Quick things come from boxed cakes…

It seems that I’m always volunteering for something. Church, school, local events, you name it, and I’ve helped. My favorite is helping with the children’s activities. This morning we helped out at church and provided childcare while the parent attended a talk. At the end, we all get together (parents and children) to enjoy some light snacks and conversation. I usually end up watching everyone else eating, but lately I’ve been bringing fun creations that take no time at all.

My lovely sister-in-law introduced me to The Cake Mix Doctor. She made some wonderful muffins and shared her secret recipe from the Cake Doctor’s Gluten-Free recipe book. This morning I made Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip muffins using Betty Crocker’s gluten-free cake mix. This time, I didn’t have to stand behind and watch everyone else enjoying the muffins, I got to enjoy them too. I even made a few extra and put them in the freezer for the future.

The best part of the book is that the recipe variations contain ingredients I already had in my house (sour cream, vanilla, applesauce, etc), so not having to go out for special ingredients was wonderful. She even puts in little bullet points to show how to make certain recipes Dairy Free as well.

This is a great gift for someone you know that is starting their gluten-free journey. What a nice way to spread the gluten-free Love! 🙂

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Be Prepared…

I’ve been talking to so many people this past month who want to start a gluten-free lifestyle, but don’t know where to begin.  My mantra has always been, “It’s about substitution, NOT elimination.”  But, when your hungry and you want to eat a donut, it’s hard to think clearly about what to substitute.  That’s why preparation is so important.

Before you go gluten-free, you need to think 2 steps ahead.  Not only do you have to think about what to have in your own house to snack on and prepare foods, but you need to think about what is available when you are not at home.

Here are some things to keep in mind when preparing to go gluten-free…

Home:

Eating at home takes the fear out of cross-contamination.  Whenever you can prepare items yourself, you can take ownership of the process and that takes the anxiety out of eating.   It’s hard to do, but planning a menu is very helpful to make sure you have ingredients on hand.  Most gluten-full recipe ingredients can be substituted with gluten-free ingredients.  Taking the time to read the recipe beforehand, will give you time to see what you need to purchase or can substitute.  There is nothing worse than standing in the pantry when your hungry trying to figure out what to make.

Snacks needs to be quick, easy and healthy.  Portion control is important with snacks, so keep a measuring cup close by for nuts, or read the serving size for each item and stick to it.  When in doubt, go fresh and local and eat whatever is in season.  Here are some things to consider keeping on hand…

SNACKS

  • Nuts and seeds (almonds, pumpkin seeds, pistachios, sunflower seeds)
  • Gluten-free pretzels & humus
  • Celery with laughing cow cheese or peanut butter
  • Gluten-free corn chips and salsa
  • Yogurt with fruit (add nuts & seeds)
  • Prepackaged gluten-free cookies (Annie’s, Enjoy Life, Trader Joe’s, etc.)
  • Gluten-free Chex mix (make a big batch – it lasts for weeks!)
  • Cut-up veggies and ranch dressing
  • Gluten-free crackers and cheese

FOOD PREPARATION

  • Gluten-Free bread crumbs (Panko Style and Regular)
  • Gluten-Free Bisquick
  • Corn Tortillas
  • Rice Flour & Corn Starch for breading or thickening
  • Quinoa, Wild Rice, Brown Rice, White Rice (Great side dishes)
  • Fresh potatoes and sweet potatoes (Great side dish)
  • Canned beans (Refried, black, garbanzo, etc.)
  • Jarred salsa
  • Gluten-Free Pasta (Rice for White Sauce / Corn for Red Sauce)
  • Gluten-Free broths (Chicken, Beef & Veggie) – Great for cooking rice & quinoa in!

Eating Out:

Eating out takes whole different kind of preparation.  It can be very stressful for people and some people would rather stay home than deal with the inconvenience of their diagnosis.  I like to be prepared so I don’t have to make a “big deal” about what to order.  This is “my” eating problem not everyone at the table.  Therefore, I want everyone to enjoy themselves without being concerned about what I’m going to eat.   I also want to make sure that what I’m eating isn’t going to make me sick, so I usually do the following…

  • Research the restaurants reputation in preparing gluten-free menu items on the internet (Gluten Free Philly is a great Blog locally).
  • Review the menu and choose something before I get there.
  • Contact the chef before dining to see if they are knowledgable – otherwise…let the eater BEWARE!
  • Keep notes and frequent gluten-free friendly establishments.
  • Contact local groups to see if they have a list of restaurants they support (Gluten Intolerance Group (GIG).

FOOD ON THE GO

If you are like me, I’m on the go all the time.  I’m in one door and out the other.  We are a busy family with activities every night and all weekend.  My family is not gluten-free, so I need to balance what I can eat in their world.  My problem is not their problem, so I make sure I have food with me all the time as a back-up.  Here are some things I keep in my backpack or purse, just in case we end up in a facility that cannot accommodate my diet restrictions.

  • Protein bars (Kind bars are my favorite and are like a meal replacement)
  • Raw nuts
  • Peanut butter (snack size)
  • Gluten-free crackers, pretzels or rice cakes in plastic containers so they don’t break.
  • Gluten-free soy sauce (Tamari)
  • Gluten-free salad dressings
  • Sliced gluten-free bread
  • Cheese sticks
  • humus (snack size)

The most important thing I bring when we go on vacation is homemade granola.  It’s simple, lasts a long time and is great for breakfast, snacking or as a dessert.  It takes the stress out of eating for me at hotels and on the road.  I eat it with yogurt or vanilla almond milk in the morning for breakfast.  It’s great on fresh fruit, ice-cream or by itself.  It makes a large amount, so keep it in an airtight container and enjoy it for weeks.

Remember…

“Poor planning on your part, doesn’t make an emergency on mine.”

It’s ALL about Choices

I’ve read so many articles lately about how gluten-free eating is not healthy and it is a passing fad.  Well, I am here to DEFEND gluten-free eating.  First of all, it’s all about CHOICES!

If you choose to eat a box of cookies (gluten-free or not), you will get fat!  Yes, it’s true that gluten-free products are high in fat and calories and sugar, and the portion sizes are much smaller than gluten-full products.  But, if you are dependent on eating processed foods before going gluten-free, than you have a much bigger problem that gluten-free eating can help.  Portion control is a huge issue for many people, and gluten-free foodies need to be even more aware of it.

When I first went gluten-free I did notice that I lost several pounds very quickly, probably from reduced inflammation.  But, then I put the weight back on, probably from eating high fat things to satiate my need for carbs.  My main food for the first year was homemade granola.  It was perfect to snack on and I would eat it all day long.  Problem was, it was really high in calories and fat and I didn’t measure it out, I just grabbed it by the handful.  Once I  figured out the portion I could eat per day, I dropped the weight and was back to where I wanted to be.

My answer to the “Is eating gluten-free healthy” question, is to eat less and eat fresh and local.  If you can’t do that on a gluten-full diet, than you won’t find the benefits of being gluten-free either.  I was asked by a friend recently what I eat when I’m hungry now!  When in doubt…eggs are a quick and easy thing to eat.  I try to eat egg dishes that contain a little of each food group (proteins, vegetables, dairy, etc.), so Quiche is a great way to get them all in one meal.

Here is an easy recipe for a Crustless Ham and Roasted Red Pepper Quiche.  No kidding, it took 15 minutes to prep and 30 minutes to bake.  It freezes well and is great for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

 

Roasted Red Pepper Crustless Quiche

Ingredients
8 thin slices bacon, about 6 ounces or ¾ cup of ham cubed (cooked and crumbled)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning
2 medium shallots, finely chopped
1 tsp. minced flat-leaf parsley (or ½ tsp. dried)
¼ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 cups half-and-half
4 large fresh local eggs
2 large egg yolks
Freshly ground black pepper
Generous pinch freshly grated nutmeg
4 ounces grated Gruyère or Swiss cheese, about 1 cup
1 roasted red pepper (from jar or made fresh)

Directions
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Cook shallots in olive oil until tender add cooked ham/bacon and parsley. Remove from heat, cool slightly.

Spray a 9-inch glass or ceramic pie pan with butter flavored cooking spray and sprinkle evenly with the grated Parmesan and shallots. Scatter half the Gruyère into the pan and crumble the bacon/ham mixture on top of cheese.

Whisk the half-and-half, eggs and yolks in large glass measuring cup. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste. Pour the custard over the fillings. Top with remaining slices of red pepper and remaining cheese.

Bake until the Quiche is just set in the center, about 30-35 minutes. Cool completely on a rack before serving.  Can be made in cupcake pan and cooked for 15-20 minutes or until set.

To roast pepper, remove stem and seeds.  Cover outside skin with vegetable oil.  Sear over open flame of gas stove or grill.  Allow the outside to char, but not catch on fire.  Turn frequently.  Put charred pepper in a brown paper bag and allow to steam.  Remove skin, slice and store in dish with olive oil.

Chocolate “bling-bling” Cupcakes

Oh WOE is Me!  Poor poor Bebe!  No gluten…No fun!

Well, I sure have you all fooled.  I’m secretly delighted when I bake something and after everyone devours it with great satisfaction, I tell them that it didn’t contain any gluten ingredients.

This week, at the start of Lent, my 9-year-old son came to me and announced that he was “giving up gluten” for Lent.  Partially because he wanted to be a better eater in hopes it would bring on a growth spurt (in his mind), but the second reason was incredible.  He has been telling me for years that there was something in his nose, but it wasn’t a “booger.”  When I (or his doctor) would look, he would point at the inflamed tissues of his nasal cavity.  He said he was tired of trying to eliminate it digitally (which I was constantly yelling him for picking his nose) and told his dad and I that he wanted to see if eliminating gluten would get rid of that awful feeling.

When I explained to him that he would have to give up his usual cereal, bread and snacks and only eat mine, he was fine.  He wasn’t even fazed.  To take even more stress off, I explained that Cool Ranch Doritos don’t contain gluten ingredients, and that’s all he needed to hear.  To make it easy for him and give him some independence, I wrote a “G” on everything in our food pantry that he could eat.  Much to both our surprise, there were a lot of “G’s” to choose from.  Matter of fact, there were more “G’s” than not, and we never even realized it.

It was unfortunate that he decided to go gluten-free the day before Valentine’s Day.  Being the home room mom, I took class room parties very seriously.  I’m used to coordinating allergy free products for other children, but never for my own.  Instead of providing gluten-full snacks for the class and one gluten-free for my son, I decided to make the class a gluten-free snack and not tell them the ingredients.  We went to the library, found a Betty Crocker cupcake book in the recipe section and found a recipe for marshmallow filled chocolate cupcakes.  Yum-Yum!

The morning of the party, I prepared a box of Betty Crocker gluten-free chocolate as cupcakes.  It’s a very easy recipe that calls for 3 ingredients (just like the gluten-full box mix), but it required a full stick of butter.  YIKES!  Not very healthy.

I hallowed out the inside of the cupcakes with a grapefruit knife and filled the centers with a mixture of vanilla icing and marshmallow cream.  So easy!  I replaced the top of the hallowed out section and iced each cake with plain white icing and topped it with a sweet tart.

My son was thrilled when he passed them out to the class, waited until they devoured them and announced that they were gluten-free.  No one cared and everyone was sad that there was only enough to have one per person.  I would’ve made more, but they were quite expensive to make at $4.50 +/- box, plus the price of butter and eggs.  Yikes!

It was all worth it to keep my son on the right track and hopefully give him some relief from his discomfort.  I’m keeping a log to see if he has that growth spurt and how he’s feeling through the next 40 days.

Recipe for Marshmallow Creme-Filled Cupcakes (12 cupcakes per box)

Cupcakes

  • 1 Box Betty Crocker Gluten-Free Chocolate Cake Mix
  • Water, Butter & Eggs called for on cake box mix

Filling

  • 1 Cup Vanilla whipped ready-to-spread frosting
  • 1/2 cup marshmallow creme

Frosting

  • 1 can Vanilla whipped ready-to-spread frosting

Pre-heat oven as directed on box mix.  Place paper baking cups in each of 12 muffin cups. Make and bake cake mix as directed on box using water, butter and eggs.  Cool 10 minutes then transfer onto cooling rack to cool completely.

With a knife, melon baller or grapefruit knife, make deep, cut or 1/2-in-wide indentation in center of each cupcake.  In a small bowl, mix 1 cup vanilla frosting and marshmallow creme.  Transfer to a pastry bag or plastic bag with the tip cut-off.  Using a pastry bag, fill each cupcake with creme mixture.  Replace hole cover if necessary.  Cover tops of cupcakes with icing and decorate with your favorite gluten-free sprinkles or colored sugars.

Cup4Cup

I have a confession….I’m addicted to buying gluten-free flour.  I stop in the aisles of every grocery store, TJ Maxx, Home Goods, Ross and Tuesday Morning to see what unique gluten-free flours are hidden on their shelves.  I used to buy them for the curiosity, trying to figure out what each type of flour was good for.  Then I bought them for necessity once I knew the flour types that worked for my recipes.  But, most recently, I find myself buying blends of flours that help me recreate the flavors from my “previous” life, also known as my “gluten-full” past.

For the last two years, I’ve stood by the mantra, “it’s not about elimination, it’s about substitution,” but secretly, I missed my homemade scones, muffins and coffee cakes.  I do enjoy using almond flour for my recipes, but it’s too decadent (and expensive) for a 7-year-old to “hork-down.”

When last I counted, I have 9 different types of flours in my closet.  I call it my “flour bin” and everyone in the house knows when I pull it out, something is going in the oven.  Much of the time I don’t use flour blends.  I’ll use corn or rice flour for breading, almond and coconut flour for flavor and texture and tapioca and rice flour for thickening.

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However, for baking I did try to make my own flour blend using brown rice flour, tapioca flour and garbonzo bean flour.  I’ll be honest, it was nutritionally better for me, but there was a strong “beanie” after taste that didn’t work in baking.

For Christmas, I received a bag of Cup4Cup baking flour from my San Francisco sister.  It was a VERY generous gift as she paid around $25 for the 2 lb. bag (Wegmans has it for $15ish).  Cup4Cup was “developed in the famed French Laundry kitchen in Napa Valley, Calif. Co-founder Lena Kwak, then the restaurant’s R&D Chef, started devising a gluten-free flour blend. One day, a diner tasted Lena’s brioche and cried because she hadn’t eaten bread for a decade. Inspired, Lena refined the proprietary multipurpose blend, encouraged by her mentor, Thomas Keller, Chef/Owner of The French Laundry”.

Cup4Cup Flour

The true test of flours in my house is the Toll House Chocolate Cookie recipe.  My family LOVES them.  I’ve perfected the “puffy” style (more cake like) using wheat flour, so I was curious to see if I could recreate the texture using C4C.  I’m excited to say, they were darn near perfect.  Matter of fact, the whole family agreed that their flavor didn’t taste any different from the “gluten-full” style they were used to.

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Next I made Grandma’s Blueberry Buttermilk Coffee Cake.

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Again, the flavor and texture were EXACTLY like the original “gluten-full” recipe.  This was the closest in taste I’ve been able to come to the original since going gluten-free two years ago.

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Since everyone liked the C4C recipes, there is no longer a need to make separate pans of “gluten-free” and “gluten-full” for my family.  This cuts down on the chances of cross-contamination, saves money on all the ingredients, and only having one type of flour in the house, instead of nine, is going to save us even more money.

Can’t wait to try their new pizza dough flour!  That will allow me to get the three different types of pizza crusts out of my pantry as well!

Thanks C4C for making life a little easier in my house!

Nancy’s Buttermilk Coffee Cake Recipe

Heat oven to 350 degrees – Grease 9″ round cake pan

Cake:

1/2 cup Butter Softened
1 cup Sugar
2 cup Cup4Cup Flour
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Baking Powder
1 cup Buttermilk
1/2 tsp. Baking Soda
Topping:
1/4 cup of crumb mixture (above)
1/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Combine butter, sugar, C4C, salt and baking powder in a bowl with a pastry blender until crumbled into small pieces.

Dissolve baking soda into buttermilk and add to dry ingredients.

Stir until moistened (it’s very thick).  Pour into greased 9″ round pan and poke with 1/4 c. blueberries (if desired).  Sprinkle with topping.  Bake 35-40 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Gluten-Free Tortilla Soup

My sister makes the BEST Mexican tortilla soup.  She’s famous for making it after football games and the heat from the spices always warmed you up from the inside out.  Problem is, the ingredients she included in her recipe weren’t available in  my local grocery store.

I really had it in my head that I wanted to make that soup.  So, I headed to Wegman’s to  seek out new ingredients to use.  Instead of Campbell’s Fiesta Cheese soup, I found LaPreferida’s nacho sauce.  It was really thick, but all the reviews I read said that it was very “flavorful,” and they were right.

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Next I found Image Harvest Corn Soup in place of Pacific Brand Corn Chowder, which was not listed as gluten-free on their website.  It was perfectly thick, creamy and sweet.

The best part of this soup is that you just put everything in a crock pot and cook on high for 3-4 hours.  I served it with fresh avocado, sour cream and g.f. corn chips.  I’ll be honest with you, it had great heat, but the avocado and sour cream gave it a nice creamy end.

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Try it and let me know what you think!


We had our with a nice glass of wine, but a gluten-free Redbridge beer would’ve been excellent with it!

 

 

Minnie’s Tortilla Soup

  • 2 split breasts with bone in and skin on (remove chicken from bone and shred when cooked)
  • 1/2 box of Image Harvest Corn Soup
  • 1/2 can La Preferida Nacho sauce
  • 2 cans Ro-tel Original tomatoes
  • 1 can Black Beans (drained)
  • 1 can Corn (drained)
  • 1 box G.F. Chicken Broth (Homemade is best)
  • Fresh Chopped Cilantro, Red Peppers and Sour Cream for Garnish