June 2015 - Simply Samantha
Allergy Free and Vegan Recipes

Vegan Pasta Casserole

8:00 AM

Don't worry. I'm still here! I turned 22 on the 22nd and my body decided the best way to celebrate was to get sick. So lots of resting and about a dozen episodes of F.R.I.E.N.D.S later and I'm back in business!

Before I share this wonderful recipe, you should know my husband and I are in NO way fully vegans.
 We personally like our chicken, fish, and ice cream.
However, I like to find and make at least one vegan meal a week just to shake up our already healthy lifestyle.

My husband is a little hesitant when it comes to vegan meat and cheese, as any manly man would.
But he was actually very open to the idea of this recipe to my surprise.
And I'm glad because it was amazing.
The Beyond Meat Beef Crumbles were a great addition to the creamy Daiya mozzarella cheese and gluten free pasta!
Vegan Pasta Casserole
2 tbsps olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
15 oz can diced tomatoes, drained
2 cups marinara sauce(or your favorite pasta sauce)
2 cups water
1 - 1 1/2 cup Vegan Ground Crumbles (such as Beyond Meat )
12-16 oz box/bag of gluten free pasta (I used LiveGfree Organic brown rice and quinoa : similar)
1-2 cups vegan mozzarella, shredded (Such as Daiya

Heat your oven to 375F and prepare a 9X13 baking dish with a cooking spray of your choice (such as olive oil or vegetable oil) 

In a large skillet or saucepan, add olive oil and onions. Cook over medium heat until they're tender, about 5 minutes. Turn the heat to low and add the chopped garlic.

Add the tomatoes, marina, and water and bring this mixture to a boil. Turn down heat and add the veggie crumbles. Stir to combine.

Spoon just enough of the marina sauce mixture to cover the bottom of your prepared 9X13 pan. Pour the box of uncooked pasta over the top of this, spreading it out evenly across the pan. Now, you simply pour the rest of that marina sauce mixture over the uncooked macaroni, being sure to spread it out evenly as well.

Top the casserole with the vegan mozzarella. Cover the casserole with aluminum foil (don't forget to spray the foil so the cheese doesn't stick), crimping the edges just slightly to keep the heat inside. 
Bake for 50 minutes. Then remove the casserole from the oven and keep the foil on the pan for 15 minutes or so if you think it needs to sit a bit more. Allow to cool slightly before serving.

Vegan Pasta Casserole
I know a lot of people turn their noses up to "vegan cheese", 
but vegan cheese is actually super tasty and creamy when melted. 
Same goes for "meatless crumbles". My husband couldn't even taste the difference, it was that good!

Happy Cooking Friends! 

gluten free

My Story

9:50 AM

I realized I have never shared my story of how I became gluten free. I just seemed to start writing up recipes and tips about my lifestyle without ever explaining how or why.

I've written this post out a couple of times and still haven't found the right words for my story. Mostly because my story is fairly simple. Becoming fully gluten free was progressive and stemmed from when my mom decided to switch our family diet to gluten free to help my older sister. In turn, I was actually the one that gluten seemed to hate. I didn't really become fully committed to being gluten free till my symptoms got worse and it caused me to not eat and lose weight.
Many doctor visits and blood work later, we had no answers so a diet change seemed like the best option.

As I was writing about my story (as small and simple as it is) it made me really think about what I've learned from becoming gluten free. If I never made that choice to be gluten free I probably would have never become as passionate about food and healthy choices as I am now.

I think there is so much power in the ability to take care of our bodies and the knowledge to know what you are putting in your body.
I think a lot of people forget that your body is influenced by what you put in it. We go through each day eating whats cheep and available right now. And we forget that sometimes what you put in it isn't as good as you would like it. I think a lot of people would save lots of time, pain, and doctors visits if they really took into account what they put in their bodies.

If I had looked at my food journal in early 2012 and really took into account and realized how much of my diet was gluten I probably would have saved myself months of struggle.

As far as I know, I do not have a genetic disposition to be gluten free, no one else in my family has gluten allergies or Celiac Disease.
So to me, the only reason I have a gluten allergy, is because I was putting food in my body that was so processed to a point my body started to reject it. And again, If only knew the signs and the information on the food i was putting in my body! Information and knowledge is key!

If you can learn anything from this horribly written post, learn that you have to power to chose right and know whats in your food.
Know that sometimes its not your body thats causing issues but the food you are putting in it.
I think the more people become aware of their bodies, learn whats good and not good for it, the wiser our choices will be. Take the time to make better choices.

Now, I don't want anyone to read this and find me judgmental to those that like a little junk food or eat out every now and then. 
Trust me, I constantly have Mike and Ike and Chick-Fil-A cravings (grilled GF nuggets of course)
I am definitely a big believer in moderation ;) 
You do you!


Canyon Bakehouse Bagels and Brownie Bites

8:00 AM

Who doesn't like bagels?? Or brownie bites??
I love both and am so excited for Canyon Bakehouse's new bagels and brownie bites.
Being gluten free, you miss out on a lot of awesome food like bagels and brownie bites.
BUT, thanks to Canyon Bakehouse, I (and you too!) can enjoy bagels and brownie bites just like you used to in your pre-gluten free days.
Canyon Bakehouse Bagel's and Brownie Bites
Their Brownie Bites are the MOISTEST brownies I have ever had. They are delish! 
Now, I have a serious question. 
How do you take your bagel???

My husband (also a fan of Canyon Bakehouse) loves his with peanut butter and some local honey while he catches up on the sports via ESPN.

I like to make mine a cream cheese sandwich with a nice cup of coffee on the side as I answer emails and check on the interwebs. 

How do you take your bagel??
Let me know in the comments and you might win a pack of Canyon Bakehouse's new Gluten Free Bagels and Brownie Bites! 
I will pick 2 winners! 

Don't forget to check Canyon Bakehous's store locator to see where you can pick up their new bagels and brownie bites! They are at Target's and health food stores all across the country making them easy to find and purchase! 

*Disclaimer* I was given these products in exchange for a review. Opinions are 100% my own. 
However, we purchase Canyon Bakehouse on our own dime almost weekly. So I was more then happy to partner with them and share their new products.

GF tips and tricks

Simple Tips and Tricks

8:30 AM

It's not the easiest thing in the world to stay healthy and organic on budget. It's just not. Add being gluten free into the mix and you can see your money just floating away in the wind. 
But, if you are like me and know that the pro's outweigh the con's when it come to eating healthy and organic, you know spending the money is worth it. 

Here are some of my simple tips and trick's for eating and shopping healthy, organic, and gluten free. 
Even if you are just starting! 

Shop Around
Many different store's are going to have different organic and gluten free products. For example, my normal shopping trip includes Walmart, Publix, and my local health food store. I do this because I know if Walmart doesn't have it, Publix will, and if Publix doesn't have it, my health food store definitely will. Learn what stores carry your organic and GF needs and shop accordingly. 

Order Together
I am very blessed to have a mom who has shaped the way I eat for the better and shares a similar healthy lifestyle. In order to get some products cheeper, we combined our online orders on sites like Vitacost. It saves both of us money and we get products we enjoy.
So, find a shopping buddy and order your favorite products together!

Be Careful
Because gluten free products are big money makers now, a lot of your local stores are going to start selling their own brands. My local Walmart is a big culprit of this. While I like Walmarts organic line (Wild Oats), their Gluten Free line is not very healthy at all. While they may be good for the family just trying to stay gluten free, they are not friendly to the GF peep's who are also trying to stay healthy and organic.
Always pay attention to the ingredients. Along with the gluten free label, make sure a product is also non-gmo or organic. 

It doesn't always have to be organic
I know how hard it is to find decently priced organic goodies sometimes.
 My rule is if its not organic, go for the next best thing,
When it comes to produce, if you can't find it organic, see if it is listed in the Dirty Dozen or the Clean Fifteen (list by EWG). I also ask myself if I'm just using it for one meal or more. 
For example, My husband and I LOVE asparagus. However, it is SO expensive organic and hard to find. It is thankfully one of the clean fifteen and I only use it for one meal so I give myself a little break and buy it. 
Now when it comes to lettuce, I will always buy organic because it is on the dirty dozen and I will use it for more then one meal. I am a salad "connoisseur" and have one for lunch almost every day.

Feeding Friends
When cooking for friends, I don't tend to buy organic food. I do this because I know the people I am cooking for are not usually as concerned as I am with eating organic so why am I going to spend the extra money? I don't mean that to sound harsh at all and I've actually explained this to my friends and they agree with me. 
So when cooking for others, don't put the pressure on yourself to make a glorious organic meal. Keep it simple and easy.  

Don't be to hard on yourself
And speaking on not putting pressure on yourself.
Its gonna take some time to become fully organic and gluten free. And even so, you are still going to have those conventional products that you can NEVER find organic, non-gmo, or gluten free.
I wouldn't even say I am fully organic. I still buy regular cheese (even though I wish I had better and cheeper choices), my spice cabinet is still filed with basic non-organic spices, and sometimes its hard to just find ONE organic lemon and I end up buying a conventional. 
Don't be hard on yourself. 

Ask around
Find out through friends, family, and or social media friends where to find awesome gluten free, organic, or healthy products. My mom and I are always sharing our finds with each other. The more people share the more the community of healthy organic and GF eaters grow!

Hope some of these trips and tricks helped you! My biggest tip for beginners that are making the change to organic and or gluten free eating is make simple changes and don't put pressure on yourself to change your pantry to an organic heaven all in one shopping trip. It takes time (and money).

I wrote a similar post about a year ago. You can check that out here