Friday, December 31, 2010

Bringing in the New Year!

Life is beautiful, just look around...
Although we make many resolutions each year, that doesn't mean we follow them, right? I posted on my writing blog about the things I will NOT be doing this year. On this blog, I will post the things I WILL be doing.

1. I will cook more at home. It's so easy to get into the rut of picking up something on the way home, or eating out because it's easier. But for people with food issues, that can be dangerous. We know that we are most safe when we prepare our own, so what is the problem?

2. I will experiment more, try new food and actually attempt to bake something besides cookies. I never was much of a baker before, but these days it's important to find something I love.

3. I will eat right and that means fewer grains and more protein. I have learned to read my body and I know that more protein and less grains are what make my body happy. It likes to feel "clean" and this is how it's done. This is how I lost 25 pounds, this is how I have more energy, and this is how I stay happy.

4. I will post more often on this blog and publicize it as much as possible. A good friend of mine has offered to help me set up my own site and I think that will be my new project.

5. I will spend more time with family and friends. The Internet is a time-suck, no way around it. And so I will be spending less time wasting time online and more time with people who make me laugh.

Hope you all have a happy, safe New Year celebration and I hope to talk more with all of you next year. Please make suggestions for things you would like to read or try on this blog. I'm happy to test anything, just throw it out! And if you have a recipe you'd like to share, let me know! Join the Facebook Page and become part of the Gluten Free in AZ crowd!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Don't be too trusting...

Beware the Pizza....
Once again, I have been taught that even doing our best to research products and cross-contamination precautions will not always guarantee "clean" food. When my husband recently told me that Mama Mia's pizzeria in town had gluten-free crusts available I was excited. Being the skeptic, I e-mailed the owner and asked what procedures were taken to prevent cross-contamination.

The owner responded quickly to say that a separate area was used to prepare the pizza, it was cooked on a separate aluminum tray so as not to touch the oven bottom (where pizzas are placed) and that a separate cutting utensil was used for all GF pizzas. Of course, it's a pizzeria so there is flour in the room, he said, but every precaution was taken. He also said that the crust was ordered from a GF outside source. Then I checked the website, here, which states that precautions are taken.

Sounds good, doesn't it? I did what every diligent GF eater should do...go right to the top and ask questions. I ordered a pizza, feeling confident that precautions were taken and I would soon be feasting on a GF mushroom pizza.

I arrived to find that my pizza was not ready. I waited, watching the pizza cook shift pizzas in the oven on three levels, using the same cutting utensil for all of them. I finally witnessed my pizza come out of the oven...sans any aluminum tray...and plopped into a box. He then quickly grabbed the same pizza cutter he had used on about 8 other pizzas and sliced it in 2 seconds.

Yes, I protested. "What are you doing?" I asked. "You just contaminated the pizza."

"I did what?" he asked, completely clueless. When I explained to him, and someone who seemed to be the night manager, that a separate utensil was supposed to be provided, they both looked at me as if I had horns. They were given no instructions on doing anything different with these pizzas. The pizza cook then grabbed another one after I said I didn't want the first one and tossed it into the oven, once again without any separate pan.

I finally explained that I wanted my money back and did not want any pizza. I told them they needed to talk with the owner and get educated on what they were supposed to do, and that they shouldn't be selling it until they do.

I was sorely in the mood for pizza and went home and made a GF Creations pizza in my own oven. Yes, it was good and I knew it was safe.

Bottom line...unless you make it yourself, you just can't be sure. And even after doing everything to ensure we are safe, there is no guarantee. I will still eat at restaurants and take my chances, but I won't stop checking and double checking. I suggest you do the same.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Saving Christmas Day with Almond Cookies

Although I had planned everything for the holiday, I realized early yesterday morning that I had forgotten cookies. Yes, company would be here in a few hours and I was cooking dinner. But, no cookies? I asked a friend if that was bad. Her reply, "Yes, it's not Christmas without cookies. That's like New Year's Eve without booze." What could I do?

Then, I checked my Facebook page, Gluten Free in AZ, and Ta-Da! There was a recipe for cookies from a loyal follower. And what could be better? I had everything I needed at home, no shopping required. Sweet!

These cookies are just as I remember them to be when I was a kid. I remember buying the box of almond crescents when I was in my 20s and eating the entire thing. Yes, they were that good. So I couldn't wait to share these with my family. They were so good, everyone took some home and my husband ate every last one! I'll be making these very often, they are my new favorite. Thanks to Sue Bush for saving my Christmas!

 Almond Crescent Cookies
1 c GF flour
1 c almond flour
3/4 c powdered sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 c cold butter in cubes
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract

1 c crushed raw almonds

1/2 sifted powdered sugar to coat cookies

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
2. Put the first 7 ingredients into a food processor and pulse until blended. Be careful to wipe down the sides and watch the butter to make sure it mixes. It will be a crumbly mixture.
3. Add nuts and pulse just until mixed.
4. Shape into crescents using about a tablespoon of mixture for each.
5. Place on parchment paper pretty close together. They only spread a little bit.
6. Bake for 30 minutes, until bottoms are brown. Watch to make sure they don't burn.
7, Let cool slightly, then roll in powdered sugar while still warm so the sugar sticks.

Tips: I used Bob's Redmill GF and Almond Flour. Also, make sure you grind the almonds pretty small so you don't have huge chunks of almond in the cookies. I'll be doubling this recipe next time since they went so fast.

Sue's recipe called for pecans instead of almonds and did not include the almond extract. But you know how I must tweak things to fit my palate. Feel free to switch out the nuts, just watch for different baking times depending on the type of nuts used.

I hope you all had a fabulous holiday season and are looking forward to a brand new year. I've decided to completely change the layout of our house with new furniture and carpeting, just to get a new start on the year. But, the kitchen will stay the same. I know where everything is and I love it! The kitchen is the heart of the home, right?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Let others pamper you sometimes!

Vegetarian, Gluten Free and Amazing!
Daughter decided she was hungry and wanted to make dinner tonight. What can I make? Well, surprise me...I said.

Wow, look at my surprise! She used a Gluten Free Creations Italian Herb Pizza Crust, spicy marinara, mozzarella, basil and garlic. Yum! She can cook for me anytime!

There is something wonderful that happens when someone cooks for you, isn't there? Yes, I love to cook and share with others, but I have to admit I love it when someone cooks for me. Last night at book club, our hostess made a fabulous, gluten-free, vegetarian eggplant Parmesan for dinner. As a matter of fact, the entire meal, including appetizers, was completely GF and vegetarian. I felt like a princess.

So go ahead and let others pamper you every once in a blue moon. It feels great!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving!

Share the love on Thanksgiving
It's that time of year again... cooking becomes a major endeavor, company comes over or you're heading out with dish in hand to celebrate with others. But for GF folks like us, it's just a little stickier, isn't it?
What should you bring to the dinner party?
What if you don't get to it first and it's contaminated?
Can you ask others to prepare an entire meal that is GF just for you?

I have learned that I prefer to cook at home for the holidays. What about you?

I don't mind cleaning and having everyone at my place since I know I can regulate what is GF and what is not, and there isn't much that is not. When I cook, I keep it all GF. Nobody knows the difference and that way we are assured that it will be a healthy holiday.

Last year I brought a dish that I knew Daughter and I could eat to a Thanksgiving meal, but when it was placed on the table with all the other gluten items and spoons were shared freely, we were done. We did get to it first, luckily, so we had our share, but seconds were not an option.

This year, we're eating at home once again and feeling safe and comfortable. We're serving roasted veggies, mashed potatoes, Quorn roast for the vegetarians and a turkey breast for meat eaters, GF pumpkin pie and a GF apple crisp Daughter has decided she wants to make. It's a simple, GF meal we can all enjoy.

I hope your day is lovely, filled with family and friends, and relaxing. Remember to be cautious if you're eating outside your home. And if you're cooking at home, take time for a glass of wine and a hug with guests. Don't spend all day in the kitchen if you don't have to.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Gluten Free in Arcadia

The apples are ready

It's Autumn, which means it's chilly and lovely outside. These days, I want to run out of the house and grab a cup of coffee and a muffin on my way. But finding a coffee shop that meets all my needs, in Arcadia, is not easy. There's one on every corner, sure. Finding one that is local and not a chain is a little more difficult, but Arcadia seems to be doing pretty well in that department lately. But add to that the need to find something gluten free to munch on at any of these coffee shops and you're pretty lucky if you can find something other than a piece of fruit. Sure, Starbucks had a wonderful gluten-free orange cake for a split second, but for some ridiculous reason they stopped carrying it. The only thing GF there is chips or fruit these days.

Enter the Coffee Lady Cafe. Nestled in a strip mall on the SW corner of 40th St. and Indian School Rd., this tiny shop offers great coffee (quick and hot in the morning), sandwiches and soup. After talking with the owner about the lack of GF choices, she ran out and bought Udi's muffins, bagels and bread. Awesome! Now, a place to grab a muffin and coffee on the run.

Be aware that there is not a separate toaster at this time. Get your muffin or bagel microwaved and have them change gloves and surfaces when making sandwiches. They are still in the beginning stages of having GF products, but the owner is more than willing to work with the GF community and is receptive to all suggestions.

Stop by and say hello, grab a muffin and try the Creme Brulee coffee, yum.


Saturday, November 6, 2010

Cupcake Heaven!

Lovely Little Cupcakes
I've been dying for cupcakes lately. Probably because everyone is eating them these days and I can't seem to find one that really tastes like non-GF cupcakes from the old days. But at the park recently, a mom showed up with cupcakes for her daughter and they were fabulous. GF and chocolate, what a combo. After raving about them and saying how hard it is to find a good GF cupcake, I expected to get a long, drawn-out recipe I would dread getting involved with. But all she said was," I used the Betty Crocker Chocolate Cake Mix." No way!

So, I decided to give them a try. I bought the mix at Safeway on sale for $3.69, which means I got a lot more cupcakes for my money than from a fancy shop.

My friend and I are throwing a wine and cheese party for the gals tomorrow and this was the perfect time to try out some mini cupcakes. Oh my, they are so lovely. The cake is moist and light, just enough chocolate and not overly sweet. Just what I've been looking for. I'll try the White cake next and see how that goes, but I can't imagine them being any different. I also found some mini cupcake papers in Safeway also. Aren't they cute?

Cupcakes Ready for the Ladies

Just follow the directions on the package, which calls for 1 cup of water, 1/2 cup of butter and 3 eggs. I used some lovely farmers market eggs. Normally, I tweak the recipe and add a little of this and a little of that. Not this time. I decided to try it as is for the first try. Good idea, I can't imagine what I would do to them.

The frosting is just something I bought in a can that sprays, which tastes adequate and sweet. I put just a small flower on top of each to keep the sweetness at bay. I suppose my next project is to make my own frosting. I love whipped cream frosting, maybe I'll try that next.


Monday, October 25, 2010

I'm GF, now what?

Ever since going GF, I've found that people are always fascinated by the concept. At any party or gathering, the topic comes up and the conversation changes from, "I could never eat like that," to "I need to eat GF but it's too hard. How do you do it?"

Most recently, my sister has decided she needs to eat GF. Since this kind of thing runs in the family, I'm not surprised. But she's highly intimidated by making the leap to GF eating and I don't blame her. It's a big change.

Below, I've listed helpful info for those going GF for the first time. I'm also listing a few tips I always give when advising people on GF eating. Of course, please consult your doctor if you've been told you have medical issues and need to eat a certain way. I'm not a doctor, I only play one in my kitchen!

1.  First bit of advice...don't panic. Most people think they will never eat anything tasty again. The thought of going out and not eating pizza and beer with your friends, or skipping the wedding cake or birthday cupcakes is depressing sometimes. But in reality, you don't really need those anyway, do you? And by not eating these things, you will feel so much better that you won't want to eat them anymore, no matter how lovely it looks for smells.

2.  Give yourself some time before eating GF cookies, cakes, etc. It won't taste as good as the real thing at first and you need to give your gut some time to heal. Give up grains for a bit and stick to whole foods without labels...lean meats (if you eat meat) veggies, fruit, tofu, eggs, beans, Quorn, etc. You may spend more time cooking, but it will be worth it.

3.  There are plenty of GF frozen foods out there and you can find just about anything in a GF variety these days. Just don't go overboard. Most GF items have added sugars to give them flavor, so losing weight is not always a side effect of going GF. Don't do it just to lose weight, do it to feel better.

4.  Don't trust anyone or anything. That means that even if you've read the label of a product and eaten it before, check it again before eating it. You can never be certain.. For instance, Lipton Onion Soup mix used to be GF but is not anymore after adding barley to the recipe. If you've been using it for years, you may wonder why you're feeling sick now. Check this out.

5. Don't worry about hurting someone's feelings. So many people have the right intentions and will cook what they think is a GF meal for you, only to find out that they added soy sauce (which has wheat as a main ingredient) or used a mix with flour or barley in it. I know you feel badly for this person because they worked so hard to please you, but don't eat it just to make them feel better. You'll get sick and they will feel even worse. Just politely refuse the food and tell them how much you really appreciate their effort and caring. Move on...

6. Don't cheat. This goes along with #5 in a way, but whatever you do, don't cheat. Give your body a chance to heal before you sneak that piece of cake or brownie. It's not worth it. There are brownies and cakes out there that are GF if you must have them. Find something you like to snack on that's GF and carry it with you for these weak moments. Everyone in the office celebrating a birthday with whipped cream icing on a lovely chocolate cake? Pull out some lemon wafer cookies or trail mix with chocolate chips from your purse.

7. Google gluten-free foods and be prepared to be overwhelmed. There are lists, foods, mail-order foods and mixes, blogs, etc. to keep you busy for years. Weed out the ones you don't need and follow the blogs and sites that have what you need. If you have other food allergies, make sure you take those into account when ordering food and following recipes.

8. Watch your wallet. GF is just so much more expensive. I know the ingredients are more expensive, but it's amazing how much you can spend in your first few months. Four cookies for $5? They must be pretty damn good cookies! And they are the size of oreos? Oh hell no! They can't be that good, can they? Well, I'm here to tell you they are not that good. No cookie is that good!  You can buy loaves of bread for $10 or more, but is bread that important? Udi's bread is just about $4.99 at Whole Foods. It tastes great and doesn't break the bank. Go ahead and try things out, but just be aware that we are a niche market and prime for companies to take our money.

9. Check out the blogs listed on this page and look up more on Google. There are zillions right about now. The best I've found are Gluten-free Goddess and Elana's Pantry. There are plenty more, but start there. There are also zillions of cookbooks out there. Don't freak out, you don't have to cook everything.

10. If you're a vegetarian, as I am, this gets a little more difficult. Since the wheat is missing, everyone things you can just go to a restaurant and eat grilled chicken or steak. NOT! You will end up eating a lot of salad and grilled veggies, trust me. (Make sure the salad dressing is GF and the grill is not used for wheat products.) You might even want to bring your own crackers or bread with you to bulk up your meal, that's up to you.

11.  Don't be afraid to ask. When you go to a restaurant, ask everyone. If the waiter is not sure what gluten is, ask for a manager. If you ask, "Is there flour in this?" and the waiter doesn't know, make him/her go and find out. Sometimes it's surprising what has flour added. Most notorious...soup. Most places will add flour to soup to thicken it so you can't be safe just assuming it's clean.

12.  Check out this site for a list of foods that have hidden gluten. For instance, licorice is not GF, soy sauce has wheat, baking powder and even chocolate chips can have gluten.

13.  This article from has a great intro to GF eating.

14.  Follow celiac/gf people on FB and Twitter. I'm on FB here and list some wonderful treat ideas and restaurant picks. Also, I have found so many wonderful tips and recipes just from following people who are in the same situation. I recently discovered Celiac Diva on FB and follow many GF people on Twitter. The best way to get a list is to follow me at /vdemetros and look up my GF listing.

15. Finally, if you do get glutened, ride it out. You may find that once you haven't eaten it for a bit, you have a much stronger reaction to it when you do eat it. Give it time, eat clean and learn from this.

Good luck...let me know how you're doing.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Low carb? Are you sure?

 gluten-free lemon/chocolate-chip muffins
For someone eating low carb, I've been posting a lot about muffins and pancakes lately. What's the story with that? Well, quite simply, carbs are not your enemy. If you eat them in very little quantities, you can get away with just about anything. The secret to eating anything fattening (such as carbs, including sugar, grains, etc.) is to eat just a little. Don't go overboard.

With that said, I had a craving to read a good book, grab a cup of tea and eat a warm muffin. I had everything but the muffin. Normally, I would grab an Udi's Blueberry Muffin from the freezer, but Daughter made sure those are all gone. Second best thing is to make some. I use Authentic Foods Lemon Cake mix and doctor it up my way. Add the two eggs, 1/2 cup milk (I use rice milk) and 1/4 cup oil (I use olive oil) called for on the package. Add a little more vanilla, lemon juice and a handful of chocolate chips and fill about 24 mini muffin tins. Bake for 20 minutes and viola! You have a lovely snack for that tea and good book.

Now find a comfy chair and relax. Just pace yourself and put a few in the freezer for the next time this craving strikes.


Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Pancakes are on the menu!

Pancakes hot off the griddle

It's raining here in Phoenix, with a cool breeze and a chill in the air. Know what that says to me? Comfort food. I want a warm cup of tea and something comforting in my tummy. Normally, I would have said that I wanted pancakes, only to remember that I can't have them. But not anymore...

Oh wow. That's all I can say, wow! Now that Bisquick has a new Gluten Free mix, I know what I'll be eating for breakfast. Yes, I know I'm eating low carb, and yes I know I'm trying to lower the amount of grains I eat. But you don't understand! This stuff is gold, pure gold.

Yes, the box is smaller than the non-GF version and cost $4.99 at Fry's, but trust's worth it.

Following the directions on the box, I made one batch of pancakes (using 1 cup of mix, 1 cup milk (almond milk), 2 Tbs olive oil and 1 egg. I also add 1 TBS lemon me, it's what takes these from good to great!) I got about 10 pancakes out of that, about 3 inches in diameter. Just enough for now and a few left for tomorrow morning. They were golden brown, fluffy, light and tasted like the best pancakes I've ever had, even before going GF...seriously.

Cook them up and watch how everyone loves you. Daughter couldn't stop smelling them and saying, "If I could eat these every day for the rest of my life, I'd be happy!" I had to stop her from eating 8 of them for dinner! Now I know what to make after a sleepover. We used to make pancakes but had to stop when we went GF.

I like mine with just a spray of I Can't Believe It's Not Butter or nothing at all. Daughter likes her plain also...we're not syrup people. But if you are, go for it. Let me know what you think after you've tried this.

The company site has recipes for coffee cake and pizza crust using this mix. I'll be trying those out in a few days. Can't wait...


Friday, October 1, 2010

A lovely GF Trifle

Gluten-free Trifle
Last night's book club meeting was at my place. What to make? The book, based in England in the early 1930s, gave me a great idea for dessert. How about a trifle? I'd heard of them, but never had one. First, I don't eat non-gf cake, and second, it always looked like so much trouble. So, being the clever girl that I am, I made one up for myself.

Wow, it turned out so beautiful and tasted wonderful. This is very unconventional and if anyone out there reading this is the least bit British, I apologize. But don't scoff too much until you've tried it. There were 9 of us eating (and my Daughter) and this giant bowl was empty in 20 minutes! The cake was moist and had a touch of lemon and the meringue cookies gave it a wonderful crunchy sweetness. This is not a diet dish at all, but for a special night it's worth the effort. It doesn't take long at all and is quite impressive, not to mention delightful!

GF Trifle
1.5 tubs Cool Whip
2 cups strawberries, chopped
1 cup blueberries
1 lemon GF cake (I used Authentic Foods cake mix)
   (two eggs, 1/2 cup milk/almond milk, 1/4 olive oil)
4-6 vanilla meringue cookies
1/4 cup sugar or simple syrup

1. Mix berries and sugar in a large bowl, cover and refrigerate.
2. Make lemon cake as directed on the package. Let cool on rack completely and then slice into squares about 1 inch sq.
3. Assemble trifle in a glass bowl in order to show off the layers. Start with a layer of cake, dipping each piece in the syrup from the berries.
4. Next layer is berries (about half the berries)
5. Next layer is cool whip, spread evenly to cover all the berries.
6. Crumble 2-3 meringue cookies over the Cool Whip layer.
7. Repeat the layers of cake (dipped in syrup), berries, Cool Whip and cookies. (Save a little of the fruit for the top)
8. Top with remaining berries.
9. I added a little shaved dark chocolate on top for presentation and taste. I had a dark chocolate bar from Trader Joe's and just grated it over the top. This is optional, of course.
10. Refrigerate till you need it. I wouldn't make this any more than about 1.5 hours before eating since the meringues will lose their crunch after some time.

Caprese with a twist
Also on the menu, a little twist on the typical Caprese salad. Add a little cantaloupe to the mix. It adds a touch of sweetness to the dish and with the balsamic, it's a wonderful new taste sensation. This is a photo of the dish before adding the aged balsamic just before serving. Also, add a little salt. Yum!


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Tell me your GF tips and win $25 Fry's gift card!

Feeling all alone in your GF world?
Ever notice how everyone cringes when you mention that you eat gluten-free? The thought of giving up their bread/pizza/buns/pasta, fill in the blank, makes them automatically scrunch up their faces in a grimace.

"I could never do that!" they spit out. "I feel sorry for you."
My favorite is..."What do you eat?" as if there is nothing else out there but pizza, bread and bagels.

When I first realized I would be gluten free for the rest of my life, I did feel that way for a moment. Being vegetarian for 25 years meant that I had already given up a huge portion of the menu and now, going gluten free meant I was giving up another 1/4, leaving just about 1/4 to 1/8 of any menu available to me. Asking questions became a necessity, ordering special meals became an everyday occurrence.

A few tips of the trade, and a few great websites to visit would have made things easier. I found the gfvegetarian yahoo group first and they were amazing. All my questions were answered and I felt as if I were not as alone as I feared. Great ideas, recipes and support helped me get through the toughest beginning stage. I found our local Phoenix Celiac list group on yahoo groups also and that made a huge difference, and meeting them at a restaurant helped even more to get a closer connection. I have made wonderful friends who understand (and I'm not the only one at the table asking for GF anymore.)

Check the right side of this blog for websites I recommend and search for new sites. There are new ones popping up every day. Look for organizations in your area, etc.

Oh yeah, the $25 that I mentioned up at the beginning (you didn't think I forgot, did you?) My very good friend and fellow blogger, Sara at savingforsomeday, graciously handed over a $25 gift card from Fry's, which celebrated the grand opening of the new Tatum and Shea Super Duper store with valet parking, covered parking, organic section, wine bar, gluten-free section, etc. If you're just starting out or an old pro at GF eating, this will come in handy for sure. How, you may ask, can you get your hands on this? Simple-leave a comment below with your best tips and insights for the anyone starting out a GF diet. Let's help out the beginners with things we wish we had known up front. 

If you are not GF or just happened to stumble upon this site, welcome! Although the recipes on this site are GF and vegetarian, they are also tasty and fabulous and can be enjoyed by even the pickiest meat eater and wheat eater. I'm sure you know someone who is GF. Tell me what you know or want to know about eating GF and I'll try to address it here. I'll use to choose a winner from the comments and contact you for your mailing address. Simple.

Finally, let me say that this is in no way supported by Fry's. It's my way of saying thanks for reading and supporting this blog, and for following each week with ideas and comments.

My eating GF tips:

1. Read labels. Do not eat anything that has a label without reading it first. And even if you've read it before, read it again. Companies have a tendency to change their processing without telling anyone. Don't trust anyone.

2. Look for hidden gluten. Soy sauce, TVP, semolina, etc. Find a list at  and follow it.

3. Find support. You can't do this alone. There are organizations in every city these days. Even if you just connect on the Internet, it really does help. Let people tell you where they've been before heading out.

4. Get used to cooking for yourself. Even though I loved to cook before, I cook even more now that I have gluten to worry about. I feel safe when I cook for myself. Mistakes can happen wherever you go, be prepared.

5. Speak up. Don't worry about offending people, most of them are very understanding. If you're not sure about something and don't want to speak up...don't eat it! Why risk it? It's only food, not the end of the world. I've gone through an entire dinner with an iced tea and side salad. Nothing else. Eat when you get home, you'll be proud of yourself. Any hostess would rather you not eat than get sick. If you can, tell them before the event. If you're really confident, bring your own food.

6. Don't cheat! Too many people feel as if they can cheat and in's just not an option. Tell's just food. Is that pizza really important to you? Why do you have to taste that guy's breaded calamari? You can't live without it? Of course you can, you did before you got there and you will when you leave. Let it go.

7. Don't go overboard on all that fabulous GF food that is now offered. It usually means there is more sugar and other ingredients to pump up the flavor. Just because something is GF doesn't mean it's good for you. There are zillions of GF cookies, cakes, buns, etc. to keep you going for a long time. Don't get sucked in.

8. My favorite GF items, after picking through the losers, are as follows: (remember, you'll probably have to do your own taste test since everyone is different)
*Bread:  Udi's everything. They have the best bagels, sandwich bread, whole grain bread and muffins. Closer to the real thing than any other I've tried. Most other breads have to be toasted to get close to "normal." The only other bread that comes close is French Meadow. Udi's is at Whole Foods and Sprouts, French Meadow is at Sunflower.
* Cookies: Kinnikinnik makes K-Toos that are so close to Oreo's that they've fooled the wheat eaters I know. They make a great vanilla one too.
* Donuts: Kinnikinnik has little cinnamon donuts that are so much like those wonderful cake donuts that we used to love dunking in coffee. Also, Gluten Free Creations, a wonderful shop in the Phoenix area, makes their own donuts that are fluffly and light.
* Veggie burger: Sunshine Burgers rock the vegetarian/gluten-free burger market. They are organic and use just a few ingredients. If you eat cheese, I recommend it highly. Use a crispy lettuce bun and you're in heaven. (I recommend the Garden Herb, but try them all and decide for yourself.)

These are just a few tips. I have hundreds, and I'll update and add more each day. Let's hear what you've got-and good luck!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Spaghetti Squash Casserole

Spaghetti Squash Casserole
With the inspiration of True Food's spaghetti squash special, and the need for a potluck dish tomorrow, I came up with what turned out to be a fabulous dinner! It's low carb, delish and easy. Just the way I like it!

I've cut the recipe in half since I made this for a ton of people, and made a small one for us tonight. Feel free to double it and bring it along to a potluck, you'll be popular for sure.

Spaghetti Squash Casserole
1 spaghetti squash (about 4 lbs)
2 tsp olive oil
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
1 medium yellow squash, diced
2 medium zucchini, diced
16 oz. crushed tomatoes
2 Tbs tomato paste
garlic powder, salt/pepper, dried parsley
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Cut spaghetti squash in half (or get someone strong to do it since it's a tough job) and remove the seeds and fibers from the middle. Place them face down on a cookie sheet that's been sprayed with olive oil spray. Spray the tops of the squash and bake for about 30-40 minutes. You'll know it's done when you stick a fork through the skin and it's soft.

3. While the squash is baking, use a saute pan and saute onions in olive oil. Add a little salt and saute till translucent.

4. Add yellow and zucchini squash to onions and saute until liquid is gone and zucchini is soft. Add a little salt/pepper and about a pinch of parsley.

5. Mix crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, garlic powder, salt/pepper and dried parsley to taste and let it simmer for about 30 minutes.

6. When spaghetti squash is done, take them out and let them cool for a bit. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees.

7. Using a fork, shred the squash until it's all loose. Pour it all into a glass baking dish (about 9x9)

8. Add veggies, 1/2 the Parmesan and about 2 cups marinara sauce and mix. Taste and season if it needs more salt/pepper.

9. Spread it out evenly in the dish, top with the remaining Parmesan and Mozzarella.

10. Bake for 25 minutes or until cheese is golden brown on top. Let it cool for a few minutes to set up.

You can make this ahead, assemble and refrigerate and just bake the next day. I'm assuming it would freeze well also, I just haven't tried that yet. Just remember to bake it longer since it's cold.


Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Kale Krazy

Aarti's Massaged Kale Salad
I've always loved kale and cooked a lot of it when I was receiving the CSA bags of veggies. But for some reason, it was always too chewy. I just didn't have the knack for doing it right. But I recently watched an episode of Aarti Party, the newest Food Network Star's program, and she had a fabulous, easy kale recipe I just had to try. This was exactly what I was looking for, a way to make kale tender, tasty and healthy.

Although this recipe called for mangos, I also made a dish without the mangos and added a little Parmesan cheese. This turned out wonderful also and reminded me of the kale from True Food in Phoenix. Wonderful topped over their egg-white omelet. I highly recommend it.

Thanks again to Aarti Sequeira for this massaged kale recipe. With simple, kale, pumpkin seeds, lemon, olive's a cinch to make. The only thing I did differently was to use a little less olive oil and add a little garlic powder to the dressing. Other than that, do what she says, make sure to massage the kale for at least 1.5 minutes to really soften it up and there you have it. While you're massaging the kale, or basically squeezing it over and over, you'll lose volume in the kale and that's expected.

For my second try, I just skipped the mango and sprinkled with a little Parmesan before eating. Either way, this is tremendous and fantastic!

Oh, and make sure you don't chop the stems of the kale. They're too hard and fiberous...but they do make an excellent dog bone... my boys love them!
Tucker and his kale bone


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Ratatouille...It's Oh So Good!

Ratatouille with cauliflower
I had a strange craving for ratatouille tonight. Why? Who's one of those cold-weather dishes I usually reserve for nights when it's chilly outside and I want a warm, hearty meal. But why not make it in summer? It's got zucchini, eggplant and yummy tomatoes, what could be better?

Daughter loves cauliflower, and since I had half a head in the fridge (the cauliflower's, not mine) and since I didn't have any peppers, the cauliflower went into the dish as an excellent substitute. I didn't miss the peppers at all and quite honestly, it's the best ratatouille I've ever made and I'll do it with cauliflower from now on. Can I still call it ratatouille? Hmmm...

The end result is a sweet, crunchy, hearty dish that melts in your mouth. Trust me, this is fabulous and there is a lot left over to share with friends or eat for lunch for a few days. Not only that, it's GF, vegetarian and vegan if you leave off the shredded Parmesan Daughter sprinkled on top. Serve it over rice or noodles, or rice noodles if that's something you like, but trust me, this dish stands up all by itself. For a little protein, I'm thinking of throwing in some tofu or Quorn next time, just for a change. Although, this needs no improvement at all.

Hint: chop all the veggies about the same size, It's easier to cook that way and better to eat when everything is uniform. The pan may look full before you add the tomato sauce, but once the veggies cook down, you'll have plenty of room.

Ratatouille with cauliflower
2 medium yellow onions, chopped
1 large eggplant, chopped
1 large or 2 medium zucchini, chopped
1/2 head of cauliflower broken into bite-sized pieces
1 28 oz. can Trader Joe's Low Fat Tuscano Marinara Sauce (or your favorite)
1 Tbs tomato paste
2 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp of basil, oregano, garlic powder, salt and pepper

1. Use a large saute pan and saute onion until translucent in 1 Tbs. olive oil.
2. Add zucchini and cook another 5 minutes.
3. Add eggplant and cauliflower and toss with salt and pepper and 1 Tbs olive oil
4. Stir and let the veggie simmer until they reduce in size and soften.
5. Add marinara, tomato paste and spices.
6. Simmer for about 15 minutes until all the flavors come together. Test for salt and pepper and serve as is, or over rice.

This is even better the second day once all the flavors have set together overnight. Too good for words... My Daughter loves Parmesan cheese on everything and this was great with a little shredded Parm on top, but not a necessity.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Childhood Treat Revisited, and a Cupcake

Gluten-free Goodness
Remember Suzy Q's? Yes, those chocolate delights filled with overly sweet, tasty filling? I used to love finding those in the store. I don't think I ever ate an entire Suzy Q just because it was so sweet, but I sure loved them. I stopped eating them way before I went GF, but on a recent trip to Gluten Free Creations in Scottsdale I came across the treat, newly formulated as a gluten-free treat. The shop makes the chocolate cake nice and moist and fluffy, and the inside filling is just as I remember it...very sweet. But isn't that what a treat is all about? If I want something mild I'll eat a carrot!
A sweet treat

The cupcake tower awaits
What a great treat. I would recommend bringing a friend, or taking it home, and share with someone else. It might not be that big, but it packs a sugary punch. Ooohhh, it brought back memories and was so yummy. The shop also had cupcakes that were adorable and I would have tried one if I hadn't just eaten a faux Suzy Q. Next time...


Friday, August 13, 2010

Nourish - Scottsdale's GF/Veg Dream Come True

Acai Berry Martini
OK, I know I should have put a review in here much sooner, but I've been back three times already and I can't stop. Nourish is my new favorite restaurant in Scottsdale. Not only is it close to home, it's completely gluten free and more than half the items on the menu are vegetarian! It's like a dream come actually it is a dream come true. As a gluten-free vegetarian, I don't know how many times I have said, "I wish there was a completely gluten-free and vegetarian restaurant I could walk into, feel comfortable about the menu and not spend a fortune. Yeah, like that will happen." Ha! It happened.

I'm also in love with the staff, who are friendly and helpful, and the owner, Kirstin Carey. She's friendly, funny and so willing to work with customers. Each time I've been there, she's come out to ask how the food is and for suggestions and ideas. She truly wants to create a place for those of us with allergies where we can eat with ease. (OK, she does have meat on the menu, but I'm overlooking that since I can't have everything, right? This way I can drag my carnivorous husband in for a healthy meal.)

Veggie Pizza
OK, on to the food. Since I've been back a few times, I could write a very long review but I'm going to stick with my favorites and recommend you go there yourself and try even more. The first time my husband and I ate at Nourish I had a veggie pizza. Fresh, thick and full of flavor, the best part of the pizza was the sauce. The restaurant uses GF Creations Italian pizza crust so I knew I would like those, but it's the sauce that makes it all worth it. Kirstin explained how they wanted to make a sauce that stood up to the crust and didn't soak in. Wow, they achieved that-and more. It's thick, tangy and tastes like someone's grandmother has been back there making sauce all day. My daughter has had it and wanted to take some home. The pizza also had fresh spinach, asparagus and sun-dried tomatoes. The cheese was lightly added on top so it didn't overpower the pizza. All in all, a great entree that was big enough for Daughter and I to share.

Quiche with spinach and bacon
My husband had a spinach quiche with a quinoa crust that was fabulous. I've never had a crust made of quinoa (and I'm not talking about flour but the actual quinoa) and it was very tasty. It's also black quinoa, which I had never had either. The quiche did have bacon in it, so I just tried a little of the crust. Husband said it was great and devoured the entire piece, which was quite huge along with a side and salad.

Lemon Gluten-Free Cheescake
Dessert was a fabulous lemon cheesecake to die for! I don't usually go in for dessert when I'm out, but we couldn't resist. The crust was flaky and light, the cheesecake tasted like something my mom would have made, only better. (sorry Mom!) Being from New Jersey, we take our cheesecakes very seriously and this was one of the best I've ever had. No, it's not dairy free, but who would want that?

Sweet Potato Fries with Chipotle Apricot Dipping Sauce
I'll wrap this up with my two favorites...the sweet potato fries are air-fried (how do you air fry? I have no idea) oil-free, crispy and light, not greasy like most sweet potato fries. They come with a sweet yet spicy chipotle apricot dipping sauce that takes them to a new level of fry goodness. I crave these now...

I know I said I would try and keep this short, and I didn't even mention the red & white quinoa salad, sweet potato and avocado salad or the spicy mango avocado salad. There is so much, I can't help myself. I'm also looking forward to trying the Crispy Baked Eggplant Parmesan, which is gluten-free and vegetarian. (My stomach is growling right now)

Nourish also has a cute little bar and I've become a convert to the acai berry martini (photo above) which is Prairie Organic Vodka, Veev acai berry liquor and a splash of key lime Oogave soda. It's light, not too sweet and has no bite to it at all. It goes down smoothly and works great with any of the dishes. Light and satisfying. So, what are you waiting for? Get down there before everyone knows about it and you can't get a table!

Dear Nourish...Thanks for making my dreams come true.


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Pomegranate Cafe

Phoenix is finally catching up to the rest of the country in options for vegetarian and gluten-free food. One in particular is Pomegranate Cafe in downtown Ahwatukee, just south of Phoenix. In a nondescript strip mall you can find pure vegetarian heaven! What makes it so wonderful is not only the vegetarian choices, but most of them are raw, making just about everything gluten-free.

This adorable little cafe is run by mom and daughter duo, Marlene and Cassie Tolman. I brought my daughter, a friend of hers and my mom on a little trek to Pomegranate on our way to IKEA (another favorite hangout!) We didn't want to leave the restaurant. Not only is the food wonderful, but the service and atmosphere are relaxed and perfect. The staff are helpful and truly educated on gluten-free options, which is a refreshing change in the area.

Garden Burger

So, on to the food. The girls had the Garden Burger, the cafe's own tofu veggie burger on gluten-free bread, which is an option along with the spelt bun. The girls split the burger and as you can see there was plenty for both of them. I tried the burger and it was tasty, tangy and firm. Daughter thought it even tasted a little like the veggie chicken patties we've had in the past. It had that kind of mild taste to it. I liked it and would definitely order one in the future. The pickle was crisp and tart and the salad was just enough to satisfy both girls. Daughter and her friend have already asked to go back for another. The burger comes with a choice of cheddar or vegan cheese. Kids chose the cheddar.

 Strawberry Fields Salad

Mom ordered the Strawberry Fields Salad, chock full of fresh goat cheese, pistachios and strawberries. Just the right size for lunch with a tangy, tart pomegranate vinaigrette. I love the crunchy sprouts and avocado, giving the salad an added crunch and flavor.

 Arizona Roll

But the most amazing and wonderful dish, shared by all and wowed over by all, was the Arizona Roll, a completely raw treat that I can't stop thinking about. It starts off with nori seaweed stuffed with a sweet and nutty almond spread and a rainbow of veggies including carrots, peppers, and avocado. There is a shoyu sauce for dipping and I recommend you don't miss it. It's also served with a cabbage salad with miso dressing. There was so much that we all had a chance to try it and the kids went back for seconds. I was full from what I had, along with the wonderful miso salad. I highly recommend you try this, and bring a friend. It's a great experience to try something that is so wonderful and good for you.

But we weren't done yet. One of Pomegranate's specialties is the raw pie. I've had a the Super Berry pie before, but this time we had the chance to have both the Super Berry and the Pineapple Cheesecake. But don't let the names fool you, they are both made from completely raw ingredients and have no dairy or gluten in them. The crust is a fantastic combo of just macadamia nuts, coconut and dates. I don't know how it's done, but those three ingredients create the most tremendous of tastes. Daughter kept eating the crust and saying, "Why don't you make this?" Hmmm, why don't I?

Super Berry Pie
The Super Berry pie is made simply by soaking raw cashews and then blending them to a smooth creamy texture. Add to that acai, blueberries, goji berries, coconut oil, agave, pomegranate juice and orange juice and you have a beautiful, purple berry surprise of a pie. It's amazing how creamy just cashews can be. No sugar, now high fructose corn syrup, etc. Just berry goodness packed in each tangy bite.

Pineapple Cheesecake
The pineapple cheesecake uses the same base and crust as the pie above, but uses a top layer of pineapple and mango, giving it a wonderful, tart bite to it. Out of both, the girls liked the pineapple better, although I suspect they also liked the fact that it was half frozen and that made it more like ice cream to them. Either way, I think I would choose it also for it's tart, fresh pineapple flavor.

With True Food, Pomegranate Cafe and now Nourish, Phoenix has finally gotten a blip on the radar of good, healthy food. There are finally a few places for those of us who want to eat out, yet not give up our quest to eat healthy. I'm dining at Nourish tonight and I'll let you all know how it went. I can't wait!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Fabulous Weekend

The Red Rock Martini
I spent the past weekend at the Enchantment Resort in Sedona, AZ with some friends. We were celebrating a couple of birthdays and I couldn't resist the chance to cook for everyone. I was the only one eating gluten free and a few were not vegetarians, but I made the best of it and decided that if I cooked dinner for everyone, I could be assured of its safety. I tried to keep it purely GF but a few people snuck in the dreaded flour products. A loaf of bread here, a cupcake there. But all in all, it was a grand, GF weekend.

On the menu? GF, roasted veggie frittata on the first night and a beautiful zucchini Parmesan the second night. The frittata recipe is truly simple. In a large baking sheet, mix the following with olive oil, salt and pepper: one bag of cubed buttnernut squash from Trader Joe's, one chopped onion, two chopped zucchini, one chopped yellow squash. Roast in oven at 375 for about 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes until golden and softening.

Add veggies to a large saute pan that can go in the oven. Add a cup of shredded cheese (I used swiss and parmesan) Mix 4 eggs and 5 egg whites with a pinch of salt, nutmeg and pepper, then add to the veggies in the pan. Cook on the stove until the eggs are just starting to firm up and then stick in the broiler for about 5 minutes to puff up and finish cooking the eggs.

I like to add a little goat cheese also, but I left it out since I knew there were some in the group who were not so fond of it. Let the frittata sit for about 10-15 minutes to settle, then serve with a salad.

Also on the menu, the zucchini Parmesan, was a big hit. Easier still, just slice zucchini in thin, long pieces. Grill on a grill pan with just a little salt and olive oil. Place the zucchini on a baking sheet and bake for just 2-3 minutes and remove. These are now the "noodles" for the Parmesan. Layer the zucchini in a springform pan with marinara and mozzarella. Add a little Parmesan cheese and voila! Bake for about 30-40 minutes, depending on whether you've made it the night before or you're cooking it right away. I made it the night before and it was wonderful. We paired both meals with salads using fresh, local ingredients and home-made salad dressings using fig balsamic, blood orange olive oil and more.

The ending to the perfect weekend was a dessert that made us all smile. Cookies, all GF and fabulous, from Cookies from Home in Tempe, AZ and a delicious, gluten-free cheesecake baked by my dear friend, Laura, using just five ingredients: eggs, sugar, vanilla, cream and cream cheese. It was fantastic and we're still eating the leftovers (slowly, to make it last).

Thanks to everyone for joining us on our birthday weekend. The food was fantastic and the company was even better!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

July 4th Taste Test...Beer and Brownies!

An Independence Day celebration and a good friend's house seemed like the perfect time for a GF beer tasting. I rounded up the guys and asked them for their opinion (along with mine of course.) Daughter, unfortunately, didn't get to participate, although she tried. Being 14 means you have to wait just a few more years.

The tasting was a blind taste test for all the guys. I knew which was which but I wanted an honest opinion from some serious beer drinkers.

 Jim, Matt, Jeff, and Al give the first beer a try

First up, Bard's. It's made from malted sorghum, the company's site says it consists of sorghum, yeast, hops and water. It's light in color, something like a Budweiser in color. Although it starts out with a nice beer taste, it ends with a very metallic/medicine finish that the guys picked up on right away. I made sure both beers were cold and that didn't seem to help this one. Bard's Tale Beer Co. has a great story of how the founders were Celiacs and wanted to enjoy beer with their friends. Makes sense and I so wanted to like this one, but the finish was just too metallic for my taste.

 Second verse, same as the first...Redbridge this time.

On to number two, Redbridge. Brewed by Anheuser-Busch, it's a little darker in color than Bard's. The company site says it's made from sorghum, yeast, water, hops and corn. The flavor is a little stronger, less watery, and no aftertaste to speak of. In terms of beer, it has a more decent beer taste. The flavor comes off as a beer with a little more kick.

There are a lot more barbecues in our future this summer and it looks like Redbridge will be joining us. Now if someone would just make a nice, dark, GF beer, I'd be in heaven. But for now, I'm sticking with Redbridge. Thanks for your help, guys!

Since we were in the taste-test mode, we happened to have two versions of GF brownies at the barbecue. On the left, Pamela's Chocolate Brownie Mix. On the right, Betty Crocker's version. As you can see, or maybe you can't, the Pamela's version of the brownie is more cake-like and held together well. These were made by our hostess and were quite lovely, light and cake-like in texture. The cocoa flavoring was not overpowering, but the texture did have a bit of a grainy feel.

The other brownies, which I made, were made using Betty Crocker's GF brownie mix. I added a TBS of virgin coconut oil and a tsp of blood-orange olive oil. These were much more moist in texture and more gooey in parts. They were also much more chocolaty since the mix comes with small chocolate chips that give it a more intense chocolate flavor. The olive oil gave it a slight citrus flavor that was quite good, although I think I would use one or the other, not both oils next time. I usually use just the coconut oil but I was trying to be festive.

All in all, great brownies on both plates. I would take either one. I tend to use the Betty Crocker mix since I like the more gooey version of brownies, but this was the first time I had Pamela's version and they are great for a light dessert. Give them a try. We ate our brownies with Almond Dream vanilla ice cream, which happens to be gluten and dairy free. Yum!

I wonder what's next on the taste test front? Waffles anyone???


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

MYO Granola Bars, just the way you like them

 pistachios and dried cranberries

Ahhh, I finally have just what I want after complaining for years about granola bars that are too nutty, too sweet, wrong flavors, etc. I finally decided to give it a try and make my own. Wow, why didn't I do this a long time ago? I made two flavors (hoping at least one of them would be edible). Luckily, they both came out wonderfully and I can't decide which one I like best.

For the first batch, my daughter suggested apricots and cashews. Yum, great idea and great tasting. I love the sweetness of the apricots and the mellow flavor of the cashews. Batch number two had pistachios and dried cranberries. Another home run with the tartness of the cranberries and the distinct saltiness of the pistachios. Once again, I can't decide which one I like best but judging from which one is disappearing in the hands of Husband and Daughter, the pistachio bars are a bigger hit, but not by much.

The recipe below gives the measurements for what I used. Go ahead and switch it up using whatever nuts or fruits sound good to you. I'm going to give peanuts a try next time. Haven't decided on the fruit yet. Also, I've added mini GF chocolate chips just because I happened to have some, but I can tell these bars would be just as great without them.

cashews and dried apricots

MYO Granola Bars
1 cup nuts
1 cup GF oats (I use Bob's Redmill brand)
1/2 cup mini GF chocolate chips (I used Enjoy Life brand)
1/2 cup dried fruit
1/4 cup ground flax meal
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup raw honey (plus a tablespoon)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Chop nuts in a processor or by hand until smaller in size but not too fine.
3. Add all other ingredients to nuts in a large bowl and mix.
4. Spray a 9x9 glass dish and spread nut mixture into pan until evenly distributed.
5. Bake for 25 minutes or until sides begin to brown.
6. Cool completely before turning out onto a board and cutting into squares (if you have the willpower to wait that long, which I did not!)

These are a satisfying treat and great to take with you when you know you'll be out all day and may need something to snack on. If it's the middle of summer in AZ (like it is here) I would suggest leaving out the chips if you're taking them with you. I know these will be gone before I get a chance to take them with me, but the next batch will be bigger now that I know this works so well. Give it a try and let me know how it turns out.


Thursday, June 17, 2010

The new bagel in the house

Perhaps I should title this post- Udi's does it again! While stocking up on their fabulous white and whole grain breads at Whole Foods today, I noticed something different in the freezer. Bagels! Now, I've had Glutino bagels and I was pleased with them, although they tend to be a little dense. In a pinch, they are good to have in the freezer...up until now...

I'm a true believer in Udi's and can't say enough about their wonderful products. Yes, I would be on the payroll if they'd have me, but I'm not. I've talked about bread before here and I still stand by the bread from Gluten Free Creations here in town, but move over for Udi's, really!

If you haven't had their bread, you are truly missing something. I've actually fooled people who didn't know it was GF bread, and if you've eaten most GF breads you know that's not easy to do. Most of them are only good for a doorstop. The bread can actually be eaten without toasting, smells wonderful and toasts to a beautiful, crusty golden brown. Trust me, you won't be disappointed. But, today we're talking bagels!

These bagels are so much like I remember bagels to be. Daughter closed her eyes and ate her half and smiled widely. "It's crunchy," she said. "Just the way they should be." She's not kidding, these bagels are soft on the inside, crunchy on the outside and have just enough "chew" to make it cream-cheese-worthy. Of course, my half had just butter, but Daughter had to do it up right with the cream cheese. Since she's only been GF for about 6 months now, she appreciated it immensely. I haven't had a bagel like this in about 5 years so this was a major treat for me.

This took me back to mornings spent on the floor of our apartment in NYC with the Sunday Times, bagels, coffee, and music. The paper was spread out all over the floor and we sat on the floor without speaking, just eating and reading. I know what I'm doing Sunday morning!

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Liberty Market

I had the great pleasure to visit Liberty Market in Gilbert, AZ this weekend. Not only did I have the best vanilla Americano that I have had in a very long time, but this is a photo of the salad I ordered. Is that beautiful or what? The greens were crisp and fresh, the tomatoes plump and ripe and the mozzarella was perfectly fresh and not too firm. And that's not even the best part. Drizzled over the top with perfection was a sweet, tart, delectable balsamic reduction. It was so beautiful, I wanted to take it home with me. I wished I had brought my usual bag of bread in my purse (GF) to dip.

Daughter had the same salad and ate the entire thing, greens and all. And if you know her, you know that's pretty amazing. She loves veggies, being a vegetarian, but salad is not her thing. She gave it a try and left nothing on the plate.

I highly recommend Liberty Market if you're in Gilbert. The rest of our dining party raved about their sandwiches and salads. It's a casual place with a coffee bar. You order up front, then grab a seat and smiling staff bring your food to the table. It's worth the drive, if only for an awesome cup of coffee.

Of course, if you are GF, be careful and check with the staff before diving in. I made sure there was no bread or croutons used and stayed away from anything that might be contaminated. Always use caution and tell wait staff that you are GF so they are aware of your needs.


Saturday, June 5, 2010

Raw Lemon/Blueberry Pie

Wow, it's hot out there. I always seem to blank out just how hot it can get in Arizona. Then summer hits and it starts all over again. It's just the beginning of June and already we're in triple digits! Dang it. But I know we'll weather it out (pun intended). But what to do when it's hot? Not cook, that's for sure. The cooler, the better.

After having a fabulous raw pie at Pomegranate recently, I decided to give it a shot and try it myself. The pie at the restaurant was a raw mixed-berry pie. Since I love lemonade in the heat of AZ, I decided to give that a recipe, just wing it (cuz' I fly like that, you see). It turned out fabulous and I'm only disappointed that I made such a small pie. It's tart and sweet, cold and refreshing, just like lemonade with the extra bonus of a crunchy, sweet, nuttty crust.

Next time, it will be much bigger, not just the 4-inch springform. This recipe was for a small pie, so double it up if you're doing a normal pie size, like 8 or 9 inch. It's tart, which is the way I like it. Add more honey/agave if you like your lemonade sweeter.

Now once you read this, don't let the cashews scare you away. This was the first time I've done this and I was worried, but trust's amazing! Be brave and do it, you won't be disappointed.

Raw Lemon/Blueberry Pie

4-5 whole pitted dates
One handful of raw almonds and pecans (about 1/2 cup)
1-2 Tbs raw honey (or agave if you're keeping it vegan)
1 Tbs ground flaxseed
pinch of sea salt

1 cup raw cashews, soaked in water for at least 2 hours
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
zest of one large lemon
4-5 fresh blueberries
1-2 Tbs raw honey (or agave if you're keeing it vegan)
pinch of sea salt

1. For the crust, place everything in the processor and grind until sticky but not creamy. Use one Tbs honey and 4 dates first, then add more if you need it.
2. Press crust into pan and set aside.
3. For filling, drain cashews and process until smooth, adding lemon juice as needed when it gets hard to grind.
4. Add everything else, once again adding honey slowly to taste.
4. Pour mixture into pie pan and place in freezer if you want to eat within an hour, or refrigerate overnight.

I served this with sliced strawberries and blueberries, but it's just as good on its own. It's refreshing and light, yet totally non-dairy and your friends won't believe it's made of cashews. The creamy texture is deceiving but so lovely...As an added bonus, it's loaded with protein from the nuts.


Thursday, May 27, 2010

Hot out? Salad to the rescue...

It's getting hot here in the desert-it should hit 100 in a few days. Who wants to think about cooking? That's why salads are so fantastic at this time. I think I'll write a book one day about all the fabulous salad ideas that would last all summer. For now, here's one that was fabulous and fell together for lunch. Measurements are estimated since it's all up to you how much you want of everything, and how many you're making this for. This was just for me today, so add or subtract as you wish.

I've been visiting the farmers market often and found beautiful blood orange olive oil, pomegranate balsamic, fig jam, fig balsamic vinegar, and more. Take a chance and go for something different. Check out specialty stores if you don't have a farmers market nearby. The flavors are intense and make your salad pop!

Blood Orange/Pomegranate Salad
2 cups organic lettuce (use a variety for color and fun)
1 handful shredded Romano cheese
1/8 cup dried cranberries
1/8 cup fresh organic blueberries
1/4 cup chopped candied pecans
1/2 tomato, chopped

1 TBS pomegrante balsamic vinegar (or regular balsamic)
2 TBS blood orange olive oil (or regular olive oil)
pinch of garlic powder
pinch of salt
1 tsp strawberry jam

1. Add all the salad ingredients in a large bowl.
2. Place dressing ingredients in a small container, close and shake till blended.
3. Pour dressing over salad and toss gently (you might not need all the dressing, so use half and mix, then see how it is.)

All gluten-free and vegetarian, and lovely and fresh on a warm summer day. Enjoy!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

A visit to True Food Kitchen

Wow. While perusing the Apple iPad at the Biltmore Fashion Park in Phoenix today, Daughter and I decided to take in True Food Kitchen. The restaurant is a collaboration between Dr. Andrew Weil (the whole food guru we all know and love) and local restaurateur on fire - Sam Fox.

We started with a fresh strawberry lemonade for Daughter, and I began with the T-Eight, a lovely blend of fresh veggies including Tomato, Celery, Ginger, Cucumber, Golden Beet, Apple, Carrot & Parsley ($6). Yum, served over ice it was refreshing and cool. Although at $6, I'll ask for less ice and more juice next time.

Daughter had the gluten-free baked ziti, which was essentially brown-rice pasta, tomato sauce, kale and a little Parmesan ($7). She was in heaven. The sauce was beautiful with mild spices and a sweet flavor. I gave the Spaghetti Squash Casserole a try. Lovely sauteed spaghetti squash mingled with tomatoes, onions and thinly sliced zucchini topped with fresh mozzarella and Parmesan, baked to perfection ($13). The mixture of tomatoes and onions gave this casserole a light, airy feel, although it was quite filling and I didn't miss pasta in the least. I may try this at home, but I'm not sure if I can copy this one.

We were quite full after all this, even the kid's meal was large enough to fill Daughter sufficiently. But of course, there was a flourless chocolate cake on the menu, topped with decadent vanilla bean ice cream and caramel sauce ($7). Who could resist? It was lovely, creamy, chocolaty and crunchy with cacao nibs on top.

The restaurant is clean, airy and light. Lots of wood and stainless steel makes it feel open, although the noise level can get up there. I noticed later that if we sat toward the back, we could have watched the food being prepared. Ask to sit farther toward the back and watch the action. We'll definitely be back. Wanna' join us?


Saturday, May 22, 2010

Phoenix Gluten Free Expo

Wow, what an amazing event I was lucky enough to attend. The Celiac Disease Foundation's Greater Phoenix Chapter held the most wonderful gluten free event in Phoenix. As you can see, it was quite well-attended. Great crowd, great food.

The photo here is just a small portion of the great products offered at the event. There were children, families and people wandering for hours in a friendly, educational environment. I took my friend, her son was recently diagnosed with Celiac, and she had a great time finding out about the options out there for her.

I had a great time just trying all the wonderful food offered. There was soup, cheesecake, crackers, nutbars, pizza and more. A few of the vendors are listed below, and the rest I've saved for my Taste Test Tuesdays. I'll take a few of the items and test them out each Tuesday until I run out-then I'll find more!

Today, just for the record, I tried the lemon cheesecake from Innocent Indulgence and thought I went to heaven. The crust was moist and crunchy with a tart, light and fluffy, lemon cheesecake filling. A little goes a long way, but I could have eaten much, much more. Lucky for me the test bites were two-biters.

I also tried Heavenly Organics honey chocolate mint patties-do die for! I love when something has very few ingredients and these have just three: raw Himalayan honey, unsweetened chocolate, peppermint oil. That's it! Sweet little bites of minty, chocolaty goodness. I wish I had a handful so I could have just one for each night with a cup of tea. I'll definitely be getting more of these.

And finally, something I haven't had in a very long time-shortbread. We all know, in the GF world, that shortbread is one of the hardest things to replicate from the world of wheat. It just doesn't happen for most-it's dry, gritty, powdery, too sweet, not sweet enough, too pasty, etc. You know what I why am I telling you this? I found one that was sublime-broke apart like a real shortbread should, tasted buttery, salty, sweet and begged for a cup of tea in your other hand. These little pillows of heaven are made by Simply Shari's (formerly Gluten Free & Fabulous). As far as I know, they may be in Sprouts but can be found online. The company also has a frozen pizza but I couldn't taste it since he was testing out the pepperoni variety. Veggie girl here had to wait.

I'll have more reviews as time goes on, including a new GF beer (new to me, anyway.)

The ladies at Basha's had crackers and info for everyone, and a smile! Thanks Ladies!

Honest Tea was handing out samples and they were cold, delicious and gluten free. We tried the mango and 1/2 tea/1/2 lemonade varieties. Yum!