Over the river and through the woods….



Christmas is the time of year when we visit family to share the joy of the season and being together with loved ones.  But road trips present special problems for those of us with gluten and dairy intolerance.

There are certain things you can do to ease your way through a long car trip.  Planning in advance here is essential.  One essential piece of equipment that will make it easier to take your own food on the road is an electric cooler.  Another essential is to book a hotel room that has a kitchenette, both coming and going.  Cooking may be a drag, but eating fast food and getting sick is so much worse.

There are some tips and tricks that will make that road trip bearable:

  • bring food that is easy to cook on the road, such as boneless chicken breasts or thighs.  Or you can bring pasta, sauce and ground beef, sausage or chicken and make an easy pasta dinner.  Eat the leftovers on the way back.
  • Bring fixings for sandwiches such as ham, turkey or chicken, gluten free bread, and a small jar of mayonnaise.
  • bring sodas or juice or water so you don’t have to pay high prices for drinks on the road
  • bring snacks such as chips, such as Beanfields or Plentils. (I’m in the process of reviewing Beanfields chips and will have it ready soon)
  • bring cookies, such as Enjoy life, for dessert

Bring your own food for that holiday dinner, so you don’t have to worry about what is in it, and you don’t stress yourself, or the cook that is trying to accommodate you.   Find out what your host is serving, and try to copy it in a gluten and dairy free version.  Here are some suggestions:

  • Here is a list of hams that are gluten free.
  • Make your own mashed potatoes with dairy free milk and butter
  • make a gluten and dairy free green bean casserole with gluten and dairy free mushroom soup and Cronions gluten free topping
  • don’t forget dessert!

You can have a happy and safe holiday by planning ahead and bringing your own food.  Please share any comments, or please let me know of any questions I can help with.



Turkey Day tips



Thanksgiving is just a few days away.  It can be a very stressful time but it doesn’t have to be.  I would like to share some tips from thekitchn.com on how to deal when the day throws you a curveball.

Here are some of their really helpful tips.

How much turkey should I buy?

The rule of thumb is 1 pound per person, more if you want leftovers.  Remember, the bird is about 60% bone, so consider this when you consider what size turkey to buy.  In other words, a 12 pound turkey will yield about 5  pounds of meat.  If you have a smaller crowd, consider a turkey breast, or tenderloins.  You can also make turkey thighs or drumsticks for the dark meat.

How long do I need to thaw a frozen turkey?

You’ll need about 24 hours for every 5 pounds of turkey. But allow plenty of time; it never hurts to take it out of the freezer with an extra day to spare.

If you’re running short on time, you can speed up the thawing process by submerging the frozen turkey, still in its packaging, in cold tap water. Change out the water every 30 minutes, and estimate roughly 30 minutes for every pound of turkey.

If your guests are due to arrive in a few hours and your turkey is still frozen solid, don’t try to rush things by thawing your turkey in warm water, leaving it on the counter, blowing it with a hair dryer, or any other shortcuts. All of these methods put the turkey within the “danger zone” of 40°F to 140°F for longer than is safe, and your risk of food poisoning increases drastically.

Don’t panic! It’s actually completely safe to cook a frozen, or partially frozen turkey. Roast it at 325°F and increase the cooking time by about 50 percent if totally frozen, or about 25 percent if partially frozen. This works because the heat of the oven keeps the turkey out of the danger zone; as the turkey thaws, it also starts to cook. Remove the giblets as soon as they are thawed enough to do so, and season the turkey with salt, pepper, and other spices halfway through cooking. The turkey is done when it registers at least 165°F in all areas.

How do I know when the turkey is done?

The turkey is done when an instant read thermometer registers 165 degrees when inserted into the thigh and breast meat.

When the turkey reaches the correct temperature, take it out of the oven, tent it loosely in foil, and let it rest so the juices have a chance to redistribute. If you leave the thermometer in the thigh, you’ll notice the temperature rising a bit before the turkey starts to cool again.

Another test to see if the turkey is done cooking is if the juices run clear. Cut a small slit in the meat at various places around the turkey and press just above the cut with the flat of your knife. If the juices that run out are clear, the turkey is done. If you see any red tinge of blood, keep cooking for a little longer.

Just making a turkey breast?

Cook at 350 degrees for about an hour, then check for doneness.  The breast is done when an instant read thermometer registers 165 degrees.  If not done in one hour, check the temperature every ten minutes until done.  Let it rest for about 20-30 minutes.

Hosting Thanksgiving for the first time?  Don’t sweat it!

  • Never turn down help.  Don’t be a martyr-ask away. Delegate, delegate, delegate! Have a potluck and you supply the turkey and gravy.  Everyone brings a dish.
  • Make as much ahead as possible, then refrigerate or freeze.   Reheat on the day.
  • Don’t experiment with new recipes.  I will be making new recipes this year but it is just my husband and I.  If you are having company, don’t do it!
  • Start early on non-food prep.  Iron tablecloths, clean china etc.  ahead of time.
  • Consider making the turkey the day before.  In fact,  I am making turkey drumsticks the day before in the crockpot.  I am also making turkey tenderloins but will make those the day of.  They cook very quickly.
  • Set the table the night before.  Cover with a sheet if you are concerned about dust, or cats, etc.
  • Have cocktails or wine ready to go.  Diners won’t be upset if dinner is delayed if they have a drink in their hand!
  • Forego appetizers.  Leave room for the main meal.
  • Rely on prebaked pies and premade items.  You don’t have to make everything from scratch.  This also goes for gluten and dairy free items.
  • Make a timeline and master list for everything that has to happen.  This includes dishes to be served (I always forget to serve the cranberry sauce), cooking times and temperatures, etc.
  • Don’t forget to shower!  Leave time for yourself to clean up and relax a bit.
  • Enjoy the day, and the company.  Pat yourself on the back for a job well done.

Have a wonderful, stress-free, gluten free Thanksgiving!


The gift that keeps on giving



I received an email the other day from our rental office that they had a gift for us for reaching one year of tenancy.  I said to my husband, “I’d be willing to be that it’s full of food we can’t eat”  Turns out I was right.

The gift box was filled with chocolate, candy, nuts and soda.  We ended up tossing most of it out.  While I appreciate the thought, more thought should have been put into giving us something other than a food gift.

I can’t believe that I am the only tenant with food issues or allergies.  Gluten, dairy, nut, egg and other food allergies/intolerances are becoming more and more commonplace.  Why would our rental office not think about this when giving gifts to tenants?  It’s a waste of their money and a waste of food.  There are many non-food gifts that can be given as a small token of appreciation.  This kind of ignorance in this day and age of media focus on food issues just doesn’t fly with me.  In fact, it makes me angry.

Another issue that I have is holiday potlucks or catered dinners.  For example, at my recent job, and also at our rental office, notices have been given of holiday potluck dinners.  As soon as these are announced, my heart sinks.  People want to know why you are not participating.  My simple answer-I have food allergies.  I know it’s not completely truthful, but it’s far easier to tell people this than to try to explain what gluten intolerance is.   Even if I brought a dish, no doubt it would be the only one I could eat, and no doubt it would be cross-contaminated within seconds.  It is just easier to bow out.

I thought about saying something to the girls in the rental office, but would it do any good? I doubt it.  I would probably get a profuse apology, followed by embarrassment for all parties involved.   The biggest issue here is social segregation.  Those of us who have to avoid social situations that revolve around food become pariahs.  As I mentioned earlier, rather than subject ourselves to the rolling eyes and clucking tongues, we will simply bow out.  And we will be ostracized as a result.

I truly resent this.  I would like to get to know my neighbors.  At last year’s Christmas party, when I mentioned my food issues, I was assured that there would be “safe” food at all future get-togethers. When I arrived and surveyed the “safe options”, I was resigned to eating raw fruit and vegetables.  I couldn’t eat the dip or whipped cream that accompanied them, nor could I eat the cookies, cakes or snacks.  At that point, I was still drinking soda, but have since stopped.  We didn’t stay long.

We will not be going to our community Thanksgiving or Christmas party this year.  And that is a sad, sad commentary, folks.   Maybe I should bake them a gluten and dairy free cake to show them that they would never know the difference; and also to put one over.  Just once,  I would like to see a completely allergen free holiday potluck.  That, my friends, is what I truly want for Christmas.

How to have a gluten and dairy free Thanksgiving



Thanksgiving is just around the corner (my how time flies!)  I thought I would share some ideas and recipes for a safe Thanksgiving meal.

Thanksgiving dinners that are not gluten and dairy free require a lot of advance planning, but when you have to prepare that dinner both gluten and dairy free, you are adding in a lot of extra effort, time and planning.  I hope the following tips and recipes will make it a bit easier on you.

It will certainly be easier for me than last year-we had just made a cross country move.

The standard dishes for any Thanksgiving feast are, of course, Turkey, stuffing (or dressing), mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, creamed onions (in our house anyway) and gravy. And, of course, dessert!  There are, of course, other side dishes depending on your location and family, but these are the usual fare.


Always read labels!  Manufacturer’s change their packaging and preparation methods!

All Norbest Turkey Products (fresh and frozen) are gluten free. They also say none have dairy proteins (casein). The Norbest Oven Roasted Fully Cooked turkeys are gluten and dairy free, but do contain soy protein. All the raw turkeys have no soy. You can choose between fresh or frozen, basted or natural.

Butterball turkeys (fresh or frozen) do not contain gluten, and their gravy packets have been reformulated so that they don’t contain gluten. However, some packets still may contain gluten. If so, it will be listed on the ingredient statement, along with other top allergens. If you choose this brand be sure to check the label.

There are 2 products Butterball makes that do contain gluten, Frozen Italian Style Meatballs, and Frozen Stuffed Turkey.

Jennie-O  FRESH Turkeys are gluten free, but they recommend you read the label. Read the label for any gravy packet as well.

Honeysuckle White Turkeys, Fresh, Frozen, or Cooked are gluten free. They do recommend you read the label.

They have 5 products that DO contain gluten, Asian Grill Marinated Turkey Strips, Teriyaki Flavor Turkey Breast Tenderloin, Frozen Italian Style Meatballs, Fresh Italian Style Turkey Meatballs, and Beer Smoked Turkey Brats. 

I usually buy fresh turkey tenderloins and then brush with oil and seasonings and bake.  Depending on the crowd you are feeding these are a good option.

Stuffing (dressing)

Ok, technically, it’s stuffing if you stuff the bird with it, and dressing if it’s served on the side in a baking dish, but I think it’s more what you grew up calling it.  I still call it stuffing, even though I stopped stuffing the bird years ago.

A word about stuffing the bird-it is no longer recommended that you do this.  The stuffing never quite reaches a safe temperature because the Turkey is done long before this happens.  Just a word of caution here.  Take it from Alton Brown.

I have found a wonderful sausage, apple cornbread stuffing (dressing) recipe.  I have made this many times.  It is delicious and moist.  You should make the cornbread at least one day ahead to let it dry out.  You can also cube and toast it in a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes until the pieces are dry and just starting to brown.  You can do this ahead of time also.  Use non-dairy spread here.

If you want to go a more traditional route, I have found Three Bakers stuffing to be very good.

here are the ingredients:


This has honey in it, and does not agree with me.  It does not contain soy.  But it comes very close to Stove Top (and yes you can microwave it).

Mashed Potatoes

I make my mashed potatoes with russet potatoes, coconut milk (not canned) and non-dairy spread.  I just read an article on the best method of mashing potatoes.  Apparently, a ricer or food mill is the way to go, seconded by a hand masher.  Do not use a mixer or food processor;  it makes the potatoes gummy.

If you want to cut corners, potato flakes will work here as well, especially if you are serving a large crowd and don’t want to peel five pounds of potatoes!

Green Bean casserole

This is a tough one if you are both gluten and dairy free.  The toughest thing to find is gluten and dairy free fried onions.  Yes, you can make your own, but this involves deep frying; not something I want to do in a rented apartment since it is a huge fire hazard. I finally found gluten and dairy free fried onions (crunions).  I found these at the gluten free shoppe.  I had to call them because most of the products on their site do not list ingredients.  I told the person on the phone this is very important for people with food allergies.  I hope he took this to heart as they have gluten free foods here I have never seen before.

There are only four ingredients in the crunions: Onions, oil, buckwheat flour and salt.  I have not tried these as of yet, but I will certainly post about it when I do.  I searched everywhere for a substitute for Durkee onions (please make a gluten free version!).  Aldi’s has a gluten free version, but wouldn’t tell me if they were in stock.  No doubt they run out quickly.

The next hurdle is the mushroom soup.  It is nearly impossible to find a dairy free version, so I will be making my own with canned coconut milk.  I found a recipe for dairy and gluten free cream of mushroom soup here.   I would chill the can of coconut milk to solidify the cream part and strain off the liquid before using it here.

I use canned string beans in my green bean casserole.  I do not like frozen green bean.  But you certainly can use them if you like (thawed and cooked, of course).

I have NOT tried this recipe yet.  Please comment your results if you do!

Sweet potato casserole

I probably will not be making this as it is just my husband and I and we will have more than enough food.  I recently made a sweet potato spoon bread that was good, but needs some tweaking.  I would definitely use more spices as it was a bit bland.

Creamed onions

This was a staple on my mother’s Thanksgiving table (as were turnips).  I thought I had to give this up but I found a recipe that looks like it will work.  I will be using dairy free coconut milk and dairy free spread.  I might actually use canned coconut milk here also, but I have never had a problem making a white sauce with regular coconut milk.  THIS RECIPE HAS NOT BEEN TESTED!



Making gluten free gravy couldn’t be any easier.  Here is a step by step.  If you are making the mushroom soup in the above recipe for the green bean casserole, it can double as gravy.   I have yet to find packaged or jarred gluten AND dairy free gravy.  If anyone knows of one,  please share.


I will be making my fabulous Impossibly Easy French Apple Pie. This pie reminds me of the Cinnabon frozen, baked apple pie.  I was going to make cream cheese frosting, but alas, since my recent discovery of a soy allergy, I will have to leave it off unless I can find soy free dairy free cream cheese.  Our area is very limited in dairy free offerings.  Cream cheese made with nuts is also off limits.  Sigh…oh well, you can’t have everything.

If you want dinner rolls, Udi’s makes very good French style and seeded frozen dinner rolls.

Ocean Spray cranberry jelly is gluten free

So there you have it-safe, delicious recipes.  With a bit of extra effort, you too can sit down to a delicous, gluten and dairy free Thanksgiving feast.

If you have any questions, please contact me!

It’s that time of year again-time for holiday baking



Fall is in the air and pumpkin spice everything is everywhere.  It’s time to think about holiday baking.  If you are gluten or dairy free, or have allergies to eggs, you probably think you will have to miss out on all of those delicious pies, cakes and cookies.  Well, I am here to tell you, you don’t have to miss out!  Most recipes can be converted.  I would like to share some tips with you to help you create those wonderful holiday treats.

First, the building block of all cakes, pies and cookies-flour.  There are a lot of gluten free flours out there.  But which one should you use?  I have several favorites, and I use them for different purposes.  My newest, King Arthur Measure for Measure, makes fabulous, light and airy cakes.  You can really substitute it cup for cup.  Here is a recipe for chocolate cake that I first used it for.  This cake is fluffy and chocolatey.  What else could you ask for?

I use Betty Crocker gluten free bisquick in cake and pie recipes.  You can substitute regular bisquick for gluten free bisquick without any issues.  This French Apple pie is a good example.  I also make her cheeseburger pie.

I use Bob’s red mill rice flour in a lot of baking recipes.  It is not gritty as you might expect.  This wonderful Applesauce pumpkin cake will blow you away.

King Arthur has a wonderful website.  They have all kinds of recipes and advice.  I wrote a post about flour conversion using their handy chart.   This will help you convert your gluten recipes to gluten-free.   Using their flour will make this task much easier.

There are, of course, some rules you need to follow when baking gluten free.   Gluten free baked goods do not act the same as their gluten counterparts.  Texture will be different.  Gluten free baked goods tend to bake either quicker or slower, depending on the recipe.  Batter can be really thin, or really thick, again, depending on the recipe.  Baked goods can be grainy, depending on what flour blend you use.

I would like to share some of my favorite, tested gluten and dairy free cakes and pies with you.  You will find recipes for savory dishes here too.

Now, a word about butter.  I had to find a good substitute for butter in baking.  I used to use Earth Balance but I cannot find it here in Tennesse (I do not like the soy version).  Smart Balance is a close second.  It behaves and tastes like butter. I use it for streusel topping with no problem  Otherwise, I use grapeseed oil in baking.  It does not have a heavy taste like olive oil. You can also substitute applesauce in some recipes for the oil.   If I need shortening, such as in a pie crust, I use Crisco.  I also use Enjoy life non-dairy chocolate chips.  Again, I can’t find these here, so I order from Amazon.

I am taking up a challenge this year for Thanksgiving- a fellow blogger commented on a Facebook post for a chocolate peanut butter cup cake roll.  I said I thought I could convert the recipe to gluten and dairy free.  I am not sure gluten free sheet cake can be rolled, but I aim to find out.

I hope this post will inspire you to put on that apron and take down that gluten free flour, and make something delicious!

A Lesson in conversion and a review of No Whey chocolate



If you are a person who uses Facebook and are following any gluten free pages, you will undoubtedly find a lot of gluten free recipes.  But some of those recipes are not gluten free, and you might want to make them anyway.  You might not think it is possible, but it really is.

Let’s take this recipe as an example:

Peanut butter cup cake roll


For the cake:

3 large eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons brewed coffee (or water)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 cup all purpose flour
Powdered sugar, to aid in rolling

Conversion here is easy; you just need to substitute gluten free flour.  In the past couple of recipes, I have used King Arthur Measure for Measure with great success, and I would use it here.

For the filling and topping:

2 ounces cream cheese, softened
1/3 cup peanut butter
1 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 tablespoons + 2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
7 regular size Reese’s peanut butter cups, chopped (about 1 cup chopped)
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

In this case, if you are dairy and nut free (as I am) you would substitute dairy free cream cheese (my favorite is tofutti), sun butter (a great sub for peanut butter), coconut milk (the kind you drink) for the whipping cream (I’ll explain why in a minute) and dairy, nut free peanut butter cups.  I would also use Enjoy life chocolate chips.


Make the Cake: preheat oven to 350°F. Line a jelly roll (10×15”) pan with foil and spray with cooking spray (I like to use the spray with flour).
Beat eggs at high speed for 3 minutes, until frothy and dark yellow. Beat in sugar, coffee or water, and vanilla extract. Mix in cocoa, salt, and baking powder, then mix in flour. Stir just until blended.
Spread in prepared pan. Batter will be in a very thin layer and you will need to use a wooden spoon or spatula to spread it to all the corners of the pan. Bake for 10-15 minutes. You’ll know it’s done because if you lightly poke the top with your fingertip it will slightly bounce back.
While the cake is baking, set a clean kitchen towel out on a large work surface. Sprinkle liberally with powdered sugar (about 1/4 cup). As soon as the cake comes out of the oven, turn it over on the kitchen towel sprinkled with powdered sugar. Remove foil carefully.
Working at the short end, fold the edge of the towel over the cake. Roll tightly, rolling up the cake into the towel. Let cool completely while rolled, at least one hour (or you can wrap it and chill it overnight).
Make the Filling: beat cream cheese and peanut butter with a hand mixer until smooth. Beat in powdered sugar until crumbly, then add vanilla and 2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream. Mix until smooth and a spreadable consistency, adding up to 2 additional tablespoons of heavy whipping cream. Stir in 1/2 cup chopped peanut butter cups.
Assemble Cake: Unroll the cooled cake carefully and then spread the filling on the cake, leaving 1” without filling at either end. Re-roll cake, scooping out any filling that spills out as you roll. Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least one hour before frosting.
Make the topping: place chocolate chips and 2/3 cup heavy whipping cream in a microwave safe bowl or measuring cup. Microwave for about 30-60 seconds, then whisk until smooth. Chill for about 20 minutes or freeze for 10, until it thickens to a pourable but not watery consistency.
Place cake roll on a wire rack set over a cookie sheet. Pour the ganache over the cake evenly. Top with remaining chopped peanut butter cups. Chill until set. Slice and serve.
May be stored, wrapped in plastic, in the refrigerator for 24 hours before serving.

About that heavy whipping cream:

Since she is using it in the filling and topping only, and not actually “whipping it” plain coconut milk should work fine.  If she were whipping it, I would use canned coconut milk, which can be whipped.  She is also using it for making the chocolate ganache.  I have used coconut milk with chips before to make ganache, and it works great.

As to her method-I am not sure a rolled cake can be unrolled.  I think this would be difficult.  Let’s find out. According to the Better Homes and Gardens website on how to make a cake roll:  she is spot on.   Looks like she did her homework-bravo!

Now to the review of No Whey mini “peanut butter” cups.  These cups are free of the top allergens-soy, nuts, eggs, milk, peanuts, gluten…..

no whey peanut butter cups

They are extremely expensive-I paid $17 (with shipping) for two small bags. Unfortunately, I am really disappointed with these.  They have no “peanut butter” taste at all.  Just really, really sweet chocolate.  Perhaps they are too small to contain enough “nut butter”?  I was going to use these in this cake roll, but it seems I will have to look at other options.  I can’t eat peanut butter anymore, or chocolate.  Bah!!!   There must be a good substitute out there.  I would welcome suggestions.

Back to the cake roll- I am going to attempt to make this come Thanksgiving.  Since I won’t be moving right before the holiday this year (last year was an exercise in Rube Goldberg proportions) I should be able to pull it off.  It will be an interesting challenge to say the least.

Which brings me to the point of this post-you can make substitutions for your favorite dishes and desserts.  Google is your best friend.  There is usually a way to either make or buy what you need.  Don’t be afraid to experiment.  That is what life-especially the gluten free life-is all about.

Here comes Peter Cottontail…

happy easter


I have many happy memories of childhood Easters, and Easter baskets.  We had a huge, sugar coated egg that we would get every year-what ever happened to those?

But of course, aside from jelly beans, who could forget Mr. Chocolate Bunny?  We would always eat the ears first!

And don’t forget the chocolate, cream, and peanut butter eggs.  But alas, those days are but a dim memory.

No more chocolate for me.

I’m glad I’m grown up now and won’t miss out as much.  Yes, I can still eat Easter eggs, and jelly beans.

Last year, I ordered chocolate peanut butter eggs from amazon.com.  They were pretty good, but really pricey.

Since then, I have found Enjoy Life gluten and dairy free chocolate-and I can make my own treats.

Happy Easter!