Spring Into Eating Safely…Let Me Rant a Little First!

Okay, call this my spring bitch rant.  Need to freak safely and this blog is my vent place! First, let me say that I am great being gluten free.  But, I am tired of justifying to people I barely know as to why I can’t eat gluten.  I am very tired of friends and even family saying words that clearly imply that I might sometimes choose to eat things that contain gluten, say a slice of birthday cake or a tasty looking donut.  That just makes me nearly crazy.  Because that idea is nuts to someone with celiac; that you can just eat a slice of regular cake because you want it.  That is nuts.  If you have celiac it is a serious, life threatening allergy, not some diet choice.  Eating gluten can give any combination of up to 200 symptoms. None of them are fun or worth having just for a few bites of dessert.

My reactions include burning pain in the area of my small intestine.  I get extremely tired, to the point of being unable to function. My head aches and I can do nothing but lie down for a long time, generally several hours. It is sort of like a stomach flu and generally is unmistakably from accidental consumption of gluten. Other people with celiac may have different symptoms than me, some terrible and some rather mild.  There is a wide range of how severe the symptoms are of someone with celiac.  But even without any noticeable symptoms anyone with celiac who eats gluten (wheat, rye or barley) is damaging their small intestine in a serious and lasting way.  That exposure to gluten can lead to malnutrition, leaky gut, cancer and a few other diseases.  Celiac is serious business, not to be ignored or made light of.  It totally pisses me off when someone makes light of my disease.

It used to annoy me when I went to a function and couldn’t eat anything.  Two years ago I was at a church gathering with a 40 foot long table of desserts and not one single one that I could eat safely.  I had a glass of water.  That was all that was okay for me.  These days there is often something safe I can eat.  Sometimes people serve a vegetable tray or some cubed cheese.  I always hope they will keep the crackers on a separate plate and get a dip that is marked gluten free.  I was at a pastoral installation last week and there were two kinds of gluten free cake and gluten free rolls for sandwiches as well as a ton of fresh fruit and trays of raw veggies that I could enjoy.  What a difference! I asked and discovered that someone in the congregation was celiac so they knew to serve some safe foods for those of us who cannot consume gluten.

It should be known that I really am glad to be eating safe for me.  I feel so much better.  I was amazed at how great my tummy felt about two weeks after I was totally gluten free in my diet.  And that continues to this day.  It’s wonderful to feel healthy.  It was very difficult to be happy with a constantly painful gut.  Now, 2 ¼ years later I have found many good recipes, many tasty ways to eat safely.  There is not huge sacrifice in always eating gluten free.  Getting that gf baking thing down these days feels fantastic. My brownies are crazy good.  I bake muffins far better than my old gluten filled ones.  The fennel and golden raisin bread I recently made was amazing, my sister is still raving about the flavor and aroma.  She eats wheat but she loves my Christmas cookies, said so the other day; that they were the best this past holiday season. fennel italian bread 012turkey meatballs, cranberry blue muffins 004shortbread cookie 001xmas cookies 006

So please, do not pity me. I don’t want or need it.  Quite the opposite: you can envy my perfect brownies or my lovely lemon almond cake or my best ever chocolate cake with peanut butter icing. Or all the entrees and sides I now make safely with a variety of starches or flours that don’t include gluten.  I am totally fine.  I don’t have to take any medicines to make me well.  I just need to keep all the gluten away from my body, not in my food, my medicine, my shampoo or my moisturizer.  Not even a pinch of it- anything from 20 parts per million is contamination. 

rollscrackle tart 007

Please don’t be offended if I don’t eat food I am not sure is totally gluten free.  I have lost friends that way; they were actually offended that I got sick at their house. If you bake, don’t make me a cake in your pan that baked wheat flour cakes, use a disposable aluminum pan.  And read the freaking labels if you cook for someone with celiac.  It is appalling how many foods have wheat contamination issues due to the equipment a lot of food is processed in/on or by. Don’t trust promises by caterers. I wrote a post on that once.

chocolate cake 001apple galette 010

I am good these days.  I really am. No pity…maybe you can have some dessert envy as I’m still a great baker! Gluten free is no death sentence. For those of us with celiac it is more a release from pain, undiagnosed suffering and a way to live healthier and happier. I blog so you can eat safely too, or cook safely for someone you love. Be happy, enjoy good food and live with joy.  I know I do!

Marvelous Chocolate Cake: One Layer, No Fuss

Nothing satisfies quite like a thick slice of homemade chocolate cake.  This dessert is my favorite chocolate fix these days.  It is a simple one bowl recipe.  I love that I can make it with ingredients I usually have around.  It is not too sweet which is good as I am not supposed to eat as much sugar as I have been doing.  It only makes one layer which I like because there are less leftovers for me to snack on.  Best of all, it is moist and tender and addictive.  I made it on the fly this weekend for a belated birthday celebration, out of milk, no problem; this recipe uses water, out of butter; fine as it is made with vegetable oil.  No chocolate; okay…it uses cocoa powder.  I have made it 2-3 times.  It is from well known blogger and prolific cookbook author Nicole Hunn.  Unfortunately she doesn’t allow other bloggers to give her recipes. So I will honor that and just give you a link to her site; look it up and next time you need a quick cake, this is your recipe! This time I put a chunky peanut butter icing on top.  Utter perfection in the chocolate cake department.

It has a lot of unsweetened cocoa powder, sour cream, 2 eggs, canola oil,  baking powder, water and some gluten free flour mix: I like a mock Better Batter recipe I found on Nicole Hunn’s blog. Use your favorite blend and I am guessing it will be good; this is a very reliable recipe.  So easy: you put the dry ingredients in a mixing bowl, stir good and add the wet ingredients one at a time stirring well with a spoon.  Pour it into a greased 9 inch cake pan and bake 30 to 35 minutes.  Let cool ten minutes and turn out to cool.  More than ten minutes and you run the risk of your cake seriously sticking.  Do not frost it warm.

I will say that my latest cake was made with 2 tbsp. less cocoa powder than the recipe on line. I liked it just fine; not quite as dark.  My peanut butter icing is simple and spectacular.  We love it made with chunky but you can use smooth peanut butter if that is your preference. For this cake I only iced the top; double this if you use it for all over or for a 2 layer cake. I used a square 9 inch cake pan; love that square look.  I also used my magic cake strip; silver fabric strip that you soak in water and put around the pan before it goes in the oven. It keeps the edges from drying out and you get a more level cake.  For the square pan which is too much perimeter; I just used one and clipped it on with 2 clothes pins; worked great.  You can buy them on-line and they really work to make your cake level and keep the edges moist.

chocolate cake, meat pie 015chocolate cake, meat pie 013

chocolate cake, meat pie 016

The last two slices; cut on the long side and it is taking every ounce of my willpower not to eat one right now!

This is an awesome cake; people rave about it, people who eat wheat every day and know what a great cake can taste like.  You can make it; so easy; no mixer, one bowl, simple ingredients, no fuss and fantastic results. Go on her website; this fantastic chocolate cake recipe is to be found at http://glutenfreeonashoestring.com/.  Click on recipes, type in chocolate cake, it is the “One Bowl GF Chocolate Cake” recipe.  Leave in all the cocoa if you like it extra dark.  She also gives a great ganache recipe for topping the cake.  Dark on dark chocolate: always a winner!  Check out the rest of her site; fantastic gluten free recipes.  I love the look of them and you may well find a recipe for your next special dessert to impress whomever you bake for.

Simply Smashing Slow Cooker Citrus Chicken

I really love my new slow cooker with a timer and that great oval shape.  I have made some really yummy suppers in it.  As I have said before, I am not a fan of overcooked vegetables so I am rather choosy in what I make if it has to cook for 4 hours.  This citrus chicken is a variant on a recipe in that gf slow cooker cookbook by Carrie Forbes that I bought last fall.

I changed boneless chicken breast into thighs with bones; more flavor as far as I am concerned.  I didn’t have orange marmalade so I used some of my homemade lemon marmalade.  I added some slices of lemon.  All to the good of the flavor parade.  It was addictively fantastic served over brown rice with a side of asparagus.  I made the rice the night before so all I had to do was heat my serving of rice and top with the hot chicken.

Another lovely easy meal is created in my magical time machine slow cooker!.  Not that pretty to look at, maybe slightly more handsome than the Peruvian chicken.  But oh the flavor!  Serves 4 if you can restrain yourself from eating more than one thigh.  I used 4 in my recipe; I think you could put in up to 6, less sauce per serving which I frankly object to as this sauce is the bomb! I ate it four days in a row and each night I couldn’t wait for dinner because of this sauce and this dish.  One of those recipes where the results seem more than the sum of the ingredients.

citrus chicken, blueberry muffins 020

Citrus Chicken Thighs

4-5 chicken thighs

1 medium onion diced

½ cup orange juice; I made mine from concentrate

3 tbsp. orange or lemon marmalade

1 tbsp. brown sugar

1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar

1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce (GF of course)

1 tsp. Dijon mustard

½ a lemon sliced in ¼ inch thick rounds

1 tbsp. cornstarch mixed with 2 tbsp. hot water

Grated rind of one naval orange


Spray the inside of your slow cooker with cooking spray.  Lay the chicken thighs in the bottom.  I left the skins on but I am sure you could remove them if that is your preference.  Top with the onions.  Mix the oj, marmalade, brown sugar, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and mustard in a small bowl.  Pour over the chicken. Top with the lemon slices.  Cook 4 hours on high.  Add the cornstarch water mix, cook ten more minutes. Add the grated rind and stir. It’s that simple!  I serve it over rice.  I sided it with asparagus once and with a lovely salad of greens, european cucumber, chickpeas and avocado with my own vinaigrette another evening. Enjoy!

Lemon Honey Flourless Cake with Candied Lemon Slices

Cake….always a party pleaser.  I enjoy it on special occasions but confess it is not one of the things I am good at baking, never was even when I could use regular flours.  And don’t get me started on the birthday cake curse I am crouching underneath.  But sometimes you just need that fancy dessert that serves a crowd and makes everyone happy.  This cake is fairly easy to make, is gluten free and has great lemon flavor. The honey is more of an undertone. Each bite has a satisfying texture due to the almond flour, not heavy but not light with a lovely moisture built in from the honey and olive oil. The tiny bit of potato starch helps make that great texture. No butter either; extra virgin olive oil does the trick. Make sure your eggs and whites are all at room temperature for maximum loft when whipped.

The candied lemon slices take a bit of effort but look great on top. I know I was happy with the results when I bit into my slice of yummy cake!

This recipe comes from Food Network’s test kitchens and I made only minor changes, used slightly less water making the syrup as it seemed too thin even after simmering 20 minutes and no pomegranate seeds for on top; it is spring and pomegranates are a fall fruit. I looked; none to be found. I used a half pint of fresh raspberries and they were perfect – added great color and flavor.

If you can get Meyer lemons they are recommended because of their awesome flavor but I used the usual ones from the grocery store and they worked out fine. I thought the candied slices were tasty although a couple of guests who didn’t much like lemon skipped their candied lemon while still enjoying the cake itself.  It is a very impressive looking cake with a tender moist texture. Extra syrup on top is a tempting option!

I put all my pictures together in a chunk; they can be annoying sprinkled through out the recipe when you are trying to make it.  I often use my tablet to make my own recipes straight off my blog posts so I know what I am talking about here!

Easter 001Easter 002Easter 003Easter 005Easter 004Easter 006Easter 011Easter 013

Flourless Lemon Honey Cake with Candied Lemon


¼ cup EVOL plus more to grease pan

1 ¾ cup almond flour plus more to dust the pan

1/3 cup potato starch

½ tsp. salt

1 ½ cups sugar

2/3 cup honey

3 lemons; two zested and juiced and the third sliced very thinly

4 eggs separated

2 egg whites

½ tsp. vanilla extract

¼ tsp. almond extract

Chopped or slivered almonds; ¼-1/3 cup

½ pint fresh raspberries


Brush the sides and bottom of a 9 inch spring form pan which you lined the bottom with a round of parchment paper; brush with EVOL and dust with almond flour.  Put rack in middle level in oven.  Heat oven to 325 degrees.

Mix flour, starch and salt in medium bowl.  Combine ½ cup sugar, 1/3 cup honey, lemon zest, 4 egg yolks, vanilla and almond extract in mixer bowl.  Mix on medium high until creamy; about 3 minutes.  Reduce the speed to low, beat in the flour mixture just until blended.

In a separate clean bowl beat the 6 egg whites until foamy, about a minute.  Gradually beat in ½ cup sugar until stiff glossy peaks form, 3 minutes maybe 4.  Gently fold about 1/3 of the beaten egg whites into the cake batter, and then fold in the rest of the whites until just barely incorporated.  Pour batter into prepared pan.  Bake until golden brown and springs back when pressed lightly; 50-55 minutes.  Place pan on a cake rack to cool completely.

While it is baking you should make the candied lemon slices.  Put the slices in a small saucepan, cover with water, bring to a simmer over high heat; maybe 3 minutes.  Drain, return to pan and cover with fresh water, repeat the heating.  Do this three times total. It gets the bitterness out of the unpeeled slices. Put the slices back in the pan; add the remaining ½ cup sugar, 1/3 cup honey, the lemon juice of the two lemons and 3/4 cup water.  Bring to a simmer over high heat, reduce heat to medium, cook, stir occasionally.  Cook until lemon slices are tender and the honey liquid is thickened; becomes like a syrup; about 20-25 minutes.  Set aside to cool.

Unmold the cake: run a knife around the edge of the pan, remove pan.  Flip cake to take off parchment paper.  Place on a serving plate.  Use a fork to remove the lemon slices from the syrup and brush the cake all over with some of the lemon syrup.  Then decorate the cake with them. Sprinkle with the raspberries and pass the leftover lemon honey syrup along with the cake.

Serves 8-10.

Delicious Safe GF Meals for That Special Night Out

When you want to eat out for a special celebration it can be tough to find safe gluten free choices in the Lehigh Valley.  One place I like is Hotel Bethlehem,  I have eaten safely there three times.  I agree it is a tad pricy but if you eat in the Tap Room as opposed to the fancy restaurant on the next level it is a bit more affordable but the atmosphere is still comfortably upscale, the servers are very pleasant and the food is excellent.

tap room

We recently went there for our anniversary.  I was thrilled with every single moment of our visit.  The hostess placed us at a romantic table for two right at the huge windows that look out on Main Street.  It is right there in the picture I added to this post, courtesy of tripadvisor.com.

We were attended to immediately by a young man pouring cold water and our server showed up within a couple minutes.  The menu had several options clearly marked gluten free.  This marking on the menu is reassuring that they know what they are doing and are providing safe food for people like me.  I told our server I had to have only gluten free food, she said they served lots of people who requested gluten free meals and that it was not a problem at all. Sounded reassuring.

I ordered the short ribs with potatoes and kale and we shared an appetizer of mussels in a balsamic and bacon vinaigrette. Joe got to eat the grilled bread that came with that but I did enjoy the tart little mussels. The house salad was pleasant and my white wine was even better.  Then our entrees showed up and I was thrilled with the lovely beefy taste of my tender short ribs in a red wine sauce and how delightfully they went with the nice slab of creamy gratined potatoes and some still bright green sautéed kale.  I was fearful that the potatoes might not be safe – that flour was used to thicken the sauce and we immediately doubled checked with our friendly server.  She assured me that she had alerted the kitchen of my special needs when she placed my order and that my food was indeed gluten free.  Her calming words allowed me to enjoy every mouthful of that meal.  Joe enjoyed his salmon but I could see he was envying me the delightful short ribs and gratin.  I didn’t rub it in and even gave him a bite of my meat.  True love; sharing my short ribs!

We both had dessert.  Mine was a scoop of Penn State Creamery mint ice cream studded with flecks of dark chocolate.  Great flavors and mouth feel and so creamy….ice cream perfection! Joe had a chocolate mini cake with a berry sauce and some whipped cream– nice but I think I came away the winner.

tap room 2

There was a wedding going on in the ball room but it only occasionally slightly intruded with some boisterous cheering.  The service was excellent; the manager even stopped by to ask what we ordered and how we enjoyed our meals. Tasty and safe (read gluten free for us celiacs) food in a lovely setting.  Keep it in mind next time you need a special place to eat out safely.  I’m still reliving that wonderful combination of short ribs and gratined potatoes.

PS: sorry no pictures of my meal, I was not in writing mode and didn’t think of writing about the restaurant until dinner was long over.