March 2, 2014

Gluten-free Belgian Waffles

I love waffles... I mean really LOVE waffles.  That crispy crusty exterior... That light, fluffy, slightly chewy interior... Buttermilk, blueberry, butter pecan... With butter, plain and dry, drenched in syrup.  Doesn't matter, I love them all, particularly deep-welled Belgian Waffles.  I used to delight in going to hotels with a breakfast bar and the magical flippy waffle iron - I'd make myself one of those bad boys every morning and savor the chew and crisp of this breakfast staple.

Two years ago, I was diagnosed with Celiac Disease, and my days of relishing in Belgian waffles came to a screeching halt.  I was forced to eat frozen waffles.  I don't mind frozen waffles... but I certainly don't love them, either.  I was more than a little annoyed.  But I persevered, I ate my frozen gluten-free waffles,  I used them for creative cooking methods  (check out my dressing recipe), I dutifully toasted them and tried to enjoy them.  But I was missing my Belgian waffles.

I received some Amazon gift cards for Christmas this past year, and I couldn't think of anything I really desperately wanted to spend them for... I thought I might save them up for a big purchase, then I thought that I might just use them for some GF essentials from the Amazon grocery market (a great place to shop, by the way!)

Then I remembered my love of deep-welled waffles, and I decided to treat myself to a waffle iron.  I used to have one that was a clamshell-style, and I never liked it because the batter wouldn't spread correctly.  I wanted one of those flippy hotel-style wafflers, but I certainly didn't want to spend a ton of cash for one.  I managed to find this Oster brand Belgian waffle maker for under $30, and it does the job just great!  It heats quickly and evenly,  it browns the waffles really well, it is non-stick (although I give it a light spray of canola oil before each waffle, just to be safe).

I tinkered with a waffle recipe that I found in an old cookbook, and here's the final result - a perfectly fluffy, chewy, crispy waffle, and enough to feed your family on a cold winter morning, or (in my case) to make ahead and freeze for ease of prep later.  This makes 5-6 large round Belgian waffles.

What you'll need: 

4 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour (I use Better Batter brand AP flour - my favorite for GF cooking!)
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

4 egg yolks
1.5 cups buttermilk (or soured whole milk - add 2 tablespoons vinegar to 1.5 cups milk and let sit 3 minutes)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup turbinado or raw cane sugar - the larger the granule, the better!


Preheat your waffle iron per the manufacturer's instructions.

Whip the egg whites and cream of tartar to soft peaks;  add the sugar and continue to whip until you reach stiff peaks.  Set aside. 

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. set aside.

Beat the egg yolks, buttermilk, and vanilla together and dump into the flour mixture.  stir just until combined  - a few lumps are OK!   Add about 1/4 of the whipped egg whites, beat into the batter to lighten a bit.  add the remaining egg whites in two batches - fold in to the batter to combine without losing too much volume.  Once the batter is completed, stir in the turbinado sugar.  This is an optional ingredient, but it really helps the waffles get a crispy browned crust, so I definitely recommend it! 

Prepare your pre-heated waffle iron by lightly spritzing with some canola oil.  add about 3/4-1 cup of batter (this will be trial and error - depends on the volume of your waffler) and close the lid;  cook to a golden-browned finish.  If you're saving the waffles for later, I recommend removing them directly to a cooling rack to avoid any moisture build-up.  Once cooled, wrap each waffle in waxed paper or plastic wrap and place in a zip-top freezer bag.  Freeze for up to 6 weeks.  

January 26, 2014

Zucchini Casserole

This is a great recipe to use any kind of squash - zucchini, yellow squash, etc....  I actually used Mexican squash, which is very similar to zucchini in texture and flavor.  Enjoy!

6 cups sliced zucchini squash  (about 3 medium zucchinis; 5-6 smaller Mexican squash)
1 bar cream cheese, softened in microwave
1 can (15 ounces) diced tomatoes, drained
1/4 cup grated Romano Cheese
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper

Mix the cheeses and spices together, add the tomatoes and zucchini.  Pour into a 2 quart greased casserole dish.


1 1/4 cups corn flake crumbs (can also use bread crumbs if you'd like, but I had gluten-free corn flake crumbs on-hand for this)
1 teaspoon dried parsley flakes
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
1/2 stick butter, melted

mix topping all together; sprinkle evenly over top of zucchini mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to an hour; until the squash is softened and the crumb topping browns.

January 20, 2014

Summer Rolls in the Dead of Winter

Vietnamese Chicken Summer Rolls

  • 1 medium (6-7 ounce) chicken breast, poached and julienned 
  • Ginger-lime vinaigrette (recipe below) 
  • 4 cups shredded Napa cabbage, washed and well drained (salad spinner, then place on paper towels to blot dry) 
  • Handful of cilantro leaves (1/3 cup..?), stems removed and roughly chopped 
  • 3 green onions, sliced thinly on bias 
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and grated 
  • 1 tablespoon toasted white sesame seeds
  • 2 cups (cooked) extra-thin Vietnamese rice noodles (fresh pho noodles called “banh pho tuoi” from the produce section of your local Asian grocery work really well if you can find them!) 
  • 10-12 rice paper spring roll wrappers (8-9” diameter – about dinner-plate sized)

Hardware needed for assembly:

  • Large work surface 
  • Cookie sheet with raised edge 
  • Warm water (for softening rice paper wrappers) 
  • Plastic wrap


Place half of the lime vinaigrette in a bowl; add the julienned chicken and toss to coat, then set aside.

Toss the cabbage, cilantro, green onion, carrots, and sesame seeds together; set aside.

Blanch the rice noodles in salted boiling water according to the package directions, then shock in ice water briefly. If you’re using fresh pho-style noodles, the cooking/blanching may only take 5-10 seconds – don’t let them overcook! Drain well and then spread on paper towels to blot completely dry. Give the pile of noodles a couple of chops to cut down to a more manageable size for the rolls.

Fill the cookie tray with warm water. Soak one rice paper wrapper in the water for 5 seconds; remove and shake off excess water. Place on the work surface and add a small handful of the cabbage mixture nearer to one edge of the wrapper, then add about half as much of the noodles as you did the cabbage. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon of reserved lime vinaigrette, then add a large pinch of the julienned chicken. Roll as though you’d roll a burrito - fold the closest edge over the filling and roll one turn; then fold in sides tightly, then roll the rest of the way down until sealed.
Wrap each individually in a piece of plastic wrap, then repeat the process until you run out of filling. If you tear a wrapper while rolling, just transfer the filling to a fresh wrapper – do not double up the wrapper or they will be too tough to eat!

These can be refrigerated for up to 3 days, or served immediately. Serve with the sweet chili dipping sauce (recipe below).

Ginger-Lime Vinaigrette
1/3 cup lime juice
3 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon garlic, finely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
Salt and pepper to taste
1/3 cup olive oil

Whisk all together.

Sweet Chili Dipping Sauce
4 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons warm water
1 teaspoon garlic, finely chopped
2 pinches red pepper flakes

Whisk all together.

October 30, 2013

I Don't Do Cake Pops

...but I freakin' love donuts. Since being forced into gluten freedom earlier this year, I hadn't had a proper donut or donut hole.  I have not been a happy camper.  This evening I broke out the ol' cake pop baker thingy (thank you, employer Christmas gift 2011) and experimented with Bob's Red Mill GF Vanilla cake mix.  I added some freshly-grated nutmeg, baked the batter in the cake pop machine for about 5 minutes, and let them cool slightly for a few minutes before dipping in a thin glaze of powdered sugar, vanilla extract, and water. 

The results are delicious!!  I *might* consider sharing these... Just maybe...

October 5, 2013

Plundering, Thievery, and Other Shenanigans

We have some family members (technically they are distant cousins, but they’re really more of friends to us) who live in Columbus, on a street where there are unfortunately a few homes that have been let go back to the mortgage companies.  It’s a pretty common problem in Central Ohio, and some neighborhoods like up around the Linden, Kenmore Park, and Oakland Park areas have been hit especially hard due to the predatory lenders that handed out loans like candy over the past several years.  

We were visiting at their house over the summer and got to talking about a house that is a few doors down from them that had recently been repossessed by the bank.  The detached garage had a broken down door, so we decided to take a stroll over and see if there was anything worthwhile inside, or if maybe there were some things that needed to be thrown away so they didn't attract pests.  There were so many pieces of garbage inside that garage, including an old wooden cable spool kinda like this one: 

I saw it and thought about swiping it to use for a project, but I didn't want to draw much attention since the residents across the alley were out on their back porch singing Kumbaya or something like that.  Interesting neighbors.   I found some other discarded items in the garage - some vintage Life Magazines (one of which was from June 1969 - the Apollo moon landing); also a neat old Reader’s Digest book.  Those items I was able to remove pretty stealthily, but I left the spool in the garage for fear that someone would call the cops on me for (basically) cleaning out the trash.

About a month and a half later I was back at our cousins' house, this time for their daughter's birthday party.  I took a few minutes to casually stroll down the alley and happened to notice that the spool was still in the garage.. obviously the door was still breached.  A quick removal and a drop over the neighbor’s fence into the back alley was all that was needed, and it was all mine!  Unfortunately I didn't think about spiders or other creepy crawlies until I got this thing hauled into the back of my car... good thing I had some duct tape with me (doesn't everyone carry it around in their car?) so I covered all of the holes in the spool so I could at least get it home without a brown recluse spider crawling out and murdering me.  I was absolutely sure that this would have happened, had I not sealed it inside of the spool with pink duct tape.  Have I ever mentioned that I don't like HATE spiders? 

I got the spool home and dissected it...  the "core" of it was nothing but cardboard, so I had to build a new center for support.  I used some scrap 2x4's and stood them on end in a pattern that kind of resembles something from a quilting class:

Once I had the center built, I added 3/4" hardwood dowels around the perimeter.  Part for decoration, part for stability, and part as book dividers.  The dowels were counter-sunk into the top disc of the spool using a 3/4" spade drill bit, then I ran 1-1/2" wood screws up through the bottom and into the center of each dowel, which I pre-drilled to prevent splitting.  

I put the metal rods back through the spool to hold it all together (there's actually nothing else bonding the top to the bottom, since the dowels are not pinned around the top), then I shot it with a few five coats of spray paint and added four swivel casters to the base so I could roll it around or spin it, if needed.  

I dragged it into my living room and started filling it with books... and more books, and even MORE books - fifty-five in all!!  I was shocked at what fit on this little coffee table! 

I am loving the final result - a perfectly functional and fun table, that I spent only about $15 building (dowels and spray paint).  Added bonus?  It's a movable footstool for my couches, and no one could ever say yell, "Get your feet off the coffee table!" because it's not a coffee table - it's just something I threw together using scrap wood and a spool that was otherwise destined for the landfill. 

October 1, 2013

I Freakin' Love Weddings!

I had the opportunity to help create a little bit of magic for a dear friend’s wedding last weekend…  She had asked me in the spring about baking cupcakes for her wedding, and of course I wanted to help her out with it – cupcakes are my specialty!!  I also wanted to be able to give her a unique gift… something that couldn't be bought.  (I’m all about the uniqueness, if you can’t tell from the other posts here)
Tara had shown me a couple of products on Etsy that she really liked – they were cake stands that were made from slices of logs – very rustic in their composition, but still so beautiful!  I immediately scoffed at the price of these ‘handcrafted’ cake stands ($80 plus for some dead trees? Come on.)  So I told her, “Oh, I can totally make those for you – don’t you worry!!”   Never mind the fact that I don’t have a woodpile at my house since I don’t have a wood-burning fireplace, and I’m not exactly a lumberjack… I just happen to be a creative and cheap frugal person, which I totally attribute to my parents’ teachings over the years… If I am the Princess of Upcycling, then they are the King and Queen of Resourcefulness. 
Fast forward a month or two from our talk about tree cake stands… I arrived home from work one Friday and found my prized Buckeye tree lying in the yard.  Not even the whole tree… the entire canopy had come down, but the trunk just stood there, mocking me.  After I let our a string of expletives that would make a sailor cringe, I busted out my junky little electric chainsaw and stripped the limbs off the main trunks so we could haul everything away… I mean, what the heck was I going to do with this stupid tree??   Can’t take buckeye nuts off it anymore… can’t use it for smoking barbecue because it doesn't burn well…  
**insert light-bulb-over-head moment here**  
My dad had just bought himself a fancy-pants new Stihl chainsaw, which he said “cut through logs like butter”.  I decided his chainsaw needed a good test, so I asked if he could come over and help me with the tree dissection.  Sure thing!  He brought over his chainsaw that weekend and I had him slice up some discs of the tree – about an inch and a half thick, from different limbs/trunk pieces so I had an assortment of diameters to choose from for my next project. He didn't ask what I was making… he never asks anymore, since he knows it’s either a hare-brained idea, or it’s positively brilliant.   Mostly hare-brained, but I digress…

If you’ve ever cut up buckeye wood, you know that it’s very lightweight – think balsa wood.  It is horrible for really anything to do with construction, but it’s fabulous for little projects because it’s light enough to carve, cut, shape or even bend, to a degree.   I didn’t know if the buckeye wood would work (say that 3 times fast), but I wanted to give it a try.  I placed the wood discs and an assortment of cut branches into a little portable greenhouse box that I have in my yard.  It cooked the crap out of my vegetable seedlings earlier this year, so I knew it would be ideal for “kiln-drying” the wood pieces!   I left the pieces to roast in the sun for a few weeks, then I assembled the stands using nothing but a drill, some drywall screws, and some wood putty.  They were rustic, alright… but just what I had in mind!
In addition to the dozens and dozens of cupcakes, I also made Tara and Allan a special cake tier to cut… I couldn't bear the idea of them looking back at wedding pics down the road and thinking,  “Why didn't we have a REAL cake instead of just cupcakes?”  I remember watching an episode of that “Four Weddings” show on TLC one afternoon… the bride and groom had met while working at a pizza shop (or maybe it was their first date – whatever) and they thought they were just so clever and used a pizza to cut for their photos, then had an ice cream sundae buffet for guests.  Idiots.  All I could think of when I was watching this was how mortified they will be when they’re thinking back later about how they were trying to be unique and clever and they looked like morons on national TV…Now, Tara and Allan’s wedding wasn’t televised (and they certainly wouldn’t have looked like morons anyway!) but I still thought it still might be nice for them to have a “real” cake for cutting.
For their cake, I prepared a three-layer 6” round tier of carrot cake, and I decorated it with some edible maple leaves made from tinted confectioner’s coating – basically white candy “bark” with vanilla flavoring. Tara didn't believe me at first that the leaves were edible until I shoved one in her mouth (what are friends for?) and her now-husband didn’t believe that I made them.. but I did!  
The leaves are really pretty easy once you get the hang of it.. messy as hell, but they’re gorgeous when they’re done!  All you do is take a silk leaf of your choice, wash and dry well, and spray with non-stick spray such as canola oil.   Prepare your candy coating or chocolate as directed, then dab it all over one side of each leaf with a pastry brush or with your finger in about a 1/8” thick layer.  I like to mix colors in a marbled pattern - think fall leaves turning.  Place on waxed paper-lined trays, and refrigerate until set.  Peel the silk leaves from the chocolate once set, then you can continue to refrigerate the completed leaves for up to a month – just store in an airtight container between layers of waxed paper.   I waited until I arrived at the venue before I placed the leaves on the cake, which was frosted with vanilla buttercream.  I find that simpler is usually better when you're trying to make something pretty and classy. 

I've included some of my own photos from the wedding, but I also wanted to share the photographer’s blog since she did such a beautiful job capturing the moment! 

September 10, 2013

BBQ & This Slaw Go Together Like Bacon & Anything

I am being perfectly honest when I say I am NOT a coleslaw fan.  I tend to avoid the mayonnaise-y creamy slaw on any menu, even if I'm chowing down on some killer BBQ.  Per nearly every BBQ connoisseur I know, these two Southern staples are supposed to go together.  Personally,  I prefer not to defile that smoky goodness with an average coleslaw.  Very rarely will I step outside of my slaw-snobbery comfort zone and try something different... occasionally with favorable results. 

When we were on our annual summer baseball trip, we stopped at this fantastic little BBQ joint in Milwaukee's Third Ward, the Smoke Shack.  This detour was at the recommendation of our tour guide, Mike, from Untapped Tours. (thanks, Mike!!)  The Smoke Shack had a diverse menu, covering everything from Texas BBQ to Carolina sauce, and they had a few items highlighted on the menu as being gluten free (which always catches my eye).

To the best of my memory and ability, I've reverse-engineered a pretty darn close version of the Smoke Shack's Vinegar Slaw... a good thing, too, since it's about 400 miles each way to get another helping otherwise!  


2 medium carrots, peeled and grated
1 Gala apple, peeled & cored, grated
1/4 sweet Vidalia onion, grated
1/4 cup raisins (Thompson or golden, doesn't matter), chopped fine
1.5 pounds red cabbage, grated (for reference, I had a 2.6 pound head of cabbage and used about 2/3 of it after coring and peeling the outside leaves)

Combine above ingredients in a large glass bowl; set aside.  
Note - for all of the "grated" or "chopped" items, I used my trusty old food processor...  God love the folks at Cuisinart for making my life a bit easier!! 

1.5 teaspoons celery salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
2/3 cup tarragon vinegar or champagne vinegar
1/3 cup olive oil
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup granulated sugar

Place all of the dressing ingredients in the bowl of the food processor, cover and pulse to combine.  Toss with the cabbage mixture; allow to sit for about 10 minutes before serving.   Store leftovers in a glass or plastic bowl in the fridge.  I wouldn't recommend storing in metal bowls, since flavors can be turned with the acid/metal combo. 

May 26, 2013

Gluten Freedom in... Detroit?

Yesterday the Mr. and I drove up to Detroit for a Tigers Game.  (One of these days I'll tell more tales, but we are on a quest to hit every ballpark in the MLB/MiLB systems... more on this another time).  It was a 4:08 start time, so we had time to kind of meander up there from Columbus, stopping along the way for lunch between my stretches as an amateur race car driver on I-75.  Before we left, I looked up some food options in the Detroit metro area - gluten free, but not necessarily chain-type restaurants if we could avoid them.  I didn't see too many restaurant options (although we had a fantastic late lunch at Maggiano's Little Italy - a great GF option if you're near one);  but what I did find was a wee little bakery out on Five Mile Road west of Detroit.  The place?  Rumi's Passion Bakery.  The goods?  INCREDIBLE. Once we found the place - no small feat since it's kind of buried in a strip mall between some industrial areas and some older homes - we wandered inside... the first thing I noticed was how normal it looked.  Not your typical sprout-eating-cane-juice-sweetening-Birkenstock-wearing-dread-sporting kind of specialty bakery, but it looked like a cute little mom and pop place. Normal. Nothing scary, no ingredients I couldn't pronounce, no vacuum-sealed sawdust-tasting science projects for $12 a piece.  They had fancy decorated birthday cakes in the cooler case..  fresh bread baguettes cooling by the counter...  it all looked so good!!   I wanted one of EVERYTHING!!   I picked up some pita bread (fluffy and not chewy at all); some crusty foccacia rolls (perfectly herbed and salted); some apricot kolacki (Polish cookies that are positively to die for) and some Rosemary and Olive bread that was so good, I forgot it was gluten free!  We polished (haha) off the kolacki before we even got home from the road-trip, and the rest of the items were meticulously packed, labeled and frozen for later use. My only regret in going there is that it's a strictly local bakery.. they don't have online sales, although they do work through a third-party vendor if you want items shipped.  Personally, I think it's worth the drive for the kolaki.  Just saying...

As an aside,  it was a great ball game -  an afternoon game in Detroit on a cloudless warm spring day, so there was a near sell-out crowd.  It was hotter than blue blazes up in the nosebleeds where we were sitting, and I of course forgot to pack the sunscreen... but the good folks at Comerica Park were kind enough to give me two complimentary sunscreen towelettes when I went to the Guest Services booth to ask which souvenir shop sold first aid items in the stadium.  I was SUPER impressed with this, as I've been to many a Reds game and never encountered this kind of hospitality!  Kudos to the folks of the Detroit Tigers organization for running such a fan-friendly ballpark!

May 16, 2013

Garden Schmarden

I was SOOOOOOO excited about planting a garden this year!!   I started a whole bunch of crops from seed...  herbs, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, lettuces...  ahhhhh the possibilities were going to be endless!  I tended to them every day when they were just little sprouts in my kitchen window, happily basking in the sunshine... I watered them and rotated them and loved them, all the while thinking of the amazing recipes I was going to create with my organic crops!   I transplanted them to peat pots with happy potting soil and moved them outside to live in the real world, out for all of the elements... fresh air, sunshine, warm breezes...  they LOVED being outside!

And then I got the brainy idea that I needed a greenhouse for them, just until there was no more threat of frost.  I bought it a few weeks ago and moved all of the plants into it... and then I forgot about them one morning when the forecast was warmer than average for early May.   And they got cooked. Not just, "I think they'll make it!! Give them some water, STAT!" kind of cooked...  more like, "I abandoned them in the Sahara Desert" kind of fried.  I was so sad!!  I watered them for a few days, thinking that they'd bounce back... a few of the lettuces showed some signs of life, but the vast majority of the plants were beyond saving.  I was crushed.  I failed at gardening (again!).  I destroyed poor, helpless little plant wonders that were going to be my ticket to grocery store freedom all summer long!   I single-handedly (and absent-mindedly) neglected something so simple to grow, something that would have beneficial to have all through the summer and into the fall...  and all because I just *had* to have that damn greenhouse.  That $29 vinyl atrocity from Big Lots. That plant-murdering-pvc-smelling piece of crap hot box of horrors...

I'm a little bitter about the whole thing.

May 6, 2013

Gluten-Free Strawberry Shortcake

5 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
1-1/2 cups GF All-purpose flour blend 1/2 teaspoon xanthan gum (if your flour blend does not already contain this)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 quart strawberries, hulled and sliced Sugar or sweetener to taste

Whipped cream and milk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash and slice your strawberries; add your sweetener of choice and set aside.

Cream together sugar and butter; add the sour cream, vanilla, and egg and mix well. Add all of the dry ingredients and stir to combine.

Drop by heaping tablespoonfuls on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet –you’ll make a total of 8 shortcakes.

Bake for 12-14 minutes; I usually turn the pan about halfway through the baking time so these brown evenly. Remove from pan and cool on a wire rack.

When cool enough to handle, place one shortcake in a bowl (you can crumble this up if you’d like) and top with a scoop of the strawberries and some whipped cream. I like to pour a little milk over everything to soften up the shortcake; this is optional, but delicious!