Summer deux in Baltimore

Hi. It’s been a while?

Here’s a quick update:

  • I finished my required coursework for my graduate program in May. This was followed by an 8-hour written comprehensive exam on said coursework a couple of weeks later. Which I am happy to report, I passed!
  • A week after that, I started my six-month practicum (internship) at the City of Baltimore. I am working in the Department of Planning in the Office of Sustainability in the Food Access group. In essence, we coordinate at the policy level (primarily city government) to alleviate and prevent food deserts in Baltimore. Some work is done around state and federal policy but it all plays out in how we can get more healthy food to more people. My team has been described as a “power house” and I’m trying to keep up and help when I can.
  • Scott and I celebrated our first year in Baltimore. Well, we didn’t officially celebrate, but we did notice its passing and enjoy our first round of city seconds — the 2nd Artscape we attended, the 2nd Baltimore Improv Festival, and the 2nd summer where I find out I have never known what it is to be sweaty before a Mid Atlantic summer.

So, from the hectic school year to getting settled in my practicum, I have not really felt like writing here. A not-insignificant part of this is that I am not exactly sure what this blog should be. As you’ll likely remember, I started this blog to chronicle my journey through a very restricted diet, one which was gluten, soy, corn and dairy free. A lot of my mental space went to reading labels, planning meals, and navigating the world outside of my allergen-free kitchen. I kept this diet for about eight years and it worked for me. I wrote a few months back about a visit to the physician on campus who recommended I try adding foods back into my diet to see what happened.

Scott and I were both curious and skeptical about how this experiment would play out. Much to our surprise (and relief), my body was able to tolerate these foods and I have enjoyed an unrestricted diet for the first time in years (possibly ever). This lifted some stress from my already challenging school year and has allowed me to think about other things aside from obsessing about my food. I’ve enjoyed eating out, drinking beer, and generally spending less time worried about everything that goes in my mouth.

So, I don’t know what this blog will become. It might die a quiet death on the interwebs. I’ve been thinking about some other content that might be fun here. If nothing else, it’s been a really nice venue to share my thoughts over the last few years. And people have told me they’d read what I write, so I might just do that.

Second Term Confessions.

I self-diagnosed my food allergies in the middle of a gigantic life transition in 2008-9. I was honestly not well, did not trust any form of establishment, and was pretty sick of feeling out of control in my life.

So, I put myself through an elimination diet. I tried to listen to my body. I ate like a Buddhist monk (apt description – thanks, LB) for years. My diet invaded every social space and relationship and became intimately wound up in my identity. Like things do.

And, it wasn’t until I got my chronic depression in check that I actually started feeling better. I couldn’t remember why food made me sick. I also had room in myself to question my past decision. So this fall, under medical advice, I slowly added back all the foods I had restricted for the last 7+ years. I started about three months ago with dairy, then corn, and finally a few weeks back with the ominous gluten.

And…nothing happened.

No reactions. No complications. My mucous membranes appear to be intact. The stress around controlling my kitchen, eating out, and kissing Scott after he had cereal is gone. Instead, I am focusing my energy on eating everything I haven’t enjoyed in years. Like Thanksgiving stuffing and pie, pizza and tortillas and Girl Scout cookies.

This is really improving my quality of life and my hopes for future travel (and meals). And it frees up a lot of mental space as I attempt the arduous journey through my graduate degree.

So that’s it, guys. I’m eating the food. I’m studying food. I’m loving Baltimore with my fella. Things are good. Insanely busy but full of gluten, soy, corn, dairy and life.

Fall Formal (aka grad school prom) at the B&O Railroad Museum, Baltimore, MD | 2015


Day Trip to DC!

IMG_20150729_114302This week, I met a good friend from Idaho in Washington DC. He came to town for training with the Veterans Court and was able to sneak away for some sight-seeing. This is the first time I have spent much time in the capitol city, aside from when my brother, Michael, and got desperately lost in DC late at night on our cross-country trek to Norfolk, VA. That time, we accidentally drove past many significant buildings, but did not have a chance to explore.

This week’s trip was quite intentional, comparatively. We saw the White House and took an obligatory selfie. We walked on to the National Mall, where we viewed the National Monument and several impressive memorials, including the Abraham Lincoln, World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War Memorials. My friend is a military veteran and we talked about what kind of memorial will be created to honor those who fought and died in Iraq and Afghanistan.


After nearly melting into puddles at the Lincoln Memorial, we escaped the swampy heat by going to the International Spy Museum. It is not one of the many free museums in DC, but it is very engaging and interactive. I cannot wait to take my nephew there someday. Before the afternoon ended, we walked past the Ford Theater, where Lincoln was assassinated, and stopped at one of the Smithsonian Museums (mainly for AC and phone charging).

Scott drove down after work to join us for dinner at Zaytinya with mezze (small plates). It was great to see a friend from home and explore the nation’s capital. It is amazing to me that it only takes 1 hour and $8 on the train to explore this city.  I posted many more pictures on my Instagram account, be sure to check them out there!

Breakfast for dinner, salad with breakfast, and making a home.

Kale salad

We have been in Baltimore for just about a month, now, and to be honest, I have not had an easy adjustment. Scott started up at a small software company shortly after we arrived and I have been left to…entertain myself. School starts in another month and in the meantime, I have been very domestic. I am not used to having this much unstructured time. I am actually used to the opposite.

I have missed home and my tremendous support system. I have very deeply experienced that I am far away from the place I have lived 86% of my life. I truly enjoy Baltimore, I love exploring the city and settling into life here. But frankly, I am sucking at it. I am overwhelmed with the extent of the newness surrounding me and my current lack of occupation. There are lots of things I can do, I know – explore, study, relax, blah blah blah, but I am instead struggling to structure my time. It is a process. I know that in a few weeks when I begin school again, I will miss my leisurely days.

But for now, it’s a challenge. Here, Scott has been exposed to the Jenny Who Does Not Change Well, the side of me that is Slow to Warm Up to New Things. I realize now that I have always had the “home-advantage” in our relationship and now we are equally new and alone. And I think we are doing well. We’re developing new closeness and new kindness for ourselves and each other. We were both ready for a change and a challenge, and here we are.

But let’s talk about food. When we first moved here, we ate out a lot. I was setting up the kitchen and there were so many fun, new options to check out. Just a few short steps away from our place, there is Turkish, Thai, sushi, pizza, etc. Eating out is far more expensive here, and I’m now cooking at home more. It is part of settling in, it is something I enjoy, and it is a way to care for us.  The recipe/ratio I am sharing today came when I made breakfast for dinner (“brinner” or “dinfast”). I made gluten free waffles, breakfast sausage, and scrambled eggs. We had some kale in the fridge that we needed to use up, too. I decided to make a sweet and acidic dressing for the bitter, kale greens.

Balsamic-Maple Dressing
4 cups kale leaves, washed, dried, and torn into salad-sized people
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
salt & pepper to taste

Prepare kale by pulling the leaves off the stem. Wash and dry the leaves. Tear into salad-sized pieces and place in medium-sized bowl.

In a small bowl, mix balsamic vinegar and maple syrup. Adjust ratio to taste. Stir in crushed red pepper flakes.

Pour over kale and gently massage dressing into the leaves until it is distributed evenly. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste and enjoy.

Happy 4th!

Happy 4th of July!

Scott and I are working on the new apartment and plan to walk down to the Washington Monument later this afternoon. We are meeting family and friends of our Idaho friend, Ruth for a potluck and fireworks this evening.

I hope you all enjoy your day, whatever it entails. Please remember to be considerate of pets and veterans/service members in your neighborhood.

Baltimore beginnings.

10988515_10206510722383374_6095418534834984404_nAfter four days and four new tires, we arrived in Baltimore, Maryland. We filled a 15-foot U-Haul with our stuff and towed Otto (the car) from the high desert to the East Coast. We listened to a “book on tape” – Seveneves: A Novel by Neil Stephenson. Seveneves is a science-fiction story about the end the world. As far as road trip stories go, it was enjoyable; dramatic – but hey, the end of the world is kind of a big deal. We are still finishing the end of the book so I won’t (can’t) ruin it for you.

Since arriving in Baltimore, we enjoyed eating at the myriad of restaurants nearby. There’s no end to the good eats. For example, across the street, there is a place with gluten-free, vegan pizza that is pretty tasty. There are also some fun neighborhood grocers – Indian and Asian markets with fun ingredients at great prices. I haven’t been to an Asian market since I lived in Portland, Oregon, in 2009. Yay for city living!

We’re mostly settled in our new place. We lived in a duplex in Idaho with a stereotypically creepy Southeast Idaho-style unfinished basement, a small lawn, two parking spots, and a detached garage. In Baltimore, we’re in an apartment that is larger than the top floor of our old place, so we pared down significantly. We are truly one household.

Scott started at his new job this week and I am enjoying some downtime before I start classes in August. We are putting the finishing touches on our place and I want to rest up before the term begins. I also plan to explore Baltimore before my hectic grad school schedule begins. My personal challenge do one new thing in my new city every day (at least during the week). So far, I have visited a local barbershop for a fantastic, cheap, low-maintenance haircut. Today I purchased Old Bay Seasoning, which generously spices everything here – from shrimp to Bloody Marys. We’ll follow the natives’ example and try it out at home, too.

All in all, we’re good. We’re getting life here setup and looking forward to our time here in Baltimore.


Note: The party hats were a gift from some Dungeon & Dragons friends’ daughter. During our last game night, she presented us with the personalized party hats as  going-away presents.

Idaho State University Graduation and beyond!


The end of the school year was a whirlwind of exams, celebrations, and farewells. I graduated with my Bachelor of Science in Dietetics on May 9 and moved back to Idaho Falls the next week. I just got an email that my diploma is in the mail!


Earlier in the semester, I found out I was selected as the Outstanding Student Achievement Award recipient for the Division of Health Sciences. I was so honored! I got a fancy medal with my name engraved on the back. I also led my college into the graduation ceremony.

It was an academically and professionally satisfying year – and just as important, I made some wonderful friends and enjoyed the campus community. All-in-all, I had a blast. It was a wonderful year to end my undergraduate career.

Next month, Scott and I are moving to Baltimore, Maryland, where I will pursue my graduate degree at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. We are  looking forward to this adventure on the East Coast with new opportunities.

All-in-all, I am grateful for the last five years at Idaho State and to the friends and community I have gained there. I felt supported, challenged, and cherished by the faculty in my department and staff around the school. I found great friends who I will certainly stay connected with for years to come. I discovered a meaningful career path (or at least the next couple of steps!)


I Choose ISU interview and grad school

Hello everyone! I was recently interviewed for my university’s “I Choose ISU” profile. You can check it out here:

My senior year has proved to be a busy one! I decided last semester to apply to coordinated graduate programs that would allow me to get a master’s degree and complete the supervised practice hours needed for the Registered Dietitian exam. I am waiting to hear back from one more school but look forward to new adventures ahead.

I have been micro-blogging on other sites, so I am working to feed some of that content back here to Jenny Bee Cooks. I look forward to connecting with you all again and sharing some of my busy student, allergen-free survival tips!

Gluten-Free Grilling

This summer, I decided to buy a grill and teach myself how to use it. After an hour at our local Lowe’s, we came home with a charcoal grill, a chimney, and some grilling utensils.

I decided on a charcoal grill because it was easier and cheaper for our initial grill purchase, and the employee at Lowe’s talked us into going with a chimney instead of using lighter fluid.

grill collageThe chimney is very simple to use:

1. Pour desired amount of charcoal into chimney.

2. Stuff newspaper in the space underneath the charcoal.

3. Light the newspaper.

4. Wait 15-20 minutes for the charcoal to turn white then pour onto the grill.

While the charcoal heats up, head back into the kitchen to get the food ready to toss on the grill.

Once the charcoals are white-hot, pour them in the grill in a small pile and replace the cooking grid. Now you’re ready to grill!

You can grill just about anything. Meat, veggies, fruit, etc. Here are some tips for a safe, gluten-free cookout:

  • Be safe. Cook your meat until it’s at a safe internal temperature. Read temperature at the thickest part of the product. (I have this food thermometer. It’s a little spendy but absolutely amazing.)
  • Be mindful of cross-contamination. Don’t put ready-to-eat food on the same plate that held raw meat. Cook gluten-free food before gluten-containing food. Use separate utensils as necessary.
  • Be assertive about your food needs. Talk to your host in advance (or your gluten-free guest) to make sure there is appropriate food available. Food allergens can be sneaky. For example, I attended a BBQ recently and the hamburgers had been seasoned with a spice mix that also had corn starch, so I could not eat it.

Have fun! There are tons of great grilling recipes out there. Next on my list is grilled gluten-free pizza (!!!).

Gluten-Free Teriyaki Sauce

Gluten-free, soy-free teriyaki sauce is hard to find, but I made it on accident.

In a small bowl, combine equal parts:

  • Sesame seed oil
  • Maple syrup
  • Plum Vinegar

Add garlic chili paste if desired. Start with a small amount and add more to taste.

Use it as a marinade for meat or vegetables, or as a sauce over noodles or rice. Enjoy!