July 27, 2010

Mad Men Retro Fun

I can't believe I only started watching Mad Men earlier this year. After hearing all of the rave reviews, I finally picked up Season 1 on DVD and quickly became addicted. Immediately renting my way up to the end of Season 3, I anxiously awaited the Season 4 premiere, which was this past Sunday.

Since 99% of my household shares my same Mad Men feelings, we decided to enjoy the evening with a retro dinner prior to tuning into our beloved TV drama. Yours truly created the menu - deviled eggs, tuna noodle pasta salad, rainbow jello, and a pineapple upside-down cake.

Everything was delicious! I'd never baked a pineapple upside-down cake before, so this cake was an extra fun to make and eat. :)

Gluten Free Pineapple Upside-Down Cake
adapted from Better Homes and Garden New Cook Book

2 8oz. cans of sliced pineapple (you may not need the entire second can)
3 tablespoons of butter or margarine
½ cup of brown sugar
6 - 8 maraschino cherries, halved
cup of shortening (I used Spectrum)
½ cup granulated sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup sifted gluten free all-purpose flour (I used Meister's)
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Drain pineapple, reserving juice from one can.

In the microwave, melt butter in an 8x8x2-inch baking pan. (You can also melt the butter on the stove top and then pour into pan.) Add brown sugar and 1 tablespoon of the reserved pineapple juice to the butter and spread to cover the bottom of the pan. Pour the rest of the juice into a measuring cup and add water to the ½ cup line.

Arrange pineapple in the pan, placing a cherry half in the center of each slice.

In a large bowl, cream together shortening and sugar until fluffy. Add egg and vanilla and beat until fluffy.

Sift together gluten free flour, baking powder, and salt. Gradually add to the creamed mixture along with the ½ cup of pineapple/water juice. Mix well.

Spread batter over pineapple and bake for 40-45 minutes. Cool for about 5 minutes and invert on plate. Serve warm and enjoy!

What's your favorite "retro" dish?

July 16, 2010

Vegas Vacation!

Hello all! If you've noticed the lack of posting, it's because I was on vacation in Las Vegas. My cousin tied the knot, so my family and I headed out to the desert to be a part of her big day. This was a very exciting trip for me, not because of my cousin's wedding, but because it was the first "big" vacation I've be able to take since 2005!! (Which ironically was to visit the very same cousin in Scottsdale, AZ while she was in college.)

I did a lot of research for gluten free restaurants in the area. I know how to order a meal wherever I'm at, but that usually consists of a salad or plain grilled chicken or meat. I love when I come across a place with gluten free hamburger buns or gluten free pizza. During my vacation homework I was able to find a bunch of places that were gluten free friendly, many with the help of Jennifer Sullivan from the Las Vegas Celiac Disease Support Group.

I found three really great places I wanted to check out, first Sammy's Wood Fired Pizza for their much talked about gluten free pizza and other gluten free items. I mean, look at that menu, wood fired pizza with Brie cheese and truffle oil!! (Please open a location in Chicago, Sammy!)

Second, Atomic #7 for their gluten free waffle cones! Not just that, their ice cream is organic and vegan! They even have dairy free ice cream in the likes of soy milk, almond milk, rice milk, coconut milk, and lactose free milk. I could definitely go for one of their Out of This World Ice Cream Flavor Combos!

Lastly, I was looking forward to breakfast at The Cracked Egg for some gluten free pancakes! Yum!

Sadly I did not make it to ANY of these restaurants. All were a cab ride away from the strip where I was staying and with all of the things we had planned (if you are in Vegas, you HAVE to see The Beatles: LOVE Cirque du Soleil show, A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!!) we just didn't have time to visit venture out to Henderson.

Still, I DID safely enjoy some wonderful food. A huge round of applause to the Hard Rock cafe on the strip. Our server was a total rockstar and was able to answer all of my questions (Do the fries have any sort of flour or batter coating? Are they fried in the same oil as the breaded items?) After we placed the order, my sister and I ran to the ladies room to wash our hands. When we returned a man with a killer mullet was chillin' at our table talking to the rest of the family. When I sat down, I found out he was the manager and came to discuss "who's got the gluten allergy" He wanted to know how sensitive I was and that they are doing everything they can to prevent cross contamination in the kitchen. Wow...that was really nice. I order this piece of deliciousness:

A Grilled Granny Smith Apple with Provolone Burger. No bun, but bursting with lots of flavors, seasoned beef, tart granny smith apples, salty crunchy bacon, caramelized onions, and melted provolone cheese. And of course those yummy just potato fries. It was every bit of amazing as it sounds. After we finished and my brother polished off an Apple Cobbler dessert, the general manager stopped by to make sure everything was to our satisfaction and encouraged us to visit the rest of the cafe/museum. We headed up to the third floor were I came across MC Hammer's legendary hammer pants. They were definitely too legit.

For brunch the next day, some of the family hit the buffet, but my sister and I headed over to Serendipity 3 in Caesars Palace. I'd been the original New York location years ago (and I loooove the movie - John Cusack *swoon*) so I was super excited to see one in Vegas! We decided to split an appetizer and then go all out with the ice cream desserts. We ordered nachos with grilled chicken (they came with beef, black beans, cheese, guacamole, pico di gallo, and sour cream) and then used our coupon for a free frozen hot chocolate. So much food, we couldn't even make it through the nachos. Everything was phenomenal and we so desperately wanted to return for those sundaes we promised ourselves (didn't happen - next time!)

Prior to The Beatles: LOVE show, we dined at The Range in Harrah's. A typical steakhouse, luckily because they were not very knowledgeable on food allergies. I asked my questions and after being reassured that the au gratin potatoes were safe, they arrived topped with bread crumbs (well I thought maybe they'd be ok since they were an upscale restaurant). When asked if they came without breadcrumbs, I was told they were already prepared with them. Um...ok. I had grilled asparagus and garlic potato wedges instead. Tasty! Unfortunately some of the other members of my family didn't have the greatest experience either (under cooked fish that tasted very fishy...not fresh at all. Then again we were in the desert, couldn't exactly catch it that morning.)

The following morning, Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville at the Flamingo sounded about right after a long night out. Excellent choice indeed. Perfect hash browns and a SoCal omelet filled with fresh avocado, bacon, and jack cheese. I could have eaten it for every meal.

The wedding dinner followed later that day. No pics, but tons of amazing (and waaay too much) food at NOVE Italiano. My cousin winked at me as the food came around, she already took care of mine and my mom's meals. When I told the server I was gluten free and if anything could be prepared without the glutens, he already had the heads up. I was able to eat a lot of the items served family style, but a special salad came around sans croutons. Three different gelatos finished off the meal. Upstairs in the Palms celebrity suite, cupcakes filled the table. Gluten galore, but after a few cocktails I ate a Hershey kiss off the top of one and licked a tiny bit of frosting off. I bet they were good.

The last day of the trip we ate at Caesars Palace again, this time at Augustus Cafe. I had a wonderful Cobb Salad. Free of gluten, filled with flavor.

So there you have it. A gluten free Vegas success story. If you head out there, I highly recommend all of these places. Maybe you'll be lucky enough to hit up the three restaurants I mentioned at the beginning of the post. If you do, let me know how they were!

Did any of you guys vacation this summer? Where was your favorite gluten free meal?

July 4, 2010

Star Spangled Cookies

Last week I was watching Food Network Nighttime and caught an episode of Unwrapped that featured patriotic foods. I tuned in at the middle of the segment on Otis Spunkmeyer cookies. Each year they make a cookie with dried cranberries, dried blueberries, and white chocolate. They looked amazing! So naturally I needed to make them gluten free.

I had just received my free sample of Jules Cookie Mix from the promotion she recently ran and couldn't think of a more perfect recipe to use. I stopped by the Farmer's Market and bought the dried cranberries and blueberries, which were just bursting with flavor. Using Jules new cookie mix made whipping up the batter a snap. I just added eggs, butter, and shortening to the mix and voila! Delicious cookies.

I made the entire bag, which made about six dozen cookies. I used a tablespoon of batter, which was probably a bit much, because they spread while baking. The spreading didn't ruin the cookies at all, they turned out to be light, crispy, buttery goodness! With the exception of Babs, everyone I shared them with eats gluten and they raved and raved about them! They didn't miss the gluten at all.

Star Spangled Cookies
*recipe adapted from Nestle's Tollhouse

2¼ cups Jules gluten free all purpose flour
1½ tsp baking soda
¼ tsp salt
2 sticks of softened butter
¾ cup sugar
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup dried blueberries
1 cup white chocolate chips (I used Nestle's)

Combine flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl.

Beat butter, sugar, brown sugar and vanilla extract in a large bowl until well blended.

Add eggs, one at a time, to the butter/sugar mixture, beating well.

Gradually beat in the flour mixture.

Stir in the dried fruit and white chocolate chips.

Chill batter in freezer or refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Scoop teaspoon sized of batter on parchment or foil lined cookie sheets.

Bake for 8-10 minutes or until centers are set. Cool on cooking sheet for a few minutes and transfer to wire rack to cool completely.


I'm actually about to make another batch (yes, they were all eaten up, and the weekend isn't even over yet!) for my family's holiday BBQ and my niece's 1st birthday! What's your favorite patriotic recipe or tradition?