Gluten-Free Goldfish Don’t Float My Boat

BeFunky_goldfish.jpg

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.

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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

margarita

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

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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

Quick and Easy GF Cinnamon Almond Streusel Cake

I woke up with a craving for breakfast cake this morning. I decided I would make something quick and easy, hoping there was cinnamon, nuts and cake mix in the cabinets. Yipee, it was there. Daughter woke up 30 minutes later and said, “I love when I wake up and there’s cake. Good morning to me!”cake

Cinnamon Almond Streusel Bundt Cake

1 box Cherrybrook Kitchen Vanilla Cake Mix
3 Large eggs
1 cup vanilla rice milk (or milk if you want)
1/2 cup olive oil
3 tsp GF vanilla extract
1/2 package vanilla instant pudding mix
Pinch of salt

Streusel Filling
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped almonds (I had a bag of slivered almonds from another recipe and just chopped them up) Use any nut that strikes your fancy.)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
2. Spray a bundt pan with olive oil, or butter if you want. Set aside.(I have a great nonstick bundt pan)
3. Mix all ingredients for the cake in a large bowl. I just use a fork and mix for a minute or two till it’s all mixed together and smooth.
4. Mix streusel filling together in a bowl till crumbly and mixed together.
5. Pour 1/3 of mixture into bottom of cake pan and spread out.
6. Sprinkle 1/2 of streusel mix over cake mix. Cover with next 1/3 of cake mixture.
7. Sprinkle second 1/2 of streusel mix and cover with remaining cake batter, evening out with a spatula.
8. Bake 30-40 minutes or until golden brown on top.
9. Let cool for about 20 minutes before loosening with a knife around the edges and tipping over onto a plate.

I put a drizzle of glaze made from orange juice and powdered sugar once the cake was cooled. That’s optional, although it really is good.

Enjoy!

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Spring in a Bowl – GF Asparagus Soup

Spring Asparagus Soup

Spring Asparagus Soup

I’m finding some of the most wonderful veggies in the markets and farmers markets these days. One of the wonderful things about living in AZ is that while most people are still shoveling themselves out of snowstorms, we’re wearing T-shirts and shopping local farmers markets for fresh, beautiful veggies. I picked up a few bunches of asparagus, I couldn’t resist, and since I was out all day I decided to whip up a quick soup. You can do this in about 30 minutes with very little prep work, just about all the work is simmering, and the outcome is a wonderful vibrant soup with a beautiful color to match.

Spring Asparagus Soup
1 bunch of fresh asparagus
3 cups vegetable broth
pinch of salt, pinch of turmeric

1. Break off the woody ends of the asparagus, then chop the rest into bit-sized pieces.
2. Place asparagus and about 1/2 cup broth in a sauce pan, bring to a boil and then lower heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.
3. Add the rest of the broth and the spices, then simmer another 20 minutes until asparagus is soft.
4. Blend in batches (let it cool a bit and be careful).
5. Enjoy!

I know I’ve made something like this before, but I just had to share again since it’s so easy and I couldn’t resist the fresh flavors. I actually made this two days in a row. On the second day, I sautéed a sweet onion and added it to the soup just before blending. I also added a pinch of smoked paprika since I had it. Yum! I highly recommend this since it’s quick, easy and oh so tasty. Serve with GF crackers, bread or just eat it as is. You can also garnish with a few slivered almonds for crunch and taste.

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GF Oatmeal Chocolate-chip Cookies-Yum!

GF Oatmeal Chocolate-chip Cookies

GF Oatmeal Chocolate-chip Cookies

With a bag of GF oats and a craving for a cookie, I began scouring the Internet for a recipe that included only what I had in the house. I found a few recipes online and did what I do best – I reworked the recipes and viola… quick, irresistible GF, oatmeal chocolate-chip cookies.

Gluten-free, Oatmeal Chocolate-chip Cookies

4 1/2 cups gluten-free old-fashioned oats (I used Bob’s Redmill)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon gluten-free baking powder
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup Baker’s sugar
1/2 cup packed light-brown sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons GF vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups chocolate chips

Directions

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, grind 1 1/2 cups oats into a fine meal. Mix together ground oats, cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg and baking powder.

2. In another large bowl, beat butter and sugars until fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Still mixing, gradually add oat mixture until combined. Fold in chocolate chips and remaining oats.

3. Scoop dough in mounds onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, 2 inches apart (about 11/2 TBS each). Bake until cookies are golden brown at edges about 12 minutes, turning halfway through for even cooking. Let cool on pan for 2 minutes, then transfer to rack.

Enjoy! This makes about 4-5 dozen cookies, depending on how big you make them.

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Filed under baking, Bob's Red Mill, chocolate, cookies, dessert, Enjoy Life Chocolate, gluten free, oats, Uncategorized, vegetarian

Crock Pot Lasagna-no kidding

I’m always looking for a way to save time while cooking without losing flavor. Don’t get me wrong, I love being in the kitchen chopping, stirring, and tasting. But some days there just isn’t time for that. For those days, there is the crock pot. Now, being a vegetarian means it’s not always as easy as just dropping a roast in there like some folks do.

Veggie, GF, Crockpot Lasagna

Veggie, GF,  Crock Pot Lasagna

Most ideas on the Web are not gluten-free, or vegetarian, or both. So, I decided to modify some of the recipes I found to make my own version of crock pot lasagna. My family was willing to give it a shot. The end result? I will never make lasagna in the oven again, seriously. This was just as good, if not a little better, than any other lasagna I’ve made. No pre-cooking noodles, no mess, minor clean up. Beat that! Give this a try and let me know what you think.

 Crock Pot Vegetarian, Gluten-free Lasagna

1 box gluten-free lasagna noodles (I used DeBole’s)

1 12 oz. container ricotta cheese (light or regular)

2 eggs

1 tsp each of garlic powder, dried parsley and salt

1/2 cup shredded Parmesan

2 cups shredded mozzarella

3 cups Marinara sauce (your own or your favorite brand)

2 cups chopped fresh spinach

2 TBS chopped fresh basil

1. Turn on a 6-quart crock pot to high (I use an oval). Spray with cooking spray or oil.

2. Mix Ricotta, eggs, spices and 1/4 cup Parmesan.

3. Pour about 3/4 cup Marinara on the bottom of the pot and spread it out to cover.

4. Layer with rice noodles so you have one even layer. Don’t worry about breaking them up to make a layer. It’s like a puzzle.

5. Cover noodles with 1/2 of the Ricotta mixture.

6. Next layer is 1/2 the spinach and 1 TBS basil.

7. Cover with another cup of Marinara and then repeat the next layer.

8. Top layer is another layer of noodles. Break it up to cover as well as possible.

9. Cover top layer of noodles with last of the Marinara, making sure to cover all of the noodles so they don’t dry out.

10. Cover the top with a layer of cheese and a few bits of fresh basil.

11. Cover and cook for 3 hours on high or 4-5 on medium/low. Check it after 3 hours to make sure it’s not cooking too fast. It should be bubbly on the sides and cooked well, and if you stick a knife into it there is very little resistance.

Note: I had planned to cook for four hours but stopped at 3 and it was perfect. Let it sit for a few minutes to firm up and serve with extra Marinara sauce if you have it.

This was so easy, even the kids can do it. There is no cooking involved, as long as you’ve already got the Marinara on hand. All it takes is layering and putting the top on. And if you mess up a layer and forget, who will know? I think Daughter switched the spinach and cheese layer in there somewhere, but it tastes great and that’s all that matter. Next up, try this with GF penne or spaghetti, just like my last version here, only easier.

Enjoy!

 

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Filed under dinner parties, gluten free, lasagna, mozzarella, noodles, spinach, vegetarian