A Gluten Free Christmas!

This Christmas was definitely my favorite one so far. No, it wasn’t just because of the amazing food (though I am going to get to that in just a second). This year my entire family came to town for their first Mississippi Christmas – which meant I got to spend the week surrounded by the ones I love. And my husband and I didn’t have to worry about splitting time between families. We had both of them with us all week!

Combining families at Christmas can be a challenge though. It involves more than just combining bodies; it means combining traditions as well – and that includes the food. In my family, we always do a big Christmas Eve dinner. And since four of us are gluten free (five if you count my husband), we make the entire meal Celiac-friendly. Though my husband’s family doesn’t share our gluten allergy, this year we wanted them to share our love of some delicious gluten free food so I volunteered to host Christmas Eve dinner at our house.

What was on our gluten free menu?
– Turkey
– Mashed Potatoes
– Homemade GF Gravy (my favorite!)
– Gluten Free Stuffing (thanks to Glutino for this mix!)
– GF Dinner Rolls (courtesy of Chebe Bread Mix)
– Cranberry Sauce (my sister’s favorite)
– Squash (because we thought we should include at least one vegetable)
– Gluten Free Pecan Pie (Pillsbury, your GF crust is a lifesaver!)
and last but most definitely not least
– A ridiculous amount of GF cookies and wine!

No meal is complete without Chebe Bread

No meal is complete without Chebe Bread

GF Stuffing, courtesy of Glutino!

GF Stuffing, courtesy of Glutino!

Though this year’s meal turned out surprisingly perfectly (we barely had any leftovers everyone loved it so much), the dinner itself was not my favorite part. After all, isn’t dessert what everyone looks forward to during the holidays?

My favorite Christmas cookie is the white chocolate covered oreo. I always use Glutino Chocolate Vanilla Creme Cookies white chocolate bark to melt for the coating. They could not be easier to make – and they are so so delicious!

Add some sprinkles to make them festive!

Add some sprinkles to make them festive!

Oreos are great, but it just wouldn’t be Christmas without cut-out cookies! This year, my sister and I decided to try out Chebe Bread’s sugar cookie recipe made with Chebe All-Purpose Mix. Combined with our homemade frosting, these cookies were incredible. And did I mention also incredibly cute?!

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I also love pecan pie, especially during the holidays. Because nothing tastes better for dessert (and breakfast!) than Pecan Pie. This year, we used fresh pecans from my grandmother’s pecan orchard and Pillsbury GF Pie Crust. You can find the recipe here.

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But more than anything else during Christmastime, I love a good Christmas morning breakfast. For my family, Christmas morning would not be complete without homemade cinnamon rolls. And since going gluten free, we’ve always used Chebe Bread Cinnamon Roll Mix to whip a batch up. It makes for a hassle free – and delicious – Christmas day treat!

What you’ll need to make your own:
– Chebe Bread Cinnamon Roll Mix
– Eggs
– Milk
– Butter
– Powdered Sugar
– Vanilla Extract

It’s easy! Just follow the instructions for the Chebe Mix on the box. Then, roll the dough out completely flat. Cover the dough in a layer of melted butter and powdered sugar. Cut into strips and roll into mini-buns. Cook at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes.

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While your rolls are cooking, whip up some icing. Mix together powdered sugar, butter, milk and a dash of vanilla extract. Yes, I really wish I had exact measurements for the frosting, but unfortunately, we are not an exact measurement type of family. Next time I make some I’ll be sure to measure!

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When the rolls come out of the oven, pour some of your homemade icing over the top of them while they’re still hot. Serve warm with your favorite morning coffee and enjoy!

Hopefully each of you had a holiday week that was just as much fun, and as delicious, as mine was! 🙂

Merry Christmas!

Friendsgiving

I love hosting events at our house. My mother says I definitely inherited the “hosting gene”, which I have always been grateful for. So to me, Thanksgiving seemed like the perfect time to get together with friends – and of course, eat and drink. From this, the idea for our first annual Friendsgiving was born, which took place this past Saturday evening.

Hosting events when you have food allergies is no easy task – after all, you want to make sure the food you prepare is both gluten free (that’s the only allergy in our house, thankfully), easy to eat in a “party setting” and delicious for everybody. It is also difficult to ensure that guests who bring food will always bring gluten free items, so you have to be extra careful to keep utensils and dishes separated.

That being said, I knew I was up to the challenge – so I set out to prepare a menu that would be easy to make and extra delicious. The first item I prepared was a Bacon Cheddar Ranch dip. This is my go-to dip for parties, events and tailgates. First, because it is so ridiculously easy to prepare a toddler could do it. And second, because it is comprised of many of my favorite things – namely, bacon and cheese.

Bacon Cheddar Ranch Dip Ingredients
16 oz. sour cream
1 packet Ranch dressing
3 oz. bacon bits (in the bag)
1 cup shredded cheddar

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See? I told you it was easy! All you have to do is stir those ingredients together and refrigerate overnight. The result? A tasty treat that everyone will enjoy. (I serve with Fritos scoops or Tostitos, but any corn tortilla chip or gluten free cracker will do)

Next up: Gluten Free Cornbread Muffins. I didn’t grow up a huge cornbread fan, but my husband definitely did. Cornbread is a staple of Southern meals and he had not eaten any since finding out he had a gluten allergy earlier this year. Since I am no cornbread expert, I stuck with the basics and whipped up a batch using Wegman’s Gluten Free Honey Cornbread Mix (which I picked up on a visit to Buffalo, NY in October).

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What could be easier than following the instructions on the back of a box? Pretty much nothing. And did I mention they were INSANELY DELICIOUS? They were completely gone by the end of the party – and I never even told anybody they were gluten free!

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I know Glutino also has a gluten free Cornbread mix, and we’re going to give that one a try this week – so we can compare results. But I’m sure that one will be tasty too 🙂

I knew I needed a dessert that would be easy to pick up and eat, but also one that nobody would suspect of being gluten free. So I stuck with the basics and opted for a batch of chocolate chip cookies, prepared with Domata Gluten Free Flour. (If you don’t remember my love for Domata, check out this post about the Peanut Butter cookies I made a few weeks back. To. Die. For.)

I followed the recipe from Domata’s website (no need to reinvent the wheel, right?) and they turned out incredibly well! Light and fluffy – they were gone before most people had even gotten to the turkey yet! So much for dinner before dessert… 😉

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Want to make your own? Here is what you will need:
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 egg
Dash of GF vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups Domata Recipe Ready Flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup GF semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Beat butter and brown sugar together until smooth – then adding egg and vanilla to the mix. Once those four ingredients are mixed together, add flour, baking soda and salt. Stir until combined thoroughly. Add chocolate chips. Place on greased baking sheet about 2 inches apart. Bake for 6-8 minutes. Enjoy!

Many of our guests (who were awesome, by the way!) brought dips, appetizers and desserts with them. One of my favorites included some bacon wrapped dates – because who doesn’t love things wrapped in bacon?! Another favorite was this baked brie (prepared gluten free with Pillsbury pie crust) that one of our friends brought. It was so thoughtful of them to prep a gluten free item that we could enjoy (complete with gluten free Nut Thin crackers to boot!). I am definitely going to have to try to make one of these myself soon.

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Of course the night wouldn’t have been complete without some meat! Though I had a minor Turkey fiasco on Saturday, when I went to pick up my pre-ordered “cooked and ready to eat” turkey from Heavenly Ham – and instead received a FROZEN turkey, everything ended up working out perfectly. A local BBQ restaurant in Vicksburg, Goldie’s Express, put together some pulled turkey and pulled pork for us – which made for great leftovers too!

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Having a Friendsgiving event of your own? Give one of these recipes a try! I know I can’t wait to make those chocolate chip cookies again – ASAP!

Explosion of Gluten Free Goodness

That’s right. I said explosion of goodness. Maybe greatness. I am not even being dramatic about how good this recipe is. And I use the word recipe lightly because it is really the easiest thing you will ever make in your life.

What do you need to create this explosion? Only two things:

1. Pillsbury Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
2. Glutino Chocolate Vanilla Creme Cookies

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I told you this was going to be easy, didn’t I?

Here’s what you do. Take a cupcake/muffin pan and line it with cupcake wrappers. Spray them with cooking spray. Then, add a layer of cookie dough to the bottom of each wrapper. Easy, huh?

Next, add a single Glutino cookie on top of the cookie dough layer.

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Last, cover the cookie with cookie dough so it is completely surrounded by Pillsbury gluten-free goodness!

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Follow the instructions on the Pillsbury container and bake your cookie muffins as directed.

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Remove from the oven and enjoy. And when I say enjoy I mean try not to die from excitement over how incredibly amazing these are! Easiest and most delicious gluten free recipe ever? Possibly so. 😉

Eating Gluten Free in Jackson, MS

I get a lot of requests from friends, co-workers, customers, random people at the grocery store… All of them sound a little bit like this, “My friend is coming to town and she is gluten free. What restaurants do you recommend I take her to?” or “My cousin’s son just got diagnosed with a gluten allergy. Where are some good places in Jackson that he can eat at?”

The bottom line is people who are gluten free still love to go out to eat. They just don’t usually know the best places to go. Or they’re nervous about trying the food on new gluten free menus. Will it be any good? Will it even be worth the money or should they just stick with a salad?

I’ve been living in Jackson for almost four years now. In that time, I’ve eaten countless dinners out and I have watched restaurants add gluten free items to their menus – and others add completely gluten free menus! Since I travel so much for work, I know that Jackson is by no means a “Gluten Free Friendly” city. There are still not THAT MANY places to eat at. However, we do have some FANTASTIC restaurants in town that are definitely worth checking out.

So I wanted to put together a list of my favorite places. Keep in mind, all opinions below are completely my own. If your sister-in-law’s mother’s neighbor had a terrible experience at one of these restaurants that I love, I’m so sorry for her. If you or someone you know had a wonderful experience somewhere that I don’t particularly love, that’s okay too! Tell me about it! I love hearing about any great gluten free experience at a restaurant in Jackson.

Here are some of my favorites in the area:

Top 3 Gluten Free Pizzas in Jackson

Biaggis – The gluten free pizza is not only delicious here, but it is big enough that you can easily share with someone else or bring home leftovers for lunch the next day! And the crust won’t get all soggy and weird on day 2. It reheats extremely well.

Mellow Mushroom – I love that Mellow Mushroom lets you customize your pizza with any toppings you want. The downside here is the ONLY gluten free thing on the menu is the pizza. Try not to be jealous of the people at the table next to you munching on their delicious “gluteny” hot pretzel appetizer.

– Dominos – I actually LOVE Gluten Free pizza from Dominos. If you are super sensitive to gluten, do not order from here though. They make no guarantees that there won’t be cross-contamination during the preparation process. But if you’re not as sensitive, be sure to order one sometime! I know people how actually prefer it to the regular crust!
*Note – Since this was originally posted in July, I had my first bad Domino’s experience. You can read about it here if you’re interested. My husband still risks it once in awhile when I am out of town, but I haven’t been back since*

Skip the Trip: Pie Works in Madison – I actually just visited Pie Works in Madison last week for the first time in years, after hearing that they added gluten free pizza crust to their menu! However, I was extremely disappointed when my pizza was served undercooked – and with a whopping $18 price tag. For that much, it better be one heck of a pizza!

Top 3 Gluten Free Pasta Dishes in Jackson

Bravo! – This is hands down my favorite restaurant in town to get a gluten free pasta dish! It might be because I’m pretty much obsessed with their Gluten Free Bruschetta appetizer. (Not pasta, I know, but oh boy is it delicious!)

Biaggis – What a fantastic gluten free pasta menu here! Order penne or spaghetti noodles and choose from a variety of sauces. They will even make gluten free mac and cheese! (It’s delicious I might add)

– Homemade – There may be another restaurant in Jackson with Gluten Free pasta, but if there is, I have not heard about it (or tried it) yet! When we want really good pasta, we make it at home. We recently discovered that we prefer corn-based noodles to rice-based noodles. Why? They’re not as sticky, they don’t leave that really weird white gooey residue on all of your pots and pans, and they taste more like the real thing! (Again, personal preference!)

Top 3 Gluten Free Desserts in Jackson

– Bravo! – I know, Bravo! tops the list again, but this place really is incredible. Their peanut butter pie with pecan crust is INSANE. I mean it will leave you desperate to come back for more. (Not that you could probably finish your first piece, it’s so rich and delicious!)

Bonefish Grill – Their gluten free chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream is ridiculously delicious. I cannot eat here without ordering this dessert – no matter how full I am after dinner. It’s worth every calorie.

Local 463 – Their menu features a flourless chocolate cake that tastes just like the real thing. I mean it – this is a GREAT cake.

Bonus: Campbell’s Bakery in Fondren offers Gluten Free items every day of the week! One of the best (if not the VERY best) bakery in the state of Mississippi, they don’t mess around when it comes to gluten free. They’ve featured everything from cookies and brownies to cupcakes!

Best Place to get a Gluten Free Sandwich

Jason’s Deli – Hands down, Jason’s Deli tops the list as my favorite place to get a gluten free sandwich. Made with Udi’s gluten free bread, you choose what you want in your sandwich and they deliver it to your table in its own individual wrapper with a “Gluten Free” sticker. The entire process not only makes you feel good about what you’re eating, but there’s free ice cream at the end of every meal! What a great bonus!

Sweet Peppers – I was pleasantly surprised with Sweet Peppers recently added a Gluten Free bread to their sandwich selection. Made with Udi’s as well, the sandwiches are definitely delicious. Just know that Sweet Peppers employees don’t seem to have as great of an understanding of “Gluten Free” as those at Jason’s Deli. Though I’m sure they will learn quickly!

Place I desperately wish would go Gluten Free: Newk’s. I still love Newk’s, as they have some of the best salads around, in my opinion. Plus their to-go cups are the bomb dot com! However, with so many delicious pizzas and sandwiches on the menu, it sure would be awesome if they could cater to the gluten free community a little more.