Slow Cooker Chicken with Mushrooms & Wine

Chicken with MushroomsI never thought in a million years I’d be writing a meat recipe on here, but here I am. We’re a few months into my crazy diet for MSPI (Milk Soy Protein Intolerance), or infant allergic proctocolitis. So far, Luca is allergic to dairy, soy, gluten, eggs, nuts, coconut, chocolate, and possibly corn. But he’s happy! And healthy! So who am I to complain.

I was so tired of having beans/quinoa and rice for every meal, and a nutritionist I’ve been working with suggested I try adding in chicken. I’m not incredibly excited about chicken–I’d still rather have a plate of amazing veggies than some chicken–but it wasn’t as horrible as I thought it was going to be after 17 years!

Cooking meals three times a day without a break is kinda tough and so I’ve been trying to come up with as many slow cooker recipes as possible so dinner is ready when I walk in the front door from work. When you’re on this diet, it’s almost impossible to eat out and guarantee that allergens have been kept out of your meal. Most allergy-friendly slow cooker recipes (other than bean chili, bean chili, and bean chili) seem like they involve meat. This recipe smelled really nice when I walked in the door and the chicken shredded up nicely. I served it over brown rice, but it would also be good with polenta or pasta provided you aren’t gluten-free.

Wine Mushroom Chicken

Slow Cooker Chicken with Mushrooms & Wine

Adapted from Chicken Merlot with Mushrooms, Taste of Home

  • 3/4 pound sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 Tb. olive oil
  • 2.5 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 can (6 ounces) tomato paste
  • 1/4 cup water or chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup full bodied wine
  • dash of hot pepper flakes
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons Italian herbs
  • 1 tsp. Worcestershire
  • 2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • Optional: 1 tsp. cornstarch dissolved in 2 Tb. water

Layer the mushrooms, onion, olive oil, and garlic in the bottom of a 5-qt. slow cooker. Top with chicken. In a small bowl, whisk together the tomato paste, broth, wine, herbs, Worcestershire, Dijon, salt, and pepper. Pour over chicken. Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours or until chicken is tender. Add a slurry of 1 tsp. cornstarch in water to the chicken if desired to thicken sauce.

Serve over hot rice, pasta, or polenta.
Freeze option: Freeze cooled chicken mixture in freezer containers. To use, partially thaw in refrigerator overnight. Heat through in a saucepan, stirring occasionally and adding a little broth or water if necessary. Yield: 5 servings.

Spaghetti Squash Risotto with Sage Pesto

This is a little ditty I whipped up last night after noticing our fridge had only some onions, sad carrots, and a spaghetti squash. I typically use spaghetti squash in pasta or in salads, but thought it might be nice in a risotto. Of course, you could sub in any other kind of roasted squash.

Stirring pesto into a vegan risotto is nice, because it adds in the fattiness (and some protein!) you might otherwise miss with no cheese or butter.

It’s vegan and allergy-friendly, but your partner or friends can stir in some butter or cheese if they’d like at the table to make it extra unctuous. I had Garriy roast the squash during the day, so when I came home from work, even though it may seem like a lot of steps, this dinner came together in 20 minutes or so with boxed stock.

Nevertheless, and despite the mediocre photography below, this would be a nice fall main, even for company and/or as a side for grilled seafood or meat. The sage pesto smells amazing and very autumnal! Enjoy!

Squash Sage Risotto

Spaghetti Squash Risotto with Sage Pesto

  • 1 small to medium spaghetti squash, halved and seeded
  • 1 large handful fresh sage
  • 1 large handful of other fresh herbs or greens (parsley, lemon balm, spinach, arugula)
  • 2 Tb. and 1/4 C. olive oil, divided
  • 1/8 C. pumpkin or sunflower seeds
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1.5 C. Arborio rice
  • 5.5 C. vegetable stock (be sure it has no soy for allergy-free, as many contain soy oil or protein)
  • 1/2 C. white wine
  • 1 pinch saffron
  • 2 Tb. chopped chives
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • optional: chile flakes, zest of 1 lemon, feta or parmesan cheese, fried sage leaves (fry sage leaves in olive oil till crispy)

Bake the seeded and halved spaghetti squash, cut side down, at 450 degrees for 30-45 minutes, or until tender. Scoop out squash flesh and set aside.

Make the pesto while the squash is baking–combine the sage, other herbs, lemon juice, salt, and seeds in a food processor. With motor running, slowly add in 1/4 C. olive oil. Add more lemon juice or olive oil as needed to bring combination together into a paste.

Add veggie stock to pan on back burner and heat to steaming. Keep simmering on low. Heat 2 Tb. olive oil in heavy pot, and add onion. Saute for 5 minutes over medium heat and then add garlic. Saute for another 2 minutes. Add the rice and saute 1 minute. Add the white wine and stir until absorbed. Add a pinch of saffron and 1 C. veggie stock, stirring till absorbed. Add stock one cup at a time, stirring until absorbed. When the rice is halfway done (stock is halfway used up), add the cooked squash. When almost all stock is used, stir in pesto.

Once all of stock is used up, add any optional flavorings like the chile flakes, cheese, or lemon zest. Stir in the chopped chives and taste for salt and pepper. Serve while hot, adding the optional fried sage leaves if desired.

Crunchy Broccoli Apple Salad

We are so very lucky to have a happy baby. Since I’ve gone back to work, Luca has been hanging out with his dad, who is on paternity leave, and eating it up. These two are the best buddies.

The only hiccup in the whole thing has been finding out about Luca’s food sensitivities. Perhaps TMI, especially on a food blog, but around 2 months he started getting blood in his stool, and lots of diarrhea. After ruling out infections and other possibilities, his pediatrician posited it was most likely MSPI–a milk and soy protein intolerance. This is a horrible name for what he has, which we now believe is allergic proctocolitis, in that in addition to dairy and soy, he’s also sensitive to egg, wheat, peanuts, tree nuts, and coconut that he gets via my breastmilk.

We feel extraordinarily grateful in that Luca doesn’t have severe IgE allergies–those are the kind that can cause severe anaphylactic shock. He seems super happy and healthy, and other than his weird diapers and some eczema when I accidentally eat an allergen, all is normal. However, it has been a tremendous challenge to both figure out what caused his problems in my diet, especially since these types of sensitivities can’t be tested for, and then to eliminate such a tremendous number of things from my pescatarian diet. In comparison, eliminating dairy or soy seems like a piece of cake.

The good news is that he’ll most likely outgrow his sensitivities–hopefully by 1 year old. In the meantime, I’ve been trying to figure out what to eat and still get enough protein and calcium, in particular. First of all, almost anything processed (even minimally processed) has dairy or soy. There are cheat sheets for hidden milk and soy, but since I don’t want to spend my life reading labels, I just don’t eat anything that comes in a package–easier said than done. As for nuts and coconut, it has been a bummer to also have to avoid them, since they have that fatty mouthfeel I’ve missed so much. And as for eating out, forget about it. I recently went to a very allergy-friendly local restaurant, but still managed to eat something that gave Luca blood in his diaper. When we go to friends’ houses, I just bring something with me to eat, because I would never wish cooking for me on anyone.

In the meantime, I’m writing this horribly long post because I’ve found very few helpful resources online for cooking on such a limited diet. Allergy-free cooking sites and blogs tend to rely on complicated ingredients (flax “eggs”) and other processed food ingredients (vegan “spreads”) that are often labor intensive, and not so tasty. While I know you three don’t need this diatribe, I figured I’d try and share and put some allergy-free recipes here in hopes that if anyone Googles this and is looking for ideas, it may be helpful. I’ll also tag older recipes on the blog as allergy-free as I find them.

So many lovely people have shared recipes with me as well. So while I can’t vouch for all of the recipes I’ve bookmarked, in case anyone is interested, I have hundreds of allergy-friendly, mostly vegetarian* recipes (*Note: some still contain fish and shellfish) saved in a public link on Evernote.

As for this Crunchy Broccoli Apple Salad, its tahini dressing is the key. Tahini has been my best friend through all of this. Unfortunately, most tahini is a no-go for me since it’s processed on equipment that processes tree nuts (who knew he’d be so sensitive, it’s crazy!). However, I found organic Kevala tahini on Amazon Prime, which is reasonably priced and processed in a factory that only processes sesame.

It would be great for picnics or lunches as it keeps quite well.

More allergy-free recipes to come!

Broccoli Crunch Salad

Crunchy Broccoli Apple Salad

adapted from Broccoli Crunch Salad, Pamela Salzman

  • 1 bunch broccoli, cut into small bite-size florets and stems diced
  • 1 crisp apple, cored and diced
  • 1/3 C. dried cranberries
  • 1/8 C. sunflower seeds
  • 2 green onions, chopped
  • 4-5 Tb. tahini
  • 4 Tb. apple cider vinegar
  • 2 Tb. olive oil
  • dash water
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a saucepan with a steamer insert, bring a few inches of water to a boil. Place the broccoli on the steamer basket and cover with the lid. Steam for 1 minute. Transfer broccoli to a large plate in a single layer and allow to cool. Finely chop broccoli. Lightly toast the sunflower seeds in a skillet over medium heat until fragrant and starting to brown. In a large bowl toss together broccoli, apples, cranberries, seeds, and onion.

In a small bowl whisk together dressing ingredients: tahini, vinegar, water, salt, and pepper. Taste and add more water or vinegar if too thick. Pour over broccoli mixture and toss until broccoli is well coated.

Quinoa Black Bean Salad with Chipotle-Tahini Dressing

Wow! Has it really been three months since we’ve posted on here? As everyone else jaunts off on world travels and family trips, we are here, waiting for our little boy to arrive. (It’s so weird to write that still!)

C&Gmaternity-69

A photo by our amazing friend Kelli, of Kelli-GO Photo, at 33 weeks.

I’m 38 weeks today, and expect him to come anytime from any day now to four weeks from now. This waiting time is kind of weird: we’re two, we’re about to be three, and we know that our lives are about to be irrevocably changed forever. What now is a series of kicks and pushes, and imaginations will all of a sudden be real, without pause, without a chance to absorb it all. We’ll just be thrown into it. But we’re excited–beyond, excited really–to see what this creature is like, what he becomes, and what we’ll learn from him. What an adventure.

Have I mentioned our friends are amazing? Courtesy of Kelli-GO Photo.

Have I mentioned our friends are amazing? Courtesy of Kelli-GO Photo.

We’ve felt so loved and supported, by you all, by our amazing friends–from two amazing baby showers, to the advice, porch sitting, emails, and calls–we feel so, so lucky to be bringing a child into this particular community. And while we wait, we’ve been in major nesting mode–tearing down a pergola, painting the house, setting up the nursery, and cooking tons of food for the freezer. We’ve also inexplicably signed ourselves up for lots and lots of social outings, which inevitably also come with the end of the school year and the beginning of Spring, so I decided to write up this quinoa salad recipe, of which there are a million variations, just because it’s easy and good, and it was the only way I’d have a recipe with an actual photo to post here! I added the chipotle last minute, as I thought it needed a little kick, but of course, you can leave it out, and/or add feta or any number of different veggies or types of beans to the mix. It serves a ton of people, is great for lunch or a picnic, and is healthy.

Enjoy! And I’ll keep you all posted if you keep me posted! xoxo

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Quinoa Black Bean Salad with Chipotle-Tahini Dressing

  • 2 C. white or red quinoa
  • 1/4 C. olive oil
  • 1.5 C. frozen white sweet corn, or fresh corn off the cob
  • 3 C. (or about 2 cans) cooked black beans
  • 3 carrots, grated
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/4 C. tahini
  • ~1/4 C. or so apple cider vinegar or lime juice
  • water
  • salt and pepper
  • 2 tsp. ground chipotle chile powder
  • Optional: small bunch of cilantro or chives, chopped

Cook the quinoa in lots of salted water for ~15 minutes, or until done. Drain and toss with olive oil plus a splash of cider vinegar or lime juice. While quinoa is still hot, toss with the frozen or fresh corn. When it cools down to room temperature, add in the black beans, carrot, green onions, and tomatoes.

Stir the tahini and the vinegar or lime juice together until the tahini breaks down into a thick white paste. Add the chipotle, salt to taste, and enough water to make it dressing consistency. Taste and add more vinegar, water, or salt to taste. Toss the quinoa mixture with the dressing, adding extra olive oil or vinegar if it seems too dry. Top with the optional cilantro or chives, if desired. Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Banana Rum “Ice Cream”

Has it really been more than a month since anyone has posted?? Way too long. If you all are like me, work has been crazy, life has been good but nutty, and you’ve been ticking down the days till holiday break.

We’re headed home to family in Kentucky and Texas in the next few days. I’m already counting on the fact that we will be eating a ton of sweets and very rich food between now and New Year’s. Couple that with the unfortunate reality that I’ve been eating gross lunches from the cafeteria at University as I’ve struggled to have time to prepare something homemade to take to work–and well, it called for some healthy dinner before the holiday debauchery. I came home tonight and cooked a huge pot of quinoa salad and a big green salad. It was satisfying, but we both wanted something sweet at the end of the meal. Fortunately, I always have a few overripe banans in the freezer. Instead of banana bread, which is delicious, but not necessarily health food with the copious amounts of butter and sugar I put in my own recipe, I instead often make this faux ice cream that has been making the rounds on food blogs for some years now.

I think I mentioned banana “ice cream” previously on this blog, but I figured I’d take the time to write the recipe out in hopes that it will bring you a delicious healthy dessert in the near future. Also, if you’re kind of lactose intolerant like me, ice cream is a rare treat that you pay for afterwards. This, on the other hand, has a rich, creamy texture that’s exactly like soft serve, that you can eat any time without making your stomach hurt. I’m not even particularly a fan of overripe bananas, but this “one ingredient ice cream” (I’ve added a few more ingredients…) doesn’t even really taste strongly like banana if that’s possible. Finally, there’s no added sugar or fatty stuff here. Basically, it’s pretty much like magic.

After a few times of making this, I can tell you adding a tablespoon or so of liquid helps the banana come together into the soft serve like texture. When you first put it in the food processor it will just seem like it’s going to stay in chunks of frozen banana, but have patience and add a tiny bit of liquid (I vote for some kind of alcohol and/or real vanilla extract), and if you leave the processor going for a few minutes it will become creamy quickly. Any add-ins are encouraged (nuts, fruit, etc.), but the following combo is pretty much my favorite.

So, without further ado….

Banana Ice Cream

Banana Rum “Ice Cream”

  • 2 bananas, frozen
  • 1-2 Tb. of rum (bourbon or Cointreau or Frangelico would all be nice too)
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 Tb. high quality Dutch-process cocoa powder
  • coconut flakes

Break the frozen banana into large chunks and throw into the food processor. Start the food processor and let it run until the banana starts to break down into small chunks. Add in the rum (or water in a pinch) until the banana starts to get smooth. Add in the cocoa powder and process till fully incorporated. When the mixture has the texture of soft serve, stop the food processor and put the mixture into two dishes immediately. Sprinkle with coconut flakes and serve.