Cinco de…Uh-oh!

My mouth waters as I write this…

Living in Southern California afforded me the chance to not only indulge in your typical homemade Mexican fare on a daily basis, but also to learn how to make it. From salsa to guacamole to refried beans..I learned how to whip up a Mexican Feast in no time flat. Sauces? A cinch. Rolling taquitos or burritos? No problem! Making tortillas from scratch?

Making tortillas from….SCRATCH? HUH?

That WAS my attitude – past tense! Now, I’m proud to say no longer a tortilla-making novice. Not at all! The Kiwi BF and I have been so into making our favorite Mexi-Cali dishes, that we grabbed Tio Pablo’s Instant Corn Masa Mix (ok, not quite from scratch, but close enough!).

We wanted to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, except I wanted to make the tortilla’s from this mix for the authentic vibe we were aiming for with the meal. We rounded out our tortilla making kit with a press and I was good to go.

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This is my new boyfriend…Don’t tell my current one!

This was so easy…as in, ridiculously easy! The mix, which is gluten free, makes life simple: You mix 2 cups of the Corn Masa with one cup of water, mixing the ingredients until they form a firm ball. Separate into 12 smaller balls then …press away!

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So..the beans aren’t quite homemade…This time! They are gluten free, though 🙂

Pressing tip: Use parchment paper on both sides of the dough, and press. This helps keep the tortilas from sticking and makes clean up a lot easier. Lift the press and move the tortilla a quarter turn and press again, repeating these steps a few times to get the tortilla just thin enough, but not too much!

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Seriously, everyone needs a tortilla press!

 

The batch we made gave us 12 tortillas – add some grilled chicken, roasted onions and red peppers, homemade (for real!) guacamole and salsa and you get a perfect Cinco De Mayo – or anytime – meal. The tortillas we made came out soft and pliable, delicious and fresh!

Once you have food this fresh, there is no return 😉

Are you a fan of Mexican food? Share your fave dishes in the comments below..we love hearing what you think 🙂

 

 

BBQ Root Beer Chicken (Gluten Free!)

My mother is from North Carolina, so I’m born and bred to LOVE BBQ! Of course, nothing compares to being at a drive-in diner in the South and getting pulled pork BBQ sandwiches with some cole slaw on the side or piling it on top of your sandwich.

However, I do my best to try and recreate this loving feelin’ at home. 🙂

I found this recipe on Pinterest (surprise, surprise!) and wanted to give it a go because it uses two ingredients I really like: Root Beer and BBQ sauce. I do tend to steer clear of soft drinks, as a general rule, but using it in this recipe only adds to the flavor of your meal.

You can throw this in a crockpot or make it in your oven..either way it’s truly all about the BBQ Sauce! This recipe uses the crock pot, so get out the slow-cooker and let’s do this!

Ingredients:

  • 4-5 Chicken breasts (thawed)
  • Sweet Baby Ray’s Honey Barbecue Sauce
  • 6 oz. Root Beer (I used A&W)
  • pinch of salt
  • pinch of pepper

Throw the chicken breasts, thawed, into the crockpot for three hours on high. Drain juices out when time is up, then add Root Beer, 18 oz of BBQ sauce, salt and pepper. Cook for another 30 minutes in the crock pot, then voila!

Dinner is served…

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Weekend Quickie: Gluten Free Zucchini Chips

I’m on a health kick this month so I’ve been messing around with gluten free recipes to share…like this one for Zucchini Chips. I’m sure you’re asking yourself what the heck ARE Zucchini Chips…You are not alone! At first I was a bit skeptical, because it is zucchini. I’ve learned to embrace veggies as I’ve “matured” (term I totally use loosely!), but I tried it and you know what?

I’m in heaven.

These little suckers taste sooo good and for the calories – Anne’s Estimated Guess (AEG):  about 60-75 cal per serving – you can’t go wrong. I’m breaking down this easy 20 minute snack for you, so let me know what you think:

Ingredients:

  • 2 zucchini
  • 2 eggs whites
  • 1/4 cup gluten free bread crumbs 
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 tsp of the following: rosemary, garlic powder, Italian seasonings,
  • 1/8 tsp black pepper

Heat oven to 450˚ and line a baking sheet or pan with parchment paper. Spray paper with non-stick cooking spray.

Cut the zucchini into 1/4 inch slices and set to the side. Mix breadcrumbs and seasonings in a bowl, putting egg whites in a separate dish.  Dip zucchini slices into egg whites, then dip slices into breadcrumb mixture, coating both sides. Place finished slices onto parchment paper. 

Cook for 7-8 minutes, then flip slices. I did this and I added an extra 5 minutes to mine so they were just a touch crispier 😉 Check out the finished product below…So good!

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I ate them as a warm-up for lunch. Hmmm, well they are healthy…right? 

Serve as they are for a snack, with sandwiches at lunch time (replace those potato chips!) or heat up some marinara and dip these delish chips for a fun appetizer. 

Let me know how yours turn out!!

 

Girl Scout Cookie Season..It’s on!

A little over a year ago, I was prepping for my second favorite time of year – and it’s only second because first place is a tie between Thanksgiving and Memorial Day .

GIRL SCOUT COOKIE SEASON!!!

My mouth waters at the mere thought. Oh, what bad day wouldn’t just go away with the gentle love of a Thin Mint? “What, CEO-Bossman Guy, you’re mad at me – I screwed up? Let me pop a Samoa in my mouth and think about this…”

I would search out those little cookie-entrepreneurs each season. I would pray, usually starting said prayer vigil, around the beginning of March. I would watch for them outside my grocery store, or on the weekends I knew to keep an eye out. There they were, those future leaders of America, setting up their little both with their wares. It was the one time I wanted someone to stop me as I was going into the grocery store. “Four dollars a box? Awesome! I’ll take three of these and two of these. Oh, and let’s get one of those for goof measure.”

Yes, Girl Scout Cookie Season was a favorite. Then I was told I couldn’t have gluten.

First of all, there are a lot of folks out there that attempt the recreation of a Girl Scout Thin Mint (hereafter known as GSTM). It’s nearly impossible! A local bakery here in LA has come very close, but when you are paying two dollars a cookie, it’s just not the same.

There was a ritual with these cookies. When I bought the GSTM’s, I’d immediately put them in the freezer. Nothing tastes as good as one of these babies straight from the freezer. It was a habit, something I looked forward to every Cookie Season.

I’m on a quest now. I want to see if I can find a recipe that comes close to one of these cookies I loved so dearly so I, too, can smile again and laugh when folks are talking about their Girls Scout Cookie purchases. I want to have a Samoa! I want them at my fingertips!

Apparently, someone else wanted the same thing. Why? Because I found a recipe online for gluten free (and casein free) Samoa Cookies. It looks like when you start making them that you are in for quite the commitment, but you know what?

I’m down for it.

Living Gluten Free (or why it ain’t easy…)

It happened. I got glutened.

For those of you that are intolerant to gluten, you know this is not a pretty sight to begin with, but when it actually hits you like a runaway truck, it can be downright frightening.

I’m always prepared. Really. I’m better than a Boy Scout. When dining out, I try to do my own due diligence to make sure I can eat something on the menu provided or see if I need to “load” up before I go because there are not a lot of options at said restaurant.

I was excited when I was getting a cup of soup at Le Pain Quotidien here in LA and was told by the server that there was the option of gluten free bread when I was ordering my usual gluten free tomato soup.

“Really?” I could not contain my excitement. I wanted to kiss him.

“Oh yes! It’s completely gluten free. I’ll give you some, ok?”

I was still not convinced. “Are you positive?”

“Yes! I’ll even give you extra…” His nod was so sincere and his smile so heartfelt, I was lured in, no more questions asked.

Here is where I made my mistake folks. I can’t blame him entirely because as a former server, I usually ask many more questions. This day I was so tired, hungry -and excited – that I got greedy. I watched him load my small take-out bag with my soup and gluten-free bread, took it and skipped out the door.

I enjoyed that bread. I did. It was crusty and fresh and I dipped it in my soup and used it with some dips and spreads at home. Now, as I was eating it I did notice my tummy wasn’t feeling well and I was itching some, but honestly, I brushed it to the side. The guy at Le Pain insisted it was gluten free and he wouldn’t lie to me.

Would he?

As the day progressed, I noticed other little side effects begin to present themselves…my lips hurt, my mouth felt like it had cuts inside it and the topper was when I felt my throat closing. I was having more trouble swallowing than anything, but it was enough of a shock to send me running to the closest Rite-Aid to ask the pharmacist what to do.

Luckily, the Benadryl they recommended worked immediately and I didn’t have to go to the hospital, which was our initial first thought. I pride myself on knowing how my body reacts to things, and once again I listened and caught myself before a mini-disaster occurred.

Did the counter guy at Le Pain lie? The answer to this is no – he didn’t lie. I just think he was ill informed. I found out later he took it that the spelt bread he gave me was gluten free and didn’t think to ask anyone if he was correct.

And again, I take my share of responsibility here because I knew to ask more questions. It’s not like people know about this everywhere, but I wish they did. I wish that most restaurants offered more gluten-free items or trained their servers so they were more educated on this allergy. Kind of like when I was serving and we had to learn all about peanuts and what can happen if someone ingests them.

Hopefully my mistake will help someone else out there to remember to ASK QUESTIONS. Tons. Screw it if they think we’re nuts, I don’t want to spend another Saturday night wondering if my throat is going to close.

I’ve decided that this Saturday I’m going to make some chocolate pots for my neighbors and myself – we love our sweets here and I need to be happy about something delectable again!

So, here’s a recipe I found online at Real Simple that I’m testing out  – let me know if you do, too and we can compare our desserts!

Have a wonderful weekend – and remember: No question is stupid!!!

 

 

Breads and Desserts: A Gluten-Free Gal’s Guide to Keeping the Faith!

The conversation with my doctor the day I was told “No More Gluten” went like this:

Awesome Doc: “We have to stop your body from throwing itself into Celiac’s.”

Me: “Ok…What does that mean? Do I get a pill?”

Awesome Doc: “No, not really. You just have to stop eating gluten.”

Me: “That’s all? Ok. How hard can that be?”

About ten minutes later I found out gluten was in pizza and beer – two “comfort” foods that have made me a happy girl for years.  I’m still positive my cry of “Noooooooo!!!” was heard ‘round the world.

Anyway, you move on and you figure it out, right? I immediately turned to friends, nutritionists, amateur cooks and professional chefs who I know for advice. I rolled up my sleeves and started to do my own research on the internet. There was good news in the midst of my break up with gluten, as there seemed to be a fair amount of “gluten-free” items popping up in grocery stores already and all over online retail stores as well.

Insert sigh of relief here.

At this point, I began to approach shopping with a new excitement, almost an unsettled fervor and with such confidence! I would head to my local grocery stores and farmer’s markets armed with a list of “must have’s” for my pantry. I’d allow myself extra time to peruse the aisles in search of items I could add to my repertoire. I managed to find most things I needed and some I didn’t. Then, the taste-tests began.

And the taste tests sometimes just…sucked.

I can’t to lie to you – I love my carbs. While I do believe watching carbs is good for the waistline, I also believe hell hath no fury like that of a girl who loves bread and sweets and is told it they have to go away.

I’ve taste-tested my fair share of bread options. While some are …well, chewable, I’m still on the hunt for bread that will be soft on the roof of my mouth again or that will not be as thick as a brick. I’m sure they are out there, but this girl is still in search. Bread bowls at dinners out are sadly off my radar now, and one of my favorite items was gone forever. Focaccia bread.

Or, so I thought.

For anyone else out there that loves bread and would like to be able to break off a piece of focaccia and run it through some olive oil and balsamic vinegar, I have the best news ever.

You can! Best part? My taste testers didn’t know this recipe was gluten free when I had them sample it.

Along with the help of my good friend Mimi Germaine, and based on a recipe from the cookbook Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison, I’ve found a focaccia recipe that will make folks at your Thanksgiving table come back for thirds and fourths!

Ingredients:

2 tsp active dry yeast

½ tsp sugar

1 tsp salt

2 tbsp olive oil

2 ½ -3 cups of Gluten Free Flour  (I used Bob’s Red Mill)

1 ½ tsp coarse sea salt

  1. In ¼ warm water, dissolve yeast and sugar. Set this mixture aside for up to 20 minutes. Some recipes suggest 10, BUT Mimi (aka my “Kitchen Guru”) suggested I let it dissolve longer to “add air” since my issue with most bread was the denseness.
  2. Prep a mixing bowl for the dough by oiling it thoroughly.
  3. Using a separate mixing bowl, mix together 1-cup warm water, salt, oil and flour. Add yeast mixture to this concoction and lightly knead. After flour ingredients are all mixed together, turn out ingredients on to a floured surface to lightly knead, no longer than 2 minutes or 3.
  4. Place the dough inside the oiled bowl, covering top with a damp cloth. Place bowl in a warm spot for dough to rise for the next hour. Again, as with the yeast, some recipes suggest letting the dough rise for 45 minutes. Go longer, add air. It’s the Germaine way!
  5. After the dough has risen, you can put it in a bread pan or shape it into a circle and use a pizza stone for baking or do what I did: I spilt the dough in half, dividing it into two different sized Le Creuset bakeware dishes.  This way I could also make one loaf of plain focaccia loaf and one loaf with some pizzazz!
  6. After the dough has been placed in the bakeware, pinch it or poke small holes in the top with fingertips to make a decorative top to the bread.  Cover again and let rise in a warm place for the next 45 minutes.
  7. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Top with anything from Rosemary to pre-roasted garlic or you can even add some onions (I used fried onions leftover from making the Gluten-Free Green Bean Casserole). Bake for 30 minutes.

While it’s cooling off, get a plate and pour some olive oil and balsamic vinegar on it for your dipping pleasure.

Trust me – this bread is going to be a hit on your Thanksgiving table!

Besides bread, there is always the small issue of ….do I dare say it?

Desserts. Delicious, sweet, gooey, yummy, decadent desserts!

Cookies, cakes, pies…you name it. Most of the baked goods we gluten-free-peeps have loved or indulged in for past holidays are now off limits.

Well, kind of.

Thankfully companies like Betty Crocker have stepped up to the plate. I’ve mentioned my love of Betty’s gluten-free cookies in the past – I make them for almost every dinner party I’m invited to or any BBQ I’m attending. You know what’s funny? No one can ever tell the difference between my cookies and “normal” ones. In fact, at most parties? My cookies – well, Betty’s – are the first to go! Her cakes are just as amazing and can be topped with almost any icing in the Betty Crocker line as well, just read the labels.

Besides Betty, there are so many other options out there. You just have to hit the internet and do some research.

So here you are – thank me later: I’ve found some naturally gluten-free desserts (these I found in the Huffington Post) and a Pumpkin Pie recipe from the Gluten-Free Goddess. If you have time, take a look at the Betty Crocker website. They’ve created a ton of amazing desserts that can be made from their mixes. Trust me, my Christmas baking is going to include some of my own recipes mixed with a few of Betty’s suggestions!

Eat, enjoy and love…and don’t forget to get outside and move to work off your holiday meal! I know I’ll be stealing some time for myself this holiday weekend to fit in a run or some kind of pilates workout.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Guess Who’s Gonna Be Gluten Free Travel Bloggin’?

I’m excited to share with you that I’ll be doing a series of blogs in association with FlipKey, an offshoot of Tripadvisor, starting in the next few weeks!

I’ve learned so much about how to travel while being gluten-free, not to mention keeping up on your health and fitness activities while on the road. It can be hectic enough trying to get from Point A to Point B, but when we figure in outside issues – watching our diets for low-fat or diabetic needs, trimming calories for our heart or other health reasons or cutting out gluten, it’s no wonder thinking about food can be taxing.

Let’s make it easier…Shall we?

And that is what I intend to do. I want to help you – and me – figure out the best way to watch our diets, no matter what they are and why we do them, so we can feel good about ourselves. Let’s also find time to sneak in a workout, shall we? Whether you are on the road for business or pleasure, we’ll find a way to keep your goals visible in front of you –  no matter what city, town or providence you may be passing through.

While prepping for my own trip, I found this fun little nugget of info for anyone traveling who is gluten-free: It’s a  list of restaurants from different airports across the country, and these particular spots either have items that can be reworked so the gluten free can enjoy them or they have options for you that are pre-made & gluten-free.

I know it’s easy to just get something at the airport, but I also want to suggest that you consider doing what I do: Pack your own food. For. Real. I’m a snacker, and when I travel I’d rather have some goodies to pull out during my travels than to take a chance at an airport diner where honestly, you could end up getting an item that is cross-contaminated by accident.

Sometimes we take our chances. For instance, show me a Wendy’s and I’ll show you a girl who loves a baked potato! Add a side salad and I can usually stop the hungries from hitting. Totally GF.

However, today I’m climbing on a red-eye and want to make sure I don’t get hit with an accidental dose of gluten – and the following gluten attack – while in the air. What’s in my bag? Well, a small baggie of gluten-free Blue Diamond Almond Nut Thins, two small packets of Justin’s Almond Butter (easy to open and easy to use!), and two Luna Protein Bars flavored with cookie dough and mint-chocolate chip (the mint chip are amazing!). I’m planning on grabbing an apple or a banana once I’m past security to add to the mix. Looking over my little bag o’treasures, I’m feeling pretty good.

Are you traveling this week for the holidays? If so, get to your local grocery or health-food store and start your travel bag of snacks for the trip. An hour two of preparation before you get to the airport will save you and hour or two of pain and misery if you get “glutened.”

Trust me.

Going Gluten-Free (as posted on “Life…My Way”, Frederick News-Post)

Going to the doctor can bring up lots of issues…well I guess it depends on what Doc you go to, huh? For me, it was a routine check-up that involved some lovely testing. I’ll just ump ahead to the part where I was told I get to eat fully gluten-free for the next three months.

I’ve had gluten-free foods a lot over the last few months on my own for other reasons, but having someone tell you that you have to do it makes it so much different (I have some commitment issues – I’ll just get that out there). Having to actually fully commit to no gluten sounds AWFUL, mainly because I hear “no bread, no beer.”

I’m not an idiot – I do know this doesn’t mean that I am going to be starving. In fact most grocery stores and a lot of restaurants actually carry many gluten-free options now, with so many folks out there having no tolerance for gluten. I’ve tried the gluten free beer before and frankly, not impressed. I will be heading back to Whole Foods in the next few days to stock up on a few supplies, so I’m hoping to find some other options available now. If not, well, I’ll just take it a day at a time.

As I get started on this journey on a personal level, I decided I’m going to take you guys with me…Why not? Let’s see what I can share every Wednesday with you all about me trying out new gluten-free products or attempting to cook. I think I may just post some pictures as well. Think good thoughts for my poor family and friends – they are the ones that might just suffer here.

In honor of my first Gluten-Free Wednesday Post, I’m posting a shopping list which is found on the The Gluten Free Chef – it’s here for anyone else wanting to give this a go. As I find other info, you can bet I’ll post it. If you want to write in and share your own discoveries or suggestions, please do! I’d love them, and I’m sure other readers would love to check out new ideas as well.

Well, time for breakfast…Thank goodness there’s gluten-free Bisquick (and this recipe for some fabulous cheesecake pancakes!) cause I’m making pancakes!