Out With The Old, In With The New!

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Vegetable Pakora Lunch

Quite yummy but maybe being a bit overshadowed by those gorgeous organic strawberries…

I am quickly learning that until our house sells, I pretty much cannot commit to a whole heck of a lot. I kind of just have to wake up and greet the day and whatever happens, happens. But that doesn’t stop me from trying to make plans. You would think I would learn. Ha!

Last night I had visions of a glorious day in the kitchen baking and frosting sugar cookies and trying to see if I could come up with a savory pumpkin boule. I convinced myself, and then posted it on Facebook (pretty much jinxing myself) that I was going to get up, take the dogs on a beautiful walk and then spend the entire day in the kitchen doing basically whatever I pleased.

I managed the walk, which was nice. But never got around to the baking. This morning my husband “parted ways” with our realtor. There were a lot of valid reasons but the icing on the cake was that we had an open house two days in a row last weekend and they listed our house in the local newspaper at the wrong price. Yep. And of course the deadline was Friday so it couldn’t be changed or cancelled. So we spent the only two days my husband was home carting animals back and forth and waiting for the open houses to be over. And guess how many people showed up? Zilch. Zero. Nada. No big surprise since the price was wrong and we weren’t even catering to people in our price range. It was quite frustrating and actually made me want to just sit in a heap and cry…or strangle someone. I did neither. We sucked it up and dealt with our weekend like big people. But it wasn’t easy.

So! Out with the old and in with the new! We hired a new Realtor who started working for us immediately. The house will be back on the market on Friday.

I meet with our new Realtor tomorrow so he can take pictures of the house and I can fill out all of the necessary paperwork. Instead of sugar cookies and beautiful pumpkin bread dancing through my head, I had to don work gloves and clean the house and mow the lawn. Oh well, such is life. My expanding hips probably didn’t need sugar cookies and bread anyway…

I did manage to make myself some lunch. I don’t typically buy pre-packaged foods… but have you been down the frozen isles in Trader Joe’s?  H-O-L-Y   C-O-W…how I envy those of you who can eat whatever you please. It’s probably a good thing that I can’t eat 98% of what they sell or I would be gorging myself on perogi, lasagna, cheese tamales, baby frozen quiche, death by chocolate cake, cheese cake, and all kinds of frozen little delights I’ve never even heard of. I did happen to run across one thing I could try. Vegetable Pakoras. They are basically vegetable fritters but with an Indian kick. They are quite yummy and made for a very nice and quick lunch!

They are vegan and as far as I could tell from the ingredient list, gluten-free. However, they are processed in a plant with other gluten items. So if you are that sensitive…I would steer clear. So far I feel fine, but I will be sure to let you know in the morning if I wake up stiff and headachey.

I was also able to finally find real buffalo mozzarella at Trader Joe’s! I was so thrilled I was sad that I was shopping by myself and there was no one there to jump up and down with me. I think I actually gasped out loud when I saw it tucked in among the goat cheese containers. However, I did refrain from jumping up and down. I surprised my husband with a pepperoni pizza lunch the first day he was back in town.

The buffalo milk didn’t bother my stomach at all, tasted wonderful, and melted like regular mozzarella cheese. It was heavenly.

Well, as I sit here eating a rather dull dinner and dreaming of pizza (a plate of black re-fried beans with Daiya cheese and Tabasco) …I still have bathrooms to clean and it’s already 7:45. I wanted to check in with you all and make sure you knew I hadn’t forgotten about you.

Hope all is well in your neck of the woods! ~ April

April’s Gone Crackers

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Not really, I’m still “normal”, I haven’t lost my mind. Yet.

These crackers? These crackers have me jumping for joy. They have me thinking about all of the yummy food combinations you can eat on a cracker that I haven’t been able to eat in years.

To Die For

So yesterday on just an average grocery shopping trip I ran across these amazing little table crackers from Schar. I thought…”Hmm…table crackers. Do I dare?”

Typically gluten-free crackers are either very dense and kind of pasty chalky or very crunchy, like in the form of those round rice crackers you see. Those rice crackers kind of resemble “diet” crackers. They taste like it too. Or how about that certain brand that looks like something you should feed your horse and is likely to send you to the dentist needing a crown and at the very minimum gives you heart burn for a good five hours? We eat them anyway, because really, sometimes life just calls for crackers and how many choices do those of us with multiple food allergies really have?

So after I scanned the ingredients I took a leap and thought, “Why not?”. If they end up tasting like any other gluten-free cracker so what.

Well, let me tell you something…they are amazingly delicious. Hands down the absolute best gluten-free cracker that I have ever had that does not taste GF DF and has perfect texture.

They are kind of a half way point between the texture and taste of a Saltine cracker and those Club crackers we’ve all served at parties. Perfect texture, lovely “normal” cracker flavor. Perfect. Perfect. Perfect.

So delicious in fact, that I cannot stop thinking about them. I opened them immediately after loading my groceries in the car. Ate 6 of them on the way home and made tons of “I’ve died and gone to Heaven” noises that quickly irritated my son who was along for some visiting time.

Then, I ate another one while putting groceries away. Then, I ate three more at 10:00 PM before bed with that amazing Parlick Fell cheese that I’ve told you about. And this morning, it was all I could do not to eat them for breakfast with peanut butter slathered all over them. So, I settled for an almond milk yogurt for my breakfast and then counted down the hours until I could make lunch with my new-found crackers at a reasonable lunch time.

I hope you enjoy them as much as I do. Or maybe not, because then that just leaves more for me!

Hodgson Mill Gluten Free Pizza Crust Mix

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I’m not above making something from a box as long as it’s healthy and isn’t loaded with crazy stuff that I cannot pronounce. We tried a new pizza crust mix the other night. Another find from an obscure part of the grocery store. It’s made with brown rice flour, potato starch, tapioca starch, and yellow corn meal. If you’re in a pinch and don’t feel like whipping up a batch of pizza dough from scratch, this is quite good. Just add eggs, water, and olive oil. It had the crispy edges I love and was soft (not too soft) and fluffy in the middle.

*Makes two 12 inch pizzas.

Got 2 thumbs up from the hubs and me. I think it would also make a nice cracker if it was rolled very thin, brushed with olive oil, and sprinkled with kosher salt and herbs. Break it into rustic pieces…yummy.

Maple Grove Farms Gluten Free Pancake & Waffle Mix

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I found a new gluten-free product while wandering around my local grocery store (Fred Meyer) the other day. Well, it’s new to me anyway. I was with my mom and we’ve decided that we like to grocery shop together because for whatever reason, when we’re together, we take more time to look through each aisle and always find things we haven’t come across while shopping by ourselves.

I found this mix not in the gluten-free section, but in the tiny sugar-free/diabetic section. Not sure why it happens to be there because there’s sugar in the mix…but that’s where it lives, alongside Maple Grove’s gluten-free brownie and cake mixes that I also didn’t know existed.

I used the mix to make pancakes this morning. They have a very nice consistency and cook up fluffy, not flat and dense, like a lot of other pancake and waffle mixes I’ve tried. I used almond milk in place of the 1 1/3 cups milk the recipe asked for. They are very flavorful and remind me a little of the way yellow cake tastes. They taste sweet but are relatively low in sugar with only 45 grams in the entire box (15 four-inch pancakes).

They are made with long grain wild rice, soy flour, leavening, natural flavor (which I’m assuming is probably vanilla since it tastes like yellow cake mix) a little cornstarch and xanthan gum. It doesn’t have a gazillion additives, which is nice.

While I prefer a less sweet pancake mix, I still enjoyed these and the mix will be great to have available in the camping trailer this summer.

Gluten Free Pantry’s French Bread

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Bread is obviously the number one thing that people who have to go gluten-free miss the most. Or maybe I should say real bread, that really tastes like bread. Since I went gluten-free I’ve only found three breads that I like. Udi’s breads and bagels, a recipe that I tweaked a little from a gluten-free cookbook, and Gluten Free Pantry’s french bread mix.

The first time I tried Gluten Free Pantry’s mix, I did not like it at all! But because gluten-free baking can be kind of persnickety, I decided to give it another try with my own flair. I’ve made it numerous times with all kinds of additions since then and have loved it every time. This is also the bread that I use to make gluten-free croutons and gluten-free bread crumbs (minus the herbs).

A french bread pan is a must. They aren’t expensive, just look around in your local kitchen stores. If you’ve never made gluten-free bread it’s important to know that it doesn’t react like regular bread dough. Most gluten-free bread mixes come out more like a batter that needs to be spread. If you place it onto a baking sheet or stone, it will spread out and end up too thin and a little weird. But don’t fret, it’s incredibly easy. Much easier than making “real” bread.

Italian French Bread

1 Package Gluten Free Pantry French Bread and Pizza Dough Mix

Olive Oil

Eggs

Almond Milk

Honey

Cider Vinegar

Sea Salt

1 Heaping Tablespoon Dried Oregano

1 Heaping Tablespoon Dried Basil

1 Heaping Tablespoon Garlic, diced

Mix the bread dough according to the directions except substitute the water with almond milk, use olive oil instead of regular oil, use sea salt instead of regular salt, and add the oregano, basil, and garlic and mix on medium-high for 4 minutes instead of the suggested 2 minutes.

Line the french bread pan with parchment. You probably don’t have to but I hate washing bread pans and baking sheets so I always line them with parchment. (I also think that cookies and breads bake more evenly when using parchment.)

Dollop the batter as evenly as you can on each side of the pan.

With a spoon, spread the batter and even it out into the shape of baguettes.

Place in a warm place (I used the warming drawer in my oven) to rise for about 40 minutes.

Whisk 1 egg in a small bowl. Brush over both baguettes and then slit each loaf down the middle with a very sharp knife.

Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree oven (375 if you’re using an electric oven) for a minimum of 40 minutes. Gluten-free bread isn’t necessarily done when tapped on and makes a hollow sound like regular bread. I always cook mine for the amount of time the recipe suggests plus 5-8 minutes longer to ensure that the bread isn’t too moist in the middle and is going to collapse when it cools.

If you can stand it, allow it to cool a little bit before slicing so the loaf doesn’t squish down. We can never make it that long. If you’re careful when you slice off a hot piece, it will be just fine. And really, there’s nothing better than fresh bread out of the oven, so don’t miss out!

Finally!

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Finally, a canned gluten-free and dairy-free soup that is palatable. Not only palatable, but actually quite good. I can’t tell you how many canned GF and DF soups I’ve tried only to be left disappointed and well, gagging. I think I’ve tried maybe 6 different brands (there aren’t many) and every single one of them tasted weird, smelled weird, and even looked weird. Not this one though! Evidently Wolf Gang Puck knows a thing or two about making a superior canned soup.  And I didn’t have to stand in the isle for 20 minutes reading all of his cans either. Right on the front of the can, his gluten-free soups say…Gluten Free clearly. Can you imagine? Seems easy enough but believe me, typically those of us who eat gluten-free have to spend a lot of time reading ingredient labels. All I had to do was skim quickly through his ingredient lists to make sure there wasn’t any dairy and less than 1 minute later, two of his soups were in my cart. They are pricey like most “specialty” foods, but the one I had yesterday for lunch was delicious and worth it.

As you know Wolfgang Puck is a famous chef and owns numerous restaurants and has a nice product line of all kinds of foods. They have kind of dubbed him the King of television chefs because he basically pioneered the whole idea of bringing cooking shows to our living rooms. What amazes me is that someone who isn’t even “in” the gluten-free world could make such a good product after I’ve tried numerous things from companies whose main focus is gluten-free or dairy- free and their products are hideous. I’m going to speak for myself and the whole gluten-free world when I say that Wolfgang’s gluten-free soup gets a very excited two thumbs up.

This is what it looks like when the can is opened…always a somewhat exciting and unsettling adventure for me. Looks like a “normal” can of soup and doesn’t smell funky either. Yay! So far so good.

This is what it looks like when it’s cooked and ready to eat. Just like normal soup and delicious!

Almond Milk Yogurt

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On the days I have to do “big” grocery shopping I always set aside enough time to kind of meander around the store and see if there’s anything new. New as far as dairy-free or gluten-free products go. It seems like each store carries a different variety of things. Occasionally, I luck out and run across something new, or at least new to me. Last week when I was up at our local organic and health food store, Huckleberry’s, I bought some goat’s milk yogurt. I forgot to take pictures of it and do a review, but that’s OK because I never made it past the first bite. Basically, it tasted exactly like tart goat cheese and fruit…but smooth. Ugh. Way too “goaty”  in the morning for me, so I tossed it and basically threw away $2.00.  That happens a lot in the dairy-free and gluten-free world, unfortunately. I always have high hopes when I find something new that I can eat, but honestly, 80% of the time it’s a disappointment. Kind of like the “Panko Style” gluten- free bread crumbs I ran across last time I went grocery shopping. $5.99 and they were awful, not even crisp right out of the bag. Had to toss those too.

But yesterday must have been one of those 20% days where I buy something new and it’s actually delicious. Quite the breakfast surprise this morning, let me tell you. Yesterday when I was searching for my usual coconut milk yogurt at our local Fred Meyer (they can’t seem to keep anything in one place for long in the health food isles for some reason), I was just about to give up when I realized they had moved the whole yogurt section…once again. Anyway, right below the coconut milk yogurt I found a new product (or new to me) called Amande Cultured Almond Milk. I was so happy! It’s the little things in life you know… So, I took my chances and bought a cherry and a peach almond milk yogurt.

This morning, cringing while I’ll peeled the top off, I was pleasantly surprised to see that it not only looked normal but smelled normal. It’s also nice and thick, not runny like coconut yogurt, and tastes fabulous! It has no artificial ingredients or preservatives, is dairy-free, soy-free, gluten-free, fruit juice sweetened, has 6 live cultures, and zero GMO ingredients.

If you click here, and then on the store finder at the top of their page, you can find a store near you.

Whole Grain, Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free Bagels

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I am in love. I have recently come across a bagel that makes me moan and sigh with pleasure when I eat it. It’s amazing. “Exciting! Is it new?”, you say. Um…well, here’s the thing. It’s been right under my nose the whole time. Years ago I looked at a couple of Udi’s products and noticed that all of the items I looked at had dairy. I thought, “Well, that’s a bummer.” and moved on. But the other day I had time to wander through the frozen section in one of our local over priced grocery stores and I ran across Udi’s bagels. Even frozen and in a bag they looked delicious. So, taking a chance on being disappointed I read the label. I read the label not once, not twice, but three times. I looked at every single word on the entire bag. Gluten-free and dairy-free? How can this be!? Is it real? Not wanting to get overly excited because I’ve tried GF hockey pucks…I mean bagels, in the past, I bought a bag and brought them home.

So here’s where the love comes in. I take one out of the bag and it’s not heavy like previous hockey pucks. Even in its frozen state it looks good, smells good, and doesn’t seem to have anything weird going on with it. I separate the sides easily, no breaking off or crumbling, pop it into the toaster and a couple of minutes later I’m greeted with a miracle. I slather it with dairy-free butter and the first bite is heavenly. It’s fluffy and crisp. Not dense and heavy like even a regular bagel but not too light either. No slippery, freaky texture. No weird scent, no weird twang of flavor that makes you say “gluten-free”. In fact, this bagel tasted so good and so real like wheat bread, that it scared me. I then proceeded to read the label and the entire bag two more times just to be certain. The angels sang, trumpets from heaven were playing my song. It’s real alright and I now have a new addiction. If you can’t find them in your local grocery store, order them online. They freeze well and are worth every, single, bite.

Namaste Brownies

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If you haven’t tried Namaste’s Brownie Mix, you need to. This is one of the first things I tried when I went gluten and dairy-free and it never disappoints. The brownies come out of the oven smelling absolutely fabulous. They are rich, chocolaty, and oh. so. completely. delicious. Even if you don’t have food allergies you’ll love them. But if you do suffer with food allergies, Namaste brownie mix is free of gluten, soy, corn, potato, peanuts, tree nuts, dairy, and casein. All you add is eggs (or egg replacer if you’re allergic), oil, and water. I use organic eggs, olive oil, spring water, and stir in 1/2 cup of dairy-free chocolate chips. The chocolate chips make them wonderfully gooey. I also take mine out just a tad bit under “done” and I like to eat them hot out of the oven. You can eat them naked, frost them, sprinkle them with powdered sugar, or serve them with ice cream and toasted coconut or nuts. However you decide to top them, they turn out perfect and delicious every time.

Gluten Free Store Bought Soup

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So tonight I’m trying yet another brand of gluten-free, dairy-free, store-bought soup. I’m up to about probably the 4th brand and so far, I haven’t liked any of them. They taste weird, nothing like “real” soup, or even soup that I make at home from scratch. I mean honestly, how hard can it be for crying out loud?

This is what I saw when I opened tonight’s soup. I believe my immediate audible reaction was “ugh”. Then a wrinkled nose when I got up enough courage to smell it.

This is what it looks like in the pan. Pretty much the same.

And…this is what it looks like after one bite. One bite, because I would have to be starving to death to eat this and call it chicken noodle soup. It tastes more like salty flour water with mushy noodles and if it weren’t for the chunks of chicken in it I would have never guessed it was chicken noodle soup. Oh and the smell once it has boiled? Cat pee.

Come on people. How hard can it be to make a great batch of home-made soup and can it? I make delicious soup at home from scratch all the time. Gluten-free and dairy-free with no funky ingredients that make it look cloudy and smell like something the neighbor’s cat left behind.

The can says, “So good you will never know it’s gluten-free”. In reality it should say, “We think people with food allergies are stupid and have no taste buds, it doesn’t really taste like chicken noodle soup, but what the heck. Spend $3.oo on our can of soup anyway.”  Looks like I’ll be eating left over Three Bean Salad for dinner…