Monthly Archives: January 2012

Mini Raspberry Swirl Gluten-free Cheesecake Bites

Mini cheesecake bites with raspberry swirl

I know, two posts in one day…but I couldn’t help it. I offered to bring a dessert to a party today, but then couldn’t decide what I wanted to bring. I could have done the usual brownies (which are very good) or go with something new. Then it hit me, what would I want someone to bring? Mini cheesecakes, gluten free, a little fruit. Mmmmmm. Then, I set about making that happen. Of course, I didn’t decide this until 10 a.m. and the party was at 1, so I had to act fast. No problem…

Mini Raspberry Swirl Gluten-free Cheesecake
Crust:
1 bag of Pamela’s Extreme Chocolate Mini Cookies
2 TBS butter, melted

Cheesecake:
3 8-oz packages of cream cheese, room temperature
2 eggs, room temperature
1 cup superfine sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract

Raspberry Syrup:
1 bag of frozen raspberries (couldn’t find fresh, use them if you can)
1/3 cup superfine sugar
1/2 tsp orange extract

1. Pour raspberries and sugar into a sauce pan and let it simmer for about 20 minutes to reduce. Just let it simmer while you do everything else, but check it often to make sure it doesn’t burn or cook too fast. Low heat.
2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
3. Crush the cookies finely either in a bag and smash them, or use a food processor, then mix in the butter.
4. Line mini cupcake tin with papers.
5. Put a small amount of the cookie mixture (about 1/3 of the cup) into each paper cup. I used the flat end of a wine cork (just the right size) to tamp down the cookie mixture.
 6. Using a mixer, blend the cheesecake ingredients until smooth.
7. Fill the cups to just about full.
8. Once the raspberry syrup is reduced, push it through a strainer to remove the seeds and put in the freezer for a few moments to cool it down. (just don’t forget about it)
9. Dot each cheesecake with the syrup, then swirl with a toothpick to make a pretty design.
10. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes. They will puff up when they cook, then sink back down when you take them out. Don’t worry, that’s normal.

Let them cool for about 10 minutes, then refrigerate until you need them. Of course, I was in a hurry and put them in the freezer for 20 minutes, then in the fridge for a few hours at the party. Take them out about 20 minutes before you want to eat them so they aren’t too cold.

Yum! These are tasty bites of heaven and everyone raved at the party. The most tedious part of the process is tapping down all the cookie crusts and swirling the raspberry sauce. I recommend getting an eager teen to help you, it certainly makes it much quicker and much more fun. This recipe made about 65 of these little beauties, and they were all eaten in less than 30 minutes.

Enjoy!

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Filed under bites, cheesecake, chocolate, cream cheese, dinner party, gluten free, raspberry, vegetarian

Pizza Perfection Quest #3

 Pizza, oh yeah!

I knew I would have three teenagers in the house yesterday, so I decided to give pizza crust #3 a try. I am determined to find a crust that Wows everyone. And if you have to have a quest in life, this one isn’t so bad.

For this experiment, I used Bob’s Red Mill Pizza Crust Mix and Chebe’s Pizza Crust. I decided to mix them because I know Chebe has a chewy texture, but I’m not that keen on the flavor. I know Bob’s Red Mill makes a mix for most everything, but I wanted a more chewy crust. For that reason, I used the Bob’s Red Mill mix, but substituted one cup of the mix for one cup of Chebe’s mix. Everything else was the same (yeast, eggs, oil, salt, garlic powder) as the back of the Bob’s package.

The crust was less sticky than the previous mix, although still not a dough you can roll out. Mostly, just used a spatula and olive oil to spread it around.

Bake first for about 10 minutes to firm it up, then top with marinara and mozzarella and bake another 10 minutes.

Results? I thought the flavor was good, but I didn’t get much of a fluffy dough texture from this one. It was thinner than the second crust and had a nice flavor, but a little too much of the Chebe flavor came through for my taste. The two teens who had the previous pizza liked this one, but not as much as Crust #2 (same reasons). Of course, they did each have 3 pieces, so it wasn’t too shabby. The teen who hadn’t tried any of them so far loved it and ate even more.

So far the votes are in:
Crust #2 is the best so far (King Arthur)
Crust #3 runs a close second (Bob’s and Chebe)
Crust #1 follows up behind as the “Not bad, but I’ve had better” pizza. (Bisquick)

Don’t worry though, there are still a few more to go, and we are determined to try them all just for you! Got a suggestion or recipe? Let me know and we might give that one a try too!

If you try any of these, please let me know how it works out for you. Let me know here, or on the FB page.

Enjoy!

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Filed under baking, Bob's Red Mill, Chebe Pizza Crust, gluten free, pizza, vegan

The Continued Quest for Pizza Perfection #2

The pizza quest continued last night with a valiant effort to make an even better pizza crust. Success and at such an early stage, I may just let this go to my head.

Comments from the two teens who were taste testing were: “This is awesome,” (this one included a high-five), “This is better than the one you buy at the store,” and my favorite was, “You should definitely make this one again.”

Very wet pizza dough

This gluten-free crust is brought to you by King Arthur Flour, which is also nut free and soy free (and Kosher). I used the pizza crust picture here, and of course I felt the need to doctor it up a little. (You know I can’t resist, dear chef.)

In short, just use the directions on the back of the box (eggs, oil, yeast, warm water). I added a tiny bit of cider vinegar (1 TBS), 1 tsp each of salt, garlic powder, dried basil and dried oregano.

Directions on the box allow for it to rise once in a bowl for 30 minutes, then once again after you spread it out on the pan. Hint: This is more very thick cake batter rather than pizza dough. It doesn’t spread well unless you put some olive oil on top and spread it out with a spatula. Don’t even try to roll it out, you’d be wasting your time. But don’t let this scare you. I was a bit nervous at first, but it turns out just fine. As you can see in my photo, it’s a pretty wet mixture. And although it said to let it rise 30 minutes, it didn’t rise at all after this. Don’t know what I did wrong, or if the yeast was old, or maybe it wasn’t warm enough in the kitchen. Who knows.

Bake the crust first, then top it and bake again for about 10 minutes, just enough to melt the cheese and warm whatever you want on it. For this experiment, all pizzas have just marinara and mozzarella. We’re trying to keep the playing field even. (As much as possible.)

The result is a chewy crust with a light flavor. It’s firm enough to hold in one hand and eat like a slice of pizza, which was a pleasant surprise judging by the state of it before it was baked. It was much better than the biscuit crust from the prior night, although that was still very good. This had more of a pizza-crust texture. I was disappointed that it didn’t rise more and I think it would have been even better if it did. I’ll be making it again and hoping for a better rise. Could just be the cold, dry Arizona desert.

Give it a try and let me know how it goes. Let me know here, or head over to the FB page.
Enjoy!

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Filed under cheese, gluten free, King Arthur Flour, pizza, vegetarian

A Quest for Pizza Perfection

Pizza Crust at the last minute

I started my quest for at-home pizza dough tonight. Since I didn’t feel like heading out to the store, I decided to improvise with what I had in the cupboards and fridge. Crazy? Well, not really. In a happy twist of fate, I actually did pretty well. I’ll be tweaking this recipe in the future, but if you’re looking for a quick, easy, tasty pizza crust, this could be it.

The crust is firm enough to pick up, a bit more like a biscuit in texture (thanks to the Bisquick I’m sure) but still has a pizza crust taste. I added salt and a bit of dried basil to the crust for more taste. You can choose to or not, depending on your taste.

Pizza Crust #1
1 cup Gluten-free Bisquick Mix
1 cup sweet rice flour
1/4 cup almond flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Pinch of dried basil
2 medium eggs
1/2 cup milk
3 tbs olive oil

salt/pepper/oregano/basil/parsley

1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees (I know, just trust me)
2. Mix the first five ingredients
3. Crack two eggs in a measuring cup and mix. Add enough milk to make 1 cup of liquid total.
4. Pour into dry mixture, along with olive oil and spices.
5. Mix dough and let sit for a moment.
6. Spread dough on greased cookie sheet. I used a piece of parchment over the dough to roll it out flat.
7. Pinch a rim around the dough and spread a little olive oil over top of the dough.
8. Bake in the 500-degree oven for 10 minutes.
9. Remove from oven, turn oven down to 350 degrees and top with your favorite toppings. We used tomato sauce and mozzarella for our first try.
10. Return to oven for 10 minutes, or until cheese is melted.

Hint: depending on how dry it is in your neck of the woods, you may want to add a little more liquid to the mix. It should be like dough but stickier.

I’m on a quest to find the best at-home pizza crust and I think I’m starting out pretty well. I’ll fall back on this one when all else fails because I know it’s good. The ultimate test is the Teen Daughter, who ate two pieces and told me to save the rest for breakfast tomorrow. That’s a very good sign!

Let me know what you think or what you’ve used in the past.

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Filed under Bisquick, cheese, dough, gluten free, pizza, vegan

Shepherd’s Pie with a Gluten-free, Vegetarian Twist

I admit it…I have never had shepherd’s pie with meat in it. It never really looked that appealing to me. But once I became a vegetarian, I loved the idea of veggies with mashed potatoes in a pie form. We used to use vegetarian burger crumbles for the bottom, you know the ones I’m talking about. It looks somewhat like hamburger and tastes meaty and chewy. But since those are made of wheat gluten, that was put on the do-not-eat list years ago. What now? I make it frequently with Quorn tenders and it is quite good, but still not what I remember.

Shepherd’s Pie right out of the oven, yum!

Enter Amy’s Bistro Burgers, which are gluten free and vegetarian. Crumble them up and it’s the closest you can get to the texture of meat on the bottom. And before I get letters and comments, let me just say that I am not a big fan of trying to recreate meat in a vegetarian way. I just love the texture of something firm and chewy on the bottom of this type of pie and veggies just don’t get it. This seems to do the trick, and the entire pie was gone in two days (Mom came over and had dinner) including breakfast. Yum. Try it with your favorite veggies, although these work just fine for us. Use fresh veggies as much as you can, it’s just so much better.

Chock full of veggies, crumbles and potatoes
Veggie, GF Shepherd’s Pie

4 Amy’s Bistro Burger Patties, thawed and crumbled
1 sweet onion, chopped
1 tsp chopped garlic
salt/pepper
pinch of cumin

2 cups of fresh green beans, cleaned and chopped
1 cup fresh or frozen corn
1 TBS wheat-free tamari

2 cups mashed potatoes (homemade or store-bought)
1 TBS butter
salt/pepper/olive oil

1. Heat oven to 375
2. Saute onion till soft in a small bit of olive oil and salt.
3. Add burger crumbles, garlic, salt, pepper and cumin. Cook till browned.
4. Pour burger mixture into the bottom of a sprayed 9×9 glass baking dish.
5. Add green beans and 4 TBS water to the same pan (no need to clean it) and cover for about 5 minutes or until the water is steamed and beans are cooked slightly.
6. Add 1 Tbs olive oil and corn. (if corn is frozen, let it cook for a bit before going on to next step)
7. Add Tamari and let cook without stirring for a few minutes to let the veggies caramelize.
8. Spread veggie layer over burger layer in baking dish.
9. Prepare mashed potatoes the way you usually do. I used a fresh kind from Costco and just microwave it for a few minutes, then add a TBS of butter, salt and pepper.
10. Cover top of pie evenly with mashed potatoes and bake for 20 minutes.
11. Broil for 10 minutes under low to brown the top. Watch carefully, all ovens are different.
12. Let sit for a minute and serve.

Enjoy!

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Filed under corn, gluten free, green beans, potato, shepherd's pie, vegan

Scottsdale’s 5th and Wine warms my GF heart

One of my favorite places in the heart of downtown Scottsdale has to be 5th and Wine, a restaurant/wine bar with a comfortable atmosphere and a GF/vegetarian salad I keep coming back for again and again. Not only do they have an extensive wine list, there is a lovely patio in the heart of the arts district with live music and comfy seats that create the perfect conversation areas. Inside there are soft, leather cushy chairs just meant for chatting and relaxing over a glass of wine and house-marinated olives.

5th and Wine’s Yummy Veggie Salad

First on the menu is the Veggie salad filled with avocado, white and green beans, grape tomatoes, jicama, and mozzarella tossed with a light herb vinaigrette. The dressing doesn’t overpower the salad, which is light, fresh and filling. You can even order half a salad if you’re not that hungry, but trust me, you’ll want more.

The Strawberry and Gorgonzola salad is also beautiful. I tend to order it with goat cheese instead of Gorgonzola, but that’s just my preference. It’s still wonderful and sweet.

Roasted marinated olives

If you’re just having a glass of wine (happy hour is just $5 a glass til 6 and watch for occasional $2 days), order the house marinated roasted olives with orange peel, fennel and red pepper flakes. Oh, yum. I’ve been known to just eat the olives while everyone else around ate burgers. I didn’t feel deprived at all, they are that good.

The menu also has burgers, salads, fries and even fried pickles for the non-GF eaters in your group, which makes my husband very happy. I’ve been brave enough to eat the salad and olives only. Since I’m not a meat eater, that leaves few options in these trendy downtown eateries most of the time, luckily I’m a salad lover and finding a great salad I can go back to again and again is a great thing. Thank goodness 5th and Wine has created a salad and olives I’m in love with.

The wine list is superb and if you’re not sure about what you want, just ask. They are knowledgeable and I haven’t been steered wrong yet. I prefer a nice white wine blend with this salad and each time I get something a little different.

Of course, if it’s an intimate conversation, take it outside if weather permits (which it does most of the year here in Phoenix). It can get quite noisy inside when it gets crowded. Walk the shops in the area and stop in for a glass of wine and a salad, you won’t be disappointed.

(By the way, I’m not affiliated with the restaurant and receive nothing for this review. Just sayin’)

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Filed under cheese, dinner, gluten free, green beans, mozzarella, olives, restaurants, salad, vegan, wine

The New Year…Another Chance to Get It Right

A toast to the New Year!

It’s Jan. 1 and we all know what that means, resolutions Do you make resolutions every year? Do you stick to them? Are any of those resolutions about what you eat and how you eat? They should be. Cleaning clutter, getting a new job, sticking to a schedule, etc. are all important, but none of it will work as well if you don’t eat right. It’s as straightforward as that.

Make your #1 resolution this year to eat well and keep your body fit. It’s as simple as passing on the second helping, stopping at a few bites of that decadent dessert or just having one drink instead of 3. You’d be surprised how quickly you feel better. Less soda, less chemicals, less excess.

No plans, no commitments, no infomercial box filled with food or exercise equipment needed. Just walk and eat better. Period. And if you need help, find a friend to do it with you. Here are a few tips that have worked for me to get you started:

1. Reduce the amount of carbs you eat. Bread, rice, potatoes, sugar, etc. Just eat less.

2. Increase the amount of protein you eat. If you don’t eat meat, eat almonds, cheese, tofu, etc. There are a lot of sources for protein for all kinds of diets.

3. Exercise, even if you just walk more. Walk in place while blow drying your hair, stretch in the kitchen while the tea kettle heats up, etc. Find some way to move throughout the day and you’ll be surprised how much more energy you’ll have. If you can, grab a few weights and get some bone-strengthening exercise in there.

4. Tell yourself this is not a diet. Rather, this is a change in lifestyle. You can eat anything you like, just don’t eat it all. A few bites of a chocolate doughnut is enough, 1 slice of pizza instead of 3, burger or fries-not both.

5. Don’t be hard on yourself if you eat something you think you shouldn’t. It’s not a contest or a race. Just vow to do better next time.

6. If you drink, try less fattening alternatives. White wine instead of read, light beer instead of beer, and go easy on the sugary mixed drinks.

Good luck! Starting on a new eating plan is tough for so many, but it can be done. Giving up gluten was tough, but you did it, right? So slowing down on the sugar and fats should be a breeze!

Thank you everyone who has followed this blog for the past few years. I’ve had so much fun writing it, trying recipes, and meeting new people. I started it to make life easier for myself, and it became so much bigger than that. I’ve enjoyed learning about cooking in a new way, sharing my finds and musings, and finding gluten-free food in an easier way throughout Phoenix. There are so many more options now than when I started and what a joy that is! Just think what’s still out there to come.

Here’s to a marvelous, wonderful, prosperous, happy New Year for us all!

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Filed under gluten free, vegan, vegetarian