April 30, 2010

Gluten Free Chicago Potluck!

This past Sunday, the Gluten Free Chicago group on Gluten Free Faces met up for a potluck at Whole Foods on Halsted in Chicago. I met up with a handful of other group members and dined on the MOST delicious gluten free food!

There were Chicago style pizza puffs; pasta salad with tomatoes and corn; chicken, avocado and mandarin salad; quinoa with chimmichurri dressing and orange radish salad; little olive and sundried tomato tapenade bites; banana bread; and from yours truly, mini cherry cheesecakes, strawberry shortcake cupcakes, and chocolate covered cherry cupcakes. As I said, everything was AMAZINGLY delicious!

If that little description got your mouth watering, Lisa, from Lisa Cooks Allergen Free, put together a cook book of everyone's recipes. You can download it here!

We also sampled some Kitchen Table Bakers crackers, Pirate's Booty in their veggie flavor (as I was looking for the link, I see they now have Sour Cream & Onion flavored booty and New York Pizza!), and KIND bars.

Can't wait for the next potluck!
P.S. As I mentioned in the cookbook, you can make the Chocolate Covered Cherry Cupcakes without frosting. I also whipped up some mini cherry chocolate cupcakes...too addicting!

April 23, 2010

Mixes From the Heartland Winner

The winner of the Mixes From the Heartland Pound Cake mixes is #1, Rachel! Rachel, please email me your mailing address so we can get your mixes out to you.

Thanks so everyone who entered!

April 15, 2010

Mixes from the Heartland Pound Cake Review and Giveaway!

A few months ago I discovered Mixes from the Heartland at Lil’s Dietary Shop. They contain all of the dry ingredients to make quick meals, dips, desserts, soups, and breads. All you have to do is add the wet ingredients. Couldn’t be easier!

I tried the Italian Herb dip and Hawaiian Bread mixes - not together, of course! Both were delicious, ESPECIALLY the Hawaiian Bread. With freeze dried pineapple and shredded coconut, it baked into a beautiful golden loaf full of tropical goodness. All I needed was a lei and a grass skirt and I could have been on the island. The most interesting tidbit about this bread is that my dad loved it. He does not follow a gluten free diet and never will. Whenever I make anything gluten free, whether it’s lasagna or cookies, he always declines. Usually followed by a scrunched up face that I could justify with the gluten free selections of 10 years ago which I know he judges everything by…my early experiments were kinda gross. But there he was in the kitchen, slivering off slice after slice of that Hawaiian Bread. Tapping up the crumbs with his fingers, making sure not a morsel went to waste. If he will eat it, then you know it’s good.

Recently Teri Whisenhunt, the founder of Mixes from the Heartland, joined Gluten Free Faces, one of the gluten free social networking sites to which I belong. She’s been holding giveaways on her mixes and I was offered some pound cake mixes to review. New to the line, the pound cakes mixes come in Pineapple, Strawberry, or Lime. Separate packages of fruit dip (lime, strawberry, and raspberry) can be used to add a tasty, fluffy icing…which literally is the icing on the cake…SO good! It’s made with just the dip mix, cream cheese and Cool Whip.

Last month I volunteered at my local Ronald McDonald house with some friends and family. We made dinner for the families that where staying there, and for dessert I made the Strawberry Pound Cake with Strawberry Icing. I told a few people it was gluten free, but no one seemed to think anything of that matter and they cut slice. I used a 9 x 13 pan and turned it into a sheet cake rather than a loaf. Topped with a half inch thick layer of icing, it turned a cold, rainy night in Chicago into a warm, summery day with its sweet strawberry flavor. Most of the cake was gone that evening, although Babs and I did bring a few pieces home, which were gobbled up that night and um…for breakfast.

For Easter I decided the Pineapple Pound Cake was for dessert. For some reason, Pineapple cake made me think of spring, all flowers and Judy Garland in an Easter bonnet. Ha. Anywho, I prepared the cake in no time. I was running around getting ready for mass and gathering my files for my taxes (Yes, my friend did my taxes for me on Easter – she ROCKS!) This time around I made my own Pineapple icing which was almost identical to one of the Heartland mixes. I used a package of French Vanilla instant pudding, a can of crushed pineapple, a brick of cream cheese, and a tub of Cool Whip. Like its strawberry counterpart, it was delicious!

I’m saving the Lime Pound Cake for a warm summer gathering. I think throwing a little tequila in there wouldn’t hurt. I’m sure this mix will make a great margarita cake.

Teri has politely offered to send one of my lucky readers the exact same package of Pound Cake Mixes I received. To be considered, please visit Mixes From the Heartland and tell me which product you'd like to try.
For more chances to enter, join Gluten Free Faces and become my friend and Teri's friend, then leave a message saying that you've done so. I'll have that magic random number generator pick a winner next Thursday. Good luck!

April 14, 2010

On the go? Grab a NuGo!

I usually tend to be quite the busy bee, always running from here to there. My pink Thermos water bottle never leaves my side so I’m always well hydrated. But what about fueled? I try to always have a little bag of nuts or a gluten free bar in my bag at all times. I was heartbroken when I heard that the ThinkFruit bars were discontinued (the ones in the purple wrapper – the BEST of the entire Think line!).

Luckily there are more options for gluten free snack bar lovers. The NuGo (Nutrition to Go) company recently sent me samples of their 100% natural gluten free snack bars. I had seen them in stores, but only tried the Carrot Cake bar. I wasn’t that crazy about it, but was willing to give the other flavors a go.

I’m glad I did! I couldn’t get enough of the NuGo Gluten Free Dark Chocolate Trail Mix bar. I practically devoured it and had to restrain myself from licking the REAL dark chocolate from the inside of the wrapper. That stats were impressive too – 160 calories, 5 grams of fat, 4 grams of fiber, and 9 grams of protein, around the same as a chocolate candy bar, but healthy and kept me going all afternoon.

The other varieties I tried were the NuGo Gluten Free Dark Chocolate Crunch bar, the Carrot Cake bar, and the NuGo 10 Raw Organic Cranberry bar. Just like the Dark Chocolate Trail Mix bar, the Dark Chocolate Crunch bar was right up there in the satisfying, tasty, and healthy categories.

My second chance with the Carrot Cake bar didn’t convince me any more than the first time I tried it. It was just okay. I tend to find dessert bars (like the ThinkThin Chocolate Covered Strawberry, Lemon Meringue Pie, or Tangerine Creamsicle) a let down, definitely not as good as the real thing. If you want gluten free carrot cake, run over to Swirlz Cupcakes and grab a gluten free carrot cake cupcake…sooooo delicious. They usually have them at Whole Foods too! (Sorry all you non-Chicagoans!)

The NuGo 10 Raw Natural Energy bar came close to my beloved ThinkFruits. No waxy, fake sugar coating, just all organic and natural ingredients. Dates, figs, cranberries, almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, flax seed, poppy seed, pumpkin seed, and sunflower seed are the only ingredients in the Cranberry NoGo 10 bar. That’s it. It was tasty, but the cranberries were a little overpowering for me. They also come in two other flavors, Lemon and Apple Cinnamon.

If you see Nugo Nutrition Bars in a store near you, I highly recommend their gluten free Dark Chocolate flavors. Yum!

April 12, 2010

Eat, Drink, and Donate!

One of the best things about living gluten freely in Chicago is attending Safe & Sound Dinner parties. Hosted by Lisa Williams, Le Cordon Bleu trained chef and founder of Lisa Cooks Allergen Free, these tri-monthly events are highly anticipated among the “allergenistas” in Chicago.

Lisa meets with the head chef of the swankiest restaurants in town and together they develop a menu free of the top 8 food allergens. What I love so much about this concept is that I can eat without worry. I don’t have to send the server back to the kitchen to find out if there is any gluten in any of the items in which I’m interested. Not only that, the restaurants are those I would mostly likely not consider on my own. I would only dream of dining at Carnivale, The Landmark, or BOKA. Since they are more upscale, I automatically think I’d be spending a million dollars. Not so with the Safe & Sound Dinners. Each dinner costs $50 and includes appetizers, main course, and dessert, not to mention a reusable gift bag overflowing with allergen free products. (Honestly, the gift bag alone is worth more than $50!)

The next Safe & Sound Dinner will be held Tuesday, May 4th at Perennial one of the hottest restaurants in Chicago and named one of the “Top 50 Best New Restaurants in America” by Travel & Leisure Magazine. The photos of the mouth-watering dishes and whimsical d├ęcor immediately made me think, “she’s outdone herself again!” but it seems I say that at every time the upcoming event is announced. Lisa just has a knack for finding the trendiest restaurants in Chicago and making sure everyone with food allergies can enjoy a superior dining experience safely.

Usually Lisa runs special promotions offering 10% off of the dinner ticket. To celebrate National Celiac Awareness Month, she is donating 10% of each ticket to an organization promoting awareness of celiac or food allergies. In fact, she is running the donation for each of the upcoming Safe & Sound dinners for 2010. Once your ticket order has been placed online, you will receive an email where you can respond with the organization where you’d like your $5 to sent.

For more information on Lisa Williams, Safe & Sound Dinners, or to register for the May 4th Dinner at Perennial, please visit, Lisa Cooks Allergen Free.