Grain Free & Dairy Free Gingerbread Trifle



Well hello there. Did you think I’d disappeared? Maybe just a little.


I’ve been working on creating some fabulous treats for your holidays. Also, I had a bit of a freak injury.



While walking our dogs, Abigail our 45 pounder ran full speed into the side of my knee. I have what they call a moderate tear in my MCL. Of course I was a mile and a half from the car and had to walk back because when I reached into my pocket to call our son, my phone had died. It was one of those days.



I’m in week three now and am seeing a bit of improvement. Three more more weeks with a hideous and cumbersome brace, along with physical therapy twice a week until January.


In January I’ll see the orthopedist and will hopefully be feeling much, much, improved.


It’s been an interesting lesson in patience for me. After being sick the majority of the last 9 years of my life, I was feeling pretty darn good and was finally able to begin to get some real exercise and begin building back muscle strength and endurance. Then…the mishap.


Good lessons in waiting and taking life slowly are being learned.

Thankfully I have a husband who is being very helpful. I can move more now but the first two weeks were rough and being someone who prides herself in having a high pain tolerance…wow, I was in for a surprise.


Now that I’m able to move around a bit more without as much pain, I’m back in the kitchen. Between now and Christmas I’ll be sharing a few creations that you’ll hopefully find as exciting as I do.


Like this grain free, dairy free, gingerbread. I have to admit, I’m pretty proud of this recipe. It took a couple tries to get it to where I considered it, perfect. Perfect texture, perfect moisture content, and perfect flavor. We’ve been eating gingerbread for days and I haven’t heard one complaint.

I hope you enjoy it as much as we have!

xoxo ~ Gluten Free Zen

Grain Free Dairy Free Gingerbread Trifle

For The Cranberry Sauce:

2 Bags of Fresh Cranberries 8 oz each

3/4 Cup of Coconut Sugar

1/4 Cup Water

Simmer the cranberries until cooked down and thickened. Refrigerate until completely chilled.

For The Gingerbread:

1 1/4 Cups of Coconut Flour

3/4 Cup of Sweet Potato Flour

1 1/2 Cups of Coconut Sugar

2 teaspoons of Double Acting Baking Powder

2 teaspoons of Baking Soda

1/8 teaspoon of Sea Salt

2 teaspoons of Ceylon Cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoons of Ground Ginger

1 teaspoon of Ground Cloves

6 Eggs

1/2 Cup of Dairy Free Soy Free Butter

2 Tablespoons of Pure Vanilla Extract

1 Cup of Unsulphured Molasses

1 Cup of 100% Full Fat Coconut Milk (I use ArroyD)

*Preheat oven to 350 degrees (I use convection so cooking time mary vary) Spray two 8×8 square pans with non stick spray and set aside. This can also be made in 1 8 1/1 x 11 pan or two 8-9 inch round pans.

Measure dry ingredients into a large bowl and whisk to combine. Add the butter (cool not cold), and the remaining wet ingredients. Whisk thoroughly until fluffy and combined.

Divide evenly and bake for 30 minutes. Cool completely.

For The Whipped Cream:

I use chilled Arroy D full fat 100% coconut milk. Tip: I keep four boxes (1 cup each) in my fridge at all times. Pour the chilled coconut milk in a heavy duty mixture with the whisk attachment and whisk until thick and fluffy. Then add powdered sugar and vanilla to your liking and continue to whip until thickened. Coconut whipped cream holds up very well in the fridge for 24 hours. The coconut milk will separate to the bottom a bit, but just simply pour it off.

Layer the trifle and refrigerate for 3 hours before serving. I used mini trifle dishes but this  gingerbread recipe will easily make a full trifle. The only thing I would do is add one more bag of cranberries and another 1/2 cup of  sugar to the cranberry sauce while simmering.


Maple Nugget Cornbread


Hello and Happy New Year!


I hope all of you had a wonderful holiday. As you may remember, we drove clear across the United States to visit with my mom, our son, some of Tony’s family and celebrate Christmas. We were able to stay for 11 days and even squeezed in an overnight trip to Walla Walla, WA to visit with Tony’s sister and her family.

But the time just sped by much too quickly!


I filled my mom “bank” with lots of Brandon time and hugs and kisses and as much following him around, sitting next to him, and talking as he would tolerate. Which he did very well, by the way. He was very patient with that weird mom need to drink your child in and imprint everything about them on your brain no matter how old they are. That mom account never stays full for long though when you live 2700 miles from your child.


The trip was certainly an adventure. The drive was actually not that terrible on the way there. Of course, you’re always excited when you’re headed toward your vacation destination.

The drive there went very smoothly, unless you count the 1500 miles it took us to figure out the heater in the rental car.


Honestly, who makes a car heater so complicated! We didn’t notice it was necessary until we left Chicago and started heading toward North Dakota. Once the temperature dipped below 5 degrees, we were freezing!

All through North Dakota and Montana the temperatures at night were well below zero so I was so thankful when I woke from a cat nap (who knows where we were) to find I was hot. Tony had spent the quiet time figuring out how to work the heater.


Somehow he was able to figure out that the air conditioning button needed to be on in order for the heat to work.

We drove from our home in New Hampshire to Chicago, from Chicago to Billings, Montana, and from Billings to Spokane, Washington. The roads were pretty good and the total time for the trip to Washington state…43 hours of driving.


Now the trip home, that was a different story.

I didn’t keep track of the driving hours. We, well I say we but I mean Tony, had to drive home in a blizzard.

A blizzard that was so scary that I kept my eyes closed or had my face buried in a book and my foot on my imaginary brake for at least 2,ooo miles. We went from Spokane to Bismark (944 miles around 2:00 AM) where it started snowing heavily and continued to snow throughout the night. The next morning (still snowing and 12 below zero) we packed up at the hotel and made it through the ongoing blizzard to Toledo, Ohio (1084 miles 2:30 AM), then from Toledo to home (701 miles 12:30 AM).


On the way, there were cars off the road, semi trucks jack knifed and off the road, a few horrible car wrecks that were cause for immediate prayer for whomever was involved, a traffic jam that lasted an hour, and lots and lots of trying to pass semis and plow/sanding trucks in big clouds of billowing snow that made it impossible to see.

The most dangerous part of the blizzard started in Wisconsin and didn’t stop until we were parked in our garage. We came home to at least a foot of snow in the driveway. Needless to say, we were quite happy to arrive home safely, eat a piece of toast, and crawl into our own bed.  


I’m sure I will be hard pressed to get Tony to do a trip like that again any time soon.

In fact I think when we finally got home, I may have heard out of his mouth the words…never again. 

However selfish it may sound, the only thing I cared about was filling up my mom bank account.

Which I did, so it was worth it!


Maple Nugget Cornbread with Maple Butter

1 Gluten Free Pantry Yankee Cornbread & Muffin Mix

1/4 Cup Pure Maple Syrup

1 1/3 Cups Almond Milk plus 2 Tablespoons of Fresh Lemon Juice (this makes “buttermilk”)

1 Large Egg

6 Tablespoons of Melted Organic Virgin Coconut Oil

Maple Nuggets (You can call him here to order: 802-489-2286)

Dairy Free Butter (I use the Soy Free Earth Balance)

Extra Pure Maple Syrup

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Measure the almond milk in a glass measuring cup and add the lemon juice. Set aside. Pour the mix into a medium sized bowl. Add the maple syrup, egg, and melted coconut oil. Add the almond milk mixture. Pour and spread into an oiled 8×8 square baking dish. Sprinkle with the maple nuggets. I probably used about three Tablespoons.

Bake for 17-22 minutes. Do not over bake or the cornbread will be dry. Remove from oven and set aside.

For the Maple Butter: For two people I fork whisked about 3 Tablespoons of dairy free butter with about 1 Tablespoon of Pure Maple Syrup until it was combined. Then I spread it in a nice dish and drizzled with more maple syrup.

Top cornbread with the Maple Butter and drizzle with Pure Maple Syrup. Serve warm.

Pecan Pie Bars


I just realized I’m on a bit of a pecan kick today. First the haystacks and now these bars. Kind of funny actually because I didn’t like nuts growing up in my food at all. My Grandma always said “your tastes will change as you get older” and I guess she was right. Although, I seem to remember her telling me that when I would wrinkle my nose because she was making some kind of horrible smelling creamed fish for dinner. Luckily, my tastes haven’t elevated to that level.. But overall, she was right. My tastes have dramatically changed, especially over the past five or so years.

These pecan bars are perfect. Well, perfect in my eyes anyway. I never liked pecan pie growing up because I didn’t like all the filling. I preferred a little filling with a lot of crust. The original recipe for these bars came from Recipezaar and had gluten and dairy (of course). I tweaked it a lot to get it to my liking. Now it has the perfect amount of crust verses filling and comes in the form of a handy little bar and not a mushy pie with too much filling and not enough crust. These bars also freeze very well for use later. They are also quite tasty straight from the freezer. They don’t freeze completely solid so you can grab one whenever you like.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 9×11 baking pan with non-stick spray and set aside.

For the Crust:

1/2 Cup Sugar

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon Xanthan Gum

2 1/2 Cups Mama’s All Purpose Almond Flour

1 Cup Dairy Free Butter (I use Soy Free Earth Balance)

Place all dry ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk. Add the butter and cut in. (I use my fingers and crumble the mixture through them until it is broken down into large pea size pieces.)

Pour mixture into the greased pan and pat down until it is firm and forms a crust. I use parchment or a plastic bag sprayed lightly with non-stick spray. You can also use your hands but when the butter warms it will stick and be very frustrating.

Bake crust in pre-heated oven for 30 minutes or until edges begin to lightly brown.

While the crust is baking, prepare the topping:

2 Large Eggs plus 1 Egg White

1 teaspoon of Pure Vanilla Extract

1 1/2 Tablespoons Dairy Free Butter

3/4 Cup Sugar

3/4 Cup Dark Karo Syrup

1 1/4 Cups Pecan Halves, roughly chopped

Place all ingredients except the chopped pecans in a large bowl and whisk well until combined. Add nuts, whisk.

When the crust is done, remove from oven and pour pecan mixture over the hot crust.

Bake for 30 minutes. Cool and cut into squares.

“Beer” In The Rear Chicken with Quinoa Veggie Pasta and Wine Sauce


Grilling season is finally here, right? As I look out the window it’s raining (again) and 52 degrees. That’s a sad state affairs for the 7th of May where I live. The up side is that we have a covered deck, so we grill 12 months out of the year. But there is that certain “feel” you get on a warm spring day when you can grill, hear the birds tweeting away happily, and smell the neighbor’s fresh-cut lawns. Guess we’ll have to wait a couple of weeks before we can get the full spring effect.

If you haven’t ever grilled a whole chicken, you’re missing out. It’s incredibly easy! There are many ways to do it but tonight I decided on the “beer” in the rear style. I put beer in parenthesis because I don’t think we’ve had a beer in a can in probably 20 years (at least). Call me a snob, but I prefer good beer in an ice-cold bottle. I also prefer Coca Cola in its original form in an ice-cold bottle right out of an old-fashioned machine. Some things should just never be allowed to change. With that said, I use a soda can, dump the soda out, and fill it 3/4 of the way with spring water. You could probably also fill it with juice, beer, broth, and probably even wine. I’ve done both beer (pour soda out and fill with bottled beer) and water and I didn’t notice one bit of difference between the two. So why waste a good beer, right? I’d much rather drink it while I’m grilling.

And as luck would have it, now it’s raining and sunny all at the same time, and my son is mowing our lawn. Guess we will at least have that partial “spring grilling” feeling going on after all!

“Beer” In The Rear Chicken

1 Organic Whole Chicken

Olive Oil

Fresh Rosemary

Fresh Oregano

1 Fresh Lemon

1 Can, your choice (If it’s beer, keep the beer, if it’s soda pour it out and fill 3/4 with water)

Garlic Powder

Seasoning, your choice (I used Chicago steak seasoning)

Salt & Pepper

Clean the inside and outside of the chicken and pat dry. Place can in chicken grill roaster.

If you don’t have one of these you can just set it on your grill, but be careful and keep and eye on it, sometimes they tip over.

Stuff the cavity with the lemon, rosemary, and oregano.

Place on the grill at about 325-350 degrees and close lid.

Check every 15 minutes for flame ups. If it flames up on you too much, you can place a piece of tin foil under the bird and that will help.

Grill for about an hour or until the juices in the leg aren’t blood-red or to your desired temperature.

Quinoa Pasta with Veggies &Wine Sauce

1 Box Quinoa Garden Pagodas Pasta (8oz.)

About 1 Cup Asparagus Spears

1/2 Large Orange Bell Pepper, sliced

1/2 Small Zucchini, sliced

1/2 Small Yellow Squash, sliced

1/2 Large Onion, sliced

About 8 Crimini Mushrooms, sliced

About 1 1/2 Tbsp. Garlic, chopped

About 1 1/2 Tbsp. Oregano, chopped

Olive Oil

Sea Salt & Pepper To Taste

About 1/4 Cup Non-Dairy Butter

2 Ladles of Pasta Water

About 1 Cup White Wine (I used Chardonnay)

Boil pasta according to package directions, rinse, and set aside. Reserve 1 ladle of pasta water.

Prepare vegetables, garlic, and herbs.

Drizzle oil in a large skillet (preferably NOT a non-stick) and heat on medium to medium high. Add onions and mushrooms and saute until onions just begin to become translucent and mushrooms are slightly browned. Add asparagus spears.

Saute for 5 minutes and then add the peppers, sauteing for about 3 minutes.

Add the remaining vegetables, the herbs, and the garlic.  Add a ladle of pasta water and saute until most of it is absorbed. Add the wine and scoot the vegetable mixture to the side, add the dairy-free butter. Allow to saute for about 3 minutes, tossing the veggies.

Add the pasta, warm through.

Season with sea salt and pepper to taste. I also served a simple spinach salad with the pasta and chicken. Baby spinach, 1 tomato chopped, vinaigrette of your choice. Toss.

Gluten-Free Caramel Heavenlies

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I found the original recipe for these cookies about 15 years ago in a Taste of Home magazine. They are incredibly easy and delicious and are great to have just as a simple after dinner treat or to give as gifts.  I haven’t made them since I went gluten and dairy free, so I thought I would give it a try today. I added a bit more of the ingredients here and there and of course, took out the gluten and dairy. Delicious!

They are gooey and full of toasted coconut and almonds so they look and taste much more decadent than they really are. This dessert is simple to make and maybe takes 45 minutes from start to finish. An easy and quick dessert that everyone will love.

Gluten-Free Caramel Heavenlies

1 Box S’moreables Gluten-Free Graham Style crackers, you’ll have 4 or 5 left over

3 Cups Miniature Marshmallows

1/2  Cup Dairy-Free Butter

3/4 Cup Packed Brown Sugar

1 tsp. Ground Cinnamon

1 tsp. Pure Vanilla Extract

1/2 Cup Sliced Almonds

1 Cup Flaked Sweetened Coconut

Preheat oven to 350°

Line an 8 1/2 x 11 baking pan with foil.  Place graham crackers in pan.

Cover with marshmallows.

Place butter, brown sugar, and cinnamon in a large sauce-pan over medium heat.

Stir until butter and sugar are melted and sugar loses some of its grainy texture.

Remove from heat, stir in vanilla, and spoon over marshmallows.

Sprinkle with almonds and coconut.

Bake for 20 minutes or until top is lightly golden. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely.

When completely cooled, lift from pan by tinfoil and lay on counter.

With a large, sharp knife, cut into rows and then into triangles.