic

1.  Saute onion and garlic in a small amount of olive oil.
2.  Add vegetable stock, then tomato paste, brown sugar, maple syrup, and spices.
3.  Let sit on low heat while beans are cooking.
4.  Bring beans to a boil, then simmer until soft.  Once they are cooked, drain off water, and pour beans into sauce.  Stir.
5.  Transfer to a baking dish and bake uncovered at 350°F for at least half an hour (until bubbly).

A balcony picnic is better than no picnic!

Now I just need to get a picnic basket and blanket and actually go on a real picnic!

What’s your favorite picnic food?

Happy eating!



Three-Ingredient Queso

Earlier last week, my husband and I made a deal with ourselves.  If we worked out hard and ate well for the week, we would have chips, queso, and margaritas over the weekend.  Well–we held ourselves accountable for the majority of the week.  Then Friday came.  I just did not feel like cooking anything for dinner.  So we ate this…

The pesto-flavored one is even better!

This brand of gluten-free pizzas is the best I have found!*  The crust is flaky and rich and the ingredient list is short.  This company is a dedicated 100%  gluten-free facility and they also do not use tree nuts or peanuts.

So much for our deal (It would have been fine if we each hadn’t eaten half of the pizza in one sitting), but we still made queso and margaritas last night.  It’s the weekend after all!

This is the easiest queso ever and it has been a hit every time we have made it for other people!

Three-Ingredient Queso

Philadelphia (unflavored) cream cheese and Kraft Natural cheese are both gluten-free!

Ingredients (for 2 very hefty portions):
4 ounces sharp cheddar cheese
4 ounces cream cheese
About 3 Tablespoons diced tomatoes with green chiles
About 1 Tablespoon juice from the tomato/chile can

1.  Cut the cheddar cheese into cubes and heat with the cream cheese in a pot over low/medium heat.  Stir continuously so the cheese does not burn.  It will take some muscle power to break up and melt the cheddar.

Work it!

2.  Once the cheese is melted, immediately turn heat down to low, and add tomatoes/chiles and juice.  Stir.
3.  Eat immediately or pour into a warm crockpot (low setting) to keep from solidifying over longer periods of time.

It took serious willpower to take pics before consuming this stuff!

We also made frozen strawberry margaritas!  The recipe was very similar to the last margaritas I made except for making them frozen  and adding in about 8-10 strawberries.

Immediately after taking this picture, I almost dropped the entire plate on the floor!

Happy eating!


*I have never been approached about reviewing products or brands.  I just want to share my opinion on certain things that I find delightful because it is hard to come by with gluten-free products.

Frozen Fruit Pops

I love fruit!   The only thing better than fresh fruit is fresh fruit blended and frozen on a stick!  For my last birthday, I got some popsicle molds.  I was moving across the country just a few weeks afterward, so I just left them in the box unused for easier packing.  Over 6 months later, I realized that they were still sitting in the box.  I’ll blame it on the cold winter.   Today I blended up some fruit and made awesome frozen fruit popsicles (we’ll ignore the fact that the high temperature was in the 50s)!

Strawberry/Pineapple Popsicles

Ingredients (this was the perfect amount for my set of 6 popsicles):
2 cups frozen strawberries
1 cup frozen pineapple
1 cup orange juice

1.  Add all ingredients to a blender and blend until desired consistency (I made mine pretty smooth because I felt like they would freeze better.  I don’t know if that is accurate or not).
2.  Spoon into popsicle molds.
3.  Freeze.


The secret to getting these out of the popsicle mold is to run the entire thing (stick-side down) under warm, running water.  Wiggle the stick and add pressure, while carefully pulling downward on the stick.  Thank you, Google!

The possibilities are endless!  It’s going to be a tasty summer!


Happy eating!


Spicy Black Bean and Yam Jubilee

Between my husband and myself, we are now paying for 4 gym memberships.  We decided to check out the university gym because we are tired of not finding a place to park or available equipment at our other gym.  The medical campus gym is right beside the building where I work so I don’t even have to move my car.  We also have access to the main campus gym which is supposedly incredible!  We’re hoping that by using the university gym, we waste less time, get home sooner, continue cooking delicious dinners, and still have some time for relaxing before bed!  This worked out really well yesterday, and I had more time to cook something that is quickly becoming one of my favorite meals!

If you have not tried any of my recipes yet, try this one.  This recipe is adapted from Susan O’Brien’s “J&J’s Favorite Yam and Black Bean Burritos” recipe from her cookbook titled The Gluten-Free Vegan.  I have followed her exact recipe before and it’s amazing, but last night I adapted it to use slightly fewer ingredients and groceries I already had stocked in my kitchen.  This dish does not disappoint–it is spicy, sweet, AND savory!

The first time we made this, we used gluten-free rice tortillas (that were not very good).  This time, I whipped up some quick homemade corn tortillas.  If you don’t have tortillas, the stuffing is just as good by itself!

Spicy Black Bean and Yam Jubilee

A pile of vegetables never tasted so good!

Ingredients (for 4 robust portions):
About 2.5 cups cooked black beans
2 large yams or sweet potatoes
1 bell pepper
1 onion
2 medium tomatoes
1 cup of salsa
1 Tablespoon lime juice
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
About 10 leaves of cilantro

Directions (steps 1-3 can be done simultaneously):
1.  Boil black beans until soft (or, alternatively, open a few cans of black beans and drain off the liquid).
2.  Cook yams until soft.  I pierced each yam several times with a fork, wrapped in a damp paper towel, and microwaved on high for 6-7 minutes.
3.  Chop onion and bell pepper and add to a large pan.  Sauté in olive oil over medium heat until tender.  Reduce heat to low/medium.
4.  Add in salsa, lime juice, and spices.
5.  Remove skin from yams and chop the flesh into ~1” cubes and add to sauté pan.
6.  Add black beans.  Additional salsa and lime juice can be added as needed to keep the mixture from drying out.
7.  Dice tomatoes and add to pan.
8.  Serve once tomatoes are warm.

Immediately stuff in your face!

Serve with a cold beer (or a Crispin if you’re gluten-free)!

Happy eating!


That’s one small step for man…

…but, perhaps, one giant leap for the environment?

Over the past few months, I have become more and more interested in being more self-sufficient and environmentally-friendly.  I’m not talking about going completely off the grid or anything (although that would actually be pretty cool).  I just mean doing small things in my every day life to use fewer things and generate less waste.  The things I have been doing so far are very minor and may not have a huge impact, but I think that every little thing we do adds up to both help the environment and save money.  Here are a few of the little things I have been doing and I am hoping that, over time, this list will continue to grow.

1.  Reuse food containers.  I have been saving peanut butter jars, pasta sauce jars, and yogurt containers.  The jars make great storage containers for nuts and beans and the yogurt containers work great for planting herbs.

Hipster food storage!

2.  Save coffee grounds.  I have been using coffee grounds on my plants as a nitrogen source.  Also, you can use coffee grounds and scraps of food for composting.

3.  Carry only re-useable water bottles and food containers.  Less expensive and less waste.

About 5% of our reusable Ziploc containers.

4.  Waste less food.  I have gotten a lot better about finding uses for small amounts of food that I formerly would have thrown out.  I eat leftovers whether I want to or not.  I choose meals that are based on what food items are starting to get old.  I add remaining tidbits of vegetables to sauces and soups.

5.  I use less shampoo and other toiletries/cosmetics.  Less products means less packaging over time and, therefore, less trash.  You would also be surprised at how much money you can save over time.

6.  I started using reusable sponges instead of Lysol wipes.  The Lysol wipes are incredibly convenient but sponges can be washed and reused for months.

7.  Reuse grocery bags.  We use these as trash can liners in the bathroom and to carry our lunch to work.  Eventually I would like to have all reusable grocery bags to take with me when I go shopping, but I only have 3 or 4 now and I seem to forget to take them with me every time I go to the grocery store.  Some stores will give you a few cents off of your purchase price per bag that you bring yourself.  Also, many places will accept plastic bag donations (animal shelters, libraries, etc.).

8.  I try to only run the dishwasher or washing machine when there is a full load.  Saves on soap and water.

I hope to continue becoming more environmentally-friendly and self-sufficient.  One day I hope to have a huge garden but, for now, I just have my small container garden (some in yogurt containers!).

What steps do you take to be more environmentally-friendly?

Happy eating!


Beet Salad and Gluten-Free Pasta

I made beets last night!  I’m not so sure that I like them.  Neither my husband nor I had ever eaten a beet before, but they are full of antioxidants so we decided to give them a try.  After my first bite, my husband asked what they tasted like.  “Kind of like dirt”, I answered.  I found this salad recipe from The New York Times and it sounded very different from most salads I eat.  I followed the recipe for the most part, using endive, beets, toasted pecans, and Feta cheese.  I also made a dressing similar to what the recipe called for (using olive oil, red wine vinegar, chives, Dijon mustard, black pepper, and garlic powder).  To prepare the beets, I washed them, added a bit of olive oil, wrapped them in a foil pouch, and roasted at 425°F for about an hour (until soft enough to easily pierce with a fork).

Roasted Beets

Roasted beets!

I let them cool for a bit, peeled off the skin (it should come off easily), sliced, and chilled.

We had the salad alongside some gluten free pasta with Newman’s Own pasta sauce (that I beefed up with some extra veggies).

Gluten-free pasta

Tinkyada--one of the better gluten-free pastas I have had!

I added about 2 cups of spinach, some leftover broccoli that had seen better days (it was getting very limp), and some red pepper flakes to give it some spice.


Newman's Own pasta sauce with some add-ins.

Pasta isn’t one of my favorite things, but it’s nice to have some on hand for those times when you need a quick meal.  Gluten-free pasta is cooked just like regular pasta but it gets sticky and mushy even faster, so be sure not to overcook it.

Pasta with beet salad

A relatively simple dinner!

I would like to try beets again but I think I should marinate them or something to provide more flavor next time.  I also decided that I need to extract some of the beet juice to naturally add color to my next batch of soap!  The pink/purple color of the beets was beautiful!

How do you like your beets?


Happy eating!


I would like to buy a sailboat!

Where did spring go?  The weather is like this today…

I am NOT a fan!

…so I’ve been in pajamas and sipping coffee since noon.  Yesterday, my husband and I took a road trip to Yorktown, Virginia to meet up with his mom, uncle, and grandma.  We walked around for awhile and had a nice sailboat ride on the York River (right at the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay).

The Alliance!


I'm thinking that a sailboat might be a good investment.

We were lucky the weather was so nice (sunny and in the lower 80s)!

Pretty plant near the beach.

There is a sunken Revolutionary War battleship right at the end of the pier!

I brought a big bag of snacks to keep me going all day.  Leaving the comfort of my home for a day is really stressful because I can’t just stop anywhere for food.  When we moved from Dallas to Richmond back in November, we had to bring a ton of food for the 3-day drive.  We made some lentil stew to pack in a cooler (we stayed in a hotel with a microwave the first night), a giant box of Lara bars, a 3-pound bag of apples, a bunch of bananas, Udi’s muffins, and almonds.  We even packed up a pot and pan in case we needed to make food the second night when we stayed with my parents.  I did a similar thing for our road trip yesterday even though we were only going to be gone for 10 hours.

A hungry Caroline = A cranky Caroline

It may have been a bit overkill considering we ate a big breakfast before we left and were going to be back in time for dinner, but I am not a fan of being hungry.

I have been feeling kind of lethargic the past few days, probably due to too much junk food, too many ciders, not enough exercise, and being slightly dehydrated yesterday.  Today’s goal was to eat as many fruits and veggies as possible.  I have had a cup of spinach, a serving of blueberries, a banana, an apple, an orange, a mango, and tomato soup so far today.  On top of that, I had a great workout this morning (5 miles on the stationary bike + 5 miles on the treadmill (7:50/mile pace!), and stretching, so I’m finally starting to feel back to my usual self.  I have also decided to start the 100 push-up challenge again.  Has anyone else ever done this?  You might not be able to do 100 push-ups after the 6 weeks, but you will definitely see improvement quickly.  I did this once before and I progressed from doing 10 consecutive full-body push-ups to 45 in the 4 weeks that I actually kept up with the program.  I did my test today to see how many I could do (with good form) so I will know where to start and I completed 22 push-ups.  I’m going to start the challenge this week.  It’s a great way to motivate yourself to do something that you usually are able to talk yourself out of (for me, this is push-ups).  Plus, it takes less than 10 minutes 3 times a week.  There is also a sit-up challenge, squat challenge, etc.

Tonight we’re making a salad featuring a vegetable I have never tasted before (recipe coming soon) and some gluten-free pasta with extra veggies added in.  I can’t believe the weekend is almost over…and I still have laundry to do!  Off to finish doing the typical weekend life-maintenance chores!

Happy eating!



How (Not) To Make Zucchini Chips

I have an obsession with salt and vinegar potato chips.  I will eat them until my tongue is raw and I no longer have functioning taste buds.  They are salty, tangy, crispy, and perfect.  Also, my husband doesn’t like them so I don’t have to share. [Insert evil laugh here.]  I decided to try making salt and vinegar zucchini chips as a healthier way to satisfy my obsession.  I thought I was being really creative until a quick internet search made me realize that many others came up with this idea long before I did.  Without a food dehydrator, I decided to use the oven method.  Basically, you put your thinly-sliced zucchini on a pan and stick in a very low heat oven for several hours.  I wanted to set my oven somewhere around 125°F, but the lowest temperature my oven can be set to is 170°F.  Oh well.  That just means they will dehydrate faster, right?  (Nope.)

Directions for preparing zucchini:

I thinly sliced an entire zucchini squash with a mandoline.  I put the slices in a bowl with some white vinegar (other people seem to use apple cider vinegar, but I didn’t have that on hand) diluted with water (one cup water for every one cup vinegar).  I put the bowl in the refrigerator for a few hours to let the zucchini slices soak up some of the vinegar.


After soaking, I poured off the dilute vinegar, patted the zucchini slices dry with a paper towel, rubbed both sides of each slice with a tiny amount of olive oil, and sprinkled with salt.  They were laid out on a baking sheet and baked at 170°F for about two and a half hours until they looked completely dried out.

Time to bake!

Then I attempted to scrape them off of the pan with a spatula.


The higher oven temperature led to a complete baking of the zucchini onto the pan and I don’t think more olive oil would have helped.  There were a few zucchini chips that could be loosened from the pan and I enjoyed those (although they were a bit too salty).

I had a few to taste!

I’m going to be trying these again, but might wait until I purchase a food dehydrator.  I have wanted a dehydrator for a long time, and the zucchini chip failure might be a sign that it is time to invest in one.  Until then, I will just have to keep eating potato chips.  Darn!

Happy eating!


Mexican Stuffed Bell Peppers

Over four years ago, I had a really good friend who was a study/running buddy of mine.  I started developing a crush on him.  Trying to be smooth, I told him that I was cooking stuffed bell peppers and there would be so much left over that it would probably get thrown in the trash (not true) and then proceeded to invite him over for dinner so that I “would not have to waste any food”.  He said yes and we had what may have been our first date.  He liked the bell peppers, I liked the bell peppers, we both liked each other, and three years later we said “I Do”.

These stuffed peppers might not make you fall in love, but they are easy to make, cheap, and delicious.  They also make fabulous leftovers so you won’t actually have to toss any in the trash (but you’re free to use that as an excuse to cook for your crush).

Mexican Stuffed Bell Peppers (for 2 stuffed peppers, or roughly 4 servings):

*Also requires the preparation of Mexican-style rice (my husband’s recipe is shown below) and black beans (we used dried beans, but you can use canned as well).

Husband’s Mexican Rice

15 ounces dried brown rice
1 (10 ounce) can of diced tomatoes with green chiles (we use Rotel original) – also add the juice from the can
Water for boiling
1 Tablespoon butter (we use Land O’ Lakes, unsalted)
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon chili powder
A few shakes of salt
A few shakes of red pepper flakes

Add all ingredients to your rice cooker or pot.  Cook as you normally prepare your rice.  If you are using a rice cooker, fill the water up just past the marker for 3 cups of rice (even though the recipe is for 2.5 cups).  The extra water is to make up for the volume displaced by the addition of the diced tomatoes.

Additional ingredients:
Roughly 2 cups cooked black beans
2 large bell peppers
About 3/4 cup grated cheddar cheese (we use Kraft Natural)

1.  Prepare the rice and black beans.
2.  Drain excess liquid off of the black beans, add the rice, and mix in a large pot or bowl.

Rice and beans, courtesy of my husband!

3.  Core and remove seeds from the bell peppers, leaving a hole where the stem once was.  Microwave on high for 5-10 minutes to slightly soften the peppers.

Ready to stuff.

4.  Place bell peppers in a baking dish hole-side up (I use a loaf pan for just 2 peppers).  Scoop rice/bean mixture into the bell peppers and around peppers in the baking dish.

These are probably the largest bell peppers I have ever seen!

5.  Top with grated cheese and bake at 350°F for 25-30 minutes.


5.  Place covered baking dish in the refrigerator if you want to bake it later.
6.  Remove from refrigerator, top with grated cheese, and bake at 350°F for 45 minutes.  You can cover the dish for part of the time to prevent the cheese from burning with the longer cooking time.

These make great leftovers.  We made a bunch of extra rice and beans to pack up for lunches.  There’s not much cheaper than a meal prepared primarily from dried beans and rice, but the addition of some spices really makes it delicious.

I know what I'm going to be eating all week...

Happy eating!


Baked Spaghetti Squash Casserole

If you have not tried spaghetti squash, you should.  It’s pretty amazing, simple to make, and can easily serve as a substitute for spaghetti noodles in any dish.  I was once quite intimidated by the larger varieties of squash because I never really knew how to cook them.  Then I figured it out (and it’s not so hard!).  I made this dish for my family this past Christmas and my entire meat-eating, bread-loving family really enjoyed it.  The only problem with this dish is that it is not filling at all.  One cup of cooked spaghetti noodles has roughly 220 calories, while one cup of cooked spaghetti squash only has 40-50 calories.  So unless you have a stomach of steel and can eat 10 cups of it, I would either serve it as a side dish or plan to have a big snack later. I usually do the latter.  I have made this dish many, many times before but for some reason I had a pretty severe gluten-reaction this time.  I have used every ingredient in this dish previously without issues so I’m guessing there was some sort of cross-contamination with one of the ingredients.

The joy of celiac disease is getting sick when you would least expect it.  On Sunday evening, we decided to make this delicious baked spaghetti squash casserole.  I ate it, enjoyed it, went to bed, and woke up the next morning feeling like crap.  Had some Pepto Bismol and some Aleve and gradually started feeling better.  Assuming that it was something other than the spaghetti squash that made me sick, I ate leftovers for lunch on Monday.  That was a big mistake.  My headache started literally right after I finished eating and got worse and worse throughout the afternoon.  By 6:00 in the evening, I felt awful.  This morning, I felt a bit better and thankfully, by this evening, I’m finally back to normal.  I kind of feel like a jerk saying “hey, check out this awesome gluten-free recipe that made me incredibly sick”, but all of the ingredients I used are gluten-free so hopefully it was just some bad luck.

Baked Spaghetti Squash Casserole

Ingredients (serves 4):

One medium spaghetti squash

1 (24 ounce) jar of your favorite marinara sauce or a single batch of my marinara sauce

Roughly 2 cups of spinach (frozen or fresh)

About ¾ cup mozzarella cheese, grated (I used Kraft Natural)

About ½ cup parmesan cheese, grated (I used Kraft Natural)

About ½ Tablespoon olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper

Garlic powder



1.  If making your own marinara sauce, prepare and let simmer.

2.  Cut spaghetti squash in half length-wise (use a super sharp knife and be careful or you’ll lose some digits).

3.  Scoop out seeds* and stringy bits in the center.

4.  Pierce the outside of the squash with a fork (3-4 times for each half).

5.  Coat the inside of each squash half with olive oil and sprinkle with pepper and garlic powder.


6.  Set flesh-side down onto a cookie sheet or baking pan and bake at 400°F for about 30-40 minutes.  Remove once flesh is soft and easy to pierce with a fork.  Set aside to let cool for a few minutes.

7.  Use a fork to scrape out spaghetti squash (it should remove from the skin easily and become stringy like spaghetti noodles).

Looks like spaghetti!

8.  Cover the bottom of a baking dish with marinara sauce and add a layer of stringy spaghetti squash on top (I usually only do two layers, one half of the squash per layer).

9.  Add spinach (fresh or, if frozen, thaw first).

10.  Add half of your cheese.

11.  Add more sauce, then spaghetti squash, then spinach, then cheese.

12.  Once you have used all of your squash, top with a bit more sauce and cheese.

13.  Either store in the refrigerator to bake later or stick in the oven at 400°F for about 25-30 minutes (until sauce is all bubbly).  If you choose to store the layered casserole in the refrigerator to cook later, you will need to cook it longer (covered for part of the time) to make sure it is warm throughout.

*Save the seeds to roast as a salad topping!

A delicacy in our household!

This was amazing as always, but I needed a nice snack of Koala Crisp cereal with soy milk and some peanut butter on the side about 2 hours later.

In other news, I had the ultimate hipster sighting over the weekend.  I had never heard of the term “hipster” until moving to Richmond.   Since then, I have become hyper-aware of the entire hipster culture and it really amuses me.  There were some hipsters out on their front porch having what appeared to be a juicing party.  I’m talking massive (probably gallon-sized) juicer with about 10 pounds of carrots, an entire pineapple, and a bunch of other stuff.  I commented loudly while walking past, “Yum, that smells good” and got what was quite possibly the most evil glare I had ever received.  I’m guessing they thought I was being sarcastic or something, but it did actually smell amazing.  Check out this funny video if you are also amused by the hipster culture.

Happy eating!


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