Erin’s Story

Food sensitivity testing

I met Erin close to two years ago, while wearing my Propelle hat.

Since that initial meeting, Erin and I have had the opportunity to work together for a variety of reasons, including the food sensitivity testing. I must say that in addition to watching her build her business, this has been my favorite adventure of hers to witness. One that I am proud to have played a role.

I asked Erin if she would share a sentence or two about her experience with the food testing. Instead, she sent back the following piece with a little disclaimer: “I don’t know how to be brief. Especially in this arena; you changed my life, lady…” 

THIS. This is why I do this.


Erin Szymanski of Glitter and Grit Bridal Boutique(Photo Credit: Hot Metal Studio)

Before meeting with Emily, I was pretty resistant to “jumping on that train,” as I described the gluten-free craze I was noticing in my grocery store. But the more people talked about it and shared information, the more I came to realize that the way my body felt on a daily basis wasn’t actually normal; the pain, gas, and bloating that I explained away with reasons like, “I didn’t eat before I got hungry,” “oh, I have cheesy-belly,” and excusing myself from cooking dinner because my stomach had hurt so bad all day that I really just needed to curl up in a ball for an hour or so? Those things aren’t normal?!?

So, I decided to go for it.

I had no idea what I was getting into, but I knew that my quality of life needed to improve. I expected to have an issue with gluten, and maybe possibly dairy, as I had been lactose intolerant as a teen. The resulting two-page list of foods that my body was sensitive to, and that I needed to avoid, quite literally rocked my world. I had NO idea that some of the things I was eating every single day were contributing to that feeling; refined sugars, dairy, eggs, coffee, and yes; gluten.

The even bigger surprise was finding that one bizarre food group was causing pretty serious joint pain that I had been experiencing for about six months: nightshades. What the hell is a nightshade? Oh, you know, all of my favorite things: potatoes, tomatoes, and peppers, plus a bunch of other things that make no sense together. So, it was my love of spicy food that was making my wrists, knees ankles, and hips hurt so badly that I couldn’t do yoga, go hiking, or sometimes even sleep?

Mind: blown.

As I said, I had been prepared to have to go gluten and/or dairy-free for a while, but with all of the options available to accommodate both of those needs, I hadn’t been concerned. But did you know that most gluten-free options have potato starch in them? Did you know that some lunch meats do, too? Or that even those 5-ingrediant protein bars have dairy, sugars, etc. in them? Once you start reading labels and comparing them to the list of foods to avoid that Emily provides, it’s kind of staggering to realize all of the crap that is in our foods.

Suddenly having a list of foods that I could eat that was shorter that what I couldn’t would have been seriously intimidating, but Emily also provides shopping tips, with brands and items that will fit your needs, as well as websites, cookbooks, and other resources for recipes. She is also happy to discuss specifics any time you need a little guidance! To me, this was the true value of the service that Emily offers: the support. Also the encouragement along the way, to make my best effort in following the restrictions, but that it wasn’t absolute.

It helped to know that if I deviated, either consciously or by accident, that all wasn’t lost!

What amazed me were the results, though. I had had no idea just how badly I was feeling, every day of my life. I couldn’t believe how great I felt after just a few months of avoiding those foods. My days of living through a pretty constant discomfort are over, and It. Is. The. Best.

The most important thing in this testing was the fact the diet restrictions aren’t for life. The point is really to give your body a rest from filling it with junk, and to let your system clear up and figure out what it’s really having a problem with. When I went back to Emily for my re-test about a year after the first appointment, the results once again blew my mind: wheat and peppers. What a manageable list… and in the peak of summer, I found out that I could have tomatoes again!


And because I’m always curious about what people eat, I asked Erin to share some of her favorite recipes.

This was what she sent back:

Pinteresting Things

4 Great Recipes found on Pinterest

In my quest to find new inspiration and recipes to add to our weekly menu, I’ve stumbled across some (allergy-friendly) gems on Pinterest.

These have officially been added to my must-make list:

  1. Slow Cooker Chickpea Coconut Curry via PopSugar
    When The Hubster saw that this went on the menu, he was a bit confused. I’m not normally a curry fan, nor do I love cauliflower, but there was just something about it that sounded appealing. Maybe it was the coconut rice. Or that it looked like a warm bowl of fall yumminess. Whatever the case may be, I’m excited to try it out.

  2. Strawberry Chia and Quinoa Breakfast via

  3. Honey Soy Baked Chicken Thighs via She Wears Many Hats
    I pretty much love anything that involves soy, garlic, and/or honey. And this recipe has them all. Bonus points for looking ridiculously easy, so that this mama can have a tasty dinner while still spending time with The Babe. I also think this sauce would be great on salmon, which is how I will be preparing it for The Hubster.
  4. Peanut Butter Cookie Baked Oatmeal via The Oatmeal Artist
    You really can’t go wrong with a recipe that tastes like a cookie. Particularly when said cookie is for breakfast. I seriously cannot wait to give this one a try.

Looking for more Pinteresting things?

Make sure to follow me on Pinterest! You can check out all of my boards at

Fresh Corn Salad from She Wears Many Hats

End of Summer Corn + Tomato Salad

I’ve been on a menu-planning, Pinterest scouring, try new things rampage.

In the process, I came across this delicious Fresh Corn Salad from She Wears Many Hats.

Putting it on the menu was a no-brainer.


I am fairly certain that this recipe would be a thousand percent better with fresh corn. And am dreaming about what it would taste like with said corn on the cob roasted.

Alas, we only had frozen corn on hand. (What? I forgot to pick up a few ears at the store…)

Even so, it was delicious.

chopped tomatoes

Definitely tasted like late summer, when the corn and tomatoes are at their peak.

A little fresh garlic. A squeeze of a fresh lime. A sprinkle of fresh basil.

I’m drooling just thinking about it.

diced cucumber


We paired this salad with the Honey-Balsamic BBQ Meatballs and roasted sweet potatoes, but it would go nicely with just about anything.




On it’s own…

Pick your poison, it’s flexible.


Next time I make this bad boy, I think I’d add a bit more zing to the dressing. Don’t get me wrong, it was good. It just wasn’t as strong as I was hoping.

Maybe a bit of sweet with honey or maple syrup. Or a bit of zing, with a touch of cayenne pepper. Or even a bit more citrus with some lime zest.

Late Summer Corn + Tomato Salad

Want the recipe?

Head on over to She Wears Many Hats and check it out and/or print it out.

While you’re at it, check out her other drool-worthy recipes and bookmark to your heart’s content.

Get the recipe!

Giveaway: A Taste of Grow Pittsburgh 2014

A Tate of Grow Pittsburgh | Sept 21, 2-5 PM | Pittsburgh Center for the Arts

I cannot believe that one of my favorite foodie events — A Taste of Grow Pittsburgh — is almost here!

It always sneaks up on me, and this year is no exception. I have had Sunday, September 21st marked off on my calendar for months. I was thinking about it before The Babe was on the outside. And now…it’s less than two weeks away.

That’s less than two weeks until the best restaurants in Pittsburgh come together to offer a taste of some of the most delectable treats made with locally grown ingredients.

I just can’t even wrap my brain around it.

In it’s 5th year, A Taste of Grow Pittsburgh has lined up a dozen of their restaurant partners — including Grit & Grace, Superior Motors and Avenue B — who purchase locally grown produce to cook up a signature dish. Guests will also be able to indulge in a smattering of local beer and wine while enjoying live music and fabulous art.

It’s a serious afternoon affair.

And while all of that is pretty darn fabulous, the most fabulous part about all of it?

I have two tickets to give away.


Two tickets.
One winner.
$150 value.

And it could be you.

Here’s how to enter:

In order to be officially entered into this little giveaway, there are a few things you can do.

Things like:

  1. Leave a comment below with your favorite meal at any local restaurant.
  2. Tweet about the giveaway (click here to tweet):
    I just entered to win 2 tickets to @growpittsburgh’s A Taste of Grow Pittsburgh from @emilylevenson and you can too!
  3. Instagram it, baby. Take a picture of your favorite restaurant and/or your favorite local dish. OR, feel free to use the “come hungry” image below. Make sure to tag me (@emilylevenson) in the description and include #ATOGP14 #ComeHungryPgh
  4. Facebook it! Make sure to link to this post. And then come back and leave a link to the status update.
  5. Blog about it. That’s right. Create a blog post about the event on your blog. Make sure you link to this one.

The good news?

You have unlimited opportunities for entry.

The bad news?

You have until Wednesday, September 17th at midnight to get your entries in. Winner will be announced on September 18th. The giveaway is officially over! Congratulations to Molly, she is the lucky winner of two tickets to A Taste of Grow Pittsburgh!

PS—Please make sure you can actually attend the event before entering.

A Taste of Grow Pittsburgh 2014

Recipe: Honey-Balsamic Barbecue Meatballs

Honey-Balsamic Barbeque Meatballs (Gluten-Free)

I’ve always been a bit skeptical about meatballs.

Maybe it’s because they’ve generally been in spaghetti. Or that they tend to have pork in them. OR, the fact that every single ball of meat has cheese in it. Just. not. my. thing.

So when I put these bad boys on the menu last week, no one was more surprised than I was.

Uncooked Quinoa

Truth be told, I was curious as to how meatballs would taste with quinoa as a binder versus the breadcrumbs.

I was also rather impressed that the original recipe didn’t have an iota of cheese in it. A rare find in the meatball world.

But the best part? The honey-balsamic glaze. That is what pushed me over the edge into I-must-try-these land.

Honey-Balsamic BBQ Meatballs (Gluten Free)

The verdict?

These were quick and easy—a very new necessity in my kitchen thanks to a very active and curious 4-month old.

They held together well (go quinoa!).

And they were incredibly tasty. That honey-balsamic barbecue sauce was the bomb-diggity.

Honey-Balsamic Barbecue Meatballs (Gluten Free)

Honey-Balsamic Barbecue Meatballs
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
Original Recipe can be found here.
For the Honey-Balsamic Barbecue Sauce:
  • ¾ cup balsamic vinegar
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¾ cup ketchup
  • ⅓ cup brown sugar
  • 4 tbs honey
  • 1 tbs Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbs mustard
  • 1 clove garlic, minced or ¼ tsp garlic powder
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ⅛ tsp pepper
For the meatballs:
  • ⅔ cup water
  • ⅓ cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed
  • 1½lb ground beef
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbs Worcestershire sauce
  • ¼ tsp dried thyme
  • ½ tsp dried parsley or 1 tbs fresh
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp pepper
For the sauce:
  1. Combine balsamic vinegar through pepper in a saucepan and stir to combine.
  2. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally.
  3. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30-45 minutes or until sauce reduces by about half.
For the meatballs:
  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil. Place a cooling rack on top and coat generously with oil. Set aside.
  3. Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan.
  4. Add quinoa, cover with a lid, and reduce heat to medium-low.
  5. Cook until quinoa is tender, about 10 minutes.
  6. Fluff with a fork then cool slightly.
  7. In a large bowl combine ground beef, cooled quinoa, egg, garlic, Worcestershire sauce, dried thyme and parsley.
  8. Mix to combine using hands—it will be messy, but that's part of the fun.
  9. Roll beef mixture into balls (about 2-3 tbs each for 24 balls, less if you want smaller meatballs) and place on prepared cooling rack.
  10. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until no longer pink in the center.
  11. Transfer to serving dish and serve with the honey-balsamic barbecue sauce. If you want them a bit more saucy, you could dunk the meatballs into the barbecue sauce prior to serving.
  12. Enjoy!
Allergen Information:
Gluten Free, Dairy Free, Corn Free, Soy Free.


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