Monthly Archives: February 2012

Spinach-Quinoa Salad with Cherries and Almonds

I think this is one of the best dishes I have ever made!!
The sweetness of the craisins mixed with the tartness of the lemon juice and yogurt combined with the pungent flavor of the garlic is just amazing, it’s like an explosion of flavors in my mouth!
Not only is it delicious, it looks beautiful too. If you want to impress guests at your next dinner party or are going to picnic or pot luck, this is without a doubt the best dish to make. 
I can not take credit for coming up with this recipe. I found the original recipe in Vegetarian Times, but I did tweak it just a bit and my recipe is the one below.
¼ cup sliced almonds
1 ½ cups quinoa, rinsed and drained
3 cups water or vegetable stock
2 cups spinach leaves
2 cups chopped dried cherries or craisins (or fresh cherries, pitted and halved, when in season)
½ cup chopped snow peas
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
 ½ cup red onion, finely chopped
¼ cup Greek yogurt
2 ½ tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon or lime juce
1 ½ – 2 teaspoons garlic, depending on your love of garlic
15 ounces edamame or canned chickpeas, rinsed and drained (optional, I prefer edamame)
salt and pepper to taste
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread almonds on a baking sheet and toast 7-8 minutes, shaking pan occasionally, until golden brown. Cool.
2. Bring 3 cups water – or vegetable stock to add a little more flavor (not that you need it) – to a boil in a pot over medium high heat. Sir in quinoa. Reduce heat to medium low, cover and simmer 15-20 minutes, until all the liquid has been absorbed.
3. Remove from heat and cool.
4. Lay 5 or 6 spinach leaves flat on top of one another on a cutting board. Roll tightly into a cylinder and then slice into slivers. Repeat with the remaining spinach.
5. Whisk together yogurt, olive oil, lime juice and garlic in a small bowl.
6. In a separate bowl toss together the quinoa, almonds, spinach, pea pods, craisins, cucumber, red onion and chickpeas or edamame if using these.
7. Pour dressing over vegetable and quinoa salad, and toss to coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. I never use salt when I cook but in this dish I did add a dash of salt and a few dashes of pepper.
8. Chill for 30 minutes to allow all the flavors to fully develop, then serve. 
It can easily be tweaked to your own liking. I always like to make a little extra dressing and keep it on the side for leftovers. The dish does not get soggy in the fridge over night, but do not add extra dressing and let it sit over night, it will get soggy. This is why I make extra and add it as I eat it.

Banana Muffins

 These delicious banana muffins are easy to make.

I always buy more bananas than I can eat before they go bad, but sometimes I do this on purpose so it gives me an excuse to cook. Banana breads and muffins are two of my most favorite things to bake and eat.

I did some plain, some with walnuts and some with raisins. The muffins came out so moist despite the fact there is less sugar and butter than normally called for in a muffin recipe.

Sometimes I have a hard time with muffins sticking to the sides of the muffin cups, but these ones came out perfectly. I brought them to work and they were gone within the hour. Luckily I was smart enough to save a couple for myself at home. 🙂


1 cup flour
1/4 cup oats
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
5 small-medium sized mashed bananas
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar (I would guess regular brown sugar works fine too)
1 egg
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 tablespoon water (or milk)

1/2 cup raisins, chocolate chips or walnuts (optional)

* These muffins are plenty sweet for me, but if you are used to sweeter breakfast foods than you might want to add a little more sugar. The original recipe calls for 3 bananas, 1/3 butter and 3/4 cup total sugar. I reduced the amount of butter and sugar and added two more bananas. Still plenty sweet and very moist.


             1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
             2. Lightly grease 12 muffin cups, or line with muffin papers. 
                I suggest using muffin papers. Much easier and less messy cleanup. 
             3. In a large bowl mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder, oats, cinnamon and nutmeg.

4. In a separate bowl beat with an electric mixer, or by hand, the mashed bananas, 
melted butter, sugars, egg, and vanilla extract.

5. Pour the banana mixture into the flour mixture and stir until mixed will.

6. Add any additional ingredients (raisins, walnuts, etc.) 
7. Spoon into muffin pan and bake for 18-20 minutes.

I tried to add a crumb topping (cinnamon and sugar) to a few of the muffins but it did not crystallize like I wanted it to. Maybe if I had added a little butter or water it would have helped? 


I love hearing your comments and feed back (and typo corrections!) So if you ever try any of my recipes, please let me know what you think! Even if you make your own slight variations I’d love to hear how yours come out. ~ thanks, Jess.

Apple Glazed Vegetables and Edamame

I came across this recipe in my search of how I could use up some of my apples and frozen edamame. This recipe sounded good and the pictures looked even better, fresh veggies, bright colors, I just had to make it. The original recipe is here.
It was tangy yet sweet and I loved the infused apple flavor.  This dish has just the right amount of sweetness and spice. No one flavor overpowered the others.  
My version did not come out looking anything like the original one but it was so delicious! I used fresh apples, which I pureed in a food processor with a little water and apple cider vinegar until it was applesauce consistency. I also omitted the optional sugar, it was plenty sweet from the apples and I’m glad I did this.
This was more than enough for my sister and I. I ended up enough left overs for almost 2 whole meals.

4 cups diced vegetables (sweet potatoes, carrots, broccoli and cauliflower, celery, onions are what I used.  Or try any veggie you have on hand)
1/2 cup applesauce (or puree an apple, with skin, in a food processor)
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon paprika
2 teaspoon garlic powder (or 1/2 garlic clove)
1 teaspoon black pepper
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar (I used both)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 cup edamame beans

1. Cook edamame in a saucepan according to package directions

2. Spray non-stick skillet with cooking spray and add the vegetables.  Cook, covered on high heat, for about 5-6 minutes. * If using potatoes I recommend putting those in first, before the other veggies for 2 or 3 minutes.

3. While the vegetables are cooking, combine all remaining ingredients (except edamame) in a bowl and stir. 
4. Add the mixture to the vegetables and stir to coat.  

5. Reduce the heat to medium-low or low heat and allow vegetables to simmer for another 5-10 minutes or until tender.  (I let mine cook for 10-12 minutes) The sauce will reduce and thicken. 
6. Add in edamame, stir, and serve warm plain or over rice.

I used whole apples and pureed them in a food processor. The dish came out a little ‘heavy’ on the applesauce, but that is because we ‘’accidentally’’ used more than ½ of the apple puree. 
You could easily substitute the edamame for tofu, which I would add into the dish at the same time as you add the mixture, chicken or beef. 

Veggie Planet

I got together with my friend Alex, who recommended Veggie Planet. She actually raved about the food and was so excited when I said yes. Tucked away in an alley, downstairs, in Harvard Square near Border Café, and easy to find. Even though there is no gluten free menu, they are VERY gluten free friendly. Everything is made to order and they allow for substitutions.
How is works is you choose your base – pizza dough (not for us), brown rice or coconut rice. Then you choose one of the delicious entrees to go on top.  And you have the choice or a small or large. The smalls were plenty big; I didn’t even finish my whole meal.
The menu and entrée combinations are so creative; it was hard to decide what to order. I ended up ordering the Roasted Vegetables – roasted butternut squash, Portobello mushrooms, caramelized onions, fresh tomatoes and spinach topped with olive oil and fried garlic.  It was pretty tasty and worked so well with the coconut rice. I did not like the Portobello mushrooms, not sure why, but the other vegetables were delicious, I especially enjoyed the butternut squash. It took 10 minutes at most for our meals to be made and delivered to us.
Everything on the menu is healthy but by no means does it lack any flavor. Alex also enjoyed her meal, the peanut curry with broccoli and a Thai peanut curry sauce topped with fried tofu ‘croutons’ and peanuts. The tofu looked so good and I am definitely trying that the next time I go back.
I wouldn’t say the food was over the top or blew me out of the water but it was a tasty snd inexpensive healthy GLUTEN FREE mean in a relaxed and casual atmosphere. The feel is very hip and gives off a retro diner vibe.
They also serve salads, smaller bites, soups, sandwiches and desserts; only the ice cream is gluten free (sometimes the dessert of the day is too). I was surprised to see they also had a very small beer and wine selection, $4 for  glass of and $5 for a glass of wine. Entrée prices range from $6.85-$7.15 for a small and $10.75- $11.35 for a large.
There are concerts in the main dining room after 5PM so the restaurant becomes incredibly small, and you can only eat in the dining room if you have a ticket. We arrived on the early side and didn’t have a problem getting a seat in the ‘public’ dining room.
Our server was very friendly and I loved that the restaurant’s mission is to use local and organic ingredients, and they also donate a small percentage of its profits to charity.
If you are looking for a quick, affordable, healthy and tasty meal I recommend checking out Veggie Planet. 
Location: 47 Palmer Street, Cambridge, MA (Harvard Square)

Masa $1 Tapas

I ate at Masa last night with my sister. This was my second time here, but first time for food. The bar was pretty lively for a Wednesday night filled with all types of people from those in jeans to suits, couples, friends, families, ages 21 to 50.
We sat at the bar where they offer a Tapas Menu. Tapas are $1 each and half off between 5 and 7pm (Monday – Friday). We were psyched! The menu consists of 10 tapas, which changes seasonally. They also have a $10 combo platter which allows you to sample one of each of the 10 tapas. Even though not everything was gluten free, they offered to make one for us, changing a few things (i.e. using a corn tortilla chip with the steak tostada instead of the flour tortilla) and doubling up on a couple of the tapas.
P.S. On Thursday the ½ price deal goes all night!
** Disclaimer: the food is fried in the same oil as all the other food so there is a chance of cross contamination**
The combo platter is a great way to start off and gives you a taste of so many of the different Southwestern and Mexican flavors. There isn’t a lot of food on the platter, each tapa is bite size (or 2 or 3 bites), but the quality and taste is amazing! The tapas here are VERY different from traditional Spanish tapas you are probably used to ordering from Toro, Tapeo or Tasca (wow 3 t’s…) These are tiny and nothing like traditional Spanish tapas, totally different flavors, but equally as delicious. That being said, also keep in mind you are only paying 50 cents per tapa. 

We tried:
Grilled Chorizo with Cranberry Chutney – one of my favorites! I was expecting a spicy Spanish chorizo (because this is what I am used to) but was pleasantly surprised by it’s tasty; still full of spice, just not spicy. The cranberry chutney was too sweet for me, but sister really enjoyed the sweetness of the sauce and the savor of the Chorizo together.
Chili Almond Stuffed Date – this was my favorite; a delicious blend of flavors – salty bacon (didn’t taste it so much), nutty almonds, the sweet date and just a hint of chili spice. It was just so good, I wanted another one!
Mini Spanish Meatball – definitely ‘’mini’’ but full of spices.
Yucca Fries with a Garlic Aioli – not bad, just lacked real flavor and much tougher to chew than regular fries. The Garlic Aioli was tasty.
Steak Tostada with Chipotle Hummus and Cotija Cheese
Tuna Tartare Taco – good, not excellent, lacked that extra kick.
Guacamole Topped Tortilla Chip – pretty good, just the right amount of cilantro and I didn’t taste any onion, just the way I like it!
5 tapas each was not quite enough for us so we also ordered the Southwestern Caprese Salad. This was such a neat twist on the traditional caprese, it came with tomatoes, avocado, queso blanco (white cheese), jalapeño pepper, paprika oil and a balsamic glaze.
Masa also has a full restaurant menu with appetizers, main courses and desserts and lists every food allergen on over dish. It was great. I took a look and it clearly stated every dish with gluten, which part of the dish contained gluten and if it could be omitted or substituted with something else.

The bar area is quite large, and features over 100 tequilas and a specialty drinks list hand written on a chalkboard.  The atmosphere was great and very unique; dim lights, funky décor and a nice big wooden bar. There is also a restaurant section, which is a bit separated by a dividing wall and has a more sophisticated and romantic feel to it, with white table clothes, brighter lighting, and just very different from the bar area.
The two male bartenders were very knowledgeable about what was and wasn’t gluten free. The female bartender on the other hand had no idea, nor did she seem to care to find out. When she checked in on us and I asked her a question, instead of asking the chef or another server she just gave me a puzzled look and told one of the other bartenders to come over to us. Pleasant.
Our total bill came to $16. Drinks here range from $8 and up, with some of the tequilas being a little less expensive but costing as much as $100.
Location: 439 Tremont St. Boston

Valentine’s Dinner at The Fireplace

My cousin gave me a gift certificate for The Fireplace and I was waiting for a special occasion to use it, and we finally decided to go this past weekend. Ok, so we didn’t actually go on Valentine’s Day because I had class, and I had to give a presentation, but we went on Saturday to celebrate Valentine’s Day and I have to say I loved it!
We were seated in the back corner and I felt like we had our own private dinning area. The ambience is very warm and romantic. It’s much bigger in the inside than it seems from the outside. The tables are very close together, but just far enough away that we couldn’t hear the conversation at the next table. We were near the open kitchen and it was cool to see the chef’s work.
Our waitress Christina was great. She was so quick to bring out my gluten free roll and explain any questions we had on the menu. She was very attentive without being overbearing.
The gluten free roll was phenomenal. It was actually the tastiest gluten free roll I’ve ever tried. The texture was exactly like a rolls should be and not grainy or fake tasting like so many gluten free bread products.
They have an extensive gluten free menu, with so many interesting and creative looking dishes that use seasonal and fresh New England ingredients.  My mouth was watering just reading the menu and I was having a hard time deciding what to get. There was also a special Valentine’s Day menu, but the prices were outrageous ($46 I don’t think so!).
I decided on the Black & Pink Pepper-Crusted Salmon served with crushed hazelnut bok choy sauté and vegetable barley. Barley of course is not gluten free, so I was able to pick a different side from their list of gluten free sides. As with all dishes, if it comes with a gluten containing side you can substitute it for anything you want! I told my boyfriend to order anything he wanted, most of the time he does order gluten free so I can try and of course he did this time too. His roasted maple glazed half chicken was to die for, and it was a HUGE portion. The outside was nice and crispy and the meat so succulent and juicy, yum! It also came with mashed potatoes that were so rich and buttery. One bite and I was done. And the best part, I got to take home his leftovers!!
Now lets get back to the Salmon. It was cooked to perfection and the seasoning was so good. I never cook with salt and I could definitely taste it, but wasn’t overpowering, and it was just a few bites that it really hit me. The combination of pepper and spices was excellent; I ate the whole thing. The black lentil sauté was outstanding. All the flavors of the dishes came together so nicely. 
Next time I want to try one of the appetizers and I will definitely be going back soon for brunch, which I heard is one of the best brunches in the city and that they have amazing biscuits. Our waitress also told me that they do have gluten free cupcakes and brownies, which are frozen, and for $8 I’d rather buy two freshly baked cupcakes from wholefoods next door. But then again, the roll was frozen and it was the best gluten free roll I’ve ever had (sorry Legal Seafood, The Fireplace beats you on this one).
Two entrees and a bottle of wine cost us $90.  All in all it was a bit expensive, but we had a great night and really enjoyed ourselves, and our meals. I highly recommend The Fireplace for a special dinner or just a really terrific gluten free meal.
Definitely make a reservation if you plan on going on the weekend. In the summer they set up a few tables on the sidewalk so you can enjoy a meal al fresco.  
Location: 1634 Beacon Street  Brookline, MA 02446 (C Line to Washington Square)

Valentine’s Day Candy

I’m not sure if I’ve ever met anyone who loves chocolate as much as I do. I eat it everyday. This is no exaggeration, just ask my coworker or my boyfriend, they know.
One of the first things I looked into when I stopped eating gluten 3 years ago was chocolate and candy. You would like I would be more concerned with everyday foods, snacks, meals etc. No, chocolate was my first priority.

I made a big list of what I could and could not eat. I was a little disappointed about some of the candies I’ll never be able to eat again, like Hershey’s cookies n’ creme, crunch bars, kit kat, and the list goes on. But I was also pleasantly surprised by the amount of candy that didn’t have gluten, so much more than I would have thought!

So seeing that tomorrow is Valentine’s day, I put together my list and added a few more items I found to be gluten free. I guess I should have posted this a few days ago huh? Well at least you will be prepared for all the chocolate and candy you get tomorrow! And you can always refer to this list next year!

* this list may not be complete. I do not eat peanuts so therefore I have never looked up information regarding peanut containing candies (Reese’s, babe Ruth, etc).
** some of these items are produced on equipment that also produces gluten containing products and/or produced in a facility that has gluten
*** products and ingredients can and do change. So please read all labels first and if you are unsure double or triple check their website or call.

  • 3 Musketeers (all flavors)
  • Andes creme de menthe
  • Almond Joy 
  • Bit-O-Honey 
  • Bottle Caps (Wonka)
  • Cella’s Cherries, milk chocolate covered cherries
  • Charlston Chew
  • Charms Blow Pops, super blow pops and Valentine Pops
  • DeMets Turtles
  • Disney Lollipop Rings -Flix Candy
  • Disney lollipops packaged with Valentine cards (I noticed this tonight at CVS)
  • Dots (including Valentine & tropical Dots)
  • Dove Chocolates (all)
  • Dum-Dums lollipops
  • Everlasting Gobstopper Heartbreakers (Wonka)
  • Fannie May  (solid chocolate)
  • Fruit Rolls
  • Fun Dips (Wonka)
  • Galerie Candy Jewelry Making Kit
  • Galerie Diamond Ring with candy treats
  • Galerie Marshmallow Cupcake lollipops
  • Ghirardelli chocolate squares, including milk chocolate, dark chocolate, caramel and dark chocolate with raspberry
  • Gobbers
  • Hershey Bliss chocolates including dark chocolate, milk chocolate, milk chocolate with meltaway centers, and milk chocolate with raspberry meltaway centers “Manufactured on the same equipment that processes peanuts and tree nuts.”
  • Hershey Milk Chocolate Bar, milk chocolate bar with almonds
  • Hershey Kisses (plain chocolate)
  • Hot Tamales 
  • Hershey’s Pot of Gold, including Premium Chocolates, Pecan Caramel Clusters, and Truffles
  • Hubba Bubba Max bubble gum, and bubble tape
  • iCarly Valentine Candy Card Kit (cards and lollipops)
  • Jelly Belly
  • Jolly Rancher candy
  • Juicee Gummee Baby Bears
  • Junior Mints
  • Laffy Taffy
  • Life Savers hard candy and lollipops, including Candy and Card Valentine Pack
  • Life Savers gummy candy (including Gummies, Big Ring Gummies, Candy and Card Valentine Pack)
  • Mike and Ike 
  • Milky Way Midnight Bar and Caramel Bar
  • M&Ms –milk chocolate, dark chocolate, coconut
  • Necco Wafers
  •  Nips – regular and sugar-free
  • Peeps marshmallows
  • PEZ
  • Pixy Stix (Wonka)
  • Pop Rocks popping candy 
  • Raisinets
  • See’s candies (not all varieties, check website for gluten free list)
  • Skittles
  • Smarties
  • Sno-caps
  • Starburst
  • Sunny Seed Drops candy chocolate covered sunflower seeds
  • Surf Sweets Gummy candy – “Gluten Free”
  • Sweetheart Conversation Hearts
  • Toblerone
  • Tootsie Rolls and Tootsie Pop
  • Warheads Extreme Sour candy
  • York Peppermint Pattie