Recipe: Pão de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Bread)

It is naturally gluten free.  It is cheesy.  It is soft and gooey and amazing. It is one of the most amazing things you will ever eat.  I first made Brazilian cheese bread when I used a Chebe bread mix a long, long time ago.  But after having the real thing at the Disney World Wine & Dine Festival…Pão de Queijo has been on my mind.

This weekend, I am visiting my friend, Jenn, and we are having a culinary cooking experience, as usual.  Last night, to accompany our delicious gluten-free gnocchi main course…we baked up a batch of this amazing Brazilian cheese bread.  And…were we ever impressed!  Holy cheesy gods of goodness!

So…here’s how we did it…

Recipe: Pão de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Bread)

Pão de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Bread)
Pão de Queijo (Brazilian Cheese Bread)

Servings: 12-30 (we got 30 out of ours)
Time: Prep 10 minutes; Bake 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 1/2 cups (170 grams) tapioca flour
  • 1/2 cup (packed, about 66 grams) grated cheese – I used mature cheddar
  • 1 teaspoon of salt (or more to taste)

 

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Grease a mini muffin tin.  Put all the ingredients in a blender, pulse the mixture till smooth.  (This mixture keeps in the fridge for up to a week, so you can pre-mix some of this for a quick snack during the week).

Fill the muffin tin, slightly more than two thirds full.

Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until slightly golden.

Serve fresh and warm from the oven.

~*~*~

Seriously…a great bread to serve up with whatever dinner you are eating.  Or have it with breakfast (we are this morning!).  Or as a snack.  The outside gets golden and a little crispy…but that inside…it is just gooey and soft and just amazing.  I am going to make the hell out of this recipe.  Over and over and over and over again!

Even if you aren’t gluten-free…you will seriously love these bite-size breads of cheesy goodness.  Bake some up now.  Do not try to substitute the tapioca flour for a different flour.  It won’t be the same. Bake it.  Bake it up now!

Recipe: Gluten Free Melted Snowman Cookies

It’s my favorite time of year!  I love the Christmas holidays.  Why?  Because I get to make people some of my baked goodies.  And I absolutely love doing this and then handing them over.  I do this for the people at my bank…the gas station…my neighbors…my adoptive family…and my apartment office.  I do it for friends and family.  I just love, love, love, love to create something in my kitchen and then bring a little joy and sweetness to the people in my life.

Well, as my roommate and I have made friends with our new downstairs neighbors…we wanted to make some Christmas cookies for them.  After asking if their young son had any food allergies (he doesn’t)…I went ahead with my plan to make these adorable Melted Snowman Cookies.  I was just crossing my fingers the entire time that they would work out.  They did.  They require a little work when it comes to the faces…but totally worth it.

Recipe: Gluten Free Melted Snowman Cookies

Gluten Free Melting Snowman Cookies
Gluten Free Melting Snowman Cookies

Servings: 20-28 cookies
Time: Prep 50 minutes; Bake 9-11 minutes

Ingredients:

  •  1/2 cup shortening
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1-1/2 cups gluten-free all-purpose flour (I used Cup 4 Cup)
  • 1 pound vanilla-flavored candy coating, coarsely chopped
  • 20-28 bite-size chocolate-covered peanut butter cups, unwrapped
  • Mini M&Ms for the face (which I separated ahead of time while the cookies cooled so they were ready to go!)1/4 teaspoon salt1 egg
Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large mixing bowl, beat shortening and peanut butter with an electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Beat in the granulated sugar, brown sugar, baking powder, salt, and baking soda until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in egg, milk, and vanilla until combined. Beat in the cocoa powder and as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour.

Shape dough into twenty 1-3/4-inch balls. Place balls 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets.Bake for 9 to 11 minutes or until edges are just firm. Cool on cookie sheet for 2 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.

Line a baking sheet with waxed paper. Place cooled cookies on prepared baking sheet. In a medium microwave-safe bowl microwave candy coating on 50% power for 2-1/2 to 3 minutes or until melted and smooth, stirring every 30 seconds. Spoon melted coating over each cookie to cover cookie and resemble melted snow. While coating is still tacky, add a peanut butter cup for a top hat and decorate with mini M&Ms or other candies to resemble snowman faces.

Let stand until set.

~*~*~

These cookies are not only adorable but they are amazing too!  Lots of flavor.  And they are so easy to make, but it looks like you spent hours in the kitchen making them.  The difficult part is letting that candy coating cool so you can package them up.  HA!  If you are looking for a cute Christmas cookie idea…I highly recommend these!

Happy gluten-free baking, sweeties!

Restaurant Review: Be Our Guest – Fantasyland – Magic Kingdom, Disney World

Be Our Guest - Fantastyland - Magic Kingdom, Orlando, Florida
Be Our Guest – Fantastyland – Magic Kingdom, Orlando, Florida

Restaurant: Be Our Guest – Fantasyland – Magic Kingdom, Disney World

It’s probably one of the hardest reservations to get at Disney World at this time.  One of the newest restaurants at the theme park itself, Magic Kingdom opened the Be Our Guest Restaurant in Fantasyland.  And yes, just as the name suggests, the basic theme of this restaurant is Beauty and the Beast.This means, should I ever take my neice Kaytlynn to Disney World…this is where we would eat!

We didn’t get the much coveted dinner reservation, however, my Disney Travel Agent and friend, Karen, managed to snag a spot for a lunch reservation.  She added it to our Fast Passes and we were good to go for Sunday lunch.

We had big dinner plans that evening at The Wave, so we opted for a “dessert first” approach to our reservation.  In other words…forget the real food…give us something sweet!

One of the reasons I had wanted to get into Be Our Guest was the fact that they had…

…wait for it…

…a GLUTEN-FREE CREAM PUFF!!!!

*cough*

Sorry…I get excited sometimes when it comes to things I love but haven’t been able to eat in years.

The rumors were true, however, so once we got into the Fast Pass line and were ushered up the walk to the restaurant, the hostess handed us each a menu and we perused it.  I knew what I was getting.  Cathy was torn between getting soup or getting a dessert.  As Jenn and I were getting desserts and had declared it “dessert first” day…she eventually let go of the soup thought and went with her choice for a dessert.  No duplicates.  Actually, normally with the three of us…little duplication ever happens.

We stood in line in this amazing Great Hall, with suits of armor and screens that showed images of the items available on the menu.  When we got up to the host, he directed us to stand inside and await the help of someone else, who would then direct us to one of the pay stations.  We had wanted to charge these to our cards, but were sent to a kiosk thing instead of the cashier.  When we questioned it, we were told it would take a card.  Jenn was first…and she wasn’t given any option except her Fast Pass.  So…onto the bracelet it went.  Cathy and I played around with it, and we did find where we could charge it to a card…except it automatically made us use the Fast Pass.  So…yeah…that was confusing, convoluted, and just chaotic.

From there, we turned over our menus and were told to take a seat at any of the tables in any of the rooms.  This involved a little bit of investigation.  The main room you enter was packed.  There was a darker room near the back, that had more of a tavern feel to it.  But…it was also packed.  So, we moved to the more ballroom-ish room.  Plenty of seating in there.  We pulled up a booth (and chair) at one of the tables at the back.  I was facing the rotating statue of Belle and The Beast dancing.  Absolutely…gorgeous.

Cathy and Jenn both got “Adult Cold Fountain Beverages” (aka: SODA!) ($2.99), so while they went to retrieve their drinks from the fountains at the other side of the room, I sat and manned the table.  While they were gone, a man came over to check our receipts and wrote down something on a pad.  I’m assuming this is how they eventually figure out where to bring our food, instead of playing a game of Marco Polo with each and every customer.  They returned and I got up to get my drink.  I don’t do soda anymore…so I opted for an “Adult Hot Beverage” (aka: coffee, tea, hot cocoa) ($2.39), and had to go retrieve a cup to get some coffee.  Caffeine was necessary.  The coffee in this room was out of order, but I was told to just go around the corner to the other room as they have coffee there.  So…I did.

Brewed hot coffee.  Not fancy.  Very basic.  But…served it’s purpose.

Finally, we were settled in and taking in the entire place.  And then, this gorgeous cart rolled up and Jenn was given her dessert.  Yes…just Jenn.  She ordered the Éclair à l’Orange ($4.19), which was an éclair with a custard filling with zested orange and finished off with chocolate ganache.  Jenn loves chocolate and orange together…so this was a definite win.  She was kind enough to wait for Cathy and I to receive our treats before she dove in.

And they did…about 5 minutes later.

Cathy went for the obvious Cathy choice…the Lemon Meringue Cupcake ($4.19).  This is a vanilla sponge cake with a lemon custard filling and flamed meringue icing.  It just screamed Cathy because…it was lemon.  And she loves lemon.

As for me…I went with the item on the menu that I wanted to begin with.  It is gluten-free.  It has no added sugar.  It, my dearest friends, is the Lemon – Raspberry Cream Puff ($4.19).  It is exactly what it sounds like.  A pastry that is filled with lemon custard and topped off with raspberries.  Gorgeous.

With all of our sweet treats now present, we dove in.

Be Our Guest's Éclair à l’Orange
Be Our Guest’s Éclair à l’Orange

Let’s start with Jenn.  Jenn loved the Éclair à l’Orange.  She said it was perfectly orange-y.  In fact, it managed to be smooth and light, not heavy like some cream-filled pastries (especially eclairs) tend to be.  Her only stipulation…it could have been bigger.

Be Our Guest's Lemon Meringue Cupcake
Be Our Guest’s Lemon Meringue Cupcake

Cathy’s Lemon Meringue Cupcake looked like a little, personal, lemon meringue pie.  She used her fork to dive in, the cake portion completely encased in this gorgeous paper.  It was small…she said almost like two biter.  And it wasn’t knock-you-over lemony, but definitely had that bright citrus flavor in each bite.  In fact, when I asked her to describe it, all she could say was…”It was lemony!” Uh…yeah…the name tells me that.  So…there you have it.  It’s lemony!

Now onto the Lemon-Raspberry Cream Puff.  I admit.  I heard rumors of the gluten-free cream puff and knew…just knew…it had to be mine.  So…here it was…this little dough puff in front of me.  I took my fork and cut through the crusty pastry, watching it flake away to give way to the gorgeous, yellow, lemon cream inside.  I paired it with the cream and raspberries on top…and we’re talking a heavenly, sinful dessert.  I loved that this also had no additional sugar in it.  I’ve been trying to cut back on the amount of sugar I consume, which isn’t easy because of natural sugars in things I love…like fruits.  But, I don’t really count natural sugars.  Still, I didn’t think this really needed any additional sugar.  It was light…fluffy, and just a dreamy dessert for a girl who last had a cream puff when this gluten-free journey began…and I cheated.  And suffered.  And that was the end of that.  This…was huge to me.  I have to agree with both Jenn and Cathy though…the dessert was small.  Which is fine…but I just thought for close to $5, there would be a little bit more.  Other than that…we devoured the delectable, delicious desserts, and raved about them the entire time.

Be Our Guest's Lemon - Raspberry Cream Puff (GLUTEN-FREE!!)
Be Our Guest’s Lemon – Raspberry Cream Puff (GLUTEN-FREE!!)

Dessert first…achieved.

Being a grown-up is awesome!  HA!

So, while I thought the ambiance of the restaurant was killer…like being in the film Beauty and the Beast…it was really chaotic, really loud, and a bit…of a mess when it came to ordering and checking out.  But, it was a great way to dine and I am thrilled my friend Karen managed to snag us lunch reservations.  The atmosphere at this restaurant is hard to top.  But, in a way…it was like eating at a 5 star cafeteria.  If you know what I mean.

I was definitely happy to have the chance to dine at Be Our Guest…and I thank them for offering one of the most amazing and fantastic gluten-free desserts I have had in awhile.

Restaurant Review: Don Antonio by Starita, New York, New York

Don Antonio by Starita, New York, New York
Don Antonio by Starita, New York, New York

Restaurant: Don Antonio by Starita, New York, New York

Restaurants are not hard to come by in New York City.  Not at all.  It is the birthplace of many a Michelin star restaurant and James Beard Award nominee and/or winner.  It is the land of dreams…and a burgeoning hub of chefs and restauranteurs looking to make a name and a statement.

No, restaurants are not hard to find.

GOOD restaurants, however, can be difficult to find with all the options that greet you on every street, avenue, corner, block, etc.

When I was in The Big Apple for the TCS New York City Marathon at the beginning of November, I already knew I wasn’t going to be there long enough to really explore the vast and diverse food scene.  Not this trip.  What I did know was that I was in town for a marathon, and what that required of this beautiful city was…gluten-free pizza.

The original plan had been to go to this place called Nizza.  It had good reviews on Find Me Gluten Free and wasn’t too far from the hotel where we were staying.  The problem turned out to be that we were only able to get a reservation for 4 p.m.  Granted, I appreciate eating early the night before a race.  The problem was…this was too early.  Heather was meeting up with her cousin at 1 p.m. for lunch…which would mean she wouldn’t even be hungry at this point.  The time couldn’t be adjusted.  Cathy and I tried back at the hotel.  No later reservations until much too late for my liking.

That being said, I had gotten onto Find Me Gluten Free when we were on the shuttle bus coming back from the race expo and found another option.  It was this place called Don Antonio by Starita.  And it has only three locations: New York City, Atlanta (Georgia), and Napoli (Italy).  Cathy gave them a quick call as there was no place to see about reservations.  They informed her that they do not take reservations, but even on a Saturday night, they turn through tables quickly and there is never more than a 45 minute wait.

We took them for their word, and around 6 p.m., began to make the easy walk down to the restaurant.

The place was hopping.  There were people standing out on the damp and windy streets.  I ducked inside to get my name in with the hostess and was told they would call my name when our table was ready…which would be around 45 minutes.  Fair enough.  We were told as much on the phone when we called that afternoon.

The popularity of the place was amazing.  But part of the reason the front of the restaurant, near the bar, was so crowded was there was a party of 14 there for a birthday party.  No joke.  So, they were pretty much what was holding up a lot of the tables and movement of the patrons through for their meals.  We were in no rush…so we just sort of tucked in against the wall inside and people watched.

Due to the longer than normal wait, one of the waitresses came out with a sample pizza for those who were waiting on a table.  I didn’t get to partake, but both Cathy and Heather tried one of the slices.  I could tell from their reactions that we made a good decision to come here instead.

Soon, my name was being shouted over the loud din of the diners and bar…by the guy, we assumed, was the general manager.  We took to calling him the Italian Adam Levine…because he really reminded us of the Maroon 5 singer.  Go figure.  And honestly, he could have called my name out again and I wouldn’t have complained.

But…we were nearing 7 p.m. now and I was starting to get hungry.  After I stepped forward, he guided us toward a table at the top of a couple of stairs, right in the corner.  I took the seat next to the railing, with Cathy taking the bench and Heather taking the seat in the walkway.  We were handed menus and all ordered water for something to drink.

Marathon night.  HYDRATION!

Cathy and I already knew we were doing a gluten-free pizza.  It was just a matter of choosing which one.  Part of the draw of this place, in addition to serving gluten-free pizza, was that there were also vegan options.  And one of them really stood out to me on the menu.  Decision was mine, as it was my pre-race meal.  So…we were now ready.

Don Antonio by Starita's Montanarine Genovese (front) and Montanarine (back)
Don Antonio by Starita’s Montanarine Genovese (front) and Montanarine (back)

Heather ordered the Salciccia e Friarielli ($16.00) which was composed of smoked buffalo mozzarella, Italian rapini, sausage, and extra virgin olive oil.  She paired it with the Montanarine ($1.00), one of Don Antonio’s famous fried dough puffs, topped off with the signature Starita tomato sauce and pecorino romano.

Cathy decided to try one of the dough puffs as well.  She went with the Montanarine Genovese ($2.00), which is a fried dough puff topped with onion, pancetta and pecorino romano.  She called it the best savory doughnut she’s ever had.  LOL!  For the pizza though…I ordered the Gluten Free Marinara ($15.00), which is a simple and basic pizza on the gluten-free crust, that is composed of tomato sauce, oregano, garlic, basil, and extra virgin olive oil.

NO CHEESE!!  No discomfort from dairy.  Happy day.

As Cathy placed the order, she confused our waiter, Antony H, just slightly.  Because the friend dough puff was not gluten-free.  The pizza we were getting was.  So he kept telling her the Genovese was not gluten-free.  And she kept assuring him that it was fine…because she was not gluten-free, I was, and we were splitting the pizza…not the fried dough puff.  I appreciated him making the effort to ensure safe dining.

We were left to socialize for a little while, and soon, both Heather and Cathy were delivered their appetizer dough puffs.  They each took their little ball of Italian friend goodness and took a bite.  Like I said…Cathy called it the best savory doughnut she’s ever had.  I think that’s a high compliment.  Both she and Heather only had good things to say about their choice.

The appetizer plates were cleared away and soon our pizza was being delivered.  Heather’s pizza had this rustic, amazing crust, charred to perfection in the wood-fired oven.  It looked amazing.

Don Antonio by Starita's Gluten Free Pizza Crust
Don Antonio by Starita’s Gluten Free Pizza Crust

When our pizza was set down, I had to look very closely at it…because this was only the second time in the almost four years I’ve been eating gluten-free, where the crust was actually a crust.  No cracker crust here, folks.  This was a true, honest-to-goodness, pizza crust.  The only other time this has happened has been at my local gluten-free bakery, Annie May’s Sweet Café, in Louisville, Kentucky.  Can you imagine my glee to see an actual pizza being placed in front of me!  I snagged one of the four large slices, placed it on my plate, and went to take a bite.

Not only was the crust an actual crust…it was good too.  Not quite “Annie May Amazing”…but right up there.  Probably the second best gluten-free pizza crust I have ever indulged in.  Quite honestly.  I loved that it had this crispy, yet still chewy texture, especially on the ends.  It didn’t get soggy with the pool of amazing marinara sauce poured over the top.  The herbs elevated the flavor.  And the olive oil was the perfect finishing touch.  That marinara sauce, though…that was the star.  Followed by the crust.  I dove into my second, and much larger slice, soon after I devoured the first.  It was not a tiny pie either.  It was substantial.  And it was amazing.  And I was pleasantly stuffed at the end of the dining experience.

I still talk about that pizza.  To this very day.

I have to say, if you find yourself in Manhattan and are looking for exceptional gluten-free pizza (or just pizza in general)…head over to Don Antonio by Starita, on West 50th Street.  You will be so glad you did.  This far exceeded my expectations for sure.  And next time I’m in the city…it will be hard not to go back.  And, who knows, maybe when all is said and done…I will anyway.  Food so good, it is definitely worth the repeat.

Thank you, Don Antonio by Starita.  You’re doing gluten-free justice!

Don Antonio by Starita's Gluten-Free Marinara Pizza
Don Antonio by Starita’s Gluten-Free Marinara Pizza

Restaurant Review: Pizza Lucé, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Pizza Lucé, Minneapolis, Minnesota
Pizza Lucé, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Restaurant: Pizza Lucé, Minneapolis, Minnesota

This past week I was in Minneapolis, Minnesota.  I was there for a few reasons.  To visit with family.  To see some friends.  And to run/walk the Medtronic Twin Cities Marathon.  Yes.  Run/Walk.  Am I ashamed of this?  Not at all.  This race was a warm-up.  A warm up to the race I am running in 3 weeks exactly.

New York City Marathon.

And, as my training schedule was completely killed with my foot injury and then…orthodic problems…I went to Minneapolis not quite certain I’d be able to even run/walk the course.  I figured, I could at least spend time with family.  On Saturday morning, I was pretty certain the race was off.  I went to the expo and hobbled through, getting my race number, buying new shoes, shopping, checking out the vendors and other races that were there…and the more time I was there, the more I wanted to do it.  It also helped that my friend Heather was telling me I could do it.  Walk the hills.  Just walk the hills.  And to help, she took me on the tour of the entire race course…and…yeah…I figured I could at least give it a go.

While touring the course, my aunt, Jan, and my cousin, Molly, texted me to find out dinner plans.  They know that the night before the race is gluten-free pizza night.  And to avoid that horrible mistake that was Pizza Ranch last time I raced in Minneapolis, Cathy did some research before we left.  I heard only good things about Pizza Lucé, both on Find Me Gluten Free and in regular reviews.  In fact, they are touted as “The Best Pizza In Minneapolis.”  So…that had to be good right.  We hadn’t thought of reservations, but as there was going to be at least 11 of us there…Molly went ahead and got that arranged.

That evening, at 5 p.m., we showed up at Pizza Lucé on West 66th Street in Richfield, Minnesota.  My cousins, their significant others, and the children were all there.  My aunt was the last to arrive.  But there we were…me, my roomie, my bestie, my family…ready to give this place a try.  I don’t think the Pizza Ranch experience will ever be forgotten.  We joke about it even now.  All of us who endured it.

But, as this place had not only gluten-free, but also vegan options…I was already feeling good about it.  We were seated and our drink orders were taken while we looked over the menu.  Heather was onboard with splittling with Cathy and I up until I said I needed the vegan cheese.  Then, Cathy left it to me to choose what pizza to do (or build our own, which is an option).  I was actually torn between a seasonal special or one of the signature pizzas on the menu.  I was going back and forth and when I mentioned the Curried Coconut Butternut Squash Pizza (roasted butternut squash whipped with curry and coconut milk and finished with fresh red bell pepper, feta cheese, red onion, pineapple and fresh cilantro) to Cathy, she seemed very unenthusiastic about it.  So, I decided to go with my other choice…the Wild Mushroom and Arugula Pizza ($18.89).

While the various orders for each of us (some of us got pizzas, some got pastas)…we all sat around and talked about tons of things.  My cousin Molly had a new baby girl that I hadn’t met yet…her two boys were entertaining on the other end of the table.  My cousin, Andy, just got married and he and his wife were there…so we talked wedding.  We talked running.  We talked family. We talked about everything.  Literally.

And then…tasty food began arriving.

The Gluten Free Wild Mushroom and Arugula Pizza was set down next to me – a fantastic 10 inch gluten-free crust that was topped off with olive oil, fresh basil, arugula, caramelized onion, garlic, a wild mushroom blend (cirimini, oyster, portabella, and shiitake) and Daiya cheese (vegan!).  It looked AMAZING!  I mean, my mouth immediately began to water.  And it was then that we realized that Heather, Cathy and I totally forgot to grab lunch today.  So, yeah…we were ready to dig in.

I served 3 slices, half of the pizza, to Cathy and saved the other half for me.

OH. MY. PIZZA. GOODNESS.  This was creamy, crunchy and good!  Beyond good.  This pizza was so delicious.  I love a good white pizza and this went above and beyond what I am used to.  It was so creamy because they actually got the Daiya cheese to melt down to a perfect gooey texture.  The blend of flavors was classic, with the arugula adding a hit of peppery flavor to the sweetness of the caramelized onion and the earthiness of the mushrooms.  I might have devoured every single bit of it.  Seriously.  Like hoovered it all down.  I was so happy with the food here I really considered going back.  They, after all, also have a gluten-free stuffed shells on the menu.  Pardon me while I drool!

In a heartbeat…I would definitely return to Pizza Lucé in the future.  This place beyond impressed me.  And I think all of us who survived the disgusting nastiness of Pizza Ranch the year before were grateful to have delicious food and the variety of options that Pizza Lucé offered.  If I had been there longer, I would have returned during the rest of my stay in Minneapolis.  Seriously…so happy and can’t wait to go back next time I make it to Minneapolis!

Pizza Lucé's Gluten-Free and Vegan Wild Mushroom and Arugula Pizza
Pizza Lucé’s Gluten-Free and Vegan Wild Mushroom and Arugula Pizza

Product Review: The Pure Pantry Gluten-Free Organic Old Fashioned Pancake and Baking Mix (with bonus recipe & coupon code)

Product: The Pure Pantry Gluten-Free Organic Old Fashioned Pancake and Baking Mix – $7.29+

A couple weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to be sent a free package of The Pure Pantry‘s Gluten-Free Organic Old Fashioned Pancake and Baking Mix.  I was ecstatic…for quite a few reasons.  For the first thing…most gluten-free baking mixes that I have tried…haven’t lived up to expectations.  Secondly, the pancakes on the package looked heavenly…so, I could only imagine the awesomeness that was enclosed inside.

Included with the mix were two recipes.  I had this perfect vision in my head the moment I saw one for The Pure Pantry’s Gluten-Free/Dairy-Free Cornbread (or Muffins).  You see…I love chili, soup, and stew.  I LOVE…LOVE…LOVE these things…and it’s officially autumn.  It’s fall.  It’s soup season.  It’s time to break into my vegetable crisper and my pantry and whip up some warm, comforting goodness on the stovetop.

Tonight…that’s just what I did.  And I pulled out my package of The Pure Pantry’s Gluten-Free Organic Old Fashioned Pancake and Baking Mix because the perfect accompaniment to any chili (and I made a fantastic Garden Chili with LOTS of veggies!)…is cornbread, of course!!

This was not my first foray into gluten-free cornbread.  I’ve made at least a dozen different versions of it.  None of which I have liked.  Seriously.  None.  They just never seemed to hit that perfect cornbread mark!  Always a disappointment.  If my roommate was game, she’d offer to use the failed versions for some snacks at work…but that was rare.  Yeah…my cornbread record since going gluten-free has not been stellar.

So, you can only imagine my anticipation today when, after a long day of fitness, festivals, and…yes…food…I wanted to cook up a light chili and give this cornbread recipe a whirl.  What could go wrong?  I’d either be amazed…or disappointed once again.

The recipe was very easy and everything needed was in my pantry or fridge already.  Don’t you love it when that happens?  Combining the mix with corn meal, baking powder, salt, and some liquid ingredients, this epic dough that felt light and airy emerged.  I poured it into a greased baking pan and threw it in the oven for about 22 minutes.

What emerged was sheer cornbread perfection.  It looked like cornbread.  It smelled like cornbread.  Once the chili was done simmering away on the stove…I would find out if it tasted like cornbread.  About 20 minutes later…dinner was served.

The first difference between the cornbread made with The Pure Pantry’s Gluten-Free Organic Old Fashioned Pancake and Baking Mix was that it didn’t feel heavy or dense…even as it came out of the oven.  I can tell when I bake whether a recipe is going to be good by how heavy the pan feels as I lift it out of that oven.  This didn’t feel heavy at all.  It was this gorgeous golden color on top. It cooled briefly before I got out a knife and sliced it into 16 squares.  Cutting it was a dream.  I could tell that it was going to be a perfect texture due to how easily the knife cut through it.  Like butter!  It glided right through…no fighting with heavy, gummy insides on this bread.  I might have perfection here!  Each bowl of chili was served with two squares of the cornbread.

The verdict?!

BEST GLUTEN FREE CORNBREAD EVER!!  And, as I stated above, I’ve made so much gluten-free cornbread that I didn’t like or I felt just came out wrong.  There was absolutely nothing wrong with this recipe.  It was hearty and delicious and so easy to prepare.  I loved not just the texture, but how light, but substantial it felt.  I loved the flavor…which…for me…was perfect.  It wasn’t sweet cornbread…which is just how I like it.  Sugar in cornbread is cake.  This didn’t taste like cake.  This tasted like cornbread.  It had that gritty, corn flavor.  Honestly…made my night.

I am going to definitely try the sweet recipe that was sent along with this baking mix as well…so stay tuned for that!!  But for now, please enjoy this recipe from The Pure Pantry:

Recipe: The Pure Pantry’s Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free Cornbread (or Muffins)

The Pure Pantry Gluten-Free Organic Old Fashioned Pancake and Baking Mix (with Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free Cornbread)
The Pure Pantry Gluten-Free Organic Old Fashioned Pancake and Baking Mix (with Gluten-Free and Dairy-Free Cornbread)

Servings: 6
Time: Prep 10 minutes; Bake 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup The Pure Pantry Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Mix
  • 1 cup organic yellow corn meal
  • 1/4 cup agave nectar
  • 1 teaspoon aluminum free baking powder1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk (almond milk or rice milk may be substituted) (I used unsweetened almond milk)
  • 1/3 cup vegetable shortening, butter, or coconut oil – melted
  • 1 large egg, slightly beaten (or egg replacer)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Grease or butter an 8-inch square baking pan.

Combine dry ingredients in a medium bowl.

Combine milk, oil, agave, and egg in a small bowl; mix well.

Add the milk mixture to flour mixture; stir until just blended.

Pour into prepared pan and bake for 20-22 minutes.  For muffins, spoon batter into greased muffin cups, fill 2/3 full and bake 15-18 minutes.

This recipe may be doubled and baked as above in a 13×9 inch baking pan.

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The Pure Pantry has so many mixes to offer.  And they were kind enough to share a coupon code with me to give to all of you, my dear readers.  If you are interested in trying their products, skip over to http://www.thepurepantry.com and take a look at their shop.  You can get $1.00 off your purchase of any two (2) gluten-free products from The Pure Pantry simply by entering PLU 35147 as you are checking out!  Trust me…these products are totally worth it.  I have never been so satisfied with a mix than I was with this one.  The Pure Pantry might actually be selling gluten-free baking perfection.

But…don’t just take my word for it.  Get over to their site…order some of their products and see how life changing your gluten-free foods can be.  Simple.  Delicious.  And…amazing and delicious.

The Pure Pantry is pure gluten-free delicious goodness!

Product Review: Delallo Gluten Free Gnocchi

Delallo Gluten Free Gnocchi
Delallo Gluten Free Gnocchi

Product: Delallo Gluten Free Gnocchi – $3.99+

I blame Ireland.  Honestly.  I blame Ireland for making me love gnocchi so much.

On my final trip there, which happened to be just a couple of months before the Celiac diagnosis, I was at The Tea Room at The Clarence Hotel…feasting on one of the best meals I have ever eaten in my life…

Gnocchi.

Potato and Sage Gnocchi at that.  Seriously…it was sex on a plate.  And the chef was kind enough to share the recipe with me, but the version that my friends and I made at home wasn’t quite the same as the one we had in Ireland.  But, let me tell you…this really, really, really made me fall in love with those potato pockets of pasta goodness.

So…it was Ireland and not Italy that introduced me to the pillowy goodness of gnocchi.  And I have been in love ever since.

And then…I had to go gluten-free.  Before that happened completely, I was able to feast on a couple more gnocchi meals from different restaurants…all of which were divine…and reminded me of why I fell in love with gnocchi in the first place.  I was enamored.

Since then, I have had a couple of varieties of gluten-free gnocchi.  Some have been good.  Some have been…okay.  And I think one didn’t even impress me at all.  So, I figured what did I have to lose when it came to testing out the shelf-stable (not frozen or refrigerated) variety made by Delallo, who have also put out some gluten-free pastas.  I have tried them…and they are really good.  So, I had some high hopes for the gnocchi.

Tonight…I got to cook it up and test it out.

Nothing is easier to make.  Put 4 quarts of water into pot and bring to a boil.  Add 1 tablespoon of salt and then pour in the gluten-free gnocchi.  Bring water back up to a boil by covering the pot and cook for about two minutes.  Once they are floating, drain and then add to the sauce.  Allow to cook for 2 more minutes in the sauce (of your choice) to marry the flavors together.  Then serve.

I cooked the Delallo Gluten Free Gnocchi in a Squash and Pumpkin Pasta Sauce.  For real.  It smelled fantastic.  And once I added the pasta to let it all cook together, my mouth was nigh on watering.  I served it up in two bowls with a slice of my local gluten free bakery (Annie May’s Sweet Café) vegan garlic bread.  Amazing.  Simply divine.

And I’m not just talking about the vegan garlic bread.  The Delallo Gluten Free Gnocchi cooked up to perfection.  They were soft and creamy, little perfect Italian dumplings without the wheat.  These are soft pillows of delicious goodness that didn’t stick together or get gummy.  In fact, they were pretty much perfect, which was more than I could have asked for!  According to Delallo, the Gluten Free Gnocchi is crafted with over 85% potato, bringing the absolute perfect texture of traditional gnocchi.  I couldn’t agree more.  I already want to rush out to the store and purchase some more…try it with other sauces…devour, devour, devour!

Delallo Gluten Free Gnocchi is made from rehydrated potatoes, rice flour, potato starch, salt, lactic acid, and sorbic acid (as a preservative).  This pasta is non-GMO, cholesterol free, fat free, gluten-free, sheat free, and made in a dedicated gluten-free facility in Italy.  Yes…in Italy.  These gluten-free gnocchi are imported.

So, what about the nutritional aspect of this pasta?  It’s not bad.  The Delallo Gluten Free Gnocchi serving is 1 cup of the pasta.  This serving dishes up 250 calories and absolutely no fat at all.  This serving has 760 mg sodium and only 1 gram of sugar.  The sodium is higher than I normally would like, but the sugar is very low.  This pasta has 2 grams of fiber and 4 grams of protein.  Not bad at all for pasta!!  Especially gluten-free.

LOVE.  That’s what the Delallo Gluten Free Gnocchi is made with and of.  LOVE.  Lots and lots of gluten-free love.  And I am forever going to make a point to keep this in my kitchen pantry.  When it doesn’t take long to cook up, it makes for a relatively quick meal to prepare and then eat.  And I love convenient.  Delallo definitely hit it out of the park this time.  Delicious!

Delallo Gluten Free Gnocchi with Organic Squash and Pumpkin Pasta Sauce and Gluten-Free and Vegan Garlic Bread
Delallo Gluten Free Gnocchi with Organic Squash and Pumpkin Pasta Sauce and Gluten-Free and Vegan Garlic Bread

Product Review: Domata Gluten Free Pizza Crust Mix

Gluten Free Foccacia Bread made with Domata Gluten Free Pizza Crust Mix
Gluten Free Foccacia Bread made with Domata Gluten Free Pizza Crust Mix

Product: Domata Gluten Free Pizza Crust Mix – $7.99+

It’s no secret…I love pizza.  Pizza, to me, is the perfect food.  Honestly.  Some people would probably disagree…but, I ignore them.  Because every thing that is right and good in this world…can happen on a pizza.  Pizza is a basic staple in my diet, especially the night before a big race.  I just have found that if I eat pizza before a half marathon or marathon (or, hell, even the shorter distances), I seem to run better.  I don’t know if it’s all just in my head, or if I have found that magic food that offers that perfect balance of protein, carbs, and fats that fuel my body on the long run.

Regardless…I love my pizza.  I love to make pizza and order pizza.  Around here, there are quite a few places in Louisville, Kentucky that offer gluten-free pizza.  And I love them for that.  On this side of the river, options are definitely more limited.  Therefore, I usually end up making my own (on the best gluten-free pizza crust ever…from Annie May’s Sweet Cafe – here in Louisville, Kentucky) or purchasing a frozen one (usually Udi’s, Ian’s, Glutino, or even Daiya).  That’s if I’m not planning on pizza that day.  Otherwise, I normally will head to Annie May’s Sweet Café on Friday or Saturday (pizza day’s) or hit up one of the restaurants around the area that offer gluten-free pizza…but I have to feel safe eating there, and that narrows down the possibilities.

That being said, on a recent trip to Columbus, Ohio, I made a stop by the infamous natural food store I have come to love…Raisin Rack.  In the aisle with various baking flours, I spotted this red and white box with bold black lettering.  It really stuck out and, therefore, it drew my attention.  It turned out to be the Pizza Crust Mix from Domata, a company owned by David and Julie Madison, who understand how difficult a gluten-free diet can be, and also believe in the importance of affordable gluten-free foods.  They kept this in mind when they created their gluten-free flour mixes: Recipe Ready Flour, Pizza Crust Mix, and their Seasoned Flour.  These flours are easy to work with too.  The recipe ready is a cup-for-cup exchange on all recipes and the pizza crust mix…well…I’ll get into that.  These products are made in a dedicated gluten-free and nut-free manufacturing facility, so there is no worries about cross contamination.  And Domata does pride itself on using all natural ingredients with nothing artificial.  I appreciate that too.

Ironically, I didn’t use this mix to make pizza crust.  Not this time, anyway.  This time, I used it to make the recipe for Gluten Free Foccacia Bread that is listed on the box.  Because, I was in Columbus, Ohio, visiting my friend Jenn…and we were making pasta for dinner.  Foccacia bread is a great side to have with gluten-free pasta…so that evening, after a busy day of shopping around town (and hitting up Raisin Rack for more goodies), she and I got busy in her kitchen, prepping this super-easy recipe for gluten-free foccacia.

The great thing about the Domata Gluten Free Pizza Drust Mix is that all you need to do is add water.  It’s that simple.  Put it in a mixer and blend the dough.  It will be sticky.  That’s why you turn it out onto a floured surface.  Jenn and I skipped this step because…eh…we didn’t want to mess with it.  So, using our oiled fingers, we spread the dough out in the baking pan and gave it a little brush of olive oil and seasoned it with the garlic powder and dried oregano that the recipe on the box suggests.  Super simple.  Into the oven it went to bake for 20 minutes.  We started to prep the water to cook the gluten-free noodles in and got out the marinara sauce for the noodles and, of course, to mop up with the bread.  When the noodles were in, the bread came out to get a dusting of Parmesan cheese…then it was back in the oven for another 5 minutes.  The noodles finished up.  They were drained and properly sauced (the Italian way), and dished up.  The bread was set on the table to rip into (instead of slicing it into strips) as we wanted to get as much as we wanted.  Dinner was served.

I have to say…I was very impressed with the quality and flavor of the Foccacia bread that we baked with the Domata Gluten Free Pizza Crust Mix.  It wasn’t too heavy or dense and it browned up beautifully.  The herbs that we scattered throughout the dough and on top brought a nice pop of flavor.  And the bread itself was airy and light, rather than the kind that feels heavy and sits like a lump in your stomach.  The crispy outside gave way to a soft middle, which was bread perfection, if you ask me.  I have enough of the mix left to do a pizza crust with and I think I might do that sometime this week or next…just to see how well it works in pizza crust form.  But as a flour to make Gluten Free Foccacia bread…Domata totally wins.  It was delicious!

When Domata exclaims that “life is hard enough, baking gluten free shouldn’t be”…they hit the nail on the head.  This flour requires no time to rise.  It’s straight from the mixer to the pan to the oven to the table to the plate to the stomach.  It is fantastic and so easy!!  We all (me…the Celiac, and my two non-gluten-free compatriots, Cathy (the roomie) and Jenn (the hostess with the mostest!)) agreed that it made a very tasty and highly acceptable loaf of gluten-free foccacia bread.  Definitely impressed with the flavor, the lightness, and the texture.  I’d purchase this again in a heartbeat.  I mean, come on…you just add water!!!!  It doesn’t get easier than that!

So, let’s talk ingredients for a moment.  The Domata Gluten Free Pizza Dough Mix is a blend of rice flour, corn starch, tapioca dextrim, nonfat dry milk, whole egg, sugar, salt, xanthan gum, baking powder, soybean oil, and rice extract.  It is gluten-free, nut-free, and kosher.

Nutritionally speaking, a serving of Domata Gluten Free Pizza Dough Mix is 1/4 cup.  In this serving you will be taking in 150 calories and 1.5 grams of fat.  This serving will also be giving you 30 mg cholesterol, 460 mg sodium, and 2 grams of sugar.  In addition, you will be taking in 1 gram of fiber and 3 grams of protein.  Not bad for a pizza crust or pan of foccacia bread, right?  Especially when it’s gluten-free.  Because so often the calories and fat go way, way, way up in gluten-free items such as this.

Impressive!

I am definitely more than willing to try the other two flours and purchase the Domata Gluten Free Pizza Crust Mix again.  Honestly.  I was impressed with how easy it was to make the bread with and how delicious each bite turned out to be.  If this holds true for their Seasoned Flour and their Recipe Ready Flour…you might just have me sold on it for life…simply for simplicity.  HA!!  But let’s not forget, it also bakes up into something amazing and totally delicious.  I want to make more foccacia bread.  I want to make pizza crust.  I just want to bake it all and see how this flour fares against others I have used…including my current favorite.

Only time will tell…but this was a winning flour mix in my book!

Recipe: Roasted Garlic, Cheddar and Chive Biscuits

This spring, my roommate and I decided to take on a new challenge.  This challenge was…we were going to see if we could…possibly…grow our own herbs.  We actually picked up a little kit from a local store that gave us five different herbs to grow.  Sadly, the cilantro and the parsley didn’t quite survive the first wave of heat and humidity, despite our best efforts.  This left us with chives, basil and oregano.  So far…they’ve been doing well.  The break in the hot summer weather has worked in favor for those three herbs, at least.

Well, the chives were getting a bit crazy and I was informed by the roomie that we needed to use them.  And I know how she loves biscuits.  Does she ever love biscuits…

So I promised her that I would make her some biscuits that included chives in some way, shape or form.   I also know that she loves cheese and she loves garlic.  I found a base recipe for some flaky biscuits on a blog called Whole and Heavenly Oven…and then made my own adjustments to make it work within my own diet restrictions.  I will note that I didn’t roast my own garlic.  I had a jar of roasted garlic in my fridge, so I used about 2 tablespoons of the garlic instead of roasting a head of garlic myself.  But, roasting garlic is easy and I’ll include those instructions from the original recipe in case you don’t have the jar of roasted minced garlic like I did.

Recipe: Gluten-Free Roasted Garlic, Cheddar and Chive Biscuits

Gluten-Free Roasted Garlic, Cheddar and Chive Biscuits
Gluten-Free Roasted Garlic, Cheddar and Chive Biscuits

Servings: 20
Time: Prep 50 minutes; Bake 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 small head of garlic, top cut off*
  • 1/2 teaspoon olive oil*
  • 4-1/2 cups flour (I used Better Batter Gluten-Free All Purpose)
  • 4 teaspoons coconut sugar
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1-1/4 cups cold butter, cubed (Earth Balance is a great non-dairy option)
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese (Diaya is great for a non-dairy option)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
  • 2 cups buttermilk (I used unsweetened almond milk)*NOTE: If you are using the jarred minced roasted garlic, you don’t need these ingredients.

Instructions:

If you are roasting your own garlic, preheat the oven to 400°F.  Place garlic in a small baking dish and drizzle with olive oil.  Cover with foil and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until garlic is soft.  Cool slightly then finely chop.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Using a pastry cutter, or your fingers, work in cold butter, shredded cheese, chives, and chopped roasted garlic until crumbly.

Pour buttermilk over all and gently stir until a shaggy clump of dough forms.

Turn dough onto a floured surface and gently knead until dough is smooth.

Pat dough into a 3/4 in circle.  Using a biscuit cutter, cut out biscuit shapes and place on parchment paper-lined baking sheets.  Keep doing this until all the dough is used up.

Bake biscuits at 400°F for 15-18 minutes, or until lightly golden.  Cool on wire cooling racks.

Store biscuits in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.

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Much to my delight (and I admit…surprise), what emerged were these golden, flaky, amazing biscuits.  My roommate had one hot from the oven and she raved about the flavors.  These will be part of our breakfast lineup this week for certain.  I already scrambled up eggs and placed between a sliced biscuit with some greens for breakfast this morning.  HUGE win on the breakfast front.  I will definitely be making these again!

Recipe: Gluten-Free Blueberry and Dark Chocolate Scones

I love berries.  Love them.  I haven’t met a berry I didn’t like.  I will EAT ALL THE BERRIES!  And sometimes…I do.

Thanks to my good friend, Harry, I have a nice supply of freshly picked blueberries.  And I really wanted to make the most of them.  So, over the weekend, while doing some meal prep, I decided to do some baking…utilizing some of the blueberries.

Lucky for me, this month’s Vegetarian Times was featuring blueberries in their “One Food Five Ways” feature.  SCORE!  And the one recipe that really stuck out to me was the Blueberry and Dark Chocolate Scones.  So…that’s what I made…for breakfast at the office on my gym mornings.  It just will involve some reheating.  And since I love scones, this seemed like a great recipe to attempt.  The only difference is my version had to be gluten-free.  So, I crossed my fingers and said a prayer to my gluten-free baking gods that this recipe might like my gluten-free all-purpose flour.

These pastries are so simple to make and don’t take a lot of time.  They bake up beautifully and look amazing.  Oh…and you might want to eat them the moment they come out of the oven because they make your home smell SO good!

Recipe: Gluten-Free Blueberry and Dark Chocolate Scones

Gluten-Free Blueberry and Dark Chocolate Scones
Gluten-Free Blueberry and Dark Chocolate Scones

Servings: 8
Time: Prep 10 minutes; Bake 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting (I used Better Batter)
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I used Earth Balance)
  • 3/4 cup low-fat milk, plus more for brushing (I used unsweetened almond milk)
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup dark chocolate chips (I used Enjoy Life Dark Chocolate Morsels)
  • 3/4 cup fresh blueberries

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400°F.

Coat a large baking sheet with cooking spray.

Sift together flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.  Work in the butter using your fingertips or a pastry cutter, until only small crumbs remain in the mixture.

Whisk together milk, egg yolks, and vanilla in a medium bowl.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet, and mix just until incorporated (the mixture will be crumbly).  Gently stir in the chocolate chips and blueberries.  Gather dough into a ball.

Transfer the dough to a floured work surface, and press into a 3/4-inch-thick disk.  Dust a knife with flour, then cut dough into 8 equal wedges.  Transfer to prepared baking sheet, and brush tops lightly with milk.

Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until lightly browned on top and bottom.

~*~*~

This recipe embodies everything that is amazing and wonderful in this world.  Fresh blueberries.  Dark chocolate.  Breakfast.  These scones are a fantastic treat in the morning…and actually not too bad as far as nutrition goes…for scones.  I loved the flavor of the bittersweet chocolate with the burst of sweetness from the blueberries.  Harmony in breakfast form.  I will be making these again…that’s for sure!  Simple recipe…simple breakfast pleasure.