Night Out – Scottsdale Restaurant Review and Phoenix Zoo

If you find yourself in Scottsdale, I would recommend checking out Old Town which has a variety of restaurants, shops, bars and art galleries. Ken and I stopped at Barrio Queen on our way to an evening at the Phoenix Zoo, which stays open late on the first Thursday of the month for an adults-only experience of the zoo. Anyone with a gluten sensitivity knows Mexican cuisine is a great choice when dining out, especially if you can tolerate corn. I usually avoid corn, but when dining out I do make concessions and when it comes to Mexican food, corn is one of those. Ken and I sampled a couple items on the Happy Hour menu and I thought they were exceptionally good.

At Barrio Queen we tried the Pork Tinga Poblano Pepper and Carnitas Sopes. The Pork Tinga Poblano Pepper (foreground in picture below) was pretty spicy, but the sliced avocado it was served with was a welcome accompaniment to temper the spice. Ken nor I had ever tried sopes before, so this was exciting to try. The sopes were very filling as masa is quite dense. Both of these happy hour dishes were very generous portions and a great bang for your buck. 

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As I mentioned the Phoenix Zoo stays open late on the first Thursday of the month and hosts a 21 and older crowd for full run of the zoo. This is a great way to experience the zoo, especially if you’re a 30-something adult without children. A few years ago Ken and I thought it would be good idea to go to the Seattle Zoo on Easter, thinking since it was a holiday it might be less crowded. Boy, were we wrong! Easter+ Zoo+kids+ Easter eggs = No fun for us! We only managed a quick walk through before we decided to abandon the zoo altogether. The Roars and Pours event at the Phoenix Zoo was a much more pleasant way to enjoy the zoo. We were also really impressed by how healthy all the animals looked, especially the flamingos compared to the ones we saw at the Seattle Zoo. For some reason I have a special fondness for flamingos, so that was my favorite exhibit.

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Tuna Cakes

I have been a little obsessed with tuna lately, especially Safe Catch flavored tuna, and this might be my favorite way to eat it. I love crab cakes but crab is expensive and I have a slight sensitivity to it, so making tuna cakes is a great alternative. Ken isn’t much of a fish fan, but even he said these were great. These can be eaten on their own, paired with a side salad or topped with poached eggs for a brunch-like dish at home.

If you wanted to splurge on crab, I am sure these would taste just as good, just amp up the seasoning a bit, as noted below. To make these gluten-free/grain-free  I use almond flour in place of bread crumbs. I do this for pretty much any dish that calls for them, and these tuna cakes are no exception. I don’t like to use rice flour or pre-mixed gluten-free flour blends because I don’t think there is much nutritional value there and I try to be grain-free as much as possible. Nut flours or other grain-free flours will work just as well. Try experimenting with cassava flour or tigernut flour if you have a nut allergy or sensitivity.

Ingredients – serves 2-4

  • 2- 5oz cans of tuna. I used Safe Catch chili lime and citrus pepper. If you are using regular tuna, just add additional seasoning, such as chili powder, lime or lemon zest and juice, lots of black pepper, garlic, etc.
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp mayo
  • 1/2 tsp tamari
  • 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
  • dash of paprika and cumin
  • 1 stack celery finely minced
  • 1/4 c almond flour

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Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. I like to break up the tuna in the can before dumping into bowl since this allows for an easier incorporation into all the other ingredients. Once combined, form into four patties. Place patties on a baking sheet lined with parchment (for easy cleanup!). Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour.


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After refrigerating, heat a skillet and coat with oil such as avocado or ghee and olive oil blend. Then cook patties over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes per side or until a nice crust has formed. I served mine with some Remoulade sauce, but tartar sauce or a hollandaise would also be good. You can find the recipe of the sauce I used here

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Paleo Snacks with Celery

I think celery is great as a snack but only when paired with the right foods, because who wants to eat plain celery stalks? Some may remember when my doctor prescribed I juice several stalks of celery a day to help with blood pressure, but the taste was too difficult to choke down. Still, I like celery in its whole form and it can be a satisfying snack due to its crunch factor. Eating whole celery can still help regulate blood pressure due to its potassium content as well as aid in hydration, which is great since we are entering into our hot season here in Arizona. So instead of reaching for chips or crackers to satisfy a crunchy snack craving, I will try to reach for more celery. Here are a couple ways to snack with celery.

Paleo Ants on a Log

Everyone knows of the childhood snack of celery topped with peanut butter and raisins, but here is a paleo alternative with an added protein factor. This time instead of using peanut butter, use almond or sunflower butter and top with chopped bacon…because everything is better with bacon! If you can find sugar-free bacon this makes for a Whole30 compliant snack.

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Celery with a Spicy Cilantro Sauce

I love dips and spreads, but as most know dip is rarely healthy. This version is extremely healthy and can be modified in a variety of ways to adhere to different dietary preferences. This version is made with plain goat’s milk yogurt, but you can easily sub in a paleo-friendly mayo to make this extra rich.  The yogurt adds a good source of protein to this dip.  Alternatively, you can add more vinegar to thin out and make this into a dressing for salads. I prefer mine on the thinner side so I add the full amount of red wine vinegar noted below.

Spicy Cilantro Sauce


  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • 1/2 c plain yogurt or mayo
  • 1/2 jalapeño
  • 1/8 tsp garlic powder or 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar (increase to 2-3 tbsp for dressing)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (if using mayo, reduce olive oil or omit altogether)
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Add first five ingredients to blender and while running drizzle in olive oil. Once combined and all the cilantro leaves are finely minced, I taste to determine how much salt and pepper I want to add, then add and give one last pulse. I store my extra sauce in a mason jar and use as needed in salads, over grilled chicken or as a dipping sauce for snacks.

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Gluten Free/Dairy Free Peanut Butter Cups

Ken loves his peanut/peanut butter and chocolate treats. Peanut M&Ms are one of his favorites, but so are peanut butter cups. Now, I am not going to even attempt making a healthier version of M&Ms, but peanut butter cups are pretty simple. These can be modified into a paleo version by substituting almond or sunflower butter for the peanut butter.  My objective here was to make these as tasty as the originals from the supermarket, but without all the artificial ingredients. I have been tweaking these over the past couple of weeks and the recipe below is Ken’s favorite.

For the peanut butter filling take 1/4 c peanut butter and add in 1 tbsp coconut flour, 1 tbsp Swerve confectioner’s sugar and 1/8 tsp vanilla extract. I mixed this together with a mini whisk, but a fork will do just fine. The goal is to make the peanut butter thick so it doesn’t seep out from the chocolate layers, plus adding a little sweetness. I have seen recipes that use honey as the sweetener but the consistency is still too runny for my liking, but if that is what you have on hand, go for it. I am sure regular confectioner’s sugar will work too, I just don’t have any of that at my house.

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For the chocolate, I used Enjoy Life milk chocolate mega chunks. Semi-sweet or dark chocolate works just as well, but Ken prefers milk chocolate and this is the brand of chocolate chips we use at home for any other baking (or snacking ;)) Melt 1 c chocolate chips with 1 tbsp ghee in a double boiler, or place a bowl over a sauce pan with simmering water. The chocolate is less likely to burn than melting it in the microwave.

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I don’t have a muffin tin, so my cups turn out a little wonky, but if you have a muffin tin I would encourage you to put six paper liners in then begin the layering process. Start by putting 1 tbsp of the melted chocolate mixture in the bottom of each paper liner.

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Then shake your pan gently so the chocolate smooths out evenly. Then layer 1/2 tbsp peanut butter mixture over the chocolate. The peanut butter will be very thick so shake gently to even it out slightly.

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Finish by adding 1 tbsp chocolate over the peanut butter and shake to even out chocolate layer once more. Then refrigerate for an hour and you are ready to snack.

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Recipe  makes 6


  • 1/4 c smooth peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp coconut flour
  • 1 tbsp Swerve confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/8 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 c Enjoy Life mega chunks
  • 1 tbsp ghee


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Avocado Tuna Cups

I am back after a long hiatus! I suppose the start of spring signifies new beginnings and for me that means I am re-inspired to get back to blogging. The last five months have been busy and trying. I am still on my job hunt, which takes up a lot of time and can be draining. In December I fractured a rib in a bicycle accident (lots of bed rest)! And we have been doing some traveling, so all of that has left me uninspired to do much cooking. That is now being rectified. I will have several new posts in the next couple of days, so stay tuned!

First up, however, is a new favorite of mine that I eat for breakfast or lunch. I am sure when I get back into the workforce this will be an easy lunch to take to the office with me since no assembly or reheating is required. These tuna cups are portable and you can make a lot at once so you have an easy meal to grab-and-go. A few months ago I discovered a new tuna on the market made by Safe Catch. They created six flavored tunas and they are all great. For me, it is worth the price since it gets me to eat more tuna which is high in potassium and omega 3s, all good for my health. You can find this tuna on Amazon, Thrive Market or direct from Safe Catch’s website. Today I used Tandoori flavored, but I have tried these tuna cups with the other flavors and you can adjust your add-ins to suit your preferences.

You start the tuna cups by hollowing out your avocado halves, leaving about a 1/4″ flesh.



I put the avocado flesh in a bowl and add 2 tbsp vegenaise, salt and pepper and mash together.  You can sub in plain yogurt, regular mayo or nothing at all for the vegenaise if you want to lighten this up a little. Then I add in my drained canned tuna, 2 tbsp chopped pickled red onion, 1/4 c diced tomato and mix all together. You can easily use grated onion or scallions instead of pickled red onion, but I am obsessed with pickled onions so that is my go-to.  It might look like a hot mess at this point, but it will taste good.



After everything is mixed together you will spoon back into the avocado halves. I top with a little fresh cracked pepper and sea salt.

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Ingredients – serves 2-4 

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  • 2 avocados
  • 1/4 c chopped tomato
  • 2 tbsp chopped pickled onion, grated onion, or chopped scallions/chives
  • 5 oz can of your preferred tuna
  • 2 tbsp vegenaise, mayo, or plain yogurt
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Stuffed Peppers

This is another favorite in our house, and one that you can make with just about any kind of filling. I came up with the recipe below years ago, even before the days I was grain-free, AIP, or today’s diet. The nice thing about this recipe is that it pretty much fits into any dietary restrictions (with the exception of AIP). I modified today’s stuffed peppers by incorporating what I had in the fridge and pantry, so it really is versatile depending on what you have on hand. Ken prefers his stuffed peppers with rice as they have a tendency to be watery, so after I filled two peppers with the filling I added about a cup of instant Spanish-style rice to the remaining filling and made those for Ken.

My filling today consisted of:

  • 1 lb Isernio’s spicy chicken Italian sausage
  • 2 c chopped kale
  • 1/2 chopped onion
  • 4 oz chopped mushrooms
  • 1/4 tsp onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 8 oz tomato sauce

My tomato sauce had garlic, onion, and other seasoning so I did not salt and pepper the filling, but normally would.

Once the sausage and vegetables are cooked through, I gutted the green bell peppers and filled to the top with the seasoning, making sure I pack it down as I go.

I didn’t baste these with sauce during he baking process as I normally do, but I did drizzle with olive oil so they did not dry out.


I’ve been patiently waiting for my supplements to kick in and boost my energy levels, but it’s time for my diet to also do its part so I made a couple dishes today in big batches which include cauliflower. Cauliflower can help promote energy levels and having lots of leftovers on hand is helpful for when I feel too tired to cook…which I feel has been more often than not. Ken’s been doing a lot of the cooking lately but on nights like this when he is working late I need to step up.

The first dish I made today was another cauliflower cheese recipe. It was so simple and perfect over riced broccoli, which is a great makeover of broccoli and cheese. I plan on throwing in some canned chicken for lunch tomorrow and have a super easy meal full of vitamins and protein.

The next dish I made was a makeover of an already lightened up version of jambalaya. You’ll see I have the nutritional information at the bottom of the page. I have no idea where I got this recipe but I’ve had it for at least 10 years. I made a full batch of the original recipe for Ken, and another for me which uses cauliflower instead of rice and I omitted the sausage. It seems like a lot of work to make two separate versions, but this recipe is so simple it was barely anymore work than doing one.

Ken’s batch, which is made to the specifications of this recipe.

Mine starts with browning the chicken…

Then removing the chicken and adding in vegetables…

Once the vegetables have cooked for a minute, add back in the chicken and the rest of the ingredients.

That’s it- just wait until the liquid has absorbed, about 25 minutes.