Wednesday, September 7, 2011

I Love It When the Universe Cooperates...Bulk GF Crackers at WalMart!!!

I am a WalMart grocery shopper. I will admit it. I shop at other stores, too, and I'm not above walking into a store to simply buy a brand of soup and nothing else (Ahem, Progresso...). But usually I'm excited when I see gluten free options at my WalMart because that can almost always mean they are available to a national audience. I know it's not always the case, but I trick myself into believing it just to be happy for everyone else. I have bought smaller boxes of these crackers before at the SuperDuper WalMart, and then (chorus of angels....bright light from above) as I walked down the aisle I spotted these huge boxes of Crunchmaster gluten free crackers. Me being me (which in translation means I'm somewhat of a gluten free food hoarder), I bought two of the giant boxes and couldn't wait to photograph them.I know there's about a million things I could do with these crackers, and I'm planning on coming up with some great combinations to post soon. The first one I was dying to try was softened cream cheese spread on a cracker with apricot jam spread over that. Delish! This was a great salt/sweet combo, and it looks so pretty you could set them out at a dinner party or ladies' luncheon if you ever needed a quick snack. I'm thinking of those Laughing Cow cheeses, hummus, peanut butter, vegetabes, flavored cream cheeses, and nutella to start. Not all together, of course. Anyone have an unusually delicious cracker combination to share?

If you click here, you can get a coupon for $1 off a box of these crackers. Enjoy!

Happy eating!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Easy Gluten Free Italian Cream Cheese Chicken

I am recovering from a fairly horrible jury duty stint last week, and I noticed that the one night I wasn't completely in Momzilla mode was the night that I had this chicken dish all ready to go. It's super easy and I think everyone in my family actually ate it...which is reward enough for me. Plus, since everyone's gone back to school I'm relying more heavily on my meal plans, which I think have made life so much easier for me with all the craziness that goes on after school. This recipe takes about 5 minutes to throw together and put in the oven, so it's definitely on the list. I love the flavor in this's creamy and flavorful and the chicken stays moist and tender. Put some cream cheese on the grocery list and try this recipe to see if your family likes it, too.

Gluten Free Italian Cream Cheese Chicken

1 brick of cream cheese (can be low fat or regular)
1 packet of Good Seasons Italian seasoning
1 can Progresso Creamy Mushroom gluten free soup
1 can DeLallo artichoke hearts, drained and quartered (I like to buy the uncut ones and cut them myself, then I can pull out any tough pieces.)
4-5 chicken breasts

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a 9x13 pan with nonstick cooking spray and set aside. Place chicken breasts in the bottom of the pan. Pour soup over chicken, top with seasoning packet, artichokes, and cube or break up with your hands the brick of cream cheese and scatter over the top. Bake for 1 hour. Serve over rice. Can also be made in the crock pot by placing chicken in crock pot, dumping all other ingredients over the top, and cooking on low 5-6 hours.

Happy eating!

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Eagle Has Landed...

It's about dang time. I can't wait to make rice krispie treats with these. They also really do Snap, Crackle, and Pop just like the original! I think I bought these at my WalMart Neighborhood Grocery store or Harmon's. Enjoy!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Happy New Year! Better Known As: Back to School!

For those of us with school aged children, right now we're either feeling elation or depression that school is about to start. Or maybe a mixture of both. I always struggle with both feelings, since we have a great time all together in the summer and it's hard to be alone when they leave. However, I can't say it's not going to be nice to have a few hours a day where I don't have to listen to the Angry Birds theme song. School starts for us Monday, and here's a quick recap: we've been making rock collections, going to the zoo, going to see the "Up" house in Herriman, chasing a puppy, and generally laying around.

When it gets time to send my children back to school, I find myself in the midst of preparations of Herculean proportions to bring order back into the chaos that summer inevitably falls into. I make detailed checklists of morning, after school, and bedtime routines so people know what to do when (I have yet to have a year where my checklists actually improve the morning rush), clean off the backpack/coat hangers, haul in boxes and boxes of food from Costco as though "The Big One" is coming over the horizon, and take stock of large and small things in a feeble attempt to make the morning rush and afternoon free-for-all easier. Ha. At least I'll get an "A" for effort.

This morning I made crepes for my daughter who was going to her first day of middle school, and I thought I would just make a few for her and do the rest of the batter later, because I was for sure going back to bed after she left. But the gluten free flour tends to thicken the batter as it sits, so I ended up making up the rest of them, and then another batch on top of that, and put them in the freezer for a quick on-the-go breakfast option for me or the kids. (Tip: I put paper towels in between each crepe so I can just pull out as many as I need without defrosting the whole batch. 20-30 seconds in the microwave should defrost them.) I thought this was a clever time saver, if I do say so myself. I've also learned that the best way for me to utilize big meat purchases from Costco is to break them up into dinner-sized portions, wrap them in foil, and label with the ever-present Sharpie.
Usually I make up a weekly meal plan right before I go to the grocery store, taking stock as I make the list. This year I decided to try something new. I divided the days into meal types, and then listed five or six meals for each day that could fit with my schedule and my plan. For example, Monday I always do a dinner with rice as the side dish. Tuesday is Mexican-ish, Thursday is Breakfast for Dinner, Friday we usually go out so the kids make their own dinners. I wrote down what the evening activities are on each day, so I can keep in mind if I need something everyone can eat at different times, or if we have time to sit and relax. In my Excel sheet I used cute colors and fonts, and since I just barely figured out how to use Scribd, hopefully you'll be able to get an idea of what I'm talking about.
Weekly Meal Plan

Basically, my idea was that as long as I knew what options I had for each night, I have a little more flexibility and can still roll with the punches. Then when I do my grocery shopping, I have a little more of the big picture so I can shop for sales on things I use all the time, plus staples for the week. Maybe this will help some of you out this fall if you're struggling getting back into the groove of making dinner. Conversely, some of you may be suffering from convulsions looking at my detailed spreadsheet. That's ok, too. How do you get ready for the fall rush? Do you have any special gluten free traditions or shortcuts that make your heart rate slow down? Please share in the comments box if you do!

Happy eating (and reading, and writing, and arithmeticing...)!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Brands Matter...Especially Gluten Free Ones

I have been making these Gluten Free Lemon Ricotta Cookies for a long time. They are one of my favorites, adapted from Giada deLaurentiis' recipe, and I almost always use Grandpa's Kitchen flour, and Micelli's whole milk ricotta cheese. I'm not sure why, but this time when I made them I chose King Arthur's Gluten Free Flour, and WalMart brand original ricotta cheese. Epic fail. Whatever! There's nothing I hate more than wasting ingredients, but I hate almost as much using the wrong ones! Don't think this is a negative review of King Arthur at all, I actually really like their gluten free products. But for this recipe, I don't know if the flour or the cheese caused the pancake-like cookies and dry flavor. I blame WalMart. They're an easy target. But it got me thinking: how many people out there have tried my recipes and think they are gross because they don't have the same brands that I do? How many people have quit reading because they're tired of hearing how great something is and their roomate told them it tasted like sticks? I hope not many. But I am feeling sensitive to brands lately. I think I'm going to try to make an effort to use the most widely available ingredients to everyone, and then I can sleep at night. So, I confess, I am a brand snob when it comes to my food. Are you a brand snob, too? What brands of gluten free food can you not live without? Leave me a comment, I'd love to know if they are the same as mine. And, as I was looking through the archives to link back to this recipe, I noticed I haven't ever published my version of them. So here it is:

Gluten Free Lemon Ricotta Cookies
adapted from Giada deLaurentiis' original recipe

2 1/2 cups gluten free flour (I like Grandpa's Kitchen...they are light and fluffy when you use it)
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 stick soft butter
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
1 15 ounce container of whole milk ricotta (it has to be whole milk or they won't turn out)
zest of 1 lemon
3 tsp lemon juice (about the juice of 1 lemon)

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
zest of 1 lemon
3 tsp lemon juice

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or a silpat baking mat. In a medium bowl mix together gluten free flour, baking powder, and salt, set aside. Combine butter and sugar in a stand mixer and beat until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and beat well after each one. Add ricotta cheese and lemon zest and juice. A little at a time, add flour mixture. Spoon dough onto cookie sheets or use a small scoop. Batter will be thick but moist. Bake 15 minutes, let rest on cookie sheet for 12 minutes before removing. Cool on a wire rack. Spread glaze on top of cookies with back of a spoon and let harden, about 15 minutes.

Happy eating!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Eat Your Cruciferous Veggies! Broccoli and Cauliflower Salad

Summer never fails me. I always crave fresh fruit and veggies all season long, and they happen to always be available. Funny how that works! I also never want to eat anything hot for dinner, which is actually a problem because I only know how to make hot dinners. I'm not saying this salad could replace dinner, but it's a pretty good way to fill up your plate. Also: my favorite kind of recipe as well...naturally gluten free! I'm giving credit where credit is due for this recipe, which comes from Traci's mom, who recited the whole thing to me without blinking an eye. She has made it that many times. It's pretty easy, and it makes a lot, so if you need to take something to a pot luck or family reunion, this is a good one.

Broccoli-Cauliflower Salad

3 stalks of fresh broccoli, cut into small florets (bite sized)
1 head of cauliflower, cut into small florets (bite sized)
1/2 to 1/4 red onion, minced
1 pound cooked, crumbled bacon
8 ounces shredded mozzarella

1 1/2 cup Best Foods light mayonnaise
1/2 cup sugar
4 tsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp salt

Mix dressing together until sugar dissolves. Assemble salad ingredients and pour dressing over the top. Mix well and cover. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours to give flavors a chance to meld.

Happy eating!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Subway. Summer. Sickness. Stupid.

Apparently it's summer around here, which means the days are filled with a whole lot of hanging out and not producing. I highly recommend it. To bring an end to the saga of my personal summer real estate disaster, my husband and I decided not to move after all. It makes sense for too many reasons to list to take the house off the market, so I've been slowly unpacking the boxes and boxes (and boxes) of stuff that I diligently packed weeks ago. Luckily they didn't travel anywhere, so I've had minimal breakage. And I have to admit, it's kind of fun to take out the things you love and find a new home for them. Kind of like shopping the house, which I always forget about when I get a hankering for re-decorating. I bossed my husband around a bit and made him promise to pay someone to remodel my kitchen for me when the kids go back to school, and like a good boy he said yes. This should make for interesting blog fodder, so stay tuned.

In other unhappy news, I have a story (sadly, no photo and no recipe, either, but meaningful nonetheless) that should serve as a reminder to all of us who eat gluten free to use "constant vigilance," to quote Mad-Eye Moody. One of my favorite summer activities is going on dates with my husband, because we seemingly forget time together is important during the school year. We went to see the last Harry Potter movie (goodbye, Harry!) and afterwards we were a little sick from all the popcorn and soda but still wanted a light meal. We settled on Subway and I was fine with that because I usually get a salad there, no big deal. Here is where I want you to pay attention: you know how you go into a restaurant when you have celiac disease and you always choose between one of two or three menu items you have in your head? There's a reason for that! When you think, Oh I haven't had that in a while, I think I'll try it again...stop! Check ingredients! Use your smartphone or a satellite or something to double check because it probably is on the "not safe" list and there's a reason you haven't eaten it in a while! What did I order at said Subway? A Seafood Salad made into a salad. Um....apparently wheat and/or gluten are present in the seafood salad. I was not a happy camper for a couple of days. So a gentle reminder to everyone...don't mess with your pre-determined menu thoughts. It may seem boring, but check before you go or after so you know for next time what your options are. And now if you are wondering what salad you can order at Subway and not be stupid like me, check out their allergen list here. Soapbox sermon over.

Happy (and safe) eating!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Me and the Not Bummer Summer

I know it's been almost 20 days since I posted, and I'm here to tell you why. A picture is worth a thousand words they say, so here you go:
And I basically spend my days eating this for lunch:Sadly, after all this work and packing all of these boxes the buyers pulled out of the deal on our home 48 hours before closing, which in turn made it so we couldn't purchase the other home we had bought, so now we are back to square one with our real estate ventures. I'm basically avoiding all cooking (mostly because everything in my pantry and cupboards is in a box) and trying to avoid slipping into a deep depression by eating popsicles and fresh pineapple every day I can. I'm usually a pretty optimistic person and I'm sure I'll be sunshiny again soon. It's just that now I don't really know what we should I unpack the boxes and concede defeat? Or do I leave them packed and keep up the fight? I'm sure an answer will present itself in the near future. In the meantime, here are some glimpses of how we've been spending our time otherwise.

Ballet recitals!Running through sprinklers on hot days and eating Otter Pops!

Having Spongebob birthday parties!

Taking a road trip with this guy!

Throwing rocks into a hole!I hope you are having a great summer as well, and hopefully some gluten free inspiration will come my way soon!
Happy eating!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Gluten Free Cheater's Ice Cream Sandwiches

Sometimes packing boxes and boxes of dusty crap makes you really want to take a break to refresh yourself. And sometimes you just miss a plain old ice cream sandwich in the summertime. I figured out a really delicious, cheating, non-cooking way to make gluten free ice cream sandwiches. I found these cookies from Kinnikinnick at Whole Foods the other day and thought they would be tasty on their own, but I think I like them better this way after all.

First, take the good old standby gluten free ice cream, Breyer's Natural Vanilla (for the record, it was my favorite ice cream before I was diagnosed as well) and let it sit out of the freezer for about 5 minutes, just until it gets soft. If you use hard ice cream for these the cookies will break. Use a small scoop to put a small scoop of ice cream on the bottom of a Montana cookie. Place the bottom of another cookie on top and gently smoosh. Place on a freezer safe plate or tray and return them to the freezer for about 20 minutes or until they are frozen well. Eat and enjoy! I think these would be such an easy dessert for a summer barbecue, and you can make up a whole bunch and freeze them ahead of time. I'm pretty sure there's other cookies that would work with this idea, like the Mi-Del Gluten Free Ginger Snaps with Breyer's Butter Pecan ice cream, Pamela's Lemon Shortbread cookies with Lemon sorbet or even a pineapple sherbet, and more that I haven't even thought of yet. It's going to be a great summer!

Happy eating!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Rose's Gluten Free Orange Dreamsicle Cupcakes

I know Mother's Day was a while ago, but I had the most delicious treat that Sunday that I wanted to share with everyone. My friend Rose also eats gluten free and at church that Sunday while all the ladies were eating a treat, she brought out some gluten free plates she had made up for the four or so people who can't eat wheat. I consider that going the extra mile! I was so touched that she went to the trouble to bake for us, and she said she was just making some for herself anyway and she thought everyone else would like to try them, too. Right you are, Rose. Here's her recipe, which is, in my biased opinion, another great gluten free summer dessert.

Gluten Free Orange Dreamsicle Muffins

1 box Betty Crocker Gluten Free Yellow Cake Mix
3 eggs
1 stick softened butter
1/2 tsp orange extract
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup orange juice from concentrate
1 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line muffin tins with paper liners. In a large bowl mix cake mix and all other ingredients except chocolate chips until well blended with a hand mixer. Gently fold in white chips. Bake for about 20 minutes. Cool on a wire rack. Top with Orange Glaze while cooling.

Orange Glaze

1/4 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 tsp orange zest

Mix all ingredients together until smooth and desired consistency. Drizzle over muffins while warm.

Happy eating!

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Gluten Free Pink Lemonade Cupcakes...Just In Time for Summer!

So sorry about the long delay between posts. I was having technical difficulties with my blog login and basically just figured out what I was doing wrong, a week later. Whatever. Technology, kiss my grits! Also, I've been completely distracted because we sold our house and are now looking for a place to live. That takes precedence over cooking, I think. But never fear, I have been sitting on some great dessert recipes that now I can share with you.

One of my favorite blogs to peruse is Real Mom Kitchen. I really and truly don't know how people can come up with so many new recipes every day. I think I need to go to college to learn how to do that or something, because it's amazing to me how many great recipes Real Mom Kitchen has. It's inspiring to just read the recipe names, so give it a shot. Anyhoo, I came across this recipe for her Pink Lemonade cupcakes and thought it sounded so great I gave it a try. My gluten free version is a variation of Renee's Cupcakes that makes a really moist gluten free cupcake, and the frosting recipe is basically the same as the original except I left out shortening. I don't love frosting with shortening in it, personally. But if you want sky-high frosting that won't move, I'm pretty sure shortening is the secret ingredient. I will be making these on KUTV Channel 2's Fresh Living show next Friday, June 10 at 11 a.m., so check it out because they are going to look darling on my new cupcake tower that I found at Target the other day for about $20. I love it and I think it will come in handy for lots of events over here. Now I just have to find a box to put it in...

Gluten Free Pink Lemonade Cupcakes1 box of Betty Crocker Gluten Free Yellow Cake Mix
1 box Jell-O Lemon Pudding Mix
3 eggs
2/3 cup half and half
1/2 cup canola oil
4 T pink lemonade mix, like Country Time
red or pink food coloring

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place muffin liners in muffin tins. Mix all ingredients together with a hand mixer, mix well. Fill muffin tins 2/3 full. Bake 20-24 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack.

Pink Lemonade Frosting
adapted from Real Mom Kitchen

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup thawed frozen pink lemonade concentrate
4 cups powdered sugar
1 T milk
zest of 1 lemon
(optional: 1 tsp vanilla)
3 drops of red food coloring

Beat butter in a stand mixer's bowl until soft and fluffy. Add lemonade, sugar, milk, lemon, vanilla if desired, (I left it out because I wanted it zingy) and food coloring. Mix well. Place in pastry bag with extra large tip and pipe onto top of cupcakes.

Happy eating!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Celiac Disease Vaccine? Sign Up or Sign Off?

I just was alerted to a news story that is hitting the airwaves (blogwaves?) today from our local news station that is about a vaccine for celiac's disease sufferers. The way I read it, it looks like it will cure the disease. What? How is this possible! I'm dying, in case you can't tell. You can read about it here, on's website. I'm interested to know from my readers: if it were safe and proven to cure celiac's disease, would you get the vaccine? Or would you keep on keepin' on the way you are now? Let's have a little conversation about it here.
I'm just adding this cute picture of my little girl at Temple Square in Salt Lake City because I can't stand to post without a photo, and who wants to see a photo of a vaccine? Not me.

Happy reading!

Warm Fuzzy Feelings

Rarely do I take the time to talk (much less think) about the beautiful things in life on this blog. Yesterday I noticed that the lilac bush in my backyard, although beautiful, was beginning to lose its blossoms already. And the crabtree down in the corner was close to having no bright pink flowers on its branches. Spring has decided to show up for the last two weeks of the season where I live, thanks to heavy snow and rain up until a few days ago. We've almost missed the beautiful spring flowers and weather because of the cold, damp days we seem to be perpetually stuck in lately. The sun came out and suddenly I realized there was a carpet of green grass in my flower beds and the tulips were starting to wither. So I took my scissors and brought in a bouquet of my favorites to bring the beauty inside for a while. I started to realize that thinking, planning, and strategizing are useless unless you stop and, literally, smell the flowers.Summer is my favorite time of year to be a gluten free eater. Grilled meat and fresh vegetables and fruits are abundant at every gathering and roadside stand. I seem to be more open to trying new flavors and tastes in the summer. No heavy casseroles with cream and cheese and 14 ingredients, just good, honest food that is at the height of flavor and freshness.Throw out the recipe book and just try something fresh. That's what I call smelling the food flowers, if you will. Have a plan, but be willing to throw the plan aside if you find the world's best corn on the cob by the side of the road and eat that until you feel silly. Leave the cookbook behind and try something new that you might just make up on the spot at lunchtime. That is how most of my recipes have come about. I've thought of what flavors sounded good at the moment and tried out a combination of them on a whim. Voila! A new favorite. What food are you most looking forward to this summer? Leave a comment and even a link to a recipe that uses it if you have one. Now I'm going to get back to enjoying warm breezes, capri pants, swimsuit shopping, and chalk drawings by talented 8-year-old artists living in my midst.Happy eating!

Friday, May 13, 2011

If You Don't Have One, Get One!

My mother in law has always had the softest brown sugar. I, on the other hand, have always been breaking up clumps of cemented brown sugar with a hammer for my cookies over the years. One time I looked inside her brown sugar container and thought, aha! She has a huge clump in here! But it was just one of these guys. Made of terra cotta pottery, you soak them in water for about 15 minutes and then put them in your brown sugar tupperware and it keeps it nice and soft. I'm sure most of you already have one of these, but if you don't, you can order one here. If you don't have one, get one! It will be good luck for you on Friday the 13th!

Happy eating!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Attention! Gluten Free Treat Sighting!

Anyone who knows me well knows that I am a stalker of sorts when it comes to gluten free treats. I'm sure that's why some of you are still reading my scattered posts, to see what I have nabbed in my grimy little hand that's gluten free. Usually I am stalking the Sweet Tooth Fairy in Draper, looking through the window to see if they have my favorite flavor of French Macarons in the display case. (It's lemon, in case you're wondering. What a shocker. Maybe if we all go in en masse and ask for them they will just make them a standing option! Yay!) The other day someone was standing in front of the case so I had to park my car and go inside to find out what was there. Boy, am I glad I did! Now they have a tray marked "Gluten Free Treats" that holds not just French Macarons, but Coconut Macaroons dipped in chocolate on the bottom: here is what is left of mine from the drive home. And they also carry...drum roll please...gluten free cupcakes! I know we all look the other way when we see those cute cupcakes at the bakeries with the sky-high frosting. Sigh. Now, we can get some for ourselves! Or you can get some as a gift for your gluten free sweetie and they will put them in these cute little containers so it looks like you made even more effort for them. Mine tipped over in the car so it looks a little smashed in the picture up there. I am not sure at this point if they will offer different flavors of cupcakes daily or if these are the two they will offer all the time, but on the day I went in they had chocolate and Fairyfetti (vanilla with sprinkles in the batter). Hooray for gluten free eaters all over the Wasatch Front! If you live elsewhere in the U.S. and you know of a bakery that has similar gluten free cupcake offerings, please leave a comment so others can know where to go in your area!

Happy eating!

Monday, May 9, 2011

King Arthur Gluten Free Chocolate Cake Mix...Worth Every Calorie

It seems to me that most people out there aren't really concerned with how to make gluten free things like All Bran or Fiber Bars. We want dessert! We are really concerned with how to enjoy the good parts of a meal, aren't we? Don't get me wrong, getting dinner on the table and making sure there's adequate nutrition are important to me, but there's no magic formula for that. I could survive on wheat free food just fine. But to live without wheat free food, that's another thing entirely.

I teach a class every other month at Macey's grocery store on gluten free cooking, and at the last one someone asked me if I had tried the new King Arthur line of gluten free flour and mixes. I said that no, I hadn't (and immediately felt as though I had been slacking on my research) and that I thought it was probably really great flour without having tasted any of it. King Arthur has been arguably the best wheat flour around for a long time. I know they use it at the Viking Cooking School where I took a gluten free cooking class, and that place is gourmet with a capital "G." I told my student that the fact that King Arthur had waited this long to come out with a gluten free line meant that it was probably pretty good, since they have taken their time to develop a blend of flours that is delicious and performs well when baking. I decided I needed to find out for myself. Of course I tried the chocolate cake.I am amazed at how easy both King Arthur and Betty Crocker have made their gluten free mixes to be. It's pretty much like a regular cake mix, no fancy extra ingredients, everything contained but the wet ingredients. Here's how my cupcakes turned out. They look dang close to regular cupcakes, don't you agree? I frosted half of them simply with chocolate frosting, and my children ate most of them before I could take a picture. If my children will eat them and not notice they taste different than a regular chocolate cupcake, I think that's saying something. I froze the rest individually and pull one out when I need a chocolate fix. They are actually really good without any frosting at all. I've even used one for the base of a Brownie Sundae with vanilla ice cream and hot fudge and it was so delicious. If you're looking for a moist, delicious, gluten free chocolate cupcake, give these a try. I'm pretty sure they won't disappoint!

Happy eating!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Margo's Gluten Free Meusli

Rarely do I make something in my kitchen and then immediately write about it. But today, I took one bite of this and knew I needed to share this simple breakfast dish with you. I am by no means the original architect of Meusli, which is a combination of oats, fruit and nuts, but rarely have I eaten it in the past. Apparently Meusli is a simple, super-healthy breakfast loaded with cancer fighting ingredients that has been around for a long time in Switzerland. I have usually associated Meusli with the packaged version that is in the cereal aisle, and those are almost all not gluten free. Today I was driving home from dropping my daughter off at preschool and it finally felt like spring in the mountains, I was craving some sort of a Swiss breakfast, and this is what happened.

My friend Aimee makes a version of this that is quite elaborate that she eats every day. She adds strawberries and cottage cheese and even soaks dates to make them plump before she adds them. All I knew today was that I wanted pecans and I didn't have a lot of gluten free oats left, so I was going to make something up as I went. This is also not such an exact recipe. You can add or subtract any ingredient to taste. I really liked this flavor combination today, which doesn't mean I won't like something else tomorrow, but try it if you're looking for a healthy, easy filling breakfast.

Gluten Free Meusli a la Margo

1/3 of gluten free oats (Auguson Farms)
lowfat milk
handful of raisins, dates, or other dried fruit
handful of chopped pecans, walnuts, almonds, or other nut of choice
1 T or so of brown sugar
1 pinch salt
fresh fruit, like apples, strawberries, peaches, raspberries (optional)

Place the oats in a microwave safe bowl. Add enough milk just until the oats are moist and a little bit runny. Microwave 45 seconds or until no longer runny. Add raisins, pecans, brown sugar, and salt. (Don't skip the salt! It brings out the flavors. Use sea salt if you are worried about sodium.) Mix well.

So easy. So not precise. I wish I was better at writing recipes that were free flowing and organic like the cooking process itself, but that skill may come later.

Happy eating!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Simple Gluten Free Low Cholesterol Salad that uses Leftovers...An Unsimple Name for a Great Lunch!

Since I am now reading not one but two ingredients on every food label I come across, I have been extra conscious about having healthy foods that are low in cholesterol as well as gluten free. It's actually not that hard. I want to say there's a whole other process of food selection, but I'd be lying. You just read the label like you always do. Since chicken is fairly low in cholesterol but not completely cholesterol free, I have wanted to use zero cholesterol sauces and toppings just to not add any extra to the chicken. I found this gluten free, no cholesterol Bull's Eye barbecue sauce at the grocery store and decided to try it since I had no idea what a Carolina barbecue sauce tastes like. It has a hint of mustard in it, so it's a little sweet and tangy at the same time. I had some leftover chicken, so I decided to chop it up and add it to a mixed greens salad with pistachios (nuts help lower cholesterol), and English cucumbers. English cucumbers are those long skinny ones that usually come wrapped in plastic in the produce section. I added a simple dressing of balsamic vinegar and olive oil (which also helps lower cholesterol.) I ate it with my leftover sweet potato. I love the crunch of the nuts alongside the crunchy cucumbers. It's nice to use a simple dressing and not have to think of anything fancy when you are rushing to eat lunch. And, I ate up the leftovers, which is every cook's dream. No wasted chicken for me. I'm sure this will be on the menu for dinner next time we have leftover chicken.

Happy eating!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Gluten Free Lower-Your-Cholesterol Cookies

My husband turned 40 this year and went in for his 10-year checkup with the doctor. Apparently men can get by without the "yearly" exam most of us women are privileged to have. Amazingly, he's pretty healthy, except one small glitch. He has high "bad" cholesterol. So he came home and told me his doctor told him to change his diet a little bit and he should be just fine. I kind of thought that 8 years ago when he told me he ate out for lunch with buddies from work every day at places like Astro Burger, McDonald's, Pizza Hut, and Arby's. Duh.

Of course first we turned to the internet to find out what foods are low in cholesterol and if there are any that can actually lower cholesterol. We discovered that soluble fiber (oatmeal, raw fruit, vegetables, and beans) are good for lowering those numbers as well as fish, nuts, and olive oil. My mom's dietician actually told her that olive oil literally pushes the fat out of your arteries. You will probably be seeing quite a few recipes with olive oil coming soon. What does this have to do with a gluten free diet? Not a whole lot, I'm just using my soapbox to complain about having to throw another food issue into my meal planning. Gone are the days of cooking with sour cream (I've started using Fage plain greek yogurt instead) and hamburger. At least until the doctor says it's okay.I decided to pull out my new favorite bible, Ina Garten's Back to Basics cookbook and look for some ideas on cooking with some of these heart-healthy ingredients. I highly recommend it, not only for the recipes, but she has all kinds of tips sprinkled throughout the book about things like setting a table, flower arranging, and what kitchen tools you should have. Ina has a great sense of style and knows how to put flavors together for maximum effect. And the photography is fantastic. I've never seen roast chicken look so good. It's not a health food cookbook by any means, but she makes easy, simple recipes look so delicious that I always turn to it for inspiration. Ina has a recipe for Raisin Pecan Oatmeal Cookies that intrigued me. I happen to love oatmeal cookies and I thought I could make a version of these that had little if any fat and also make them gluten free. If I had had egg beaters in my fridge I may have used those, but I haven't ever baked with them before and I didn't want to fail just in case they're not great for baking. I have issues.

Gluten Free Raisin Pecan Oatmeal Cookies
adapted from Ina Garten's Back to Basics cookbook

1 1/3 cups pecans
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
1 cup granulated sugar
2 eggs at room temperature
2 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 cups Grandpa's Kitchen or King Arthur Gluten Free flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp kosher salt
3 cups gluten free oats (Auguson Farms)
1 1/2 cups raisins, regular or golden

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the pecans on a sheet pan and bake for 5 minutes until toasted. Cool, chop coarsely.
In electric mixer, beat applesauce, brown sugar, and white sugar. Beat until combined. Add eggs one at a time, then add vanilla.
Sift flour, baking powder, cinnamon, salt into a bowl. Slowly add to the sugar mixture until well combined. Add oats, pecans, and raisins and mix till combined.
Using a mini-ice-cream-scoop (2T) drop mounds of dough onto sheet pans lined with a silpat or parchment paper. Flatten slightly with a damp hand. (Don't skip this step...the cookies will stay in their scooped shape if you don't.) Bake 12-15 minutes, until lightly browned. Transfer to a baking rack and cool completely. Store in an airtight container.Needless to say, as with all of my recipes, I ate more of these than Jeff did. He didn't say he didn't like them, I think he just forgot they were there for him. They were really good when they were fresh out of the oven, and they were also really good for breakfast. Yes, I did eat cookies for breakfast, but I figured they have so many healthy things in them that it wouldn't hurt! I think my cholesterol will be lower than his when he gets it checked next. What do you think?

Happy eating!

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A Gluten Free Emergency...Kit: The Backpack Method

The other day I was reminded by the gals at How Does She? that my 72-hour kits needed some attention. And after the events in Japan a few weeks ago I must admit surviving a disaster has been at the top of my list of to-do items. This is a great post about how Missy organizes her family's 72-hour emergency supplies, which is pretty much the exact same way I have organized mine over the last few years. She has better pictures and more in-depth explanations than I do, but I won't be jealous or even a little bitter about it if it helps even one person out. (If you haven't ever heard of the backpack method, take a minute to read this post, it will answer a lot of questions you may have.) A friend of mine told me she had heard someone speak about this and then shared the information with me. I wish I knew who came up with this system, because it's genius and I want to give them credit. Suffice it to say I did not invent this idea. But I love it nonetheless.

Here's the basic idea: group like items together and take up as little space as possible while making sure everything stays dry. The important thing to remember while you're putting one of these together is EMERGENCY pack. It's not gourmet camping pack or even staying at grandma's pack. It's what will keep me ALIVE until I can get to a shelter with water, heat, and food. It's the bare essentials in case of disaster. When I pulled the packs (old backpacks, a couple of $5 WalMart scores) out of the garage to rotate the emergency food, I realized that one of the most difficult tasks I have undertaken is to have emergency food set aside that is gluten free. I know without a doubt that if, heaven forbid, I am ever involved in a disaster with my family the last thing I will want to do is have diarrhea amongst the rubble because I've had to eat wheat.In my pack (keep in mind I am the adult and I have a few more things than my kids do) I have a grocery bag with clothes (sweat pants, sweatshirt, socks, hat, gloves, underwear) that I could wear if it was cold or warm, cutting off the sleeves and legs of the sweats if need be. I have an emergency item ziploc bag (yes, it all fits!) with bug bite cream, waterproof matches, hot hands, toothpaste, toothbrush, sunscreen, tylenol, band-aids, pen with tape that I could write on, neosporin and a pocketknife. My kids packs have most of the same things I have, including wet wipes and a whistle in case they get lost. They don't have the medicines, though.
I have a few other things in the front pocket and side pockets: emergency candles, flashlight and extra batteries, first aid kit, two silver blankets (thermal? solar? I'm not sure which.), more hot hands, a poncho, water cleaning drops, and some cash. I also have a bigger pack of wipes, since I'm sure I'll be wiping more people off than anyone else. I have some diversions, and my kids have some fun things for them to do in their packs as well as a waterproof poncho. Which reminded me that my pack didn't have a poncho...I'm not sure where my poncho ended up, but I guess I'll have to get another one.
I have three day's survival food for each person in a large ziploc bag, and each meal is contained in its own ziploc bag. Things like hot chocolate mix, hot cider mix, kool aid packs, granola bars, trail mix, nuts, and vienna sausages. (Why vienna sausages, you ask? They are cheap, have a long shelf life, and small.) In years past I have put Zone Fudge Graham bars in my packs, and you can get them at Costco for about 75 cents each. But they don't last long, and need to be replaced in 6 months' time. This year I added some small cans of Spam for one of the days for everyone. The goal is protein and calories, and as long a shelf life as you can find. Everybody gets three hard candies and three sticks of gum. I have five water bottles, and each of my five children has three, because they can't carry any more than that. That's a nice spot on my carpet, by the way.

This is where it gets tricky. After six years of rotating out hard granola bars and expired food, I'm seriously thinking of buying some MREs so that I only have to worry about the food every five years. It's probably cheaper, now that I think about it. But still, I thought, what if I can't find one that I can use? I love these two options from Costco, because the fruit has a two year shelf life and the trail mix at least has M&Ms for fun, but they don't last as long as I thought they would (only about 6 months). I found these at WalMart last night. They last a little longer (about a year) and I would for sure eat all three of these foods. Jack Links beef sticks (this could be questionable, but I checked the label twice and couldn't see anything wheat-related. If anything, I'll carry it for everyone else to eat.), dried cranberries (for vitamin C, fiber, and flavor) and Nature Valley has just come out with an Almond Crunch bar that is gluten free. And there's always this if you want protein and calories. (I have a small peanut butter in my pack also.) My husband's pack has a package of beef jerky that everybody else can eat. I've also got the cups and spoons and some boullion cubes for added meal options. These are also questionable, but I know there are some gluten free varieties out there, I just didn't have any on hand when I made up the packs. These are actually probably due to be thrown away so that will give me an excuse to buy some.

So I did some research to answer my burning question: is there actually an emergency food option that is gluten free? Emergency Essentials actually has two or three that would work for my backpack: Vegetarian Chili, (the nutrition information lists Textured Vegetable Protein, which I have always heard is gluten, but the label only says soy.) Southwestern Style Chicken with Black Beans, (the best option, I think: nothing questionable on ingredients) a Chocolate Shake, and refried beans. Emergency Essentials has all kinds of preparedness items if you are interested in ordering something.

I hope that has jogged your memory into thinking about emergency preparedness, and some of these gluten free options aren't ideal, but they will keep me alive until I can get back to my Namaste spice cake mix and Frosted Corn Flakes.

Happy packing!
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