Archive for ‘Just for Fun!’

February 13, 2018

No Special Equipment Required for Gluten-Free Cooking, but Some Gadgets are Fun!

If you’re new to gluten-free cooking, you’ll be relieved to learn there’s no special equipment required to make a delicious gluten-free chocolate cake, Gouda muffin, or meatball from scratch. Everyone I know has everything needed already in their kitchen. With that said, there’s no hiding the fact that some gadgets are fun!
If you have a sharp knife, whisk, grater, food chopper or blender, you have all you need to make most recipes. If you want to bake, it’s also helpful to have a dough blender, and a mixer. I’m not big on small electric appliances, so I have an inexpensive food chopper, but no electric food processor, blender, mixer, juicer, toaster, rice cooker, waffle iron, or even coffee maker.
I drink coffee, but use a French press and make waffles using an antique cast iron waffle maker. Admittedly, my waffles might fare better with a nonstick waffle iron, but I love the simplicity and durability of the one I have. While I don’t want a bunch of appliances lining my countertops, I must confess that there are a few gadgets I love to use!
Cube Grater
Last weekend I was grating garlic for scalloped potatoes using a small box grater. Made by Microplane®, this 3-sided cube has 3 different blades. None of them are specifically made for garlic, but I got a great result anyway.

The bladed cube comes in a slightly larger translucent cube marked with measurements. Grate your cheese, chocolate, or coconut into the larger cube and measure it at the same time! Add the top and you have an automatic storage container.

I like having tiny grated pieces automatically trapped in a container where I can easily scoop them into a teaspoon. I also love the efficiency of the blades. This tool just works well which makes it a pleasure to use.
While we’re on the subject of Microplane graters, I’ve used my zester on a regular basis for years. Again, it works well! There’s nothing more frustrating than buying a kitchen tool that looks great, but doesn’t do the job. None of those will be making my list.

Rotary Hand Mixer
I use a rotary hand mixer for cake batter, whipped cream, and meringue. It looks a lot like an egg beater, but it’s much heavier and capable of mixing a thick batter.

Just before I moved into my first apartment, my father acquired an assortment of pots, pans, dishes, cups, metal mixing bowls, and kitchen tools from a restaurant. Seems this restaurant owed him some money that they didn’t have, so he decided to collect in what was available – kitchen and dining equipment. The timing was good. I needed to outfit an apartment, and Dad didn’t really want to sue.

The hand mixer I use today, came from that transaction. I used the pots and metal mixing bowls for years. They weren’t attractive, but they were large and functional. All that’s left now is the mixer. I’m grateful to have it. It’s a workhorse!

Dough Blender
Of the several dough blenders in my drawer, an old one with a red handle is my favorite! I found it in my mother’s kitchen. Like all of the old implements I use, it’s sturdy. I find the wires more effective for cutting fat into flour than the metal blades on a more modern model I own.
Funnel Pitcher
The day I poured boiling water across my hand while attempting to fill a French press, I learned that I might need some assistance with my pouring aim. A funnel pitcher fits the bill. It’s easy to fill dessert glasses with panna cotta or create the perfect pancake using a funnel pitcher. I like these pitchers so much, I’ve given them as gifts so other people can like them too.

Looking back at this list, it appears that I like sturdy, functional, tools that work well. That sounds right. I don’t really care whether they’re new, old, or in between as long as they have the other characteristics.

I can make do without these tools and still create delicious gluten-free food, but a well-crafted utensil heightens my cooking experience and I like that. Hopefully, you have favorites that make your kitchen time more pleasant. If not, feel free to check out my favorites!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

October 10, 2017

Trick or Treat?

halloweenIf you offer something besides candy, will the little ones think it’s a trick or treat? Halloween is swiftly approaching. I love the costumes and watching the kids. I don’t love all the candy. It’s predicted that 2.7 billion dollars will be spent on candy in the US this Halloween. That’s a lot of sugar that none of us really need.

I not opposed to occasional candy or dessert and I don’t want to take the fun out of trick-or-treating, but this year I’m going to explore some edible candy alternatives rather than giving you lists of gluten-free candy or non-candy items. After all, getting something different to eat is fun too!

ghostsGarden Veggie Ghosts and Bats

If you’re a fan of Sensible Portions® Garden Veggie Straws (which I like because they’re actually straws that you can blow air through), you’ll love Garden Veggie Ghosts and Bats! They’re crispy, salty snacks shaped like, you got it, ghosts and bats. Packaged in .05 oz bags for Halloween, these crisps have less fat than potato chips.

Popchips® Galaxy Puff’s

Who doesn’t think Darth Vader is scary? Aged White Cheddar Popchips shaped like Star Wars ships and characters are now available in .8 ounce bags perfect for Halloween. These gluten-free chips have no cholesterol and no trans-fats.

Caramel Apple Chips

Seneca 100 calorie bags of Caramel Apple Chips are gluten-free, kosher and have 30% less fat than regular chips. I like the plain apple chips, but the caramel apple flavor is a great riff on retro Halloween treats.

Popcorn Mini Bags

These look just like regular bags of microwave popcorn, but are only 1.6 ounces. Some years you can find orange and black packages especially for Halloween. Other years, it’s only the smaller size that differentiates these from regular microwave popcorn. Several brands are available online and from brick and mortar retailers.

Already Popped Corn

Snack sized bags of SkinnyPop Popcorn are GMO and preservative free. Flavors include Sea Salt & Pepper, White Cheddar, Jalapeño, and Dusted Dark Chocolate in addition to regular. If you prefer SMARTFOOD® Popcorn, the White Cheddar Cheese, Theater Butter, and SMARTFOOD Delight® Sea Salt and White Cheddar Cheese flavors are gluten-free.

popcorn ballHalloween Popcorn Balls

While we’re talking about popcorn, you may like Kathy Kaye Foods’ Halloween Popcorn Balls. This option contains sugar in a retro presentation. Remember when these were homemade? Each ball is 110 calories and 18 g of sugar. That’s the same amount of sugar as a Snickers® Miniature, but with 60 less calories and a lot more novelty.


Individual yogurt servings in an easy to carry, easy to open, package. The packages have trivia, games, and jokes on them making them fun to unpack from your trick-or-treat bag. Although each flavor contains 8 grams of sugar, it also has probiotic cultures, calcium, Vitamin D, and protein.

raisinsRaisin Mini Snacks

Wouldn’t it be great if they packaged these as monster poop for Halloween? The size is good. The raisins are sweet and healthy. The only thing lacking is themed packaging. Nonetheless, this is a good gluten-free option.

Sunflower or Pumpkin Seeds

Although I love them, I hesitate to recommend nut mixes for Halloween. Seeds are an alternative to nuts. FritoLay® offers a variety pack of Spitz® Seeds in various flavors. Salted Sunflower Seeds, Chili Lime Sunflower Seeds, Cracked Pepper Sunflower Seeds, Dill Pickle Pumpkin Seeds, Dill Pickle Sunflower Seeds, Salted Caramel Sunflower Seeds, Seasoned Pumpkin Seeds, Seasoned Sunflower Seeds, Smoky BBQ Sunflower Seeds, and Spicy Sweet Chili Sunflower Seeds are all made without gluten-containing ingredients. Please note that these flavors are not made in a dedicated facility or on dedicated gluten-free equipment. Use appropriate caution.

Cheetos, Fritos, Doritos

Variety snack packs of mainstream chips are available everywhere. If you need to grab something at the last minute, this can be an easy option. Avoid Sun Chips and stick with the gluten-free flavors of Cheetos, Fritos, Doritos, and Lays Potato Chips.

I realize that some of these options may be more expensive than what you’re used to buying. Keep in mind that most of them are bulkier than mini candy bars, so children are less likely to grab a handful meaning you won’t need to buy as much to begin with.
food group
If you live in a neighborhood like mine where many children are food insecure, you can also think of this as a way to reduce hunger in your community. Spend a little more and give fruit and vegetable pouches or individual cups of applesauce, mandarin oranges, peaches, or pineapple. Put a box of raisins and an individual serving packet of peanut butter in a plastic bag (you may only want to give these to older children who can monitor their own allergies) for a do-it-yourself sandwich kit. Include individual cups of salsa along with corn chips. Give instant oatmeal cups, individual bowls of Cheerios, microwaveable brown rice, or pouches of tuna.

If you decide to give substantial food items, but don’t want kids to feel awkward about taking them, get some Halloween treat bags (Oriental Trading has a good selection) or create your own Boo Bags using brown paper bags, bag up the food and hand out the bags instead of individual items. The surprise factor will entice. Hungry kids will be appreciative. Any child who is disappointed will get plenty of candy from other homes.

Getting something different to eat is fun! Getting something gluten-free is special when you’re gluten intolerant. Getting something nutritious to eat is critical! I let this be my guide to trick or treat.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

October 3, 2017

Fun with Food – Edible Books

You don’t need to have a food fight to have fun with food! This weekend, I checked out the local library’s Edible Book Contest. You may have one of these events near you. Ours was in conjunction with Banned Book Week.

Each entry in the contest is an edible representation of a book cover and is displayed along with a copy of the book. At our event, anyone who attended got to vote on the winner. Your local contest or festival may work differently, but what can be the same is having some fun with food!

Entering one of these contests can be a great family activity! The kids can choose a book, determine the materials, and help you cook and/or decorate. It’s a good way to learn that collaboration can make an end product even better than you could imagine on your own. Not to mention, it’s just fun to put a sword in the hand of a lemon to represent Lemonade Wars, or turn raisins into flies for Lord of the Flies.

Your entry doesn’t have to be a straightforward representation of the book. It can be a clever play on words. Think: Who Moved My Cheesecake (Who Moved my Cheese), War and Peas (War and Peace), The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank (hot dog), In Search of Scones (In Search of Stones), Hop on Pop (soda), Green Eggs and Spam (Green Eggs and Ham), Atlas Shrugged (a book of maps wearing a short sweater), or A Confederacy of Brunches (A Confederacy of Dunces) all made of food, or course.

We saw the simplest of simple – A Raisin in the Sun represented by a sun made of stacked sunflower seeds outlined with a bead of bright yellow icing with a single raisin sitting on it — to a lavishly constructed fondant rendition of Atlas Shrugged. While I appreciate the skill that went into the pulled sugar ice forms on A Song of Fire and Ice and the variety of materials used to illustrate Matilda, I preferred the simplicity of ham on top of an omelet for Hamlet, and the cleverness of a full pan of cheesecake next to an empty pan with a mouse asking who moved his cheesecake for Who Moved My Cheese. In the end, Who Moved My Cheesecake got my vote.

I don’t know who won the contest. I got distracted by the chocolate samples in the next room. Besides that, it wasn’t about choosing a winner as much as enjoying the creativity and coming up with ideas I might want to try.

There was a moment when I saw a book on a pedestal without an edible entry. I think the participant hadn’t shown up, but it made me wish I’d entered the contest with the book The Emperor’s New Clothes and nothing at all to represent it.

I guess that’s the point of all of this anyway. I like to laugh. I want more laughter in the kitchen, in my home, and in my social activities. If fun with food can make me laugh, then I’m all for it!

June 20, 2016

Summer is For Ice Cream

There’s no doubt about it, summer is for ice cream! It’s barely summer and we’ve already had heat warnings because it feels 108º outside. To me this means it is important to stay cool. That means lots of icy beverages and a steady diet of cold food.
pour over ice
I love ice cold honeydew, watermelon, steamed asparagus, and gazpacho, but there are days when I think I could eat nothing but ice cream all summer. Of course ice cream comes in many forms with vastly different quality, taste, and calorie counts. My favorite flavors always seem to have the most fat and calories so I’ve been looking for ways to enjoy the cold, but cut the fat and calories.

For instance, I like Häagen-Dazs® Chocolate Chocolate Chip Ice Cream. One half cup serving has 300 calories, 19g of fat and 22g of sugar. I also like Talenti® Sea Salt Caramel Gelato. It’s a better calorie choice with 11g of fat and 240 calories per half cup serving, but it contains even more sugar – a whopping 36 grams.

This is a common problem in American convenience foods. Fat is often replaced with additional sugar. While weight loss diets may measure the desirability of a food based on calories, fewer calories doesn’t necessarily mean healthier. The lower fat gelato also contains gum and natural flavors which I prefer to avoid.

Does this mean there are no good choices other than making my own sorbet or freezing a banana? I hate frozen bananas and I don’t want to make sorbet. I just want to grab something cold that’s waiting for me in the freezer when I happen to be hot and hungry.

I’m in luck! I have frozen yogurt bars in my freezer. They’re not perfect. They contain gum and natural flavors, but they’re only 90 calories with 2 grams of fat, 11 grams of sugar and active probiotic cultures.

There are many brands of frozen yogurt bars. My current favorite is Blueberry Outshine® Simply Yogurt Bars. Yasso® offers a similar blueberry bar with no fat content, 80 calories and 13 grams of sugar. There are additional gluten-free flavors available in the Outshine and Yasso brands, and a variety made by Stonyfield, Yoplait® and Häagen-Dazs®.
yogurt bar
And I’m sure there are more depending on where you buy your groceries. You can choose your best match by reading the ingredient and nutrition profile then sampling the product. Hmmm, sounds a lot like dating these days, but I digress.

I suppose there are other options, but since the obsolescence of Banana Fudgecicles, I really prefer ice cream as my summer staple. On the other hand, I hate feeling guilty about consuming all those calories. I’m thrilled that Greek yogurt bars limit my portion size, provide probiotics, reduce calories, fat, and sugar, and still have the soft satisfying feel of ice cream. It’s my 2016 summer bonus!

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”