Saturday, September 7, 2013

Cauliflower Crust Pizza Recipe Review

Cauliflower Crust Pizza Recipe Review
Gluten-free, grain-free, and delicious!

Guess what? I am still writing this blog! I know it has been a few weeks since I had any new posts, but school started back up about a month ago, so I have been very busy. While I probably should be preparing grammar bell work for the coming week, I thought it wouldn't hurt to take a brief time-out to share this awesome recipe my husband and I tried tonight.

The ingredients:
  • grated cauliflower
  • plain Greek yogurt
  • eggs
  • Italian seasoning
  • sea salt
  • pizza sauce
  • mozzarella
  • pizza toppings
And a few of my thoughts: 

  1. This dish is perfect for the South Beach diet. My husband has been on Stage 1 for the past few months (against my better judgement), and he loved the opportunity to enjoy some guilt-free pizza.
  2. The crust held together very well, and was easy to pick up and eat (I had my concerns). It is actually quite fluffy.
  3. The recipe says it serves 2, but that's probably only true if you pair it with a salad or other side dish. It makes one roughly 10-inch pizza crust.
  4. I described the crust's taste as "interesting," while my typically more-pedestrian husband said it reminded him of an "artisan pizza" (not sure if has ever tasted one of those). Either way, it's definitely a culinary treat.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

When Dining Out Gets Dicey

What do you do when a restaurant--literally--serves nothing you can eat?

This has been a very busy, very family-filled week for me, and it included a number of family get-togethers. Fortunately, I love my in-laws, so the social aspect of it was awesome. Unfortunately, Friday night we met at an unfamiliar restaurant that--gasp!--didn't serve anything gluten-free. Ever been in that situation?

After politely asking the server about gluten-free menu items when we first arrived, I received the above information as I headed to the restroom. My response? I smiled brightly, said, "No problem!" and headed to the bathroom...where I did my best not to freak-out, break down in tears, or throw a tantrum. I knew I needed to figure out a solution, but dragging my husband away from his 30-plus extended family members was not an option, nor was politely requesting we move the whole crowd to another restaurant. (It was a surprise party, after all.) Instead, I sent a text to my husband explaining my dilemma (to avoid an emotional outburst), demanded he read the text when I got back to the table (sweetly, of course), and stewed for a bit while he came up with a plan.

After I snapped at him once or twice, my husband suggested we get permission from the manager to bring in outside food and--knowing how petulant I get in these situations--called the server over to make the request. When he came back with said permission granted, I think our server looked more relieved than me! After--again--calling on my husband to locate the closest Wendy's, I took a 15-20 minute round trip to purchase a nice, safe, tasty meal: a plain baked potato and a small chili. To appease my self-pity and brighten my mood, I also swung into a local "farmer's market" grocery store (Sprout's) and purchased four delicious, gluten-free cupcakes with amazing vanilla frosting. (Did I mention this was actually a surprise birthday party, and everyone would soon be enjoying slices of delicious, gluten-filled, chocolate sheet cake?) At the last minute, I also threw in a copy of my favorite magazine (Real Simple) because, you know, I "deserved" it.

When I got back to the restaurant, my family was just getting their food, my husband had a Sprite waiting for me, and no one thought twice about me eating something different...except my son, who kept begging for one of my cupcakes, which I flatly denied him. (He is not gluten-free and later ate two large pieces of chocolate cake--so don't feel too sorry for him.) I could have handled this situation a lot of ways, but I am glad I put my big-girl pants on and found a way to get what I needed without ruining the party for everyone else.

The take-away? Never be afraid to ask for what you need--even if that means eating Wendy's food in the middle of a sit-down Mexican restaurant. Your family--and your digestive system--will thank you for it.

Looking for more tips on gluten-free dining? 
Check out my wining & dining page for a list of tips, restaurants to try, and places to avoid!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Delicious Gluten-Free Apple Crisp

Delicious Gluten-Free Apple Crisp
a dessert baked with love

My mother is the type of woman who believes in making things from scratch and that everyone should have a delicious dessert at Thanksgiving. When I finally committed to a 100% gluten-free diet, this became a bit of a challenge, at least as far as I concerned. Although I was happy with apples baked in cinnamon and sugar, store-bought gluten-free apple pies, and gluten-free brownies from Betty Crocker's delicious mix, my mom wasn't satisfied until she came up with this delicious treat. It's so good, even the glutenites* at your table will dig in!

*Yes, I am working really hard to coin this phrase, but doesn't "glutenite" roll off the tongue so much better than "people who can eat gluten" or "people who are not gluten-free?"

(Scroll down for complete recipe)

Delicious Gluten-Free Apple Crisp
Yields: one 8x8 pan
Hands on time: 30-45 minutes (includes peeling, slicing and paring the apples)
Total time: approximately 1 1/2 hours

For the apples
  • 4 cups of apples peeled, sliced & pared (about 3-4 medium apples--I use Granny Smith or similar)
  • 2 mounded teaspoons of cinnamon
  • 3-4 tablespoons white sugar
  • 3 tablespoons orange juice
For the crisp topping
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown rice flour
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  1. Preheat oven at 350 degrees.
  2. Put apples in a greased 8x8 baking pan, sprinkle with orange juice, and then mix to coat apples.
  3. In a small bowl, combine cinnamon and sugar. Sprinkle on apples and mix.
  4. Combine the brown sugar, brown rice flour, and ground cloves in a separate bowl and mix.
  5. Soften the butter or margarine and knead into the rice-flour mixture. Mix thoroughly.
  6. Crumble the rice-flour mixture over the apples.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes. Apples should be soft when you poke them.
  8. Serve warm with a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream.

In the past, I've always weaved the pictures and recipe instructions together. However, I thought placing all of the recipe instructions at the end might make it a little more user-friendly, and it seems to be what most "food bloggers" do. I hope you like it!

Monday, July 8, 2013

Dairy-Free, Gluten-Free Coconut Ice Cream Recipe Review

Coconut Ice Cream Recipe Review
WARNING: Deliciousness ahead!

I recently tried this recipe for dairy-free, gluten-free coconut ice cream from Sandi's Allergy Free Recipes, and--WOW--am I glad I did. It was easy-to-make, required few ingredients, and tasted oh-so-good. If you have the double-whammy of a gluten-free and dairy-free diet, it is definitely worth checking out.

The ingredients:
  • canned coconut milk
  • honey (or desired sweetener)
  • vanilla extract
  • egg yolks
  • sea salt
And a few notes:
  1. The recipe directs you to refrigerate the canned coconut milk overnight before using it. Make sure the cans are unopened when you do this, or the milk won't set up correctly (FYI: This is also true if you are looking to make the "coconut whipped cream" that is all over Pinterest). Personally, I used one unopened chilled can and one open chilled can, and it turned out just fine.
  2. I used regular old sugar rather than honey. I am too cheap (and lazy?) for any fancy sweeteners, and I don't mind refined sugar.
  3. I completely forgot to add vanilla extract and sea salt. Oops. It still tasted great.
  4. The recipe calls calls for egg yolks, and I immediately wondered why you couldn't just use whole eggs. I did a quick Google search, and the short answers are a) It's tradition b) Egg whites taste "eggy" c) Egg whites contain water, which may lead to ice crystals in your ice cream.


I know my pint-sized sous chef and I certainly did!

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Roadside Wildflowers

Roadside Wildflowers
by Lisa M. Hamel
July 2010
Pinetop, Arizona

For many years, my in-laws have held a family reunion at the family cabin Pinetop-Lakeside over Fourth of July weekend. Among many other things, I love the opportunity it brings me to take pictures of beautiful wildflowers, like what you see above.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Jack In The Box & Online Allergy Charts

My husband is a bit of a Jack In The Box addict, and tonight he asked me if I wanted anything as he left for his oh-so-frequent burger run. French fries sounded lovely, but I knew should double-check Jack's online allergen chart just to be safe (I hadn't checked it since they did away with natural-cut fries).

A few clicks later, I was brought to this site, which contains the allergy chart depicted below. This is by no means the complete chart, but for your viewing pleasure, I highlighted the "wheat" column with a giant red arrow. If it has an X in that lovely burnt-orange column, it is a no-go for anyone on a gluten-free diet.

If you aren't familiar with online allergy charts, most major chain restaurants have them, and they can be very helpful for people with special dietary needs. For example, in about two minutes, I was able to determine that while the fries at Jack In The Box are somewhat safe* since they do not contain wheat, the tacos that I have eaten many times in the past are actually a definite no.

Several years ago, a similar chart from Panda Express taught me something everyone on a gluten-free diet learns sooner or later--wheat-containing soy sauce is one of the worst hidden sources of gluten imaginable. Curse you, Kikkoman!**

Allergen charts can also be helpful in revealing "safe" menu items you may not have considered otherwise. Here is a sampling of the Jack-In-The-Box items considered "wheat-free:"
  • French fries
  • smoothies (mango, strawberry, or strawberry banana; contains milk)
  • Chiquita apple bites with caramel (caramel contains milk)
  • Grilled chicken strips (choose your sauce carefully)
  • Chicken Club, Grilled Chicken, or Southwest Chicken salads (ONLY with grilled chicken--not crispy chicken; ask for no croutons or crunchy toppings)
  • Bacon Ranch, Ranch, Lite Ranch, & Low Fat Balsamic Vinaigrette dressings (all but the vinaigrette contain milk)
However, please be aware of the possibility of cross-contamination anytime you dine out. French fries are often cooked in the same oil as gluten-containing, battered items like chicken strips, and a seemingly "wheat free" shake may be contaminated by the residual crumbs left on the blender from the Oreo-cookie shake mixed just before. When in doubt, ask the workers how the food is prepared and listen to your body when you try something new.

During my search, I also discovered this site, which provides an item-by-item ingredients list for essentially every item on the Jack In The Box. Check out the screen shot below:

Online ingredient statements like this tend to be much denser and more difficult to navigate. As my illustration shows (thank you again, big red arrow), bold lettering at the end of each ingredient list will indicate which of the major allergens, if any, the product contains. If accompanied by the allergy chart above, ingredient statements can be excellent way to get more information about items your are considering ordering or items you must now eliminate. 

This ingredient statement, for example, taught me that the cheap, 2 for $0.99 tacos taste so disgusting because their meat is padded out with things like "defatted soy grits" and "bleached enriched wheat flour." At the same time, it showed that while all of the burgers are marked as containing wheat in the allergy chart, that is simply because of their buns--the patties are 100% beef with no other ingredients or additives.

If you know in advance you will be eating out, take the time to check out a few restaurants online. If you dine at a restaurant often, do some research, even if that means calling and asking to speak to a manager, owner, or head chef. The better you are about being 100% gluten-free, the better you will feel.

Want more gluten-free dining tips?

Check out my Wining and Dining information page.

*I classify Jack's French fries as "somewhat safe" because they are almost certainly cooked in the same oil as their chicken strips and other gluten-containing items. This is a common source of cross-contamination. Although I tried the French fries tonight, I don't think I would do so again. My abdomen is already feeling a little tight with cramps, and French-fried potatoes just aren't worth the risk.

**If you simply adore soy sauce and/or Asian foods, Pei Wei and P.F. Chang's (which are partner companies) both have excellent gluten-free menus--you can find links to their online menus on my Wining and Dining information page. SAN-J Organic Tamari is labeled gluten-free soy sauce, and La Choy soy sauce does not contain wheat, although it is not labeled gluten-free.


I am linking to Gluten-Free Fridays hosted by Vegetarian Mama. Pop on over and check it out!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Snickerdoodle Chex Mix

Snickerdoodle Chex Mix
like the cookies I remember

FYI: This is not a sponsored a post. I just really liked this recipe and gluten-free Chex cereals in general.

When I was growing up (and eating whatever I wanted) snickerdoodles were always my favorite cookie. I don't know if it was the taste, helping my mom roll them in cinnamon and sugar, or that adorable name, but I always loved them--especially when they were still warm and soft from the oven. 

Now that I am an adult and following a strict gluten-free diet, I can no longer follow my mother's snickerdoodle recipe or buy them at the local bakery--but I can enjoy this Snickerdoodle Chex Mix recipe. I have been eyeing it on the side of my gluten-free Chocolate Chex and gluten-free Cinnamon Chex cereal boxes for years now, and I am so glad I finally tried it! 

It's quick, it's easy, and it's the perfect to conquer those snickerdoodle cravings. Better yet? Nothing but common, everyday ingredients!

Word to the wise: If you use margarine, 20 seconds in the microwave is plenty to melt it.

  • sugar
  • ground cinnamon
  • Cinnamon Chex® cereal
  • Chocolate Chex® cereal
  • popcorn
  • butter or margarine

Prep Time: 15 minutes
Start to finish: 15 minutes

It's as easy as...



But don't forget to let it cool off before you dig in...

Looking for more gluten-free Chex mix recipes? Click here to visit their complete list of gluten-free Chex-mix recipes. There are a few in there that might surprise you. Mashed-potato-stuffed meatloaf squares, anyone?

Here are a few I may try in the future:

What's your favorite Chex mix recipe?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Gluten-Free Spicy Vegetable Soup

Gluten-Free Spicy Vegetable Soup
tasty, hearty, & easy-to-make

This is probably one of my all-time favorite recipes--gluten-free or not. My mom shared it with me roughly ten years ago, and my family never gets sick of it. The list of ingredients is fairly short, but the finished product is filled with a variety of vegetables, just the right amount of spice, and a decent helping of protein. While the process is quite simple, the results are amazing! And the best part of all--it provides a well-balanced dinner while dirtying just one pot. If you ever have to bring a dish to a church potluck, this is a winner.

First, the ingredients: 
  • 1 to 1 1/2 pounds of ground beef or turkey
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup sliced celery
  • 1 diced red or green bell pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large jar (approx. 30 oz.) Chunky Garden Style spaghetti sauce*
  • 1 large can (approx. 10 oz.) diced tomatoes, partially drained
  • 1 bag (16 oz.) frozen mixed vegetables
  • 1/2 to 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes**
*I use Prego Fresh Muschroom or Tomatoes & Garlic. Both are labeled gluten-free.
**You can substitute chili powder, but you will need to increase the amount.

Don't forget--Add at end to taste:
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons sugar (optional--helps cut acidity)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
Now, the instructions:

Cook the ground beef or turkey in a large pot, stirring until browned and broken up. Drain fat if needed. 

Add onion, celery, and bell pepper. Cook until limp. FYI: The celery usually takes the longest.

Add spaghetti sauce, canned tomatoes, frozen vegetables, and crushed red pepper. 

Cover and cook at least 10-15 minutes or until the frozen vegetables are thawed and thoroughly cooked. 

Add sugar, salt, and pepper if needed.

Bon appetit!

This soup pairs wonderfully with my Simple Gluten-Free Cornbread. 
Click below for the recipe.

Time Warp

Since today is my first "official" day of summer--sayonara summer workshops--I decided to kick it off by baking cornbread muffins for breakfast. My son and husband were still asleep, so I had a unique opportunity to do things like the check the expiration dates on my ingredients and other pantry items.

 Here is what I found:
  • Corn meal: Nov. 11 2013 (safe--but close)
  • Soy milk: Mar 18 2013 (oops)
  • All purpose gluten-free baking mix: Mar. 10 2013 (oops)
  • Vanilla extract: Mar. 6 2012 (double oops)
  • Baking powder: Feb. 2007 (yikes!)

This kind of shows you how often I bake, right?

The only item I actually threw out was the soy milk (after taste-testing it--blech). The baking mix will continue to haunt me for another week or two because the guilt is too strong for me to throw it away right now. But would you blame me for continuing to use the baking powder and vanilla extract until they're gone? I haven't had any problems with them yet, and I am too dang cheap to just throw them away.

How do you keep track of expiration dates? 
Do I simply need to bake more often?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Grown-Up Gluten-Free PB & J

Grown-Up Gluten-Free PB & J
making an old favorite new again

If I've learned anything since starting this blog, it's that keeping certain ingredients on hand--Craisins, chopped nuts, coconut, fresh fruits and vegetables--can make gluten-free eating significantly more enjoyable. With just a little creativity and a good dose of gourmet bravery, you can break up your routine and enjoy food again. This sandwich is the perfect example.

My son has requested "peanut butter and jelly" almost every day for the past few weeks, and every once in a while I like to indulge him. At the same time, I like us to share our meals, and I need a little more than jelly and peanut butter to get me excited about lunch. 

Enter the following ingredients to the rescue:

  • gluten-free bread, toasted*
  • peanut butter**
  • your choice of jam or honey
  • fresh banana slices
  • slivered almonds
  • shredded coconut
*My favorites are Glutino's Flaxseed and Grains For Life's Millet & Brown Rice. Gluten-free bread always tastes better toasted.
**JIF is labeled gluten-free

Assemble all ingredients in the order listed above.


Friday, May 31, 2013

Are you bugged by your gluten-free limitations?

I was out to dinner with my large family of in-laws, and my father-in-law calls across the table, "Hey, Lisa, I found an article you might be interested in." This is the link he shows me on his smart phone:

National Geographic: Daily News
Cicada Recipes: Bugs Are Low-Carb, Gluten-Free Food
Blanched, boiled, or candied, cicadas are a healthy snack, experts say.

Umm...thank you?

Obviously, my father-in-law was joking (he does that a lot), but I am wondering why National Geographic--a credible magazine if there ever was one--chose to take this particular approach to the article. I mean, do they think celiacs everywhere have been saying to themselves, "You know, I really want to try cicadas, but I just don't know if they are gluten-free?" Curious, indeed.

On the flip side, I guess it always feels good to add another gluten-free snack to your list of options...right?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Two-Ingredient Gluten-Free Tacos

Two-Ingredient Gluten-Free Tacos
tacos from a jar & tips on using corn tortillas

Tacos have been a staple of mine for a long time, but until recently I relied on McCormick's taco seasoning to make them. Although the mix isn't labeled gluten-free, the ingredients list seems safe, and it is much more convenient than trying to follow a taco recipe from scratch. It wasn't perfect, but it worked for us.

Since I started this blog, however, I have started paying more attention to what I eat and what I can do to improve it. I have noticed that I enjoy meals best when they include a "healthy" aspect, such as additional fruits and vegetables, and when I do something to make them my own, even if it is a simple as adding fresh tomatoes to a jar of store-bought pasta sauce. As I considered how I could improve our taco routine, I knew I needed to find a way to a) use a labeled gluten-free mix and b) add vegetables without a lot of work. 

My solution? I substituted a jar of gluten-free salsa in place of taco seasoning!

The ingredients:
  • 1 small jar of gluten-free salsa*
  • approximately 1 pound of ground beef
  • gluten-free corn tortillas or taco shells**
  • your choice of toppings
* Pace and La Victoria are both good options, but any gluten-free salsa will work.
**Mission corn products are labeled gluten-free and produced on dedicated lines. La Banderita corn tortillas are also labeled gluten-free.

The instructions:

Brown the ground beef in a large frying pan on medium to medium-high heat. If you are like me and hate clumpy taco filling, keep breaking up the meat to make sure it is nice and fine.

When the meat is thoroughly cooked and no pink remains, drain the fat and reduce the heat low or medium-low.

Slowly add salsa until all of the meat is well-coated, stirring as you go. I used about half of a standard-size jar, but I recommend adding a little at a time to make sure you don't overdo it...and wind up with soup.

Continue cooking and stirring until all of the liquid is absorbed. I forgot to time it (sorry!), but this should take about five to ten minutes.

Spoon into gluten-free tortillas or taco shells, top with your favorite toppings, and enjoy!

A few final caveats and notes:
  1. I will be honest. My husband said the first go-round tasted kind of ketchup-ey (I used Pace mild salsa), so next time I will kick it up a notch and try medium salsa or a different brand.
  2. Feel free to be creative. If you like spicier tacos, use medium or hot salsa, or add chili powder, crushed red pepper, or a can of diced green chilies. If you like fresh vegetables, throw in diced tomatoes, onions, or bell peppers.
  3. Sorry if my instructions aren't very specific. I am not an experienced chef, and I prefer the try-it-and-see approach. I figure if I can make it, anyone who is allowed to operate a stove probably can too.
And some advice regarding soft corn tortillas:

If you have ever shied away from soft corn tortillas before, I am going to guess it is because they crumble and break as you try to eat them. Good news! You can alleviate that problem by warming the tortillas (a painfully simple trick I learn from my uncle in-law).

I prefer to steam them in the steamer basket that came with my pots and pans set because it has the best result, but you could also warm them in a skillet or frying pan or nuke them in the microwave. Whichever way you choose, warming your corn tortillas will render them much more soft, supple, and tasty!

  • Using a steamer basket Start boiling water in the appropriate pot after you drain the fat from the meat--an inch or two deep is plenty. Covering the basket with a lid will help the water boil faster, but it is not necessary. When the water is boiling, place the tortillas in the basket, one tortilla at a time. Cover the basket with a lid, and let the tortilla steam for 5-10 seconds. Remove the tortilla with tongs--it will be hot! NOTE: If you steam them too long, they will turn mushy and fall apart.
  • Using a skillet or frying pan If you go this route, make sure you use very low heat or maybe a non-stick pan if you need one. Heating an empty non-stick pan can damage the coating, so make sure the tortilla is in the pan before you turn it on. Heat the tortilla until it is warm to the touch.
  • Using the microwave Warming tortillas in the microwave is my second favorite option because it is quick, available at work, and still results in (more or less) steamed tortillas. If you are using the microwave, your best option is to spread the tortillas on a microwave-safe plate (warm tortillas tend to stick together), place a coffee mug full of water in the corner, and microwave the tortillas for about 10 seconds. If that is not long enough, heat them again for about 5 seconds, repeating until they are the desired warmth (again, they get mushy if they are heated for too long). Alternatively, you could place the tortillas between wet paper towels before microwaving them, again for about 10 seconds.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Work it, girl!

My first outfit as a contributor to Work Your Wardrobe was posted today. Check it out if you get a chance:

A Tasty Gluten-Free Duo

A Tasty Gluten-Free Duo
Holy Yum Chicken & Garlic Lemon Green Beans

The two recipes I road-tested this week come to you courtesy of Pinterest. Well, that's where I found them anyhow. Technically, I guess, they come courtesy of the lovely ladies at Table For Two (Holy Yum Chicken) and She Wears Many Hats (Garlic Lemon Green Beans). Since Julie and Amy did such a great job writing the recipes, you will want to pop over to their blogs for the full instructions.

Notes on Holy Yum Chicken

When I first read this recipe, I knew my husband would love it. He is a big fan of chicken in all its forms, and loves anything with a good sauce. I, however, am a little pickier--at least when it comes to chicken. In my opinion, chicken is only as good as the sauce it is in. In this case, that means chicken is very, very good.

  • boneless, skinless, chicken thighs
  • Dijon mustard*
  • 100% pure maple syrup
  • rice wine vinegar
  • salt
  • ground black pepper
  • cornstarch
  • fresh rosemary for garnish**
*See note below--I couldn't find gluten-free Dijon mustard

If you want to try it out, here are some things to keep in mind:
  1. Read the entire recipe before you get started, including the disclaimers. Julie gives some pretty good advice, and she explains herself well.
  2. Try as I might, I could not find any gluten-free dijon mustard. Instead, I substituted a combination of Koop's brand Honey Mustard and Spicy Brown Mustard--both of which are available at Target and at least one Dollar Tree location. I used 1/4 cup of each, but you could play with the ratio based on your preferences. (Personally, I love honey mustard, but I think my husband would have preferred a bit more spice.)
  3. The recipe instructs you to use cornstarch to thicken the sauce--make sure you don't use too much. My sauce was thickening much, so I kept adding more and more and wound up with a gritty texture. In the future, I plan to stick to the recommended amount of cornstarch and live with a thinner consistency.
  4. Trimming the fat adds considerable time to your prep work--especially if your knife is dull. Plan for at least 10-15 additional minutes unless you trim it in advance.

Notes on Garlic Lemon Green Beans

My mother is, what I consider, a gourmet cook, which means she has high standards. Specifically, she thinks vegetables should be fresh, or at the very least, frozen--never canned. While I think this is a great attitude to have, it also intimidates the heck out of me. I mean, how does one even prepare, for example, fresh asparagus?

To try to overcome this fear of mine, I pinned this recipe, planning to finally show vegetables whose boss. Apparently, it's them. While the green beans I produced were edible, they were rather crunchy and bland. Now don't get me wrong--I still think the recipe is great. Proof of this is the fact that they were soft and flavorful the next day when I nuked them in the microwave. However, what I am saying, is that I need to take a couple more whacks at this before I can rock this recipe to it's fullest potential. If you have a little more experience in the kitchen, I am sure you will do fine.

  • fresh green beans, cleaned and trimmed
  • olive oil
  • butter, salted*
  • fresh lemon juice**
  • garlic powder
  • salt
  • ground black pepper

*I am lactose-intolerant as well, so I substituted margarine
**I substituted lemon juice in a bottle (cringe if you must--it was already in the fridge)

Here are some things I may change on the next go-round:
  1. Use steamed frozen green beans instead of fresh The process of parboiling green beans seems simple, but I evidently didn't do it correctly. They way I figure it, I could probably defrost a bag of frozen green beans, dump it in to my steamer basket, and save myself some time and stress.
  2. Thoroughly cook and drain the green beans before adding the butter, lemon juice, etc. As I mentioned, my green beans turned out a little bland. My theory? All of the seasoning and flavor got left behind in the pan (which smelled delightful, by the way). Adding the final ingredients once the green beans have been drained and plated up should help make sure those tasty flavors will stay where they are supposed to be--on the green beans!
  3. Test the green beans to make sure they're done Yes, I know how obvious this seems. But this is exactly the kind of stuff a non-chef like me forgets to do. You live, and you learn.

Looking for more great recipe ideas?
Follow my Pinterest gluten-free recipe board, Kitchen (Mis)Adventures To-Be

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Have your cake, and eat it, too!

Let them eat cake!

I have been wanting to write this post for a few weeks now, and tonight I am finally getting around to it. 

Earlier this month, I turned the big 3-0. Partly because I am vain and partly because I think that it is a legitimate milestone, I was determined to do something to mark the occasion. Although I fussed over many different ideas and party themes from roughly November to March, I finally decided to keep it simple: close family and friends, pizza, salad and dessert. 

Of course, I ordered a gluten-free pizza for myself, but I was still indecisive about dessert. How could I possibly get away with serving people gluten-free birthday cake? At the same time, how could I deny myself such a quintessential part of the birthday-girl experience? Like I said, I'm vain. In the end, I decided I would have my gluten-free birthday cake, just like I wanted, but I would supply root beer floats and a more traditional dessert baked by my gracious and talented friend Stephanie for my guests. It seemed like a good plan and an easy way to appease everyone.

Was I wrong? Not exactly.

The thing is, everybody loves birthday cake--gluten-free or not. Although I warned all of my guests that the cake was gluten-free, everyone had a piece, and no one complained. In fact, I think they actually liked it, although it was different in texture and consistency than they are accustomed to. Cake is cake, right? On top of that, no one even took me up on the offer of root beer floats, and Stephanie took home her dessert untouched (she has a large extended family, so she didn't mind). Maybe they ate the cake because they were curious. Maybe they ate it because they were being polite. Or maybe Betty Crocker's Gluten-Free Yellow Cake Mix doesn't really taste so far different from the original version I remember from my youth. Bottom line--A cake I thought might turn out to be a disaster for me was actually as much of a success among my guests as any gluten-containing store-bought concoction would have been. 

At some point during the day--probably around the time I was looking at three or four untouched gallons of vanilla ice cream in my freezer--I realized that it was time for me to stop doing what I thought would make other people happy and start doing what makes me happy. In the end, they often work out to be the same thing--at least when you are dealing with people who love you.

It's my party, and I'll {have a double-layer gluten-free birthday cake with sprinkles on top} if I want to

Once I knew I was going to have my own Lisa-friendly, gluten-free, birthday cake, I also knew I needed to pull out all of the stops to make it as cute as possible. For me, that meant a double-layer cake with lots of frosting and cute embellishments displayed on one of my three sparkling cake stands. Although I was a little nervous about taking on a double-layer, gluten-free cake, I did it anyway.

The end result? I am very glad I did.

Initially, I was convinced the gluten-free cake would fall apart or be too crumbly to layer effectively. In fact, it was the exact opposite. The cake held together beautifully, and Stephanie said it was easier to frost than a gluten-containing cake because there were so few crumbs. At one point, we even picked up one of the two cake layers by hand and set it aside (I forgot to spread frosting between the layers). Can you even imagine doing that with a traditional cake? It would fall apart as soon as look at you.

Although I don't plan on baking another cake soon, I would definitely try the gluten-free, double-layer option again.


If you're curious, I used two boxes of Betty Crocker's Gluten-Free Yellow Cake Mix (just follow the directions on the box), one container of Betty Crocker's Whipped Vanilla Frosting (next time I would buy two--all of their frosting is labeled gluten-free), and two 9x9 square backing pans to bake this cake. The sprinkles were not labeled gluten-free, but they seemed safe as they had no gluten-containing ingredients.