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Bananas for Chocolate Chip Banana Cake.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Banana Cake with Vanilla-Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting.

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I’ve started to experiment with baking a bit recently to try to enhance my skills, but they’re still definitely a work in progress! I made this cake for a dinner party recently and despite the enormous mess I created in the kitchen, it turned out really yummy. Not to mention, it’s actually fairly “healthy” as far as cakes go which is always a plus. It was a big hit at the party so I’ll definitely be making this again.

Serves 8-10.

Ingredients:

Cake~

  • 2 packages Bob’s Red Mill gluten-free vanilla cake mix
  • 4 ripe bananas, sliced
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 cup mini semi sweet chocolate chips
  • 3 tbsp canola oil

Frosting ~

  • 16 oz whipped cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup light butter (I used Earth Balance spread)
  • 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup skim milk (or rice milk/almond milk)

Begin by making the cake batter. In your mixer, add the sliced bananas and mix on medium speed to allow them to mush together. Then add the eggs, vanilla, water and canola oil. Once combined, slowly add in the dry cake mix. Then add the chocolate chops and cinnamon. Once all mixed together, put the batter into two greased identical sized round cake pans with equal amounts of batter in each pan. Bake on 325 for about 40 minutes or until the cake is firm and lightly browned.

While the cake is baking, add the whipped cream cheese in the mixer with the light butter, vanilla and skim milk.  Once mixed, slowly add in the powdered sugar and then add in the cinnamon.

When the cake is done baking allow it to cool. You will stack the two cakes, so you’ll want to take one of the cakes and cut off the top to create a flat top for the bottom layer. After you cut the top off, then you can frost the bottom layer. Frost generously on the top of the cake and then stack the other cake on top of it. Then you can frost the entire cake and top with some chocolate chips.

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Spicy Eggplant & Green Bean Stir Fry.

Gluten-Free Spicy Eggplant & Green Bean Stir Fry.

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The Charlotte Regional Farmer’s Market is one of my favorite places I’ve found in Charlotte. They have the greatest selection of fresh (and inexpensive!) vegetables. I picked up some gorgeous Japanese eggplant there so wanted to make an Asian inspired stir fry with them. This creation has a lot of delicious flavor but is still a light and healthy dish. I served it with some rice noodles but you could also serve it with brown rice or top it off with some meat, too.

Serves ~4.

Ingredients:

  • 3 Japanese eggplant, halved and sliced
  • 2 cups green beans, trimmed and cut in half
  • 1/3 cup green onion, chopped
  • 1/4 cup Tamari
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp chopped garlic
  • 1 tbsp chopped ginger
  • 1 tbsp Sriracha
  • dash of hot red pepper flakes

Heat the olive oil on medium heat and add the chopped garlic. Once heated, add in the green beans and eggplant and cook for 10 minutes or so, stirring often. Once the vegetables begin to soften, add in the Tamari and the sesame oil. If the vegetables start to stick to the pan at all, add a splash of water. Cook for about 7-10 more minutes and then add the ginger, Sriracha, green onion and red pepper flakes and stir well in the pan to combine. Serve with your choice of side.

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Buffalo Chicken Bites.

Gluten-Free Buffalo Chicken Bites.

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I don’t know about you, but I sure do love Buffalo wings. Unfortunately, they’re not the healthiest of foods, so I decided to make a reduced guilt version. These buffalo chicken bites are made using chicken breast, gluten-free breading and are lightly pan-fried rather than deep-fried to create a crunchy texture. Serve them up with some celery and blue cheese dressing and you feel like you’re eating the real thing!

Serves 5-7 as an appetizer.

Ingredients:

  • 3 chicken breasts, cut into bite size pieces
  • 1 cup pure corn starch (ensure this is gluten-free if you require it)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 cup wing sauce (ensure this is gluten-free is you require it)
  • 1 handful chopped green onion
  • 6-8 tbsp canola oil
  • sea salt (to taste)
  • blue cheese dressing & celery for serving

Put the chicken breast pieces in a large Ziplock bag and pour in the corn starch. Shake around to ensure the chicken is coated evenly. Whisk the eggs in a small bowl. Heat 2 tbsp of canola in a non-stick pan on medium-high heat. While the oil is heating, dip the chicken in the egg and then transfer it directly into the hot pan. Cook the chicken on each side for about 2-3 minutes until lightly browned. Repeat this process until all of the chicken is browned. Place the chicken into a baking dish sprayed with non-stick spray and season with a dash of sea salt.

Bake the chicken in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes, flipping the pieces halfway through. When the chicken is done cooking, toss with the wing sauce and green onion so the pieces are evenly coated. Serve with celery and blue cheese dressing.

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Tangy Thai Beef Salad.

Thai Beef Salad With Cucumber, Tomato & Onion With Ginger-Lime Dressing.

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Thai Beef salads are one of my favorite dishes to order when I go out to Thai restaurants, so I was excited to finally make this for myself at home. This salad has tons of texture and flavor – it’s crunchy, tangy, sweet and savory. It’s full of bright flavor and makes a great, light meal.

Serves 2-3

Ingredients:

Salad~

  • 3/4 lb flat iron or flank steak, grilled and sliced
  • 1/2 English cucumber, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup grape tomatoes, sliced
  • 1 cup romaine lettuce, chopped
  • 1/4 cup peanuts, crushed
  • 6 basil leaves, chopped

Dressing~

  • 2 tbsp Tamari
  • 2 limes, juiced
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tsp minced ginger
  • 1 tsp sriracha sauce
  • dash of hot red pepper flakes

Begin by making the dressing. Combine the Tamari, lime juice, sesame oil, ginger, sriracha and hot red pepper flakes and whisk well. In a large mixing bowl, add the lettuce, cucumber, onions, tomatoes, peanuts, basil and room temperature beef. Pour the dressing over top and toss to combine.

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Loco For Lomo Saltado.

Peruvian Stir Fry With Chicken, Tomatoes, Onions & Parsley.

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I discovered my love for Peruvian food at one of my favorite Chicago restaurants, Taste of Peru. Lomo Saltado is one of my favorite Peruvian dishes. It’s a stir fry dish that typically has chicken or beef, onions, tomatoes and French fries, but to make this healthier I removed the fries from my recipe (although they’re obviously delicious). I also made this gluten-free by using Tamari instead of soy sauce. I served this with a simple side of brown rice with fresh parsley.

Serves 2-3.

Ingredients:

  • 2 chicken breasts, cut into small pieces
  • 1/3 cup fresh, chopped parsley
  • 1 large tomato, sliced
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • 1/3 cup white vinegar
  • 1/4 cup Tamari (gluten-free soy sauce)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt/pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large pan on medium/high heat and add in the chicken. Cook for about 5 minutes and then add in the onions. Continue to cook until the chicken is lightly browned and the onions have softened (about 7-10 minutes) and then add in the vinegar and Tamari. Stir in the tomato and parsley and continue to simmer for about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

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Soul Gastrolounge.

Soul Gastrolounge – Charlotte, NC

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Y’all. I can’t tell you how happy I am to find Soul Gastrolounge in my new home of Charlotte. Moving from Chicago, one of the things I missed desperately was the plethora of amazing food right outside my front door. Don’t get me wrong, the food in Charlotte is good and there are lots of yummy BBQ options, but let’s be honest, it’s no Chicago. Soul Gastrolounge is definitely up there with some of the best Chicago hot spots.

Located in the hipster-filled Plaza Midwood, Soul Gastrolounge is somewhat hidden and tucked away on the second floor of a strip of stores, restaurants and bars. They don’t take reservations, so be prepared to wait at the bar where you can sample their delicious craft cocktails (the Tito’s Cucumber Mule is my personal fave.) It’s a small plate style menu so you can sample lots of different dishes – my absolute favorite. There are a lot of Asian influences on the menu including an enormous sushi selection but there are also dishes that have Greek and Italian influences as well. Below are some of my favorites from my recent meals there, although I’m still slowly but surely working my way through the menu!

Asian glazed pork belly tacos in flour tortillas with watermelon salsa: Can you say heaven? These are heaven. It may sound like an odd combination but the flavors are incredible. The watermelon is tart and tangy and the pork belly is sweet and salty.

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Korean BBQ wings fried and tossed in a gochujang BBQ sauce and scallions: I love any type of Korean BBQ. These wings are super spicy and jam-packed with potent flavor.

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Red Dragon Roll – Tempura shrimp, tempura salmon and cream cheese topped with spicy tuna, poki tuna and crunchy onion: This is my all time favorite sushi roll. It’s the best flavor combination. The crunchy onion adds an unexpected flavor and texture and the tuna is amazingly fresh.

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Dancing Tuna – Seared Tuna and avocado topped with spicy tuna, jalapeno, tobiko, finished with sriracha mayo and wasabi mayo: A close second to the Red Dragon roll, the Dancing Tuna roll is also delicious. I love the subtle heat from the jalapeno and the wasabi mayo.

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Bean Town Roll – Tuna, salmon and avocado topped with spicy shrimp, green onion, fish roe and crunchy onion: This was one of their specials when we dined there. It was fresh and delicious with lots of different textures and flavors.

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Eggplant Bolognese.

Gluten-Free Oven Roasted Eggplant Parmesan With Bolognese Sauce.

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I love cooking with eggplant because it’s such a hearty vegetable and is so versatile. This recipe is great because it’s filling and satisfying but still fairly light. This sauce is delicious and can of course be served with pasta, but if you want to try something new (with a bit less carbs) you should definitely try it over this eggplant.

Serves ~4-5.

Ingredients:

Bolognese sauce (adapted from this recipe)

  • 1 lb ground beef (90% lean/10% fat)
  • 2 cups canned, crushed tomato
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 cup shredded carrots
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms (any type you prefer)
  • 3 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp hot red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • salt

In a large pan, heat about 2 tbsp of olive oil on medium/high heat and add in the ground beef. Cook the beef until lightly browned and then add in the onion and carrots. Cook for an additional 10 minutes or so, and then stir in the crushed tomato and tomato paste. Reduce the heat to low and season with the basil, red pepper, garlic powder, salt and Worcestershire sauce. Allow the sauce to simmer for about 15 minutes or so.

Eggplant Parmesan

  • 1 large eggplant, sliced
  • 2 cups gluten-free breadcrumbs (Glutino is a good brand, or you can use regular breadcrumbs if you prefer)
  • 3 eggs, whisked
  • 1/2 cup grated cup Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tbsp olive oil

Begin by breading the sliced eggplant. In a bowl, combine the bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese. In another bowl, add the eggs and whisk them. Place the eggplant into the bowl with the eggs and coat, then put directly into the bowl with the bread crumbs. Coat a large baking sheet with ~3 tsp olive oil and then place the breaded eggplant evenly across. Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes, then flip the eggplant and cook for another 15 minutes. The eggplant should be lightly browned and crispy.

To serve, plate the eggplant and top with a heaping spoonful of the Bolognese sauce and sprinkle on some grated Parmesan if you’d like.

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