Monthly Archives: July 2008

Tofu and Mushrooms, What a Great Combo

Although I love tofu, for some reason it always seems like so much work. It isn’t really, it’s just in my head. I love the tofu at our favorite Chinese restaurant, nice and spicy. But I’ve been reading about nutritional yeast and how good it is for you, so I thought I would try coating the tofu in it and frying. Some people on the Internet have said it’s quite good. I looked up a few recipes and really just modified them to what I had in the fridge and around the house. It turned out well, although I think I might even make it more spicy next time.

If’ you’ve never tried nutritional yeast, give it a try. Most of the research I’ve done shows it to have tons of B vitamins and protein. These are two things I could definitely increase in my diet. I just happened to find it in the bulk bins at our local Whole Foods store. I even read that some people sprinkle it over popcorn. It sure smells good so I may give that a try.

There’s no real recipe. I just sliced the tofu in flat rectangles and let them drain on paper towels for a few moments. Dip in soy sauce mixed with a little sesame oil and rice wine vinegar, then dip in nutritional yeast flakes (not powder) mixed with a little garlic powder and parsley.

Put just a little olive oil in a pan and let it get hot. Then cook tofu about 3-4 minutes on each side till brown. Watch closely, they can burn quickly depending on how high your heat is. Medium is usually good on a gas stove.

I served this with just a pound of mushrooms sauteed in butter, olive oil and garlic. Let the mushrooms brown and then add just a little water at the end to deglaze the pan and make a little sauce over the tofu. Yum! I think next time I’ll add just a little cayenne or Chinese garlic pepper sauce for a little kick. Maybe serve some garlic paste on the side. Yummy.

This week I’m also going to try Seamaiden’s Peanut Tofu with Coconut Rice. I can’t wait. Check out the link to her site for more great recipes (See link under GF Sites/Links).


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Filed under gluten free, mushrooms, nutritional yeast, tofu, vegetarian

Shepherd’s Pie with a Twist

Being a vegetarian, and gluten free, means I eat a lot of veggies and starches. I try not to eat potatoes and rice every day, but that’s difficult sometimes. They are pretty easy to cook, especially when the rice comes precooked and the potatoes just pop in the oven.

But today I decided to try something new. I’ve always loved shepherd’s pie, but I used to use a ground meat substitute made from wheat gluten, then green beans and mashed potatoes on top. Yummy…but no more. The meat is out, and the potatoes, although good every so often, are coming over much less often.

So tonight it was wonderfully spiced beans and onions on the bottom and mashed cauliflower on top. Yes, that’s right. I recently saw an episode of You Are What You Eat, a wonderful British show about eating right and losing weight. The host of the show uses no dairy, wheat or meat (only fish occasionally) to get people in shape. She had a recipe for vegetarian shepherd’s pie with mashed cauliflower on top, so I thought I’d make my own version.

This was so tasty, and so wonderful, I think I’m putting this on my weekly rounds. If you want, you can add a little cayenne to the beans, but I skipped that step so Daughter could eat it. She doesn’t like spicy food (although Daughter #2 does). I think it would be great with a little spice, although I loved it this way just the same. I couldn’t stop eating it. I made a large, round casserole dish and I can share some with a friend tomorrow and have enough for lunch. Next time, perhaps I’ll add some red peppers or green beans. The possibilities are endless.

Veggie Shepherd’s Pie with Cauliflower Mash

1 can kidney beans, drained
1 can white beans, drained
1 medium onion, chopped
1 head cauliflower, chopped
1 TBS butter
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp parsley
salt/pepper to taste

1. Steam the cauliflower until soft. I use an electric veggie steamer, and it takes about 30 minutes to get it nice and soft.

2. While cauliflower cooks, saute onion in a little olive oil and salt until soft.

3. Add drained beans and spices. Cook for a few minutes to mingle flavors.

4. Heat oven to 375.

5. When cauliflower is done, mix in butter and about 2 tsp salt and mash with a fork.

6. Pour bean mixture into casserole dish (spray to keep it from sticking).

7. Pour cauliflower over beans and spread evenly to the edges.

8. Bake for 30 minutes, check and make sure cauliflower gets nicely browned.


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Filed under beans, cauliflower, gluten free, shepherd's pie, vegetarian

It’s my birthday and I want cake!

Yes, it’s my birthday tomorrow. And I decided that after trying to make so many cakes that fell short, I would make something good. I won’t tell you how old I am, but I will say that I’ve had the opportunity for many, many, many birthday cakes. I know that Authentic Foods makes a great vanilla cake mix that I used for muffins. Why not make a cake? I had two of my daughter’s very best friends as helpers, and all four of us had a great time making the cake. Too bad they had to leave before it cooled, but I’m saving a piece for them (maybe…it’s really good.)

I’m making soup for dinner tomorrow on my birthday. I love soup: it’s so comforting. I’ll have soup, wine and cake. And Daughter and I will be watching two movies in a row at the theater just for fun. Now, that’s what I call a great birthday.

Is this yummy looking or what? And guess what… it tastes even better than it looks. Even hubby grabbed a fork and finished off my piece. Now that’s a compliment, since he’s not a sweets eater anyway. This cake is moist, delicious and not overly sweet. I did use a pre-made icing and only put it between the layers and on top so it didn’t overpower the cake. (I also added a few chocolate chips for fun.) I used a chocolate layer on the bottom and vanilla on the top. Hubby recommends soaking with raspberry liquor between layers next time, and I’m already trying to figure out how to make a good tiramisu with the vanilla cake.

I used the Authentic Foods vanilla cake mix and the chocolate cake mix. I did make a few changes to the recipes on the package (now come on sweets, you knew I wouldn’t just follow directions…) To the vanilla cake mix, just follow the directions and add 1/2 package of instant vanilla pudding and use half & half instead of milk. For the chocolate cake, I used the directions for the vanilla cake and the changes above. I think next time I’ll use instant chocolate pudding, but I didn’t think of it early enough. But it is still wonderful, moist and delish! The pudding makes a big difference since you need something to keep it moist and together like a real cake.

I thought I would be done having cake and muffins, but these days more and more options are out there for those of us eating GF. I also received a package of chocolate zucchini muffins and chocolate chip cookies, both from Gluten Free Creations here in Phoenix (link on the right). They were wonderful, and who would have thought that there would be so much wonderful stuff out there. Of course, I will admit that a lot of it is pure crap, but it’s all out there to try. And don’t be content with the recipe the way it stands, make it your own any way you want. I used the lemon cake mix and added fresh blueberries for the best blueberry muffins I’ve had in years, even before going GF.



Filed under cake, chocolate, gluten free, vegetarian

Is it Spagana or Laghetti? You decide

We spent the weekend in Payson with my very, very best friend in the whole world, and her husband and young son. We had such a great time, and getting out of the heat was magnificent. It rained most of the time, but a chilly rain that was a welcome relief. My daughter took this photo on a walk one afternoon. I have no idea what it is, but it was so beautiful and elegant. I just wanted to take it home with me. Perhaps I can plant one if I find out what it is. Anybody know?

When I got home, I was in the mood to cook. I’ve been craving lasagna for a long time. I used to eat it just once a year, usually when the bug hit me around Christmas time when comfort food hits the spot. But lately, since I haven’t had it for years, the bug has hit me extra hard…which means I’ve been experimenting with all kinds of tasty, and not-so-tasty, ways to prepare it gluten free.

One attempt was found in a cookbook and I thought it sounded great. Instead of using pasta, you just use a thin layer of potatoes instead. Sounds great, right? Well…I did something wrong and after cooking it for more than two hours, the potatoes were still raw inside. I now know that the potatoes should be pre-cooked, but at the time, I figured they would cook with all that moisture in there, wouldn’t you think? Well, I’m here to tell you–they don’t. But, I knew I was on to something because my daughter and her friends stood in the kitchen with forks, picking away at the pan to eat the cheese and sauce. They loved it, except of course for the uncooked spuds inside.

My latest experiment is a big success. I decided today to give this another try, but I realized that pasta is my best bet. But since I don’t have gf lasagna noodles, I decided to use my favorite gf pasta from Trader Joe’s. I still believe that TJ’s brown rice pasta is the best I’ve tried. And I’ve tried many kinds, even the more expensive versions, and they don’t taste too great and they get too mushy too fast.

Anyway, it turned out fabulous! Layering the creamy ricotta cheese and tomato sauce with cooked spaghetti noodles. I suppose it’s baked spaghetti, but to me, it’s heaven. And to my daughter, and to my ultimate surprise–my husband–it was the lasagna that we’ve been missing. My daughter and I had two helpings, and my husband, who never eats my GF creations on principle, ate a huge piece for dinner. Now that’s a compliment. Since I eat GF and vegetarian, and he doesn’t like veggies and prefers a burger, this was a surprise.

It’s actually a little less heavy than traditional lasagna since the spaghetti gets a little more air in it. And I used just two layers of pasta. Yum… Try it yourself and let me know. I’m going to try and make a vegetable lasagna next time. I’ll let you know how that turns out.

Spagana/Laghette using Trader Joe’s brown rice spaghetti

Baked Laghetti

1 package TJ’s brown rice spaghetti
2 cups spaghetti sauce (use your own, or store-bought gf sauce)
2 8 oz packages gf ricotta cheese
1 cup mozzarella cheese (shredded)
1/4 cup shredded Romano cheese
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried basil

Preheat oven to 375 degree. Spray a lasagna pan and set aside.

1. Cook pasta as directed on package. Remove from water just a minute or two before they are done since they’ll cook more in the oven. Very al dente…

2. Rinse pasta with cold water for a second.

3. Mix ricotta cheese with Romano cheese, garlic, basil, salt and pepper.

4. Assemble the lasagna as follows:
* Put a little tomato sauce on the bottom of the pan to keep it from sticking.
* Next place a layer of spaghetting (about 1/2) in the pan.
* Place a little less than 1/2 of the ricotta in the pan over the spaghetti.
* Sprinkle 1/2 of the mozzarella over the top.
* Place more sauce over the cheese to cover.
* Place the rest of the pasta on top and spread evenly to cover.
* Place the rest of the ricotta dotted on top of the sauce.
* Place the rest of the sauce over the top and spread evenly, making sure no spaghetti is uncovered.
* Cover the top with the rest of the mozzarella.

5. Bake for 35 minutes with a foil tent to keep the cheese from burning.

6. Remove foil and bake another 10 minutes.

7. Remove from oven and let sit for 10 minutes to set.


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Filed under dinner parties, gluten free, lasagna, vegetarian

Where to eat out in Phoenix

I may be handy in the kitchen, but sometimes, especially when it’s 110 degrees, I just can’t fire up the stove. It’s so hot it drives me nuts. But my daughter and I have found a few great places to nosh this summer without breaking the bank or using too much gas.

The first place we love is PieZano’s pizza place in the Town and Country shopping center. Located at 20th St. and Camelback Rd., it’s pretty centrally located. This small restaurant tucked behind Trader Joe’s (another one of my favorites, but that’s another story) lets you build your own personal pizza. We like to call it the Pizza Subway. And even better, they carry GF pizza crust.

If you ask for the GF crust, right away the server changes his gloves and reaches for a special cooking tray. After the toppings are added (they’ll tell you what is GF or not, but most things are) it’s run through an oven on it’s own tray so it doesn’t touch the bottom where gluten has been. They even have a specially designated slicer for the GF pizzas. Now that’s what I call service. PieZano’s also carries GF Redbridge beer and GF brownies, although they are a little pricey for the small brownie you get. Wed. nights are GF nights with free brownie and $2 GF beer, more than enough reason to give it a try.

Pizza Picazzo’s
Picazzo’s is a much more elegant type of eatery than PieZano’s but just as good. There are a few of them dotted around the Valley, but we mainly hit the one on Scottsdale Rd. and Gainey Ranch. There is another one in Tempe off the I-10 if you’re down that way.

Picazzo’s has an incredible GF menu featuring pizza, foccaccia bread, dips, etc. Most everything can be made GF and it’s worth it. The pizza tastes closest to real pizza, although a bit drier than PieZano’s. The advantage to this one is that you can get an entire pizza. And the toppings are numerous. But, you will pay for this treat. Most GF pizzas will run you about $20 for a regular pizza, nothing special. When you pile on the toppings, you may need a second mortgage. But if anything, you must visit Picazzo’s for dessert. A warm, half-cooked GF chocolate-chip cookie in a skillet topped with vanilla ice cream. It’s amazing, and tastes more like a real chocolate-chip cookie than I have ever come across. I think I just like eating that, it’s my favorite and worth the trip just for that, trust me. They also have a brownie along the same lines, but try the cookie, it rocks. I’ll get a photo of the next one I eat.

Taco Bell
Don’t laugh, if I’m looking for a quick meal that’s GF, it’s hard to find. Ever been driving around and think you’d love to hit a fast-food joint? Being vegetarian and GF cuts those options down to one. But, the bean tostada or the crunchy taco (with beans instead of meat) are GF and quite satisfying. My daughter and I share a #8 (three tacos) and it’s just enough, and it definitely won’t eat too far into your wallet. Plus, without all the cheese and meat and fried tortillas, it’s not so bad for you either. You can find Taco Bell anywhere, of course. Just remember to check the web site or ask if you’re not sure. Of course, soft tacos and burritos are out of the equation, and I believe when I last checked the potatoes were not GF either.

Noodles Ranch
Tucked away in the Albertson’s shopping center at Thomas and Scottsdale roads is a great little Vietnamese restaurant. While in there one day, I spoke to the owner and asked about GF food. He was very accomodating and made a great GF/vegetarian rice noodle dish. It is just wonderful. It has veggies, tofu, and rice noodles in a great sauce made with GF soy sauce he keeps in the back. I’ve been back a few times and I’m never disappointed. Give it a try. They also have fried rice that can be made GF and it’s great with tofu also.

Well, that’s a few for now. I’m getting hungry. I had leftover noodles with sun-dried tomatoes, Roma tomatoes and garlic for breakfast. Yum! That will keep me going for the morning, but I’m getting hungry just thinking about all this great food. Let me know if you have any places in town you love. I’d love to give them a try.


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Filed under gluten free, pasta, pizza, restaurants, vegetarian

New GF Tortillas

Just today, by FedEx, hand delivered, I found GF Tortillas at my front door. What a treat. Just three days ago I contacted the company online and requested a sample and that same day I received a FedEx notice that they had been sent. La Tortilla Factory (see link to the right under GF Sites/Links) sent two packets of their GF tortillas.

The tortillas are made from teff, along with other things. They are gluten free and come in both light and dark versions. The company sent one of each for me to try. What did I do? I immediately pulled out the skillet and made a quesadilla, even though I already had breakfast not too long ago. I also broke open an avocado since I just love quesadillas with guacamole. But I make a simple version of just mashed avocado, cayenne and a little lemon juice. Simple, yet so yummy when paired with a simple cheese crisp.

My first impression of the tortillas was a good one. They were not stiff and hard, like the Trader Joe’s Brown Rice Tortillas. I just can’t seem to get those things soft enough to fold. They crack and taste awful. But these tortillas were soft right out of the package, although still just a little stiff around the edges. They also have a nice smell, not too “beany” like so many other GF items. I’ve had teff bread, injera, at a local Ethiopian restaurant a long time ago, but after going GF I learned that they add wheat flour to their bread. Bummer.

For my quick quesadilla, I put one on the hot grill pan and let it sit for a minute, then added some cheese and folded it over. Yes…I folded it over and it folded smoothly, just like a flour tortilla. What a beautiful sight. I let it crisp for just another moment and viola! Quesadilla.

La Tortilla Factory Teff Tortilla Quesadilla

The taste was also a treat. It was mild and soft, yet crispy like a flour tortilla would be. My daughter, who is not GF, tried it and gave it her thumbs up. And from a 12 year old, that’s pretty high praise. I used the light tortilla for this. Just after this test, I would recommend them to anyone trying to find something to substitute for a flour tortilla, or sick of eating just corn tortillas.

One of my favorite dinners, pre-GF, was a salad wrap. I just take a tortilla, sometimes those flavored ones, and add a little lettuce, tomato, cheese, roasted peppers, olives, and whatever else happened to be in the fridge, then add balsamic or Caesar dressing. Wrap it up and you’ve got a salad to go. I just loved it, and it was something that tasted great on a hot Arizona day, no cooking involved. You gotta’ love that. I can’t wait for dinner tonight…

Visit the La Tortilla Factory site. Find out where they sell them in your neighborhood. I just asked for a free sample, so give it a try. It’s worth the effort.

(Added July 18): I’ve tried these wraps in a few new ways since posting and I have come to the conclusion that I don’t recommend them. They are dry and flaky when I try to eat them cold, and didn’t have a great flavor when I used them for a salad wrap. If you like quesadillas, then I recommend these, but if you won’t be cooking them for a moment and just want a tortilla to wrap with hummus or veggies, I say keep looking. Sorry…)


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Filed under gluten free, quesadilla, tortilla, vegetarian

Muffins for Everyone!


I have finally found it…the elusive gluten-free muffin that tastes good. It’s like finding the holy grail. While shopping at Whole Foods yesterday, I came across a new brand of GF cake mix. Well, it’s new to me. I don’t know how new it is in the world. Since I don’t have a Whole Foods close by, I have to make an effort to head out there. And I do it just about every 2-3 months really. It’s not that far, I just never head out in that direction very often.

Anyway, this is the mix–Authentic Foods Gluten-Free Vanilla Cake Mix.

I found this at the Whole Foods market on Tatum and Shea in Scottsdale, for those of you in the area. Of course, I had to modify the recipe a bit. Don’t we always? I just can’t leave things alone. I’ve been craving chocolate chip muffins for ages, well since I went GF. I haven’t had a good muffin since then and it’s been killing me. Sure, there are some good donuts, but nothing satisfies like a good muffin with your coffee in the morning.

As you can see, these muffins are moist, chewy, crunchy on the outside and lovely on the inside. Even my kids were praising them and I had to tell them to get their mits off of them. I may have to head out to Whole Foods again before the summer is out.

Of course, these are not low-fat or low-calorie, but on this diet sometimes I just crave something that I remember from the “good-old-days” when I used to eat anything without ever asking what was in it. These come really, really close.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Chip Muffins

2 eggs
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup half-and-half (minus 2 TBS)
Juice of 1/2 orange
1 tsp vanilla extract (GF of course)
1 package Authentic Foods vanilla cake mix
1/2 package instant vanilla pudding
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
pinch of sugar for top of muffins (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Whisk eggs, olive oil, half-and-half, orange juice and vanilla.

Add cake mix and pudding mix and stir. Be careful not to over mix. Batter will be thick.

Add chips and mix quickly.

Place batter in greased or sprayed muffin tins. FIll to about 3/4 full. Sprinkle a small amount of sugar on top if you want a crunchy top to your muffin.

Let batter sit for 5 minutes before baking.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, depending on your oven. If they’re brown on top, they are probably done.

Let stand for 5 minutes to cool, if you can wait that long.


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Filed under dessert, gluten free, muffins, vegetarian

And then there are salads

Remember when you used to gaze at the clouds and find images? It’s a fun game to play with your kids, and even something I haven’t stopped doing as an adult. This photo was shot by my daughter when she found this cloud shaped like a seahorse. It’s pretty cool, isn’t it? I can totally see the seahorse, can’t you?

Seahorse Cloud on a Sunny Phoenix Day

Well, on to the salad. It’s only to be 107 degrees today. And even though that’s actually about 5 degrees cooler than a few days before, it’s still stinkin’ hot! Seriously, when it’s this hot, I just hate to turn on the oven or stove and heat up the house. It’s already hot outside and the air conditioning is running all day and night. So when hunger strikes, something cold from the fridge will do nicely.

I like salads, but not the usual iceberg, cucumber, tomato salad, which is boring to me. And salad dressing, which has always been pretty sub-par, is now even harder when trying to avoid wheat. But fear not, good salad dressing can be found, and even bettter-it can be made. Just go to and you’ll see the numerous dressings that can be made.

Bottled dressings, with the exception of one or two, are a waste of money. I’ve never been able to make ranch dressing very well, so I buy that for anyone visiting who wants it. Also, I think Paul Newman makes a pretty good Caesar dressing. The rest should be made from scratch, unless you happen to know of a good bottled dressing that you prefer. Trader Joe’s has a few good dressing that come with their prepared salads, but only a few. Just be sure to check the ingredients of the salad dressing…many contain soy sauce, which is a big no-no for those of us on a GF diet.

Actually, there are two things that truly bug me about salads in restaurants… and I’m going to rant for a moment. The first one is the astronomical costs charged for lettuce and tomato. It’s just amazing that a wedge of iceberg with dressing on it can cost $6. How can chopped cabbage and peanut dressing be $8? I know I’m paying for the privilege of eating out and having it made for me, but it’s just ridiculous.

The next pet peeve is the size of the lettuce and pieces in a salad. There is no way to eat a salad gracefully without looking like a slob. Lettuce pieces are huge, cabbage slices are 5 inches long. Chunks of tomato are the size of a Roma tomato! Who do these people think we are? No matter how hard you try, it always looks like you’re stuffing your mouth with way too much food. And the only thing worse than trying to eat humungous pieces of lettuce is watching someone else do it! I know it looks better on the plate with bigger pieces, and it takes less time to prepare, but it’s messy as hell to eat. And cutting a salad is awkward and messy, shooting lettuce and veggies across the table. Does anyone else feel this way?

One of my favorite places for salad is California Pizza Kitchen. They have a great grilled veggie salad, and a miso salad with cabbage and peanuts. But once again, they are pricey and need to be chopped up. Try making them at home. Just grill a few veggies (do it outside to keep the house cool), shake up a balsamic vinegar/olive oil/garlic/salt dressing and put everything over a salad of chopped greens (bite-sized, of course).

There are all kinds of lettuces in bags at the market and I don’t mind picking those up. Also, Trader Joe’s has a wonderful selection of prepared salads for a great price. If you’re not into making salads on your own, take these home and doctor them up, and you’ve got a great meal. One of my favorites is the TJ salad with white beans and shaved parmesan. It’s yummy all on it’s own, but I like to add a few candied pecans and dried apricots to it. This gives it more color and crunch and it’s just wonderful. And for the price of one TJ salad you get enough for 3-4 people.

Another one of my inspirations is the TJ’s Asian Slaw Salad. Of course, you can make this on your own very easily. Buy green and purple cabbage and chop into bite-sized pieces. Add some chopped jalapeno, pumpkin and sesame seeds, and a few grape tomatoes. Toss with a simple peanut dressing made from peanut butter/wheat-free tamari/olive oil/sesame oil/sugar and it’s a great, crunchy, cool salad on a hot day.

Asian Slaw Salad

Enjoy, and stay cool!

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Filed under gluten free, salad, vegetarian