Thursday, January 29, 2015

A Call To Action

Action (n.) - the fact or process of doing something, typically to achieve an aim.

I've been thinking of my life lately. Maybe it's because I'm 36, maybe it's a "mid life" crisis. Or maybe it's a prodding by the One who made me to decide what my legacy will be.

I was recently reading a book of memoirs, in which a family member has a story. All the authors have a short bio- some list themselves as professors, teachers, chemists - all things that seem prestigious, have value. I distinctly remember putting the book down, talking to my husband, and telling him that I felt like a "nothing." If I were to write a memoir bio, what would I write? I work a part-time job that makes minimum wage and it isn't a job that has a prestigious moniker. When people ask you, "What do you do?," the answer doesn't sound all that impressive.

Our church is reading a book called "The Circle Maker," a book about praying consistently and dreaming big dreams. For quite a while, I've been asking God to somehow provide income from my endeavors in promoting Celiac Awareness, to turn it into a job so that I can devote more time to it. So far, there have been glimpses of possibilities, but nothing major that has materialized.

After reading through the first part of the study, I realized that I haven't been putting prayer behind the things that I am doing with our support group. As some of you may or may not know, I'm the chairperson/president of our local Celiac Support Group, a position that I took over about a year and a half ago. They've been around for a while, helping people via word of mouth, a little at a time. In my heart I have bigger dreams for this group, wanting our group to truly make a difference in education of medical personnel and diagnosis for those who have been suffering needlessly. I just seem to not be gaining much traction.

During our study group time, the Lord reminded me of a scripture that touched my heart 5-6 years ago. I felt that in some way Isiah 61:1-3 was meant for me, that God was trying to stir something in me.

61 The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,[a]
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
    and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.
One of the ideas in The Circle Maker in regards to prayer is claiming the promises and scripture of God. We were encouraged to use scripture to fervently and consistently pray to God, the one who has great and wonderful plans for our lives. And my thought was this- what if I started using the thoughts of this scripture to pray for Celiac Awareness, to pray for direction and success for my support group and our work? 
I'm sure that some of you right now think I'm nuts. But I will tell you, there are times that I believe that my Celiac Disease diagnosis is not by chance. My birthday is the same day as Samuel Gee, the doctor who is credited for giving the first modern-day understanding of Celiac Disease, the same date as Celiac Awareness Day - September 13th. Some may call it coincidence, but I tend to feel it is more of a calling. 
Lately there has been a steady stream of celebrities and crack pot news that has been making living with this lifelong disease even harder. With people like Jimmy Fallon, Hoda Kotb, and Joy Behar making us a butt of their jokes, the call of Celiac Awareness and true support is obviously greatly needed.
Gluten Dude brought to attention the most recent person making us the punching bag. Actually, it's an organization of people- NASCAR. There will be an ad at the end of the Super Bowl stating that people who eat gluten are weak. Gluten Dude made a great point about why we make a big deal about these things. 
"I think about all of the gluten-free children getting bullied for being “different”, when all they want to do is feel better and fit in. I think about all of the people who have gotten sick at restaurants because the kitchen and/or the staff do not take us seriously. I think about all of those walking around undiagnosed and suffering because they only listen to what is in the media. I think about all of the people in the past who have died prematurely when going gluten-free MAY have been their saving grace.
The fact is…I’m tired of being the butt of jokes from ignorant people. Yeah…I can handle it just fine. I’m a big boy. But it’s not just about me. It’s for all of those people I just mentioned in the above paragraph. It’s for those who don’t have a voice. Who are sick. And tired. And sick and tired of the lack of empathy for those silently suffering."

He said is pretty well. This is why I belong to and chair a support group. Because it's NOT about me. It's about making a difference in the lives of others and drastically bringing awareness for those who are lost.

So, here's my first step. I'm going to quit relying on my own strength to make a drastic change in the area of Celiac Disease. I'm going to acknowledge the One who made me who I am, how I am, and who has a heart for all those who are suffering. He has dreams for eradicating disease that are far greater than my own.
So I think this is going to be the prayer of my heart, my AIM from which my action gets its goal.

Lord, you have placed me in this position for a reason. Help me to be successfully vocal about Celiac Disease, to provide hope that are suffering silently, who are bully and maligned. Help me to increase doctor awareness so a proper diagnosis won't be missed, to open the eyes of the populous to the options of how they can reclaim their health and lives. Bind myself and my fellow advocates together, and may we provide comfort and hope to those who feel that a Celiac diagnosis is the end of their life. May God move in the hearts of the ignorant, the bullies, and those in greater positions than I who can truly make a difference. 
And may the glory go to God, our true Healer.

So that's my call to action. If you feel moved to act, you can take a initial step by signing Gluten Dude's Change.Org petition to remove the NASCAR ad from the Super Bowl line-up. Want to do a little more? Give to organizations that work hard to bring about awareness like CSA, NFCA, and GIG.

I'd encourage you to take one step further- join a local support group. Encourage their leaders to have activities and events that promote Celiac awareness- encourage them to get and participate in public health events, meet with local doctors, and/or apply for grants to do Celiac screenings. Sometimes the biggest national changes start at the local level.

And just as importantly, encourage those involved in advocacy. Give them a hug, a high five, send them a thank you note, call them simply to ask "how are you doing today? Trying to enact change is hard work!

"Thinking is easy, acting is difficult, and to put one's thoughts into action is the most difficult thing in the world."
- Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Apple Pie with Chebe Crust, revisited

You know the saying - as American as apple pie. But when you have Celiac Disease, gluten free pie crust can be your nemesis. Truth be told, even if you're not gluten free, making a beautiful homemade pie crust is still a challenge.

Recently, Chebe sent me a package of their mixes to play with. Their main request- make pie. And feeling brash like Barney Stinson, I said "Challenge Accepted."

My first attempts at using the Chebe mix for a pie crust were okay, but not the flaky pie crusts I remembered "pre" gluten free. I blogged about my first attempts here, and asked my readers what they would like to see me make next. And of course, they said apple pie.

The first pies I made with the Chebe seemed dry and hard, so I got out my recipe books and did some internet searches about making traditional pie crusts. The biggest difference I noticed could be summed up in one word - FAT.

The Chebe pie crust recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of oil for a dough that will make two pie crusts. All the traditional pie crusts recipes I read used 6 - 8 tablespoons of butter. So, I "compromised." I used the 2 tablespoons of oil that Chebe called for, plus I decided I would use 4 tablespoons of butter.

Now, one of the great things about Chebe mixes is that they are free of almost all allergens. I'm sure that this is why their recipe calls for oil instead of butter. That being said, a pie needs a solid fat to keep the pie moist. If you are vegan or have an aversion to butter, I would highly suggest using Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Sticks.

And there's a great trick I learned from my friend Linda Fedewa when it comes to making a pie. FREEZE your butter. Yes, freeze your butter. Then grate your butter into the flour and mix it with your fingers.

Don't believe me? Watch Linda make a gluten free pie crust before your eyes in under 5 minutes in this video. I used all of her suggestions when making this pie with the Chebe dough- freeze the butter, use ice water, keep flipping the dough over to prevent it from sticking. It held together beautifully and SO easy to work with. And seriously, watch the video. It's a 4 minute and 30 second baking lesson that's free yet priceless.

I also put the whole ball of dough in my freezer for about 15 minutes. Just enough time to wash the dishes that I just dirtied and to preheat my oven.

Prior to prepping my crust, I did some pie filling research. I had lots of questions, such as What's the best apples for pie filling? (the tarter the better) and how many apples should I use? how much sugar, etc to add?
I finally decided on this recipe from Nicole Hunn, a.k.a. Gluten Free on Shoestring. Her recipe for Gluten Free Apple Pie in a Bag simply fascinated me. I've never heard of baking a pie in a paper bag before, but I was willing to give it a try.

I weighed my ball of dough and it came to approximately 15.5 ounces. My suggestion would be to use 8.5 ounces for the bottom crust and 7 ounces for the top. This is because you need enough crust to go up the sides of the pie dish.

I rolled the bottom crust and put the rest of the dough back in the freezer to chill while I filled the pie with apples and seasoning. Once I did that, I retrieved the remaining dough from the freezer, rolled my top crust, placed my pie in the paper bag, placed the whole thing in the oven, crossed my fingers, and set down to watch Grimm. (An hour well spent!)

Once the pie baked in the bag for an hour, I ripped the bag open and put it back in the oven so the top could brown. And it looked really beautiful. It looked like a non-gf crust. The test would be tasting at our pizza party the next day.

Everyone agreed that the pie was delicious and the crust was wonderful! Some of them had tried my previous pecan pie and all agreed that this pie with the extra butter in the crust made a DRASTIC difference. At the end of the night there was only one small slice left, so I'd say it was a huge hit.

Thanks Jon and Chebe from trusting me to play with your all purpose bread mix. Since this mix makes it so easy to make a pie crust, I think I'll be doing it a LOT more often!

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Aubree's Pizzeria and Grill - Grand Blanc Michigan

For those of us who have Celiac Disease, eating out can really be a hassle. From menu, to servers, to chefs, there are so many things to consider.

Recently, an Aubree's Pizzeria and Grill opened up near us. Aubree's is a Michigan restaurant chain with locations in Howell, Ypsilanti, Dexter, Marquette, Northville and South Lyon. It's basically a nice sports bar, akin to Applebee's. I originally went to their Northville location a year or so ago. But recently someone from the Tri-County Celiac Support Group told me they had been "glutened" after eating at Detroit area location.

While I had talked to staff over the phone at the new Grand Blanc location previously, my husband and I decided to go there in person and attempt to eat there. We chose to go to an early dinner, about 5:15 pm, so that we would be going during a slower period and hopefully we would be able to talk to a manager or chef.

And I''m SO glad that we went! We had such a great dinner and wonderful service.

We had near perfect timing. I informed the hostess and our server about my gluten free needs. The server seemed a bit unsure, and sent the manager directly to our table, even without me asking. Ryan, the manager, was the most helpful manager I think I've ever talked to! He was thorough with what they could safely do, and even went as far as suggesting a less spicy topping to the pasta dish I was ordering, the Pasta Gone Bayou. 

Their menu items are marked with a green "GF" logo if they are "gluten free friendly." Be warned, this does not necessarily mean they are free from cross-contact with other gluten containing foods. It was only through the resourcefulness of Ryan that we learned that their regular brussel sprout side, labeled GF, was actually deep fried with their chicken. The same is true of all their GF fried items, such as their fries. Ryan personally made sure that our brussel sprouts were sauteed and even made sure the bacon was on the side, as my husband has an intolerance to pork. 

This location offers gluten free pasta that is to be cooked in clean fresh water, gluten free buns that are toasted in their own specific pan through the pizza oven, and gluten free pizza crusts. The crusts are baked on clean oven pans, and gluten free pizzas being prepped are done so on a specific plastic cutting board, and the staff is told they must change their gloves. **Caution- There IS free floating flour in the facility as they make their regular pizza crusts from scratch and do not have dedicated topping containers. In my opinion, this is the strongest possibility for cross-contact. There is a an upcharge for the gluten free pizza crust ($2) and the bun ($1.15), but it is marked on the menu. I did not appear to get charged extra for my gluten free pasta, and there is no upcharge marked on the menu. 

They also have a flourless chocolate cake that is prepared off site, so they simply take a piece out of the fridge/freezer and onto a clean plate when you order it. They serve RedBridge beer and Angry Orchard Hard Cider. Added bonus- they serve Faygo in glass bottles!

They have many sides that are marked with their green GF icon, but again, beware of fried items as they are made in a shared fryer. They have mashed caulifower and roasted red skin potatoes as a healthy side option as well. 

I'm so appreciative that our server Jeremy sent the manager our way when he wasn't sure of something, just to make sure that we were safe. I feel comfortable going back again, and possibly even inviting our Celiac support group. They have a great large room to accommodate groups. I was told the best time to go is when they are slowest, between 2-4 pm. The head kitchen manager is there during that time and he can pay specific attention to what you are ordering.

All in all, I give it a 4 out of 5, simply because the menu doesn't state that the brussel sprouts are fried, and does not specify that their gf fried items are made in a shared fryer. 

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Apple Pie *Buttermilk* pancakes

The pancakes pictured are not of the recipe that follows.
The recipe that follows was so good we ate them all! 
We love pancakes in this house. They have become a weekly tradition, a no-thought go to every Saturday morning. For years my husband has made them, as I make breakfast Monday - Friday. Lately though, I've been trying new mixes and new recipes, so every couple of Saturdays I step into the kitchen.

I'm a big fan of Bob's Red Mill products, but in all honesty I feel that their gluten free pancake mix fell flat....literally. I never got the rise out of them like I wanted. So, I've been experimenting with their gluten free all purpose baking flour.

I think I've managed to "create" my new favorite pancake. All it took was some original guidance by Betty Crocker, some creative substitutions, and a little knowledge about spice.

I started with using the recipe for "Applesauce Pancakes" from our 1974 Betty Crocker cookbook. (Old cookbooks are always the best!) I like adding applesauce to gluten free baked goods in general, as the natural pectin seems to help add lift to them. Here are the basic ingredients:

Melted shortening or oil
Baking powder
Baking soda

Here's the thing though. We don't buy buttermilk. Ever. I don't bake enough with it and we certainly don't drink it. So the internet search began on how to substitute this ingredient. Of all the ideas listed, I settled on what I think is the PERFECT substitution.

Plain Greek yogurt and water.

1/2 cup Greek yogurt + 1/2 cup water = 1 cup buttermilk. The cultures of the Greek yogurt mix with the other ingredients to produce a bit of fermentation and bubbles, a.k.a LIFT!

Next substitute- No shortening. Gone are the days when everyone had a can of Crisco. Now that we know of the dangers of trans fats, butter reigns supreme again. I used 2 tbsp of melted butter.

Flour - I have a confession to make. I asked for the America's Test Kitchen How Can It Be Gluten Free cookbook because I love the chart in the back that tells you how many ounces of Bob's GF All Purpose equals a cup. 1 cup of Bob's All Purpose- 5 ounces. I love using this flour because it's full of nutrition and I can get a great deal on it at Big Lots. I'm sure Cup 4 Cup is great, but Bob's does everything that I need it to do without costing me an arm and a leg. Some people think it tastes like beans, but I never think so.

The remaining sugar, baking agents and salt remain the same.

The first time I made this it was missing something. It wasn't really "sweet" enough, and it was a bit on the bland side.

For my second attempt, I added the spices I would usually put in an apple pie. They. Were. DELICIOUS!

So below is my final altered recipe. I guarantee you, if you make these, you will be pleased. We usually top our pancakes with peanut butter and a smidge of maple syrup. But if you're a big apple fan like me, I can imagine having these with cooked down apples and Redi-Whip on top.

Have at it!

2 tbsp. butter, melted
1 egg
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup plain Greek Yogurt (I like the Aldi brand or Fage)
1/2 cup natural applesauce
5 oz.(1 cup) Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free All Purpose Baking Flour
1 tbsp. sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 - 1/2 tsp. cloves
1 tsp vanilla

1. Preheat your cooking surface. We use an iron griddle that covers two burners, so I spray it with Pam and let it slowly heat up. It should be a good temperature by the time you're done mixing things together.

2. In a large glass batter bowl, melt your 2 tbsp. of butter. Generally 35 seconds does it for me. Stir it with a whisk to further break down any clumps. Mix in the egg until fully incorporated. Add in the 1/2 cup of water and the 1/2 cup (4 oz.) of Greek yogurt and the applesauce. Whisk all wet ingredients together until smooth. I add the ingredients in this order, so as to create any residual heat from the melted butter affecting the yogurt. That and I never seem to remember to get my eggs to room temperature, and this way of adding the ingredients is just warm enough to take the chill off the egg.

3. If you have a kitchen scale, place the batter bowl on the scale, turn it on, and measure 5 oz. of Bob's GF AP Flour. (If you don't have one, carefully measure a cup. But I highly suggest getting a scale. You dirty less measuring spoons and cups that way!) Slowly whisk in the flour as you add it to the bowl. Whisk until all flour is fully incorporated.

4. Next add sugar, baking powder and soda, salt, spices and vanilla. Again, whisk until all ingredients are combined. The last time I made the pancakes I used a 1/2 tsp. of cloves. We really liked it that way, but it may be a bit strong for some. (They almost remind me of gingerbread that way!)  Allow the batter to sit for 2-3 minutes before making your pancakes. It helps to activate the leavening agents.

5. Pour scant 1/4 of batter on your cooking surface and cook until bubbles begin to form around the edge. Flip and cook for 30 seconds to a minute.

6. Enjoy hot with your favorite toppings!

What favorite pancake recipe do you have? Please share your pancake adventures in the comments below!

Friday, January 2, 2015

2014 in review

In the past I've done a highlight of my top read posts the past year. As I now seem to spend more of my time on Instagram than anything else, I will choose to share the pictures that shared the biggest memories over the past year. 

January 2014- 
The year started with a sleepover and a trip to the Flint Children's Museum. We spent the time with my cousin's 5 children (3 go with one adult, 2 go with the other.) We made pizza, we played games, and we watched the Lorax. What a blessing it was for Brad and I! 

I had my first big company want to partner with me to do a giveaway. It helped bring readership to my blog and allowed me to try some great new products!  

We were able to help arrange a surprise party for our friend for our friend Peter Lemelin. It was such a great time being with friends, as we are usually so active in church that we don't just have "hangout" time together. There was much laughter and the best game of Guesstures I've ever played!

February 2014-
My husband and I both decided to make each other dinner for Valentine's Day this year. Plus,. my mom sent me a box of Milano-type gluten free cookies that were AMAZING!

During the Valentine's season I went up to Mt. Pleasant to spend the day at the water park with my cousin's kids. This allowed me to stop by the home of Rick and Laura Mills. I used to watch their son Seth when I was in college, who is pictured below. This family has been such a huge part of my life, and I wish the physical miles between us were fewer.

March 2014- 
March was a slow month in pictures, but busy in activity. I had my first ever speaking engagement as an expert in Celiac Disease. I spoke at the University of Michigan - Flint. It was rewarding and gave me courage that I truly knew what I was talking about. 
My grandmother also had hip surgery and my mother was in town from Tennessee. I tried to be a help as much as I possibly could. 

April 2014- 
After finishing my talk at U of M Flint, I received an email from the Gluten and Allergen Free Expo that was taking place in Chicago. They asked me to be one of their featured media bloggers for their event. I was beyond excited and stunned. Plus, this would be at the end of the week of Brad's Spring Break, so we could actually take a "vacation" together. My friend Sarah let us stay at her place and we had the chance to explore Chicago before going to the event. Brad was able to have real deep dish Chicago pizza and a Chicago style hot dog. I was able to meet other great bloggers at the event that I still have connections with, plus connections with amazing companies and products. 

May 2014-
I was again able to represent Udi's at the Grand Rapids Gluten Free Food Fair. I love being able to interact with those who must follow a gluten free diet, especially the kiddos.

In the beginning of May, one of the biggest things to those of us living with Celiac Disease was the new LiveGfree line at Aldi. We made sure to talk it up at our support group meeting and many of us bloggers commented on it. The granola is a huge hit in our house and my husband has some in his lunch every day. Since then I have built a great relationship with Kyle, the store manager at our nearest location. I always look forward to seeing him when I go in! 

June 2014- 
Another school year comes to an end at Davison, and that means an end to the Anime club that my husband leads. My husband is always great at reaching out to the fringe kids and giving them activities that they can belong to. I often make or bring snack for Anime club, so they were always excited to see me. This year I made rice krispie sushi. It was pretty epic.

Sarah Gibbons has been my best friend since 4th grade. She was quite the globe-trotter this year, leading a group in Ireland and then taking summer courses in a state far away. This was our one chance to get together this summer. Isn't she pretty?

July 2014- 
This summer was the summer of kids. We watched Maddy and Hannah, who are an absolute delight. They joined us when we went blueberry picking with my niece and nephew, Katy and Sean. It was nice to catch up with Katy when she and her brother stayed over. We made rainbow waffles and she helped served at the men's homeless shelter with us. She  makes me so proud. 

This was also the summer of the "epic" family trip. We piled in our van with my dad and stepmom, drove to South Carolina to pick up my sister, then drove to Tennessee to spend time with my niece Marissa. I took A LOT of pictures on that trip. Then we drove my sister pack home to South Carolina and then returned to Michigan. Lots of miles and memories on that trip! 

And it wasn't just family kids that we spent time with either. Our church had a very successful "Treats and Eats" program at our local park. We started many great relationships with those children and their families. I really looked forward to those Saturdays. 

August 2014-
This summer Brad and I celebrated out 11th anniversary in the greater Grand Rapids area. One of our stops was to tour the old Gibson Guitar factory, which is now the home of Heritage Guitars. They were great enough to show us around even though it wasn't "tour" day, and then they invited us to go listen to them play music. Brad was on cloud nine and had a wonderful time as well!

We also continued our support group's "Meet Up and Eat Ups" at Jack's Place in Flushing. Their head chef has celiac disease as well, and they have gluten free pizza, beer and bowling. They staff there was so nice and generous. Young Irish helped Brad keep score! 

September 2014-
This was my best birthday ever! I participated in my very first FARE Walk to help bring awareness to all food allergies. Due to the generosity of my family, friends and followers, I was one of the top 10 fundraisers for the Lansing area walk.

My grandmother sent me two dozen roses for my birthday which was a TOTAL surprise.

And some "secret" gifters from our church left me love notes all over our lawn while we were gone for my birthday. I am SO blessed by the people God has placed in my life!

My cousin also came home from Seattle for a visit, although not for my birthday. This gave us a chance to take a family photo. My dog Midnight got in on the picture too! 

Another HUGE honor is that I was named Delight Gluten Free Magazine's Blogger of the Week! I submitted a brownie recipe that I created myself, making modifications from another cookbook. 

October 2014-
(moo cluck moo) in Canton changed their menu so that their restaurant would be 100% gluten free. The head chef is a James Beard award winner. My review of their restaurant was my most read post in 2014.

The 7th annual Lansing Gluten Free Fair was a huge hit this year. As co-chair, I was very pleased with how things turned out. We had over 500 attendees and had many new companies attend this year. One of them is even now being carried locally because of our efforts! 

The trunk or treat at our church was a big success, despite the rain and snow. Brad nnd I participated in the teal pumpkin project for the first time as well.

One of the biggest changes to our household happened in October. Brad found this dog in our church courtyard, and took it into our home as we tried to find its owner. No one ever came forward and now Jasmine brings us laughter everyday.

November 2014-
This year our church did a free community dinner for the people in our area. This young man is Kionte and he is always smiling. :)

November was the month of giveaways on my blog. I was able to introduce people to Foster Farms' gluten free, pork free corn dogs and to Rustic Maka organic deodorants. Rustic Maka is a Michigan based company!

December 2014- 
Brad and I have been building a relationship with two young boys in our neighborhood. Pictured below is Antwon as he is helping decorate one of the Christmas trees in our church. It has been a blessing having them in our life and in our home.

Brad and I were asked to participate as musicians in the wedding of our friends Todd and Stephanie. It was fun to perform with my husband and to dress up. I even wore makeup and high heeled boots!

I went to my first ever men's MSU Basketball game. We played Maryland and lost in double overtime. Despite that, we were able to see some old friends and spend time with new ones. 

New Year's Eve 2014 was spent with my friend Theresa, her daughter Tia and Theresa's grandson Khi. We played games and entertained each other. I am so glad that God brought Theresa and her family into my life!

So what was your highlight of 2014?

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Chebe Pie Crust

I love using Chebe products. They are some of the most versatile, allergen friendly, gluten free mixes out there. Their focaccia is delicious, their pizza crust is amazing, and their cinnamon rolls are super easy to make.

Plus, I had the pleasure of meeting the founder Dick Reed and his right hand man Jon Miller at the Chicago Gluten and Allergen Free Expo. It was no surprise that these two wonderful men are as enjoyable as their product.

Recently, I was contacted by Chebe to see if I would be willing to make some gluten free pies, using their mix as the crust. I received a generous shipment of their products before Thanksgiving, but have not had a chance to sit down and write about them until now.

They have a pie crust recipe on their website that's easy to make. One of the biggest problems with any raw gluten free pie crust is that they tend to fall apart. Without the elasticity of gluten, it's hard to hold all of those ingredients together. But a pie crust made with Chebe doesn't fall apart and is incredibly easy to handle. I was really impressed.

I've made three types of pies so far using this mix. Pumpkin custard pie, pecan pie and a chicken pot pie. The pumpkin custard pie I made with the cinnamon roll mix, as I thought it might be a great substitute for a graham cracker crust. I didn't divide the dough in half or roll the crust thin enough. While it was tasty, the crust was very thick and tough. (My bad) The pie as a whole seemed better a few days later after the filling moistened the crust further. I may have to go to the store to buy another box so I can play around with this again.

The pecan pie was equally tasty, but I made a baking mistake and docked the pie crust prior to baking. While the crust was rolled thin enough, all of the filling seeped through the bottom of the crust.
Obviously, I am not the queen of pie baking.
I used the other half of the mix as a second crust in a 9 inch square pan and made pecan bars on my second attempt The firmness of the crust made it easy to hold in your hand, but it was still a bit dry.

My biggest success thus far has been a chicken pot pie. Because regular Chebe bakes up crusty on the outside and soft on the inside, a one-crust filled pie tends to be hard. I think the trick to using Chebe as pie crust is a filled pie.

I made my chicken pot pie on Christmas Day, but did not end up using it that day. So I wrapped it tightly in saran wrap and stuck it in my refrigerator. Three days later on Sunday I unwrapped it and placed the whole chicken pot pie, in its ceramic dish, in the microwave. After warming for 3-4 minutes, the crust magically changed into a super soft and pliable crust. We shared it with a friend who is also eating gluten free and she even asked for seconds.

It may very well have been THE BEST chicken pot pie that I have ever made. My husband said that it was definitely the best gluten free chicken pot pie he has ever had. It's WAY better then the chicken pot pie that I made with the Pillsbury gluten free crust, a dough that was filled with chemicals, preservatives and other allergens. Plus, Chebe is much cheaper- $3.29 a box versus $4.49 for a tub of Pillsbury dough.

Chebe products win again!

So my next step will be to make a filled pie, like apple or cherry and then report back. I'm also wondering if adding more butter to the crust will make a difference, as most traditional recipes call for a lot more cold butter than the 2 tbsp of oil that the Chebe recipe calls for.

The only thing is that I don't need the extra calories after indulging during the holidays,

So who wants to come over and help me eat a pie?

What flavor should I make?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Banza Pasta Giveaway

I just love it when healthy, gluten free and Michigan made all come together. I love it even more when products like this are sent to my door so I can share them with you!

So let me introduce you to Banza pasta.

Banza pasta is made from chickpeas, has 13 grams of protein and 7g of fiber per 2 oz. serving. It has HALF the amount of net carbs and three times the fiber or regular pasta. It's gluten free, grain free, gmo free and manufactured in a facility free of the most common allergens. People everywhere love this stuff, including chef Joe Bastianich and Jenna Wolf from NBC.

That's pretty impressive, AND it's a Michigan made, Detroit based company. Gotta love local! Their rotini pasta is available online and in Meijer stores across Michigan.

One of the neat, but possibly tricky things, about this pasta it that you don't boil it. I've tried making many things with it- pasta salad, soups with noodles, beef stroganoff, and even baked casseroles. Since a 4 minutes "cook" time is not your average pasta prep, it does take a bit of relearning. As a note, I don't think it works well in a pasta salad. It did seem to work well in the casserole as long as it was put in raw.

I have found my biggest success with Banza pasta in putting the noodles in a finished dish and letting them sit. The night that we had beef stroganoff, the texture and flavor of the dish improved as we let the flavors mingle. In all honesty, I think that's the best Banza meal we've eaten!

So the other night was an 8 am to 7 pm work day. (Before you gasp out loud, I do get a 2 hour lunch break) So, I threw all the ingredients for chicken noodle soup into my Crockpot (including my Massel Vegetable stock), MINUS the pasta. When I got home, I turned off the Crockpot, threw in the pasta, and participated in an hour long conference call. (A woman's work is never done!)

The soup was SO wonderful. The pasta was tender but not mushy.And with all that protein and fiber, the soup was so filling.

Now that I've got your taste buds tingling, here's the recipe: (recipe- Curves Complete)

Serves 4

8 tsp(s) - Olive Oil
4 clove - Garlic, Raw
2 tsp(s) - Rosemary, Fresh
1 cup chopped Onions, Raw
4 stalk, med (8 inch) - Celery, Raw
2 med (6 inch) - Carrots, Raw
7 oz - Diced Tomatoes, Canned, No Salt Added
16 fl oz - Vegetable Broth, Low Sodium
4 cup 8 fl oz - Water
18 oz - Chicken Breast, Boneless/Skinless, Raw
4 oz - gluten free pasta
4 oz - Spinach, Raw

1. Mince garlic and rosemary. Chop onion and celery.
2. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat.
3. Add minced gar;ic to the pot. Stir for 1 minute. Add onion and cook for 5 minutes or until golden. Stir in\rosemary and cover, stirring occasionally until onions are translucent- about 5 minutes.
4. Add carrots and celery to the pot stirring occasionally for 3 minutes.
5. Add tomatoes, broth, water, and chicken and simmer for 20 minutes. If whole chicken breast was used, shred chicken breast once it is cooked through.
6. Turn off  heat and add pasta and  spinach and stir until pasta is tender and spinach is wilted, approximately 8 minutes.

But wait, there's more!

Banza was so generous in what they sent me that I have two boxes of Banza pasta and Massel bouillon to give away to one lucky winner. Just enter the Rafflecopter below and soon you could be on your way to chickpea pasta bliss. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway