Sunday, November 21, 2010

Menu Plan, Thanksgiving Edition

Last week's menu plan went pretty well. The only substitution was that instead of spaghetti with Italian sausage, I decided to make sausage and peppers instead. YUM!

Yesterday, we met some friends for dinner at Van's Vietnamese Restaurant on Central Ave, Albany. It was absolutely amazing. I completely loved the experience and will be back again soon. Afterwards, we went to a small birthday celebration at a friend's house, where they made an absolutely divine flourless chocolate cake from the America's Test Kitchen cookbook. YUM!

Now, given the fact that it's that time of year again, and we're hosting a combined Thanksgiving with our families for the second year in a row, I'm not bothering with a weekly menu plan this week. Mostly because, after cleaning the house to pass the white-glove test and taking Wednesday off to spend the day cooking, I foresee takout in our future; and hopefully leftovers after the big day!

Let's do something more fun and talk about what we'll be serving for Thanksgiving dinner.

Right now, we're expecting eight people: hubby and myself, our parents, my sister-in-law and hubby's uncle. I wanted to get my favorite low-cost pinot grigio, Ecco Domani, but unfortunately Empire Wine was out of it when I went there this weekend so I picked up Cavit pinot grigio to sip throughout the day. Most people usually stick with that for the turkey, but we have Blackstone pinot noir on hand as well for red-wine drinkers.

  • A hot crab dip, consisting of canned claw meat crab, cream cheese, cheddar cheese, and scallions. Mixed together and baked at 350 until bubbly, topped with extra cheddar cheese and baked for another 10 minutes, and served with freshly baked and toasted whole-grain gluten free bread for toasting. (Sorghum and brown rice flour are perfect for this!)
  • To go along with the whole grain toast, I'll have a bowl of Trader Joe's olive tapenade to spread on slices. YUM!
  • Shrimp cocktail, a holiday staple.
  • An assorted cheese and cracker spread.

  • We've purchased a 25-lb. turkey, which we'll be roasting, and of course, making gravy from scratch.
  • Both "regular" and gluten free stuffing, to be prepared by my mother and mother-in-law, respectively.
  • Mashed potatoes
  • My mother's famous sweet potatoes, with liberal amounts of marshmallow and brown sugar
  • Creamed white onions (using sweet rice flour to thicken the sauce)
  • My mother-in-law's famous applesauce
  • Southern corn-bread, using the recipe from America's Test Kitchen (it only calls for corn meal, so it's naturally gluten free!)
  • Homemade cranberry sauce
  • Italian-style whole green beans, tossed in garlic and olive oil
  • Kernel corn tossed in butter
  • Peas
  • Non-gluten free pumpkin and pecan pies, purchased from FoCastle Farms
  • Gluten free apple pie, with a pie crust from Gluten Free Girl's wonderful site
  • Gluten free pumpkin pie, with a pie crust made up of crushed gluten free graham crackers
  • Pecan cloud cookies
  • And, of course, vanilla ice cream and Starbucks (decaf) coffee. Irish coffee optional. ;-)
Fortunately, the last piece of cardio equipment for our home gym will be delivered and set up for Black Friday post-food-comatose workouts. :)

I hope that everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving! What are your plans??

LiveGlutenFreely winner!

Comment #6, Cheryl, won the LiveGlutenFreely prize pack. Congratulations!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Menu Plan 11/13 to 11/19

This weekend was.... Bad. As in, junk-food-hangover, gained-a-zillion-pounds bad.

On Friday we went to the Schenectady Bomber's with a friend, and went nuts. Wings (delicious, in a dedicated fryer), tacos (hard shells are gluten free) and happy hour margaritas made the night incredibly entertaining, fun and calorie-dense. Then Saturday we went to Outback Steakhouse to celebrate my sister-in-law's birthday. We had salad, meals, and then had brownies and cupcakes back at our house for dessert... everything was very tasty, but I'm in a bit of a salt and fat coma at the moment.

While I like to make sure my pantry is stocked at this time of year, this week the main focus is getting everything out of the freezer in preparation for hosting Thanksgiving. This means, relatively little grocery shopping and eating mostly what comes out of our pantry and freezer. No worries, though, we'll stock up again after the holiday. :-)

So, here goes:

Saturday - We went to Outback Steakhouse.

Sunday - I promised my hubby baked macaroni and cheese. And since he's outside with a leaf blower as I type this blog entry, I should probably deliver, right? I'll make it with Bionaturae elbows. On the side I'll serve stewed tomatoes and steamed green beans. I'll partake in a teeny-tiny bit of pasta and mostly veggies.

Monday - Class night. Is it over yet? :-)

Tuesday - Frozen wild salmon with risotto and some sort of frozen veggies. Either broccoli or snap peas.

Wednesday - Spaghetti with hot Italian sausage and red sauce.

Thursday - Leftovers, quickly before running to the store and doing the bulk of our Thanksgiving shopping.

Friday - Boys' night (hubby's on his own), and Girls' night with the book club girls, yay!

LiveGlutenFreely Review and Giveaway

MyBlogSpark recently contacted me to gauge my interest in participating in a LiveGlutenFreely giveaway. LiveGlutenFreely is a (much lauded) initiative from General Mills/Betty Crocker to extend gluten free product information from their brands, and they sent me one of their product boxes with some stuff to try, all gluten free.

Well, I've written about some of the stuff in the box before: Gluten Free Bisquick, Yellow cake mix (and again here), Betty Crocker Fruit Snacks, and Chex. However, I have not yet had the pleasure to talk about Betty Crocker's gluten free brownie mix or frostings, so let's focus on that.

As timing and luck would have it, yesterday was my sister-in-law's birthday. The family went to Outback Steakhouse then came back to our house for dessert. I figured this was the perfect chance to try the gluten free brownie mix with chocolate frosting, and I also decided to make yellow cupcakes (I picked up funfetti icing, yay!) for my chocolate-hating hubby.

I was a little leery about making the brownie mix out-of-the-box since the mixes tend to be a bit gritty with no doctoring at all. So I picked up a package of chocolate fudge instant pudding (Jello brand) and added that and a teaspoon of vanilla extract to the mix. This made the mix clumpy and not wet at all, so I added another egg and a bit of water to moisten the mix before baking it. I baked it in a nonstick 9x9 pan, and it took in the ballpark of 30 minutes at 325. I think I cooked it a little too long, because the edges were crunchy (or just the right amount of time, depending on how you look at it).

For the icing, I mixed chocolate icing with a bit of Nutella, and spread it over the top of the brownies with some sprinkles for color.

The consistency of the brownies was denser than I would have liked - a lot more like fudge than an actual brownie. I think that was mostly due to the pudding mix that I added. They tasted incredible though - chocolate on chocolate, decadent and very, very rich.

The real test came, however, when my sister in law brought some of the brownies and cupcakes over to her non-gluten free friend. He tried them, loved them and didn't know the difference (and wasn't told) they were gluten free.

So, here's the fun part. MyBlogSpark and LiveGlutenFreely are offering a LiveGlutenFreely pack, valued on their site at 24.99, to one of my readers. The LiveGlutenFreely pack includes the following:
  • Betty Crocker GF Brownie Mix
  • Betty Crocker GF Yellow Cake Mix
  • Betty Crocker Rich and Creamy Chocolate Frosting
  • Honey Nut Chex cereal
  • Bisquick GF Baking Mix
  • Betty Crocker Fruit Snack variety pack
  • Peanut Butter Cookie Larabar
  • Betty Crocker Potato Buds Mashed Potatoes
  • Betty Crocker Red Serving Spoon
  • Coupons and information about the Gluten Free diet.
How to enter:
  • One entry: Leave a comment on this blog answering the question: What food product would you like to see available, gluten free, from a major retailer? Please note: Please include a way to contact you - e-mail preferable, Twitter handle acceptable, if I have to do a lot of research to figure out who you are and how to get a hold of you, I'll pass the prize on to someone more accessible!
  • Bonus entry: Follow me on Facebook - if you already follow me, great! Post on the wall a link to your favorite gluten free recipe from for a 2nd entry.
  • Administrative stuff: The winner will be chosen randomly, comments that don't include a way to get a hold of you will be disqualified. Contest closes at 11/19/2010 11:59:59 PM EDT and winner will be announced over the weekend. Prize will be courtesy of MyBlogSpark and LiveGlutenFreely and sent through them.

Good luck!!!!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Pantry Staples

Happy Veteran's Day, everyone!

I know it's not technically winter yet, but the Capital District has already seen its first dumping of approximately 1.3 inches of snow... this, to me, heralds the start of the winter season that will last until mid-to-late April, when I become reasonably confident that we are unlikely (read: it's not impossible) to get any more freak snowstorms.

I should take the time to mention that I absolutely detest winter. The holidays are nice, but I could so do without the snow, sleet, ice, cold, etc.

This time of year always, without a doubt, sends me scurrying to do two things:

1. Unpack all of my huge, bulky, turtleneck sweaters. I'll start wearing them as soon as the highs reach the 30s, and won't come out until Spring.

2. I get into pack-rat mode. I mentioned that I hate snow, right? Well, my feelings for driving in snow... make that look mild. I am as much a fan of driving my four-cylinder car in the snow as... well, as tea partiers are fans of health care reform. So once it gets to this point in the year, I start obsessively stocking my pantry for the inevitable weekend snow storm that will put a crimp in our style and make it hard to go to the grocery store.

And, OK, maybe I tend to over-do it once in a while.

Anyway, here is my list of pantry must-haves for the winter. These staples can be used to whip up healthy, flavorful meals. I'm not too concerned about power - one of our stoves has a gas range, and we have a gas-powered camping burner we could use if all else failed.

So, here goes - winter provisions to have on hand at all times:

  • Bell & Evans chicken nuggets and/or tenders. Great for an easy meal.
  • Starfish Cod. Another easy convenience meal.
  • Ore-Ida tater tots or french fries - to accompany one of the above.
  • Frozen veggies: broccoli, cauliflower, peas, green beans, diced peppers, and corn.
  • Bacon. Easy enough to un-thaw.
  • 2 frozen wild salmon filets. Again, easy enough to un-thaw.
  • Frozen raw shrimp (I stock up when there's a good sale).
  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Cheese - Cheddar, Mozzarella, Monterey Jack, and anything else we pick up.

  • Frank's Red Hot. Non-negotiable.
  • A full box each of brown and white instant rice
  • 2-4 cans of dark red kidney beans
  • 2 cans of chickpeas
  • Canned veggies: kernel corn, peas and carrots, sliced mushrooms
  • Canned fruit: mandarin oranges, peaches, pears, mixed fruit with cherries, unsweetened applesauce, pineapple, maraschino cherries
  • Progresso Soup. Especially Chicken with Rice or Chicken with Wild Rice.
  • Ginger Ale.
  • Jell-O.
  • Some sort of chocolate.
  • Gluten Free pasta (we buy cases of Bionaturae off Amazon). I always have spaghetti, fusilli, elbows, and penne on hand.
  • Pasta sauce. Traditional red, spicy red, alfredo, cheese, and vodka.
  • White cooking wine. I usually use something around the quality of Sutter Home Chardonnay. Not what I'd consider sippable, but passable enough to cook with
  • Salsa and tortilla chips.
  • Diced and stewed tomatoes.
Some emergency meals that can be made on a stovetop with these ingredients include:
  • Penne with alfredo sauce and broccoli, sprinkled with a tiny bit of shredded cheddar cheese and cayenne pepper.
  • Rice and beans - brown rice, kidney beans, salsa, diced tomatoes, peppers, onions, corn, garlic. Garnish with shredded Monterey Jack cheese. Leftovers are great with corn tortillas or scooped up with chips.
  • Shrimp Fried Rice - brown rice, shrimp, peas and carrots, mushrooms, onion, and anything else that looks good. I'm a fan of adding water chestnuts, baby corn and bean sprouts when I have them on hand. This also works with leftover chicken or vegetarian.
  • Baked elbow macaroni and cheese served with stewed tomatoes and a veggie.
  • Buffalo shrimp - shrimp dredged in egg and some sort of flour mixture (my favorite right now is Bisquick, but I've used corn starch too), pan fried and tossed in Red Hot buffalo sauce.
What are your pantry staples and go-to meals?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Monday Menu Plan 11/6 - 11/12

Last week's menu plan went - well, a little off-kilter, but not too badly. The portabella stir fry I made was absolutely delicious (if a bit too much cabbage for our tastes) but it made a lot more than I had originally anticipated. So instead of pasta, we had portabella stir fry leftovers (and I even had some leftovers for office lunches!).

The Halloween plan of Captain-Morgan-spiked butterbeer and shrimp went very well, though I also weakened and made some absolutely yummy pan-fried mozzarella sticks breaded with Gillian's Italian bread crumbs. YUM! We also went through approximately half of our candy that night (yes, mostly to trick-or-treaters, LOL). I got fed up by Tuesday and made my husband bring the rest of the leftover candy into the office. :)

Finally, Friday, I weakened and ordered sushi takeout. (Hey, it's technically still fish). We tried ordering from for the first time - it was pretty awesome!

I also got a huge box of stuff from Live Gluten Freely that I plan to review and giveaway sometime soon, so stay tuned. :)

Now, it's time to start the planning process all over again. This week is actually a bit of a crazy week - though I suppose I could honestly say that about every week from Halloween through the New Year.

Unfortunately this means my "healthy eating" plan sometimes goes right out the window. This week my goal is "squeeze some veggies in there when I can and log some extra cardio hours."

So, since I didn't get a chance to post this on Saturday (woohoo, authentic Monday blog post!), here goes:

Saturday - We attended a house party with some wonderful friends. I was asked to make "chicken crack" AKA buffalo chicken dip, which I made for our housewarming party to rave reviews. It's so simple, too:

Buffalo "Chicken Crack" Dip
- 2 small/1 large can of white meat chicken
- 1 regular size bottle of Frank's Original Red Hot - Eyeball it, but in my experience you can't go wrong with the whole bottle.
- Ranch Dressing (GF) - Eyeball it. You're not going to go wrong.
- Shredded cheddar cheese to taste - I usually use an 8oz package and maybe some extra.
- 1 8 oz brick of cream cheese. I usually use reduced fat, but I suppose that's a little like ordering a Big Mac and Super Size fries with a diet soda.

Mix all ingredients together, setting some of the cheese aside. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Stir, add the remaining cheese, bake for an additional 10 minutes, and serve with Scoops and/or celery sticks.


I also made my gluten free pizza puffs, just cheese, no pepperoni.

Sunday - I made a roast chicken, with skillet roasted red potatoes (I still had a lot left over from last week when Price Chopper had a Buy One, Get One sale), and Italian green beans with extra garlic.

Monday - Class night. As usual, Hubby's eating leftovers or on his own. I could probably buy stock in Chiquita bananas and KIND bars by now.

Tuesday - Chicken leftovers.

Wednesday - Shrimp something. Either stir fry, or, if I'm feeling ambitious, creole.

Thursday - Leftovers.

Friday - TBD, depending what our plans are with friends.

There it is - let's see how well it goes this week. :)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Menu Plan - 10/30 to 11/5

It's that time of week already, time to plan another weekly menu plan before grocery shopping. Last week's went as scheduled up until Friday, when I was sick so my husband took over dinner and made Bell & Evan chicken tenders with buffalo and BBQ dipping sauces, fries and sugar snap peas. However, I'm feeling better now and ready to start a new week of menu planning!

I'm still trying to stick to healthy recipes, but I want to get out of the meal rut we've been in lately. So I finally cracked open this wonderful cookbook my friend Maggie gave us for our Housewarming party, from America's Test Kitchen. So the focus is healthy with one junk day, and leftovers for busy nights when we can't cook.

So, here goes:

Saturday (Tonight) - We're going vegetarian. I'm making a portabella and veggie stir fry from the America's Test Kitchen book. I'll likely pair it with brown rice.

Sunday - Happy Halloween! I'm considering this junk day. We'll be munching on cheese and crackers as an appetizer, then to avoid a complete junk food hangover I'll make sauteed lime shrimp with a chili dipping sauce and a salad for dinner, followed by Butterbeer for dessert. And I'm sure we'll be dipping into the Halloween candy bowl as well!

Monday - Class night. Hubby will have leftovers or make Trader Joe's boxed GF mac and cheese. I'll eat on the run, probably a KIND bar and a couple pieces of fruit.

Tuesday - GF pasta night. Penne with vodka and a salad sounds good.

Wednesday - Trying another America's Test Kitchen recipe for skillet roasted chicken and red potatoes. Served with Italian-style green beans (sauteed in garlic and olive oil).

Thursday - Chicken leftovers.

Friday - Fish, take two. :) I have to see what looks good, but definitely served with red potatoes and broccoli.

As for baking:
  • Sandwich bread for hubby during the week
  • I keep meaning to try this cinnamon roll recipe with GF Bisquick - maybe tomorrow morning.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Halloween and Harry Potter Butterbeer

Halloween is right around the corner! While I'm not thrilled about the colder weather, I love this time of year. Starting with Halloween, we get into this festive, celebratory, holiday party mode that lasts up until New Years. I've shared a picture of our puggle Phoebe who we dressed as a "piggle" for the APF's Howl-o-ween event last weekend. Isn't she cute??? :)

Unfortunately, it looks like our party-plans may be on hold due to a nasty bug that's been going around. (I said "adult" originally here, and then realized that it sounded a little worse than a whole bunch of late 20- and 30-somethings getting dressed up and throwing a few back at a house party.)

However, we're still planning to hand out loads and loads of candy on Sunday, and we've planned a Harry Potter marathon that day -- mostly because the first installment of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows is coming out, and I absolutely hate gory movies (think the Saw series), so wizarding movies seemed like a decent Halloween choice. Plus, we've seen the movies so many times that answering the doorbell won't be that big of a deal!

Anyway - to make it a little special, I started looking for recipes for Harry Potter's Butterbeer.

The first recipe for Butterbeer I found was on Shine, and it looked pretty good, consisting of ginger ale or club soda, butterscotch sauce, vanilla ice cream, and optionally rum. Sounds like a yummy version of a soda float! Still, I figured, let's see what other people have to say on the topic.

MuggleNet, the authoritative source on this type of thing, suggests using club or cream soda, butterscotch sauce, and real butter. Hmm... this sounds a little too buttery for my taste.

I found a similar news article that also suggested the addition of rum extract -- definitely a possibility.

And finally, I found a site that aggregated 10 different butterbeer recipes.

The most interesting ones I found on the site were Recipe #2, which called for an entire CUP of Butterscotch Schnapps and 7 cups of cream soda (Now, I've been known to make some pretty lethal punch, but that seems like a lot!)

Now, Recipe #4 calls for root beer OR cream soda, honey, and butter. Now, this is the first recipe that I've seen that actually calls for root beer (after all, it's butter BEER). That's promising.

However, Recipes #9 and #10 look the best.

Recipe #9 calls for vanilla ice cream, root beer, butterscotch syrup, and whipped cream with chopped nuts. It's basically a glorified root beer float, but yum!

Recipe #10 calls for vanilla ice cream, butter, brown sugar, spices, and sparkling apple cider, which just sounds yummy.

I think we're going to go with root beer, either Vanilla or Edy's butter pecan ice cream, and butterscotch sauce. Perhaps a little bit of dark rum for those of us who haven't come down with this horrible bug.

What are your plans for Halloween???

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

OK, here goes, trying another Menu Plan Monday.

The biggest constraint that I have in planning my menu is speed. I (sometimes) have time to cook on the weekends, but during the week, not so much. Between work, commuting, part-time classes and the homework/studying they entail, and various social commitments, it can be hard getting a quick and easy dinner on the table by 7 PM. I just don't have time for long meals, and while I admittedly keep Starfish Cod and Bell & Evans chicken in the freezer for emergencies, I really don't want to live on convenience food. My goal is (relatively) healthy meals that are easy to prepare and don't exceed our (admittedly generous) grocery budget.

I usually allow one day a week for a "junky" dinner like pizza, nachos, or something like that. It's usually on Sundays (football day) but last week occurred during one of the Yankees-Rangers games. So we're trying to be healthy this week. :)

I'll start with Saturday (yesterday) since that's when I did my meal planning and grocery shopping:

Saturday - Salmon sauteed in olive oil, white wine and Old Bay. Served with baked potato, sauteed portabella mushroom (in white wine and garlic salt), and kernel corn.

Sunday - Crock pot chicken. Take a whole roaster chicken, cook in the crock pot for approx. 6 hours. Coat with BBQ sauce. Serve with potato, green beans.

Monday - Own own. Hubby usually does leftovers, I usually scarf down a KIND bar and a piece of fruit on my way from work to class.

Tuesday - Leftover chicken, rice, and mixed veggies (grean beans, corn, carrots).

Wednesday - Pasta. I'm planning a meatless take on Uno's Rattlesnake pasta - gluten free penne with alfredo sauce and broccoli. Mix together the ingredients, add a couple of jalapenos and a sprinkling of shredded cheddar cheese to melt on top of it. I make it a little better for me by steaming extra broccoli on the side and watching my pasta portions.

Thursday - Has to be another quick night because of hubby's bowling league. Pasta leftovers.

Friday - Fish night. Whatever looks good at Offshore Pier in East Greenbush or Two Cousins in Newton Plaza on the way home from work. When in doubt, baked tilapia.

For lunch this week, I am bringing in green salad with avocado (if it ripens in time, else chickpeas or crumbled cheese), fresh veggies, and my recently discovered favorite, raspberry viniagrette. :)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Annnnd the winner is....

mjdolce won the MyBlogSpark Bisquick gluten free giveaway. I'll be contacting you on Twitter shortly for your contact information.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Easy Appetizer: Pepperoni Pizza Puffs

I love Rachael Ray - she's fun, and she's got some awesome ideas. It doesn't hurt that she's originally from the 518 - before she was really huge I remember my mom taking me to a small class she was teaching on cheese. :)

Anyway - my husband and I found ourselves getting into a little food rut, so I went on her webpage for inspiration. Among other recipes, I found this yummy-sounding recipe for a pepperoni pizza puff appetizer. When I read it, the back of my mind was saying "I bet this could be another use for the GF Bisquick mix" and besides, everything in the recipe is pretty yummy so it has to be good right?

Well, yesterday we had some people over for a fire and pumpkin carving. I couldn't see this recipe really turning out badly (Yanno, the whole "there's no such thing as bad pizza or bad..." philosophy) and I know my non-gluten free friends (usually) don't mind being guinea pigs, so I tried them out.

They disappeared.

No one could even tell they were gluten free - they were a super yummy finger food!

Here's Rachael's recipe with my modifications:


  • 3/4 cup GF Bisquick baking mix
  • 3/4 teaspoon GF baking powder
  • 3/4 cup 2% milk
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 4 ounces mozzarella cheese, shredded (about 1 cup) - I used more. I had an open-but-mostly full package of mozzarella cheese that I emptied into the bowl, so I'd say I used something in the ballpark of 1.5 cups. Plus I used a little bit cheddar/mozz mix for sprinkling on top at the end - maybe .5 cup.
  • 4 ounces pepperoni, cut into small cubes (about 1 cup) - I used about half a cup here but they definitely needed more.
  • 1/2 cup store-bought pizza sauce - I used Ragu doctored with pizza spices.
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil - Added to the Ragu
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced - I omitted this.


  1. Preheat the oven to 375°. Grease a 24-cup mini-muffin pan. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour and baking powder; whisk in the milk and egg. Stir in the mozzarella and pepperoni; let stand for 10 minutes.

  2. Stir the batter and divide among the mini-muffin cups. Bake until puffed and golden, 20 to 25 minutes. -- I baked them for 18 minutes, then let them out to cool for about 10. Right before people were supposed to get there, I sprinkled the puffs with some cheddar/mozz and put them back in just long enough to heat them up and melt the cheese - 5 minutes, if that.

  3. Meanwhile, microwave the pizza sauce until warmed through, then stir in 1 tablespoon basil. Sprinkle the puffs with the remaining 1 tablespoon basil. Serve the puffs and red pepper slices with the pizza sauce for dipping.

I had the puffs on a platter, and you could spoon the hot pizza sauce onto plates for dipping them in. If I had to guess the puffs lasted about 15 minutes. :)

These are on my list to bring over to my GF mother-in-law's next time I see them - bonus, because everyone enjoys them! We had 5-6 people and I think I could have easily doubled the recipe and they still would have disappeared.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Review & Giveaway: Bisquick Gluten Free Mix

My husband and I had already tried pancakes with the new gluten free mix. While they were admittedly delicious, I've never been big on pancakes or any other sugary food for breakfast. I usually end up sticking with protein and complex carbs, or else I end up crashing around 10 AM and I'm cranky all the way until lunch, it's really not a good scene for anyone. Still, it was a huge treat for my gluten free hubby, who doesn't seem to have that issue. ;-)

After pancakes, the next thing I tried (per Lisa's suggestion) was the baked chicken. I decided to try the ultimate chicken tenders with BBQ dipping sauce, and they came out wonderfully - they were a huge hit and are likely to be a winter comfort food staple. I also tried mozzarella sticks using the same breading/Parmesan cheese recipe with mixed results.

With such encouraging results so far, when Bisquick and MyBlogSpark offered me a prize pack in return for writing a review of their product I jumped at the chance!

The one thing I hadn't tried with the new GF Bisquick mix was baking a yummy dessert. I thought about an apple crisp, but after Karina's lackluster review I decided to try a cinnamon streusel coffee cake. I found the inital recipe on Betty Crocker's website, and decided to modify some things:
  • First of all, these things never have enough streusel topping. Automatically double the streusel recipe.
  • I've had good experiences with adding a package of vanilla instant Jell-O pudding mix to the gluten free mixes. It helps to keep the cake moist for a few days.

Here's the final recipe that I came up with:


Streusel Topping:
  • 2/3 cup GF Bisquick mix
  • 1 cup packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup of butter *NOTE I used only about half of this.
  • 1 3/4 cup GF Bisquick mix
  • 1 package instant french vanilla Jell-O pudding mix
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 2/3 cup H2O (I added a couple of extra teaspoons by eyeballing the mix)
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  1. Preheat oven to 350 F. Spray 9-inch square (or round) pan with cooking spray. In a small bowl mix the dry streusel ingredients and add butter while mixing until it is crumbly.
  2. In a medium bowl (I used our stand mixer), stir all coffee cake ingredients until blended. Add approximately half of the streusel ingredients to the cake mixture. Spread in pan; sprinkle with the rest of the streusel topping.
  3. Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until golden brown. Store tightly covered.
It came out REALLY good. Sweet, moist, chewy, and when it cooled off the next morning my hubby had a huge piece for breakfast (me, not so much, the whole sugary breakfast thing, but the piece I had last night was awesome). Definitely a keeper.

Now, for the good stuff. The folks at MyBlogSpark are providing one of my lucky readers a Bisquick pack of their own. It includes a (nice, cast iron) mini pancake pan, pancake pen, spatula, and of course a box of gluten free Bisquick baking mix.

To enter, please comment *on this blog post* and answer the following question:
What do you plan to make with the new Bisquick gluten free baking mix???

One entry per person, all entries must be submitted by 12:00 AM Monday, October 4th. (Happy Birthday, Samantha!). Thanks and good luck!!!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Our trip to the Latham Fresh Market

So, we checked out Fresh Market in Latham for the first time this weekend. I was extremely excited, as I'd heard wonderful things about it from my friends down South, and it's nice to have more competition and more choices for grocery stores in this area. We had to run some errands in Albany on Saturday morning and stopped there after a trip to Lowes up the road (off-topic: for a firepit! Yay to roasted marshmallows as soon as this rain clears up!).

The first thing that hit us was how nice everything looked. They're still doing construction on other stores in the plaza, but when we lived in the area everything was still under construction. The landscaping and main building were all done and absolutely beautiful. As soon as we entered the parking lot we were hit by the smell of something delicious on the grill, and we entered among a crowd of people.

The first stop was the produce department - one of the things I'd heard so much about. There was a ton of excitement in the store, and people were scooping up tons of produce into their carts. I put a couple of perfect-looking nectarines in my basket, and my next stop was the berries. Blackberries are a favorite of mine and they're only in season for a very short time. Examining the containers, I admired the big, plump berries, until I saw... fuzzy white mold.

Now, I know that berries get moldy very quickly and I always complain about this at Price Chopper. But, if you're a grocery store and it's your grand opening weekend, you should be on your A game and that's pretty inexcusable in my book.

I looked at some of the other produce, but I couldn't bring myself to spend money on it. $3.99/lb. for red peppers that are $1.99/lb. at Price Chopper (and bigger there!?) Now, I am all about shelling out for premium produce - I love the $6/lb. organic, hydroponically (and relatively locally) grown tomatoes that are just about perfection off-season. But I couldn't bring myself to spend that much per pound for peppers that I thought were better at a regular Price Chopper.

Next, onto the deli and butcher counters. They had some interesting cuts of meat, but there were so many people there that we didn't buy anything. We stayed around the perimeter of the store and saw a lot of the brands we liked, at a slight markup (example: Chobani yogurt for $1.59). The bakery smelled divine, but there were no gluten free baked goods (not that we were expecting any). The alcohol area was awesome - you could mix and match and create your own six pack! However, no Wood chuck or other gluten free options, so we passed on that. Still, it's nice for when we have company. My husband bought a bottle of Mexican Pepsi, but when we got home we realized that Mexican Pepsi is no longer like it was when we were on our honeymoon and is now made with HFCS just like American Pepsi.

When we made it into the aisles, we got a nice surprise: most of their gluten free items were labelled right on the shelves with a huge sign that said gluten free! Score! That got major points, right there. We picked up a couple of bags of Lundberg wild rice, and looked at some of the Thai and Indian sauces. Most of the stuff, though, we could find at Price Chopper, Hannaford, or natural food stores like the Green Grocer. There weren't a lot of NEW and INTERESTING items which I was a little disappointed by. If I'm going to pay a markup for these goods, I'll probably stick to buying locally.

The one interesting thing we saw was actually at the checkout. They had European sodas, 2/$6. My husband picked up a mandarin blood orange soda (he said it was OK, but he's more of an Orange Crush guy), and I bought a cranberry-lime soda. I'm planning on cracking it open when the girls are over for our monthly book club and adding some vodka - served with chocolate mice from Villa Italia. :-)

Overall? Mixed feelings about Fresh Market. I like that they bring more competition to the area, but I fear that after the novelty wears off they may not have what it takes to stick around. At least, not without upping their game.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Menu Plan Monday

I love the Menu Plan Monday theme that goes on - it's a great way to get ideas on what to make during the week. I've never really done it before because, well, I do my grocery shopping on Saturdays and tend to plan meals Saturday to Friday. (Weak excuse, I know.) However, I am trying to plan out a healthy "cleanse" week to look good in a cocktail dress over the weekend... either cutting out or limiting as much as possible all junk (desserts, chips, other processed foods), diet soda, vino, etc. Still allowing my non-negotiable cup of coffee every morning or I'd be unbearable to live/work with. :)

So without further ado, here's my "two-day-early" menu plan:

Saturday - We'll be doing sushi takeout this evening. I'll be ordering the following maki: tuna, salmon, shrimp, avocado and cucumber. Maybe with edamame or a salad (unfortunately most ginger dressing is not gluten free - when we go out to eat Japanese food we bring a little bottle of ranch!)

Sunday - Leftover night. I have some rice and beans in the freezer - brown rice, kidney beans, green pepper, red onion, kernel corn, and a jar of medium salsa. It's always better leftover because the flavors tend to mix well, and also freezes pretty well. My hubby mixes in mild taco sauce, I like to add a drop or to of habanero sauce to mine. Sprinkle with monterey jack cheese and you're golden. You can eat it with a spoon, wrap it up on corn tortillas, or even use Tostitos Scoops to eat it.

Monday - Grilling! Chicken marinated in Italian dressing, grilled veggies (white mushrooms, red peppers, sweet onions, maybe some other stuff if it looks good). A boiled yellow squash with salt and pepper for me, Lundberg Farms risotto for my hubby.

Tuesday - Fresh fish (TBD, I like to pick it up from the market that day and see what looks good). Served with broccolini and baby red potatoes.

Wednesday - Grilled shrimp skewers, and grilled veggies again (white mushrooms, red peppers, sweet onions, maybe some other stuff if it looks good). Another boiled yellow squash for me, and leftover risotto for my hubby.

Thursday - Grilled chicken again (what, there are 5 portions in those "Perfect Portions" bags!) Still marinated in Italian dressing. This time with corn on the cob and leftover baby red potatoes.

Friday - Thinking of picking up snow crab legs with baked potato and steamed broccoli. As long as it looks good and isn't exorbitant - plan B is sauteed shrimp with the same sides.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Recipe: Granola Bars Modified From Monster Cookies

Back around Christmas-cookie-season, I wrote about Monster cookies. My friend Liz made these for the girls' holiday cookie swap, and they were amazingly good - when she told me the basic ingredients (no wheat) I was even more intrigued.

The first time I made them, I was struck by how much they tasted like one of those Quaker granola bars (which while, unfortunately, are not gluten free, my husband LOVED in his gluten-eating days). He requested that the next time I make them I try to duplicate the granola bar recipe a little more, maybe with some additional flavors. Well, winter turned into spring, spring turned into summer, and between MBA classes, a new house, and a busy work schedule things kitchen experimentation sort of fell by the wayside for a little while there. (Shame, too, because I have a kitchen dedicated to gluten free baking now!)

Well, he's working all weekend on a huge project, and while they're getting pizza for all the other people, he's not expecting to have anyone accommodate him. :-( So he brought some dinner and decided to bring some snacks in to get him through a couple of 18-hour days. I figured, this is the best time to re-visit these Monster cookies!

I used pretty much the same recipe as last time, but cut down a little bit on the sugar and added different stuff:


* 3 eggs
* 1 1/4 cups packed light brown sugar
* 1/2 cup granulated sugar (halved from last recipe)
* 1/2 teaspoon salt
* 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
* 1 12-ounce jar creamy peanut butter (I had a 40 oz jar, so I approximated this with a cup and a half - could be a little more, or a little less)
* 1 stick butter, softened
* 2 teaspoons baking soda (I didn't have any baking soda, so I used 1 tsp. baking powder and 1 tsp. cream of tartar as a substitute)
* 4 1/2 cups quick-cooking oatmeal (not instant) (And of course, gluten free!)

Instead of the chocolate (which my husband hates) and raisins, I added almost an entire package of chopped up dried apple - if I had to estimate a little more than a cup - and a large handful of chopped walnuts.

By the way, a side note/tip: Using the Slap Chop on dried apple rings? Not a great idea. Manually chopping the apple rings with a knife worked leagues better.


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats.

In a very large mixing bowl, combine the eggs and sugars. Mix well. Add the salt, vanilla, peanut butter, and butter. Mix well. Stir in the chocolate candies, chocolate chips, raisins, if using, baking soda, and oatmeal. Drop by tablespoons 2 inches apart onto the prepared cookie sheets.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Do not overbake. Let stand for about 3 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool. When cool, store in large resealable plastic bags.

I started out trying triangles, but they came out kind of roundish-squarish. They taste REALLY good though! We're going to try to freeze some of them as well. I think next time I could probably get rid of the granulated sugar completely.

Thank you, Paula Dean and Food Network for the original recipe!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Blue Smoke at the Saratoga Track

Yesterday we went to the track - it was a gorgeous day for it! Unfortunately neither of us won big, but we still had a very nice day. ;-)

While we were there we checked out the new Blue Smoke restaurant for lunch. They have a pretty limited menu - pulled pork sandwiches, ribs, wings, and fries. They also sell beer, soft drinks, and I think cookies for dessert.

After waiting in line for a little while, I asked the girl at the counter about gluten. She told me that the ribs and chicken wings were both gluten free and the only allergen was soy. Score! We ordered an order of ribs, and order of wings, and an order of fries to share. The total came to about $22. (We had brought our own drinks in a cooler).

Well, we waited for about 15 min, and got about half a dozen each of wings and ribs. The wings were absolutely amazing - tender, juicy, and they had a bit of a nice kick. The ribs, not so impressed - they were very dried out. The fries were amazing. Overall, it was a light meal/snack and a little pricey even for track food standards, and they definitely have some kinks to work out, but it was interesting to try.

Afterward we went to the Circus Cafe for dinner - I'd tried it with my mother in law but hadn't taken my husband there. He got a french dip sandwich on gluten free bread and I had a burger. Both of us had salads on the side and we ordered the cotton candy for dessert - WOW. Talk about huge! Thankfully they gave us a bag to take (most) of it home in. :-)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

What are your guilty pleasure foods?

I saw this article on CNN about guilty pleasure foods - this is a great topic because we all have a list of a few guilty pleasure foods - foods that we love but only indulge once in a great while, and foods that we love and have as often as possible on a regular basis. I thought this was a great, fun topic - so I'm going to list mine (gluten free for this blog of course, though I'll admit the occasional gluten-filled Chinese food run when I'm not with my husband). So here goes my top 10, in no particular order...

1. King Crab Legs. When done right, possibly one of the most decadent foods ever, and IMO better even than lobster. Done to perfection and steeped in hot melted butter, these are pure bliss. We splurge on them a couple of times a year, but we can easily eat five pounds between the two of us! We'll tend to save these for special occasions and chill some champagne as well.

2. Guacamole. Lately I've been buying Wholly Guacamole (spicy, of course) in Price Chopper, but it's so simple to make - avocados, red onion, tomatoes, garlic, cilantro, lime. Jalapeno peppers optional. Guac is the single. best. thing. about football season.

3. Hot Buffalo Wings. Actually, scratch that. Anything with buffalo sauce. I like marinating grilled chicken breasts in buffalo sauce and adding it to salads, buffalo wings (baked or deep fried), buffalo chicken pizza... It's amazing. I'll even buy the Blazin' Buffalo Doritos, even though they're a poor substitute.

4. Caprese salad. I only indulge in this in the summer (because it's just not as good when the ingredients aren't in season). But a ball of fresh mozzarella from the farmer's market, combined with fresh garden-picked basil and tomato, sprinkled with salt and pepper and drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, is just about the perfect summer meal. And, it pairs unbelievably well with white wine.

5. Yellow squash. Another summer-only indulgence (it's just not as good out of season), I boil it and load it up with butter, salt and pepper. Unbelievable.

6. Starbucks non-fat vanilla chai latte. 90% of the time that I go to Starbucks, this is my drink (the other 10% of the time it's the holidays and I'm all about the peppermint mochas). It's an indulgence because I feel a teensy bit guilty for spending $5 on a drink, but I also credit this drink for my 4.0 GPA in grad school. (So far at least.) :-)

7. Nutella. A decadent chocolately, hazelnut spread that goes so well on so many things. My favorite thing to enjoy Nutella with is fresh, grilled pineapple. Absolutely delicious.

8. Bleu Cheese. I know there's some debate about bleu cheese being gluten free since it's grown on wheat, but I have read studies that state there is no gluten when the cheese is independently tested. So let's assume for the sake of argument that it's gluten free. It's delicious, crumbly, and there's something about the sharp biting taste that is indescribable - but soooo good. Bleu cheese dressing is also good, but can't compare to a nice wedge of bleu.

9. Milk chocolate. I'm not that picky about it - I love Hershey's, Cadbury, M&Ms, anything. But milk chocolate is so wonderfully sweet and good with a delightfully creamy texture that I can eat about a pound of it if I let myself. And when I really want chocolate, the bitter dark chocolate that I'm supposed to like as a foodie, just doesn't do it for me. I LOVE milk chocolate. Add peanuts, almonds, hazelnuts, whatever to it, or just plain.

10. Scallops wrapped in bacon. I don't think I need to say anymore, but the saltiness of bacon combined with the texture of scallops... it's just about the best appetizer on the planet, and as a bonus you can eat it with a toothpick.

And for a bonus, the one thing I miss the most that does contain gluten:

11. Spinach dip in a rye bread bowl. I haven't found a way to duplicate that yet.

Those are mine. Now for fun, what are yours??

Monday, August 2, 2010

Gluten Free at a Mets Game in Citi Field!?!?

We go to Yankee Stadium (now Steinbrenner Stadium) every year, and we usually tailgate in the parking lot before the game. It’s a fun time, we bring a small grill and do burgers, hot dogs, and have a couple of beers before going into the Stadium and watching the game (where we’ll usually get snacks like Cracker Jacks, peanuts, etc.) However, since we’ve never been to a Mets game before and aren’t sure if/where tailgating is allowed, we were wondering what to do for food that day. It’s a long trip and we’ll definitely need something!

Well, good news for us – the Mets announced a gluten free stand at Citi Field this year. Yes, you can now go to the ball park and get gluten free beer, hot dogs, burgers, and the like. Um, YAY!

I did some digging around and apparently the gluten free stand is a stand-alone cart in the World’s Fare market, on the field level of the stadium in the right field corner, with a HUGE sign saying “gluten free.”

In the meantime, here are some links from people who have already written up about the gluten free stand. We’ll be sure to share our thoughts (but stash a couple of snacks just to be on the safe side).






So, tell me readers – have you been to see a Mets game at Citi Field yet this year? Have you visited the gluten free stand, and if so, what did you think? Any advice on what to get, or other options in the park??? Or do you tailgate?

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Gluten Free Bisquick!

Along with most of the other gluten free community, my husband and I were anxiously waiting for the arrival of Gluten Free Bisquick! When I read a comment on the Times Union Gluten Free blog that they were found in the East Greenbush Walmart, I went there on my lunch break to check it out, emerging victorious with not only a box of Gluten Free Bisquick, but also a box of Gluten Free "Asian Helper" Chicken fried rice mix. (We don't usually eat that stuff, but when my husband is on his own for dinner he always makes gluten free boxed mac and cheese - this might give a little more variety.)

This morning we decided to try the pancakes. (I'll admit, we were looking forward to Sunday breakfast for a few days, lol). I had read online something along the lines that you had to add shortening, but the box didn't call for it. So, off to Google I went.

First, I found a great blog review from Adventures of a Gluten Free Mom. This review called for 1 cup of shortening for every 8 cups of Bisquick. Since I only had 1 box (definitely not enough for 8 cups of mix), I didn't want to prepackage it but instead wanted to find out the "regular" box recipe to make pancakes. So my next stop was AllRecipes, where I found the Bisquick pancake recipe. However, all of the comments said to use the "Melt in your mouth" recipe instead. I trust their comments - and "melt in your mouth" sounds amazing, so that was the next recipe I looked for: Melt in your mouth Bisquick pancake recipe.

The final output was:
  • 2 cups Gluten Free Bisquick mix
  • 1/4 cup shortening
  • 1 cup milk*
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
First, whisk together the Bisquick mix and shortening until it's completely combined. Then add the other ingredients and mix until combined. We used 2% milk and had to add some more milk - a little at a time until the consistency was pourable. Griddle-cook them the usual way.

The melt-in-your mouth pancakes called for an additional Tbsp of sugar but we didn't use it and thought the pancakes turned out wonderful. I heated up some pure maple syrup to pour over them, and they tasted JUST like regular pancakes!

We'll definitely buy more of their pancake mix. I'm looking forward to trying it on chicken and also trying the gluten free coffee cake recipes I've seen floating around. Yum!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Dinner at New World Bistro and Bar

Yesterday, we met some friends in Albany. The Spectrum Theater was showing The Girl Who Played with Fire, the sequel to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Since we're huge fans of the book series and the first movie was so good, we couldn't wait to see it. (Side note: my friends and I found it disappointing -- they left a lot out, and it wasn't as well-done as the first movie IMO). Our plan was to see the 3:30 PM showing and then walk three doors down to the New World Bistro and Bar for an early dinner.

Now, I'd heard of the New World Bistro and Bar before, but I only found out they had a gluten free menu recently, at the Gluten Free Food Festival at St. Peters this spring. As soon as I found that out I checked out their gluten free menu online and added it to the list of places I was desperately anxious to check out. I was even more psyched to see they use a lot of local produce and sustainably raised meats including grass-fed beef. The prices are a little higher than most restaurants but I'm more than willing to pay the markup for quality ingredients.

After the movie we walked over, and the place was already packed! We asked for a table and were shocked that at 5:30 or so they were already booked well into the evening. (Mental note: make reservations next time!) The earliest table inside was at 8:45 PM, but they did have patio seating outside, so we decided to try it.

WOW. It was hot outside yesterday. (I usually live in air conditioning in the summer - central air in my house, air conditioning in my car, and then such cold air conditioning in the office that I wear a jacket all day in the summer. Perhaps that's why the heat was such a shock to us. :))

Still, we weren't deterred from ordering. The dinners looked absolutely fabulous but we weren't up for a big meal in the heat, so we all ended up ordering sandwiches and their gluten free french fries. Our friends both ended up ordering grass-fed beef burgers, my husband ordered a mushroom and cheese melt sandwich, and I ordered the salmon sandwich. My husband was thrilled they served his favorite, Amber Woodchuck, and I couldn't resist a glass or two of the Spanish house sparkling wine, Paul Cheneau. Delish!

When we got our sandwiches - WOW. My husband got the gluten free bun and I had a taste - it was soft and delicious. Everyone was thrilled with their sandwiches, and I don't think I've ever had a better fish sandwich in my life. The fries were incredible (though, if I had to do it again, I would have had the grilled summer vegetables - it was a corn on the cob last night and I bet it would have been amazing). Everyone cleaned their plate despite the heat - the portions weren't HUGE but we were all comfortably full afterward. If it wasn't so hot we would have looked at the dessert menu.

I will DEFINITELY be back again to try more dishes at New World.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Review: Circus Cafe in Saratoga

Last night, I won tickets to the ballet at SPAC. It was a really nice event with the "Girls Night Out" promotion (wine and chocolate tastings, mani/pedis, etc.) and I invited my mother, mother-in-law, and a family friend to the event with me. My mother-in-law has the same gluten free restriction as my husband, so we picked the Circus Cafe to eat.

Now, I'd heard good things about the Circus Cafe, but the last time we checked their gluten free menu it was lacking. The standard "burger with no bun" type deal, and a lot of salads. However, they've updated their gluten free menu since then and I was happy to check out a new place .

Their menus are displayed on their website, and have been updated to include multigrain gluten free hamburger buns and gluten free penne pasta. Well, none of us (gluten free or not) could resist their burgers, which their menu stated were "award winning" and "voted best in Saratoga." They come with several options - different cheeses, onions, guacamole, etc. YUM! For sides, they have (cross-contaminated) fries and sweet potato fries, but gluten free and health-conscious diners can order a side salad in lieu of fries. The salad is GOOD too - real lettuces, not the iceburg junk that some restaurants peddle.

We were not disappointed with the burgers at all - they were wonderful! Juicy, flavorful, and big. None of us left hungry.

I've definitely added Circus Cafe to the list of places to visit when my husband and I go to Saratoga.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Back - It's been a while

Wow, it's been a long while since I was behind the computer, writing a blog entry. There's been a ton of stuff going on in our lives and it's just been a crazy couple of months. I've been on Facebook and Twitter, but more than 100 characters and my attention span has been lacking lately! I'm back, though, and trying to get back into writing more regularly!

The biggest recent event has been buying a house and moving. We put an offer on a house in late March/early April and closed the first week of May, then moved the week before Memorial Day. The house is in the Rotterdam area, which we like for a few reasons:
  • We're both originally from Schenectady County (Scotia-Glenville and Schalmont grads here) and our families are still in the area, as are a lot of our friends.
  • It's close enough to the Thruway that our commute isn't that bad.
  • We found an AWESOME house.
What makes the house awesome, you ask? Well, it was like the house was made for someone who likes to cook and entertain. (Actually, it probably was). Big kitchen with tons of cabinet space and a brand-new, custom made double stove. A second, summer kitchen in the basement with another stove and range and tons more counter space and storage for all of my gluten free flours! Nice big dining room. Big yard with apple, pear and peach trees. We've been having a ton of fun cooking dinner and eating on the patio, starting a garden, etc.

It's been a blast so far. :-)

Anyway - last week we checked out the gluten free food festival at Sisters of Mercy - it was a great time and we sampled a ton of amazing food. I have to say though that my favorites were: Sherry Lynn's gluten free cornbread, Dawn O'Donnel (DAFFI/KD's)'s mini hot dogs and Kettle Cuisine tomato soup. Yum! I won a frozen pizza in the raffle too -- it's in our freezer but we're totally trying it when we get a chance!

Coming up soon -
  • This Saturday we're checking out Pet-A-Palooza at the Ballston Spa Curtis Lumber. It sounds like a great event if you're looking to adopt a companion!
  • This Sunday is Father's Day, and we're looking forward to getting together with our families.
  • We have tickets to Citi Field this summer. Not only do we get to watch Baseball, I've heard rumors of a gluten free stand there that I must investigate!
  • We're planning a winter trip to California - definitely planning to check out DisneyLand!

That's about all for now. Stay tuned, I promise it won't be months before the next blog post. :-)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

"Kat's GF Drive-Thru"

So, I don't know about you, but sometimes I have weeks where I'm so uber-scheduled that cooking just isn't an option. This evening we had an appointment immediately after work and had to grab dinner in the car. Before-celiac that would have been simple - hit up McDonald's or Burger King for a high-fat, high-calorie, and highly-portable meal. Alas, that's not the case anymore.

Sure, some fast food restaurants - most notably Wendy's - do have fast food options. However, all of them require sitting at a table with utensils to eat. Salads, baked potato, chili - while it's wonderful to have those options none of them are exactly portable.

Our usual strategy is to pack a few things in the car to tide ourselves over until we're able to get home. We're partial to string cheese, PayDay bars, peanuts, Os-Trim sticks and gluten free jerky. They're good in a pinch but what inevitably happens is, by the time we get home we're completely ravenous and tend to overeat when we are finally around food. No, they're not good enough.

And finally -- my husband is what you'd call a picky eater. He's got a lot of foods on his list that he won't eat - any berry or berry flavor (yes, including but not limited to strawberry, raspberry, blackberry, and blueberry), anything with bananas in it or banana flavoring, fresh oranges, chocolate, carrots, any sort of squash, asparagus, avocado, tofu.... well, I could go on, but you get the point. It's never a problem to make this stuff at home where I can tell him to fend for himself if he doesn't like it, but I wanted to be a little more efficient for this.

And oh yeah, nothing with mayo for me (what, I'm allowed one thing to be picky about. :-))

Well, I came up with some ideas.

Portable Grilled Cheese sandwiches

I took some gluten free bread from our freezer, toasted it, buttered both sides (well, light margarine), and placed a few slices of muenster cheese. Grill on each side until the bread is lightly browned and the cheese is melted. Wrap in aluminum foil and bring an extra napkin or to, and you're good to go.

For a bit of extra flavor, add ham or portabello mushrooms to the sandwiches.

Pre-made burritos

I didn't do this one tonight, but the next time we make Mexican I'm going to make a little extra rice and beans, and wrap/freeze them with cheese and sauce in corn tortillas (I like Mission tortillas if I don't make my own, though they tend to be small). Brown rice tortillas would probably also be an option. They're freezable and can be nuked for a really quick meal.

How about everyone else? What are your gluten free on-the-go staples?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Gluten Free Birthday Party

Something pretty big happens in March 2010. Towards the end of the month, my husband turns 30. Since it's an age ending in a -0 (and because, though he vehemently denies it, I know he wanted a fuss made) I decided to throw him a surprise party with some of his friends.

Since, obviously, you can't have a party without some sort of food, I had to find a place that was willing to accommodate a gluten free menu. Since most of our guests were coming from the Schenectady area, it had to be someplace with available parking -- effectively ruling out downtown Albany. My husband also abhors regular bars - he'd much rather play games and have something to actually do. Finally, I wanted to keep it within a reasonable budget for approximately 30 people.

After making a few phone calls, I came up with the perfect venue: Diamond Eight Billiards. It's located in Latham and it's the best pool hall we've found in the area. It had everything we wanted -- pool, darts, foozeball, and a wonderful party manager, Irene, who went above and beyond to accommodate all of my menu requests. My goal for the party - I wanted my husband to be free to eat anything he wanted, and I wanted it to be good enough for all the other guests to enjoy.

The menu that Irene and I worked out:

  • Cheese and fruit platter
  • Veggie and dip platter (Marzetti ranch dip)
  • Tossed salad (Croutons on the side and gluten free Marzetti salad dressing)
  • Sausage and peppers (with gluten free sausage, of course)
  • Chicken and peppers
  • Chicken and mushrooms
  • Mild and Medium wings (broiled and tossed with sauce, instead of fried)
  • Potato salad
For dessert, Diamond Eight provided a brownie tray (not gluten free, but my husband doesn't like chocolate anyway) and we brought in an ice cream cake from Emack and Bolio's. This is another great place with amazing ice cream! The cake was a huge hit. While their website has a huge allergen statements that they cannot guarantee against cross contamination, the employees were willing to use brand new containers for this cake to mitigate that risk, which we greatly appreciated!

My mother, mother in law, and sister in law stopped by Diamond Eight that afternoon to decorate -- everything looked festive, the food was great (though, I'll confess, I ordered a bit too much - we're eating a ton of leftover wings right now), and my husband was thoroughly surprised. What made it even better, though, was that everyone was entertained for the entire evening. I reserved four pool tables that were constantly busy, they had karaoke, and overall a great time!

* Note: The puggle wasn't invited to the party, and, I'm pretty sure hates me after making her take that picture. But I couldn't resist including it. :-)

Recipe: Irish Potato Casserole

This weekend my husband and I went to a St. Patrick's Day party, and I was asked to bring "Something Irish." Now, while my family is quite Irish, I don't do a lot of Irish cooking so this posed a bit of a challenge to me. I was originally going to try my hand at Boxty but, let's face it, I haven't ever actually had a true Irish potato pancake before, so I wouldn't even know if I messed it up!

Well, as any good computer geek worth her salt would do, I headed over to Google and searched for Irish recipes, with an emphasis on quick and easy because this was three hours before the party started. I found this recipe for Irish Potato Casserole, which looked like a winner. It looked yummy -- who doesn't like potatoes and cheese?? -- and more importantly, I had most of the ingredients on hand already.

(Full disclosure: I'm not sure how actually Irish this dish is but I'm going with it.)

I made quite a few modifications and brought it to the party where it disappeared very quickly to rave reviews!

Here's my recipe:

Irish Potato Casserole
  • 5 large, peeled and shredded potatoes
  • 1/2 cup melted butter (use butter and not margarine!)
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • minced onion/onion powder, garlic salt, and paprika to taste. (I just sprinkled some into the dish until it looked good - the recipe called for minced onion but since I didn't have any on hand I used onion powder)
  • 1/2 cup 2% milk
  • 1 8 oz. brick of sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  1. Preheat oven to 400 F
  2. Butter a 2 quart baking dish
  3. Mix potatoes, butter, egg, spices completely together.
  4. Pour milk over top and bake for 20 min.
  5. Stir in half the cheese, add rest of cheese to top of casserole. Sprinkle paprika on top, bake for an additional 15-20 min. or until done and browned on top.

Everyone asked for this recipe last night, and it's definitely a keeper!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Weight Loss

I suppose it's time for a confession. You know how you can let a little weight creep up on you gradually and then suddenly be shocked at how much bigger you are now than a year ago/6 months ago? That happened to me this weekend.

Buying a pair of pants, I had to go to a size 10.

Psychologically, that's huge -- it's a two-digit number instead of a one-digit number. Even if you wear designer/men's sizes, it means going from a svelte number in the 20's to... 30.

There are always tons of excuses. I'm always super busy between work, school and homework. Days that I have class, I'm busy from 7:30 in the morning until 10 at night - not very conducive to healthy eating. I haven't wanted to cook a lot, prompting us to buy more convenience foods, and when I do cook I've been trying to watch our budget - that means I'll probably trade in light seafood for ground beef on sale. All in all, not good practices.

It stops. Now.

Overall, my meals aren't that bad.

Breakfast is usually one cup of coffee, some instant oatmeal, and a small container of yogurt (like the Fiber One 4-packs). (Full disclosure: We get Eco-planet gluten free mix for my husband, but since I don't have to be gluten free I get the cheaper Quaker stuff for myself).

A typical lunch is an Amy's frozen meal (I'm partial to her teriyaki bowl) and a piece of fruit like an orange. Unless I go out, then it's usually Subway, Panera, or something along those lines. And of course, I have to battle the urge to snack around 3 PM, and resist all the office snacks that magically appear.

Dinner is whatever I end up making. We eat mostly chicken, shrimp, and meatless dishes with cheese. And then, of course, dessert. Snacking afterwards. Candy is my downfall. Especially Easter candy. And of course, all the gluten free baking doesn't help because everything's just here!

Finally -- I am notoriously lazy about going to the gym. Mostly because using the cardio equipment at the gym (or the Wii Fit for that matter) is completely and utterly boring. I can go an hour on the elliptical, but the Lady GaGa album can only get me so far, until I just want to quit from sheer boredom (And how can my gym constantly play the Food Network!?).

So -- conclusions:
- I need to find some new lunches that don't give me the 3 PM slump. And NOT go out as much.
- I need to find some EASY, QUICK, and HEALTHY meal options for dinner - that are husband friendly, and fill me up to the point where I don't crave something sweet afterwards.
- I need to find a way to make working out interesting.
- If I don't lose about 10 lbs. by April 1st, I'm joining WW. (That's my deadline!)

Anyone else out there dieting/trying to shed some pounds before summer capris-shorts-and-bathing suit season?

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Ode to the Asian Supermarket

I'd heard about the new (ish) Asian supermarket on Central Ave, and I've driven by it countless times on my travels to Wolf Road, Northway Mall and the like. But between a busy schedule and being admittedly a creature of habit on the weekends I hadn't actually ventured in until this weekend. A friend (Thanks, M!) had told me that it was very good -- that, combined with the fact that it was spring break so I had no grad school homework, made it a good week to stop in and check things out.

I was impressed. And I will be returning regularly.

Let's just talk about flours. Typically, we go to natural food stores like Paradise Natural Foods and Green Grocer to stock up on gluten free goodies, and while we're there I'll load up the cart with flours to use at home. Partial to Authentic Foods (for their finely ground rice flours), I'd pay more than $10 for each 3 lb. bag. (Somewhere in the ballpark of $12-$14 depending on the type of flour). That's $3-4+ per pound for specialty flour! We sucked it up and spent the money figuring that it was part of being gluten free.

Let me tell you -- the Asian supermarket has bulk rice flour and tapioca starch/flour for 79 cents a pound. Less than one dollar! Their potato starch was $1.69/pound (Price Chopper sells a pound of Bob's Red Mill potato starch for upwards of $4/pound) and their sweet rice flour was also very expensive. We stocked up on those flours, and added a couple of other impulse buys like jasmine tea, rice pasta shells, rice paper wrappers, and Japanese bubble gum, all for under $20. We typically drop $50+ each time we stock up on flours at the natural food stores, so that was a huge plus for our wallet!

The only thing that I did NOT see at the Asian supermarket was brown rice flour. Unless I find a better price at a co-op I may still be paying a premium for it (but I like it just to add some fiber to things like pizza dough).

I'll be cracking open the bulk flours this weekend -- hopefully my baked goods will taste even better knowing they were a bargain. ;-)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Mailbag: Glutinous rice

I love receiving mail from my readers! One of my readers sent me the following message:
I figure you probably already know, but I did read somewhere that Japanese "Glutenous" rice is actually low in gluten or free of it... you may want to double check, but its supposedly unlike other rice in that way.
I thought this was a great opportunity to talk about rice in general, and glutinous rice in more detail.

"Glutinous rice," otherwise known as "sweet rice," is a special type of rice that sticks together when it's cooked. (Unlike, say, long grain instance rice in which there's pretty much no hope of it sticking together). Like other types of rice, it doesn't actually contain gluten, but it's called "glutinous" because well, it acts a lot like gluten does. It's sticky and binding, which makes it great for things like sushi (when you really want the rice to stick together in a ball and not fall apart when it touches soy sauce).

In the same, glutinous spirit, sweet rice flour is often used to hold things together. The sweet rice flour that I buy has a consistency very similar to corn starch. I'll keep a bag of sweet rice flour on hand, for the following uses:
  • Gluten free roux
  • Add a tablespoon or two when your dough has too much moisture
  • I've heard it's good in cakes and pie crusts, but I haven't tried this so far.
You can pick up sweet rice flour locally at the Green Grocer, and I'd imagine many of the other natural food stores in the area, or Asian supermarkets.

What do you use glutinous rice/sweet rice flour for?

PS -- If you want to send me a message, please feel free to comment on my blog, or look up Kat's GF Kitchen on Facebook, or follow katsgfkitchen on Twitter! :)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Starfish Gluten Free Frozen Fish - Review

I look through the Price Chopper ad every week before I go grocery shopping, and last week (the 2/7 ad) there was a large section about a new product: Starfish brand gluten free fish. They carry three types of breaded frozen fish: Cod, Haddock and Halibut. (There is a difference in price -- last week Price Chopper had an AdvantEDGE sale on these fish: Cod was $3.99, Haddock was $4.99, and Halibut was $7.99). Well, not only are my husband and I always interested in trying new products, but convenience foods are a must in our household. On the nights I have class, my husband's either on his own or we're throwing something together with five minutes to spare -- and trust me, the limited gluten free fast food options we do have tend to get old pretty quickly.

So anyway, we picked up two boxes of the Starfish fish - we decided to try the Cod and the Haddock (figuring that if we liked them, we'd try the Halibut at a later time, just based on the expense). This evening we tried the first box, the Cod. And I have to say, it was pretty darn good! When I bought the boxes I was assuming the fillets would be larger -- kind of like what you'd see on a fish sandwich -- but they were a little smaller than that. (I suppose they'd make good sliders, if you want a frame of reference). I baked them -- alongside, we whipped up some tartar sauce to go with the fish and had fries and peas.

The batter was really good -- crunchy, but not overdone, and definitely not soggy. You definitely needed tartar sauce with it for flavor, but they're more satisfying than Ian's fish sticks (which have been our only option for quite some time). I'm looking forward to trying the Haddock next time, and when I go back to Price Chopper I'll definitely be picking up more of their fish and trying the Halibut as well!

Let's just hope that the Starfish fish sticks around and doesn't suffer the same fate as Bell & Evans gluten free chicken (which we still dearly miss).

Saturday, February 13, 2010

B&G Foods Gluten Free list!

My husband and I were at Price Chopper this afternoon picking up food for this weekend and the rest of this week. We haven't done tacos in a while and figured that would be good to do tonight... I picked up some 93% lean ground beef, iceberg lettuce, cheese, black olives, and went to the international aisle to pick up some taco shells and seasoning. In the past, we've usually bought Old El Paso taco shells -- since they're owned by General Mills and I know their labelling practices. Unfortunately, it's been our experience that sometimes they're not that great. I don't know if it's the brand, the stores we buy them in or what, but they're usually a little on the stale side.

Today, we decided to do something a little different. I looked at the Mission corn tortillas, but my husband was in the mood for hard-shell tacos. I picked up a box of Ortega yellow corn taco shells and was pleasantly surprised to see a "Gluten free" label in the bottom right corner of the box. (Plus the box had an attached coupon for $1 off 2 Ortega products - sweet!) I picked them up and we were very happy with the shells. They were crunchy, tasty, and overall better than the shells we've bought in the past.

That got me thinking though -- what other products might be gluten free? Ortega is owned by B&G foods, who now provide an online gluten free list. You can access B&G's list of gluten free products here.

We already use several of these products -- like B&M beans and Grandma's molasses -- which have been labelled gluten free for some time. Still, this is great information to have and I'm glad to see more companies providing this information!

Now if only Price Chopper had gotten back to me when I'd asked if their dip was gluten free! :)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Review: Enjoy Life Crunchy Flax and Rice Cereals

My husband and I are always on the lookout for new gluten free products. When Enjoy Life contacted me and asked me if I would like to try and review two of their new cereals, I figured why not? The two cereals in question are Perky's Crunchy Flax and Perky's Crunchy Rice cereal.

According to their promotional e-mail:

Crunchy Flax is 100% natural, sweetened with fruit juice and honey, has 50g of whole grain, 425 mg of Omega-3's and 6g of fiber per serving. It's not only a delicious, but nutritious start to your day!

Crunchy Rice is 100% natural, sweetened with fruit juice and honey and is low fat and low sodium. Enjoy with milk or yogurt (including your favorite non-dairy alternatives), or throw in your trail mix for an extra crunch.

Well, I'll be honest. Before trying either of these cereals, I liked the fact that they were naturally sweetened and have completely pronounceable ingredients.

The Crunchy Flax cereal contains: Whole sorghum flour, ground flax seed, honey, raisin juice concentrate, and salt. A 3/4 cup serving boasts 200 calories, 3g fat, and 6g fiber. (3 WW points, not including milk or other additives).

The Crunchy Rice cereal contains: Rice flour, rice bran, raisin juice concentrate, honey, and salt. A 3/4 cup serving contains 210 calories, 1g fat, and 2g fiber. (4 WW points, not including milk or other additives).

(Weight Watchers Points calculated from the online calculator located here).

Overall, not a bad start to the day, right?

I'll admit that I was hoping more for a puffed-rice type cereal similar to Rice Krispies, and when I saw the package I was afraid the texture would be too much like Grape Nuts. It wasn't though -- the texture wasn't bad at all. However, our household usually eats more sugared cereals so the subtle honey flavoring tasted extremely plain to us by itself. If you intend to eat a bowl of this cereal for breakfast, skim milk and a lot of fruit are an absolute must. (Still doesn't make it too unhealthy, at least).

They're also decent when mixed into (flavored!) yogurt, and add a bit more substance. (When I eat yogurt by itself for breakfast I tend to be hungry by 10 AM -- I think this is where the higher-fiber Flax cereal comes in handy).

Overall, while the Flax is definitely better for you, the rice was the one I preferred. It was slightly sweeter tasting and the Flax leaves a slight aftertaste when eaten dry (which is how I first tried it). I probably wouldn't buy the Flax again, but I might buy the Rice to mix with fruit and yogurt for a quick breakfast.

Monday, January 18, 2010

BJ's Gift Card Winner

Only two entries in the BJ's contest -- so my scientific selection process involved my husband flipping a coin, with the first entrant heads and the second entrant tails.

And the winner is... tails. Congrats, Luv to Save. I'll e-mail you shortly for your contact information.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Delmonico's Italian Steakhouse

This evening my husband and I went to Delmonico's Italian Steakhouse with my in-laws for a birthday dinner. We've lived in the Albany area for years but neither of us had ever eaten there before. We didn't quite know what to expect, but figured that there'd at least be steak or something along those lines on the menu that we could eat.

When we sat down, my mother in law informed the waitress that there were two gluten free diners (herself and my husband) at the table. The waitress sent someone (a manager or owner) over who said that while they didn't have a printable gluten free menu he would be happy to answer any questions we might have. We called him back for additional clarification after we started looking at the menu, and we were pleasantly shocked.

My husband and mother in law started their meal with a house salad and gluten free balsamic vinaigrette dressing. My husband then had a veal parmigiana (instead of bread crumbs they use an egg wash with cornstarch) with gluten free penne pasta, while my mother in law ordered one of the specials of the evening, a filet and alfredo dish over gluten free penne pasta.

Let me just say this -- my husband was beyond excited to order veal parmigiana -- since I won't make it, he thought he might never have it again in a restaurant. The portion sizes at Delmonico's are extremely generous (I have two to three lunches from my leftovers sitting in the fridge right now) but he ate the entire meal which included three pieces of veal and a huge plate of gluten free penne and sauce.

I tried a piece of the gluten free pasta and it was absolutely amazing -- I couldn't tell the difference between their pasta and "regular" pasta, and we wondered if they make it themselves.

The one disappointment: they really didn't have any gluten free desserts on the list, but after finishing his meal my husband didn't have room for dessert.

Anyway -- we were delighted with our experience, thoroughly enjoyed our dinner and will definitely be returning!

Monday, January 4, 2010

BJ's Wholesale Club -- and contest!

First of all now that I'm back from the craziness of the holidays, I'd like to wish everyone a Happy New Year. I hope that you all had a wonderful holiday season and are starting 2010 with a great start!

Now, on to the topic of this blog. Before the holidays, MyBlogSpark, General Mills and BJ's offered me a trial membership to BJ's as well as a $25 gift card. My husband and I aren't currently members of BJ's and given our New Years Resolution to save money on groceries this seemed like something interesting to check out. So, we agreed to sign up for the Spark and check out the club.

Overall, there can be some very good deals there for the smart shopper. However, you have to be careful with bulk stores, because it's easy to get sucked in thinking that a large quanity means it's a good deal, or that you're definitely going to use all of something. And, of course the fact that if you're set in the products you use, you might not want to compromise and buy something similar just because it's a good deal -- if you don't like it you have to use an awful lot of it before it's gone! Also, considering that we're constrained by shopping gluten free, I was interested to see what we could find.

Now -- many of the things at BJ's would be a lot better for us if we owned a house or a large freezer. Unfortunately our apartment doesn't have a whole lot of storage space, so we can't really stock up on six month's worth of toilet paper or tissues. At least, unless we wanted to let them do double duty as furniture! So, alas, we stayed away from most household items -- we did find very good deals on Clorox Wipes (I use them for everything) and laundry detergent. I'll give a shoutout to Woollite Dark since that's what I ended up picking up, at a much better deal than at Walmart.

Next, off to the food aisles. They didn't carry any of the pet supplies that we use (we buy Wellness canned dog food), but there were some interesting finds that were gluten free. Staples like rice, pasta sauce (they had Classico multipacks that are labelled gluten free), and salsa, etc. were all decent deals. There were also items that weren't necessarily good deals, like family size packages of corn chips for about the same price as when they go on sale at Price Chopper. Since it's after New Years and we're trying to be good we did give the candy aisle a wide berth, but normally we'd have found quite a bit there we'd like. ;-)

Overall -- even for a gluten free household a BJ's membership can be worthwhile, provided you have ample storage space for bulk items and keep an eye out for what's a good deal and what might not necessarily be good.

Now -- onto the good stuff. Since everyone is trying to save money after the holidays, I'm pleased to announce that MyBlogSpark, BJ's and General Mills are offering a $25 BJ's gift card to one of my readers. If you're interested here is how to enter:
  • Receive one entry by leaving a comment on this blog entry before Saturday, January 16th. And entrants -- grad school is starting up, and I just don't have time to track you down. If you're serious about entering leave me some way to contact you -- an e-mail address preferably, or a link to an ACTIVE blog. It can be obfuscated but if I have no idea who made a comment and have no way to contact you, I won't count it.
  • Winner will be picked at random and announced on this blog.

Good luck!