Welcome to Lexie's Kitchen & Living. I'm glad you stopped by and hope you enjoy the five years of recipes and ramblings collected here.

The inspiration for this site was my son. To learn about our journey to restore his intestinal and neurological health read here

Follow a gluten-free, dairy-free, egg-free, soy-free diet? Take a peek at my cookbook.  

 

 

 


 

 

 

Wednesday
Aug032011

And Along Came the OmniBlend

To say that I have been waiting for this day is an understatement.

I have yearned for this day.

It recently came to my attention that a new contender had entered the high-powered blender arena (well I must be living under a rock because it's been on the market for two years) and I am here to tell you a little about it.

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Jul262011

Making the Switch: Cheryl's Story

 

This is the premier post in the Lexie’s Kitchen series Making the Switch.

This series, spotlights women and men who are making the switch in the way they shop for, cook for and feed themselves and their loved ones. These are everyday people openly sharing their struggles and victories in their journey to better health and well-being simply by changing the way that they eat. Each has a story—a reason for their switch from processed to pure foods.

For some, it has been gradual. For others it was a complete about-face. As each shares their story, you will learn what motivated them and how making the switch has changed their lives.

Putting the modified diet focus of this blog aside, Making the Switch is open to all. The point of it being to bring personal stories to light that encourage America to get back into the kitchen to cook real food. As Jamie Oliver puts it, “make only a few small changes and magical things will happen.” Whether it’s weight loss, improvements in a child's behavior or the regaining of health, magical things will happen.

It is my utmost pleasure to introduce to you, Cheryl. Cheryl is a young wife, mother and former U.S. Marine. She and her family live in Casper, Wyoming. Cheryl's enthusiasm for her new-found love of cooking is infectious as is her passion for encouraging others to make the switch.

_________________________________________________________________________

My name is Cheryl. I grew up in a home that ate a lot of prepackaged food—think Hamburger Helper and Little Debbie snack cakes. Vegetables were corn and potatoes. No, I haven’t always eaten healthy but for the benefit of my health and that of my family, we’ve made the switch. Here is a little of my story and proof that you can do it, too. You just have to choose it.

Make a Shopping List. Stick to It.

One of the first things you should know about me is that years back I became a little obsessed with grocery shopping. I have a bit of an impulsive streak when I enter a store. I always seem to find something I have to take home much the same way hogs sniff out truffles deep in the earth. Back in 2009 I took a “Language and Society” course that discussed the ways stores market products. I finally understood why I couldn’t control myself. These companies do so much research to get your business that it affects where they place the healthier fare—oh so inconveniently in the back! To find it, you must pass the wafting odors of the bakery, aisles of preservative-laden packaged foods and end caps of “sale” items.

Learn to Cook. Make it Your Hobby.

My husband and I have been married for five years. For the first sixteen months we were mostly apart. We served back-to-back deployments—me in Iraq and he in Japan. When I returned stateside, and with him Japan, I found myself with tons of extra time. That’s when I took up cooking. The Food Network was my teacher. I learned to sauté, julienne and simmer. I astonished my friends with the meals I made. What I learned is that anyone can cook with a little practice and a good recipe in hand. Make it your hobby.

Scan a Recipe's Ingredients List First.

One problem I have is finding a recipe I adore, only to tally up the calories after the fact and find that the meal easily exceeded 800 calories per serving. Yikes! Like many women who’ve had children, my body just doesn’t allow me to consume as many calories as I used to and I don’t want to be pining for years for my body to be a comparable substitute of its former self. Now, when I find a recipe, I will look at the ingredient lists first to see if it might be remotely healthy and then I tally up the calories (I use a pocket-sized calorie counter book and online calorie counters). I also use food websites that provide nutritional information.

Save Money. Buy Fresh.

Prepackaged meals can be expensive—averaging $2 to $6 for a single serving, excluding sides. And so many are laden with calories, sodium, fat and preservatives. Do we really need to be eating food that can sit on a shelf for six months plus? I don’t think so. On the occasion I buy prepackaged snacks, I choose those free of preservatives. I think the best advice I can give to anyone trying to save money is to buy fresh, unprepared food. Most of my grocery purchases are fruits and vegetables that must be washed and chopped, raw meat, poultry, eggs and milk (in opaque containers—it tends to stay fresher longer). In all honesty, I can't afford to buy everything organic so I try to make the most of it by purchasing the "dirty dozen" (produce with the highest levels of pesticides) organic when possible and organic milk. When the budget allows, I will buy organic meat.

Keep a Food Journal.

The biggest challenge for me in eating healthy is not knowing when my husband will home so that we can eat as a family. He is a Marine Corps recruiter operating out of two offices and has the largest recruiting area in the continental United States. There are days we think he’ll be home by seven and he walks through the door at nine. Often I eat alone. I’ve found that keeping a food journal helps me steer clear of unhealthy snacks and extras. This journal also helps me track the progress I’ve made in establishing healthier eating habits.

Encourage Others.

To this day my family struggles in making healthy eating decisions. I was home for a visit in February and the pantry was still stocked with junk like Pop-Tarts, pudding snacks and chips. My dad and step mom have three teenagers living at home. With different work, school and extracurricular activities schedules, it’s not often that they find time to eat as a family. This dilemma is one my daughter and I will face as we return home to stay with my dad while I complete an internship with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (N.C.I.S.). I hope that while we’re there I can encourage them to embrace new eating habits and start eating as a family again.

Prepare Ahead and Freeze Meals.

While I’m away, my husband will be going solo. I know that on the days he works late he won’t feel like cooking so I’ve spent this summer freezing leftovers and meals that he can easily reheat. This weekend I went through our chest freezer to see how many meals I’d accumulated for him. He has forty dinners and over the next few weeks I’ll add a couple more. I’ll feel good knowing that he’s eating the likes of Thai Macaroni and Cheese, Turkey Pot Rice Pie, Kale Butternut Squash Soup, Lemon Chicken and Chickpeas and Ratatouille.

A Peek at This Week's Grocery Purchases

I am including a photo of this week’s grocery purchases. I received my Bountiful Baskets organic basket and four kilos of mangos. I purchased two half gallons of organic whole milk. The basket and the milk totaled $39.94. The only other items I'll need to purchase this week are meat and poultry and if I use my numbers from last week, I can get one pound of organic ground beef and 12 ounces of organic ground chicken for $17.44—so my weekly total will be around $58.00. If I do any more meat this week, I have one pound of ground turkey and two pounds of turkey sausage links in the freezer so I don't have to buy anything else. Got a bunch of free oranges this week from a girlfriend, bonus!

In April of 2010 I had my first child, and like many moms, struggled to lose the baby weight. Over the past 18 months I have managed to lose all 53 pounds and regain my energy simply by choosing healthier foods. By reading labels and counting calories, I’ve learned that a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on white bread, a snack cake, chips and a Capri Sun is not the healthiest lunch! I've known for many years that eating all that junk was doing me no good. I want to lead by example and hope that my daughter will see and feel the benefits of eating fresh, wholesome food. I know she is watching me and that a few others are, too. I hope they make the choice to make the switch.

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If you would like to be a featured in Making the Switch, click here and drop me a line.

I would like to thank Jamie and the Food Revolution “cast” for inspiring this series.

Tuesday
Jul192011

Rosemary Chimichurri Sauce & Giveaway

This recipe comes from my mom and dad. They love intense flavors and this chimichurri sauce heartily embraces those of rosemary and garlic—both known for their powerful medicinal properties.

I envy those in frost-free climate zones where rosemary thrives and grows like a weed. Earlier this year we were in Las Vegas for an extended stay and realized I didn't need to get my rosemary in the store, I could snag a sprig of it outside in the parking lot (naughty, I know). I just love edible landscaping!

Chimichurri is a pesto-like, garlicky green sauce from Argentina that's fantastic served over grilled beef. Mom suggests taking it further and using it as you would pesto—drizzling it over pasta, pizza, potatoes, toast, anything! I love it as a dipping sauce—drizzle on a plate with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Rosemary Chimichurri Sauce

Gluten-Free | Casein-Free | Citrus-Free | Corn-Free | Dairy-Free | Egg-Free | Fish-Free | Nightshade-Free | Peanut-Free | Potato-Free | Rice-Free | Shellfish-Free | Soy-Free | Tree Nut-Free | Wheat-Free | Grain-Free | Sesame-Free | Sweetener-Free | Yeast-free | GFCF | Vegetarian | Vegan | Raw

Makes: About 1 cup
Prep Time: 5 minutes

Ingredients:

2 cups loosely packed fresh PARSLEY, stems removed
1 cup loosely packed fresh ROSEMARY, stripped off stems
5 cloves GARLIC, minced (mom said to use 1/3 cup! Go for it if you—and your partner—love garlic)
2 tablespoons LEMON JUICE
1/2 cup OLIVE OIL
SEA SALT to taste

Directions:

In food processor, pulse parsley, rosemary and garlic to fine chop. With motor running, drizzle in lemon juice and olive oil. Salt to taste. Add water to thin, if desired.

Friday
Jul152011

Gluten-Free Dining in Cheyenne

In Cheyenne, Wyoming you can get up close—and hopefully not personal—with these beautiful creatures at the Terry Bison Ranch. In less than a week thousands upon thousands will descend upon Cheyenne, Wyoming for the annual Cheyenne Frontier Days. It's an event we pack up the car and head out for. For a town that shuts down at 8:00 pm, this is quite the event. It is the largest outdoor rodeo and Western celebration in the world and attracts some of the hottest tickets in country music as well as the wildly popular (at least with me) U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds.

They say Cheyenne doubles in size during this event, and I believe it. The quiet downtown streets fill bumper-to-bumper with Ford duallys. Authentic (and some not so) cowboys and cowgals sashay along the sidewalks ducking into air conditioned bars and restaurants to beat the mid-July Wyoming heat (why they just don't wear flip-flops beats me).

All around, it's a big ole party ... and where there's a party you've got to have good grub.

PROVISION UP!

Here are the grocery stores I shop at. If you are military and can get on base at F.E. Warren, the commissary has some good deals on gluten-free fare.

Natural Grocers
5116 Frontier Mall Drive
(307) 635-3800
Website

This is where I do the bulk of my grocery shopping. I know this store like the back of my hand. Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage is a chain of whole food and supplement stores. This is where you need to go to get your kombucha, kefir, coconut water and organic coffee. Pop in and buy all you need for a gluten-free picnic; Rudi's bread, Applegate sandwich meat, apples, Lara bars, you name it.

King Soopers
3702 Dell Range Boulevard (north side)
(307) 638-0014
Website

For some time now, King Soopers (part of the Kroger chain) has impressed me with their gluten-free offering. All gluten-free products carry shelf labels. The organic produce offering is pretty good as well.

Golden Dragon International Groceries
1605 Seymour Ave
(just east of downtown on Lincolnway)
(307) 634-1686

I love this place. It is such a hole in the wall, but has everything I need in the way of Asian groceries. It's fun just to pop in and poke around. I still can't believe Cheyenne can support this store. Guess there are more people here than I realize who like their rice sticks and squid!

 

QUICK DINING

Ruby Juice
113 E 17th Street (downtown)
(307) 634-3022
Website

Salads, soups, smoothies and gluten-FULL wraps. Clean, cheerful shop.

Mr. Hibatchi
1431 Stillwater Ave (north side, off Dell Range)
(307) 638-8899

Update: This restaurant is under new management. It's a decent place however there is no dedicated GF menu. A lot of their sushi no includes deep-fried ingredients. Just be forewarned. This has been such a pleasant find. For $7.95 you can enjoy the all you can eat lunch buffet. The buffet includes fried chinese food, but the OTHER half is all sushi! I make a meal out of the sushi alone. This may not be the best spot if you need to guarantee no cross contamination.

Chipotle
1400 Dell Range (north side)
(307) 632-6200
Website  |  Order Online

We go to Chipotle a lot. They are very accommodating and it is one of the cleanest restaurants in Cheyenne. Mention that you are gluten-free and they switch their gloves. It's popular with the military in town and can get quite crowded.

Rudolfo's Mexican Grill
801 East Lincolnway (just east of downtown)
 
(307) 632-1231

Don't be intimidated by the look of the place—a very old and outdated former Kentucky Fried Chicken, I think. This is the most authentic fast food Mexican you will find for 100 miles around. You know it's authentic when they have one of those pickled condiment stations. Anyway, the guys that work there are great. It's open 24-hours a day, 7 days a week. My favorite are the chicken tacos. I'm not too keen on the steak. Very affordable, very good. Dine in or drive thru. PLEASE ask if there is wheat/gluten in the corn tortillas. My son seems to have issues with them. Corn tortillas can sometimes be made with gluten. I wonder if these are?

 

FINER DINING

Re-O-Na Sushi & Thai
112 W 17th Street (downtown)  
307-638-8820

This restaurant JUST opened and it looks promising! We have not eaten here yet, but ducked in and were impressed with the decor, friendliness and cleanliness. Two parties on their way out said it was fantastic and that the curries are great and portion sizes hefty.

Morris House Bistro
2114 Warren Avenue (downtown)

307-369-1378
Website   Menu

One of Cheyenne's few fine dining experiences. Featuring "low country" Southern cuisine, The Morris House Bistro opened it's doors a month ago. It is located in the historic Esther Morris House. Esther Morris is commonly regarded as one of the heroines of the women’s suffrage movement.

The bistro is open Thursday through Saturday. The outdoor patio is open at 5pm, weather permitting. Seating for the patio is first come, first served. The dining room opens at 5:30, reservations are recommended—in fact I would make them now. If you have special dietary needs, call in advance and they will do their best to accommodate you.

The Capitol Grille
1600 Central Avenue (downtown, inside The Historic Plains Hotel)
(307) 638-3311
Website

This weekend my husband and I awarded The Capitol Grille with "The Best Burger in Town" award. I order mine with no bun, jalapenos, mushrooms and extra lettuce. Fries are not cooked in a dedicated fryer so substituting them with steamed veggies is a safer bet. Burgers are $7.95 and come with two toppings of your choice. Bison burgers are a couple dollars more.

Outback Steakhouse
1626 Fleischli Business Parkway (west of downtown)
(307) 638-8171
Website

We can't wait for Outback to offer an organic, grass-fed steak. Yeah, I know, that'll be the day. Nevertheless, we are always impressed with Outback's attentiveness to our needs. They have a gluten-free menu with quite a few offerings. Our usual is the 6-ounce steak with a naked sweet potato and green beans for $9.99. They are one of the busiest restaurants in town. I'm guessing during Frontier Days they are insanely busy. You can call ahead to be put on the waiting list, but they do not take reservations.

Olive Garden
1535 Dell Range Blvd (north of downtown, Frontier Mall)
(307) 632-2411
Website

We don't go to Olive Garden all that much. For me the breadsticks are just too tempting : ) If you possess more self-control than I do, it's a safe bet. They, too have a dedicated gluten-free menu. Another popular place in Cheyenne, so try to beat the crowd.

 

DOWNTOWN FAVORITES

Lastly, I thought I would mention some of our favorite things to see and do in Cheyenne for when you need a break from the crowds or the heat.

The Wyoming State Museum has some interesting exhibits and is a manageable size. The kiddie area is great! Keeps my kids entertained for at least an hour.

City News and Pipe Shop sells books and every magazine you'd ever want. They have a small coffee/sandwich bar and sitting area.

Prairie Pantry is the best (and only) cooking store in town. They've got it all. On Lincolnway.

Bohemian Metals is one of my son's favorite shops. If you collect rocks, fossils or turquoise rings, this spot's worth a visit. 314 W 17th Street.

Bloom Salon & Spa is a great place for a little pick-me-up (massage) or up-do : ) Next door to Bohemian Metals on 17th Street.

Terry Bison Ranch. This attraction is south of town five or so miles. We've enjoyed the "train" ride out to see the bison. I didn't know this but the burger the restaurant at the ranch serves up was voted "Best Burger in Wyoming by Bobby Flay and the Food Network." So there you have it!

Monday
Jul112011

Hold the Cheese! Jalapeno Poppers | Dairy-Free

In support of my son and the diet he follows (GFCF), I gave up dairy. Well, sort of. I can endure the temptation of Noosa's Strawberry Rhubarb Yogurt (barely!) and the call of Alden's Mint Chip Ice Cream (I plug my ears). Oddly, it's a platter of grilled Jalapeno Poppers that brings me to my knees.

I don't know what it is about grilled poppers. I find them utterly addicting and would like to kiss the man —and I'm convinced that it was a man—who first grilled up a batch of these green boats of bacon and cheesy goodness.

Over the 4th of July, I was making poppers with the usual cream cheese, bacon bits and shredded cheese (for the company, of course!). With a few jalapenos leftover I thought I'd do a little experiment.

I crisped up some minced pancetta (to step it up a knotch from the usual bacon) and mixed it into some dairy-free, Raw Nacho Cheese Sauce. The result was quite tasty! I had my poppers, sans the cheese, and was completely satisfied.

Dairy-Free Jalapeno Poppers

Gluten-Free | Casein-Free | Corn-Free | Dairy-Free | Egg-Free | Fish-Free | Peanut-Free | Potato-Free | Rice-Free | Shellfish-Free | Soy-Free | Wheat-Free | Grain-Free | Sesame-Free | Sweetener-Free | Yeast-free | GFCF | Easily Vegetarian

Makes: 12-16 poppers
Prep Time:  30 minutes
Soak Time:  2-4 hours
Grill Time: 10-15 minutes

Ingredients:

6-8 JALAPENO PEPPERS
1/2 cup RAW NACHO CHEESE SAUCE (see notes)
2-3 tablespoons crispy fried PANCETTA or BACON BITS
2-3 tablespoons thinly sliced GREEN ONION (optional)

Directions:

Slice jalapenos lengthwise and deseed using a small spoon. Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix remaining ingredients. Fill each pepper half with "cheese" mixture.

Grill on low 10-15 minutes or until peppers are tender and cheese is heated through. Allow to rest 3-5 minutes before serving.

Notes:

To balance the saltiness of the pancetta, cut back the measure of salt from 1 teaspoon to 1/2 teaspoon when making the Nacho Cheese Sauce.

Try to keep the cheese mixture thick by adding as little water as needed to achieve a smooth dip consistency. If you've made it on the thinner side, you can add a tablespoon or two of tapioca flour to the cheese mixture to thicken it up.

On Lexie's List to Try: Grilled Appetizers

Grilled Shiitake Mushrooms on Rosemary Skewers over at Martha Stewart

Beef and Asparagus Negmaki over at Martha Stewart (using honey and gluten-free soy sauce)