Tater tot Mexican Casserole


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We love Nachos in our house, but it’s always good to try new recipes.  I came across this recipe and thought, huh, I wonder how this would taste with tater tots instead of tortilla chips?

I used Mrs. Dash taco seasoning in this dish-it is gluten free and not too spicy. It is also salt-free.  Ortega also makes gluten free taco seasoning mix.  I used OreIda tater tots; they are also gluten free.  On with the recipe.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 pound ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
1 small red bell pepper, chopped
1 packet taco seasoning mix
3/4 cup water
4 cups frozen tater tots or enough to cover the top of the pie plate
water for taco mix*
1/4 cup dairy free milk of choice
1 egg
2 cups dairy free shredded Mexican blend cheese (or any cheddar blend)

Instructions

Grease a 9 or 10 inch pie plate with cooking spray.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large skillet over medium heat, brown ground beef in oil until starting to brown. Add onion and pepper.  Cook until beef is no longer pink, and onion and pepper start to soften.  Drain fat.

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*Add taco seasoning mix and amount of water called for on the package.  The amount may vary depending on the mix you use.   Follow package directions for cooking the meat and taco mix together.  Cool for 2 minutes.

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In a large bowl, whisk together egg and milk;  add cheese and stir until combined.  Add in beef mixture and mix until combined.  Turn into greased pie plate.

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Top with tater tots and bake for 37 to 39 minutes, or until filling is set and tots are golden brown.

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Let cool 10 minutes.  Serve with toppings such as sour cream and salsa.

Tips:

  • Be sure to read labels when choosing taco seasoning mix.  They are not all gluten free
  • Brown your beef by flattening it out in the pan, and browning one side.  Turn over and brown on the other side.  Then break up beef to complete browning.
  • You can omit the red pepper if you like, but it gives a nice sweet taste.
  • Check your tater tots label to make sure they are gluten free.  Some companies add wheat
  • I did not measure the tots-I just used enough to cover the top of the pie plate.
  • You can omit the taco seasoning.  Here is a recipe to make your own.
  • I used Go Veggie Monterey Jack blend.  You could use a Daiya cheddar block and shred it yourself.

We really enjoyed this and will be adding it to the meal rotation.  It gets the hubby seal of approval!

 

 

Review of Enjoy Life Foods Proburst Bites, Soft Baked Minis and Baking Chocolate Snack Packs


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I received free samples of the products I am reviewing here from Enjoy life foods. This in no way influences my honest opinion of their products. 

I have been singing the praises of Enjoy life foods products since I began writing my blog almost two years ago.  Their soft baked cookies were one of the first products I fell in love with when I went gluten free.  When I began baking gluten and dairy free treats, I came to rely on their delicious dairy-free chocolate chips.

I would like to share some information with you regarding Enjoy Life Products:

  • ALL of their products are certified gluten-free and are free from the top 8 most common allergens (wheat, dairy, egg, soy, peanut, tree nut, fish, and shellfish).
  • ALL of their products are verified Non-GMO, certified Kosher and Halal, and made with no artificial ingredients.
  • Their Baking Chocolate Snack Packs are single-serve pouches of their Baking Chocolate – perfect as a topping or on-the-go chocolate fix. They are also certified vegan and paleo-friendly.
  • Their ProBurst Bites™ are packed with 6-7g of plant-based protein per serving and are certified vegan.

Today I will be reviewing their Proburst Bites, which are a relatively new product, their Soft Baked Mini Snickerdoodles, and their Baking Chocolate snack packs.

 

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Sunseed Butter Proburst Bites

These bites are relatively new to the Enjoy Life family of products.  I have been wanting to try these.  Most protein bites I have found have either nuts or dairy in them, which precludes me from trying them.  I am so glad the Enjoy Life added these to their lineup. They are tasty indeed.  They have a nice, smooth, nutty taste (from sunflower seed butter) and are not too sweet, with a hint of chocolate.  They would be great for traveling when you need a snack on the road that is gluten and allergen free.

Soft Baked Minis Snickerdoodles

Snickerdoodles are one of my favorites.  I love Enjoy Life snickerdoodles, and I am glad to see them available in minis.  Again, a great travel snack.  They are just as good as their bigger cousins; soft, sweet and bursting with cinnamon.  Delicious.

Baking Chocolate Snack Packs

What would I do without Enjoy Life dairy free chocolate chips when I make my pumpkin bread and chocolate cake with ganache?  Now I can just eat the chips out of the bag, not that I haven’t done that before!  They make the best chocolate ganache you have ever tasted and will satisfy your chocolate craving.  You will never know these are dairy free!

If you are looking for a chocolate or dessert fix, look no further my friends.   Enjoy life foods products are delicious, free from most allergens, and are reliable.  What more could you possibly ask for?

Gluten free Cornbread sausage stuffing


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I have written before about this stuffing in other posts, but I have not actually done a dedicated post about it.  This recipe is a bit involved, but it is easy.  It just has a lot of steps.  It’s easier if you make the cornbread the day before.

Stuffing, or dressing, depending on where you are from, is an essential part of Thanksgiving.  It is also an essential part of a good old fashioned chicken dinner.

The original stuffing recipe is for a full pan of cornbread.  I usually only use half of the pan, as it is only my hubby and me.  You will have leftover cornbread to snack on.  If you are making this for a crowd, go ahead and use the full pan.  You will need 3 cups of broth if you do.

I have done a how-to video, which you can watch below.

How to make gluten free sausage cornbread stuffing

Here is my version for half of the original recipe:

Cornbread Ingredients:

1 cup gluten free Bisquick
1 cup fine ground cornmeal
1/3 cup sugar
½ tsp salt
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 egg
1 cup milk
1/3 cup vegetable oil

Instructions for making cornbread

Mix together dry ingredients in a large bowl

 

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mixing dry ingredients for cornbread

 

Mix together wet ingredients in a large measuring cup

 

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mixing wet ingredients for cornbread

 

Pour wet ingredients into dry and mix completely, making sure that all dry ingredients are thoroughly incorporated.

 

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incorporating wet ingredients into the dry ingredients

 

Pour batter into a greased 8×8 baking pan, and bake at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.  Let cool, then cut into squares (this will make it easier to cube later)

 

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batter into the pan, ready for baking

 

 

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after baking

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cut 5 pieces of cornbread into cubes and put in a single layer on a non-stick foil-lined or parchment lined baking sheet.  Bake for about 10-15 minutes, or until dried out.  Make sure not to burn it! It’s ok if it’s browned.

 

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toasted cornbread

 

 

Ingredients for stuffing

6 oz ground sausage
one small onion, chopped
one small granny smith apple, peeled and chopped
2 cups chicken broth (use 3 cups if making a full pan)
one egg ( you can leave this out)
1 teaspoon ground sage
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon celery seed

Instructions for making stuffing

Put your bread cubes in a large mixing bowl

In a large skillet, brown sausage in one tablespoon vegetable oil until no longer pink.  Remove from pan and set aside.  In the same skillet, heat an additional tablespoon of vegetable oil.

 

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sausage, onion and apples after sauteing

 

 

Saute onion until soft.  Add in the apples and saute until apples are soft.  Add spices and pour over bread cubes.  Mix to combine.

Mix together chicken broth and egg, and pour slowly over bread cubes, allowing chicken broth to be absorbed.  This may take a few minutes.  Mix until bread softens and starts to hold together

 

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mixing the cornbread

 

Turn into a greased casserole dish and dot with dairy free spread.  Bake at 350 for about 40 minutes, stirring once to ensure entire casserole is hot.

 

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ready for the oven

 

Tips:

  • You can use your favorite cornbread recipe in this stuffing, but you don’t want it to be too moist.
  • You can leave out the egg-I forgot it and it turned out just fine.
  • I left out the celery as I don’t care for it.  Celery seed will give the same flavor.
  • I left out the carrot.
  • You can make the cornbread the day before.  You can even toast it the day before. Store in a ziplock bag in your pantry.

Don’t be without your favorite stuffing ever again!

Surprising gluten free foods


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We all miss our favorite foods since going gluten and dairy free.  But did you know that some of those foods that you thought you might never eat again are available in gluten and dairy free versions?

Since the explosion of the gluten free craze partnered with the internet, you can get just about anything in a gluten and/or dairy-free version.

This list is not going to include the usual products.  Listed below are gluten free foods that really surprised me with their availability.  I have not tried all of these products.  I have tried those with an asterisk.  I also have to admit that I placed an order while writing this post……

Gluten free Pennsylvania dutch pretzels*

If you are missing out on the office pretzel day, you need not miss out any longer.  These were pretty good.  You can microwave them which means you can bring them to work with you.

Gluten free puff pastry

These do contain dairy, but it’s pretty great that you can get these.

Gluten and dairy free ice cream cones

These would be great with dairy free ice cream

Gluten and dairy free frozen apple pie

This would be a great time saver on Thanksgiving.  There is a pumpkin version too.

Whoopie pies

Who would have thought?

Chinese dumplings*

Ordering from the link above there is no minimum.  If you order from feel good foods, there is a 6 box minimum.  Believe me, these are worth every penny.  See my review here.

Gluten free french fried onions*

It took a lot of searching to find these.  They are exactly like Durkee french fried onions.

There you have it.  Have you found surprising gluten free foods?  Please share!

 

Hit and miss with Ian’s gluten free


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It’s great when you can find a company that you can rely on for consistent gluten free products.  There are a few out there, like King Arthur, that deliver the goods.  Then there is Ian’s gluten free.  All of their products are free of most common allergens.

I have tried several of their frozen and packaged products, and I would like to share my reviews with you, so that you can make informed choices.   Of course,  my tastes are subjective.

Ian’s fish sticks

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It’s hard to replicate breading in a gluten free version.  If you grew up with Mrs. Pauls or Gorton’s fish sticks, you will be sadly disappointed.  These taste like cardboard.   There’s no getting around it.

Chicken Nuggets

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You’d do better with Tyson gluten free nuggets.  Again, these taste like cardboard.

French Bread pizza

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These are no threat to Stouffer’s.  The crust gets really tough if you microwave these.  The cheese is gooey and has a weird texture.  Pizza is one of the things that’s almost impossible to replicate.  I have struggled with this for months and have pretty much given up on ever eating a decent slice of pizza again.

Panko bread crumbs

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These were pretty good, with a nice spice blend.  They were crunchy, but did not adhere well to my chicken cutlets.  I would still recommend these.

Croutons

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I was really amazed to see gluten free croutons at my local store.  I think the whole kale thing is a gimmick, but having said that, these are absolutely delicious.  They really nailed it.  They are crunchy, but not hard as a rock.  I am really impressed with these.

So there you have it.  You should try these Ian’s products and share your reviews here.

 

Review of Enjoy life Plentils and two other new products


new product reviews

One of the best things about writing a blog about gluten and dairy free living is the opportunity to try new products, and to share my reviews with all of you.  This past week, I ordered a few new items to try from Amazon.

I want to start by reviewing Enjoy life Plentils.  I am a big fan of Enjoy life foods; especially their chocolate chips.  A few months back, I reviewed another similar type of snack food, Beanfields, which are made of beans. You can see my review of those here.

Plentils are made from lentils.  They are crunchy, savory and slightly salty.  I ordered the Margherita pizza flavor from Amazon, as they are not available in my area.

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I can’t say they really remind me of pizza, per se.  The first thing you get when you open the bag is a strong whiff of parmesan; not that that’s a bad thing!.  There is no dairy in these.  I’m not sure how they pull that off, but I am really impressed.  They do not taste like lentils at all.  In fact, they really remind me of pork rinds.  They are delicious!

Several months ago, I did a review on NOwhey mini chocolate peanut butter cups.  I was not impressed with them.  They had no discernable peanut butter taste.  I thought that maybe because they were so small, that the lack of filling precluded me from giving them a fair review.  So I ordered the regular size cups.

nowhey peanut butter cups

Forget about “losing your cravings for Reese’s”.  They don’t even come close.  The filling is lacking any sort of flavor.  They use sunflower seed butter, but don’t add anything resembling the filling of a Reese’s peanut butter cup.   The chocolate is okay, but nothing to write home about.

I do want to say that I give them kudos for providing allergen-free Easter chocolates.  I have not tried them, but kids and parents will be thanking them when the Easter Bunny visits.

My last review is of Udi’s Rye bread.  I have been trying to find this bread for months; I had to order it from the glutenfree shop.   It’s really hard to find.  I miss rye bread, and this comes pretty close, caraway seeds and all.

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Udi’s is a pretty reliable brand.  The only issue I have is with the big holes in their bread, which they can’t seem to fix.  But it is one of the few brands that doesn’t have honey,  agave or inulin, all of which I have to avoid.

So there you have it;  three new products for you to try.  Please share your reviews!

#TBT Dining out gluten free


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I originally wrote this post on June 15, 2015.  It’s still relevant in the fact that dining out is still a major undertaking.  So much so, that I hardly go out to eat anymore.

When I decided to go gluten free almost a year ago, I sat down and had a talk with my husband.  “Honey”, I said, ” I think I will have to give up gluten.  Everything I have read points to that”.

“Ok”, he said, ” but I won’t be going gluten free.   But I will eat whatever you cook for me”.   Now that’s love!   But sometimes I wonder just how easy it is to live with someone who can’t eat gluten or dairy.  Especially when he is a carb and cheese addict.  But he has adjusted.  And he loves my new recipes.

When I first started out, date night became a whole new challenge.  Our first dinner out to our favorite steak place went something like this:

We sat down and I said, ” I can’t eat gluten or dairy. “. The server literally tore the regular menu from my hands and brought me a gluten free menu.  There were basically two choices-steak and salmon.  So I ordered the steak- no fried onions, and the baked potato with no sour cream. At this point, I was still eating butter.  Next was the salad bar.  I knew most of their dressings were gluten free.  While we were still eating the salad the entrees came.  You guessed it-fried onions and sour cream.   I removed the onions and scraped the sour cream from the potato.

I was a bit annoyed and I am sure my husband was too.   I ended up calling the waiter over and letting them know  I was not happy.   The steak had been overcooked too.  In fact, the manager brought my replacement dinner out to me and asked if everything was ok.   Meanwhile, my hubby continued to eat his meal.  Like I said, he is very patient and understanding.

You may not be so lucky.   Here are some tips to help you avoid icy stares and daggers:

  • Check the menu ahead of time.  Nothing annoys people more than waiting for someone to decide what is safe for them to eat
  • Go out to eat at non-peak times if possible.  Wait and kitchen staff won’t be as accommodating when they are running about like chickens without heads
  • Have a backup plan.  They may be out of salmon
  • Call ahead if possible to speak to the chef so that something can be prepared in advance
  • Let your family know of your dietary restrictions ahead of time.   They may not understand what gluten free means
  •  Bring your own food to family gatherings.  This eliminates problems from the get go

Being gluten and dairy free is hard.  It is much harder on your loved ones.   Cut them some slack.  Just smile and say, “pass the vegetables”.

Delicious crock pot Spring leg of lamb


 

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Picture courtesy of All recipes

 

 

Spring is in the air, and with it, lamb.  We have a local farm that produces the best lamb I have eaten since my trip to Ireland.

The crockpot is my favorite cooking method for large cuts of meat. You can be assured that it is cooked through, and won’t be overcooked.

This recipe is easy and results in tender, fall off the bone lamb.

Ingredients:

1 2-3 lb leg of lamb, bone in
1 cup chicken broth
1/2 cup red wine
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoon honey or maple syrup
2 tablespoons dijon mustard
1-3 cloves garlic, to taste
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
1 tablespoon dried thyme
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
1/2 teaspoon pepper or to taste
1 tablespoon Mrs. Dash original (or your favorite seasoning)

Directions:

Combine broth and wine and pour into a lined crock pot. Place lamb in the crockpot. Mix together remaining ingredients and pour over lamb. Cook 30 minutes on high. Reduce to low and cook and additional five hours, turning lamb every 2 hours for even cooking (if possible), until meat is falling off the bone and is fork tender.

Slice lamb and make gravy with the cooking liquid using white rice flour.

Serve with noodles or potatoes.

This makes an easy weeknight dinner. I did not have rosemary, so I left it out. You can use any herbs or spices that you like. I did not add additional salt; the chicken broth is plenty salty. The cooking juices made a delicious gravy.

Please share your thoughts and outcome when trying this recipe.

Carrot cake mishap


 

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Looks great, probably has glass in it

I’ve been wanting to make a gluten free carrot cake for some time.  I just never got around to it until today.  So with my trusty King Arthur recipe,  I got out all of my ingredients, and spread them out over my incredibly small kitchen counter.

I had already measured out and mixed all of the dry ingredients and moved the bowl over to the counter on the other side of my stove.  I had my old pyrex glass measuring cup at the front of the counter, and was just about to measure the grapeseed oil when the oil bottle tipped over, slid into my mixing bowl, and pushed my pyrex cup right onto the floor. The oil bottle broke my mixing bowl as well.

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It shattered into about a million pieces.  Luckily my husband was there to help with the cleanup.  There was glass everywhere. It had skittered into my living room and under my utility room and pantry door.  Big shards and glass dust.  It took a good half hour with a broom, dustpan, and vacuum to get it up. Luckily, I did not get cut, and my cats were not in the vicinity.  But what about my carrot cake?

I decided to go ahead with the recipe, thinking that I might be ok.  Then my husband found some shards of glass in the sink, right next to where my shredded carrots were. And since the glass had literally flown into the air, and had vaporized,  I realized that it just wouldn’t be safe to eat this cake, so I baked it and tossed it in the trash.

You do not want to eat glass dust.  It might be microscopic enough to not be seen, but it will rip up your insides.

It was just not meant to be.  I will probably bake another one next week.  I wanted to do a video on how to make cream cheese frosting, but that will have to wait.

Oh well, better safe than sorry. I will be shopping for a new measuring cup, and a new bowl as well.

 

11 Things I love, and 10 things I hate about being gluten free


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I have a love-hate relationship with being gluten free and dairy free.  I have lived this life for over two years now, and there are days when I wake up ready to eat my gluten free toast and days when I want a real cream in my tea.

In the interest of positive thinking, I will start my why I love list:

  1. I have learned how to bake and make savory dishes from scratch
  2. I am constantly amazed by the new and really delicious gluten and dairy free products that are emerging
  3. I am writing this blog, and in doing so, I am helping others who are struggling
  4. I get emails from all over the world asking for my help
  5. I have grown as a person
  6. I have connected with companies and have been able to sample a lot of great gluten free products
  7. I have learned how to convert recipes and can eat just about anything I want
  8. I have over 200 loyal followers (and growing)
  9. I have learned how to read labels and how to find hidden gluten and dairy
  10. I have learned to love dairy free cheese
  11. Labeling laws have made it easier to find hidden allergens

I am proud to be able to share my experiences with all of you.  I am amazed at how far I have come in the past couple of years, not only with my gluten free knowledge, but in becoming a better blogger, and a better person.

I never dreamed that I would be able to bake, cook, and convert gluten and dairy free recipes with a really high success rate.

I do not really feel deprived.  Of course, there are days when I really miss something that I can’t replicate.  But they are few.

Ok, now for the hate part:

  1. I have to mail-order a lot of gluten and dairy free products because no-one carries them in my area
  2. Gluten and dairy free items are expensive, especially when you add shipping costs
  3. Dry ice is a pain to deal with
  4. Dining out holds no pleasure for me anymore
  5. I am tired of ignorant restaurant staff
  6. I avoid social situations involving food
  7. I can’t find a decent gluten free pizza crust (I have come close)
  8. I miss Chinese food
  9. I can’t make a decent biscuit 
  10. I miss real milk, cream cheese, and sour cream

I am a bit disappointed with the availability of gluten and dairy free products in stores.  It is exorbitantly expensive to mail-order gluten and dairy free foods.

I am upset that I can’t go out to eat without having to have a degree in food science and having to search to find allergen-free menus.  Although I have to say that I do see an upward swing in online availability.  However, they don’t often have these menus available on site.  So how do the waitstaff and kitchen staff know what you are talking about?

I once had a server ask me if there is dairy in butter.  I once found wheat berries in rice pilaf.  There is wheat in foods where it doesn’t even belong.  Canned chicken?  Potato salad?

There are things that just can’t be replicated.  Sometimes I am not okay with that.

All in all, I have to say that I am more and more comfortable with this lifestyle.  I can’t say I completely love it, but I am learning to live with it.  And that, my friends, is key.