Carbonara – The Gluten-Free, Vegetarian Way

carbonaraI see Pasta Carbonara recipes on the cooking channels all the time. They look wonderful, creamy, yummy. It just always seemed complicated or too tricky. And, I don’t eat bacon, of course. But, that didn’t stop me from giving it a try and finding a fantastic, quick ,and decadent dinner. Trust me, it sounds strange if you haven’t tried it, or if you are a meat-eater and want to add bacon, go right ahead. I don’t think it’s missing anything without the bacon. The Parmesan gives it a salty, creamy texture and the eggs add a bit of protein and a hearty flavor. I used spaghetti, but go ahead and try it with penne or even fusilli if you like. I know I’ll be making this again since it’s so easy and comforting.

Veggie Carbonara, Gluten-Free Style

3/4 lb of gluten-free spaghetti (I used Trader Joe’s corn pasta, you can use what you like. I used about 3/4 of the bag)

2 eggs

1/4 cup half & half (maybe a little less, depending on how big your eggs are. Mine were on the small side)

1/4 cup grated Parmesan

1 cup chopped broccoli and cauliflower

olive oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder

1 Tbs chopped fresh parsley

1. Fill a pot with water and bring to a boil. When it comes to a boil, salt the water and add the pasta, cooking for 8 minutes (or whatever the instructions are for the pasta you are using).

2. While the pasta is cooking, add olive oil to a sauté pan and add cauliflower and broccoli. Add a bit of salt and sauté until brown and softening. Set aside.

3. In a separate bowl, add eggs, half & half and most of the Parmesan and mix well with a fork. Add a pinch of salt/pepper.

4. Drain the pasta, reserving a bit of the water in case you need to soften up the sauce.

5. Here’s the important part—take the saute pan off the heat and then add the drained pasta to the pan. Coat with the oil in the pan, and then add the egg mixture, tossing to get all the noodles coated. The sauce will thicken up as the eggs set, but as long as it’s off the heat you won’t have scrambled eggs instead. If it’s too thick, just add a little bit of the reserved cooking water to thin it out.

6. Top with a bit more Parmesan if you like, and the chopped fresh parsley.

If you don’t have broccoli and cauliflower in your fridge (I had a small bag of mixed), go ahead and use zucchini or even sauté some carrots. The veggies don’t matter, you can even leave them out and just make it plain. You probably have a couple of eggs and a bit of half & half in the fridge. That really all you need, along with Parmesan and pasta. Be creative.





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Jewel’s Bakery and Cafe is a Gem

signImagine for a minute that you get to eat everything on a menu, no gluten worries at all. Yes, you heard me right. What if everything on this board were gluten-free and yummy? Well, I had a chance to enter nirvana earlier today, otherwise known as Jewel’s Bakery and Cafe, a 100% gluten-free cafe that recently opened in Phoenix. Wow, I was in heaven.


Yup, everything in there is gluten-free. Seriously. Thank goodness I’ve got a tiny bit of self-control or that case would be empty right now (except for those bacon ones on the bottom. Not for this veg head.) I grabbed an Almond Joy cupcake, yellow cake with chocolate ganache, then coconut icing on top, then coconut. Oh man…I’m in love.


These little beauties were calling me also, but I held back. I decided to grab a grilled veggie sandwich on a gluten-free ciabatta roll. Yes, you heard that right. The roll was sublime, so light, so tasty, I actually forgot I was eating gluten-free for a moment. The sandwich was topped with pesto and a ton of grilled veggies including onions and zucchini, but get this-there were roasted fresh beets on this sandwich! Yes, I am now a customer for life. I love roasted beets and this is the first veggie sandwich I’ve ever had with roasted beets. It was awesome-and I don’t throw that word around very much.

Ok, on top of all this, they have little donut holes, breakfast and even a brunch menu on the weekends. Check out the site if you’re in the area. Also, here are a few photos of the adorable spot, decorated with charm and style. Tucked into an unassuming strip of normal shops, this little cafe has comfortable chairs, eclectic designs and lots of windows letting in natural light and making it feel open and inviting. And best of all, it doesn’t empty out your wallet. I had the fantastic grilled veggie sandwich and the cupcake for just $10. Really. GF seems to break the bank lately so it was refreshing to not have to take out a loan to eat there. Try it, you won’t be disappointed, I promise! And look for me, it’s my new hangout for sure.


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CPK gives it another try, and I am so glad

On a visit to California Pizza Kitchen yesterday with my mother, I was shocked to see a little card on the table announcing the new gluten-free pizza at CPK. Now, if you remember, I did a post on CPK’s recent attempt at gluten-free pizza and I quite liked it. But I was disappointed when it was removed from the menu. On the plus side, I heard from a manager there that it was removed because they could not ensure that it was gluten-free once it came out of the kitchen and they wanted to do it right. I admired that..but I missed the pizza.

Fast forward to yesterday. I asked the server about the pizza and he brought an information card explaining that only four pizzas can be ordered that are guaranteed to be GF. Anything else is iffy. Depending on how severe your allergy/preference is, he said, you can make your choice. (He shared that he was wheat/soy sensitive and understood) I appreciated his interest and when I read the card, it was quite obvious that CPK had done its homework this time.

photo 1

We ordered the margarita pizza since all my other options had meat on them. I didn’t want to rock the boat and start modifying anything, I just wanted to try some pizza.

photo 3

Whoa! It was so pretty when it came out, and so tasty. The crust is chewy and a bit crunchy. The center needs a bit more cook time, but that can be remedied. What I loved, other than the pizza taste and the fact that I can now eat something other than a salad at one of my favorite restaurants, was that for $14.75, it was big enough for mom and I to have two pieces each and there were still two pieces to bring home for my daughter. Daughter was pleased, and so was I, that there was no soy in the crust, meaning she could come back and have it with me another time.

Give it a shot and let me know what you think. If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you know my obsession with finding a good GF pizza. This is quite good, although the pizza in New York is still my favorite, this one is quite good.

Head over to CPK right now and you can buy a $25 gift card and get a bonus $5 gift card for free. Then come back for pizza! You’re welcome.



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There’s a New Biscuit in Town!

1403502_679299312114634_1420816459_oIt felt like an early Christmas the other day when a box appeared on my doorstep. Even better-inside I found gluten-free pie crust, gluten-free cinnamon crumb cake and best of all, gluten-free biscuits. That’s right, real biscuits like your mom used to make before you had to start eating those biscuits that don’t taste like biscuits anymore. The box was a gift from Grandma’s House, a gluten-free bakery that only sells in eight mid-western states right now, and online. Although the company’s gluten-free items are not available for sale in AZ right now, they are available online. I hear they are in talks with a certain store in Mesa that we love, but nothing concrete right now so I’m not saying anything.

So, on to the food… I first made biscuits and oh man! these are marvelous. They actually have that biscuit feel, like the kind I used to get in North Carolina when I lived there many years ago. They beg for a bit of butter and honey, although I heard my husband say he wanted some sausage gravy for it. (Since I eat neither sausage nor gravy, he’s on his own there.) But trust me, you won’t be disappointed in the fluffy, deliciousness that comes out of the oven. Nice and crispy on the outside and soft and aromatic on the inside.

The pie crust was just as good. It even looked hand-pinched around the edges. Since I had a few pies to make, we used a GF crust from Whole Foods as well and Grandma’s was definitely the better of the two. And since it’s not too sweet, I’m thinking it would be even better with a Quiche in it. And I haven’t had a good Quiche crust in a long time.

I haven’t made the crumb cake, I’m saving it for Christmas morning. It looks too yummy to waste on an ordinary day. I’ll keep you posted on that.

Thanks again to Grandma’s for sending the goodies my way for review. (Disclosure: I did not purchase the items, but other than the items, I was not compensated for this review.)

Since we all know how hard it’s been to find GF goods, I recommend giving these biscuits a try. Keep a look out for them and hopefully they’ll be in stores in AZ soon. I’ll let you know as soon as I know. Unfortunately, shipping frozen items can be expensive (although right now it’s quite cold out there). But if you really, really want biscuits, definitely get these. I want more in my freezer since I’m already craving them in the morning. The cost is not high for them, and in the gluten-free world, that is a treat.

PS (I would have photos of what I cooked, but it seems it was all eaten first. I have one biscuit left, and once again I am hoarding it. Shhhh I’ll take a photo and post it when I make it.)

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GF (SF, NF) Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

Although many people can’t wait to get out there and go shopping just after Thanksgiving, I find it much more enjoyable to stick around the house. I tend to read, watch a movie, work a bit, and of course-bake something. Now that Daughter is soy free, nut free, and GF, cooking and baking just got a bit more complicated, but I love a challenge.

I found a wonderful recipe by Gluten Free in Orlando for GF Mexican Chocolate Banana Muffins and I was inspired. I lived in Gainesville, FL for a few years and love Central Florida. It’s beautiful and the weather is quite lovely most of the year. I’m homesick when I read her blogs, and I get hungry since she has a lot of great ideas and recipes. Today, there were two bananas on the counter dying a slow death and waiting to be used.

But…you know how you want to make something and then you get in the kitchen and you don’t have everything you need to make that thing and you have to decide should I improvise, go to the store, or just forget it? Here I was in the kitchen pondering just that. Of course, improvise is the obvious choice. It’s an adventure, right?

Orlando’s recipe calls for Gluten Free Pantry’s All Purpose Flour mix. I only had Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Biscuit and Baking Mix. Orlando’s recipe calls for Tazo Mexican chocolate, I have only Enjoy Life Mini Chocolate Chips. Orlando specifies four bananas mashed in her recipe, I have two. Still doable? You bet!

There’s nothing wrong with giving something a try, right? We won’t talk about the GF stuffing that pretty much bombed on Thanksgiving and will definitely not be making a repeat appearance. But the point is, don’t be afraid to experiment. These muffins came out amazing. They are a bit more substantial than a cupcake, which is what I like in a muffin. They are chewy, dense, full of flavor and I will definitely be making them again. Judging by the fact that Daughter has eaten 6 mini muffins already, and they are still warm, I’d say they were a success.

So, here is the recipe I used, which is just a bit different than Orlando’s. Go to her recipe and give hers a try, I imagine they are a bit lighter and have a bit more banana flavor. I’ll definitely try her recipe when I’ve got a few more bananas and Bob’s All Purpose Flour on hand.

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GF Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

1 1/2 C Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Biscuit and Baking Mix
2/3 C sugar (I use organic cane sugar)
1  tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp cinnamon
8 T (1 stick) unsalted butter — melted
1 large egg
1/4 C half and half (Orlando called for milk, but all I had was half and half. Use milk if you have it)
1 C mashed bananas — about 2 large bananas
2 TBS fresh orange juice (Juice of one small orange)
1 tsp GF vanilla extract
3/4 cup Enjoy Life Mini Chocolate Chips
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Spray mini muffin pans with cooking spray.
2. Melt the butter in a bowl in the microwave and set aside to cool.
3. Whisk together baking mix, sugar, baking powder, baking soda,  salt, and cinnamon in a separate bowl.
4. In another bowl, beat the egg, milk, mashed bananas, orange juice, vanilla, and butter.
5. Add banana mixture to the flour mixture.  Do not over mix.  Stir in the chips.
6. Fill muffin pans. (I used mini muffins, just like Orlando did, but you can make these bigger if you want. Just up the baking time and watch them.)
7.  Bake for 15 minutes. Keep a watch since they will brown pretty quickly.
Makes about 30 mini muffins. I added a bit of water to two of the empty muffin spots to keep the muffins moist while cooking. I baked mine for 15 minutes and they were quite done.


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Gluten-Free Pear/Apple Tart

When I found Pillsbury’s Pie Crust on sale recently, I couldn’t resist getting a few to freeze for the holidays. But when I wanted a treat for company tonight, I decided to break one out early. This is so easy to make and will amaze your friends at how great it is. As soon as my husband tried it he said, “Did  you take a photo of this for your blog? This is amazing!”



Gluten-Free Pear/Apple Tart

1/2 carton Pillsbury’s Pie Crust

1 1/2 apples (I used Honeycrisp)

1 1/2 pears (I used Bartlet)

1/2 cup sugar

Pinch of salt

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/2 TBS butter

3 TBS apricot jam

2 TBS apple juice or Amaretto


1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees

2. Cut the pie crust dough in half and save one half back in the fridge.

3. Knead the dough for just about a minute to warm it up and soften it up, but not too long.

4. Roll out the dough to about the thickness of very thin pizza. Roll it between two pieces of parchment paper or else it sticks like crazy to the rolling pin.

5. Peel off the top layer of the dough when you are finished, then cut it to the shape you want. Go ahead and patch it in places to make a square or rectangle. If it helps, trace the shape of the plate on the back of one piece of parchment so you know how big to make it.

6. Keep the tart shell on the other piece of parchment and just put that on a baking sheet with low sides (It will drip so don’t use a flat cookie sheet)

7. Slice apples and/or pears thinly and layer them in any design you like. Just make them pretty even. I alternated pear/apple/pear etc. for fun. Go right up the edge of the dough.

8. Mix sugar and cinnamon, then sprinkle over the entire tart once you’ve lined up all your fruit. Sounds like a lot of sugar, but it’s a treat, right? You can use a little less if you want, but you want the carmelization on top. Top with your pinch of salt to bring out the sweetness of the fruit. Trust me.

9. Dot the top with little bits of cold butter.

10. Bake in the oven for 20-29 minutes, depending on how thin you made it and how hot your oven gets. Keep watch on it. It may begin to drip and if that’s the case, you may want to take out the pan and pour off the excess juice. I did this once and it helped. If it gets dark around the edges, don’t worry. That’s the sugar.

11. While the tart is baking, put the jam and liquid in a pan and heat. I used Amaretto the first time and it was marvelous, but used apple juice the second time and it was also great. Your choice. Once it’s heated, pour through a strainer to get the chunks out.

12. Let the tart cool for about 5 minutes, then brush the glaze all over the tart. Let it cool a bit more and slice. It’s crispy, crunchy, chewy and delish!




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Pillsbury GF Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Makes Me Smile


I was so excited to see that Pillsbury had this chocolate chip cookie dough in the cooler section of the grocery store the other day. Of course, after the awful Eat Pastry chocolate chip cookie dough experiment from Costco (it was awful, don’t buy it), I was a bit wary of another scoop-and-bake cookie dough. But, grew up with Pillsbury products and I’m willing to give anything a try at least once. (OK, smart aleck, you know what I mean 🙂 )

First off, the dough tasted pretty good on its own, before being baked. And we all know that’s one of the first things we do with cookie dough, right? This was pretty tasty and not grainy at all. I heated up the oven, scooped eight little cookie piles on the cookie sheet and waited about 10 minutes while they baked. Since I made mine a bit smaller than suggested (I like little cookie bites), it took a little less time than suggested on the package.

I tried to wait a few minutes for them to cool off, but you and I both know that wasn’t going to last long. The final analysis…YUM! I only made eight and I was glad of that only because I think I would have eaten more if I made more. I ate three and my husband and daughter finished them up quickly. They are chewy on the inside and slightly crispy on the outside. They browned up just right and had a wonderful texture, which is always a bit of a challenge when we’re talking about GF cookies. They had just the right amount of chips, which means these are quite welcome in my home. Advantages include the option to make a few at a time since it’s in a tub, and you can make them when you please. They are tasty and not overly sweet (as if a cookie could be too sweet.) Disadvantages include the cost ($5.49) and the fact that I have had better cookies, but not this easy and right out of the oven. If you’ve got kids and/or friends who may want a few cookies, this is the ticket. My husband, who is not GF, asked me to make more. And as far as cost goes, I think using a small scoop means you’ll get a lot of cookies for the money.

I bought the Pillsbury pizza dough, which is also gluten free, to try next week. At the same price ($5.49) I hope it makes a pretty decent-sized pizza. Stay tuned for that one.

Next up, I’ll be scooping some of that cookie dough into a skillet, baking halfway and topping that with a bit of ice cream. What? It’s my birthday… Who’s joining me?

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Gluten-Free Goldfish Don’t Float My Boat


Yes, I bought them. Who could pass up the opportunity to try a gluten-free version of one of the world’s most beloved snacks? When my daughter saw that Pepperidge Farm was making gluten-free goldfish crackers, we couldn’t wait to try them. Our first reaction when grabbing them from the bag…what a let down. Bummer of big proportions. (It’s not on their web page or I would link it for you.)

I love the fact that companies are trying to make gluten-free snacks and food in order to help those of us who can’t eat gluten. Yes, I know that so many of them are doing it purely for the cash, and this seems like a good example. These are nothing like a cracker and more like a strong, dense Cheese Doodle. The shape is like a fish (see above shot on the cover) but still the texture of a cheese puff more than a cracker. The flavor was too strong, the texture was a bit grainy and mealy and left my mouth with a strange taste and feeling.

A plea to those companies planning on making a GF version of their products – Please remember that just because we have to eat gluten free, that doesn’t mean we will eat anything. It doesn’t mean that we will eat something just because it’s gluten free. These are not Goldfish crackers. They are strangely shaped and textured cheese puffs. Yes, they are called puffs, but the insinuation with the shape and bag are Goldfish cracker.

Save your money and buy Pirate’s Booty. The aged white cheddar flavor is wonderful, light and tasty. But be careful, these are addictive and you won’t be able to stop. Especially when Costco sells the BIG bag.


If you want something like a goldfish cracker, I recommend Wellaby’s Cheese Ups. Crispy, cheesy, light bites of goodness. They are small and sport a cool triangle shape, but if you close your eyes, you might think you got hold of a little goldfish in there. I buy these at the local Safeway here in Phoenix. Keep looking and ask for them if you don’t find them. I love them that much!


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Margarita Monday at Cien Agaves


It was date night last night and we wanted to hit the town. But, where to go and what to eat? That may seem like a general point of discussion for most couples, but for us the discussion then veers toward the “what can you eat there?” conversation. Do they have vegetarian options? Are those vegetarian options gluten free? Oh, so many discussions and so many restaurants are crossed off the list. Oh, I’m not complaining; I choose not to eat meat. But the gluten-free part of the discussion is always a bit of a pain. Not only does it have to be GF, but I have to feel safe eating there.

I recently saw a new restaurant, Cien Agaves, in Old Town Scottsdale that boasted 100 types of Tequila. We are tequila fans, and margarita fans, and Mexican food fans (when it’s done right.) I sent off an email to the manager asking what was gluten free on the menu. I didn’t receive an answer back (OK, I only gave them 4 hours to answer. Could be my issue there.) So, we decided to be brave and give it a try anyway. I am so glad that we did.

The restaurant is interesting in a sports-bar-crossed-with-a-casual-Mexican-restaurant kind of way. But we were instantly comfortable there and seated quickly and with a smile. We made it there for Happy Hour (3-7 p.m.) and ordered two Cien Margaritas (see the yummy photo above). At just $3.50 each during Happy Hour, it’s my kind of deal. Not only was it yummy, but it had just the right amount of salt. I love a bartender that doesn’t crust the edge of the glass with so much salt that it looks like a rock-candy edge. Thank you! (We ordered a second round a bit later. Yes, they were that good.)

When I asked the server about gluten-free options, I was all ready for the glassy-eyed stare and “I don’t know” response I normally get. Instead, he whipped out a small, printed piece of paper with gluten-free and vegetarian options listed. He said the chef created this list for servers so they had all the info they needed. Now, right away I loved this place and its attention to detail. But what I really loved was the list itself. There was a column for “gluten free” and vegetarian a column for “maybe.” Maybe? Explained in a box next to these were the explanation for the maybe. The corn tortillas are gluten free, but are made in a factory that makes flour tortillas. Why do I Love this? The chef knew enough to know that some of us may be highly sensitive and some others are not and choose to eat things “made in the same facility” as gluten items. Thanks!

I chose two veggie tacos (corn tortillas) with strips of peppers, onions, zucchini and more, and lots of cheese (Oh Heaven!) and one Papas con Queso, which was a taco with beautifully sautéed new potatoes and cheese. I topped these off with a side of black beans (no rice, I think we decided it was not vegetarian) and the house-made guacamole, which was amazing. Unfortunately, the chips were not gluten-free (fried in the same oil as flour tortillas) so I ended up putting the guac on my tacos, which was even better and I’ll do that every time. Even better…the tacos are not that expensive, just $3.50 for the vegetarian and a bit more for the meaty versions. (Husband had one pork and one chicken taco and said they were excellent.)

This morning I received a thoughtful reply from the manager at Cien Agaves answering all my questions and basically giving me the same info I got last night. That’s a prompt response in my experience from a busy restaurant. Too bad I was in such a hurry and so darned hungry. Or actually, not bad at all. We’ll be returning there soon.

So, be brave and give new restaurants a try. If you don’t feel comfortable, don’t eat there. I have no problem walking out and finding someplace else to eat if I don’t feel safe eating someplace. But sometimes, it all works out.

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Gluten Free Ciabatta Pizza

Once again, I failed to plan for lunch and found myself famished while working. Improvising proved to be a good thing again when I created these little beauties. I grabbed a package of Schar’s Ciabatta rolls and sliced them into three thin slices. They are thick enough and make the perfect crust for an impromptu pizza. I just used two rolls and got six little pizzas, enough to share.

Gluten Free Ciabatta Pizza

2 Schar Ciabatta Rolls
3 TBS olive oil
Pinch of garlic powder, salt, pepper, cayenne, basil
6 TBS marinara sauce
3 TBS grated Parmesan
6 TBS shredded Mozzarella

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Mix olive oil with spices in a small bowl
3. Distribute olive oil mixture evenly over bread slices
4. Bake rolls for about 5-9 minutes
5. Layer 1 TBS marinara, 1/2 TBS Parmesan and 1 TBS mozzarella on each slice
6. Broil on low for about 3 minutes until cheese is melted and bubbly.

Enjoy, and try to keep everyone from stealing these. I’m thinking about trying these for my next book club since they are so easy and so good. Maybe a bit of spinach next time?

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Filed under cheese, cooking, crust, dinner, gluten free, marinara, mozzarella, pizza, Pizza Crust, quick meal, vegetarian