Sunday, June 7, 2015

Gluten Free Apple Pancake

If anyone openly mourned about never being able to eat a Walker Brothers' Apple Pancake again after having to go gluten free, cheer up. It's actually pretty easy to make.



I based this recipe on the gluten version found here. As it does not require too much flour, pretty much any gluten free flour blend will do (make sure it has xanthan gum or guar gum in it, if not, add 1/4 tsp of either). I've used both the Bob's Red Mill 1:1 and Cup 4 Cup mixes.

This recipe makes a single large pancake which serves 2-3. (although all of us wanted more, just like at Walker Brothers).

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium sized apples (I used 1 Fuji and 1 Granny Smith), thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/3 cup cream, half and half or milk of your choice
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup gluten free flour mix (if no xanthan or guar gum in mix, add 1/4 tsp)
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
For Cinnamon sugar glaze:
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • A pinch of salt
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon

Instructions:


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit
  2. Over medium heat, in a cast iron or Le Creuset oven proof plan, melt butter. 
  3. Add apples and sauté until softened. (about 10-15 minutes)
  4. Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine flour mix, sugar and salt
  5. In a medium bowl, whisk eggs together, add cream
  6. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients. 
  7. Mix but do not over mix.
  8. Remove apples from heat. 
  9. Pour batter over apples
  10. Bake for 12 minutes
  11. Meanwhile, melt 2 tbsp butter over low heat
  12. Add 2 tbsp sugar and mix until melted.  
  13. Add  salt, cinnamon and mix. 
  14. Remove from heat
  15. Take pancake out of the oven. 
  16. Pour Cinnamon sugar mixture on top.
  17. Return to oven for another 3 minutes
  18. Remove from oven, let cool 5 minutes, serve and enjoy


Saturday, June 6, 2015

Disneyland - the happiest Gluten Free Place on Earth!

This past year we decided to get Disneyland Annual passes. Disney Resorts are by far the most allergy-friendly places we've visited so we decided to put all our eggs in the Disney basket.

If you click on the "Disney" tab at the top you will see my top 10 list for Disneyland and Disney World.

For Disneyland, here is some more info on what we've eaten at each place on the top 10 list, what we liked, what we didn't like and what we'd like to try next time:

Blue Bayou (New Orleans Square, Disneyland)

We've dined here 3 times so far (our next visit is in a few weeks) and we've figured out exactly how we like to order- we've done 2 lunches and 1 dinner:
  • The Giggler gets a kids meal
  • The hubby and I split an entree plus 2 sides of veggies
  • We all split a dessert
Favorites:
  • Grilled salmon entree (lunch)
  • Kids gluten free mac & cheese w/ fruit & broccolette
  • Surf & Turf entree (Dinner)
  • Chocolate mousse Mickey (presented when I was there for my birthday - I have no idea if this is a normal offering of if I was just lucky because I had mentioned it was my birthday)
  • Creme Brûlée
OK:
  • Paella
  • Gluten free rolls

Hungry Bear Restaurant (Critter Country, Disneyland Park)

We love to have lunch here in the late morning, grab a table overlooking the Rivers of America and watch the boats, canoes and duck float by.

Favorites:
  • Burgers (although the Udi's buns are kind of repulsive- we prefer just eating the burger on a plate)
  • Sweet potato fries
OK:
  • chicken salad

Carthay Circle (California Adventure Park)

We had a 4:50pm dinner reservation and were seated in a room which had a patio overlooking the Pixar Parade. Our server opened the door to the patio just as the parade started passing by and we had a great time watching from up above.

We did the World of Color Dining package which included passes to the best reserved area for the show (Center and raised up a bit from the water). We are returning in a few weeks and will just do a regular ala carte meal. We will try the same strategy as blue bayou: 1 kids meal for the Giggler, share 1 entree + 2 sides of veggies and share a dessert if we're still hungry afterwards.

Favorites:
  • Creamed tomato soup
  • The Giggler's filet kids meal (she can eat gluten so she was able to eat the gluten mac & cheese balls but the rest of the meal was gluten free so she could share w/ us)
  • Pork Chop entree
  • Panna Cotta dessert
OK:
  • Appetizer salad (the only GF option on the appetizer menu unless you order the soup from the kids menu which we found out was an option after the fact)
  • Salmon entree
  • Gluten free rolls

Rancho Del Zocalo (Frontierland, Disneyland Park)

Definitely speak with the chef/manager to place your order. Many dishes are naturally gluten free but they will make your plate in the back so there is no chance for cross contamination.

Favorites:
  • Grilled chicken plate with rice, beans and corn tortillas
That's all we've had so far. Very satisfying meal.

Storyteller's Cafe (Grand Californian Hotel)

We've been here 3 times - once for each meal. The chef will come out to help you decide what to order. They can prepare many things gluten free. They use the Venice Baking Company flatbread as gluten free bread (far better than those horrible ener-G rolls at the parks) so most sandwiches can be made GF and they're delicious.

Favorites:
  • Flatbread (as bread basket for table)
  • Grilled fish sandwich on flatbread
  • Mickey mouse waffles
  • Salads
OK:
  • The rest of the breakfast buffet (eggs, sausage, bacon, fruit)
  • Salmon entree
  • Burger

Big Thunder Ranch BBQ (Frontierland)

Eating here includes a wild west show which is fun to watch and the Giggler got to dance on stage. Pretty much everything on the pre-set menu is gluten free except for the cornbread. They brought me a cupcake for my b-day but it was gluten so the Giggler ate it. Ask for extra bbq sauce when you place your order. Yum!

Favorites:
  • Ribs
  • Beans
OK:
  • Chicken
  • Cole Slaw

Ariel's Grotto (California Adventure Park)

We've done the Princess breakfast and lunch.

Favorites:
  • Antipasto tiered tray at lunch
  • Tri-tip breakfast
  • Salmon entree at lunch (sustainable fish menu option that day)
  • Tri tip lunch
  • Dessert tray to share (fruit, warmed up brownie, maybe ice cream - don't remember)
OK:
  • Warmed Udi's blueberry muffin (breakfast)
  • Breakfast frittata
  • Pasta (lunch) - tons of very thin mushy rice noodles w/ not enough of a bland red sauce

Redd Rockett's Pizza Port (Tomorrowland, Disneyland Park)

Order directly from the chef. Takes 15-20 minutes for food to arrive. Worth it.
They use the Venice Baking Company pizza crust. 

Our favorite thing was the PIZZA. That's all we had. That's all we needed.

Wine Country Trattoria (California Adventure Park)

Favorites
  • Caprese Salad
  • Osso Bucco
OK:
  • gluten free rolls

Plaza Inn

We went here for Minnie's character breakfast on a day where Disneyland was open for early entry/magic morning (which we did not have access to) so we ate during the magic morning hour and then still made it to the regular rope drop so we could go over to the left side of the park when it opened with everyone else.

The chef brought us a huge tray of gluten free waffles, fruit, eggs, bacon, sausage and hash browns to share. Not our typical breakfast but it was a nice treat and we loved all the character interaction.

Flo's V8 Cafe (Carsland, California Adventure Park)

We loved getting a table outside on the patio so we could watch the Radiator Springs Racers ride.

Favorites:
  • Roasted chicken with mashed potatoes and roasted veggies
OK:
  • gluten free rolls
I see they now have some sort of Tamale breakfast on the menu. Got to find out if it's safe!


Please check the Disney gluten free top10 list page here to see the list of places I would not return to either due to their lack of gluten free offerings or in the case of Goofy's Kitchen, the overabundance of tempting gluten things which made it just too depressing.


Treats

  • Handmade candy (English toffee, Turtles, etc.) - the candy shops at Disneyland make gluten treats as well so while the toffee and turtles may not contain gluten ingredients, the cast members will tell you everything has gluten in it. Use your best judgement. I have eaten both the toffee and turtles w/o reaction but I may have just been lucky so far.
  • Ghirardelli in California Adventure and the ice cream places on the main streets in both parks have gluten free ice cream and sundae options which are all very good. In each case ask for the manager to place your order and they will make you sundae in the back with freshly opened containers.
  • Dole Whips are safe! (next to the Tiki room in Adventureland) Go early to avoid the long lines or try the line inside the show waiting area.


Saturday, May 16, 2015

Fabulous Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies



If you are looking for an immediate cookie fix, find another recipe. This recipe requires at least 2 hours of refrigeration. But it will be worth the wait!

Back in the 80's, a photocopied recipe claiming to be that of the official Mrs Fields Gluten Free cookies recipe was being circulated and ended up in my hands. It made something like 10 dozen cookies so I scaled it back, wrote it in my recipe book and enjoyed making those incredible chewy chocolatey cookies until I discovered gluten was rat poison to me in 2007. This was the first recipe I converted to gluten free and it took me a few attempts of flour mixes before I found one I liked. Now with what I'll call the gluten free "fad" (which is great because it brought some amazing products but bad because it came with many people thinking gluten free was for everyone - it's not- if you do not have a problem with gluten you really do not have to turn your world upside down- but if you do have a problem with gluten, don't eat the stuff.) Oh, where was I? Flour mixes - yes, well now there are some great pre-made flour mixes which do not break the bank like the Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free 1 to 1 Baking Mix which I can get at Costco - btw, I am so happy Bob's made this mix. I just couldn't stand their bean flour based mix and threw away most baked goods I made with it before finally throwing away the flour mix to stop myself from such torture.

So here is the recipe. I usually bake 1 dozen and then form cookies with the rest of the dough to freeze which I can  bake in the toaster oven at 350 degrees for 12 minutes when we just want a cookie for a treat. These are way too dangerous to leave around the house unless you're training for an Ironman.

Fabulous Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes about 4 dozen cookies

Do not preheat the oven - you will want the dough to chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours!

1. Make the dough

In a large mixing bowl cream together:
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (softened -room temperature -not too soft)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar (firmly packed)
Add:
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
In a medium mixing bowl gently whisk:
In a food processor (I use my Cuisinart mini or Vitamix dry attachment) grind into chunky flour:
  • 2 1/2 C (285g) gluten free oats
Whisk oats into dry ingredients

On a cutting board, chop into chunks
  • 4 oz chocolate bars (I like dark chocolate but pick your favorite)
Also grab a
  • 12 oz bag of semisweet chocolate chips
Mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients.
Add chocolate chips and chocolate chunks.



2. Refrigerate (Sorry!)

Refrigerate dough for at least 2 hours Sorry - I have tried to skip this step. Don't. Even better refrigerate overnight or even for 2 days. Gluten free flours just need a chance to absorb the butter and eggs. Trust me.

3. Bake

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F

Form dough into golf ball sized mounds, flatten slightly. Place on cookie sheet or freeze balls for future use. I usually put a silicon baking mat or parchment paper over the sheet for easier clean up.

Bake at 375 degrees F for 11-13 minutes until bottoms are lightly browned. You'll have to time it based on your oven characteristics. It is much better to undercook than overcook these as they will continue to cook on the sheet as they cool. If they consistently come out too crispy try baking them next time at 350 degrees F.


After 5 minutes remove cookies from sheet and let cool on cooling rack, if you can wait that long.


The hubby loves these hot but I like them best the next day. Well, I like them hot, warm and the next day. They're pretty incredible. I hope you enjoy them too.




Thursday, April 9, 2015

The Best Gluten Free Chips, Pretzels and Crackers

This post was originally published April 9, 2015 and is regularly updated as I discover new snacks which displace others on the list.

Without further adieu, here are the best gluten free chips, pretzels and crackers I've found so far:

#1 - Luke's MultiGrain & Seed Crackers - Chia Seed


Recent find at our local Costco

The hubby spotted these at CostCo last weekend. Billed as Organic & Gluten Free, these chips taste like a whole grain corn chip. They are lightly salted and crispy and could easily hold a dip  like hummus or peanut butter and stand nicely on their own.


These will be a regular purchase from now on - I hope Costco continues to carry them. The flour mix consists of brown rice, millet, quinoa, amaranth and potato and are dusted with chia and quinoa seeds. According to Luke's web site they also come in multi-seed, sea salt, bean & seed, black pepper and garden vegetable. Garden Vegetable sounds tasty - I hope I can find them somewhere. Other than Costco it doesn't look like they are available at any of my local grocers yet. I can't provide you a direct link but if you go to their main site by clicking here, then scroll down and click "Crackers" below that you will see a link "Where can I buy some".

#2 Snyder's Gluten Free Pretzels

When I first went gluten free in 2007, I figured I'd be done with pretzels but within that first year my local Whole Foods started carrying the Glutino Pretzels, which had a nice crunch but a slightly weird aftertaste. (Although I still adore their yogurt covered pretzels!). When Snyder's came out with their own gluten free pretzels a few years ago I was hooked. They taste exactly like the gluten variety. Light, crispy and highly salted. You can find them in twists as well as sticks and according to their web site there is also a mustard flavor. I've recently been able to find these at some Safeway stores although Whole Foods is still my go-to location as they seem to always have them in stock. These are perfect for road trips and school snacks.

#3 Milton's Gluten Free Crackers




Milton's makes their crackers in several flavors: multi-grain, "everything", sea salt and cheddar. My favorite is sea salt. These crackers have a great light crunch and almost seem like they have air pockets inside. They also taste a bit buttery and are great with dips or on their own. The only reason I don't have them rated #1 or #2 is that they are a bit delicate and tend to break into powder pretty easily so I recommend them for home consumption versus travel. I can find Milton's at both Sprouts and Safeway.

#4 Crunchmaster Crackers
Crunchmster makes a variety of gluten free crackers. My favorite flavor is Sea Salt.

These are a bit thicker than Luke's and Milton's and have many different flavors.  You can find Crunchmaster multigrain crackers in the gluten free GoPicnic meals.  Crunch master also makes small kid-size crackers in Cinnamon and Cheese flavors although when I buy them they tend to sit in the pantry for awhile - the flavors are not nearly as addicting as the Van's crackers.I'm assuming Crunchmaster probably has less sodium than Van's although I don't have a box handy to compare. Salt, sugar and fat are the keys to making a food addictive (interpret that as you wish).

#5 Way Better Snacks - Tortilla Chips only

We first discovered Way Better Snacks at the 2013 Gluten Free & Allergen Free Expo in San Francisco. The hubby's favorite flavor by far is the Sweet Chili Corn Tortilla Chips which really pack a lot of heat. He can down a bag in a single sitting so be sure to portion out the chips before it's too late! Note - I saw Way Better Snacks now offers crackers but READ THE LABEL- they have sprouted barley which is not gluten free.

#6 Food Should Taste Good - Multigrain Crackers
These are my favorites for the standard party chip and also does great with Nachos. I can buy them at most grocery stores as well as Costco.

#7 Van's Gluten Free Crackers
I first happened upon Van's at my local Safeway who had them on sale. These suckers are addicting so watch your portions. Tiny little crispy salty chips of goodness. My favorite flavor is the "Say Cheese".

#8 Frito's Corn Chips
These were my favorite chips growing up - and that was decades before I realized gluten was harming me. Be sure check the ingredients labels as some of the flavored versions do have gluten ingredients.

#9 Real McCoy's Rice Chips
I first tasted these at the 2014 Gluten Free & Allergen Free Expo up in San Mateo. They are packed with flavor. The only reason I don't buy these more is because (1) they are addicting, and (2) they are a bit pricier than some of the other options out there. My favorite flavor is Sweet & Spicy.

#10 Blue Diamond Nut Thins
Other than Frito's, the only crackers on this list which existed that were decent were these Blue Diamond Nut thins. They are very thin and crispy but pretty hard. They have a lot of different flavors like Cheddar Cheese and Smokehouse. The only reason I stopped buying them was when the Giggler started preschool and I had to find crackers which were also nut free in order to include them in school snacks. That's just about when Crunchmaster came out and over time the others in this list were launched.




Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The perfect make-at-home gluten free pizza


Our family LOVES pizza. No - I really mean it. I grew up in Upstate New York amongst many great mom and pop pizzeria's while my husband feasted on Chicago stuffed and deep dish growing up in Chicagoland. Needless to say, we each have our own opinions on Chicago vs NY pizza but we both agree that both are just about the perfect food.

If you've read any of my prior posts, you'll find many mentions of trying gluten free pizza offerings nationwide, as well as my attempts and eventual success at making a gluten free stuffed pizza. Well, it's taken over 7 years but I can finally say I've perfected a make-at-home thin crust pizza!

I've made close to a dozen from-scratch recipes, tried pretty much every baking mix and prepared crust. I've also made many different sauces as well as tried a ton of pre-made sauces. Surprisingly, I ended up with all pre-made ingredients - the from-scatch sauces and crusts didn't beat the final winners. Here they are:

Crust
Venice Baking Company continues to produce my favorite pizza crust so I order them in 12 packs from the Venice web site and store them in the freezer. I prefer the 12" seasoned crust. Join their mailing list or like their Facebook page to find out about occasional discounts.


Sauce
Just in the past year or so Classico introduced 2 pizza sauces - traditional and fire roasted tomato. Both are excellent but I prefer traditional.

Cheese
I find the actual brand of cheese hasn't made much of a difference although I did learn that I need to use a lot less of the Whole Foods brand organic cheeses than Kraft. Also, I tried fresh grating solid blocks as well as grated and really couldn't tell the difference so I tend to stick to Kraft or Sargento shredded cheese (whichever is on sale). I typically look for 3 different varieties:

  • "Pizza" cheese which is typically mozzarella and cheddar. I will also just use shredded cheddar.
  • Mozzarella
  • Italian mix
Toppings
We tend to make 2 pizzas - one Cheese and one with Pepperoni, sun-dried tomatoes or roasted red peppers. Our favorite Pepperoni which is plenty tasty but not too greasy is the Hormel Turkey Pepperoni.


Tip: pre-cook the pepperoni.
Pre-cooking the pepperoni will take some of the grease out and leave in the flavor. Heat a pan on medium heat and add your pepperoni. I typically use between 14-25 slices per 12" crust, depending on much pepperoni I want.
Heat for 5-10 minutes until the pepperoni starts to glisten. Turn off the heat.
Tools of the Trade
Perfect pizza requires having a great tool set. I highly recommend a good quality pizza/baking stone and pizza peel. I've been through a couple of low quality cheap-os which were disappointing. I now have a Williams Sonoma pizza stone and 16" Pizza Peel have been very happy with it. When using a pizza stone, put it in a cold oven and turn the oven on to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, bake cycle. Broil or preheat will heat the stone to quickly and will result in a strange uneven result. My oven takes a good 30+ minutes to come to full temperature so when I know I want to make pizza I always work out exactly when I have to turn on the oven.

Pre-Cooking the crust
Gluten free crusts tend to be dense and absorb a lot of liquid so  you will first want to pre-cook the crust to crisp up the edges, making the resulting pizza crispier on the outside and less soggy on the inside. I pre-cook a crust for 3 minutes.
Assembling the Pizza
Each jar of Classico makes 2 12" pizzas. Gluten free pizzas need a little more sauce than their gluten counterparts. If you have tasted most of the frozen gluten free pizza out there you will know what I'm talking about.
Sprinkle on some Pizza cheese. If using straight cheddar, use about 1/2 of what you see here:
Sprinkle on a layer of Mozzarella
and then a light layer of Italian mix
If you are adding toppings do it now
Cooking the Pizza
In my 450 degrees Fahrenheit oven, on a baking stone, my perfect pizza cooks in 8 minutes. You will need trial and error to determine your baking time. I know it's done when the edges of the crust have browned and the cheese is bubbling.

Recipe Summary
  1. Place baking stone in the oven.
  2. Turn oven on to 450 degrees Fahrenheit, bake cycle (not Broil or Preheat).
  3. If your crust is frozen, take it out to thaw while you wait for the oven to heat.
  4. Pre-bake crust for 3 minutes
  5. Spread 1/2 jar Classico Pizza sauce on crust, covering all except the very edge
  6. Sprinkle Pizza Cheese or Cheddar cheese as a light layer
  7. Sprinkle a layer of Mozzarella Cheese
  8. Sprinkle a dusting of Italian cheese mix
  9. If using toppings, add toppings.
  10. Bake 8 minutes until crust is lightly browned and bubbly.
  11. Cool on cutting board for 5 minutes, cut pizza with pizza cutter or large Chef knife, cool another 5 minutes and serve.
  12. If making 2 pizzas, pre-heat 2nd crust while assembling first pizza. Then assemble 2nd pizza while first pizza cooks. I usually make the Giggler's cheese pizza first so it's cooler when we sit down for dinner.
Note: if you click on the link for the pizza peel at Amazon this site will receive a small referral bounty should you order one which would be used to maintain this site as well as if you click this link below and sign up to try Amazon Prime:


Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Gluten Free Business Class

Last week I went on my first International flight after going gluten free 4+ years ago. I was a bit nervous about food, or the lack of, so I packed my usual travel stash of trail mix, NuGo Dark bars and single-serve packets of gluten free oatmeal. This was a business trip and luckily my employer allows us to fly business class when going overseas.

I flew SWISS airlines from San Francisco, through Zurich to Stockholm; Lufthansa from Stockholm to Frankfurt and United from Frankfurt to San Francisco. I was quite pleased with pretty much every meal although I would have to say the Swiss meals left me a bit hungry afterwards as they were mainly fruit, veggies and plain chicken breast. I think the Swiss meals were actually considered the "absolutely no allergen meals" as they appeared to be gluten, dairy, soy and egg free.

Here is a summary (with photos) on what I was served:

flight 1 - SWISS - San Francisco to Zurich

This 10 1/2 hour flight served 2 meals. Dinner was 
- spinach salad with fat free lemon vinegrette

flight 2 - SWISS - Zurich to Stockholm


flight 3 - Lufthansa - Stockholm to Frankfurt


flight 4 - United - Frankfurt to Stockholm


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Product Review: Tres Latin Foods' Pupusas

I was excited when the folks at Tres Latin Foods asked if I'd like to try their new frozen Pupusa's. The giggler eats Trader Joe's tamale's for lunch several times a week and I would love to give her an alternate meal. Plus, the idea of being able to toast up a tasty pupusa in just a few minutes versus making them from scratch also got my attention. So the folks from Tres Latin Foods sent me some coupons good for two varieties to try at my local market. Unfortunately it took me a little while to find them at my local stores but they've recently increased distribution and can now be found at two stores near me- Sprouts and Whole Foods. I opted to try the Black Bean & Sweet Corn variety as well as Spinach and Cheese. Their other varieties also sounded delicious: Kale & Pinto Bean, Green Chili & Cheese and Pinto Bean & Cheese so it was a tough choice.



These Pupusas are very wholesome - many of the ingredients are organic and they lack the usual preservatives often found in prepared foods- far more wholesome than those Trader Joe tamales which have become a staple in our home.

So how were they? Pretty good! The first time I prepared them by cooking in the toaster oven, oven setting, and they were warm but not very crisp. The spinach and cheese was a big hit while the black bean and sweet corn was a bit bland although this could be remedied with some sort of salsa on the side. I wish the Black Bean & Sweet Corn pupusa had just a little bit more filling.




The second time I toasted them in the toaster oven for 3 cycles at the darkest setting and this was a much better outcome - warm on the inside and a nice crunch with chew on the outside. Nice as part of a meal or a mid-afternoon snack.

I haven't tried these cold yet as a lunch for the Giggler. They are pretty small - 130 calories (Black bean & Sweet Corn)  and 160 calories (Spinach & Cheese) so I'll probably have to give her two or give her something else in addition to a Pupusa. Unfortunately I forgot to collect the retail price at Sprouts but believe each box (4 pupusa's per box) runs $5-6.

Have you tried Tres Latin Foods Pupusa's?

What's your favorite savory school lunch meal?