Recipe: Beef Stroganoff!

beef stroganoff

This is one of my all-time favorite meals. Its so amazingly delicious, but yet so simple! Are you surprised that yet another one of my favorite meals includes pasta?? This Beef Stroganoff packs so much flavor into so few ingredients. It’s one of those things that, if it never ran out, you could just keep on eating it forever. The sauce is my favorite part; its just sooo tasty! I always say that I could eat just the sauce out of a bowl like soup. It’s that good. I wish I had an endless supply of it.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 lb any kind of tender steak (we used ribeye), sliced into thin strips
  • 16 oz brown rice spirals
  • 1 medium onion, sliced into thin strips
  • one 16 oz container of sour cream
  • 3 beef bouillon cubes
  • 2 tablespoons arrowroot powder or cornstarch
  • a couple drops gravy master
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • parsley for topping (optional)

How to make it:

beef stroganoff

  1. Cook your pasta according to the package directions.
  2. Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a pan and cook your onions until they’re soft and caramelized. Then add your sliced steak and cook until it’s brown, but leave it a little rare inside (it will cook more later in the sauce).
  3. Remove your steak and onions from the pan and put it aside. Add your bouillon cubes in about 3/4 cups of water to dissolve, then add your sour cream and combine.
  4. In a separate cup, combine the arrowroot with a couple tablespoons of water and stir well. Then pour this mixture into your pan and whisk it thoroughly. If it’s too thin, add more arrowroot, and if it’s too thick, add a little extra water.
  5. Add your steak and onions back to pan with the sauce. Add a couple drops of gravy master and then simmer for about 15 minutes.
  6. Put your pasta in a bowl, top with the steak, onions, plenty of sauce, and a little bit of parsley, and enjoy!

This may not be the prettiest dish, but it’s not about what’s on the outside; it’s what’s on the beautiful delicious inside. I dare you to resist eating all of this Beef Stroganoff yourself. It’s very hard. The tender beef, the amazing sauce, the sweet caramelized onions, all over a nice bowl of pasta…it’s ridiculously addicting. I’m never not in the mood for this meal. It’s one of those things I could just eat forever and ever and ever. For those of you who don’t have the same passion for pasta as I do, this could also be served over something like mashed potatoes. Whatever you serve it with, I guarantee you’ll love it as much as I do! 🙂

beef stroganoff

Girl Scout Toffee-tastic Cookies

girl scout gluten free toffee-tastic

Ah, Girl Scout cookies. Everybody loves them. Samoas, Tagalongs, Thin Mints…I miss them dearly. As mentioned in my “About Anna” page, I am a proud member of the Girl Scouts (and recently got the official notice that I earned my Gold Award, yay!!), so that means for years I have been selling cookies, as well as buying cookies from myself. So when I heard that there were gluten free Girl Scout Cookies, I had to buy them immediately. If I’m being honest, if I could choose from the whole list of GS cookies, I would not choose these Toffee-tastic cookies. But since they’re my only choice, I went with it (although I read on this site that there is another kind of gluten free cookie called Trios that’s “made with real chocolate chips, real peanut butter and certified gluten free whole grain oats,” which I would probably prefer, but they weren’t available).

girl scout gluten free toffee-tastic

So the description of these Toffee-tastic cookies is “rich, buttery cookies packed with golden toffee bits bursting with flavor.” They were pretty good! The flavor was kind of like a shortbread cookie. I am a soft cookie kind of person, but this was more of a crunchy, crumbly one, which isn’t necessarily bad—that’s how a butter cookie should be. The toffee bits were tasty too. The only problem I had with them was that it’s the kind of thing that gets stuck in your teeth, but the flavor was worth it. I think these are the kind of cookies that would taste really good if you crushed them up and put them on top of ice cream.

Overall, these Toffee-tastic Girl Scout cookies were pretty good for a gluten free cookie. Obviously they cannot compare to the delicious, gluten-filled alternatives, but I will take what I can get. I really hope next year I can get a hold of the other gluten free GS cookies, Trios. They sound very appealing to me. But until then, I will wait and eat my Toffee-tastic cookies.

Click HERE to find Girl Scout cookies near you!

girl scout gluten free toffee-tastic

Koro Koro Rice Ball Cafe (+ Wedding!)

I had quite an exciting weekend! Saturday was a big day; my parents and I went to our neighbor Ashley’s wedding, which was absolutely beautiful and so much fun!! I took the opportunity to take my Canon Rebel SL1 on one of its first real adventures. And it was easy to take pretty pictures at such a pretty wedding!

The reception was a blast. It was my first time at a real big wedding, and I loved it! My concern at that point was what I would be able to eat. At cocktail hour, it was a little questionable with all the buffet-style food, so I stuck to the naturally gluten free veggies, meats, and cheeses. Side note: I learned that I like goat cheese. So after cocktail hour came the reception. We called the venue ahead of time to make sure they would have some options for me, and the wait staff was very knowledgable. For the first course we had a pear and arugula salad, which was really tasty! There were spiced pecans in it that were ridiculously tasty. For the main course, I had the beef tenderloin with mashed potatoes and spinach. This was sooooooo delicious!!!!! I loved it. I’m usually not a beef kind of person but this was amazing. And those mashed potatoes were the best mashed potatoes I’ve ever eaten in my life—not even exaggerating. As for dessert, none of the ones on the menu were gluten free so they made me a fruit plate. With this style of eating it’s important that the staff is aware of your allergy/sensitivity and know what they’re doing. As usual, it always pays off to ask questions. Overall, I felt super taken care of at this wedding, food-wise and fun-wise.

koro koro

We stayed overnight in a hotel near the venue in Jersey City, so the next day we had to find a place for lunch. In our pre-travel restaurant research, we found this place called Koro Koro that makes Japanese rice balls called Onigiri, and is completely gluten free (and we know what that means: no cross contamination possible!!). Now, I don’t know about you, but when I hear “rice ball,” I think of the Italian version with cheese that’s coated in breadcrumbs and fried. But these were made up of a filling of your choice wrapped in rice then wrapped in seaweed. We bought a whole bunch of different kinds. They look more like rice triangles than rice balls to me.

koro moro rice balls

We got the Cuban (Pork, Black Beans, & Plantains), Spicy Salmon (Salmon, Kimchi, Garlic Chili, & Mayo), Indian (Chickpeas, Carrots, Golden Raisins, Sweet Potato, Coconut, Curry, & Indian Spices), Yama Chicken (Chicken, Mountain Vegetables, Shredded Coconut, Cilantro, & Green Curry), Moroccan (Swiss Chard, Red Pepper, Golden Raisins, Toasted Pine Nuts, Fresh Ginger, & Balsamic Vinegar), Mediterranean (Artichoke Hearts, Roasted Sweet Potatoes, Sundried Tomatoes, Black Olives, & Lemon Zest), and their special at the time, Mexican (I forgot to pay attention to what was in it but it had shrimp and veggies and Mexican flavors). We also got the Japanese Potato Salad (Potatoes, Cucumbers, Carrots, Onions, w/ Spicy Mustard & Mayo) and Koro Koro Cole Slaw (Cabbage, Pineapple, Wasabi, & Mayo) as sides. That may seem like a lot, but they’re not that big so we each got two and had one to share.

koro koro rice balls

I picked the Spicy Salmon and Mediterranean. I loved the salmon because it tasted kind of like a sushi roll, and I love sushi. Unfortunately, I didn’t really care for the Mediterranean; it was just a little weird and didn’t taste right with the seaweed to me. My mom had the Cuban and Yama Chicken. She loved both of them! I really liked them both too. My dad had the Indian and Moroccan and enjoyed them both. I’m not a big fan of Indian kind of flavors but I did like it, and the Moroccan was pretty good too. We shared the Mexican, which was really tasty. We all agreed that the Cuban and Spicy Salmon were the best. The only thing I would’ve changed is the size of the shrimp; they were whole so it was hard to get some in each bite. I loved the potato salad. I love potato salad in general but this was so good. The cole slaw was also very tasty—a little too spicy for me because of the wasabi but my parents loved it.

koro moro making rice balls

Watching them make these was pretty cool. They have these little molds, put everything inside them, and wrap it up. It’s also interesting the way they wrap them in the seaweed and plastic packaging. At first I had a little trouble opening it from the directions on the plastic itself. But they have a video on their website that helps you figure it out. I was impatient and couldn’t wait to eat it, so I didn’t watch the video and ripped my seaweed. 😦

koro koro rice ball instructions

Overall this was a very successful food weekend. I got to have a whole bunch of fun as well as try something new. I wish Koro Koro was closer to home so I could go there all the time! Hopefully I will get up to Jersey City another time soon so I can get some more of these awesome rice balls.

Link to Koro Koro Rice Ball Cafe menu

My (Accidental) Celiac Diagnosis & More

I just realized that I never really talked about my diagnosis story yet on my blog. My story is a lot different than most that I’ve heard, largely because I never really had any symptoms at all, but one day in 2012 I got an endoscopy, and there it was.

Flashback to August 22, 2012: I woke up feeling super nauseous, too sick to go to my tennis practice. The next day? Still super nauseous, and getting on a plane to California—which came along with the pleasant experience of throwing up in an airport bathroom (I know, ew). The next day, and the next day, and the next day…still consistently feeling terrible. This went on for about two weeks, which was when we decided something was wrong and I went to the doctor. I was admitted to the hospital to figure out what was going on. This lovely hospital visit also made me miss my first days of high school (sad face). I think I was there for about a week, undergoing plenty of tests to find the problem. What was difficult about my situation was that my only symptom was nausea, and that was so broad that it really could’ve been anything. I was even getting my head scanned to see if it was a brain tumor. Literally, it could’ve been anything. I was getting shoved into big scary machines like this one:

machine

Then came the endoscopy. They found damage that was consistent with celiac disease. And they said “you’ve got celiac, don’t eat gluten and you’ll be all better, bye!” Okay, maybe that’s not exactly what they said, but that’s what I heard.

Well then I had to figure out what the heck gluten is. I found out it’s in wheat, barley, rye, and malt. That was fine, I could manage. Then I found out that stuff is in pasta, bread, pizza, cake, cookies…I think my exact thinking was, “what the hell CAN I eat??????” At first I didn’t really understand the full extent of what I had to do. I specifically remember one day that I went to a friend’s house, and they were serving something like loaded potato skins and pizza bites. Obviously I knew I couldn’t have the pizza bites, but I thought, “hey, potato skins are probably fine.” So I ate them. A bunch of them. Current Anna is violently yelling at Past Anna for not asking to see the package to check if they had gluten in them. Because it may sound like something is gluten free, but now I know that doesn’t mean it is gluten free. I don’t remember if I had any reaction, but I still think about that day sometimes and remember how I ate those stupid potato skins and knew as I ate them that I should’ve asked.

Enough about potato skins now. So after I was diagnosed, nothing got better. I still had the nausea everyday. That’s when we went to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

children's hospital of philadelphia

I’ll give you the short version of this part. There, I was also diagnosed with gastroparesis, which means my stomach was working really slowly, and went on to try many different medications (13 to be exact) to attempt to make it better for about a year and a half with no luck. Eventually, in April of 2014, I was also diagnosed with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (aka POTS), a dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system that causes symptoms like dizziness, fatigue, heart palpitations, migraines, and, guess what else, nausea. I got all those other symptoms later along with the nausea which is what lead to this diagnosis, and I’m still dealing with this condition today (which was most likely causing my problems all along). And to be honest, celiac is nothing—it’s like a walk in the park—compared to POTS.

So in comes the (Accidental) part of my post’s title. I’m 98% sure that if I hadn’t started to have other medical issues in 2012, I wouldn’t have been diagnosed with celiac. Not then, at least, probably not for a long time. I get annoyed sometimes because that means I probably could’ve been eating delicious gluten for so much longer, but then I remember that would’ve just caused more damage in the long run. I think because being gluten free never made me feel any different, in the beginning I didn’t get the point of it. This is where I think my situation differs from most; I feel like a lot of the stories I hear go something like, “I was feeling really bad, I got diagnosed with celiac, and I feel so much better now!!” This wasn’t me. Of course now, whenever I accidentally get glutened, I feel it. But yet I’m still compiling a list in my head of gluten foods that I will one day maybe use for a gigantic eat-whatever-I-want day that will make my small intestine very angry at me…

Anyways, that’s me. What’s your diagnosis story? Tell me about it in the comments. 🙂

Recipe: Sesame Noodles!

sesame noodles

About a year ago, I discovered my love for sesame oil. I love it. It makes me sad that I had never tried it earlier. I could have been living a whole life full of sesame oil. Anyway…this recipe brings together my favorite things: noodles, sesame oil, and soy sauce. Man I love Asian noodle dishes; I could live off Asian noodle dishes. This one is one of my favorites, and I make it all the time. The flavors are just so amazing! But I won’t waste time talking about it, let’s just get right to the recipe!

What you’ll need:
(As with a lot of my recipes, I made this just for myself so these amounts are only for one serving)

veggies

  • about 4-6 oz brown rice spaghetti
  • little handful of carrots
  • little handful of broccoli slaw
  • 1-2 thin slices of onion, diced
  • 3-4 sliced of zucchini, cut into strips
  • 1 green onion, sliced
  • about 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • about 2-3 tablespoons sesame oil (use more or less, depending on your love for sesame oil)
  • as much soy sauce as your heart desires (which for me, is a lot)
  • feel free to add any protein you like—I’ve used chicken which is really good in this
  • sesame seeds for topping

How to make it:

  1. Cook your pasta according to the package.
  2. Add 1 tablespoon sesame oil to a wok or pan. When it’s hot, add your veggies (excluding the green onions and garlic) and cook until soft (if you’d like, you can add a little soy sauce to the veggies for it to absorb the flavor). Make sure you don’t start this step too early, otherwise you might overcook your veggies while you’re waiting for the pasta to be done (yes, I know this from experience). Just plan your time wisely so your veggies and pasta are done at about the same time.
  3. Once your pasta is cooked and drained, add the garlic and green onions to the wok and sauté for another minute or so. Then, add your pasta to all your veggies and add as much sesame oil and soy sauce as desired.
  4. Put it into a bowl, top with sesame seeds, and enjoy!

This recipe is so yummy. It’s definitely one of my go-to meals, and it’s so easy! It’s one more pasta recipe in my pasta arsenal (which, by the way, is very full). For having such simple ingredients, this dish packs a whole lot of delicious flavor. And as usual, feel free to personalize as you like and use different veggies and proteins. I’m so happy that me and sesame oil were brought together. I hope you all enjoy this recipe as much as I do! 🙂

sesame noodles