Highlights of the Gluten Free / Allergen Free Expo Chicago 2012

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of working in the Westin Hotel kitchen in Lombard for the Gluten Free / Allergen Free Expo.  It is an incredible event, host to hundreds of vendors and talented chefs across the country and is the premier source for someone new or continuing to “find their way” so to speak in the gluten free world.  There are many talented people changing the world one bite at a time.

This was the third year participating in this event as a behind the scenes kitchen coordinator, however, this year I happen to have all the recipes for the cooking classes ahead of time.  When we had the wonderful 80+ degree weather in March, I was busy in my kitchen with the oven on, testing, testing, testing recipes.  The five pounds I gained was worth every indulgent morsel!

Triple Coconut Cream Pie by Kyra Bussanich of Crave Bake Shop

Truffle Fudge Brownies by Kyra Bussanich of Crave Bake Shop

 Top of the Morning Muffins by Robert Landolphi, author of Gluten Free Every Day Cookbook

Chewy Oat and Fruit Bars by Robert Landolphi

Very Berry Smoothie by Robert Landolphi

Orange – Infused Angel Food Cake by Karen Morgan of Blackbird Bakery 

Pistachio Mango Gelato with Coconut by Karen Morgan

Gluten Free Pizzelles Waffle Cones by Karen Morgan

 Gluten Free Pizzelle Ice Cream Sandwiches by Karen Morgan

 Sunflower Flax Bread by Beth Hillson

Rosemary Breadsticks by Beth Hillson

 Soft Pretzels by Beth Hillson

Baguettes by Pete and Kelli Bronski 

Rosemary Facaccia by Pete and Kelli Bronski (pictured with toasted baguette)

 Bagels!! by Pete and Kelli Bronski

 All of the above are gluten free and dairy free and tasted so incredibly delicious!!!  Kudos to the recipe creators who I think fall into “genius” category in the kitchen.  What a fun weekend for me meeting and working with these lovely and talented people!


A Food Memory Contest

Hello wonderful readers!  I know I am terribly overdue for a post, however, I would like to ask you for a favor right now.  As you may already realize I am very passionate about food.  No coincidence, since I was fortunate enough to have had 4 grandparents all from Italy.  It was a blessing I could only completely realize when I was much older.  I had the opportunity recently to put into words one of my fondest food related memories.  The brief story that brought back tears has landed me into the finalist spot for a trip to Italy!  Not just anywhere in Italy, but my great grandfather’s birthplace, Lucca!  Most of you also realize I have to be gluten free at all times, and this trip caters to the traveler with dietary restrictions like mine!

The final fifteen stories that were selected from nearly 600 entries are posted on the following link.  I am number 5 (Carol) and if you would like to vote for me, I would very much appreciate it. 

Here is a piece of chocolate for you to thank you.  They are raw, gluten free, dairy free and no refined sugar.  Enjoy.  Thank you so much for your vote!


How many ways can you say yum?

Since my last blog, I have had some “oops”, “yuks”, “wows”, and “amazing”s with my culinary endeavors.  Kind of like life, isn’t it?  Not always “peaches and cream”!

We started out really well.  My daughter was giving a speech at school about the relationship between diet (specifically gluten and dairy) and autism.  I was happy to send her with a tray of allergen friendly vegan snickerdoodle cookies from Cybele Pascal’s book, The Allergen-Free Baker’s Handbook to help her convince the class how easy and delicious it can be to feed a child with autism.  As all Cybele’s recipes are, it was a hit all around.

I was anxious to return to Amy Green’s book though, Simply Gluten and Sugar Free.   The cupcakes and cakes chapter left me wanting more!  I started with a couple breakfast selections this time, her crepes and a wonderful multigrain porridge that one wakes up to because it is made in the crockpot.

The crepes were out of this world.  They could not have been easier, and my only regret that morning when they made their debut in my home was that no one was home to share them with me!

The porridge had my taste buds going crazy!  There are eight different gluten free grains in this hot cereal, some of which I had never had before.  The best thing about this recipe was not only is it easy, I found it to be incredibly versatile.  Since it is not sweet to begin with, you can dress it up with fruit and cream for breakfast (I used bananas and coconut milk one day and peaches, coconut milk and cinnamon another), but it does savory very well, too!

The crock pot porridge firmed up really well in the refrigerator overnight and since the recipe made a lot, I felt compelled to be using it in other ways, especially since it packed such a favorable nutritional punch with a powerhouse of gluten free grains!

It really went well dressed up with a little salsa and fresh tomatoes and avocado for lunch the next day.

I also decided I had little to lose by frying it in a little coconut oil.  Since I was frying Amy’s vegetarian black bean burgers for dinner, it was very easy to make room for little grain/rice/porridge “patties”.    They were just as delicious playing a supporting role to the star attraction of this dish, the black bean burgers, which were fantastic!

I decided to keep my crock pot out to try the tapioca pudding.  Let’s just say, I am so glad I did!  I was just a little suspicious about this recipe, being made in a crockpot.  I love tapioca pudding and this formula, as has consistently been the case with Amy’s book, did not disappoint.

Ok, I admitted to loving tapioca pudding and yes, I got a little carried away …

These tiny little vessels were rummage sale finds and old votive holder castoffs from a friend.  With a little work to get all the wax out, they are perfect for all sorts of mini desserts!  It’s pretty hard to tell how small they actually are in these photos, but they probably hold 1 – 2 oz at most.  I love them!

Since I was making raw/living hamburgers, I thought it was the perfect opportunity to try Amy’s carrot jicama slaw.  The slaw is not raw, but I liked the idea of pairing the raw hamburgers with any kind of slaw.  Behold the healthy “happy meal”, the mini version of the hamburger and slaw:

And this of course would be the healthy “supersize me” meal:

Two thumbs up here!

Did you ever get everything done and in the oven, only to turn around and realize you forgot to add one of the most important ingredients?  Well, that is what happened next unfortunately.  I went ahead and finished baking the brownies anyway, convincing myself that maybe it did not matter (yeah right).  So now I had a pan of nearly unedible brownies.  Gluten free items are costly and I was not about to throw away this mistake.  Hmmmm.  A little of this and a little of that and magic happened.

I crumbed the brownie in the food processor, balanced the flavor, patted it into a tart pan and rebaked just enough to set the shape.  Filled it with raw chocolate mousse and voila!

I was very glad this did not end up in the garbage!

I know it is hard to beat chocolate, but what came out of the kitchen next seriously went to the top of the list.  It all started with samples at farmer’s market of, dare I say it, cheese.  I rarely eat cheese anymore and really try to avoid the cheese stand at the farmer’s market but something this particular week would not let me pass the stand.  I came home with the best goat’s milk cheese and raw milk cheese.  This is where it went:

It is Amy’s version of Mac and Cheese.  I brought it to a friend for her birthday.  This is before it went into the oven to bake.  Unfortunately, we were so anxious to dig in, I forgot to take a picture after it was baked.  Thankfully, I had a “mini” version at home for my daughter that I made her wait until after I took the picture to eat.

Oh wow!  I did say “top of the list” didn’t I?

I am also still trying to come up with creative ways of using all the almond pulp I am making from my almond milk and this week it was blueberry scones.  These were even better than the carrot zucchini ones from a few posts ago.

Last but not least, in keeping with what has sort of become a mini theme, I used up the leftover cream and crumb mixture from the mini pie contest to make blueberry parfaits with more rummage sale finds.

I made the most wonderful batch of sauerkraut also, and as soon as I filled my 2 quart glass container, it fell on the floor and smashed into hundreds of little pieces.  Ugh …. now that ended in the garbage!  I actually thought about taking a photo of the whole mess on the floor, but thought that was getting a little carried away.  I think you can easily, “get the picture” on your own.

I will continue to make recipes from Amy’ book that I will share with you, but at this point it is definitely safe to say, it is well worth the investment.  At the very least, visit her website, SimplySugarAndGlutenFree.com.  The cookbook does not have any photos other than the ones on the cover, but hopefully the photos of the recipes I have already made will be enough for those of you (like me), who like pictures of food.

Want to see the next book I will be opening?

Peaches and Cream

One of my favorite blogs to read is VeganCulinaryCrusade by Lisa Pitman.  I had the pleasure of getting to know this incredible woman when we were students together at 105 Degrees Academy, now Matthew Kenney OKC.  Lisa always inspires me on many levels and most recently I was inspired to participate in a challenge on a recent blog post.  She and a friend are having a mini pie contest.  It needs to be mini, all raw and make good use of what is in season currently at the farmer’s markets.  Hmmmm.

I decided to let the fruit dictate where I began so when I went to the farmer’s market, I engaged all my senses to find what fruit was as close to perfection as you can get.  It wasn’t even close, the peaches were the choice by a long shot!

Not sure why I was compelled to open some coconuts for this experiment, but it was so nice outside, it seemed like a good deck activity at the time.

A little of this and a little of that, this is what I had a little later …

I had two mini pies.  Not sure yet if they were any good, so I “dressed” them up a bit to try.

Time for the moment of truth.

My critical family of taste testers decided it was “a go”.  Now all I needed was my “formula”, which unfortunately was nowhere to be found!  I had made all sorts of notes and measurements and the paper simply was not to be found.  I almost decided to forget about it except for the fact that, after I thought about it, I really had everything I needed, including the coconut meat, which was the hardest part, so I tried to recreate what I had done.  I also changed the presentation up a bit.

Should you be in the mood to open a few coconuts, here is the final recipe I came up with:


1 Cup walnuts

5 dates

dash of cinnamon

pinch of salt

Pulse all together in a food processor just until it will hold together when pinched with fingers.  Use half of this mixture to line two 4″ mini tart pans with removable bottoms.  Reserve the other half of mixture for the topping.  Refrigerate or freeze while making filling.


1 Cup coconut meat

1 Cup (soaked) cashews

1/4 teas. salt

3 Tbsp maple syrup

2 Tbsp fresh orange juice

1/2 teas vanilla

seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean

1/4 cup coconut oil

Blend everything except coconut oil in blender until very smooth.  Add coconut oil slowly near the end of blending.  Refrigerate overnight to firm up.  You can also run it through an ice cream machine to help firm up.


When custard is firm, spread a generous amount over the bottom of crust.  You will most likely have some filling left over.  Layer fresh ripe peach slices on the filling.  Top with remaining streusel topping.


Gluten Free? Dairy Free? No Refined Sugar? Vegan?

Wow. There are a lot of different approaches to eating healthfully.  Not too many years ago, I pretty much enjoyed just about everything. I was fairly carefree in my food choices, except, perhaps, I was a bit of a food “snob”, meaning I liked incredibly good food. Having had the good fortune of being raised 100% Italian, I was surrounded by garden fresh, exquisitely prepared food on a daily basis. Four years ago when I became so ill and found out it was related to a gluten intolerance, I could not even imagine my life without, pasta and fresh baked bread! After a long period of denial and resistance, I crawled, quite literally, (because I was in that much pain), to the finish line of acceptance and decided I had to learn to navigate through a new lifestyle in order for me to live without pain every day. I can now look back with a new appreciation for where this has lead me and I firmly believe it has added years, if not decades, of quality living to my life. I no longer take my body for granted and realize it has to work very hard every minute of every hour of every day to do everything it needs to do for me to be healthy. I can either help this process or make things more challenging with the choices I make. I have evolved slowly from getting rid of all gluten to getting rid of most dairy, most refined sugar, most eggs, which gets me closer and closer to becoming vegan which I never would have dreamed of as recently as five years ago. I mean, seriously, back then, I thought the best things in life were butter, sugar, eggs and cream.

This year at the gluten free expo, I had a chance to meet and work with a number of incredibly talented and lovely ladies from all over the United States. Each has their own story to share about what they can/cannot, will/will not eat. For the expo purposes, the venue is entirely gluten, dairy and nut free, but we did use all organic eggs, sugar and soy. However, different presenting authors and chefs have cookbooks with different points of view. I had the wonderful opportunity to learn from all of them and appreciate what each one has to offer and since, at this time, I still allow some flexibility in my daily food choices (with the exception of gluten), I open all of their cookbooks regularly. I also have to adjust what I make when I am baking for people as I know some things are still considered a little too “extreme” for a few folks and I am sensitive to that.

I took the opportunity of a few cool days this unusually hot summer to turn my oven on.  First up, by popular request, “the bean cake” …
One delicious example of gluten free, dairy free, no refined sugar, but not vegan because it does have eggs and honey in it, cake.  The reason it is affectionately called “the bean cake” in our home is because the cake base is made with yes … believe it or not … white beans!!  It is incredibly yummy and it is from The Spunky Coconut Grain-Free Baked Goods and Desserts by one delightful, carefree, beautiful soul, Kelly Brozyna.  Visit her website at http://www.TheSpunkyCoconut.com.  Her first cookbook, The Spunky Coconut Cookbook, was one of the first books I purchased on my gluten free journey and she quickly carried me happily into uncharted cooking territory, including cooking my own pumpkins for pumpkin puree.  I will never buy pumpkin puree in a can again!  Although I told my family what was in the cake, they have learned to trust me more and instead of disgusted faces they were curious and eager to try the cake and now it is regularly requested.  So, I am still purchasing eggs on occasion, just not as often. 

Next in the oven, one of the recipes from Amy Green, the author of Simply Sugar and Gluten Free
Amy’s story is incredible and the gluten free/sugar free lifestyle was her golden ticket to health and weight loss when everything else failed.  She was one of my favorite chefs this year to work with.  The first thing I noticed in her cookbook was the most beautiful dedication of her work to her husband.  It is a love story in four sentences.  He was with her at the expo and based on what I saw, every word, is true. The information and the recipes in her book are definitely examples of someone with professional training.  This is not to say the recipes are difficult or challenging in any way. Quite the contrary, they are incredibly simple executions of top notch dishes.  Although she avoids gluten and sugar, but uses dairy, she gives easy non-dairy substitutions every chance she can.  This is not a complete review of her book because, of course, where do I start, with cakes and cupcakes and that is as far as I got!
I started with the first recipe in that section, Carrot Cupcakes with Whipped Cream Cheese Frosting …
Yes, these were as fabulous as they look!!  At first, I was a little worried, the batter seemed to be just a little “thin”, but having worked with Amy in the kitchen, I decided I did not need to double check my measurements, I could trust her.  The result was a moist delicious cake crumb, full of flavor.
Next out of the oven, Lemon Poppyseed Cake.  I fell in love with the whipped cream cheese frosting from the previous recipe so I improvised here a little and added some left over vegan lemon curd to it and the resulting lemon flavored frosting paired beautifully.  Although Amy suggests raspberries, I happen to have strawberries on hand, so I used them instead and I don’t know how it could have been more delicious!!
I offered my sister a piece of this cake who at first declined the offer because, she “doesn’t really like lemon much”, but then changed her mind and ended up eating a whole piece!
Ok, two for two!  One more recipe from this section before moving on …
Banana Walnut Cake (or in this case, cupcakes) with the best whipped chocolate avocado frosting!  Amy made this at the expo and I admit, I was craving it, so I deliberately chose a cake that would support the flavor.
OK.  Now, that I have cut this open, you can see that I substituted chocolate chips instead of walnuts.  I did not realize I was out of walnuts, and had 1 little ounce of lonely chocolate chips that I threw in at the last minute.  No doubt about it, these were hands down the ultimate favorite of the three among all taste testers!!!  Even skeptic random teenagers that seem to gather in my home with some regularity, who don’t even know what gluten free, sugar free means let alone, may not even know what an avocado is, loved them!   We have not one, not two, but three new recipes in our house!
Stay tuned for more recipes from Amy Green as I eagerly move on to the next chapters … to be continued….
In the meantime read her story and get lots of recipes at her website, SimplySugarAndGlutenFree.com
Just when I used up all the eggs, my husband called to remind me that he had to bring cookies to a work picnic the next day.  Hmm, out of eggs, (no surprise), but I do have plenty of sugar.  I turn to yet another one of my favorite chefs that I met at the expo, Cybele Pascal.  Who, unlike, Kelly and Amy, uses sugar, but is gluten, dairy and egg free.   The book I have the pleasure of owning that she has authored is The Allergen-Free Baker’s Handbook.  Although there are a number of favorites I have from her book, I prefer to try new ones as often as I can, because, well, so many recipes, so little time!  Here is one from the cover of the book … Chocolate Sandwich Cookies … a vegan option …
They are, as she describes, like a soft “oreo”.  OK, so maybe there is enough time for repeating some recipes!
PS … I am still getting used to a new blogger home,  trying to decide if I want to “stay” here.  Somehow I realized I have I think, at least three, different font styles and sizes.  I don’t have any idea how that happened nor can I figure out how to fix it right now. (LOL) : )  Oh well.  And I also cannot figure out how to do a proper link, like I was able to do at blogspot.  Hmmmm.  Life is all about being a little flexible isn’t it?


Back to Basics

I found the cutest milk jugs from an Amish farm and have renewed inspiration with nut milk!

I have enjoyed my nut milks over sprouted buckwheat groats with fresh berries from the farmer’s market ...

In chia seed pudding with more fresh berries from the farmer’s market …

with cooked buckwheat (and chia seed) cereal ….

and with raw chocolate chia seed pudding … 

And what did I do with all that pulp?

My own cookie recipe …

And since those turned out pretty well I confidently went ahead and came up with a darn good recipe for carrot/zucchini scones …

We had record breaking heat for several days so I was able to “bake” these outside in the sunshine!!

Another raw basic, sauerkraut.  I was actually craving it which I took to be a good sign,  and I responded accordingly…