Category Archives: Gluten-Free

For those of you following a gluten-free diet.

Andrew’s Superbowl Rice

I used to make something similar in college, though not by a recipe.  Here’s another quick, filling and satisfying Superbowl party snack.


  • 1 chopped green pepper
  • 1 cup of sour cream
  • 2 cups Monterey Jack cheese
  • 1 small can of chilies
  • 2 1/2 cups rice

Cook the rice according to the package.

While still steaming hot, stir in the cheese, sour cream, peppers and chilies in a large mixing bowl.

Cook in the oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 15-20 minutes to melt the remaining cheese and heat the sour cream base.  If you like a crunchier topping, place the rice in the broiler with an additional sprinkling of 1/4 cup of cheese for 5-10 minutes until the top is golden brown.

Place in a serving dish that will keep the rice piping hot and serve.

Like I said, this is quick and simple.  The sour cream and cheese meld together to give the rice a creamy, cool base.  The chilies and green peppers add a bitter, spicy bite to the bland rice. If you like things spicier, toss in a jalapeno or habanero.  This would also taste good with green or black olives.  It’s perfect for the vegetarian in the group.



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Carmel Popcorn

Like Garrett’s popcorn, I went for a salty sweet mix with my popcorn, combining the cheese and carmel. Carmel corn turned out to be a bit more of a challenge than the cheese, but much tastier.

You’ll need:

  • 1 cup popping corn
  • 1 Tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup corn syrup
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 Tbsp. real maple syrup (optional)

Start by melting the coconut oil in a medium-sized pan at medium-high heat. When the solid becomes a liquid, toss in the popcorn kernels.

Again, a non-stick pan works best for making popcorn.


When the popping sound start to fade to approximately 5-10 seconds apart, pour the popcorn in a large paper bag and shake the bag around a bit to release any excess oil. I used the bags they give you at the grocery store.

Spread the popped popcorn out on either a roasting pan or 13″ x 9″ baking pan, basically something that has sides to hold everything in.  Set this aside.

In a medium-sized saucepan (you’ll want a larger pan because the carmel foams up when it cooks) begin melting the butter.  Stir in the salt, brown sugar, corn syrup, baking soda and maple syrup (use only real maple sugar, not Aunt Jemima’s). Keep stirring until everything is thoroughly combined, then place the candy thermometer on the side of the pan. 

You want it sitting in the liquid without allowing it to touch the bottom.  Let this heat, without stirring, until the thermometer reads 235 degrees Farenheit or the soft ball stage. 

In the meantime, preheat the oven to 250 degrees Farenheit.

Immediately pour your carmel sauce over the popcorn, attempting to cover it all (you will have a chance to cover everything as it cooks in the oven). 

Place the popcorn in the oven for an hour, intermittently flipping over the popcorn with a spatula every 10-15 minutes until all of the remaining carmel sauce on the bottom of the pan is coating the popcorn.  I took my spatula, scraped the bottom, then flipped the sticky mess of carmel back over the popcorn.

When the popcorn seems complete, immediately set the popcorn onto a cookie cooling rack, separating the large clumps as you go. If you wait too long, the carmel will start to harden, causing the popcorn to stick fast to your pan.  If this happens, just toss the pan back into the oven for 5 minutes and try again.

If you are combining the cheese and carmel popcorn, toss them together in a large container or another paper bag and shake until they disperse evenly. 

The carmel popcorn will last in your household for a week or two.  It has a sticky quality, but melts in your mouth unlike the store-bought kind.  The more carmel sauce the better, in my opinion, coat the pieces until they’re dripping.  The best part of making it from scratch is, if you aren’t like me, and like your carmel sauce lightly sprinkled on top of the popcorn, you can create it to your preference. 

Mixing both the carmel and cheese popcorn allowed for a salty sweet mix most people enjoy (think pretzel M & M’s or trail mix). The added cayenne really spiced up the mix, and was almost impossible to stop eating without having someone else pull the treat right out from your hands.  I chose to mix the two together in the bag I mixed the cheese popcorn in, then some of the remaining seasoning stuck to the carmel. Delicious. It was also a great substitute to passing out cookies or chocolate for Christmas.


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Cheesy Popcorn

I took a bit of a break to collect myself for the holidays. I’m back and have prepared quite a few dishes to share over the next few days.

I try to make a Christmas craft every year to pass out to work, family, or friends. This year I attempted several knock-off Garrett’s popcorn recipes adding a few other ingredients to spice up the mix.

To make this you’ll need:

  • 1 cup popping corn
  • 1 Tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1 Tbsp. butter popping oil (and more for coating)
  • 1 package of Mac ‘n’ Cheese powder (out of the box)
  • 1 Tbsp. mustard powder
  • 1/2 Tbsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 Tbsp. garlic salt

If you have never made homemade popcorn from the pan, you are in for a treat.

Start by heating the two oils until the solid coconut oil melts in a medium-sized saucepan.

I attempted this in a soup stock pot, but the pan doesn’t heat properly ending up with half a cup of browned kernels and quite a few burnt popped pieces.  Also, I pulled out my non-stick pots from college as the stainless steel pots my mom swears by kept burning the popped pieces. If you are cooking for someone with an allergy to coconut, substitute in olive oil.

Add in the popcorn kernels to the heated oils and cover the pan.

When the kernels start to pop, shake the pot every minute or so to get the unpopped kernels to the bottom. It also helps from scorching the popped popcorn pieces.

As the popcorn fills the pan, you can shake half out into a large brown paper bag if the popcorn starts to push open the cover on the pan. Continue popping the kernels until the popping slows to 5-10 seconds apart.  Toss the remaining popcorn in the brown paper bag.  Add in the powdered cheese, ground mustard, garlic salt and cayenne.

Close the paper bag and shake around. Sprinkle in a few drops of the buttery popping oil as desired to catch more of the seasoning.


The popcorn has a great spicy kick to it, but unlike Garrett’s Cheese, it doesn’t quite coat every morsel of the kernel leaving a greasy orange residue on your hands. Instead there’s a light, salty, cheesy taste.

I popped these into holiday inspired paper bags, layered caramel corn on top (or mixed them together) and passed them out to everyone I ran into over the holidays. On my way to our Christmas Eve destination I made the mistake of keeping the bucket of popcorn in my lap during the 45 minute drive. It was very hard to stop eating once I started, which several of my friends also admitted to not being able to stop eating it. It’s a healthier version of the usual array of holiday chocolates, cookies, cakes and sweets that we overload on.

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Hummus Trio

I LOVE hummus. What better way to greet friends coming to town than by making three kinds of hummus and setting it out upon their arrival?

To make the regular hummus:
1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans)image
2 cloves garlic, pressed
1/2 cup tahini
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 lemon, squeezed
1 Tbsp. cumin
1 tsp. cayenne
1 Tbsp. ground black pepper
paprika, extra chickpeas,  for garnish

To make roasted red pepper hummus, add:

1 jar roasted red peppers
1 extra Tbsp. cayenne

To make the black olive hummus add:

1 can black olives
1 extra Tbsp. ground black pepper

Start by draining the chickpeas, holding back on a Tbsp. or so of liquid.  Add this to the food processor along with the lemon juice and tahini.image
Give the beans a few quick pulses and add the remaining ingredients.  Blend well on high for about two minutes, less if you like a chunky, more if you like your dip smooth.  image
If the hummus is dry and clumping, add in more olive oil, as needed.

WARNING: This “original” hummus interpretation may leave you breathing garlic for several hours after your brush your teeth, but it is so worth it.  Spread it on a sandwich, dip in some pita chips or my all-time favorite: blue corn chips. It’s easy to make, so if you are on appetizer duty for the holidays, this won’t break the bank (in which you can leave out the tahini, which can be pricy, and add in a little more olive oil).  I like hint of cayenne spice in mine, which is a nice addition to the mediterranean mix of lemons and cumin.image

While making the roasted red pepper version, the jar will have a garlic clove inside the red peppers. Add that in with the original two cloves of garlic.  imageThis version comes out much smoother and watery than the regular, so you won’t need to add as much olive oil as the previous rendition.image

The roasted red peppers, though still garlicky, came out surprisingly sweet. By adding in more cayenne, your mouth turns from sweet to heat.  I also really enjoy how this variant is almost creamy in texture. It’s due to the fact that the jarred red peppers soften over time in the preserves.  The blue corn chips were extra enticing with the palatable nature of this dip because they also have a hint of sweetness.  Multi-grain tortilla’s would also create a pleasing taste combination.  The bright orange color of this version is alsoimage

For the black olive version, drain the olives well and add in with the chickpeas. Add in the rest of the ingredients.  This one will be a tad more moist than the original, but not much more, so you may need to add in more olive oil.image

If you enjoy savory foods, the black olive hummus is for you.  The addition of the salty black olives to the wholesome chickpeas, garlic and cumin union creates an authentic Mediterranean flavor palate (Try Kalamata olives for the real deal).   The olives chunk up, and never really break down to a smooth solid, but the specks of black throughout the beige background spark a slight visual interest just asking your mouth to dive in.

imageSay your hosting a party, just whip these three up, place them in matching decorative bowls with three kinds of dippers (pretzels, blue corn chips and pita chips).  Accessorize your hummus with extra chickpeas, sliced black olives, paprika, or a few chips.  Set out when your guests are ready to arrive.  For their benefit, also set out Lifesaver Wintergreen Mints or York Peppermint Patties




Filed under Appetizers, Food, Gluten-Free

Black Olive Baba Ghanouj

I love suggestions on new recipes to try. It never occurred to me to actually make homemade Baba Ghanouj (a.k.a. Baba Ghanoush). I usually just buy it from somewhere like Pita House or Falafil Hut (It’s a really weird holt-in-the-wall restaurant. Hit or miss every time I’ve gone.  The employees will pull change out of their pockets and they forget half your order).  Eggplant lovers definitely should try to cook this.

At the store, buy:

  • 1 eggplant, about 1 lb.
  • 3 Tbsp. Tahini (try Valli Produce or Caputo’s)
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, pressed
  • 2 Tbsp non-fat Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 can black olives
  • 1 1/2 tsp. Cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne
  • 1 Tbsp. black pepper

I’ve never cooked eggplant before as I haven’t found a recipe yet that sparks my taste bud’s interest.  Apparently it is a lot like cooking squash. Easy enough.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Farenheit. Cut the eggplant in half lengthwise, place on a foiled baking sheet and poke at it all over with a fork as shown below. Cook for around 20-30 minutes until the eggplant looks shriveled and softened, like aged skin. 


In the meantime, in either a blender or food processor (depending on how smooth you like your dip) add all ingredients.   As usual, I am in love with the Pampered Chef Garlic Press, and this will save you from sticky, smelly fingers.  A more authentic version would use Kalamata olives, but black olives are a little easier on the wallet and to find in the store.


When the eggplant has cooled, scrape out the insides tossing the skin away.  Here’s where I found squash, especially spaghetti squash, much more appealing.  It will mush out with your fork in little spaghetti like strings. The eggplant just clumps out like a semi-hard, half-cooked potato would. 


You can either scrape the pulp of the eggplant into a bowl or directly into the food processor/blender.  Blend on high for 2-5 minutes until you find your desired creaminess.  Since I used the food processor and added olives, my spread came out smooth but chunky.  This was probably from the ingredients, other than the eggplant and olives, having a liquid or creamy, even texture to them. image

Finally, disperse out the Baba Ghanouj uniformly in a large but not thick glass tray.  Drizzle olive oil on and top with parsley, paprika or cumin for garnish.


Serve with wheat bread Sandwich Thins cut into triangles, pita bread , veggies, naan or pita chips. 

I personally liked the wheat bread Sandwich Thins because it had a sweet taste to add to the cuisine, and took away from the eggplant essence. If you actually prefer to taste the eggplant in the side dish, this is probably not the route to take.  I’d try carrots or pita bread which is more bland and will accentuate the dip flavor.image

I thought this would be the perfect thing for my mom to eat while she’s unable to chew anything crunchy and feeling  swollen.  Unfortunately, she isn’t a fan of Mediterranean flavor combinations like cumin, lemon juice yogurt and tahini. I, too, still haven’t found an eggplant meal that is appealing – yes, a vegetarian that despises eggplant.  But this was edible.  But, as a new wine connoisseur, I thought why not branch out on my food too. The day-old version was actually better than the freshly made, still warm form.  The spices had a chance to seep into the other ingredients. It was also cold, which personally, I found more pleasing. 

I did bring my leftovers to Dani for her in-favor-of-eggplant-meals opinion. She loved it. She put a large lettuce leaf on a plate, topped that with half hummus, half Baba Ghanouj and placed homemade Falafel balls on top (which is another recipe I need to try).

The addition of olives helped bring a salty, hearty taste to the slightly sour lemon juice, greek yogurt and  pungent eggplant. It only had a hint of the eggplant flavoring in it, and the addition of the spices was a must.  The tahini mellowed out the bitter eggplant and sour lemon leaving a manageable thick appetizer, or side salad if you’re in Egypt, a staple in the attempt of Mediterranean dishes.


Filed under Food, Gluten-Free

Quinoa Veggie Cakes with Red Pepper Almond Sauce

A wonderful addition to girl’s weekend and the BBQ at Dani’s.  These are a vegetarian’s dream food, including all of the daily nutrients in one small “cake”.

For the cakes:

  • 1 large egg
  • 2 Tbs. all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 Tbs. tahini or almond butter 
  • 1 1/2 tsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked quinoa
  • 1 cup finely grated sweet potato
  • 1/2 10-oz. pkg. frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 1/4 cup chopped roasted red peppers, drained
  • 1/4 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 Tbs. finely diced onion
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 Tbsp. curry powder
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 tsp. ginger
  • 1 tsp. cayenne
  • 1 clove garlic, minced

For the sauce:

  • 1 1/2 cups roasted red peppers, drained
  • 1/2 cup toasted almonds
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 tsp. red wine vinegar

Start by pre-cooking your quinoa and pre-heating the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a baking pan to keep the lumps of quinoa from later sticking to the pan and breaking apart.

Next, in a large bowl, mix together the egg, flour, red wine vinegar and tahini or nut butter. I chose almond butter because it was in the cabinet, but feel free to experiment with different flavors. Peanut butter is acceptable, but may be a little too much as it tends to overpower anything it’s added to. If you use peanut butter, I’d also use Asian spices like soy sauce, 5-spice powder, chili pepper or hoisin sauce instead of going the Indian spice route I took.image

In the same bowl, add the remaining “cake” ingredients.  If you don’t have frozen spinach, do like I did; take fresh spinach leaves, add a tsp. of water, cover with a paper towel or plastic wrap and microwave for 20 seconds. It will wither into a similar fashion as the frozen spinach making it easier to blend into the hodgepodge of vegetables and grains.


Take a handful of the medley and create a hockey puck like shape, placing the final result on your baking pan repeating until all the mix is gone.  Place the cookie sheet in the oven for 25 minutes or until the tops of the “cakes” are brown and creating a crusty outer shell.image

While the main part of the dish is cooking you can quickly blend together the sauce ingredients. Combine everything in a small blender or Magic Bulletimage I left out the almonds in mine, but they would pair nicely with the almond butter in the quinoa cakes.  Blend until smooth.


When your entree is fully cooked, remove from the oven and either drizzle the roasted red pepper almond sauce on top or serve next to the “cakes” for dipping.  I tried the sauce both cold and hot. Either way works because the quinoa vegetable “cakes” are served piping hot, warming the sauce when it’s mixed together in your mouth.


As Dani’s stepbrother stated so well, “It looks like bird food.” And it does, but it the taste trumps looks in this recipe. 

The acidity of the sauce and watery nature soaks right into the absorbent quinoa.  Bursts of cumin and curry tango with candied sweet potato, green spinach, nutty flavors and sweet onions.  The bitterness often associated with spinach is drawn out with the acidic red wine vinegar and these both evenly pair with the nutty aspect of the almond butter, toasted almonds in the dressing and walnuts (which add a perfect amount of crunch). This dish is a vegetarian’s dream, carrying protein in the quinoa and so many vitamin-rich vegetables mixed in one “cake”.  You’ll never know you’re eating healthy the way everything rounds to a patty-like conformity melding with each bite.  The sauce is a must as it smooths all the spices to a consistent sapidity.image

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Croquettes from Upma

A quick and easy Indian appetizer/snack you can create using leftover potatoes and vegetables.

You’ll need:

  • 1 cup mixed vegetables
  • 1 cup mashed potatoes
  • 5 green chilies
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 Tbsp chopped ginger
  • 2 sprigs Mint leaves
  • Salt
  • 2 Tbsp semolina
  • 1 Tbsp corn flour
  • Oil for deep-frying

I used left over red potatoes and mixed vegetables (a staple in our Irish household). I reheated the potatoes and mashed them with a potato masher. You can also boil skinned potatoes and mash them using a hand mixer.

Place the vegetables (keep it simple using frozen mixed vegetables) in a separate dish and place off to the side.

In a small blender or Magic Bullet combine the garlic, fresh ginger, Mint leaves, peppers (I used two tiny jalapenos growing in the garden and a Habanero but the recipe calls for green chilies) and salt if desired.image
Blend until it becomes a chutney.

Combine the potatoes, mixed vegetables and chutney together.
If they are too soft, refrigerate for 30-60 minutes.

When you are ready to fry them, heat the oil in a deep pan on the stove or in a Fry Daddy (perfect for at-home frying as it heats to the right temperature and fries evenly).  Roll your combination into an egg shape.

Roll in the semolina and corn flour. image
Fry until golden brown. Repeat until all the medley is gone.


As you can see in my pictures, I didn’t use semolina and my croquettes didn’t properly cook to the browning stage.  The flour fell off in the oil and sank to the bottom of the pan. They still hit the spot, but cooking them in, say, a Fry Daddy may work better.

Enjoy with ketchup or sweet chutney.

If you enjoy Indian food, but don’t have the spices at home to make the delicious dishes, this is perfect. Blending together ginger, garlic and spicy peppers brings that distinct flavor of South Indian Uttapam from Chowpatti replacing the pancake with a thick fried crust.  The Habanero/jalapeno conveyed a warming, spicy flavor sweetened by the garlic and ginger with a subtle minty, cleansing aftertaste. It was easy to put together and not over filling, as plain mashed potatoes can be, because of the added vegetables and jump kick to your metabolism from the spice.  I used ketchup to dip these. It was just okay, but the sweet chutney would taste superb with these croquettes.


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