Friday, November 22, 2013

Gluten-Free Hostility

A fellow gluten-free blogger, GlutenDude, wrote a very timely post that I just had to share.  I have to admit, I was never really a Jimmy Fallon fan, and now even less so.  And, I will also admit that many times when I see gluten-free mentioned in TV shows or movies, I think it is kind of funny too.....but not this time. It was just a stupid skit all around.

I have heard, before, of people speaking about the negative remarks they receive from people when they know they are gluten-free, but I have never personally experienced that...until yesterday.  Sure, I have had friends that are not really aware and are skeptical, but I have never come across someone with such clear hostility and anger toward me about it.  I was shocked, confused and mostly hurt.

I really don't like to write anything negative about anyone, especially someone in my real life, so to avoid any hurt feelings (though mine have been hurt), I will try to write this as anonymously and in general terms as possible.

At an event yesterday which centered around food (don't they all), my friend, who I will call H, offered to bring a gluten-free version of what he was bringing.  He works in the food industry and knew the people cooking would prepare it properly.  When the food arrived and I saw it, I was so excited, because honestly, I never expect to eat at events that center around food, because it usually isn't safe.  I would rather eat before, or after and do without...because the consequences of getting just a little bit of gluten would ruin my night and have me puking for hours.  Not really a run way to spend the evening.

I suggested that I would take some of the food before others handled it because I didn't want to worry about cross-contamination from shared utensils.  And you know how sketchy things can get in a buffet situation, which is usually a scenario I steer clear of....unless it is an Indian buffet!  H hands me a serving spoon, which I saw was just used on something fried and not gluten-free.  I told H I was going to go get a fork, because I couldn't use the same serving spoon.  Well, the reaction I received was overwhelming....H told me that he had no other serving utensil and rolled his eyes like I had asked for a bag full of crisp hundred dollar bills.. I said, that was OK, I was going to get a fork....and I did!  But, while I did, I overheard H talking to a mutual friend standing next to him about how this was all bullshit and ridiculous.  I didn't know what to do.....part of me was so hurt I was near tears, and part of me was so angry at someone being so insensitive.  Someone who I thought I knew well.  If I had a peanut allergy would he of reacted the same way?

I always try to be super polite about my needs and any accommodations someone makes for me, and I never go into a social situation assuming there will be something for me.  After almost 5 years, I am fine with going to a social event and not eating.  It was difficult at first, but I am fine now.  I know my comfort level, and I know what will happen if I take chances...never worth it!

At the end of the night H asks me to take the plate of gluten-free food he brought. It was quite a lot of food, so I asked if maybe some other people would want to bring some home as well.  He rolled his eyes and told me no one wants the gluten-free food.  What?? This is food that is naturally gluten-free unless you add something why would someone not want it?  There was no flour in it, nothing in it to make it taste different, and he was just so sure no one would want this food.  In the end, I found plenty of takers.  No one cared if it was gluten-free or not.

Would this person of been so hurtful if someone with a peanut allergy told him they could not use the same spoon.  Why do people have to be so negative?

Have you had an experience like this?  Do you think awareness will help, or are some people just forever closed off to thinking it is a big deal?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Giveaway: Glutino Peppermint Yogurt Covered Pretzels

First, let me say, I love all things peppermint, and I love the holidays!  I am one of those people that want to put my decorations up right now!  When I feel a chill in the air, I am ready to snuggle up to Love Actually, and a mug of Mexican hot chocolate with a sprinkling of crushed peppermint on top.

I even bought extra candy canes last year, just so I could crush them in my food processor and enjoy "peppermint sugar" year round.  So, when these babies arrived in the mail today from Glutino, I almost could not not contain myself. It took major self control to wait the hour I had, to pick my daughter up at school, so we could enjoy the first bite together.

Glutino yogurt covered pretzels are already one of my favorite snacks...add peppermint to them, and I will follow you anywhere.  They were even better than I could have imagined, a total treat! You cannot eat just 1, or 20!  My daughter loved them just as much, and I have had to put a couple away in the corner out of reach, just so my husband can try them when he gets home from work.  But really, I am the one with celiac in my family, so I am allowed to inhale all of the gluten-free goodies that come my way, right?

So, because I am so enamored with this savory, sweet minty treat, I asked Glutino if I could give some away to a fellow gluten-free eater out there.  To enter this giveaway of 2 bags of gluten-free Glutino Peppermint Yogurt Covered Pretzels please leave a comment below about your favorite holiday treat with your email (or how else will I be able to get these sent to you), and tweet about this giveaway on Twitter, with a link to this post.

I will draw a winner, at random, on Friday, November 22nd at 10pm.

Good luck, you will not be disappointed!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Giveaway: Glutino Corn Bread Stuffing

A fun, new giveaway!

Who doesn't like free stuff, and really...who doesn't like stuffing...especially corn bread stuffing! It doesn't need to be a holiday, stuffing can be a fun side anytime. Gosh, I could probably eat an entire bowl of it for lunch, or who am I kidding, I could eat an entire bowl just because any time of the day, any time of the year.

So, when Glutino sent me a box of their gluten-free corn bread to sample, I made it immediately.  The stuffing is already formed into bread crumbs, and includes all of the herbs and seasonings needed. All you need to add is oil, onion, celery, broth and 2 eggs.  I served it as a side with our dinner and gravy, it has a great homemade flavor, and was hit with my family

Corn bread stuffing makes a perfect side for the holidays, especially when you don't have time to make corn bread from scratch. This is a quick and tasty solution, and you can easily serve this to your friends and family that don't eat gluten-free, and I bet they won't know the difference.

This also makes a great solution if you are traveling for the holidays, or spending the holidays at someone's who is not gluten-free, and you want to be able to prepare something away from home without making a mess or needing many ingredients, or having to look for gluten-free flours in a place where you are not familiar.

The stuffing is only available seasonally, so supplies are limited, and is available anywhere Glutino is sold.

Glutino and I would love to give 2 winners a box of their very own cornbread stuffing to try.

Please leave a comment below and tell about your favorite side at Thanksgiving.  Also, and very important, please leave your email (this is important, otherwise, I an unable to contact you and let you know that you won).

This giveaway will be open until Friday, November 8th, and I will draw 2 random winners and announce them that night.

Good luck!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal Pancakes

2013 seems to be the year of "pumpkin spice".  Everything from coffee to Hershey's kisses, so I figured I would play this game too. Why not....everything in fall is better with pumpkin, right?  Like pumpkin brownies, can't go wrong with pumpkin. Tis' the season!

I have made pumpkin pancakes previously, with caramelized bananas, but this time I added oatmeal to make them a bit heartier, and for an added bonus I added some chocolate chips.  This is basically my guarantee that Z will eat her breakfast.  And who am I kidding, I like the chocolate too. They really taste more like a big cookies, but a bit healthier.  They are also just as tasty sans chocolate chips.

Pumpkin Spice Oatmeal Pancakes

1 cup gluten-free oats
1 1/2 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup cooked pumpkin (canned or fresh)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I use grapeseed oil)
2 eggs
1 tablespoon sugar

1 cup + 1 tablespoon gluten-free baking mix/all-purpose flour, (I use Pamela's Baking & Pancake Mix)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)

butter or coconut oil for the griddle

Combine the oats with the following 4 ingredients in a large mixing bowl, and let sit for an hour or overnight;

After sitting, whisk in the eggs, oil and sugar;

Add the flour, baking powder, and baking soda, mix until combined;

Stir in the chocolate chips if using.

Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat.  Ladle the batter onto the griddle using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Lightly brown on both sides and serve warm.

You can keep the pancakes in the oven set at 150' while finishing the batch, or serve/eat as you cook.

I like to serve with a dollop of Greek yogurt and a sprinkling of cinnamon, and a side of fruit.

Now, you will be ready to take on the day!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Pumpkin Brownies - easy peasy

'Tis the season of the pumpkin.  The possibilities are endless...pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin soup, pumpkin pie, pumpkin crisp, pumpkin bread, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin pasta, pumpkin spice chai......  And the great part is that pumpkin is good for you too, so you can at least make yourself think....this dessert is ok, it has pumpkin in it.  At least that is how I justify it, and I'm ok with that.  With the changing leaves and cooler weather, the comforting flavor of pumpkin just feels right.

So, when Glutino sent me a box of their Gluten-free Pantry Brownie Mix, I knew what I had to do.

I know I really should have made the brownies according to the directions to give proper feedback, so I cheated a bit.  But, I have made their brownies before and loved them, so I thought I would dress them up a bit and give this box of brownie mix a fall makeover.

It's so simple, I really don't even need to write a recipe.  These brownies have only 2 ingredients in them! Yes, you read that correctly - 2 ingredients!!!

Pumpkin Brownies

1 package of gluten-free brownie mix

1 15-oz. can of 100% pure pumpkin

Preheat the oven to 350'

Prepare a 8x8 baking dish lined with parchment paper;

In a mixing bowl, combine the brownie mix with  the pumpkin until combined, and viola! That's it.  It is really that easy!

Now, pour the pumpkin brownie mix into the prepared baking dish and bake until set.  I baked the brownies for about 50 minutes;

Let brownies sit for about 30 min, and then cut.

The texture will be more fudge-like and less cakey, and it will be hard to eat just one...but hey, there is pumpkin in go ahead have 5!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

No-bake Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars

Peanut butter and chocolate, how can you go wrong?  And when it doesn't involve heating up an oven, hot mitts and cooling racks, it really is a win-win for everyone involved.  The calories are simply not an important factor here.

The other day I was thinking to myself about how I love baking even if I give most of my goodies away, it is just fun to go through the process in making it.  I think it is because I love the challenge.  I love proving that gluten-free baked goods can be just as good, if not better than their gluten-filled doppelgangers.  I had a friend announce the other day, whose wife is gluten-free, that gluten-free baked goods are horrible tasting, dense and dry.  I couldn't believe it...well, yes, I could believe it, but he obviously hasn't really gotten "out there" in the gluten-free world.  Sure, if you grab a random box of gluten-free cookies off the grocery store shelf, you are very likely to be disappointed and discouraged with what the gluten-free world holds.

Once you start baking at home, you will be amazed at how you don't miss the gluten.

I was craving making something easy that included peanut butter, and I thought chocolate peanut butter bars would fit the bill.  Most versions of this recipe include cookie crumbs, but I did not let that stop me. I used crumbled Vanilla Chex instead.  Really, any kind of Chex, or gluten-free cookie will do.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars

1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup powdered sugar
1 cup of gluten-free cookie or cereal crumbs (I used Vanilla Chex)
3/4 cup peanut butter 
1 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips, or baking chocolate

In a large mixing bowl, combine the melted butter, powdered sugar and cookie crumbs; 

Stir in the peanut butter until well combined;

Line an 8x8 baking dish with aluminum foil or parchment paper, and spread the peanut butter mixture evenly in the dish, set aside;

Place the chocolate in a microwaveable bowl, and heat for 30 seconds at a time, stir, and repeat until chocolate is a smooth sauce;

Carefully pour the smooth chocolate sauce over the peanut butter and spread so it covers completely;

Chill in the fridge for about 4 hours;

Remove from baking dish and cut into squares.  Store uneaten bars in the fridge.

It's a homemade peanut butter cup......only better!

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Simple Salsa

One of my favorite things about summer is pretending I am a real gardener.  When I first started blogging 5 years ago, my favorite thing to write about was gardening and cooking Yummy Tummies & Dirty Feet...and then I was diagnosed with celiac, moved to a house with all shade and no sunlight, and started this!  I was definitely no master gardener, but it was fun to play around in the garden and learn all the ins and outs to growing things, especially those I could eat!

Taken in 2008 with my little garden helper.

Moving from the Midwest to the Deep South was a big change too, I had to wrap my head around a new hardiness zone, longer growing seasons, and now plants that were once annuals are now perennials. A big bonus for me...except I live in a house with a garden that gets almost no sunlight.  Thankfully, my neighborhood has lots of community gardens, so every summer since we moved here, I have taken over a garden bed at my daughter's school.  It is great, and I end up loads of cucumbers, different kinds of squash, peppers, herbs, jalapeños, eggplants and tomatoes!!!

And let's face it, tomatoes really are the shining star of the summer garden. They are the top of the pyramid, they are what we wait for all summer!  It is so exciting to see those little flowers on the tomato plants start, that I find myself visiting the garden every day until I can get one!  I usually can't wait, and pick some while they are still green to make one my all time favorite, fried green tomatoes.

Once the tomatoes come in, the possibilities are endless.  I am lucky if I can get them home before I just eat them straight from the plant.  Especially those little orangey yellow sweet!  Simply making a tomato salad with freshly ground salt and pepper and fresh basil and mozzarella is hard to beat as a summer favorite.

But one of my all time favorite things to do with tomatoes is to make fresh salsa.  I like whipping up a batch on the weekend, so it lasts me through the week. In addition to eating it with corn chips, I like adding it to eggs, pasta, tacos, quesadillas, you name it....put salsa on it!

And if you don't have fresh tomatoes from the garden, that's can cheat (shhh, I won't tell) and buy them at your grocery store, and you will love this salsa all the same.

I have used this recipe for years, it is simple, easy and a great dish to bring to a BBQ or to jar and give as a hostess gift.

I have to admit, I just kind of throw things together, so you can adjust the amounts based on your taste preferences.  I am a spice wimp, so you may want to go heavier on the jalapeño, for example, but I love lots of cilantro.

Simple Salsa

1 - 1 1/2 pounds of tomatoes, if large cut in half. (any tomatoes will do, I like using a variety when I have it. If I am buying the tomatoes at the store, I will usually buy Roma.)
1/4 large onion, coarsely sliced
1 T fresh chopped jalapeño
3/4 cup fresh coarsely chopped cilantro
1 lime

1. Using a food processor, or a salsa maker, put together the tomatoes, onion, jalapeño and cilantro and blend until smooth with small tomato chunks or your desired consistency.  I like everything finely chopped and smooth. If you like it chunkier, that's good too;

2. Put salsa into a bowl; squeeze the juice of one lime into the salsa and stir to combine.  I like for it to sit at room temperature for about an hour before I use it so the flavors really combine, but you can eat at is hard to resist.

And that's that!  Can't get much easier.


Some garden-fresh tomato recipes I love for pasta, No Cook Tomato Sauce, Caramelized Tomato Pasta, and Summer Corn and Tomato Pasta.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Vanilla Chex Winners!!

Thank you to everyone for entering the Vanilla Chex giveaway.  I loved all of the good snack ideas.  I never thought to use Chex for cheesecake, I will have to try that next time! And my husband would love Chex mix with Sriracha.

The following names are winners of the coupons for 2 free boxes of Vanilla Chex.


Please contact me with your contact information so I can send you the coupons. You can email me at anne (at) glutenfreemusings (dot) com.

Thanks, and enjoy your Vanilla Chex!!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Pavlova - Southern Style

The first time I tried a pavlova was in my single days living in Chicago, and my dear Australian friend made this for my birthday.  I couldn't get enough, and I wasn't even gluten-free at the time!  I just thought it was the greatest thing ever and wished my friend would make it for me on a regular basis.  The pavlova originated as a dessert from Australian and New Zealand, and is traditionally topped with cream, strawberries, kiwi and passionfruit.

And the best thing of all about this wondrous thing called a pavlova, it is naturally gluten-free!! Yippee, don't you just love when some of your favorite foods are safe for you just the way they are? Score!

For my "big" birthday last year, I requested from my mom, who was visiting from Florida, to make me one, and she didn't disappoint. I saw the cover of the April 2012 issue of Southern Living and knew I had to have it!  I had this issue saved since April on my coffee table, just because I couldn't get enough of the cover.  She did not follow the recipe exactly, but it was our inspiration.

And it came out looking just as beautiful.  Thank you mom!

This past weekend, I was lucky enough to ring in another year with my family.  And while I love my family more than anything, I know them, and I knew I wasn't getting a homemade birthday dessert from my husband or daughter, so I had to take matters into my own hands.

As my very good friend, Julie, in Chicago once told me....I will set myself up for disappointment if I wait for something to be done, so I need to do it myself and just enjoy the occasion.  And that is what I did.  I made my own birthday dessert.  Of course, M had to clean up the kitchen, but hey, I cook, I don't do the messy stuff.  It's the least fun part of the whole cooking experience.

Since, I picked up fresh Georgia peaches that morning from the Grant Park Farmers Market, I decided to whip up a pavlova (just one layer this time) with a Southern twist as this year's birthday treat.

A pavlova looks and sounds a lot more intimidating than it is.  It is simple....meringue, cream and fruit, and viola! There you have it.  The fact that it is simple is what makes it so good!  It also keeps easily in the fridge if you can't finish it, but it will be difficult not to go back for second, thirds......

The most crucial step in the whole pavlova-making process is to get good, clean egg whites.  My suggestion...seperate them one egg at a time, so if you do mess up, you will not ruin all the eggs at once, and need to run out to buy more in a frenzy of panic.  Trust me on this one.

We went out for an amazing birthday dinner with my family, to Wisteria, which had a delicious gluten-free menu, and then came home to this:

I may have made my own birthday dessert, and received funny looks from my friends, but hey, I wasn't disappointed. Thank you Julie for that wise tip!

It is important to make sure you have parchment paper before you start this recipe.  It is also important to note, that you don't want to assemble the meringue, cream and fruit until just before serving, so it is at its freshest.

Pavlova with Fresh Peaches

4 egg whites
1/2 cup fine, white sugar
1/2 teaspoon creme of tartar
parchment paper 

Cream topping
1 cup of heavy cream
1/2 cup of mascarpone or ricotta (different textures, but equally as delicious)
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

fresh fruit for topping - sliced strawberries, blueberries, or sliced ripe peaches.  Any fruit will do. If using sliced fruit, you can slice ahead of time and toss in a bowl with a teaspoon of sugar and let sit for an hour, which will make them juicy and saucy.

Preheat oven to 250'

In a mixing bowl, beat the egg whites and the cream of tartar at high speed with an electric hand-mixture until foamy.  Gradually add the sugar until it dissolves.  Continue mixing until the egg whites become firm, stiff and spoonable, about 4 or 5 minutes;

Place parchment paper on a large cookie sheet.  Place a dinner plate upside down on the parchment paper and use a pen to trace around it.  Remove the plate.

Gently spoon the egg white mixture into the traced circle, and spread evenly;

Place in the oven, and bake for one hour, turning tray after 30 minutes;

Turn the oven off, and let the meringue sit in the oven with the door closed, but oven light on for 2 hours, or until meringue is completely dry.

For the cream topping, combine the 4 ingredients in a mixing bowl, and use an electric hand-mixer until it becomes stiff, and spoonable.

Once ready to serve, spoon the cream onto the finished meringue, top with the fresh fruit and serve.  To save leftovers (if there are any), carefully cover in plastic wrap, and the pavlova will be equally enjoyable the next day.

Bon Appetit mate!

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Farro: It is *not* gluten-free

Today, while eating at one of my favorite places for lunch, I had an very unfortunate experience.

I go to this place because their menu changes daily and they use fresh ingredients.  Best of all, they clearly mark what items are gluten-free, which is usually a majority of them.  Score!  I have been going here for years, and I trust them when they say something is gluten-free.  It is so comforting to have a place like this.

And because of these reasons above is why today's experience was so disappointing to me.

I noticed on their daily menu that one item contained farro, and it was listed as gluten-free.  I figured I would tell them about the mistake before someone got sick.  The response I received was surprising.  The server assured me they had done research and farro was safe, and the least gluten of all the wheat grains.  I probably had to pull my jaw up from the floor at this point, as I just didn't have words, and of course did not order that lunch item.  The server, who I can only assume does not have celiac himself, was telling me it was gluten-free!

My own crisis was averted when I ordered something not containing any grains, gluten-free or otherwise.

Later, I emailed the owner to let him know about this mistake and that just because something is "low gluten", it is not free of gluten, and should not be listed as so.  This is a place, I and many others have come to trust, and if all the sudden they are marking items gluten-free, when they should not be gluten-free, how can I continue to trust it?

Imagine, if a friend, or a co-worker were to pick up lunch there for you, and since it is labeled as "gluten-free", it is assumed to be safe.  And then you eat it, because you also assume it must be safe.  Only to be sick later.

Farro is an ancient variety of wheat grown in Italy.  It *is* wheat, folks!  It contains gluten!!  And while it may contain less gluten than other commercially grown wheat, it is not free of gluten.  Those with celiac should not eat farro, period.

When I hear back from the owner, I will update here.  Until then, have you ever had a similar experience?  Have you lost trust in a restaurant or company that you felt was a trusted source when labeling their items gluten-free?

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Giveaway: Vanilla Chex

I have to admit, I do like to indulge in Chex cereal every now and then, for breakfast, as a snack or even dessert at the end of the day.  And if not to eat in a bowl with milk, then I love make Chex mix, like Reindeer Chow during the holidays.  Sometimes I will even use the Rice or Corn Chex in place of bread crumbs in savory dishes.

General Mills recently introduced the newest flavor of Chex cereal, Vanilla, to their gang of gluten-free Chex cereals*.  I have to admit, while most people are fans of chocolate, I love me some vanilla!  Hot chocolate, egg creams, ice cream....I always go for vanilla!

And you should too!  Vanilla Chex are now available on grocery store shelves nationwide.  And to make it a little bit easier and sweeter, General Mills sent me some coupons for a free boxes of cereal to pass onto others.

Just respond here with your favorite gluten-free snack ideas, and I will choose 3 names to receive 2 coupons each on Wednesday, August 28th.  That gives you one week to give me your favorite snack ideas!

*Gluten-free Chex cereals include: Rice Chex, Corn Chex, Honey Nut Chex, Chocolate Chex, Cinnamon Chex and Apple Cinnamon Chex.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Dunkin' Donuts gluten-free options, yay or nay?

Earlier this year Dunkin' Donuts announced it would be testing some gluten-free products in a few of it's stores, and now it looks as if by the end of the year, we can expect to see them nationwide at their stores.  They will be offering gluten-free cinnamon sugar donuts and gluten-free blueberry muffins that are baked in a dedicated facility and individually packaged to avoid cross-contamination.

After reading Gluten Dude's post this morning, I am in full agreement... I just don't see this as exciting, at least not to me personally. I get it, there are people out there jumping for joy, and I can see how it would be great for special occasions, or for children who are no longer told they can't eat anything there when other kids are able to indulge.  Or when your child is at a birthday party watching all of the other kids enjoying donuts.  Sure, the donuts may not be warm and freshly baked, but they are something.

But will you eat them?

I won't.

Maybe, when I was first diagnosed, I would have been in the excited club,  and ran over to Dunkin' Donuts to try one, but not now.  Mainly, I didn't go to Dunkin' Donuts before I was diagnosed with celiac, so why would I go now?  I don't need to be adding something packed with calories, and non-pronounceable ingredients which I wasn't eating in the first place.

And, let's talk a little bit about the calories.... gluten-free items are often higher in fat and sugar so that they can keep up with the gluten-filled counterparts in taste and texture, and this is definitely true with the Dunkin' Donuts offerings.  The cinnamon sugar donut will be packed full with 320 calories, which is more than their gluten-filled glazed donuts (260 calories)!  Their blueberry muffin will contain 400 calories!  I don't know about you, but that doesn't sound like a deal for me.  That's a meal's worth or non-nutritious calories.

I have read several announcements online about this new introduction to the gluten-free world, and what gets me, is when the media makes Dunkin' Donuts out to be offering healthier options.  This is misleading.  Call it what it is...yes, they are providing options for those who are gluten-free, and kudos for that!  But, this is not a healthier option.  These items are still packed full of sugar, fats and non-pronounceable ingredients, so they can stay "fresh" in their plastic packaging.

The most important thing to realize is that, yes, celebrities might be touting the gluten-free "diet" as a way to loose weight.  The new gluten-free donut and muffin at Dunkin' Donuts will not help you loose weight like a celebrity, or even a non-celebrity for that matter.

Is it nice to have a gluten-free alternative when everyone else at the office or a birthday party is able to dig into that warm, jelly-filled donut...sure it is!  I am not denying that one bit.  But, if you weren't going to eat it before, why would you eat it now.

What are your thoughts on Dunkin' Donuts new gluten-free menu items?  Yay, or nay?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Are the trendies giving gluten-free a bad name?

We all know how "gluten-free" is a buzz word now.  It seems it is easier than ever to find "gluten-free" labeled packaging at the local grocery store chain.  Restaurants are labeling more food "gf" to try and attract more customers.  But is this helping us?  Or is it making more people just roll their eyes?

I get so excited when I see places near me offering "gluten-free" donuts, or "gluten-free" fries, or "gluten-free" pizza, and when anything on their menu is specifically labeled gluten-free.  It gets me giddy with excitement, even if I wouldn't normally eat a donut, or fries.  I like to know if I want them, I can have them.    But then when it comes down to it, and I am at the restaurant and I ask if their menu items are really gluten-free, and fried in a dedicated fryer, I get a response that is more and more common lately: "No, we do not use a dedicated fryer.  Our gluten-free items are not appropriate for people who must be gluten-free, or who have celiac."  I want to say a big...What the F*&k!!??? Seriously??????!!!!

Yes, you heard that correctly...I am told, they are not for people who actually *need* to be gluten-free. Well, wow.  So, basically, these places are printing up these menus, putting efforts into social media and marketing for those that are gluten-free by choice, not those of us who are gluten-free because it is medically necessary.  And apparently, these restaurant owners don't mind.  So, when I go to a restaurant now and see the lovely "gf" or whatever symbol they are using to denote a dish is gluten-free, do I believe it?

I mean really, people who are gluten-free because it is the "in" thing, because they want to stay away from carbs....are they the ones who are really ordering donuts and fries?? I can't imagine someone who is gluten-free because it is trendy eating food like this. They would be ordering a salad, and grilled fish....gluten-free, maybe, but not ordering some item using replacement flours.

And because of so many people wanting to eat gluten-free, when I am ordering at a restaurant, how do I know people will take me seriously when I say I need to eat gluten-free.  Maybe they will roll their eyes and think I am like all the other people doing it for fun.  Now, I feel I must say I have an allergy, so it is taken seriously.  Do servers need to think we will go into shock when ingesting gluten to be taken seriously, and that we are not just following some fad because it is fashionable?

Is it fair that anyone can slap a gluten-free label on their menu?

When you see a menu item labeled as gluten-free, do you feel safe, or do you feel you need to investigate just a little bit more?

Do you think the gluten-free craze it helping to bring awareness, or do you think it is a hinderance on the people who really need to be gluten-free to be healthy?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Parmesan Parsnip Fries

We all like French fries, who are we trying to kid, but sometimes it is nice to mix it up a bit, and maybe be a bit healthier.  Sure, we miss the days when we could go through the drive-thru and eat our favorite fast food fries, but really, homemade is so much tastier.  These are baked and not fried.

If you have never had a parsnip before, think a carrot on steroids.  They are a root vegetable, and located near the carrots or the turnips in the produce section.  They look like a bigger carrot, but they are white, and a little tougher to cut.  They have a nice sweet, earthly flavor.  In addition to making parsnip fries, I also like mashing them with some potatoes for some extra pizazz!

I use parsley in this version, but feel free to play around, and add whatever you have around or in your garden.  You can also leave off the parmesan for a vegan version.

These are pretty easy to pull together, and make a great side dish with just about anything.  Last night, I served this with our Summery Pea Soup with Fresh Herbs.

Parmesan Parsnip Fries

2 lbs of parsnips, cleaned, peeled and sliced into "fries" (see photo above)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground sea salt (regular salt will do too)
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
2 tablespoons finely grated parmesan
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat Italian parsley

Pre-heat oven to 425'

In a large mixing bowl, toss the sliced parsnips with the olive oil, salt and pepper;

Place parsnips in a roasting pan, in a single layer;

Cook for 20 minutes;

Sprinkle the parmesan on the parsnips, toss the parsnips and cook for an additional 15 minutes or until done;

Take roasting pan from oven and sprinkle parsnips with chopped parsley, toss again;

Eat while warm. You won't even need ketchup!


Monday, June 10, 2013

Summery Pea Soup with Fresh Herbs

I love soup, and I might be able to eat it 24/7/365!  Usually, when I think of pea soup I think of heavy, chilly weather worthy split pea soup.  I will be first to say, I love split pea soup as much as the next person, but Atlanta, in the summer, isn't the time to have rib-sticking split pea soup, so I thought it would be fun to have a lighter version for summer.

The first thing Z said when she sat down for dinner, "it's green."  You betcha' it's green, it's full of peas and fresh herbs!  I will admit, I used frozen peas.  Because while I am all for shelling peas and using super fresh ingredients, I just didn't have the time.  If you do, great, if not, frozen peas will be just as delightful.

This is a pretty simple and quick dinner to put together, and I am already looking forward to having leftovers tomorrow.

You may be scared to use so much mint and cilantro, but don't.  Trust me, it will not taste like candy cane soup.  The herbs help create the summery, refreshing feel of the soup.  If you do not have mint or cilantro on hand, you can be creative and use basil, or whatever you are feeling like at the moment.

This recipe can also be easily be converted to vegan, just omit the step with the cream.  The potatoes will thicken the soup enough without it.

Summery Pea Soup with Fresh Herbs

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup onion, chopped
5 cups broth (my favorite is "chicken bouillon" by Celifbr - gluten-free and vegetarian)
2 packages 10-oz frozen peas
1/3 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 small red potato, peeled and chopped into 1-inch cubes
1/8 cup heavy cream, could also use sour cream, or Greek yogurt (these are all optional)
fresh ground salt & pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in your favorite soup pot on medium heat;

Add the onions and sauté until softened, about 8 minutes;

In the meantime, boil the potatoes in a saucepan for 12 minutes or until tender;

Add the broth to the onions and heat to a boil.  Add the frozen peas and cook for 4 minutes;

Turn off the heat and add the chopped herbs;

When potatoes are finished, use a slotted spoon and add the potatoes to the soup;

Using an immersion blender, or working in batches with a traditional blender, blend the soup until smooth on slow speed (be careful not to fill the blender too much, or you will have hot green soup all over your kitchen and you);

Return the soup to your soup pot.  Stir in the cream/sour cream/yogurt if you are using.

May be served very warm, or can sit  for a bit and served at room temperature.

I served this soup with Parmesan Parsnip Fries.


Sunday, June 9, 2013

Return to being meat-free?

(I am going to ask for comments at the end, so please be prepared to write something)

Yesterday was a very lazy Saturday, so lazy that I never got out of my pajamas or even put in my contacts.  Z was feeling blah, so it was an excuse to stay in, catch up on reading, work on some crafty fun, and watch some movies.

We watched the 80s classic, Girls Just Want to Have Fun, which Z got a real kick out of.  She loved the clothes and the hair.  And I will admit I loved it as much as I did when I saw it in the cinema in 1985, Z saw it as an old-fashioned version of the series Shake it Up!  After the fun 80s nostalgia, I decided to watch something a bit more "educational", and put on the documentary Vegucated, which promotes a vegan lifestyle.

Vegucated is like many other documentaries I have seen before on the benefits of being meat-free and the atrocious treatment of animals.  I assume it is kind of preaching to the choir, because die hard meat and potato eaters will probably not be swayed. I love it, but I am sure there are many who would not consider to watch it as they are flipping through Netflix.

I was a vegetarian for almost 5 years after I had my daughter, though I did eat fish once in a while, so technically, I guess you can say I was a pescatarian.  After I was diagnosed with celiac, I gradually started eating bits of meat here and there.  It started because I would be at parties and BBQs, and there was very little to eat unless I brought my own food, so I ate a bratwurst here, some smoked turkey there.  From then on out, I probably eat meat about once every two weeks.  So compared to people who can't fathom a meatless meal, it is still relatively little, but I am still eating it.  Z likes meat and sees it as a treat, so about once a month I will make pork carnitas, meatballs, tacos or chili.

I try to stay on the periphery of the grocery store, and try to limit the buying of processed food items.  When Z asks for a snack, I give her fresh cut fruit, or yogurt.  Though, she won't refuse cheddar bunnies (who would?)  I try to visit farmers markets as much as I can, and I buy my meat at Whole Foods, which makes me feel like I am getting "happy" meat, but really, how "happy" and humane is it?

In the documentary Vegucated, what stuck with me most was a a scene where someone called an organic meat company asking how the animals were treated, how the cows were castrated, what happened to animals who were sick, how they killed animals...and guess what??  It wasn't much different that conventional methods!!  Animals are not given painkillers, they are killed with metal rods through their brain, baby boy chicks are killed alive, because they are not needed, chickens beaks are burned down, and I could go on and on...but you get the point.

Many of us have seen something like this before, and we know in our subconscious what really happens, but we try and push it out of our minds, because hey...we like bacon, we like pot roast, we like our Thanksgiving turkey.  And I do too!  I am not trying to pretend I don't.

So, how do we know if a small, organic farm is actually small enough that they treat the animals humanely?

I don't think I could be completely vegan, I do love yogurt and eggs, and while I know these animals are also included in the group above, I am just not sure it is realistic for me to think I could cut out all animal-based foods.  But, I have cut out meat before, so I know I could do it.

I know if I could go completely gluten-free there is really no other eating habit I could not accomplish.  In the past couple of months, I have cut out many of the processed foods I was still holding onto. I have cut out pasta, bread, crackers, chips (of course I may have an occasional chip at a party), cut down on tofu to once a week, even rice, which I love!  I always say I could live on rice and cheese, risotto is my favorite all time food, but I have stayed away from rice since March. And just a side note..cutting out these foods, finally allowed me to shed some pounds! Whoo hoo!

I am still baking...but I am giving it away, and not eating it.  I realized, I just love the act of baking.  And I am holding onto our traditional of Sunday pancakes.

But the focus of this post is meat, and how I really want to cut it out.  I don't think I would have a problem with it if I know it is form a humane, local farm, but I don't want to eat it otherwise.  I feel I am already very conscious about the food I buy (I try not to buy conventional veggies from outside the US), but I am going to be even more so (and buy more organic veggies/fruit that are from Georgia and the Southeast).

Please don't think I wrote this post to be preachy, it is just really a stream of consciousness about my own thoughts about meat and cheese.  I feel I have lots of research I need to do, before I know what really is "happy" meat, and does it even exist outside of me hunting and killing it myself?

I am very curious to know the thoughts of others?  How do you feel about meat?  What is most important to you regarding what you eat?  Please post your honest comments.  Thanks!!

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Salted Caramel Bars

It has been a very crazy few weeks, and now with my daughter out of school (and officially a 3rd grader), it was nice to have an easy, relaxed long weekend with my family and friends.  I go through ups and downs with cooking and baking.  Sometimes I feel I just lack any inspiration, and we eat many meals of roasted veggies.  Roasted veggies tacos, roasted veggies in pasta, roasted veggies with mashed potatoes.  You name it, I can add roasted veggies to it.

Cooking vegetarian, with an occasional fish dish, can sometimes wear me out.  I love getting creative with vegetables and legumes, but some days, I just want it over and done with, and put on a plate in front of me.  So, it was nice this weekend when I got the spark back to experiment, and wow, this was a sinfully delicious experiment.  I was feeling caramel, I was feeling cookie bar....after looking up several ideas, I took inspiration from many different recipes, and created my own gluten-free version.

BEWARE...these are ridiculously addictive.  Seriously, you need to make them to bring somewhere, because if you leave them in your own kitchen, you will not be able to resist.

The pictures may not be super pretty, and a little too "organic", but don't let the pictures fool you. No one will be complaining about how they look.

Salted Caramel Bars

1 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup powdered sugar
2 t vanilla
2 cups gluten-free flour (I used Pamela's Pancake & Baking Mix)

Caramel sauce
1 cup sugar
2 T light corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 t fresh ground sea salt
1/4 cup sour cream

Preheat oven to 325'


Combine the butter, sugars and vanilla in a large mixing bowl and use a hand mixer until smooth, fluffy and well blended;

Add the flour until combined;

Line an 8 x 8 baking dish with parchment paper;

Add half of the dough to the baking dish and use fingers to flatten and smooth to edges;

Bake for 30 minutes or until edges start to brown, place the remaining 1/2 of the dough in the fridge.

Caramel sauce:

In the meantime, add the sugar, corn syrup and water to a sauce pan, stir to combine and let sit on medium-high heat;

It will start bubbling, watch closely and when it starts to turn amber (about 8 minutes), turn off the heat, add the cream, and stir to combine;

Add the sour cream, and stir to combine;

Let sauce sit until the crust is ready.

Finishing crust:

When the crust is finished, spoon the caramel sauce on the baked crust (you will have lots left over - put in a jar and store in the fridge until you want a spoonful, or to put it on ice cream);

Sprinkle the sea salt over the caramel;

Crumble the remaining cooled dough on top of the caramel;

Bake for another 30 minutes, or until top crust starts to brown;

Let cool completely (at least an hour), and cut into squares.

Enjoy!  Don't say I didn't warn you.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Atlanta Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event, May 5th

How much do you love going somewhere where everyone is like you?  People don't look at you like you have a third eye.  Where you can eat food and not ask question after question, and then think so much about it that food no longer seems fun?

This is definitely me!  And that is why this weekend I am going to attend the Atlanta Gluten & Allergen Free Wellness Event on Sunday, May 5th at Gwinnett Center, about 30 minutes north of Atlanta.

The day is going to be packed with well known gluten-free speakers and endless gluten-free treats to sample from national and local Atlanta-area vendors.

For a full list of speakers and vendors, visit the event's website.

Hope to see you there! But if you cannot make it, you can follow the event on Twitter #ATLGFAFGWell.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Carrot Cake Pancakes

Who doesn't like carrot cake?  Put that goodness in a pancake, and let's just won't have leftovers.

Carrot cake is my husband's favorite, and it's not too far down my list as well. As long as it doesn't have any nuts in it.  My opinion....why ruin a yummy, moist cake with lumpy nuts!  I thought...why not make it into pancakes.  Apparently, I was not the first person with this idea.  I searched online and took my favorite parts from different recipes I found, and then made it gluten-free.

We are huge fans of pancakes in our house and it is our Sunday tradition.  From eggnog pancakes, to pumpkin pancakes, to oatmeal pancakes, to a family-sized baked apple pancake.  So much creativity can be done with these small fluffy circles of goodness.  Gluten-free be d*mned.....these pancakes won't have you missing a thing, and I bet if you served them to someone who was not gluten-free, they would not know what was missing...go on, I dare you!

These pancakes are pretty quick to whip up, and don't require any sitting time (like the oatmeal pancakes).  And for the literal icing on the cake, try some mascarpone topping instead of regular ol' syrup.

If you don't have carrots, this recipe works just as well with zucchini.

Carrot Cake Pancakes

Heat oven to 170'

3 T olive oil
2 eggs
2 T brown sugar
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/2 t vanilla
1 1/2 cup shredded carrots (easiest if done in the food processor)

1 cup gluten-free flour (I used Pamela's Pancake & Baking Mix)
1 t baking soda
1/2 t cinnamon
1/4 t nutmeg

butter or oil for the griddle

Combine the first five ingredients in a large mixing bowl and whisk until combined well;

Fold the carrots into the mixture;

In a separate small mixing bowl, whisk the 4 following dry ingredients;

Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and combine well;

Heat a griddle on your stovetop to medium heat, and melt butter or oil;

Ladle 1/4-cupfuls on the greased griddle until done like you like them.  While you are cooking batches, warm the pancakes in the heated oven on an oven-proof plate or baking dish.

Mascarpone Topping

3/4 cup mascarpone
1/4 cup powdered sugar
2 T buttermilk
1/4 t vanilla
1/4 t cinnamon

Mix the above in a small mixing bowl until well blended, and viola!  Put a couple of tablespoons on your stack of pancakes and enjoy!

Happy breakfast!

Thursday, April 4, 2013

A Sure Thing: Gluten-free cakes, cupcakes, donuts & more...

There is one question I get more than any other when it comes to cooking for someone who is do I make a birthday cake that will compare to a "regular" cake?

And here is my quick and dirty answer.  I am going to give it to you straight...Betty Crocker.  Yeah, that's right....Betty Crocker! And my other secret...buttermilk...but shhhhh, you didn't hear that part. And no one is paying me, or compensating me to say this.

Sure, it's not organic or full of ancient grains....but for that special occasion, it gets the job done.  Forget being clean, and just embrace the cake mix for this one occasion, because you will receive endless compliments, and not because it is good for a gluten-free cake, but because it is good for any cake!

I use Betty Crocker gluten-free yellow cake mix for donuts, cupcakes, birthday cakes, pineapple upside down cake, and even mini balsamic strawberry shortcakes (pictured above).  And when the cake mix calls for water, replace it with buttermilk, you will not be disappointed.  You are guaranteed to have  super fluffy and moist results.  If you don't tell people it is gluten-free, which is what I did with the pictured above when I brought it to a party, no one will know! I promise.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Review: del Carmen Cuban-style gluten-free black beans

Recently, I was given some samples of del Carmen Cuban-style gluten-free black beans, and gluten-free black bean soup to try.  I love black beans, so this was definitely a welcome product to sample!

First, I tried the gluten-free black beans.  They are stored frozen, so I defrosted them, and then heated them in the microwave in a glass dish according to directions.  I served them with steamed brown rice, and roasted salmon with Cuban seasoning.  M is not usually the biggest fan of beans...unless they are baked beans from his homeland, so I was assuming I would be eating most of these beans myself.  Much to my surprise, M and Z couldn't get enough.  They both ate up all their beans and asked for seconds!  M even made sure we had more in the freezer, so we could have them again.

Score!  A healthy side dish that was easy and quick to prepare!

I decided to serve the gluten-free black bean soup in a similar way, with steamed cilantro, lime rice and fish tacos.  Again, a huge hit in my house! I was just missing the mojito.

The gluten-free black beans and gluten-free black bean soup are extremely flavorful, but not hot, which I really appreciate, so they could be enjoyed by all of us equally.  And for a busy family, on days when I have little time to prepare meals, they are a great side dish.

Both black beans dishes are slow-cooked, and contain all-natural ingredients without preservatives and scary to pronounce words hidden in their ingredient list.

The gluten-free black beans and black bean soup are vegetarian and both contain:
Black Beans, Water, Carrots, Peppers, Celery, Onions, Orange Juice, Lime Juice, Garlic, Olive Oil, Lemon Juice, Sea Salt, Shallots, Sugar, Natural Spices

del Carmen also produces black beans and black bean soup that contain beer that are not gluten-free, so be sure to choose the beans that say 'gluten-free' on the label, near the ingredients.  They also produce gluten-free vegetable broth and gluten-free black beans and rice.

My only negative comment about these black beans are that they are currently only located in the St. Louis, MO metro area.  For those who live locally, you are in for a treat!  For the rest of us, let's keep our fingers crossed that they expand distribution so we can enjoy these tasty beans as part of our weekly meals!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Happy 2013... 22 days later

Happy 2013!  I know, I am a little late to the game.  How does time fly so fast?  Somehow having a child makes it go even faster.  It seems like only yesterday, I was eating what I wanted to, I questioned nothing, and I had a baby.  Now, I have a 7-year old, and I have to watch what I eat, and my personal care products like a hawk.

The holidays can be especially grueling, as we all know.  As a host to eager guests who want to bring dishes, and especially as a guest at someone else's shindig.  This holiday season, my family was unfortunately visited by the sickness running rampant through our neighborhood, so we ended up having to cancel most of our social holiday plans.  But, that didn't stop me from baking and creating yummy dishes at home, while playing nurse.

I have many recipes to catch up on from the past few weeks...snickerdoodles, peppermint chocolate cookies, hominy potato soup, sour cream pancakes, chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, and apple pie to name a few.

In the meantime, what was your favorite foodie memory from this holiday season?