August 20, 2014

Southwest Salad

This is another restaurant inspiration. I’ll admit, when we were first married, my cooking repertoire was sort of small. When I was single I was ok repeating spaghetti, pasta, tomato soup, etc. But Now that I have a family I like to create variety. I have gradually been collecting more and more recipes that are simple and reasonably healthy. There are plenty of recipes out there of course, but it has taken me time to find the ones that work well for me.

Recently my husband had southwest salad at a buffet we went to, and loved it. So I went home to look up recipes. I soon realized this is one of those recipes that could be really complicated, but doesn’t need to be. Also, it was one that can be easily adapted for my diet, so the work for one meal is making two. That is always nice when you are cooking for both PKU and normal eaters!

So here is my southwest salad recipe:


Iceberg lettuce

Onion (could be green, red or white…I had white on hand this time)

Corn (canned or frozen, thawed)

Tomatoes, diced

Avocado, cubed


Tortilla strips

Online I found lots of recipes for different dressings, but I preferred to just go with the quick and easy way of simply mixing BBQ sauce and ranch. It tastes delicious! I would guess I did about 2 parts ranch, 1 part BBQ sauce. (you know me, I’m an estimator)


For your information, for the PROTEIN VERSION I add black beans, possibly canned chicken, and shredded cheese. That’s it! Two versions of one easy, tasty meal.

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August 12, 2014

Homemade Raspberry Jam

This is the first time I’ve done anything like this, so I am excited about it! This was freezer jam so it was really easy. Turned out delicious! And there’s nothing better than knowing you made it yourself!


To make raspberry freezer jam, I simply followed the recipe that came with the pectin packet

I bought 4 lbs of raspberries in bulk. I actually mashed them up and put them in the freezer for a couple weeks until I had all the tools and time to make the jam.

To make freezer jam you need:

  • Fruit
  • Pectin (found in the jell-o section)
  • Caning jars
  • Sugar
  • Sauce pan, bowls, spoon/spatulas
  • A funnel would be helpful

There are recipes for jam online, but I simply followed the instructions and recipe that came in the pectin packet. For anyone interested I will walk you through my process.

First I had to thaw the raspberries. I put them in the fridge the day before making the jam. Then I just had to stir them a bit once I put them in this bowl.


Washed the jars and lids


The recipe says you can strain half of the berries to get out some seeds. I strained less than half because I didn’t want to run out of raspberries. You have to use the exact amount the recipe calls for. Little PKU shout out– I used my formula can to balance the strainer! :)


Measured out the sugar and stirred it into the raspberries.


Next I had to boil the pectin according to the instructions, and stir that into the raspberry/sugar mixture. I didn’t have a funnel so I used a measuring cup with a pour spout to pour the jam into the jars.


I had to let the jam set for 24 hours. Then I put one can in the fridge and the other three in the freezer.

That’s it! No fancy equipment required.

Oh, and this sweet girl woke up in the middle of the process. She was such a good girl and had some lunch in her high chair while I finished the final step of pouring the jam into the jars.


My beautiful baby girl is over 1 year old! She likes bananas with the peel on

July 21, 2014

New Milk!



I have recently started using a different milk for my cereal.



For someone who likes to stick to her routine, this is kind of big. For many years now I have used Mocha Mix non-dairy creamer on my cereal. I still really like mocha mix, but it is expensive and I was getting annoyed with buy two different expensive milks for my husband and I. My husband likes almond milk. Almond milk is pretty low in protein (only 1 g for a whole cup), but I just didn’t like the way it tasted!

So one day I tried this almond coconut blend. It was pretty good but I could still taste the almond loud and clear. But after a week of traveling and drinking almond milk for convenience, I got used to it and this stuff now tastes great to me! It also only has 1 g of protein for a cup. Now we only buy one kind of milk. Yay!

What do you pour on breakfast cereal?

July 1, 2014

Eggplant Experiment – Cafe Rio “sweet pork”

It’s been an exciting week in the kitchen! The day after making zucchini stroganoff I tried my hand at making homemade Cafe Rio for my husband and I. Cafe Rio, for those of you who don’t know, is a very popular and delicious restaurant in Utah, where I lived for 6 years. There are lots of copycat recipes for Cafe Rio out there. I decided to try making some sweet pork for my husband. For myself, I planned on at least making rice, plus the yummy cilantro dressing, and serving it over salad. But ever since ordering an eggplant dish at a Persian restaurant in San Francisco recently, I had been thinking I should experiment with eggplant as a meat substitute. So, thus “Sweet Pork Eggplant” was born! I used the same sauce on the eggplant as on the pork, and it turned out pretty good! And all together it was a delicious meal.

The tomatillo/cilantro dressing recipe is here: Kalyn’s Kitchen [I used canned tomatillos, and buttermilk ranch from the bottle and it was fine]

My rice was inspired by this recipe: Bountiful Kitchen [Instead of using the dressing I just added cilantro and lime juice to the rice] This could easily be done using low-protein rice for a lower Phe count

The sweet pork recipe I used can be found here: Oh, Sweet Basil: Cafe Rio Sweet Pork

It is really simple. It uses root beer, this sauce, and brown sugar. I used much less brown sugar than it called for, and my husband and I were both pleased with the way it tasted. For the sauce, I called my grocery store ahead of time to make sure they had it. The first one I called did not have it, but the second one did, so I was glad I called. I just poured about 3/4 of the pack over the crock pot pork, and used the remaining 1/4 for my eggplant dish.



This was a total experiment, so I really had no idea what I was doing. But this is what I did. Preheated the oven to 425. I greased a 11 x 17 baking dish with butter. I quartered the eggplant. I put the pieces of eggplant in the dish and buttered the tops. I put them in the oven for about 8 minutes. Meanwhile, I mixed the Old El Paso sauce, maybe 1/4 cup root beer and probably 1/3 cup brown sugar in a bowl. After the 8 minutes I pulled out the eggplant and covered them with the sauce.


Then I put them in the oven for another 20 minutes.



Served this over salad, topped with the rice, dressing and crushed chips (the store I was at didn’t have tortilla strips) It was yummy! Overall another cooking success.


June 27, 2014

Zucchini Stroganoff – cooking success!


Ok I am so excited about this! Lately I have been getting more into cooking. In the past it has been a little stressful for me. This is probably partly because I didn’t have much practice — I simply hadn’t developed the skill very much. But for the most part I think it’s because I was torn between my idealistic desire to eat mostly whole foods, and the reality of being a young, inexperienced, low- budget, convenience-seeking mom cooking for myself with PKU plus a husband with opposite nutritional needs.

I have embraced that I appreciate meals that are easy to cook. Also, the further I get away from my college years, where life is fast-paced and stressful, and happily settle into my slower, (though at times stressful in a whole new way) life as a wife, mother and home-maker I have found more motivation and mental energy to put towards cooking yummy meals. I have taken on trickier recipes and enjoyed it!

So anyway, with this new-found confidence and enjoyment of cooking I was lying awake one night thinking of the crock-pot stroganoff I often make for my husband and how good it smells. Normally when I make that for him I make myself some “goop.” But as I lie awake in bed I decided next time I would try making my own stroganoff…without the beef. The next day this idea developed into using vegetables besides mushrooms. I looked up vegetarian stroganoff and didn’t see one that looked good. But I like zucchini so I thought I’d give it a try. I was really happy with how it turned out!

As a disclaimer, I have a relatively mild case of PKU, plus I am nursing a 1 year old and my levels have been pretty low giving me even more flexibility. This recipe may be a little high in Phe for some PKUers. I still feel it is worth sharing because maybe the idea can inspire a recipe with similar flavor, but suited for your individual needs. For example, maybe the sour cream could be taken out and possibly be replaced with heavy whipping cream.

First step, sautee onions and garlic in olive oil


While those cook slice zucchini



I use Better than Boullion for my beef broth. I got this ready (in the microwave, actually) then added it to the vegetables so the zucchini could soak up that beef flavor



The I added the mushrooms, onion soup mix and cream of mushroom soup. After emptying the cream of mushroom can I just add less than half a can of water to thin it out.


I was so happy with how this meal turned out and it was so fun to have a new flavor on my menu! Also, my husband doesn’t need meat every night so this was his meal too. Besides the separate pasta, I loved having both of our meals in the same pan!



  • 1 Tb Olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, sliced
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 cup quartered zucchini
  • 1 cup beef broth
  • 1 cup mushrooms
  • 1 (1 oz) packet onion soup mix
  • 1 (15 oz) can cream of mushroom soup
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • A least 2 servings Low-protein pasta


  1. Slice the onions in large slices and sautee in olive oil over medium heat for about 3 minutes
  2. Add the garlic, turn the heat to low and let the onions cook until they are soft and translucent
  3. Boil water and cook low-protein pasta of your choice according to package directions
  4. Return heat to medium, add the quartered zucchini and beef broth and cook until the zucchini becomes softer and you can see the seeds
  5. Add mushrooms, onion soup mix and cream of mushroom soup. Add less than half a can of water and mix it all together. Cook until everything is warm
  6. A few minutes before serving stir in the sour cream
  7. Serve zucchini stroganoff over  low-protein pasta
June 18, 2014

Fresh Pineapple Fruit Salad

Fresh Pineapple Fruit Salad

Pineapples were on sale, so I grabbed one. I had no idea how to tell if they were ripe…but this girl in the store actually stopped to fill me in! I was so grateful! You pull off one of the top leaves and if it comes out easily, it’s ripe!

This was also my first time cutting a pineapple, so I watched this handy-dandy video to learn how.

I had some bananas on hand and I had bought a mango as well so I put it all together and served it with dinner. Yum! The fresh pineapple was delicious.

May 29, 2014

Berry Pops

My cutie-pie is turning 1 at the end of June!


Baby girl showing her teeth in the sunshine

Summer is upon us. Well, at least it is here in Arizona where the high is 107 this week! So popsicles are sounding good. I found these cute, slightly corny popsicle molds at the dollar store.


For my first attempt at popsicle-making I used the frozen triple berry medley and rice milk. And I threw in a strawberry popsicle I had in the freezer. These were pretty hearty -– a little berry-heavy, so next time I would probably do more rice milk. But overall they were pretty good! Definitely cooled me down on a hot afternoon.



1 cup frozen triple berry medley

2 tsp sugar

2 tsp lemon juice

1 Tb honey

¾ cup rice milk

1 creamy strawberry popsicle

Put berries and sugar in fridge over night to thaw and get…sugary. The next day, place all ingredients in blender and blend until smooth. Pour mixture into popsicle molds and place in freezer until frozen. When popsicles are frozen solid run under warm water to dislodge and enjoy.


Possible variations worth trying:

  • Drop of vanilla extract
  • Coconut milk or other non-dairy creamer
  • Tropical fruit blend with orange juice
  • Lemonade pops



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March 28, 2014

High Calorie Low Protein Food Options

Anyone who has ever tried to gain weight, or any pregnant woman who has tried to keep up calorically with a growing fetus in the last trimester knows it can be difficult with the PKU diet. Here are some ideas of how to get more calories from foods that are low in protein. First some suggestions, then some nutrition facts.

  • Oil, mayo, heavy whipping cream can be stirred into mashed potatoes, pasta salad, soup, marinara sauce
  • Salad dressing, mayo, avocado can be used as dip for chips, vegetables
  • Top crackers or bread with jelly, honey, cream cheese, mayo and avocado
  • Honey, chocolate syrup, heavy whipping cream can be added to formula, pudding, and used as fruit dip
  • Snack pack lemon pudding
  • Biscoff spread

ganze und halbe avocado isoliert auf weiss

From the Children’s Memorial Hospital Department of Clinical Nutrition:

  • 1 Tablespoon vegetable oil (120 calories, 0 g protein)
  • 1 Tablespoon mayonnaise (100 calories, 0.1 g protein)
  • 1 Tablespoon Miracle Whip (70 calories, 0.1 g protein)
  • 1 Tablespoon heavy whipping cream (52 calories, 0.3 g protein)
  • 1 Tablespoon pancake syrup (55 calories, 0 g protein)
  • 2 Tablespoons sweet & sour sauce (40 calories, 0 g protein)
  • 1 Tablespoon jelly (50 calories, 0 g protein)
  • 1 Tablespoon French dressing (60 calories, 0 g protein)
  • 1 Tablespoon butter/margarine (102 calories, 0.1 g protein)
  • 1 Tablespoon honey (65 calories, 0 g protein)
  • 1 Tablespoon cream cheese (50 calories 1 g protein)
  • 1 Tablespoon chocolate syrup (52 calories, 0.4 g protein)
  • 2 Tablespoons raisins (54 calories, 0.6 g protein)
  • 2 Tablespoons BBQ sauce (50 calories, 0.2 g protein)
  • 1 Tablespoon Ranch dressing (85 calories, 0.2 g protein)
  • 2 Tablespoons avocado (40 calories, 0.4 g protein)
March 21, 2014

Potato Soup

This is a great low-Phe version of sausage and potato soup. That’s what I made for my husband and some guests last night, and this attempt of the low-protein version turned out really tasty so I thought I’d share it. It was so good I didn’t remember to take a picture until I had finished my firsts and was dishing up the leftovers to put in the fridge.


Here’s my best stab at a recipe:


  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 Tb olive oil
  • 2 tsp Better Than Bullion Chicken flavor
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 2 cups frozen hash browns
  • 1/3 cup frozen peas
  • 1/2 cup cream of corn
  • 1/8 cup green onion, chopped
  • 1 Tb cream cheese
  • pepper
  • paprika


  1. Sautee onion in olive oil over medium heat for 2 minutes, or until onions are transparent
  2. Add water and bring to a boil. Add chicken flavor and garlic.
  3. When that dissolves add hash browns, peas, cream of corn, and green onion. Reduce heat to medium low
  4. Let simmer for a half hour or longer
  5. Before serving stir in cream cheese and add pepper and paprika to taste
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March 19, 2014

Chow Mein and Oriental Salad

I didn’t actually make these on the same night, but I thought they would go well together. The chow mein was something I had never made before and it turned out really well the first time! It’s a simple recipe. The oriental salad is something I’ve done many times. It is great when you’re craving something fresh and crisp.

Panda Express Chow Mein: RECIPE


I followed the above recipe except I left out the celery. Here are some pictures of the process.


Sauteing the onionsImage

Making the sauce

Chopping the cabbage

I used the yaki soba noodles the recipe calls for. But I thought for someone with a lower Phe tolerance these noodles would work really well:


0 g of protein


Oriental Salad

Ok as you know, recipes are not my strength, so I’ll do my best to write down how I make this for you. The spinach is just to make it healthy.


  • 1 head cabbage, chopped
  • 6 oz bag of baby spinach
  • 3 cans mandarin oranges, drained
  • 1 1/2 cups crunchy chow mein noodles
  • 3 green onions
  • Oriental salad dressing (i.e. Ken’s Sesame Ginger, Kraft Asian Sesame)

The directions are pretty self- explanatory. You just put it all together. But if you will not being finishing the whole salad in one sitting I recommend adding the chow mein noodles, oranges, and dressing to your portion only, because in the fridge it all gets soggy.

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